Zoë Armstrong on Curious Creatures Glowing in the Dark

Did you know that under the sea, deep in the forest, and out in the desert there are creatures that make light all by themselves? The Earth is full of curious creatures that really do glow in the dark! Curious Creatures Glowing in the Dark is a stunning non-fiction book all about how and why these creatures glow, and how humans have tried to harness their dazzling skills. 

We sat down with the author, Zoë Armstrong, to talk about how Curious Creatures Glowing in the Dark came to be – and to discover which glowing creature is her favourite!

Flying Eye Books: How did Curious Creatures Glowing in the Dark start for you? Did you already have a fascination with animals and bioluminescence? 

Zoë Armstrong: It actually started out as something completely different! I was writing a picture book text about a kid who builds a submarine and sets off to explore the deep ocean. It wasn’t really working, but the research for the story fascinated me.

I read about a marine biologist who was doing amazing work in the field of bioluminescence, and I decided to write her biography in a picture book style. That’s when I teamed up with Flying Eye.

Sadly, that book didn’t happen (for reasons we had no control over) but I was hooked on bioluminescence by that point. I changed the focus and pitched the idea for Curious Creatures Glowing in the Dark, as part of a series. And everyone was totally on board, which was lovely.

FEB: What research did you carry out to write Curious Creatures?

ZA: I read and read and wrote as I read. I watched TED Talks and videos, disappeared down rabbit holes and came up again with way too much information! It was really difficult having to lose some of the animals along the way. Like the spread about firefly squid, which rise up from the deep ocean on spring nights to mate and lay eggs, creating dazzling light shows in the water.

FEB: If you had to pick a favourite creature featured in Curious Creatures Glowing in the Dark, which would it be? 

ZA: It’s so hard to choose just one! I like the female bolitaena pygmaea octopus, which seems to be wearing glow-in-the-dark lipstick, and the flying squirrels that glow bubble gum pink under UV light. And then there’s the chameleons, with their fluorescent bones that shine through windows of thin skin! They’re all amazing!

FEB: What is one fact you were most surprised to learn when researching for the book?

ZA: I think the thing that surprised me the most was the sheer amount of bioluminescent chatter that is constantly going on deep down in the ocean. Billions of creatures, glittering and flashing and popping with light, as a way of communicating through the darkness.

FEB: An interesting aspect of this book is that it is not just made up of facts – it includes snapshots of scientists, researchers and young explorers interacting with the creatures which glow! Why did you choose to include this element in the book?

ZA: I didn’t want the animals to feel remote and unreachable and alien. I thought the readers would connect with the creatures more strongly if I could find ways of putting us right there with them. I wanted to build a sense that we share this planet, and that many of the creatures that live here have dazzling capabilities that we can only dream of. 

The brilliant illustrator Anja Sušanj came up with a little gang of kids who lead us through the book, which I absolutely love. Her last spread – the children gazing up at the animals, which are picked out in the stars – ­makes me feel quite emotional! 

FEB: The physical copies of Curious Creatures are now out in the shops and in readers hands! What has been your favourite part of creating and releasing the book?

ZA: It’s been incredible watching how Anja and Lilly Gottwald, the wonderful Art Director, have interpreted the text. I love the feeling of handing it over and watching it go off in all kinds of unexpected and beautiful directions. Working with editor Emily Ball was joy too. Our back-and-forth moulded the text into something lovely.

And most amazing of all is seeing real-life children loving the book, and booksellers championing Curious Creatures in their shops. The response has been so amazing.

FEB: And finally – can you give us one word to tease the topics of the next book in the Curious Creatures series? 

ZA: One word repeated three times: ‘tap, tap, tap’. I can’t wait!


Curious Creatures Glowing in the Dark

Zoë Armstrong and Anja Sušanj

From fireflies and sea turtles to puffins (yes, puffins!), scorpions and squirrels, this beautifully illustrated non-fiction picture book reveals a hidden world of amazing glowing animals.