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The Picture Book Buzz

The Picture Book Buzz - Interview with Lydia Lukidis and Review of Deep, Deep Down

Lydia Lukidis is the author of 50+ trade and educational books for children. Her passion for reading and writing began at a very young age, when she was a voracious reader and composed poem after poem in her journals. At the same time, her deep curiosity also prompted her to study science, and she eventually acquired a college degree in Pure and Applied Science. She later acquired her Bachelor degree in English Literature from McGill University and her love for the written word continued to grow.

Today, her passions of writing and science have merged together. She now integrates her studies in science and her everlasting curiosity into her books. She’s especially fond of writing books with stimulating STEM topics, while keeping the text accessible and engaging for young readers. She also continues writing fiction and poetry.

Her books include The Broken Bees' Nest, illustrated by Andre Ceolin (Kane Press, 2019) which was nominated for a Cybils Award, No Bears Allowed, illustrated by Tara J Hannon(Clear Fork Media, 2019), and The Space Rock Mystery, illustrated by Shirley Ng-Benitez (Astra Publishing House, 2018).

Her newest picture book, Deep, Deep, Down: The Secret Underwater Poetry of the Mariana Trench, was released on January 1st.

What was your inspiration for Deep, Deep Down: The Secret Underwater Poetry of the Mariana Trench?

In 2019, I read an article about how scientists found a plastic bag floating in the Mariana Trench. They also discovered plastic in the belly of various marine animals. My heart sank. I wondered how we human beings managed to start damaging one of the most remote places on the planet.

At that point, I didn’t know that much about the Mariana Trench and my curiosity grew. I began my research on the internet and then came to realize most of that information was false. The book really came together once I interviewed a slew of experts (6 in total) who devoted their lives to studying the deep sea, the hadal zone, and geology. They also helped me find the right books and articles to read for updated information.

Definitely makes a good case for verifying the facts. What is the most fun or unusual place where you’ve written a manuscript?

What a fun question! Sometimes inspiration comes at the most inopportune time. I distinctly remember writing my book No Bears Allowed when I was on vacation in Hawaii while my 3-year-old daughter napped in the hotel.

How long did it take from the first draft to publication for Deep, Deep Down? Was this similar to your other books?

Every book is different. It took 2 years to write Deep, Deep Down and another 1 ½ years to find a publishing house, and from there, another 1 ½ years to publish (I find this relatively quick!)

I wish I could just pump out polished manuscripts every 6 months but they take the time they take. I just announced another forthcoming nonfiction picture book and that took 8 years to write! One never knows.

They do indeed. What was the most rewarding part of the publishing process for Deep, Deep Down?

Seeing the amazing artwork was definitely a high moment. Juan Calle’s illustrations were nothing short of magical, all the while being realistic.

And of course, seeing the first child I don’t know reading my book was another rewarding moment. I never take that for granted and feel so much gratitude for every child who reads my work.

Definitely a precious and humbling moment. What's something you want your readers to know about Deep, Deep Down?

That every fact in the book has been verified by 6 different experts. Truthfully, I could not have written the book without them. So much of the information on the internet and in books is false, so speaking with experts is crucial. I agonized over every little detail and rewrote the book over 55 times. I learned so much in the process as well!

For some interesting insight into a few of the falsehoods Lydia discovered, check out Sue Heavenrich's interview/review. Did anything surprise or amaze you when you first got to see Juan Calle Velez’s illustrations? What is your favorite spread?

Text © Lydia Lukidis, 2023. Image © Juan Calla Velez, 2023.

The first illustration I saw was the cover and I think my jaw dropped open. It’s amazing!! All Juan’s illustrations are realistic (he was a former biologist) but also draw the reader in. The trench is a mysterious and magical place, and Juan captured that sentiment well.

They almost look like photographs! What was the hardest, or most challenging, part of the research and/or writing of Deep, Deep Down?

Amazingly, I got the structure and voice right off the bat. That’s the first time that happened! But as I mentioned before, I really struggled with the details. For example, I needed to tell Juan how many pairs of legs an amphipod has. Seems simple, right? I looked it up and found several different answers. It took 2 different experts, a dozen emails, and two weeks to find the answer. Multiply that by the number of creatures I feature and the number of details the book provides, and you can see why it was a challenge. There were points where I thought the editing process would never end.

It does sound like quite the endeavor. What kind of marketing and promotion have you or your publisher done for this book? Do you have any marketing suggestions or ideas?

Capstone has been very hands on with me so far. Their design team created a poster as well as trading cards (you can find them here:, and have sent out information to the influencers, reviewers, and bloggers. They’re also sending me to the Ontario Library Association Super Conference in Toronto (February 1-4, 2023).

Like many other authors, I hustle to do my own marketing as well. Here are a few of the things that have been keeping me busy:

-contacting additional reviewers and bloggers (I organized a 25-day blog tour)

-creating a video trailer

-creating a teacher guide

-reaching out to organizations that explore the deep sea for possible collaborations

-scheduling a two-week tour of free author visits for schools and libraries that buy the book

-getting some swag made (careful not to over-spend like I did!)

-organizing a book launch

-and of course, social media posts

I love the idea of creature trading cards. They are awesome. Are there any new projects you are working on now that you can share a tidbit with us?

