January 2 – It’s Book Blitz Month & Interview with Author Lydia Lukidis

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About the Holiday

If your motto is “So many books, so little time” then you’ll be happy to know that January is Book Blitz Month! During this month book lovers are given the green light to read as many books as possible! For kids, Book Blitz Month can be particularly exciting as they discover new fiction and nonfiction that captivates their imagination. To celebrate, take your kids to a local bookstore and the library to find new and favorite books to binge on all month long. If you don’t have a dedicated space for your children’s books, this month is also a great time to create a home library for your child so that they have a shelf, a crate, or even a whole bookcase of stories they can enjoy again and again!

I’d like to thank Lydia Lukidis for sharing a digital copy of Deep, Deep Down: The Secret Underwater Poetry of the Mariana Trench with me for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own. You can read my interview with Lydia below.

Deep, Deep Down: The Secret Underwater Poetry of the Mariana Trench

Written by Lydia Lukidis | Illustrated by Juan Calle

 

Imagine being invited to visit a mysterious place where only a few have ever been; where only they have truly seen the creatures that inhabit it; and where it’s murky depths are accessible by only one type of vehicle. Would you dare to go? Lydia Lukidis and Juan Calle extend just such an invitation, but no notes for missing school, packing a suitcase, or plucking of courage need to be considered, for through their phenomenal book, readers find a seat in the incredible submersible that will transport them to “…the deepest underwater valley in the world”: the Mariana Trench.

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Image copyright Juan Calle, 2022, text copyright Lydia Lukidis, 2022. Courtesy of Capstone Editions.

The submersible plunges deeper and deeper to where the sun doesn’t penetrate. Here, in the darkness, “food is scarce, and a bone-chilling cold blasts through the water. Earthquakes shake the ocean floor, and the water pressure, like a thick, heavy blanket with a thousand hands, presses down, / down, / down.” What flashes by the porthole window? A monster? No—a fish with a long and slender tail perfectly suited for its austere home, where it can survive for months without eating if necessary. “Diving deeper, a long, thin body slinks and sways, ever so slowly. The cutthroat eel is not fearsome, some rather, mesmerizing.”

The light beam of the submersible also reveals feathery crinoids “twirling and whirling like an underwater acrobat,” and a curious snailfish “dances, ghost-like, to the rhythms of the ocean” as it comes to take its own peek in the window from the other side. Snailfish aren’t affected by the heavy water pressure because “they can swim deeper than any other fish in the world. That’s because their bodies contain RMAO. This special substance protects the fish from high pressure, making sure their bodies aren’t crushed.”

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Image copyright Juan Calle, 2022, text copyright Lydia Lukidis, 2022. Courtesy of Capstone Editions.

It might seem impossible to sink still lower, but the submersible plummets into water populated by tiny creatures, almost insect-like with their multiple pairs of legs and long antennae that propel them and help them find food. But explorers are not at the very bottom of the Mariana Trench even yet. The submersible floats slowly down to the bottom—“the very deepest spot on Earth. Look out the window . . . and witness a world of surprises.” Extraordinary creatures, some small, soft, and translucent and others—neither plant nor animal—large and with protective shells, and all adapted to thrive in their formidable surroundings will amaze you.

At last it’s time for the submersible to return to the surface. Slowly, it makes its way through the darkness to lighter seas, where it passes by more familiar fish and other creatures on its way to “SPLASH!” surfacing once again and “leaving the marvels of the Mariana Trench far below” still waiting to be explored again.

Insets of scientific information on diet, anatomical adaptations, and other aspects that make them suited to their environment also accompany the introduction of each sea creature.

Back matter includes an illustrated cutaway of the ocean above and descending into the Mariana Trench with various sea creatures labeled and oriented to the level in which they are found; “Did You Know?” facts about the water pressure in the Trench, its creation, and how many people have visited; why the Mariana Trench matters; an author’s note; and a glossary.

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Image copyright Juan Calle, 2022, text copyright Lydia Lukidis, 2022. Courtesy of Capstone Editions.

When undertaking an excursion into unknown territory—especially through words and pictures—explorers need guides who can truly immerse them not only in the sights and sounds of an area but also the rhythms and almost intangible aura that makes it so uniquely compelling. Readers of all ages find that quality in Deep, Deep Down. Lydia Lukidis’s lithe and lyrical language is at once straightforward—answering questions any reader might have—and evocative—capturing the enigmatic and secret world at the bottom of the Earth as it flashes into view or slowly reveals itself and retreats again. Her vocabulary, rich with active verbs, ensures that readers appreciate the Mariana Trench as teeming with life and alive with wonders more amazing than we can even imagine.

