That’s how Are You An Insect? – our picture book on nature-inspired bots – begins. That’s also how Adrija Ghosh, who has illustrated it, probably reacted when she looked up reference images for the Roach Bot that the book features.
“I literally illustrated that spread like this.”
Her face is hidden in her palms, like someone home alone watching a horror film.
“Eventually, I did have fun with the book,” she says.
More in her words:
PLAYING WITH BOTS
I really enjoy illustrating. With equal – actually more – passion, I hate cockroaches. Who thought one of the first books I’d illustrate would require me to observe cockroaches around the house. Some way of facing your fears, huh?
It was daunting. There was also the fact I did not know these strange machines even existed before I read the manuscript! I had lots of reading up to do.
Then the challenge was to bridge the gap between existing representations of these machines and how children would find them relatable. That was where the fun came in. The core mechanism of how limbs of insects move formed the skeleton of the characters. A little bit of magic made them come to life.
Drawing these tiny machines became a great meditative process. Imagining a tiny bright speck of a RoboBee flapping away in space was the most exciting bit. And the idea of it hovering over blueprints on the cover was to have kids come back over and over again to the cover and the book. And to have them wonder if, someday, they would actually end up making such fascinating creatures come to life and save the world (even if, like yours truly, they live in fear of cockroaches).
Adrija is a graphic designer with Pratham Books. Besides Are You an Insect? she has illustrated Are You a Fish? and BK Tirumalamma avara Haaru-Beelu Kavanagalu for us. And the bonus one with this piece to show us how terrified she is of roaches.