How we made it: The Egg Book

Discover the fantastic heritage story behind how we made The Egg Book, and take a crack at our quiz to guess who's egg belongs to who!

In 1994, an exciting idea began to hatch. What emerged was a captivating children's book about baby animals hatching from their eggs – from a tiny, delicate butterfly egg to the world's largest ostrich egg.

Now, nearly 30 years later, that same book is back and newly reimagined for a new generation of readers. Featuring more than 20 baby animals, with stunning, real-time photography and expert information, The Egg Book is a perfect Easter treasure.

We asked DK's former and current Children's Publishers, Mary Ling and Francesca Young, to share more about the fantastic heritage story behind how we made The Egg Book...

How did the idea of the egg book come about?

Mary: We hatched the idea because eggs are a mystery. So many animal babies develop in the safety of an egg. What goes on in there? Why are there so many different shapes, sizes and colours. Some are soft and leathery, some are so hard they need a special tool to escape, others are jelly and laid in their hundreds. So many questions in search of answers. The more we discovered the more we wanted to know. And felt sure it would make a brilliant book.

An egg is an extraordinary thing. Have you ever held a chicken's egg? The shell looks and feels so smooth and yet there are more than 9000 teeny tiny holes in the shell. The holes will ensure that the little captive will have sufficient water and air for the duration of its stay. The egg also contains enough food for the chick to grow strong. When the chick finally runs out of food and air the time has come to leave. It has a little tool on its beak called an egg tooth to help the great escape. It's a drama that we can’t see until the little lodger flops out exhausted and rests before exploring a whole new world.

What part of the book did you enjoy working on the most?

Mary: First of all, it's all the extraordinary things you discover along the way and hope to show in the book. Of course we had to be realistic in our plans. So we contacted eggsperts to discuss what would be possible and then approached wildlife photographers prepared to watch an egg for as long as it took. The photographers needed special equipment to keep the eggs at a constant temperature. Safe and warm.

One couple we asked for help, Kim and Jane, both excellent photographers with the patience of saints, lived in an old converted school house and dedicated their time to capturing images we might have thought impossible. On our visits to see how things were going, there would be all sorts of animals in various setups ready for their star turn. It was thrilling when the photographs arrived. Such a variety of creatures caught at this amazing moment when they enter the big wide world.

When we collected two gecko eggs to take to the studio, they started to hatch in the car. It was a race to get to the photographer in time. It was very exciting when a message came through that the whole hatch sequence had been captured.

How did you rediscover The Egg Book?

Francesca: Sarah Larter, our Children's Publishing Director, and some of the Children's team found the original copy in the library and as soon as they started oooh'ing and ahh'ing over it, we decided quickly we HAD to give it another life. I remember chatting to Mary about the first edition when I first started at DK so it's so lovely it's come full circle and we get to see it in bookshops again.

What made you want to bring the book back to life for a new generation of readers?

Francesca: The photography is still absolutely outstanding – it's a true DK gem and the sort of content that made DK’s reputation as an innovator in the non fiction space. It's also a subject that's immensely fascinating to children and adults. You never quite know what's in an egg, when it'll hatch and what the little creature inside will look like. The Egg Book features more than 20 animals – including a penguin, a tortoise, and even a slug – and shows how their eggs hatch step by step so you're part of the magic too.

How has the content evolved since the 1994 edition? Did you encounter any big changes or challenges?

Francesca: We've not had to do much! We rebuilt the files (as the first edition was too old for us to have anything on record for), added illustrations to compliment the photography, and updated the facts so everything is correct and up to date! That's it! The biggest challenge was to avoid CRACKING too many egg puns while working on it...

What's your favourite egg?

Mary: You have to love an ostrich egg, the biggest and the strongest shell. The female keeps them warm during the day and the male does the night shift. They have a creche system too. There will be about 30 eggs gathered from the all ladies of the group.

If you get a chance to see butterfly eggs with a magnifying glass, some are amazing little intricate delicate sculptures.

The leopard tortoise egg was perfectly spherical and this perfectly formed tortoise emerged carrying his perfect shell - amazing.

I can't choose one favourite. Eggs are simply eggstraodinary!
Francesca: Dogfish eggs! They're incredible to look at and have a wonderful name when they're empty and found washed up on beaches. I think the fact you COULD find an egg case makes it more magical.

All the eggs in the book are fascinating though; you can see the biggest egg in the world hatching, find out which animals have jellylike eggs, and see entire life cycles. With expert information and jaw-dropping photography, The Egg Book is the ideal gift for any child with a love of nature, science and baby animals. It's an Easter treasure.

Are you an eggspert on eggs?

Could you tell the difference between a chicken egg and a duck egg? Know what an emu egg looks like? What about a leopard tortoise egg? Take a crack at our quiz to guess who's egg belongs to who!
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