Antarctica: The Melting Continent by Karen Romano Young, illustrated by Angela Hsieh

Publication Date: 21 April 2022

The Blurb

Antarctica – vast, cold and mysterious. This frozen continent is full of incredible stories. Here you can discover incredible wildlife, awe-inspiring landscapes and adventurous scientists and explorers.

Join author Karen Romano Young on a trip across Antarctica, hanging out with people and animals and learning about how this special place is changing, and what it means for our planet. Hang out with some of the coolest creatures on earth above and below the ice as you meet emperor penguins, killer whales and elephant seals. Suit up for the cold and explore some of the harshest landscapes on earth, following in the footsteps of brave explorers. And learn about how scientists survive here today and what they do all day – from studying climate change to investigating ice cores almost a million years old to learn about the history – and future – of our planet

The Q&A with Karen Romano Young

Tell us a little about your new book for children, ANTARCTICA: The Melting Continent

I went to Antarctica first through a National Science Foundation Antarctic Artists and Writers program, and “embedded” with a team of biologists from the Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences. While there I was invited to take a fishing trip aboard a research ship — we used seine nets to bring up icefish, which have clear blood. A year later I returned to Antarctica aboard an ocean drilling ship that researches the ocean of the past by drilling down into the seafloor.  Now the ice is in my blood and I can’t wait to find a way back to Antarctica again.  Among the chief findings — the MOST important thing — is the accelerated warming happening in Antarctica because of climate change.  That’s what this book is about. To write it, I drew on the science I learned on my expeditions, and also talked to and wrote about many other scientists studying this changing continent.  I am thrilled and honored to have worked on this book with Angela Hsieh, who brought our trips to visual life. 

How and why did you become a Polar Explorer? 

I became fascinated by the North Pole first, because of a story I read about the explorer Fridtjof Nansen, who sailed his ship up to the edge of the Arctic ice and allowed it to be frozen in. I learned (along with him) that the polar ice cap drifts, and became interested in learning more about the far north.  I first went there in 2010, aboard an icebreaker, and got to stand on the polar ice cap!  I saw polar bears, walrus, seals, and so many wonderful fish and birds, and experienced polar ice for the first time. But the only way to research the ice in the north is from a ship. When I learned about the Antarctic research stations and camps, I began to dream of the South Pole as well. 

What led you to write about your work for children?

I am a long-time children’s author with more than 30 books for children. In researching ANTARCTICA: THE MELTING CONTINENT, I began reading and writing much more about climate change, and realized how vitally important it is to young people. I thought that kids should know more about what is happening right now, because they are the ones who are going to have to understand, and to plan for the future – their own futures and the planet’s. 

Girls and young women are being encouraged to take up STEM subjects at school. What was your experience of studying those subjects and getting into the industry you now work in?

As a child I had little formal science education but loads of informal education, including engineering learned from my father, medicine from my grandfather and mother, seashore ecology and wetlands and river systems from a neighbourhood woman who created a program for the kids in our town.  I always wanted to do science, writing, and art, and although school did not support this very much, I made my own way. If I were young today I would want to be involved in robotics, scuba diving, Space Camp, and so many other things that are available to girls now. 

Did you have to do any training or specific preparation to be able to visit Antarctica? 

I learned all I could about the science goals of the team I was working with, and researched the scientists who were also at the stations or on the ships when I was there.  We had many crucial safety trainings, including survival skills in the snow, managing spills (we must preserve the Antarctic ecosystem), dealing with leopard seals and other large animals, and more. 

What is your favourite thing about your job?  

Just one? Telling the stories, using art, photographs, and writing, and sharing them with other people.  But also, of course, experiencing the amazing environments we visit for science. Antarctica is so incredibly beautiful.  I really did cry the first time I saw it emerge from the mist. 

What is the most challenging aspect of your job?  

Sometimes I struggle to understand the science. I very often work with people who are much more schooled and experienced in their topic and process. It’s hard not to feel a little stupid! But I try to use that feeling to ask questions that will help me tell the stories to other people, using images and words that can communicate with everyone — and that won’t make THEM feel dumb. 

What advice would you tell young people who would like to help turnaround the effects of climate change?  

Work together with other people to achieve the group goals.  Many people all over the world are working on this problem, and we WILL solve it as long as more of us understand and participate.  Never think what you are doing is too small, or that you are too unimportant. 

And finally, have you had any exciting encounters with the wildlife in Antarctica? 

Oh yes indeed! Please see the leopard seal story in the book… but also, at sea we frequently saw whales, seals, penguins, and birds. And one wonderful day we took a hike to see a pod of elephant seals. They are huge and hilarious and sort of ugly-beautiful…   I am still waiting to see orca.  That’s why I have to go back to the ice as soon as I can! 

Huge thanks to Karen for such an insightful Q&A and to What On Earth Books for inviting me to take part in the blog tour. Do make sure you check out all of the other stops.


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