A Q&A with the authors of ‘Curiositree’

We have a very special, very exciting blog post for today! A Q&A from the wonderful Amanda Wood and Mike Jolley – the authors of The Curiositree: Natural World. We’ll discuss their background, their inspiration for the book, how they work together and just what children can gain from learning a little about the amazing world around us!

So read on and enjoy this insight into The Curiositree, you might learn that big things often take root from one, amazing idea!

Meet the brains behind 'Curiositree', today we're joined by authors Amanda Wood and Mike Jolley in this Q&A on teamwork, nature and most importantly, BOOKS!You’ve been making books together for 20 years+. Can you tell us a little bit your respective backgrounds, and share some insight into your working relationship? 

We have worked together since we started working after college, give or take a couple of years, as we both came to work in children’s publishing at the same time. Amanda’s very first job was as an illustrator, working for a limited edition natural history press which gave her a real appreciation of what it’s like to be on the other side of the commissioning table! She was one of the founding directors of Templar Publishing way back in 1980 and Mike joined a year or so later.

We have always had very creative brainstorming sessions, and are able to follow each other’s train of thought. More often than not, we are thinking, or can see, the same thing in our mind’s eye. It also helps that we generally like the same things and can encourage enthusiasm in the other for new subjects. Amanda is currently obsessed with chickens (actually that’s been going on for quite a while) and Mike with collecting things – don’t ask!

Once we’ve come up with an idea the first step is usually to find an illustrator, if the idea hasn’t been built around someone’s artwork in the first place which is very often the case. We’ll format the book – decide on its ideal size and shape, whether it has any ‘extras’ like foiling or flaps or other embellishments (we’re pretty fond of them), and then Mike will sketch out the initial design scamps with words from Amanda before we start commissioning. Even at this very early stage we often have an intuitive sense that it’s ‘all coming together’…

What are the top three essential ‘must-haves’ for a successful collaboration?

  1. Having a very similar, but not identical, sensibility to one another.
  2. A shared passion for what you are working on.
  3. Respect and trust in each other.

We also think it helps enormously that we still get over excited by new ideas and projects, event hough we’ve literally made hundreds of books already.

Where did the name ‘Curiousitree’ come from?

The name was a suggestion from the Publisher, Wide Eyed Editions, but the general idea of a miscellany of information we’d been kicking around as an idea for some time.

Illustrator Owen Davey has created a collection of images for the book – how did he get involved?

We were keen to work with Owen on this for number of reasons. We had previously worked with him on his picture books, and had built up a good working relationship. He has a great sensibility toward non-fiction subjects, especially the natural world, and his style is both friendly and stylish, which we felt was a good fit with the design approach we were taking.

He is also one of the most efficient and professional illustrators we have ever worked with, and a nice chap to boot! We didn’t want Natural World to look like a ‘straight’ reference book but something that would give you the necessary visual information but in a very stylish way.

Meet the brains behind 'Curiositree', today we're joined by authors Amanda Wood and Mike Jolley in this Q&A on teamwork, nature and most importantly, BOOKS!

What do you feel makes your compendium distinct from others?

Because the book is a real miscellany of facts, the editorial is not structured in the standard way. Things are grouped and arranged differently from what you might expect, with a cross-referencing system that allows the reader to take a more organic journey of discovery through the book, using their own curiosity to make connections between things in the natural world. Plus, as mentioned above, Owen’s artwork is not a ‘conventional’ natural history style which gives the book a strong and very stylish visual identity.

And it’s got THREE ribbon page markers. Yes, THREE!!! And they’re all coloured to match the three basic types of spread. Both stylish and useful, eh?

You’ve clearly spent a long time researching and developing both the content and format of the book. Can you provide readers with some insight into your research process? 

Read, read, read! Natural history is Amanda’s absolute love and passion, but although she has some knowledge already there’s always something new to learn, and reading up on things is essential  as new things are discovered or re-evaluated by naturalists all the time.

Amanda: I usually start by making a list – of all the essential things that need to be covered – and then research interesting facts that can add something to the mix. I love finding out those curious statistics or amazing facts that you don’t normally hear about and working them in to the text from the very beginning. I’m also very conscious all the time of how something is going to look on the page and (going back to my very first job) of what we’re asking the illustrator to do. It’s good to push for the very best content but also to be realistic about the constraints of the medium – and the schedule!

What was the rationale behind the ‘charts’?

Mike was really inspired by the look of those amazing mid-century school information charts. They have such a great graphic style – both in terms of the way text and image are used together, and how the artwork was constructed to present the information and facts as clearly as possible. They make a neat graphic device, and they also fit with Owen’s artwork style.

Meet the brains behind 'Curiositree', today we're joined by authors Amanda Wood and Mike Jolley in this Q&A on teamwork, nature and most importantly, BOOKS!

Which ecologists / thinkers have inspired you during the writing of this book? If you could direct young readers to find out more about the natural world is there anyone you would recommend?

Amanda: The biggest drive for me is the urge to get kids interested in natural history, and the greatest inspiration comes from nature itself – you only need to look out of the window at the British countryside in all its Spring glory to want to write about it. But personally Charles Darwin is one of my heroes together with my current obsession, Alexander von Humboldt (Mike bought me a book about him for my birthday so blame him). David Attenborough’s books and programmes are a great source of inspiration for any budding naturalist too.

I would also recommend reading about the natural world through fiction. Childhood favourites are ‘My Side of the Mountain’, ‘Ring of Bright Water’ or any of the Jack London books.

What do you hope young readers will take away from the book?

A curiosity and love for the natural world. As David Attenborough said: ‘No one will protect what they don’t care about; and no one will care about what they have never experienced’. If we are going to preserve our natural environments across the world we need children to know about and respect nature, otherwise they won’t care about it disappearing.

Do you already have ideas for your next project together? If so, can you share any clues on what this might be?

Yes, we are currently working on a history book for children, with a few other ideas in the pipeline. Watch this space…

Meet the brains behind 'Curiositree', today we're joined by authors Amanda Wood and Mike Jolley in this Q&A on teamwork, nature and most importantly, BOOKS!

The Curiositree: Natural World
A Visual Compendium of Wonders From Nature

Author: AJ Wood
Author: Mike Jolley
Illustrated by: Owen Davey
ISBN: 9781847807519
Series: Curiositree




$27.99 / £17.99