A lot goes into creating a nonfiction picture book—just ask Susan Stockdale. As she was writing and illustrating Fantastic Flowers, she not only did her own research, she relied on the expertise of multiple botanists and scientists to proof her work and provide any additional information or suggestions to ensure scientific accuracy, particularly in the back matter and throughout her illustrations. Hear from Susan herself as she explains a little more about the science behind Fantastic Flowers. 


In addition to my research to create Fantastic Flowers, I consulted closely with three botanists on the book: Dr. Ari Novy of the U.S. Botanic Garden; Dr. Peter Zale of Longwood Gardens; and Dr. Gary Krupnick of the National Museum of Natural History. They vetted my manuscript and illustrations for scientific accuracy and provided valuable feedback (and enthusiasm!) as I crafted the book.

These scientists were particularly helpful as I designed my approach to the back matter. Initially, I wanted to provide “shape” categories in which to place my 17 flowers and their pollinators. For example: “Flowers shaped like a long tube attract hummingbirds and insects that have long tongues to reach deep into the flower for nectar. Trumpet creeper.” However, my consultants advised against this. They said it was impossible to place the flowers’ pollinators in such neat categories, calling it “leaky science.”

Ultimately, I decided to explain what a flower is and how it is pollinated, and provided a photo of each flower along with its common and scientific name, native range, and pollinators. I leaned heavily on my consultants to ensure the accuracy of this very specific information. I probably emailed the pollination expert 10 times with questions.

I also submitted my flower drawings to the botanists to ensure that they were anatomically correct before I began painting them. After seeing my initial drawing of this spider flower,  

Dr. Zale responded, “Your painting could use some modifications. The ends of the flowers should look more like stigmas than anthers. The styles should also be coming out of each flower. The flowers themselves should not be pointy but should curl open.”

Based on his comments, I revised my final illustration:

I am indebted to these scientists and others with whom I’ve worked on previous books for helping me convey accurate information to my young readers! 

Read more about Susan Stockdale and Fantastic Flowers on our Sunday Brunch post. Find Fantastic Flowers at your local libraryindie bookstore, or Barnes & Noble!