Under Earth, Under Water (or maybe Under Water, Under Earth (depending on which side you see first) by Aleksandra Mizielinska and Daniel Mizielinski
Big Picture Press (Candlewick), 2016. 112pp. 9780763689223.
Gene: You ever seen any books from Big Picture Press? Most (if not all) of its books were originally published in Poland, in Polish, but they’re these amazing picture book by a husband and wife team whose names I never want to mangle. They’ve done some really big board books and books of maps, they’re just beautiful. I want you to know I didn’t open this because I wanted to look at it with you for the first time.
Gene: It’s a flip book. One side is called Under Earth. The other side is called Under Water. Look at, on the cover of the underwater side, all of the cool diving gear, some of it not real looking to me.
Sarah: Though I know that’s real because I used to have a picture of it above my desk.
Gene: I saw one of these bulbous, 1800s, brass diving suits in Paris in a museum, and it looked like something from Hellboy to me. Then on the Under Earth side it’s all animals that live under ground along with some humans who are digging, along with some bones and stuff. Isn’t that cute?
Gene: Let’s start on the Earth side.
Sarah: I like this graphical table of contents.
Gene: There are little pictures for each of the entries. #26 is Sewage, which is nice. And it’s not quite laid out from top to bottom, it’s more of an adventure, a little maze to follow.
Sarah: The pictures are cartoony but like you can see what the things are, they’re accurate. Giant earthworm! Yeah!
Gene: The large earth bumblebee. The European beewolf. (What the hell is that?) And there’s a cutaway of an ant hill.
Sarah: Ant fungi farming.
Gene: Burrowing animals. There are little pictures everywhere. This is old world cartooning with really nice control of line and small textures. The armadillo is outstanding.
Sarah: My thought was, you can read this in any order. It would be really fun to read with a toddler.
Gene: And this is the kind of book that would get me exploring. It’s got my favorite, the naked mole rat, which the Pacific Science Center in Seattle has on display.
Sarah: Naked mole rats have this toilet room they go into and roll around in so that they smell the same. That way they can tell who is an invader and kill them.
Gene: And they don’t get cancer. That’s what I remember anyway. Or maybe I’m just a bad librarian.
Sarah: Badger. Red fox. Roots. Underground utilities!
Gene: There’s a toilet! And the sewage system.
Gene: A word rarely used to describe a picture book’s two-page spread on sewage…and after you go down and down to the earth’s core, we can flip it over and start at the sea.
Looks like it starts at the ocean, coral reefs, sink holes.
Sarah: Sink holes!
Sarah: Those are cool.
Gene: Scuba diving, diving bells, a history of diving suits.
Sarah: Ha! It would be cool to walk around at the bottom of the sea but I’m not brave enough to do it.
Gene: I guess those diving suits on the cover are all real. My favorite might be the Lodner-Phillips Underwater suit. It’s a steel cylinder. That’s insane. One of these was made in 1715? What?
Sarah: There are the bits in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea where they talk about walking around underwater in these suits. People have been thinking about it for a long time.
Gene: Wow. That wasn’t as out of the question as flying was. Oh! This is the one I saw in France in the Naval Museum!
Sarah: That’s really cool.
Sarah: Submarines! Look, the American Civil War submarine.
Gene: That was metal, right?
Sarah: Yes. Look, guys had to crank rows and rows of cranks to make it travel.
Gene: There’s a scale picture of a blue whale’s eye.
Sarah: And a colossal squid’s!
Gene: Oil and gas platforms, scientists under water, the wreck of the Titanic — what a great color.