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LIGHTS ON! Glow-in-the-Dark Deep Ocean Creatures

Written by Donna B. McKinney

Art by Daniella Ferretti

Yeehoo Press, 2023


Meet the weird and wonderful glow-in-the-dark sea creatures that live in the deep ocean, like the viperfish, which hunts with a blinking beacon to lead unsuspecting prey into its mouth; the glowing fireworm, that rises from the depths in a glowing cluster to search for a mate; and the bioluminescent vampire squid, who evades predators with its twinkling lights.

Join author Donna B. McKinney and illustrator Daniella Ferretti on a thrilling journey into the mysterious, dark world of the deep sea, where fascinating creatures make their own light !

Thanks for giving me some space on your blog today. I’m excited to tell you the story behind the story of LIGHTS ON!

I arrived at writing books for kids a little later in life than many authors. For a long, long time, I worked as a science writer at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, DC. In that job, I talked to scientists about their research, watched them at work in their labs, and wrote science news release about their discoveries. Somewhere along the way years ago, I had a conversation with a Navy scientist, who described to me these glow-in-the-dark creatures that live in the deep oceans. Their glowing lights are called bioluminescence.

Of course, I was familiar with glow-in-the-dark lighting bugs we see on summer nights. But I remember being fascinated by the idea that there were all these glow-in-the-dark fish swimming around in the ocean.

Fast forward lots of years … I had retired from the science writer job with the Navy and was enjoying spending my free time with the grandchildren who were beginning to arrive in our family. That time with them involved reading lots of picture books and I began to think about writing for children. I loved the books I was reading with my grandkids and wondered if I could write a book like those I was reading.

I started reading and researching the processes specifically related to writing for children. As a first step, I began writing for the educational market. These were non-fiction books, marketed to schools and libraries. The topics were assigned to me based on my areas of interest and expertise. Writing these books helped me learn about the book publishing process and how to write in simple language that is appealing to kids.

Then 2020 rolled around, Covid arrived, and suddenly, like most everyone else, I found myself spending a lot more time at home. I decided “now!” was the time to write that picture book I’d been dreaming of writing. During that summer of 2020, I considered lots of ideas, trying to land on just the right topic for a picture book. That conversation with the Navy scientist years earlier was one of my ideas. I started researched the deep-sea creatures that glow-in-the-dark and by the fall of 2020, the first draft of LIGHTS ON! was finished.

My granddaughter Abby, who is nearing the end of elementary school now, is my first reader for all my picture book drafts. She reads and gives me her keen kids-eye viewpoint on my work. Next my wonderful critique partners read the draft and made suggestions that helped me polish it into shape. By the spring of 2021, I began sending it out to publishers, and in August 2021, I got an email from Yeehoo Press indicating their interest. Fast forward again from that initial email in August 2021 to April 2023, when LIGHTS ON! arrives on the shelves of bookstores! What an exciting adventure it has been.

I wrote LIGHTS ON! because I think glow-in-the-dark creatures are cool. Because these creatures live in such extreme conditions at such tremendous depths, I’ll never see one except in scientists’ photos. But I think it’s amazing that such wild and wonder creatures live on this same world where I do. But I also wrote this book because we need to take care of this amazing planet, and I hope that the book might inspire wonder and a desire to care for this world in the minds and hearts of young readers who pick up the book and read it.


Donna B. McKinney has authored 21 nonfiction books for kids on topics ranging from science and technology to history to sports. Before she wrote for children, she wrote about topics like oceanography, chemistry, space science, and robotics at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, DC. She has a B.A. from Campbell University and an M.A. in English (Professional Writing/Editing) from George Mason University.


Twitter: @donnabmckinney

Instagram: @donnabmckinney



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