Welcome to Cantastic Authorpalooza, featuring posts by and about great Canadian children’s book creators! Today’s guest: Karen Krossing. Take it away, Karen!
I’m not a scientist. I’m a science lover. I have been one since childhood.
Back then, a special book on my shelf was a science textbook that my father co-wrote. I couldn’t understand the big words or concepts then, but I still flipped through the pages in wonder.
In elementary school, I entered the science fair every year, winning a ribbon sometimes. I loved thinking up ideas for experiments. One time, I studied mold on various foods after I found a moldy orange in my family’s fridge. Another time, I experimented with substances that dissolved in water, and those that didn’t. I loved asking questions, forming hypotheses, creating experiments, and marvelling at the results.
When I was first considering career options, both writing and science were on my radar. Although I chose to become a writer, I also added a technical writing program to my writing education, and I’ve written and edited various technical, science, and social-science materials over the years, as well as writing fiction for kids and teens.
Now, I follow new scientific developments. I adore science magazines and documentaries. One documentary sparked an idea for a nonfiction picture book. It mentioned our Last Universal Common Ancestor, or LUCA, and I was fascinated by the story of this single cell that formed under harsh conditions over 3.5 billion years ago—the cell that all life currently on Earth evolved from. I wanted to write this feel-good story of the origin of our Earth family, but I wondered if I was the right person to do it. Wouldn’t it be better if I was a scientific expert in the field?
Full of doubt and excitement, I began to research. I consulted LUCA experts. And gradually, I began to see my role as a translator of high-level scientific concepts into child-centred language and experiences. Also, I could use my fiction-writing skills to craft this true story of LUCA, helping the child reader connect to it. Perhaps, I was well-suited to write this book.
According to LUCA expert Dr. William Martin of the Institute of Molecular Evolution in Düsseldorf, One Tiny Bubble: The Story of Our Last Universal Common Ancestor “explains how living things fit into the big picture of Earth’s history. It takes children on an exciting journey from life’s emergence on a young, rocky Earth, through plants and dinosaurs, all the way to our grandmas and grandpas and us.”
To connect young readers with this exciting journey, I borrowed from traditional story structure to outline the manuscript, and I thought of LUCA as my protagonist. I chose poetic, accessible, and vibrant language. I used a direct address to the reader, helping them to connect to LUCA as the first member of their family. I selected imagery that linked to a child’s world, for example, by showing the size of LUCA as “tinier than a cupcake sprinkle.” Finally, I used the theme of connection to strengthen the narrative story, and I established a mood of wonder about evolution and the celebration of family.
Lucky for me, Owlkids Books saw the potential in my manuscript, and they found the ideal illustrator to bring LUCA to life. Dawn Lo’s engaging illustrations add an explosion of colour, whimsy, and fun to the book. I’m also grateful to Dr. Martin for lending his expertise to this project as a consultant and reviewer. In One Tiny Bubble, we’ve created a book that I would have adored as a young science lover, and I hope it inspires children and parents to love LUCA—and science—as much as I do.
For ideas about how to share this book with young readers, please see our Discussion Guide and Colouring Pages.