So graceful, and yet so lonesome–out of 987 eggs, mine was the only one that hatched.
Who knows, maybe I was the last axolotl in these waters?
At the bottom of a lake in Mexico City, our axolotl narrator goes to underwater school, collects treasures tossed away by the big lugs on land, and has dance parties with tiger salamander friends. Life is good!
But as the world gets hotter and hotter, the water gets murkier. Friends become harder to find, and the lonesome axolotl grows even lonelier. Until one day when, out of the blue, a colossal wave carries the axolotl into a surprising new future…
LB: It was a long process, but everything started in Italy many years ago when I saw a photo of a very strange creature, an axolotl. It was like a mixture of an alien and a smiling baby – very strange and almost cute. I immediately understood that I had to make a book about it. The axolotl actually first appeared in my book Good Night, Earth, but that was really just a warm up!
LTPB: Can you talk about your research process for this book, including your visual research of axolotls? What challenges did you encounter?
LB: I read a lot about this little animal and it was a shock to understand that it might already be extinct in the wild. I understood that the climate crisis fitted smoothly into the story, and I read many books on the topic. The axolotl is a fantastic creature and just like our planet it has the ability to regenerate if it gets hurt.
I also watched many nature documentaries – I wanted the reader to get close to the axolotl in the book and interested in nature in the same manner as when watching a film by David Attenborough.
I really wanted the reader to feel close to the axolotl and get more interested in nature.
LTPB: What did you use to create the illustrations in this book? Is this your preferred medium? How does your process change from book to book?
LB: I used a lot of different media when creating the book: pencils, watercolors, ink pens and collage etc. I always try to find a style that suits the story I’m working on at the moment. In the end I still put together my pictures in Photoshop, which I really enjoy. It’s like a magician’s hat, so many tools you can get creative with and it also helps me organize my work and control the colors in the book.
Many surfaces are hand painted with watercolours:
I really enjoy drawing my characters in sketchbooks using simple line drawing. Quite often I draw different body part separately to be able to colour in a more convenient way in Photoshop.
My daughter Milja helped me with some of the drawings. I’m so pleased with how they turned out!
LTPB: What are you working on now? Anything you can show us?
LTPB: If you got the chance to write your own picture book autobiography, who (dead or alive!) would you want to illustrate it, and why?
Thank you so much to Linda for talking to me about this book! My Life at the Bottom: The Story of a Lonesome Axolotl published earlier this year form Yonder!
July 26, 2022 at 10:58AM firstname.lastname@example.org (Mel Schuit)