Wednesday, October 6, 2021

Celebrating WATER with Christy Mihaly

by Sue Heavenrich

Barefoot Books Water: A Deep Dive of Discovery 
by Christy Mihaly; illus. by Mariona Cabassa 
64 pages; ages 8-12
Barefoot Books, 2021

Kick off your shoes and roll up your pant legs, because exploring Christy Mihaly’s newest book is bound to get your feet wet. It will whet your appetite for learning more about our watery planet. And water world we are; water covers a titch over 70% of Earth’s surface. That’s 326 million trillion gallons of water. If you add all the zeroes it looks like this:
326,000,000,000,000,000,000. Looks like a lot, but (because most of Earth's water is ocean or ice) less than 1% of that is precious fresh water, good for drinking.

Filled with stories from around the world and hands-on STEM activities, this book introduces water as an ecosystem, a resource, a science lab, and a challenge for the future. Gate-folds allow extra room for annotated maps and provide an interactive component. A comic water droplet chimes in with commentary and the occasional fact ~ and every now and then you come across little invitations to DIVE DEEPER! 

Flip up the flap to reveal instructions for an experiment or activity.

There are so many things going on in the book, and I wanted to know how Chris was able to keep all the moving parts going in the right direction. So I picked up the phone and called her….

Chris: Barefoot Books is committed to publishing books that highlight environmental and social justice issues. In early 2020, the editorial staff was creating their fall 2021 list, and wanted to focus on conservation, community, and connectedness. They identified water as a theme they wanted to pursue. They wanted a book that would put water into a global context. Then they went looking for an author. They found me through a chain of connections: one of their authors knew an environmental activist who knew me. It was a little bit of serendipity and a bit about becoming known as an author who writes for kids.

Me: This book was a “pandemic project” for you, right?

Chris: Totally! Back in March 2020, I had a calendar full of bookstore and conference events for Free For You And Me, my book about the First Amendment that released that month. But with everything cancelled, I ended up with a lot of blank space on my calendar. So when Barefoot Books called, I had plenty of time to devote to a new project.

Me: Talk about doing research during a pandemic. Was it easy to locate resources?

Chris contemplating water...
Thankfully, I didn’t need to travel to visit archives. There was so much great information available online from reliable government and academic resources. And the book was reviewed by scientific experts. One thing I did was use footnotes during the drafting process. I love footnotes; they help me keep track of what sources which facts came from. That information helped as I went through the many revisions of this manuscript, and needed to check on facts. And the cool thing: footnotes are easy to insert while writing, and then you can take them out at the end.

Me (flipping through the pages): Water seems like such a huge topic… there’s salt water, fresh water, the water cycle, things that live in water...

Chris: It is! Even though the book is divided into sections, everything is related to everything else. I wanted to convey how wondrous water is, along with Earth and all its natural systems, to provide facts, share ideas, and give young readers a sense of hope. I want kids to come away from this book caring about water and feeling empowered to act.

Me: Often the writer has little opportunity to talk with the illustrator. What was your experience like?

Chris: Isn't the art amazing? I haven't talked directly with Mariona Cabassa, the illustrator, but I saw numerous rounds of her sketches and rough art and had plenty of opportunity to review it both for accuracy and for how concepts are presented. I did some educating, for example, about the shape of raindrops (round) versus the shape of water drops from a faucet (tear-shaped). (It has to do with surface tension and gravity.) And I had countless conversations with Emma Parkin, who did both editing and art directing, about not only the text but also the design of spreads, including where we might place gatefolds and the fold-up flaps for activities. The whole process was extremely collaborative, more than any other project I've worked on. 

Me: Opening the gatefolds and the Dive Deeper invitations created a nice interactive touch. Thanks for dropping by the GROG today. 

Check out the book trailer here. Chris is a member of #STEAMTeam2021. You can find out more about her and her wonderful books over at her website. Review copy provided the publisher.


  1. Ooh, this looks wonderful, Christy! Congratulations!

  2. Thank you for the interview, Sue. Timing update: WATER is currently enjoying its prolonged ocean cruise and should be hitting port soon! I can't wait to share it with readers.

  3. Sue, what a great interview! Chris, I am in love w/your newest book here. I learned the hard way to do as you said . . ."use footnotes during the drafting process. I love footnotes; they help me keep track of what sources which facts came from." Gorgeous art!

    1. Thank you, Kathy. Mariona and the design team at Barefoot Books get the credit for the gorgeous appearance of these pages. I was happy to be part of the project!

  4. Beautiful! Timing is everything, right? Congratulations, Christy! I can't wait to read your new book.

    1. Thanks so much, Angie. I'm looking forward to the book's actual arrival on shelves ... soon!

  5. Chris! Do hope your book WATER will arrive soon from its journey on an ocean cruise. I look forward to reading this lovely book.

    1. Thank you so much -- fingers cross that WATER gets off the water soon.

  6. Congratulations Christy! I'm looking forward to reading your new book :)

    1. Thanks so much, Charlotte! We just have to get the books off that boat!!

  7. What a beautiful book! I'm so happy to add it to my bookshelf.

  8. Congratulations on your newest book, Chris! So gorgeous, and also informative--a winning combination. And what a wonderful interview! Feels like I'm right there, talking with both of you. I wish...