I just announced my second nonfiction STEM trade book, Dancing Through Space: Dr. Mae Jemison Soars to New Heights, illustrated by Sawyer Cloud and published by Albert Whitman. I’m also celebrating the upcoming release of my first ever novel, Conquering Mount Olympus, an interactive adventure book based on Greek mythology, published by KiwiCo for their Greece crate. I’m excited!

I’m also working on a few other books (picture books and middle grade) that I’ve been stuck on, but that recently got “un-stuck.” That’s always a gratifying moment!

We'll have to keep our eyes open for these books. Last question, what is the best advice you’ve ever gotten - whether it’s regarding writing/ illustrating or not?

I got some great advice from my agent Miranda. I find marketing difficult and I also noticed it sucks up a lot of my time. It’s an important part of the process and can’t be ignored to be sure, but at the same time, you can’t ignore writing new work. Miranda said it best:

“The best marketing you can do for you book is to write a new one.” Great advice!

It is indeed. Thank you, Lydia, for stopping by to share with us your newest book.

Thank you for having me!

To find out more about Lydia Lukidis, or contact her:

Website & order links:

Review of Deep, Deep Down:

The Secret Underwater Poetry of the Mariana Trench

Gorgeously illustrated, this lyrical, narrative nonfiction takes the reader on a submersible voyage into the Challenger Deep, the deepest point on earth, to discover some of the animals who survive there despite the cold, dark, and intense pressure.

Deep, Deep Down: The Secret Underwater Poetry of the Mariana Trench

Author: Lydia Lukidis

Illustrator: Juan Calle Velez

Publisher: Capstone Editions

Ages: 7-10



Mariana Trench, ocean exploration, sea creatues, narrative nonfiction, and curiosity.


Deep, deep down, at the very bottom of the ocean, lies a secret world. Through lyrical narration, this spare-text STEM picture book takes readers on a journey to a place very few humans have ever been--the Mariana Trench. The imagined voyage debunks scary myths about this mysterious place with surprising and beautiful truths about life at Earth's deepest point. Deep, Deep Down shows a vibrant world far below, and teaches readers how interconnected our lives are to every place on the planet.

Opening Lines:




at the bottom

of the Pacific Ocean

lies a secret place.

Hidden from sight,

the Mariana Trench

is the deepest unwater valley

in the world.

What I LOVED about this book:

The intriguing opening, which feels like the narrator is letting the reader in on a special secret, is accompanied by an equally enticing opening illustration. One which draws the reader from the "safe" rock ledge past interesting shadowy creatures and into the dark depths.

Text © Lydia Lukidis, 2023. Image © Juan Calla Velez, 2023.

In the interview above, and others, Lydia Lukidis noted "none of the initial “terrifying” creatures that I found on the internet actually lived in the trench. (A lot of information on the internet about the Mariana Trench is false). " I love how she and Juan Calla Velez immediately tackle some of this misinformation, before proceeding to take the reader on an exploration of what actually does exist in the Mariana Trench.

Text © Lydia Lukidis, 2023. Image © Juan Calla Velez, 2023.

Do monsters lurk

at the very bottom?

After seeing these "monsters," how could you not turn the page to find out if not them, could there be something bigger or scarier? Or could the narrator be right, "perhaps the trench is desolate and uninhabited?"

Joining in the journey of a deep sea submersible, the reader plunges deep into the darkness when the sunlight can't reach. Lyrical, figurative language explores the environment which the submersible, and any sea life, experience within the trench. Then as sidebars track the depths (down to "the deepest spot on earth" and back up), a beautifully poetic text invites the reader to "witness a world of surprises" as the submersible exposes crinoids, snailfish, amphipods, sea cucumbers, and xenophyophores. I love that an additional sidebar offers older readers and adults facts and a little more insight into each of these remarkable creatures who survive in this stark environment.

Text © Lydia Lukidis, 2023. Image © Juan Calla Velez, 2023.

Each of Juan Cala Velez's gorgeous, full-bleed spreads would make stunning framed artwork. He does a wonderful job contrasting the trench's pitch blackness with the spots of light the submersible provides. Then, to accompany a "Did You Know" note about the trench, Velez creates a magnificent visual glossary/dive map summarizing the submersible's travels and cataloguing the sea life seen within the book and the depths at which each one lives. He's even tossed in a scuba diver for a humbling bit of perspective.

Text © Lydia Lukidis, 2023. Image © Juan Calla Velez, 2023.

Additional information about why the Mariana Trench and its inhabitants matter, an author's note, and a glossary round out this wonderful STEM book and make it a wonderful addition to oceanography and ecology units. This lyrically narrative nonfiction book takes kids of all ages on a visceral and visual experience to a remarkable place few people will ever get to visit, to encounter some truly impressive creatures.


- make your own submarine.

- why would so many internet site and books have the wrong information? If internet sources and some books are wrong, how can you verify the facts?

- be sure to check out the Deep, Deep Down coloring pages, poster, and sea life trading cards (

- pair this with Flying Deep: Climb Inside Deep-Sea Submersible Alvin by Michelle Cusolito, illustrated by Nicole Wong and Otis and Will Discover the Deep: The Record-Setting Dive of the Bathysphere by Barb Rosenstock, illustrated by Katherine Roy (for additional books on submersible exploration) and Field Trip to the Ocean Deep by John Hare (for a fun, graphic picture book look at life deep in the ocean).


Maria Marshall

 Photograph © A. Marshall

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