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Butterflies are Pretty (Gross!)

Rosemary Mosco & Jacob Souva reveal the ugly truth...

Rosemary: Do you feel differently about butterflies now that you've illustrated this book? Jacob: I do! I think I’m like most people in that I recognized their inherent beauty and was always fascinated by their life stages (caterpillars are so different than butterflies) but didn’t know just how gross and weird they can be. One of the fun perks of my job as illustrator, is the deep dives on subjects I’m curious about. My google search history can be really weird based on what book I’m working on! “What kind of dead fish do butterflies eat?” Rosemary: Who illustrated some of your favourite books from childhood?

Jacob: I have a few! My Mom worked at the library growing up so I had access to a ton of books and was encouraged to borrow up to the limit.

I, like many wild things, am a Maurice Sendak fan. I spent a good chunk of time pouring over the textured and simple shapes of Leo Leonni, while my absolute favorite for his emotive storytelling is Bill Peet. I also owe a lot of my love for the creative process from Ed Emberely’s drawing books.

Jacob: What was the hardest part for you in making this book?

Rosemary: The hardest part for me was trimming down the number of amazing butterfly facts so that the whole thing could fit into a single book. Butterflies are endlessly interesting, and there’s so much more to their story than I could include in this book, so I had to work with my editor Liz to choose the absolute best, strangest facts. In earlier drafts, for example, I talked about how some butterflies can see colors that humans can’t see. That’s cool, but when we had to remove some words for space reasons, we took that one out.

Jacob: What is your favourite spread in the final book?

Rosemary: It’s so hard to choose. They’re all wonderful. I do love the second-last spread, where the butterfly character is standing in a room full of objects that reference earlier parts of the book. That spread is full of details that reward close attention, including an elegant bell jar with some poop inside and a brass label that says POO. I love it!

Rosemary: Why do you love drawing insects so much? Jacob: I’ve always found that drawing weird things that comprise weird shapes lends itself to my style and the way I like to work. Bugs are so varied in appearance, it can be really fun to put them through my creative process and see what comes out. I’m drawn to fantastic creatures like dragons, monsters, and aliens for the same reason. The variance in texture, color, shape - it’s all there. Plus, bugs have a “cuteness” to them due to their size that I enjoy.

Jacob: Is there a specific moment as a kid that propelled you into such a deep love of bugs and science?

Rosemary: I wish I could say so, but I grew up with a mom who loved taking me hiking and flipping over rocks to look for snakes and bugs. So, I’ve loved bugs and science ever since I was old enough to walk. I can tell you the moment when I fell in love with butterflies, though! About 10 years ago, I spent a summer working for the National Park Service in DC. I was hoping to see lots of new salamander and snake species. But there was a drought at the time, and all the reptiles and amphibians were hiding deep underground. A colleague suggested that I check out butterflies instead. I started learning the different kinds, and pretty soon, I was hooked.

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