Saturday, August 17, 2019

Q&A with Sabrina Weiss

Sabrina Weiss is the author of the new picture book Ocean: Secrets of the Deep. She is based in London.

Q: How did you come up with the idea for Ocean: Secrets of the Deep?

A: [Illustrator] Giulia De Amicis and I met while volunteering with a marine research nonprofit in southern Mozambique. We spent our weekdays designing infographics and creating booklets to give out government officials and the public. On weekends, we were lucky enough to dive with the animals that we had been describing in those materials: the manta rays and whale sharks.

When we both moved back to the UK, we started brainstorming ideas for the Ocean book and soon came to realise that there are so many stories and facts that people just don't know about. Having been passionate about the ocean from a very young age, I'm still amazed every time when I learn about a new species. Here's some background.

Q: Of all the animals and plants you write about in the book, are there any that especially fascinate you?

A: I like all things, big and small. But humpback whales and dolphins still amaze me every time I see them. They are so incredibly gracious, gentle and curious. It's really special when you are allowed into their world and enjoy a short encounter.

I'm actually packing my bags now to head back to Mozambique, the first time after three years. I hear the humpback whales have already arrived in the coast along Tofo, the small fishing village where Giulia and I lived. Every year, these whales travel thousands of kilometres from their feeding grounds in the Antarctic to the warm waters of Mozambique to breed and have their young. Fingers crossed that I will get to meet some of them again underwater!

Q: What do you think Giulia De Amicis's illustrations add to the book?

A: Giulia's artwork is really great for kids with a curious mind. The animal illustrations are beautiful, of course, but it the way they are presented within the environment, with facts, figures and scales that I think children can really learn a lot. There are so many things to explore in the book. I hope that some kids will pick up the book and enjoy the illustrations and maybe another day, they'll read the same pages again and dig a little deeper.

Q: What do you hope kids take away from the book?

A: I hope it inspires them to learn more about the ocean and its fascinating inhabitants - even better, if they share the newly-acquired knowledge with their family and friends. Some might be excited to learn more about marine science at school, some will want to experience this mysterious world for themselves.

I also hope that it will inspire some change. The ocean is so important to us humans and we need to protect it. When sitting and picnicking by the beach, for instance, we should always be reminded to leave no trace and keep it clean.  

Q: What are you working on now?

A: I'm currently working on a new children's book exploring the incredible islands of our world.

I recently learned about Tristan da Cunha, for example, the world's remotest inhabited island. It takes six days by boat to get there from Cape Town. It's actually a group of islands, only two of which are inhabited. A small island called Gough doesn't have a settlement per se, but it has a permanent weather station with six staff living there. Isn't that fascinating? 

--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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