Hello, Jeanne Walker Harvey! Thank you for stopping by to share Else B. in the Sea: The Woman Who Painted the Wonders of the Deep’s beautiful cover!

Jeanne Walker Harvey: Thanks so much for hosting our cover reveal! So exciting! I also want to say a heartfelt thanks for all you do as a true ambassador of kidlit. Not only are you an incredible author of books, including This is a School and This is a Story, but also you’re an advocate and generous supporter of libraries, schools, authors and illustrators. You make such a difference!

You're so kind! Thank you for everything you do to lift up children's books. 

What ran through your heart the first time you saw Melodie Stacey’s illustration and Melissa Nelson Greenberg’s cover design? 

Jeanne Walker Harvey: I truly felt chills and thrills! I just wanted to jump into that ocean scene alongside Else Bostelmann and experience the wonders of the ocean and try to paint them too! I love that Melodie’s exquisite illustrations are created with gouache, watercolor, pastels and colored pencils – she creates the perfect magical underwater scenes.

Scenario: A third-grade teacher invites you to booktalk Else B. in the Sea to his students. What do you share?

Jeanne Walker Harvey: When we look up at the stars and faraway planets, we may wonder what might be discovered up there. Maybe other life forms? Well … in the 1930s, the unexplored deep sea seemed just as alien. Else B. in the Sea is a true story of an artist whose paintings revealed for the first time the world of the deep sea to the public.

Strange bioluminescent sea creatures were discovered by a famous scientist, William Beebe, when he descended in a bathysphere off the coast of Bermuda.

Else’s paintings of these eerie sea creatures, in a time before deep sea photography was possible, mesmerized readers of the popular National Geographic magazine. Before scuba equipment was invented, Else even did some painting underwater wearing a copper helmet with an air hose to the deck.

Else B. in the Sea is a story of how every person’s contribution is important behind the scenes of major discoveries.

Please finish the following sentence starters:

Edith Widder, PhD is a rock star scientist! I was inspired to write this book when I read an article in Oceanography that she wrote about Else Bostelmann.

Dr. Widder is a specialist in bioluminescence and has invented new instruments and techniques to explore the ocean. As she says, “To avert a crisis [from the significant threats the oceans face], we need to educate people on how they can be part of the solution.” I’m hoping that the story of Else B. in the Sea may inspire young readers to care about our marvelous oceans, so much of which is still unknown. I greatly appreciate that Dr. Widder helped me in the research for this book.

Back matter allows a reader to take an exciting deep dive into more information about a book’s topic. I value back matter because it gives me a chance to share more of the fascinating research nuggets that I can’t fit into the limited text of a picture book biography. Hopefully, children who read our Else B. in the Sea will want to learn more about Else Bostelmann, the ocean, deep sea creatures and exploration, conservation, the science of bioluminescence and anything else that sparks their curiosity.

And I work hard to get permissions for photos and artwork (such as the photo of Else painting in the island lab with a microscope nearby and also her painting of a scary looking saber-toothed viperfish). I think visuals in the back matter make the featured person of a biography more real and engaging to the reader.

John Schu, you should have asked me if I’ve had a chance to connect with the illustrator, Melodie Stacey. Yes, I have! As you know, picture book authors and illustrators are usually kept apart during the illustration process. But the amazing editor, Amy Novesky at Cameron Kids/Abrams, said it would be ok if I sent Melodie, who is a fine artist and illustrator in Brighton, UK, the original 1931 and 1934 National Geographic magazines in which Else Bostelmann’s illustrations appeared.

In a lovely email response to me, Melodie wrote: “These magazines are precious because my grandfather subscribed to National Geographic, and started so in the 1920s. So it's very likely he had these issues and knew about Else too.” Isn’t that a wonderful connection?

Thank you, Jeanne! Congratulations! 

Look for Else B. in the Sea: The Woman Who Painted the Wonders of the Deep on June 4, 2024.

A poetic picture book biography about a daring and pioneering woman artist that combines themes of art and science

Else Bostelmann donned a red swimsuit and a copper diving helmet and, with paints and brushes in hand, descended into the choppy turquoise sea off the coast of Bermuda. It was 1930, and few had ventured deep into the sea before. She discovered a fairyland six fathoms below the surface—fantastic coral castles, glittering sunbeams, swaying sea plumes, and slender purple sea fans. And fish! Flashy silverfish, puckering blue parrotfish, iridescent jellyfish. Else painted under the sea! She painted what she saw with her own eyes, and, back on land, she painted the never-before-seen deep-sea creatures described by world-renowned scientist William Beebe on his momentous 1930s bathysphere expeditions for the New York Zoological Society’s Department of Tropical Research. It was a daring and glamorous adventure and a dream come true for Else B., who shared this new, unfathomable world with humankind.


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