Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Professor Astro Cat's Solar System: Q&A with His Human Crew

A quick interview with the creators of Professor Astro Cat, I mean, er...his human crew members!


Let me just go fangirl on you for a moment and say that, as usual, the book is wonderful in both text and illustrations.

I noticed that you mention comets, but not meteors or exoplanets. What was your process in deciding what to include?

BEN: Thanks! Professor Astro Cat’s Solar System acts a stepping stone to
Professor Astro Cat’s Frontiers Of Space. As it is for a younger audience, we have stripped things back to keep it simpler and cleaner which means that we could not include everything we wanted.

DOM: Yes, what to include and not include in our books is always tough to decide. We tend to arrange the information as a hierarchy, start at the bottom and go as far up as we can. In this way we try and make sure everything is as understandable as possible.

Obviously the ship with the large clear dome makes it easy for the Prof and his pals to see the wonders of the solar system. Were there any particular inspirations for the design of the ship and space suits?

BEN: I loved watching Hannah Barbara cartoons as a child so the Jetsons are certainly an influence. The space ship, although very good for touring the solar system, is certainly a nod to them.

Professor Astro Cat and Astro Mouse’s space suits are very much inspired by space suits in the 50s and 60s that were too impractical for use. I found them very funny so used them as a starting point when creating them. As I designed Felicity’s space suit much later, her design is more slim line and much easier to manoeuvre in.

Many schools have been focusing on the solar eclipse (August 21, 2017), and discussing eye safety during viewing. Did you have that in mind when you were working on the pages about the sun, or was it a precaution you would have included anyway?

DOM: I’m really excited about the eclipse, I’m going down to Oregon state to see it and have got my eclipse glasses all ready! I think we would have included this anyway as it is important to make sure we don’t damage our eyes.

Including details about space probes like Messenger and Mariner, or the Hubble Telescope give readers ideas for further investigation. Where do you go to research topics like that?

DOM: The NASA website is a really great source of information so I go there to make sure I’m getting my facts right.

You use labels, bold print, and a glossary to help readers process the information. Teachers love nonfiction text features like those, but have you considered making a teaching guide to go with the Astro Cat titles?

BEN: Not yet but hopefully as we make more books this could become a possibility. We want Professor Astro Cat to be as useful to children, teachers, librarians and parents as possible.

Professor Astro Cat says that finding ice on Mercury is “Pretty cool, huh?” And while standing on Venus, the explorers have an umbrella that is being dissolved by the acid rain. Do you feel that humor helps make a topic interesting and easier to learn? (I do; I’m just blatantly fishing for agreement here.)

BEN: Haha, yes, definitely. That is the fun part of illustrating the book with imaginary characters because we can stretch and play with what is and isn't possible as long as it doesn't interfere with the message or information we are trying to convey.

Did either of you dream of being an astronaut when you were a child? If so, where would you have wanted to explore?

BEN: I don't think I did. I always wanted to draw for a living but I’m sure Dominic would go in a heartbeat.

DOM: Going up into space would be absolutely amazing. Especially when you hear the astronauts from the Apollo missions talk about walking around on the surface of the Moon. Imagine that. Standing on a completely different body in space!! I think I would want to go to whatever planet out there harbours abundant life. That would be mind blowing.

Thank you so much for your time! I love your books and they are incredibly popular with my students. We will be eagerly awaiting whatever topic you decide to tackle next.

BEN: Thank you!
DOM: Thanks!

For readers who haven't discovered Professor Astro Cat yet - he appears in other titles, including Professor Astro Cat's Frontiers of Space and Professor Astro Cat's Atomic Adventure. Stay tuned for more educational adventures from the smartest cat in the universe!

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