Teeth, Tentacles, and Tail Fins: A Wild Ocean Pop-Up

Teeth, Tentacles, and Tail Fins: A Wild Ocean Pop-Up (hardcover, $75, 9781647227241, July 12, 2022)

Susan B. Katz

Author Susan B. Katz on how it was taking a deep dive into writing a nonfiction pop-up book.

How is writing text for a pop-up book different from a traditional book?

Since Teeth, Tentacles, and Tail Fins is designed in subcategories, it was like writing a bunch of little books within a book. Also, each page features so many amazing ocean creatures that we wanted to make sure the text POPS as much (well, almost as much) as the illustrations. That meant thinking of creative subheadings, engaging questions and info for young readers, and succinct ways to get across details about each fish, mammal, etc. I used alliteration (e.g., fossils or frills?), plays on words (e.g., clowning around--for clown fish), and onomatopoeia (Ice... Brrr!) to grab readers' attention in each section. Fitting all the information into the text box forced me to choose my words very carefully.

How do pop-up books help young readers experience and understand nonfiction?

As a former educator, aunt, and author, I've seen the delight that pop-up books spark in young readers' eyes. With each turn of the page, and every pop that jumps off the page, children are instantly engaged in the book. It's an interactive learning experience. What we, in education, call "chunking" information happens naturally as almost all of the text is about the length of a social media post. It helps children digest and process STEAM information in an accessible way. Teeth, Tentacles, and Tail Fins caters to the natural, roving curiosity most children have at the pop-up stage.

What did you learn that surprised you about ocean creatures?

I'm an avid snorkeler and photographer, and have gone whale watching many times. I learned that baleen whales actually don't have any teeth! They have baleen plates (kind of like fingernails) that filter out shrimp, krill, plankton, and small fish for them to swallow. Also, as if the ocean wasn't amazing enough--through my research I found out that colossal squid can grow to be as long as a semi-truck! And did you know that elephant seal pups can gain 10 lbs/day when they're first born? (I didn't!)

How did you and Matthew Reinhart collaborate?

Matthew sent me (through our editor) a spreadsheet of potential facts we could include. From there, I researched more about each animal, revised it into "kid speak," and added language that engages readers. I really admire Matthew's palette, design, and accomplishments so I am honored to have written a pop-up book that he illustrated.

What makes pop-up books so appealing to kids?

Kids will beg to come back to the book time and time again. Each time, they'll learn a new fact, pull a different tab, or investigate the pop-up teeth, tails, and tentacles. The design and thought that goes into the craft of making pop-up books is a craft that really takes an engineering eye to make everything durable, foldable, and, most importantly: FUN!

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