Today, we are joined by author, Dr Nick Crumpton and illustrator, Gavin Scott, who are the team behind ‘Everything You Know About Sharks is Wrong’.
Dr Nick Crumpton
No matter where you look in the animal kingdom, every species has amazing stories to tell. Not actual narratives, but astonishing adaptations, evolutionary histories, and behavioural curiosities. Some of these are extremely well known and are re-played on nature documentaries and repeated in almost every childrens’ book on the natural world – even though there is a planet-full of literally millions of species with their own, rarely told tales.
We humans, though, armed with our astonishingly creative brain, have placed our own fearful narratives on top of and around the species we share our world with and, bound as we are to the terrestrial world, the animals living in the Earth’s oceans have often been imbued with the most fantastical – and often unwarranted – reputations.
Everything You Know About Sharks is Wrong takes the animals that may be the most egregiously misrepresented by humans and takes a fresh look at them. Over each double page spread, I introduce a widely held belief about sharks and pick them apart. Sharks aren’t smart? Grey reef sharks hunt in large packs, requiring significant brain power to cooperate with their fellow fish. Sharks kill lots of people? The number of people killed – even interacted with – wilts in comparison with the number of humans that are fatally injured each year by snakes, dogs, even cows. There’s no point to sharks? Their extraordinarily important role in the Earth’s ecosystems – like keeping the number of fish they species they prey upon at levels at balance with others in their ecosystem – cannot be understated. Sharks are ugly? You can’t beat the elegant lines of the zebra shark.
Everything You Know About Sharks is Wrong is a compendium of rights to underserved wrongs. It’s important we fight them: myths aren’t just a problem of misrepresentation. Fear leads to persecution. Sharks are killed at an extraordinary rate of 100 million deaths each year, largely due to passive bycatch and targeted hunting. It’s by de-villanising these incredible animals that we might inspire more people to consider the conservation of the world’s sharks.
When I was asked to illustrate Everything you Know About Sharks Is Wrong I couldn’t believe my luck. Like most young children I was fascinated by these beautiful and hugely misunderstood animals when I was at school. I still remember illustrating my primary school workbook with a drawing of a Greenland Shark, as our topic that term was all about the Arctic (I still have the book!). So illustrating Everything you Know About Sharks Is Wrong was a little bit like going back to school- in the best way.
Sharks come in a surprising variety of shapes and sizes- from the sleek, streamlined Mako and Thresher Sharks, to the Tasseled Wobbegong, which looks more like a Jim Henson puppet than a shark. Sharks also have so many beautiful patterns and markings, like the stripes of the Tiger Shark, and the spots and stripes of the wonderful Zebra shark. The huge Whale Shark with it’s constellations of spots makes it seem as like you’re gazing into the night sky. The Kitefin Shark uses bioluminescence to glow in the dark, and the neon coloured Blue Spotted Ribbon Ray signals to predators to stay well clear.
The different habitats that sharks live in also provide great inspiration for me as an illustrator. Great White Sharks can be seen breaching the water against a pink sunset background, and Cat Sharks glide effortlessly amongst colourful corals. Tiger sharks patrol vast green sea grass meadows, keeping the whole ecosystem in balance.
I’ve illustrated three books in the Everything You Know About series so far, and without doubt sharks have been my favourite animals to draw and paint. There is something about their form and shape that makes them so great to illustrate. I highly recommend it!
Many thanks to Nick, Gavin and the team at Nosy Crow for their support of NNFN2023