I’m Erin Dealey, and I write books for kids. I’m a teacher, presenter, rhymer, blogger, and proud Drama Mama.

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Happy Book Birthday PLANET OCEAN: Why We All Need A Healthy Ocean + 5 Qs for Patricia Newman

March 2, 2021

Happy Book Birthday to Patricia Newman’s
PLANET OCEAN: Why We All Need A Healthy Ocean

(Millbrook / Lerner, Annie Crawley / Photographer)

#1 New Release in Children’s Australia & Oceania History

Have I mentioned I love this book?

Full disclosure: Patti is a dear friend and critique partner, and we were SCBWI Co-RA’s together a lonnnng time ago–but I would be singing the praises of PLANET OCEAN even if we’d never met.

Still–don’t take my word for it: 

‘We all have a story to tell’ photographer Crawley says. In her daily life, she teaches land-dwellers to dive in the ocean, encouraging them to appreciate it and to share its beauty―and its problems. Newman’s words and Crawley’s pictures do just that for young readers here, with a clear narrative that combines science, images, and the voices of young divers and Indigenous peoples to get across their point…Worth exploring in depth.

Kirkus Reviews

Click above image to view trailer.

In celebration of this much-needed book, here are:
5 Questions for Patricia Newman

Q 1. How did you find/choose the many amazing child and teen activists you interview in PLANET OCEAN?

Patricia Newman: Annie and I had a great time researching Planet Ocean and developing new friendships. Elise, Kalil, Nico, and Abbey are members of Annie’s Dive Team (who I met when I traveled to Seattle for research). Our Iñupiat Arctic expert introduced us to Eben Hopson. Annie knew Helen Pananggung and the children from many trips to Indonesia. We’d been following Juliana v US in the news and Annie was fortunate enough to meet with one of the lawyers, who introduced us to Aji.

We chose these kids/teens based on their unique voices, their reliance on the ocean, and the variety of approaches they use to speak up for the ocean

Q 2. My favorite quote from the interviews–and there are many–is, “I’m not fighting climate change. I’m fighting for human change.” (17-year-old activist Aji Piper). What is one of yours?

Patricia Newman: I really like this question because interviews are a huge part of my books. And I love using quotes because they convey so much emotion. It’s impossible to choose only one, so here is a sampling of my favorites:

On page 21, scientist Derya Akkaynak says, “A colleague and I showed light moves through the ocean differently and we derived new math.” Just think about that. New math. I get goosebumps thinking about these scientists who are inventing new technologies to help us understand our ocean.

On page 28, scientist Iris Kemp says, “I read—a lot. And I read biographies of scientists—a lot.” Proof that nonfiction children’s books matter!

On page 29-30, Lummi Nation elder and fisherman Dana Wilson says, “If we can’t go out and catch fish, it affects our way of life, our health, our spirituality. Without them, we lose everything.” Dana’s emotional words put the climate crisis in stark relief.

On page 37, Iñupiat teen Eben Hopson says, “Seeing how climate change affects my people scares me. What will the ice be like for future spring whale hunts?” As temperatures climb in the Arctic, the entire Iñupiat way of life will change. How can that not be scary?

And on page 49, Elizabeth Zajaczkowski says, “For years other people have represented me, but now that I’m eighteen I’m talking to you as a registered voter.” I love that Elizabeth is holding elected officials to task. There’s power in her words!

QR codes sprinkled throughout the book give readers a “below-the-surface” perspective.

Q 3. Creating such an important nonfiction book like this takes a tremendous team. What does it mean to you to have teamed up again with oceanographer Annie Crawley and editor Carol Hinz? Besides the interviewees and contributors, who else is on your team?

Patricia Newman: You’re absolutely right, Erin, and my Planet Ocean team was the best in the business. Annie is not only a diver, photographer, and filmmaker, she’s also an ocean expert. We worked closely developing the text, the photo captions, and the back matter.

Carol Hinz is now the Associate Publisher of the Millbrook Press and Carolrhoda imprints at Lerner Publishing. Planet Ocean is our sixth book together, and I can hear her voice in my head as I write—what’s important, what concepts need unpacking, and what needs to be left on the cutting room floor so to speak.

But bookmaking requires more than just the three of us.

