We talked to Deborah Katz, the author and illustrator of RARE IS EVERYWHERE, a children's book that blends two subjects that are very important to the whole Asha Loves Science team: diversity and science!
Asha Loves Science: Thanks so much for taking the time to talk to Asha Loves Science today. Can you tell me a little about yourself?
I am a nurse and a parent, and over the years, I've come across so many children who feel different for some reason- whether due to autism, allergies, disabilities, health conditions, their family or cultural background - whatever it is that makes them feel different - they often feel like they are the only ones in the world who feel like they do. Even though I would say to each of these children “you aren't the only one - so many others feel exactly like you do- and your differences can be a strength,” I felt like the message just wasn’t getting through.
Asha Loves Science: How did you come up with the idea for RARE IS EVERYWHERE?
I’ve always had a passion for children’s literature and its power to shape and inspire, and had written stories for my own children over the years that I would tell to them at bedtime. So I started thinking about writing a children’s book that showed children that differences are actually very common. That idea was in the back of my mind when one day, one of my children asked me what “rare” means. In trying to answer in a meaningful, scientific sort of way, I started to explain how we all differ from one another and why.
It was then that I had a Eureka! moment. When children are young, we teach them that tigers are orange and grasshoppers are green - they learn to make sense of the world by putting things into boxes. I wondered - what if we could show them that tigers can be white, grasshoppers can be pink- and that those animals are awesome? What if we could show them that there are differences - beautiful differences- in every species, in every corner of the world- and importantly - in every single one of us? It was then that I realized that I could show children that when you take a birds-eye view of the entire animal kingdom, it’s easy to see that differences are common- and something to celebrate!
Asha Loves Science: Can you tell us a little about the book?
RARE IS EVERYWHERE is a book of genetically rare animals like white tigers, blue lobsters, black jaguars and other cool creatures - that inspires children to embrace differences, and their own rare beauty. I studied wildlife biology before becoming a nurse, and that provided me with both the fuel and foundation to ground this book in nature and science. The book puts a positive spin on what makes the animals in the book “different”. That is, not only does it show that differences are common, it also highlights how some animals actually benefit from being different. For example, the white spirit bear is better at catching fish than its black bear cousins because its white fur makes it blends into the sky, while the all-black penguin mother stands out to her babies amongst a sea of white-chested penguins, and the black jaguar’s coat allows him to blend into the dark jungle where he roams. The book features facts about each animal, presented through lyrical rhyming text, as well as a glossary with more information about each animal in the book, and there is even a joke corner-a little something for everyone! The book also teaches children what genes and how they shape our appearance, using kid-friendly language and examples of the animals featured in the book.
Asha Loves Science: How can readers help make Rare is Everywhere a reality?
The book is currently on Kickstarter for the next 5 days- until the end of the day on November 22nd. Art prints and teacher's tool-kits are also available online.
Asha Loves Science: Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us! We are looking forward to the book!