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Q & A with Jillian Morris, author of "Norman the Nurse Shark"

Norman the Nurse Shark is a children's book from Jillian Morris and her colleagues, which presents shark science and ocean conservation topics in an accesible format for the upcoming generation of elasmobranch scientists and conservationists. We asked Jillian a few questions about the project from inception to future plans: 

Q: How did the idea for this project come about?
 I have always wanted to write a children’s book, so when Sharks4Kids started, I knew it would be part of the journey. We started with our FIN tactic video series and Meet Norman the Nurse Shark was the first video, so it seemed fitting to have him star in the first book. The first shark I ever saw was a nurse shark and they were also the first sharks I ever went diving with, so they will always have a special place in my heart. They are wonderful ambassadors for sharks and have some unique adaptations, which make them ideal for teaching shark diversity. The Exumas, in The Bahamas provided the perfect backdrop, with a wide range of ecosystems, swimming pigs and sharks that actually sit on a dock. Shark facts, but also a fun adventure to get kids excited about these animals. 

Once the idea was in place Dr. Jeffrey Carrier assisted with the final fact check and Iit was honor to have him write the forward! My very talented friend Sean brought Norman to life and husband did the design and layout. My dream became a reality because of an amazing team of people. 

Q: What is the biggest takeaway you would like readers to have?
I want kids to learn that there is so much more to sharks than just their teeth! They have awesome adaptations and can do some weird and wonderful things. A great white shark might have been the obvious choice for a first book, but I want kids to dive deeper into the world of these remarkable creatures. 

Q: How has the response been from children so far?
Norman has made it around the world and the response has been amazing. I am blown away with all the emails, thank you notes and even videos people have sent to share their support for and love of Norman! He really has become an ambassador for sharks, which makes me incredibly happy. 

Q: Are there any surprising lessons you learned throughout the process of creating and producing this book?
The whole process has been a journey. We started with a Kickstarter campaign and because of some VERY generous supporters were able to print even more books and donate 300 to schools around the world. I was complete shocked at how quickly people supported the project and how many people got involved. 

The entire journey from start to finish had a lot more working parts and pieces than I ever thought of and took longer than I anticipated, but it was all worth it. I am excited to use this knowledge when we create the next book in the series. 

Q: Do you have advice on how scientists can be creative in reaching younger audiences?
I think it is important to remember that you can keep things factual, but also make them fun for students. You have to engage them and keep their interest in order to teach and hope they will remember. Cartoons, games, activities and hands on projects are a great way to share your research and get students to start critically thinking about how it relates to them, how they can get involved and if they might want to do similar work in the future. Ultimately we want to inspire the next generation of shark advocates and scientists and have the amazing opportunity to be part of that. 

Q: Are there plans for more books?
Absolutely! I hope to write as many as I can. Our next book, featuring a tiger shark, will be out next year! 

Q: Is there anything else we should know?
I just want to say thanks to everyone who has supported this project and made it possible. I am still overwhelmed by the continued support Norman is getting around the world. 

1. Kids in Guatemala meeting Norman the Nurse Shark  Credit: Duncan Brake
2. Reading Norman to students in Florida Credit: Eagle Ridge Elementary
3. Taking Norman to meet a real life Norman Credit: Dennis Proctor