My agent, Deborah Warren, believed in this project from the start and sold it to Carol.

My critique group read early drafts that were…well, terrible.

Lerner’s terrific art team, Danielle Carnito, Emily Harris, and Erica Johnson, created a layout that allowed for big photos. They worked with us when we swapped one image for another and guided us through image resolution requirements. These women were also responsible for the graphics and maps in the book.

Planet Ocean’s QR codes required another level of expertise. While I wrote scripts, Annie assembled video clips and narrated each video. Kate Campbell created the landing pages readers see when they scan the QR codes with their devices.

And then there’s Lerner’s publicity engine, Lindsay Matvick and Rachel Zugschwert, who asked Annie and me to create a special video that answered the question, why does your library need Planet Ocean<– (Clink link to view.)

I’m sure there are other people behind the scenes that I’ve never met, like the copy editor, whose name I don’t know. But I depend on her to keep me from making a fool of myself with incorrect facts.

Patricia Newman (L) and Annie Crawley (R) really took their “below-the-surface” perspective seriously when creating Planet Ocean! 

Q 4. How is learning to scuba dive like writing nonfiction? How is it different?

Patricia Newman: What a great exercise. Here goes!

Four ways scuba diving is like writing nonfiction:
  • We need special equipment. Divers need tools such as wet suits, air tanks, hoses, flashlights, and masks. Nonfiction writers need primary sources, recorders, cameras, computers, and ideas.
  • We immerse ourselves. While divers swim underwater, nonfiction writers dive into our topics to find the most startling details and creative formats that keep readers turning pages.
  • We need to remain calm under pressure. Annie warns her students not to panic and become bubble-blowing monsters that use up their air. Divers must take slow steady breaths. Nonfiction writers have deadlines that require a cool, steady head. Frequently my editor also asks me to source a quote I’d skipped, which means plowing back through thousands of pages and websites to find it. If it weren’t for meticulous organization, I wouldn’t be able to use the many quotes I rely on, which would definitely turn me into a bubble-blowing air hog!
  • We see new worlds. Scuba allows underwater exploration. Swimming under turtles, diving under Arctic ice, winding through kelp forests. As a nonfiction writer, I meet new people studying amazing aspects of our world. People I never would have met otherwise.
And one way diving and nonfiction writing are different:
  • Divers must breathe pressurized air to equalize the pressure the ocean exerts on their bodies. Normally, the air we breathe isn’t pressurized, so divers have to resurface slowly to minimize nitrogen and helium bubbles (think of a bottle of soda, just opened). A diver who resurfaces too quickly can experience pain, called the bends. But as a nonfiction author, I can “resurface” from a hard day at my computer banging out a rough draft as quickly as I like!

Newman says, “Annie and I want readers to care about our ocean, because we protect what we love.”

Q 5. I love your message that, “Global change starts with stories from our hearts shared again and again.” If young Patti could share a heart story of the ocean, what might it be?

Patricia Newman: Wow, I have so many memories of the ocean and water in general. Digging for quahogs at low tide with my aunt on a Rhode Island beach. Making a huge whale sculpture out of sand with my dad. I remember loads of kids joined us, too! Crabbing off the Jersey shore. The taste of salt on my lips. Feeling the pull of the tide as it retreats out to sea. Sailing with my dad.

These memories formed my earliest impressions of the ocean – a mixture of food, fun, awe, and power. And as I write, I can still feel the feel the sand between my toes.

Patricia Newman‘s books inspire young readers to seek connections to the real world. Her titles encourage readers to use their imaginations to solve real world problems and act on behalf of their communities. These books include Sibert Honor title Sea Otter Heroes: The Predators That Saved an Ecosystem; Junior Library Guild Selection Eavesdropping on Elephants; Bank Street College Best Book Zoo Scientists to the RescueBooklist Editor’s Choice Ebola: Fears and Facts; and Green Earth Book Award winner Plastic, Ahoy! Investigating the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Patricia frequently speaks at schools and conferences to share how children of any age can affect change.

To learn more visit Patti at www.patriciamnewman.com

and follow her on Twitter: @PatriciaNewman

 Next up on the blog:

Double March Book Birthdays with Rosie Pova and Matt Forrest Esenwine.


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