When you think of cute animals, what tops your list? Kittens and puppies get all the love. What about axolotls, huh?
What's that? You've never heard of axolotls? Me neither, until I saw the cover of the latest book by author and zoologist Jess Keating. Here it is, in all its undeniable cuteness...
CUTE AS AN AXOLOTL (which releases Aug. 28) is the third book in Keating's "The World of Weird Animals" series. When writing these surprising, exciting animal books, Keating combs the planet for creatures of a certain theme. Our family was wowed by the first two - Pink is for Blobfish and What Makes a Monster? - and eagerly awaits axolotl and all its cute counterparts, which are surely more than a sweet face.
Here's the trailer for the book...
You know I love Twitter, and I extra love following Jess Keating there. She constantly shares words of inspiration for writers and super cool animal videos and pictures. Check out this one...
As a fan of Keating's work, as well as her approach to creating, I jumped at the chance to feature her on the blog. (It was just hard to limit my questions to three!) I hope you enjoy this Author Spotlight with the fabulous Jess Keating:
3 Questions with Jess Keating
Is there anything cuter than an axolotl? My goodness, adorable! Have you always had a soft spot in your heart for this sweet amphibian?
Aren’t they so sweet? Yes, I have always loved axolotls. They are a perfect example of an unassuming creature with superpowers! I have a soft spot for any animal that can surprise us with its abilities, which is why I am endlessly fascinated with pretty much every animal out there. Axolotls are particularly amazing because behind that adorable face, they are able to regenerate body parts. But not just tails or legs like some creatures you may know about: they can also regenerate parts of their brains! It’s incredible.
How do you go about match-making extraordinary animals into different themes when you plan your books?
This is a great question! It’s also the element of these books that takes up the most time: the theme and animals I pick really need to work together perfectly, but also in a unique way that I haven’t seen before. When I started this series, I knew I wanted the books to be about more than animals. I wanted them to be mirrors of our own judgments and attitudes about animals and ourselves. With Pink is for Blobfish, I wanted to explore our gender expectations behind color, so I knew I would have to showcase a wide variety of animals to allow kids the breathing room to explore various “traits of pink.” In What Makes a Monster?, my goal was to get them thinking about difference, and where we draw the line between scary and unique.
Cute as an Axolotl tackles our judgments about appearance, but this time, we’re looking into appealing traits and exploring how we limit those creatures by boxing them into a “cute” category. They’re so much more than a cute face! Because I want readers to see the astonishing variety out there, I chose animals that, collectively, embody the picture I see when I look at the world of cute. If I do my job on these books, kids will have enough examples to recognize a little bit of themselves in some of these creatures. We all contain multitudes!
You give so much encouragement to writers, from advice and perspective to vibrant original artwork. (So many talents!) Where do you turn for inspiration, on the web and - perhaps most importantly - far, far from it?
Thank you! I hope that readers and friends online are encouraged by my posts. Life is too short to not chase after what inspires you, so I make a point to tweet out daily pep talks. After years of practice, I find inspiration everywhere, and I’ve learned that the secret is to not judge where my curiosity wants to take me.
I follow hundreds of scientists and science journals online, which keeps my head full of the latest developments out there. But most of my book ideas don’t start from the science. Instead, they come from quiet time and following my interests, especially out in nature or exploring some new art practice. Without quiet, it’s hard to hear your inner voice (or call it curiosity!), so I make time everyday to intentionally listen to what’s bubbling under the surface of my ideas. I believe creativity comes when we mix all of our favorite things together, so don’t hesitate to learn about anything that strikes you! You never know what connections and ideas will come from it.
Thank you for having me!
The pleasure is truly all mine, Jess! CUTE AS AN AXOLOTL (Knopf Books for Young Readers) is available at or through your local bookstore, or via the online bookseller of your choice, starting Aug. 28. You can learn more about Keating, author of numerous books for children at jesskeating.com. Titles by Keating include the "My Life is a Zoo" series (How to Outrun a Crocodile When Your Shoes are Untied, How to Outswim a Shark Without a Snorkel, and How to Outfox Your Friends When You Don't Have a Clue), "The World of Weird Animals" series (Pink is for Blobfish, What Makes a Monster?, and Cute as an Axolotl) and the picture book Shark Lady. Connect with Jess on Twitter at @Jess_Keating.
And, fabulous news... one lucky reader will receive a signed copy of CUTE AS AN AXOLOTL. Here's how you can enter:
*** Win CUTE AS AN AXOLOTL ***
1. "Like" this post (click the heart below)
2. Follow me (@anitraschulte) on Twitter
3. Retweet my pinned contest tweet by 8/24/18
(Submit a blog comment below and get a BONUS ENTRY!)