Author Maris Wicks was one of those kids who, at recess, paid less attention to her classmates and more attention to the ants on the ground or the clouds in the sky, studying their patterns.
“I’ve always learned by doing—seeing things up close and drawing pictures,” Wicks said. “I’m still that way today.”
Now she uses that insight into how many kids learn best as an author and an illustrator, crafting children’s books that could be described as science lessons masquerading as comic books. She has written, drawn, and colored comics for First Second Books, New England Aquarium and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, as well as Spongebob Comics, Marvel Comics, and DC Comics.
She visited Hillsboro Charter Academy last week to talk about her newest book, “Science Comics: Coral Reefs, Cities of the Ocean,” which recently won The Nature Generation’s national Green Earth Book Award. The award recognizes books that inspire kids to care for the planet.
Wicks, a self-professed “science nerd,” told the Hillsboro students that coral reefs occupy less than 1 percent of the ocean floor, yet are home to more than 25 percent of marine life. “They’re like a busy city. They’re believed to be the most packed ecosystem on the planet,” she told the students.
Through colorful images and a cute fish as a narrator, “Science Comics: Coral Reefs, Cities of the Ocean” illustrates how preserving coral reefs can mean a better environment for everyone, even those living 2,000 miles from an ocean.
She asked the students to take 10 breaths. “Those 10 breaths you just took—seven of them are thanks to the ocean,” she said. “Really. Algae and phytoplankton found in the ocean produce 60 to 70 percent of the world’s oxygen.”
Wicks, who lives in Arlington, MA, was in Northern Virginia to accept The Nature Generation’s national Green Earth Book Award. Amy Marasco, a board member of Hillsboro Charter Academy and president of The Nature Generation, invited Wicks to talk about her science-themed comic books with the students at Hillsboro.
Being an author and illustrator can be fairly solitary, Wicks said, so she loves to get out and speak at schools and hear feedback from her youngest readers.
“I love to see how they’re thinking, and kind of get in their little minds,” she said. “It helps me write in a way that it encourages them to think and ask questions. That’s key to learning.”