I have several fantasy career ambitions. One is to own a toy store called “All Little Girls are Princesses.” (Name the quote!) The bottom floor would be all little girl toys and pretty princess dresses and tiaras. The top floor would have all the little boy toys: Matchbox cars and action figures and dinosaurs.
Another fantasy career is to become a children’s book illustrator.
The fall of my senior year at UNC, I took a class called “Reading Children’s Literature.” We read awesome stuff (Huck Finn, Little Women– which is not as good as you remember it from childhood, Wizard of Oz, 5 Children & It, Alice in Wonderland, The House on Pooh Corner, etc.). We had several options for our final project in that class: we could write a paper about the evolution of children’s lit, we could write a memoir about our own childhood, we could do a service project and make a scrapbook of it, we could write our own children’s book, we could create a multi-media project, OR we could choose to illustrate a children’s book. Guess which option I chose?
I decided to illustrate the fairy tale “The Twelve Dancing Princesses.” (It was always my favorite from Shelley Duvall’s Faerie Tale Theater series. If you’ve never watched any of those, let me know, I’ll loan you the DVD set.) I figured it’d be easier to illustrate a fairy tale because they’re pretty short and don’t really have iconic images that accompany them (a problem you would run into if you chose to re-illustrate Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar, for instance).
“The Twelve Dancing Princesses” ended up being a great choice, although actually creating 12 dancing princesses for one of the pages took a little too much manpower. For those of you who never got to see the finished product, here are some of the illustrations:
The king finds 12 pairs of worn-out dancing shoes outside of his daughters' room.
The old woman gives the soldier a magic cloak of invisibility.
The soldier (wearing his invisibility cloak) follows the princesses through an enchanted forest with trees of silver.
The 12 princesses dancing w/ 12 princes.
The soldier showing the king proof of where the princesses went at night.
I also made little vignettes to go on the opposite pages w/ the text of the story, but I don’t have any pictures of those saved.
Anyway, all of this backstory is necessary to say that I am now planning on undertaking a project this summer to write and illustrate my own children’s book. It’s gonna be based on Biff’s work in his lab. For the handful of you who I haven’t already told, Biff works with little bitty worms called C. elegans. (That seems to be always italicized. I have no idea why. I guess maybe all official names of species are italicized? But I digress.) The lab he works in mostly deals with issues surrounding aging. Right now, he’s mainly studying these worms to try to figure out a gene that will predict lifespan. He’s found some really cool data so far, and I could tell you all about it if you’d like to call/email/ask me in person, but I won’t put it up here to prevent someone from Berkeley or Yale reading this blog and scooping him on his discovery. Apparently, this is a legitimate concern. (Someone scooping him, that is. Not someone from Berkeley or Yale reading this blog. That seems pretty darn unlikely.)
Anyway, one of the things he does with his little bitty microscopic worms is inject something into them (I think it’s injected, but I might’ve got that wrong. Don’t quote me) so that he can shine a special light on them and they glow green.
Here’s a pic of the fluorescent greenness:
Glowing green worm!
Some of the green circles inside the worm are eggs, but they’re hard to see because the mother worm is also glowing green. What Biff really needs to be green are the eggs, because when the yolk inside them glows green he’s able to measure how much yolk there is easier. (Did y’all know that the yolk is what the babies inside the eggs eat? I had no idea that’s what it was there for! I learn new things all the time dating a biologist.)
Here’s a pic of the green eggs:
The aim of my children’s book is going to be to teach kids what kinds of things scientists study and encourage them to want to become scientists too. An added bonus: they’ll get to learn all about the typical lifespan of C. elegans. (Come on, admit it, you’re surprised I know anything at all about worms’ lifespans, let alone enough to write a book about it.)
To give you an idea of what the character of Scientist Biff will look like in the book, here’s a picture of the graduation card I made for him 2 years ago:
Anyway, I will definitely keep the blog updated w/ the progress of the book this summer. It’s my goal to get it ready in time for Biff’s b-day in July. And I’ll definitely post picture of the finished product here when I’m done! That is, unless I get inundated w/ publication offers. In that case, you’ll all have to buy copies.
Oh, and yes, all of the green pictures have given me the perfect name for my book:
Green Eggs and Worms.