Battle of the Brains: The Science Behind Animal Minds by Jocelyn Rish and David Creighton-Pester

Hello! Happy Wednesday! Please join me in welcoming Jocelyn Rish to Watch. Connect. Read. She dropped by to discuss Battle of the Brains, Battle of the Butts, David Creighton-Pester's illustrations, World Read Aloud Day, writing nonfiction picture books, and more. I wrote the words in purple, and she wrote the words in black. Thank you, Jocelyn! 

Battle of the Brains: The Science Behind Animal Minds is about ten animals with mind-blowing brain abilities. I’ve always loved animals and been quick to anthropomorphize them, but when I started researching, I was still surprised by some of their super smarts. It would have been hilarious to have a camera on me as I researched, since I’m pretty sure I was making the shocked emoji face like 80% of the time and kept exclaiming to myself: “How can they do that?” “No way!” “Wow!” “Whaaaaa?!?” I hope kids are just as amazed by these clever creatures as I was!

David Creighton-Pester’s illustrations are fabulous! They are cute and clever and funny and adorable and and and just perfect for the book! I was a bit nervous while writing BRAINS because the subject matter was not as automatically funny as booties and toots, but I kept assuring myself that David would amp up the humor just like he did for BUTTS. And he definitely did! When I saw David’s initial sketches, I giggled every time I turned the page.

Battle of the Butts was a blast to write and even more fun to read with kids. I haven’t had a chance to do in-person visits yet, but I’ve done a bunch of virtual readings through World Read Aloud Day and Read Across America, and they were so much fun. It makes me ridiculously happy to hear kids cracking up as I read about manatee farts and wombat poop. And they ask great questions that totally keep me on my toes – I definitely need to do some more research on the intricacies of animal digestion to be better prepared!

Nonfiction picture books are a fun way to learn about all kinds of stuff you didn’t even realize were a thing to know about – for kids and adults! Since I’ve started writing nonfiction, I’ve been reading a lot of mentor texts, and I’ve learned so much fascinating info about: the inventors of monopoly and Band-Aids, artists I’d never heard of, a tree that is one of the largest and oldest organisms on Earth, the history of underwear, weird and wonderful animals, and so many delightfully random topics. And picture books present the info in such an interesting and entertaining way that it sticks with you rather than being a “Oh, that’s neat” fact that disappears from your brain five minutes later.

John Schu, you should have asked me about my other types of writing. I only started writing nonfiction recently. Before that it was all fiction all the time: short stories, YA and MG novels, and screenplays. Some of those attempts were more successful than others, so I’ve been incredibly lucky to have three of my scripts turned into movies. The first two were short films, and my feature film GRAVE INTENTIONS released in October. It’s nothing like my picture book writing, since it’s a horror anthology, but folks who enjoy disturbing flicks can learn more here:

Thank you so much for having me! It still doesn’t quite feel real that I even have one book in the world, so the fact that the second book now has a cover is making me a bit giddy!

Congratulations! Thank you! 

Jocelyn Rish is a writer and filmmaker who never imagined her cheeky sense of humor would lead to a book about animal butts, let alone to a sequel about animal brains. When she’s not researching fun facts, she tutors kids to help them discover the magic of reading. Jocelyn has won numerous awards for her short stories, screenplays, short films, and novels and lives in South Carolina with her dogs.

David Creighton-Pester is an illustrator and designer from Hamilton, New Zealand. Inspired as a child by picture books, animation, and all things arty, he spent endless hours drawing crazy characters and coming up with silly stories. And still does now! David is also the owner of Scorch Design, a graphic design company he started in 2009. 


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