Digging Deep

There are those books which command the attention of everyone regardless of whether you are a science geek, fact finder or seeker of trivia. These books are brimming with interest on every page turn.  These books add depth and breadth to our understanding of the world in which we live.

On October 8, 2013 Maps (Big Picture Press) written and illustrated by Aleksandra Mizielinska and Daniel Mizielinski was released.  The size, 10 5/8 by 14 9/16, is indicative of the quality and quantity of the contents. Printed on heavy matte-finished paper with a sepia-toned finish on cream, the text and pictures take readers around the world. Each two-page spread is framed in an intricately rendered border varying in design.

We are treated to a world map, maps of the continents and individual countries.  We see political borders, flora, fauna, cultural foods, activities, natural and man-made wonders, housing, clothing, famous persons and specific place names. Significant bodies of water and mountains are featured.  Famous works of art and literary and historical milestones are included.  Creatures which may be found in the oceans and seas surrounding the land masses are duly noted.

Each element in the images is carefully labeled.  Sometimes one or two sentences offer further explanation.  This book of maps, this atlas, combines the best part of political, resource, and physical maps.







As an enhancement to the original publication Big Picture Press published the Maps Activity Book written and illustrated by Aleksandra Mizielinska and Daniel Mizielinski on July 1, 2014.  Smaller in size, 12 by 8 4/5, this paperback with special binding for ease of  page removal delivers interesting challenges involving drawing, coloring, research, and creative imagining and thinking.  On the back of each of the thirty-six activities a tiny character, children from around the world, impart more fascinating facts in a single speech balloon.


Users might be asked to draw a map of an imaginary country, pretend to be an explorer in the Amazon and draw animals, plants and people they might find there, invent another glyph to add to the ancient Mayan language, color flags from countries and design your own, select which animals on a given page actually live in a specific place or create a pattern for a kimono.  Each of these activities invites readers to discover more than they originally know. The fantastic facts on the back of the activity pages might tell us where the largest active volcano is located, its size and the number of times it has erupted or who designed the updated U. S. flag after Alaska and Hawaii became states or supply readers with information about the original inhabitants of Australia.  The pages can be used for single individuals or as a guide for the generation of more related educational adventures.








The most recent title in this trio, Maps Poster Book (Big Picture Press, February 23, 2016) written and illustrated by Aleksandra Mizielinska and Daniel Mizielinski is twenty-seven maps plus the world map found in the first volume, condensed in size to 11 3/8 by13 9/16.  On one side of the poster is the exact replica of either a country, a continent or a large area, the Arctic.  On the other side the highlighted map is shown in color within a larger two-tone map.  All of the pages are perforated for removal.




The newest book by the collaborative duo of Aleksandra Mizielinska and Daniel Mizielinski, which again demonstrates their talents in exploring our world exquisitely, is Under Earth Under Water (Big Picture Press, March 1, 2016 UK, October 11, 2016 US).  For sixty-three pages we peer into the ground until we strike the core of our planet.  In the following forty-five pages we work our way to the surface but through the seas or oceans.  A clever design allows you to begin with either the earth or the water.



If we look just beneath the dirt all kinds of creatures seen with the naked eye or under a microscope can be found.  Discovering the giant Gippsland earthworm in Australia would be rather startling as it can grow to be nearly ten feet long.  Anthills are far most vast and sophisticated beneath the surface than what we find above ground.  Did you know there can be more than one queen in one anthill?

Intriguing information about borrowing animals, moles, naked-mole rats, prairie dogs, badgers, and red foxes are revealed in greater depth.  Plants with edible and medicinal portions growing under the surface are explained as other pages showcase majestic trees.  Man-made cables stretched below the surface, the vast networks used to transport natural gas, electricity and water used in homes as well as waste disposal are presented.   Travel by tunnels, general and specific, and how tunnels are made is a fascinating section.

Archaeology, paleontology, speleology, and mining are explained.  Pages are devoted to those products made from the riches, natural resources, taken from the earth.  Information about The Pacific Ring of Fire and plate tectonics are pictorially displayed.  The deeper we go volcanoes, hot water springs, geysers, layers of the earth and the center itself are discussed.

