Thursday, April 25, 2024

Q&A with Deborah Lee Rose




Deborah Lee Rose is the author of the new children's picture book Penguins Ready to Go, Go, Go!. Her other books include Beauty and the Beak. She lives in Silver Spring, Maryland.


Q: What inspired you to write Penguins Ready to Go, Go, Go!?


A: This book began with a katydid landing on my car windshield. What does a hitchhiking insect have to do with penguins in Antarctica? Watching that katydid get help moving from place to place got me thinking about animals that don’t move very much—and I thought that included Emperor penguins.


But the more I researched, the more I discovered they are extraordinarily adapted not just to stand around or waddle a bit, but to sled, leap, swim, huddle, shuffle, march, dive deep, and more.


When I also learned that they are now a threatened species, because climate change is speeding up melting of the sea ice where they live and raise their young, I knew I had to write a book about them.


Q: How did you research the book, and what did you learn that particularly fascinated you?


A: I love photo research. As I looked at many, many, many penguin photos, I found myself saying, “WOW, I didn’t know they did that!”


One of the most surprising Emperor penguin secrets of survival is that they use teamwork in their huge huddles to get through even the worst blizzards. All the penguins are constantly rotating through the mass of birds, so each gets a turn in the warm middle of the huddle. 

Q: What are some of the most common perceptions and misconceptions about penguins?


A: We mostly see photos and videos of Emperor penguins on the sea ice, but a major part of their life cycle is spent in the ocean.


Tracking them and collecting data about them when they’re at sea—like where they migrate and how they survive far from the ice—is much harder for scientists. But researchers have made new discoveries about what these penguins do right under the Antarctic ice.


One adaption, which is captured in amazing photos from scientists who dived into the polar water, is that the penguins create underwater bubble streams to reduce drag on their bodies as they swim. This lets the birds build up enough speed to “fly” through the water and leap out back onto the ice. 

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


A: I want kids to have fun reading and listening—that’s why I wrote the narrative portion in rhyme, with words like “whoosh” and “plop.” But I also want kids to discover the amazing WOW science facts behind these birds’ survival, and begin to understand how factors like climate change and pollution impact these much-loved birds.

Q: What are you working on now?


A: I'm working on widely sharing the science I’ve learned in doing this book, with kids and adults across the US and beyond. People around the world love Emperor penguins and scientists from many countries are studying and working to conserve this unique species.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: The book includes QR codes for scanning, linked to live action videos of Emperors waddling, tobogganing on their bellies, diving into the ocean and leaping out, feeding their chicks and more. There is also a free educational guide on my website,


--Interview with Deborah Kalb. Here's a previous Q&A with Deborah Lee Rose.

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