Creating a Garden : An Interview with Masha d’yans

Your belly is full of tiny creatures! A Garden in Your Belly: Meet the Microbes in Your Gut by Masha D’yans uses striking watercolors and lively text teach kids about the garden of microscopic flora growing inside them, how it keeps them healthy, and how they can help it thrive.

Masha wrote and illustrated A Garden in Your Belly, and today we’ve asked her a few questions about her artistic process.

Can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today?

Growing up, my family moved a lot and in different configurations (I’m talking neighborhoods first and continents later). Staying in touch with friends and family in those pre-social media days was everything. One of my favorite things to do was to send drawings of things I observed or ideas I had along with my letters. This led me to make illustrations and put together stories and that’s what I still do!

What was your inspiration for this book?

Me, as the little girl suffering from severe food allergies, anxiety and stomach aches. That kid could really use some ideas on regulating her well-being all those years ago. Also, since childhood I’ve been into miniatures and the idea of worlds within worlds. Our planet is part of a vast cosmos. We’re all part of this earth. We, in turn, have worlds within us. Similarly, a microbe has a world inside itself, as does each cell. I love that we can go smaller and smaller in the style of the Russian doll “Matryoshka.”

Where did the visual world come from?

It’s a huge challenge to depict a fantastical universe, even if microbial. My approach was to tap into the beginner’s mind, to forget the visuals typical of this subject matter. I let my imagination run so that the young reader could picture their own biology in a fun, non-clinical way. But some art history inspiration is definitely peeking through the illustrations. Can you see it?

What do you hope readers will take away from your book?

Hopefully, the book will engage the reader with fun details and visual surprises long enough to encourage good habits in kids and their adults!

Spread from A Garden in Your Belly

Praise for A Garden in Your Belly

A Garden in Your Belly‘s colorful world helped me wake up this morning. This book is as powerful as it is beautiful and that’s the minimum!” —Eric Carle

“[Has] vividly colored, wildly imaginative, and joyful artwork . . . A lively introduction to a vital element in human health.”—Booklist

“A gentle look deep inside.”—Kirkus Reviews

“A good addition to collections looking to update their biology section.”—School Library Journal

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