From here we start to head upward learning of vessels like the Deepsea Challenger used to explore the bottom of the sea.  Trenches and their strange inhabitants fill several pages.  Did you know that the glow seen at the tip of the triplewart seadevil's rod is actually other tiny lifeforms?  Have you ever heard of underwater chimneys? Some of those chimneys are found as far below the surface as sixteen thousand feet!

We have studied the Titanic, other sunken ships and an array of places using submersibles specially furnished with scientific equipment.   We have drilled into the seabeds using unique platforms to extract oil and gas.  (I wonder if any of those human workers have ever seen a colossal squid or blue whale showcased in several pages.)  A history of the development of diving suits and submarines will astound readers.  Many forms of diving and famous divers are disclosed.  

As we continue to move toward the surface we learn of water pressure, sinkholes, coral reefs, and the properties necessary for something to float.  To further our knowledge a comparison is made between the residents of an ocean and a freshwater lake.  As we come to the top, seeing the sky above, we can make the choice to dive down beneath the waves again or head to terra firma and start digging once more.


As in the Maps title the authors have meticulously labeled every item in the illustrations, inviting further research by readers.  Each two-page illustration, top to bottom horizontally, places informative text in rounded boxes blending into the image.  Each of these boxes contains one to five sentences written in an easy, conversational style.  (Readers should note the measurements are given using the metric system.)  Here are some sample passages.

The roots that reach deepest are of plants that grow in deserts.  The plants send them deeper and deeper underground in search of water.

In the far north of Russia, beyond the Arctic Circle, scientists drilled the world's deepest hole to gain a better understanding of the Earth's structure.  The borehole took 22 years to create and was more than 12km deep.

The Great Lakes are the Earth's biggest bodies of fresh water.  The most extensive freshwater lake, Lake Superior-on the border of the United States and Canada-is bigger than the Czech Republic.  The world's deepest lake is Lake Baikal in Russia, which reaches a depth of up to 1642m.

At the bottom of the ocean, hundreds, or even thousands of metres underwater, unusual places lie hidden that resemble fields of smoking chimneys.  The clouds that emerge there are not smoke, but hot water full of minerals.


When the book case is opened readers can view the table of contents for each section, earth and water, laid before them like a path to follow, with small images, page numbers and titles given.  Shades of blue are used as the background in the portion on water.  Once we begin to delve into the section on the earth a more varied color palette is used.  

The fine line work, layers of complex aspects, layout and design represent painstaking planning and implementation.  Within each illustration and from picture to picture everything flows flawlessly.  You might think the large amount of elements would be a distraction but that is simply not true.  They are an invitation to explore, discover and learn.

Two of my favorite illustrations of many are one from the water and one from the earth.  The Carmagnolle brothers' diving suit is featured in a single visual stretching from top to bottom.  It is standing in a bed of seaweed entirely submerged.  Seven labels containing facts are attached to it as is an important date.  Bubbles rise from the bottom in several hues of blue.  As a gardener the six horizontal rows highlighting roots, rhizomes, tubers and bulbs are fascinating.  Each is named with most containing special uses and locations where they are found.  Realistic colors are employed.  Gals and guys will be absorbed in the cross-sections devoted to moles, naked-mole rats, prairie dogs, badgers and red foxes.  


Under Earth Under Water written and illustrated by Aleksandra Mizielinska and Daniel Mizielinski is a marvelous, mesmerizing look at our planet's earth and water characteristics, the flora and fauna residing there and the secrets they have revealed to us.  This team has also added people and scientific advancements of significance relative to both.  The sturdy book case and heavy paper make this a lasting worthwhile addition to personal and professional collections.  Your patrons and students are going to love it.  I advise getting several copies.  

I was unable to locate any information on Aleksandra Mizielinska and Daniel Mizielinski but more information about this title and the others by this team can be viewed at Candlewick Press, Big Picture Press, and Templar Publishing. Enjoy the book trailer.




 To enjoy the other titles selected by participants in the 2016 Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge please access Kid Lit Frenzy hosted by educator Alyson Beecher.


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