Don’t be surprised if you find yourself forgetting that you’re looking at illustrations of a vampire squid, anglerfish, rattail fish, cutthroat eels, crinoids, and even the rocky and sandy ocean floor instead of photographs as you inspect Juan Calle’s magnificent pages. As the submersible—seen from many angles—plunges into darker and darker water, bioluminescent fish begin to appear alongside their grayer sea mates (children will enjoy pointing out the dark shapes that lurk in the shadows of the submersible and the stony outcroppings.)

As a rattail drifts into view, each rose-gold scale is visible, shimmering in the beam of light thrown from the submersible; it’s blue eye seemingly as curious about readers as they are about this unusual fish. Calle mesmerizes with careful details, shading, and perspective that portrays each creature in all of their weird and wonderful floating, creeping, or stock-still spectacle.

Deep, Deep Down: The Secret Underwater Poetry of the Mariana Trench will thrill ocean and nature lovers and will spur increased interest and research into this unique, nearly untouched habitat that we are only now beginning to discover. The book is a must for any environmental science enthusiast at home and for all classroom, school, and public library collections.

Ages 7 – 10

Capstone Editions, 2022 | ISBN 978-1684466153

About the Illustrator

Juan Calle is a former biologist turned science illustrator, trained on the Science Illustration program at UC Monterrey Bay. He worked early on his illustrator career for field guides of plants and animals of his country of origin, Colombia, and now owns and works in his art studio, LIBERUM DONUM in Bogota, Columbia, creating concept art, storyboarding and his passion: comic books. You can connect with Juan on Instagram.

Take a plunge into Deep, Deep Down with this book trailer!

 

Meet Lydia Lukidis

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Lydia Lukidis is the author of 50+ trade and educational books for children. Her titles include DANCING THROUGH SPACE: Dr. Mae Jemison Soars to New Heights (Albert Whitman, 2024), DEEP, DEEP, DOWN: The Secret Underwater Poetry of the Mariana Trench (Capstone, 2023), THE BROKEN BEES’ NEST (Kane Press, 2019) which was nominated for a Cybils Award, and NO BEARS ALLOWED (Clear Fork Media, 2019). A science enthusiast from a young age, she now incorporates her studies in science and her everlasting curiosity into her books.

Lydia is an active member of SCBWI, CANSCAIP, 12 x 12, and The Authors Guild. She’s very involved in the kidlit community and also volunteers as a judge on Rate your Story. Another passion of hers is fostering love for children’s literacy through the writing workshops she regularly offers in elementary schools. Lydia is represented by literary agent Miranda Paul from the Erin Murphy Literary Agency.

You can visit her on her Website (with order links) | her Blog | Facebook | Twitter and you’ll also find her on Goodreads.

Hi Lydia! I’m really thrilled to have the chance to talk to you about this gorgeous book, how it all came together, and your other work as a writer.

You have degrees in Pure and Applied Science as well as English Literature. After graduating from college did you work in the science field? If so, can you talk about your work a little? How has your science background influenced your writing?

When I was younger, I was drawn to both science and the arts. I once saw them as mutually exclusive but then came to realize how connected these disciplines are. Upon graduating university, I did something completely out of left field but that satiated my artistic desires. I started my own jewelry line! After that, I became a puppeteer, writing plays for children. That brought me back to my love of writing, and here I am writing kidlit. I often focus on STEM topics so it’s full circle. I feel like this is truly where I belong.

What drew you to write about the Mariana Trench for children? What kind of research did you do in creating this book?

In 2019, I read an article about how scientists found a plastic bag floating in the Mariana Trench. They also discovered plastic in the belly of various marine animals. My heart sank. I wondered how we human beings managed to start damaging one of the most remote places on the planet.

At that point, I didn’t know that much about the Mariana Trench and my curiosity grew. I began my research on the internet and then came to realize most of that information was false. The book really came together once I interviewed a slew of experts (7 in total) who’ve devoted their lives to studying the deep sea, the hadal zone, and geology. They also helped me find the right books and articles to read for updated information.

What was the most surprising thing you learned during your research? Do you have a favorite creature or one that you’d like to learn more about?

