What the If Animals Disappeared series means to ME! (the author/illustrator)

Me, the author/illustrator, 2017 after If Sharks Disappeared was published, jumped on a Northern California beach

The If Animals Disappeared nonfiction picture book series is, at its core, a series about the trophic cascade. The books follow Simone, the visual narrator, as she investigates a different part of the world, highlighting keystone species and uncovering the harsh realities of the species impacts and what it would mean if that species disappeared. In each book, Simone meets up with a child local or native to the location setting of each book. We, as the readers, get to tag along and learn from the books’ kids as they experience their world.

The early drafts of my books did not have a visual narrator. As a visual narrator, Simone doesn’t speak, she is a relatable vehicle for kids to experience the story with – as if they were experiencing it next to the narrator. One of my editor’s brilliant ideas! After a few drafts,  it was clear we needed a character to follow, a steady figure to walk us through each of these landscapes and introduce us to these animals and their ecosystems.

Simone explores the Congo with her new friend in If Elephants Disappeared

The kids in my books have shown me what the books mean to me at my core… I didn’t realize it until If Elephants Disappeared and then If Bees Disappeared really drove it home. Each of these books focuses on one species of animal. Each one is so different from one another, and each one with an associated stereotype or image. Sharks are scary, polar bears are far away (distant and mysterious), elephants are big, bees are small, and tigers are loud. These words were constantly in my mind as I worked on each of these books. By the time we came to the final product… I realized that each of these animals needed to be seen clearly as they are in the world.

Each animal, in each ecosystem, is important – no matter our preconceived notions about them! Each creature in these books is intagrel to the world around it and literally makes the world better and more diverse (and biodiverse).

Simone in If Polar Bears Disappeared

It’s hard not to look at these animals and reflect on them in our own lives.

I’ve felt small my whole life. I was always one of the smallest kids in my class. I’m under average in height. With these books, I have found my voice and it has made me feel bigger and more able to help me reflect back to the bees and the elephants. I remember that bees are small, but their size means nothing to how significant they are to our world, and when they work together with other bees, they are powerful! Elephants might be big and strong, but they need help to save themselves. No matter how small or how big we feel, we too need others to help us help ourselves.

I started this book series so determined to write it in an adult way. I, like almost all of us who work in children’s publishing, believe child readers are so much smarter than adults give them credit for.  By allowing these books to tell a story, I ended up making the books more human: better for kids and better for adults. And in the process, I learned a lot about myself and my position in the world.

I wrote these books for kids and I am so excited by how kids across the globe have made these books their own. From the school projects about the books (that I feel lucky enough to get tagged in on social media) to the movements they have championed, inspired by a need to make a change in our world… The readers are wanting to save our planet.

Spread from If Tigers Disappeared

Like the sharks in If Sharks Disappeared, our world is less scary if we allow it a moment to explain itself. Like polar bears in If Polar Bears Disappeared, if we look clearly, we can see the problems and the solutions to climate change. Like elephants in If Elephants Disappeared, we need to trust others in times of need. Like bees in If Bees Disappeared, if we all work together, we can make our planet better. And finally, like tigers in If Tigers Disappeared, , we need to roar loudly so those in power can hear us!

When you pick up the If Animals Disappeared series, I hope you learn a little bit about yourself in addition to all the facts about each animal.

Sometimes small and sometimes big,

Get a copy of all of the If Animals Disappeared series – available now wherever books are sold!