Egg: Nature’s Perfect Package

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Hatching a plan for survival isn’t always easy in the wild. And how animals lay, protect, and even use each other’s eggs as a food source help reveal the life cycle of the natural world. Eggs come in all shapes and sizes. The ostrich’s is the largest, but some are so small, you need a microscope to spot them. Animals hide them and disguise them in smart and surprising ways, too. Some abandon their eggs, while others protect them fiercely and carry them wherever they go. There are as many kinds of eggs as there are animals that depend on them, because in the animal kingdom, the fight for survival begins with the simple, but extraordinary, egg.


From the Publisher

Book, Egg, Steve Jenkins, Children''s Book

Book, Egg, Steve Jenkins, Children''s Book

A Look Inside How the Book Was Made

In some ways, the egg is the perfect subject for a non-fiction picture book. In one neat, often colorful, sometimes surprisingly-shaped package, the egg provides an introduction to animal reproduction, animal architecture, unusual defensive strategies, predation, parenting behavior, evolution, and more.

But rather than taking an overview and trying to explain all the important aspects of eggdom, Egg focuses on the extremes of size and form. This includes the ways and places eggs are laid, egg quantities, the ways eggs are protected, and the sometimes surprising ways that eggs become another animal’s dinner. This is a look inside the creation of this book from Steve Jenkins.

Researching and Sketching: The Start of the Process

Photographs, Egg, Steve Jenkins

Photographs, Egg, Steve Jenkins

Egg, Steve Jenkins, Picture Book

Egg, Steve Jenkins, Picture Book

Steve Jenkins, Egg, Picture Book

Steve Jenkins, Egg, Picture Book

Observing the Subjects: Research

We read books about eggs — lots of books. Some were books for children, some for adult readers. We also did research on the internet. And we visited zoos and natural history museums, taking notes and photos of anything related to animal eggs. We collected information and images from all of these sources, then made small prints of the eggs we were thinking of using in the book.

Putting Ideas to Paper – Thumbnail Sketching

Our books begin with pages of little sketches known as thumbnails. These sketches are quick and rough, which makes it easy to try out a lot of ideas in a short time. We often make dozens of thumbnail layouts for a book, experimenting with different layouts and sequences. Finished sketches of each subject serve as templates for the final illustrations.

Writing It Out – Composing the Text

The text for Egg began as a series of lists and notes written by hand in a notebook. These jottings evolved into rough text, also written by hand. I prefer this medium to the computer at the beginning of the writing process. Rough text on a screen looks too finished, and I find it difficult to throw ideas out and start over. Eventually, I do type the text into a computer program, print it out, and edit it by hand. Then the text goes to our editor, who makes comments and corrects spelling and grammar. By the time the text is finalized, it’s been through a dozen or more drafts.

Creating the Art – From Start to Finish!

Bird sketch, Steve Jenkins, Children''s Book

Bird sketch, Steve Jenkins, Children''s Book

Steve Jenkins, Egg, Children''s Book

Steve Jenkins, Egg, Children''s Book

Finished Art, Steve Jenkins, Children''s Book

Finished Art, Steve Jenkins, Children''s Book

Step 1: Make a Sketch

The illustrations in Egg are cut-and-torn paper collage, but they start out as a pencil sketch. This sketch will be used as a template for cutting out the pieces of color paper, which will be assembled into a final illustration.

Step 2: Choose the Right Paper

Now it’s time to pick the papers I’ll use in my collage. These are a few of the papers for the image of a chicken hatching.

Step 3: Voila! Final Art

Here’s the final illustration.

From Art to Production – The Final Stage

Steve Jenkins, Book, Egg

Steve Jenkins, Book, Egg

Steve Jenkins, Book, Egg

Steve Jenkins, Book, Egg

Steve Jenkins, Book, Egg

Steve Jenkins, Book, Egg

Inputting Illustrations Into the Layout.

We designed the book using InDesign, a computer desktop publishing program. The illustrations are scanned and placed on the pages and the text is copied from a manuscript and added to the layout. The finished file is called a digital mechanical. Then we print out each page on a color printer. The printouts are trimmed, folded, and bound into a dummy — a handmade book that shows us how the finished volume is going to look.

Creating the Mechanical

The final digital file with all images and text in place — the mechanical — is delivered to the publisher. There an art director and copy editor check it over, then send it to the printer. The illustrations are converted into a pattern of tiny dots that are either cyan (blue), magenta (pink), yellow, or black. These dots combine to make all of the colors and detail in a printed illustration. Sheets of paper are passed through a large printing press, where the four colors are laid down one at a time. Finally, the sheets are put in order, bound together, and a cover is attached.

A Book is Made!

A little more than two years after starting work on the book, we get our first finished copy of Egg.

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