The Science of H2O
by Rita Goldner
Lately I’m knee-deep in research on water, specifically the water cycle. I’m close to the finish line for my picture book, Agent H2O Rides the Water Cycle. I’ve completed the text, and it’s being edited now. I’m almost done with the interminable but fun part – the illustrations. Even though the pictures and story might be whimsical and silly, I’m a stickler for accuracy in my books. Toward this end, I have a friend with a doctorate in geophysics looking at my adventure story to make sure it’s scientifically true. I’m impressed; he’s already found two things that aren’t factual. My commitment to correctness compels me to expand my limited knowledge of a topic with internet exploration, and then re-word the science jargon into a kid-friendly book, preferably with an action-packed tale.
The uninspiring part of the research this time is the description of what water does on the cycle: It gets heated by the sun; evaporates from oceans, lakes, rivers; and becomes vapor. After it rises, it condenses into droplets and forms clouds. When the droplets join and get bigger, they precipitate as rain. Sometimes they blow to a colder climate, freeze into ice crystals, and fall down as snow. This process seemed a little dull, but I found a few kid-oriented websites that spiced up the story. They proposed that since water is always on the move, an individual drop in your glass of water could have evaporated up from someplace thousands of miles away. And since water is continually cycling, disappearing, and coming back, it’s also likely that same drop has been around in one form or another for millions of years.
That perspective adds the drama, so I can create an exciting protagonist who has traveled all those miles, even hung around with dinosaurs. My obsession with scientific accuracy forced me to find, for my opening spread, three reference dinosaurs from the same time period (although I wonder if anyone else cares about this). I chose the Cretaceous Period because I also wanted to find three dinosaurs with really weird head shapes, scales, etc. to make the scene more fun.
The hero of the adventure is a secret agent on a mission to hydrate plants, animals, and people. The illustration above shows two parts of the cycle, page 5 and page 9, evaporation and precipitation. An editor told me that a secret agent needed props. Since he has hands and feet and a face, I thought this was a no-brainer; I’ve seen a lot of James Bond movies. Or maybe not, since the first things springing to mind were a gun and a martini glass. Then I thought: a female accomplice in a slinky low-cut evening gown, a fountain pen that shoots exploding missiles, and a Lamborghini. You can see where this is going… Moving on to something more appropriate for a 5- to 7-year-old, I’ll use a magnifying glass, map, and binoculars. If you can think of anything else, please let me know in the Comments section below.
The requisite villain in the story is hilarious: a blob of oily pollution with black stuff dripping out of his nose. He has hands too, trying to grab a fleeing H2O. He’s surrounded by bottles and cans floating in the lake, an old tire, and green pond scum. Fun! I’ll be posting sample illustrations on my website. Thanks for indulging me on my circuitous path to creating a new work!
The USGS Water Science School
The Water Cycle Educational Video for Kids
The Water Cycle for Kids – How It Works – Diagram & Facts
The Water Cycle! National Geographic Kids
Rita Goldner is the author and illustrator of the children’s picture book, Orangutan: A Day in the Rainforest Canopy. Rita has also written and illustrated two eBooks, Jackson’s History Adventure and Jackson’s Aviation Adventure, in the Jackson’s Adventure series.For orangutan facts and images and to purchase the book (also available as an ebook), visit OrangutanDay.com. Or by the Kindle version here. Rita’s newest book, Making Marks on the World: A Storybook for Left- and Right-Handed Coloring, is available for purchase here. Works in progress: H2O Rides the Water Cycle, The Flying Artist, and Rose Colored. To view additional illustrations and Rita’s books in progress, visit Rita’s website. Contact Rita here. Follow Rita on Facebook. Subscribe to Rita’s newsletter, Orangutans and More! and receive a free coloring page of today’s illustration.