Sunday, June 18, 2023

Q&A with Suzanne Slade




Suzanne Slade is the author of the new children's picture book Behold the Octopus!. Her many other books include Countdown. She lives near Chicago.


Q: What inspired you to write Behold the Octopus!?


A: Tom Gonzalez, the illustrator I’d worked with on Countdown, pitched the idea to write a book about octopuses several years ago. He was mesmerized by the mysterious octopus and really wanted to do a book about them (this was years before Netflix released their popular documentary My Octopus Teacher.)


Well, it didn't take long for Tom to convince me this was a fantastic subject for a book, and as soon as I had time in my writing schedule I began work on the book.


Q: How did you research octopuses, and did you learn anything that especially surprised you?


A: I enjoyed researching many fascinating octopus species for the project. These gorgeous, talented creatures possess unique talents, such as the ability to change skin color and texture to precisely match their surroundings.


When I began working on Behold the Octopus!, I started with “light research.” This included quick Google searches and videos. There’s nothing like seeing these clever creatures in action with your own eyes. It’s mesmerizing to watch an octopus changing its skin texture and color to match its background.

Next, it was time for more in-depth species research, which included consulting reliable sources such as the National Wildlife Federation, Smithsonian Magazine, Animal Diversity Web at the University of Michigan Museum of Zoology, the Great Barrier Reef Foundation, MarineBio Conservation Society, and consulted Dr. Janet Voight from the Negaunee Integrative Research Center at the Field Museum in Chicago, who kindly agreed to review the story and illustrations.


Then I had tough decisions to make. Which of these marvelous octopus species would be featured in the book? I wanted to share ones who displayed a wide variety of unique physical features and abilities. After much consideration, I came up with 11 remarkable octopuses (plus two more in the back matter pages.) 


I was surprised to discover hundreds of different kinds of octopuses (over 300 species!). Some of my favorites include the blue-ringed octopus. Though its tiny body is only the size of a golf ball, its venom is powerful enough to kill a person! The algae octopus also amazed me. It can leave the water and walk on land! 


Q: What do you think Thomas Gonzalez's illustrations add to the book?


A: Several people have commented that Tom's illustrations look like photographs, and I agree! They are so incredibly detailed, readers will feel like they are swimming right beside these incredulous creatures!


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


A: I hope readers are fascinated by the color-changing, shape-shifting abilities of these clever sea creatures, and are inspired to learn more about the glorious octopus.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: I'm reviewing the final, final details of a companion book to this one titled Behold the Hummingbird!. (It is truly a feast for the eyes.) Also keep an eye out for my next book, Shining Star: Vera Rubin Discovers Dark Matter, which releases Fall 2023.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: Here are some fun Behold the Octopus! resources:


Book Trailer


Activity Kit 


--Interview with Deborah Kalb. Here's a previous Q&A with Suzanne Slade.


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