After their bestseller Maps, which took young readers on a journey around the world, the Mizielińskis decided to show what is hidden inside of our planet. Exploring underground labyrinths and diving into the deep sea, they have created an engaging, in-depth, and visually attractive mine of information.
Due to its two-sided, horizontal layout, the book seems to be designed to be read in pairs: one can dive into the underwater world, and the other dig underground tunnels. The contents page resembles a board game whose story is unveiled as the depth increases. The two routes meet somewhere in the middle of the book, that is, the Earth's core . On the following pages you cross the borders of subsurface lands and of imagination itself.
During our underground expedition we are joined by bugs and burrow-dwellers. We lurk inside the pantry of a fox's den and an ants' nest, and learn the names and properties of various spices. From the level of fauna and flora, we smoothly get down to a space which is utilized by humans: the trail is marked by cables and pipes, we take the metro to get to caves and mines where treasure hides, and the experience is inflamed by the high temperatures of volcanos. We can cool our emotions by jumping into a lake or the sea. Yet only for a moment, because while searching the depths of the ocean we come across the wreck of the Titanic, which certainly causes our adrenaline level to spike. We boldly go where no one has gone before, neither the most persistent divers (not even in special, sophisticated suits) nor submarines (for example, those designed by Stefan Drzewicki, where the periscope and electrical propulsion were used for the first time). We stand face to face with monstrous creatures of the deep sea and check what is hiding on the seabed. At the same time, showing the natural world and civilization teaches integrity and mutual respect, and explores different viewpoints.
A graphic duo that had already made a name for themselves on the children’s educational book market didn't let us down with this work. Under Earth, Under Water / Pod ziemią, pod wodą is a large format publication with colourful drawings and a style that cannot be faked, like their previous books. Although this time, there is a greater balance between text and illustrations than in Maps, where the latter dominated. The authors were sure to keep the integrity of both languages, visually portraying the specifics and expressing the abstract using words. The skillfully crafted drawings are not only a complement to the short and interesting stories but a story of their own, at times resembling a comic. Aleksandra Mizielińska and Daniel Mizieliński have done some extremely hard work, taking care of every detail by placing information in colourful clouds that fit very well with the illustrations, marking the sequence of the following stages of more complex operations with numbers, and keeping the proportions in sync between the size of objects or animals in relation to humans. Even the backgrounds of the underground spaces are marked with dots symbolizing grains of sand, and the underwater world is made up of tiny lines – waves.
The graphic layout is harmonious and organized (especially when presenting names of plants or animals), and the more complex processes (such as the way a power plant works) are schematic, therefore easily understood by readers. The book is not intended only for children, as the information in the book, particularly the geological or oceanographic facts, may surprise even adults. Under Earth, Under Water shares encyclopedic knowledge in an unusual way. It creates a chance to inquire – individually or collectively as a family – into the burning questions that children love to ask: why don’t ships sink? Where does the water in the tap come from? What do fossils say about dinosaurs? Thanks to this book adults will be able to satisfy their children’s curiosity as well as their own.
Aleksandra Mizielińska and Daniel Mizieliński
Under Earth, Under Water relates in form to Maps (which was published in over 20 countries and was amongst the top 6 most beautiful graphic children's books of 2013 according to The New York Times), although conceptually and graphically relates more to their earlier work about the Universe entitled We're Here, Space Expeditions, Visions and Experiments (Wydawnictwo Znak, 2011). Aleksandra Mizielińska and Daniel Mizieliński's works are all different yet stylistically consistent. Therefore, their original idea, innovative combination of fun, and solid dose of information and characteristically drawn lines cannot be confused with anyone else's. And this book is not lacking in scientific knowledge, nor in humour or the pleasure of exploring the unknown.
Agnieszka Warnke, August 2015, Translated by: Zuzanna Wiśniewska, August 2015