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Blue Planet II is a glorious new children’s non-fiction book inspired by the blockbuster BBC nature documentary that screened three years ago. Leisa and Emily have worked their creative magic and reimagined its stories for a whole new generation. Now, on the eve of publication, I caught up with Leisa and Emily to find out which of the animal encounters in the book are their all-time-favourites. Here’s a sneak peek for you. . .
Leisa: Choosing a favourite story is like choosing a favourite jellybean – I like them all! BBC Earth, who filmed Blue Planet II, are brilliant at getting you to cheer on the little guys. They take unassuming creatures and make them extraordinary! For me, no story does that better than Sally Lightfoot crab. I was out of my seat shouting her name as she scuttled across the rockpools getting chased by a bunch of slippery predators. I had a lot of fun bringing that same suspense into my writing so that our readers would want to leap about and cheer for Sally too.
Emily: My heart races every time I read about little Sally narrowly escaping with her life – it was such a fun challenge to capture her anxiety in my illustrations. Who knew crabs could show so much emotion?! Blue Planet II is brilliant at building drama too. I couldn’t help but chuckle to myself as I drew the bull elephant seals facing off. Their bulging eyes and gaping mouths are already so cartoonish that it didn’t require too much exaggeration on my part. I could easily imagine my childhood self being enthralled and amused by the entire situation!
Leisa: Hehe yes, and the way the penguins are caught in the crossfire! It makes me giggle every time. I wish it was a sound book so our readers could HEAR the seals gurgling. Sometimes, to make my storytelling playful, I like to slip in a nod to famous books. Can you guess which book inspired this line. . . “With so many sleeping giants, the penguins can’t go over them, they can’t go under them. Carefully, the penguins tiptoe through them”?
Emily: Speaking of sleeping giants, I absolutely loved capturing the image of the sperm whales' beautifully strange slumber. Their mysterious journeys down into the depths of the dark ocean has fascinated me ever since I was a child. This story has even more meaning to me now that I'm breastfeeding my newborn son. I'm certainly glad I don't have to dive into the depths of the ocean to find food in order to feed him!
Leisa: That’s just three stories, but there are so many in the book that make your heart thud, your eyes go misty and your jaw drop open. That’s the power of narrative non-fiction storytelling and we hope everyone loves reading it as much as we loved making it! If you’d like to find out more about the amazing animals who live in our oceans, check out my book Blue Planet II, a Puffin hardback available to buy online or from any good bookshop RRP £14.99. Please do support local independent bookshops if you can. You can find your nearest one here
Leisa Stewart-Sharpe is a trained journalist turned children’s author, who writes stunning non-fiction and picture books. Originally from Australia, Leisa's childhood has inspired her love for the natural world and its strange and wonderful creatures. Her first book, Blue Planet II, is part of a major new children’s non-fiction series in collaboration with BBC Earth and published by Puffin. Leisa also has a handful of exciting nonfiction titles and picture books coming soon.
Emily Dove is an illustrator living in Cleveland, Ohio, where the winding rivers and fall foliage never cease to inspire her. She is also a certified naturalist, and she uses her illustration to educate and excite others about our natural world.