The most surprising thing was that despite the hostile conditions in the trench (no sunlight, scarcity of food, and crushing pressure), life still thrives deep, deep down. Though, the creatures are not what you would expect. There aren’t any sharks, for example, or any large creatures for that matter. My favorite has to be the sea cucumber. I must have watched hours and hours of them oscillating and floating, like underwater ballet. I was love struck!

Your storytelling in Deep, Deep Down is so fluid and as mesmerizing as the Mariana Trench itself. Can you talk about your writing process for this book and how you achieved such a visceral experience for readers?

Wow, what a compliment! Writing this book was nothing short of magical. I’m normally very hard on myself and many books don’t even make it to my agent. Other books take years to figure out. With nonfiction, finding the right structure is crucial. But somehow, with DEEP, DEEP DOWN, I didn’t have my usual “tormented writing struggle.” The writing was fluid and literally flowed out, and never changed in structure. There was a lot of editing, to be sure, I had to rewrite the manuscripts over 55 times to get the facts right, but the vision never changed. Will that always be the case? No! The next book I tried to write crashed and burned (maybe to be resurrected one day), so I’m grateful for this experience.

As a biologist who turned to illustration and who studied at the University of California at Monterrey Bay, Juan Calle must have been a dream match for Deep, Deep Down. Can you talk about how was he paired with your manuscript? When during the publication process did you begin to see his work? What emotions did his interpretations of your words stir in you?

Yes! It was Capstone who wisely suggested Juan. When I saw the proofs, I think my jaw hit the floor. He did SUCH a great job at getting all the details right (and believe me, it was tough—I had made a 20-page document with reference photos and notes vetted by Dr. Gerringer, my main consultant.) Although we never met, spoke, or even corresponded via email, Juan was able to follow my direction and bring his own flavor to the table. I think I first started seeing artwork about 8 months ago, so it was a speedy process. His work was stunning and scientifically accurate, although we couldn’t always draw everything to scale. It was also infused with magic.

What do you hope children will take away from Deep, Deep Down?

My goal in writing this book was twofold: firstly, to educate children on the deepest ocean of our world and debunk the myth that “scary” creatures live within its depths, and, secondly, to talk about ocean conservation and the importance of this fascinating ecosystem.

Kids may think the Trench is so far removed from their lives and that their actions don’t matter, or that what happens in the Trench doesn’t affect them. But that’s simply not true. Everything is connected, and I’d like to remind them that our actions affect our planet, even in its deepest spots.

You’ve written over 50 books for children and are very active in the writing community. What do you love best about being an author? What do you find rewarding about helping other writers succeed?

Thank you for the sweet words! I got my start with work-for-hire and most of my published books are for the educational market. DEEP, DEEP DOWN is my first trade nonfiction book, so it feels like a big accomplishment.

What do I love about writing? Everything. That said, it’s also a tough profession and every year, I usually have a moment when I reassess why I keep choosing this craft.

I also love supporting the kidlit community; it comes deep from the heart. I know what it is to struggle as a writer, and I see so many others struggling, hustling, working so hard. I like to support and acknowledge their efforts. Every little achievement is a milestone and should be celebrated!

What’s up next for you?

I’m excited to have just announced my second trade nonfiction book, DANCING THROUGH SPACE: Dr. Mae Jemison Soars to New Heights (Albert Whitman, 2024). I actually wrote this in 2015, and it’s a very long and convoluted story about how it got acquired. I did think long and hard whether or not I should tell this story and I ultimately decided to follow my heart because I felt so connected to the hook of the story. I invested in a sensitivity reader and will do so again once we start the editing process at Albert Whitman. They also chose a fantastic illustrator, Sawyer Cloud.

Other than that, I’m knee deep in other WIPs, some of them fiction. I wanted to try to stay in one lane as an author but it’s just not happening—it seems there are different stories of different genres inside me that need to come out. I’m always following the flow of my inspiration, which is often not linear!

Thanks again, Lydia, for sharing so much about your writing life! I know readers are going to love Deep, Deep Down and will be looking forward to Dancing Through Space!

Book Blitz Month Activity

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Creatures of the Mariana Trench Word Search

 

The Mariana Trench is home to so many amazing creatures! Can you find the names of seventeen in this printable word search puzzle?

Creatures of the Mariana Trench Word Search Puzzle | Creatures of the Mariana Trench Word Search Solution

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You can find Deep, Deep Down: The Secret Underwater Poetry of the Mariana Trench at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million 

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

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