Charlotte Guillain is a marvel of writing books about the world around us and these inspire readers to take action and learn about our surroundings. Her latest book, The Deep Blue, is an in-depth look at our oceans and waterways, and every page is a delight for the eyes with amazing illustrations from Lou Baker Smith. Read on for a piece from Charlotte.
By Charlotte Guillain
I live in the middle of the country, a long way from the sea. What I missed most during the long year of lockdowns and restrictions was the beach, the soothing sound of crashing waves, the cries of seagulls, the cool, salty breeze and the view to the distant horizon that always seems to put things into perspective.
So, it was a real joy to work on my new book, The Deep Blue, while I was missing the ocean so much. Seeing Lou Baker Smith’s stunning illustrations evolve and crystalize into beautiful works of art, full of life and colour, was a real privilege. It’s non-fiction book, providing plenty of facts and information about oceans all over our planet, but it’s written in a lyrical style to try and give a sense of atmosphere and energy. We’ve explored many different aspects of the oceans, from rockpools and the changing tides to kelp forests, mangroves and meadows of seagrass. We visit coral reefs and the open ocean, marvelling at blue-ringed octopus, guard crabs, blue whales and jellyfish.
Then we dive down into the deep ocean with its strange glowing creatures, such as lanternfish and anglerfish, hydrothermal vents and underwater volcanoes. Finally, the book visits the frozen oceans, full of life including narwhals, krill and antifreeze fish. But through the course of the book we also mention the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and highlight how the ice at the poles is melting, with devastating consequences for wildlife there.
To create the text and evoke the right moods and dynamics, I had to tap into memories of the sea from different stages in my life. I grew up close to the North Sea. The sea there is often iron grey or murky brown and the temperature is usually freezing. But on a sunny summer day, the North Sea starts to shine and its gentle blue waves entice more swimmers into the water. I can remember howling, crashing stormy nights from my childhood and the debris left behind on the beach the next day, as if a monster had had a tantrum while we slept.
Later, in my 20s, I volunteered in Tanzania for the development charity VSO. My placement for two years was at a college of health sciences on one of the tropical islands of Zanzibar. Weekend activities often included snorkelling around coral reefs full of colourful flitting fish. From my classroom, where I taught English to student nurses and lab technicians, I could see the gleaming turquoise sparkle of the warm Indian Ocean.
At other times in my life, I’ve watched the Atlantic surf breaking and the waves of the Pacific Ocean roaring and crashing onto the beach. I’m very aware of the oceans’ immense power but also how vulnerable they are. With the problems of climate change, overfishing and plastic pollution now widely acknowledged, there’s clearly a growing desire to protect our beautiful seas. I wrote The Deep Blue to share and celebrate the many and varied features of the ocean with young readers but also to play a part in encouraging a new generation to respect and care for the sea and all the living things found there. I hope that children will enjoy poring over Lou’s wonderful illustrations and let the text take them to places full of wonder all over the world.