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Editorial Back Story to Catastrophe by the Sea in Tikkun magazine 8.2019

Dear Readers,

Quite an interesting back story to creating and selling Catastrophe by the Sea, our new kid's book with Caldecott-Award-winning illustrator, Ed Young, is published in this month's Tikkun magazine under the title, "Ugly and Underfoot: The Colonization of Animals." Here's an excerpt with a link to the full article.

Tikkun magazine:  

            “People identify with animals who are the most like us,” an editor once advised me, then added with a wry laugh, “Remember, your readers are human, not animal.”

            I was writing about a childhood encounter with a rattlesnake—the editor’s least favorite creature. Fear, blame, even a bit of religious prejudice about the serpent-as-devil informed her critique. 

That editor’s advice to write about animals only as mirrors of our own culture holds true. We still colonize other species in our stories, our religion, our conservation policies by valuing how much they reflect and serve us. This is not always true of children. They can be enthralled by a banana slug, a snake, or a rock. Everything is alive and inviting relationship. Recently, Caldecott-award illustrator, Ed Young, and I submitted a new kid’s book, Catastrophe by the Sea, to editors. In partnership with the Seattle Aquarium, our hope was to inspire empathy for often overlooked, but essential, tidepool creatures. As a storyteller, I knew I had to find a way into their alien world that is so unlike ours. I created Catastrophe, a lost cat and bully on the beach who discovers barnacles and sea anemones as friends; they teach him the super powers of survival at low tide.

            “We love the charismatic cat,” several editors responded. “But lose the tidepool creatures. They’re boring. No one wants to read about a barnacle.”

            “There’s a reason beachcombers step on barnacles and anemones,” another editor pointed out. “They’re ugly and underfoot. Who cares about them?”

            We chose to go with the publisher, West Margin Press in Berkeley, California, who realized that the tidepool creatures were also main characters, not only in our story, but also vital to the ocean ecosystem we all share. 

     It’s only when our stories embrace other species who aren’t just like us, that we begin to “see the world truly,” as the Hopi Indians teach. Hopis believe they dwell at the Center of the Universe, having journeyed through many migrations into this “WorldComplete.” Our world is completed when we can step outside our own projections and recognize other cultures, animal or human, as worthy and essential in their own right.If we can enter and imagine another animal’s life, contemplating the world from that diverse point of view, we mature as a species. We don’t colonize other animals, we celebrate them.~

 WATCH our BOOK Trailer!

Two of my favorite spreads from the book: 


The feline inspiration for Catastrophe! My cat, Loki!

 Read more about our new kid's book on the Catstrophe by the Sea page on this website!

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