Nick Forshaw is an author and editor who has published a series of natural history for children, in cooperation with the Natural History Museum. Prior to this he worked as a managing editor with the ‘Art and Knowledge in Pre-Modern Europe’ research group at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin. He worked on the publication of several multi-authored books focusing on art history and the history of science in the early modern period.
Explorer Bugs!, Explorer Dinosaurs!, Explorer Mammals!, and Explorer Plants! imaginatively describe the evolutionary history of bugs, dinosaurs, mammals, and plants, developed in partnership with experts at the Natural History Museum.
1. How did you get into writing children’s books?
I had always written stories, but just for my own projects really and not specifically for children. I had known the What on Earth Books team for a while however and they consulted me for my input on some new titles for their ‘Explorer’ series. After some initial tests, we began working on the dinosaurs book. It was a bit of an adventure to carve out the final style that we wanted to use, but I think we got to where we needed to be in the end. I would like to continue with other children’s books — and certainly have a few ideas that I am knocking around — but that’s a project for the future.
2. What role did the Natural History Museum play in producing these books?
As far as my role in the production process went, the Museum checked the factual content as we compiled the chapters and suggested any necessary polishing wherever anything was unclear. But it’s maybe more important to think about what the NHM means to children and young readers. I know the NHM was a big part of my own childhood — so for me, the role they played was more one of inspiration. I think it’s great to have worked with them; quite a special partnership.
3. How did you design a language strategy for each book?
I wanted my writing here to be fresh, colourful and vivid. I try to think about what the natural environment may have looked like in the past, how it would have felt to be a creature moving about in the Jurassic era, for example, to get the tone right and make pictures out of words.
4. What was the most interesting fact you learnt whilst researching these books?
The whole series is buzzing with interesting facts, it was fascinating to turn all the research notes into the final draft texts. So where to start? Maybe that spiders dance to attract mates, or that ancient flying insects were disturbingly enormous, or that whales can hear each other singing despite being hundreds of kilometres apart. Dolphins maybe even have names for each other — quite a profound idea. Female gorillas make beds to sleep in up in the trees, I liked that. Or the species of wasp I think that sting their victims into paralysis and then lay their eggs on them so their young have something to feed on when they hatch. The beauty of nature. You’re very welcome to have a look in the books and find out more!
5. Are you currently working on anything that you wish to share with your readers?
That is all top secret. But watch this space.
Find Explorer Bugs!, Explorer Dinosaurs!, Explorer Mammals!, and Explorer Plants! inside the What on Earth Books digital book collection, a subscription can be purchased here.
Take a look inside Explorer Bugs!: exacteditions.com/isbn/9780995576605
Take a look inside Explorer Dinosaurs!: exacteditions.com/isbn/9780993284779
Take a look inside Explorer Mammals!: exacteditions.com/isbn/9780995576629
Take a look inside Explorer Plants!: exacteditions.com/isbn/9780995576612
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