6 Qs for mg #debut author Shawn Peters + a #Giveaway = Happy Book Birthday to THE UNFORGETTABLE LOGAN FOSTER!

THE UNFORGETTABLE LOGAN FOSTER, by Shawn Peters (Harper Collins / Illus. Petur Antonsson) 

I’m SUPER** excited to celebrate the Book Birthday and mg debut of THE UNFORGETTABLE LOGAN FOSTER, by Shawn Peters ( Harper Collins / Illus. Petur Antonsson). **See what I did there?

I was lucky to receive an ARC of this book and enjoyed it thoroughly and TODAY is its release day.

But don’t take my word for it:

“Peters folds laughs and action aplenty into a winning series opener that features both a ka-pow! premise and a particularly memorable addition to the recent uptick of neurodivergent narrators. ‘That,’ to quote Logan’s mantra, ‘is a fact.'” — Booklist (starred review)

You can read Shawn’s bio here.

I’m also SUPER excited to ask Shawn some questions:

Q 1. I love Logan’s voice, and his goal of communicating with his sibling– (No spoilers.)  –and the fact that your wife’s 5th grade students lead you to this approach. Were there any other “notes” the 5th graders gave you that ended up in your manuscript?

Shawn Peters: Thank you so much for the compliment on Logan’s voice, and for having me on your blog on the book birthday for THE UNFORGETTABLE LOGAN FOSTER. You really don’t know whether you have something your reader will like, or better yet, love, until it’s in their hands. In general, the enthusiasm those 5th graders showed for this story and these characters was a massive influence because of the confidence it gave me, especially in terms of how neurodivergent readers might identify with Logan. But the biggest “note” they gave me was around who Logan was writing to in the book. In the original drafts, he was writing to his mother, who he can’t remember. But when I asked the kids about it, they were not huge fans; they all knew they weren’t Logan’s mom. But when I asked them if it would mean more if Logan was writing to someone their age, it was unanimous. That was when I got the idea to reframe it all as Logan speaking to a sibling he believes is out there, and that has made a HUGE difference.

Q 2. Which of the superheroes in your book might best represent your writing process or path to publication for THE UNFORGETTABLE LOGAN FOSTER:

  • Quicksilver Siren
  • Seismyxer
  • Quarry Lord
  • TideStrider
  • Ultra-Quantum?

Shawn Peters: This question might be my favorite of this whole pre-publication blog-a-palooza! [ED note: THANKS!]

Seismyxer –from THE UNFORGETTABLE LOGAN FOSTER, by Shawn Peters
(Harper Collins / Illus. Petur Antonsson) 

Shawn Peters: It’s definitely not Seismyxer (I outline my books, so there are rarely seismic shifts) and I’m not feeling Quarry Lord or TideStrider. I’d say my process is a bit like Ultra-Quantum in that I work in short, fast bursts. I wrote the first draft of this book by committing to drafting a single page every night for a year. I’d write for twenty minutes, in between work, commuting, coaching my kids’ teams, making dinner and occasionally sleeping. But my path to publication was more like Quicksilver Siren, because to deal with rejected queries and submissions for the better part of five years, you need a little metal under your skin.

ED Note: So glad you didn’t give up!

Q 3. Were there any surprises that your illustrator Petur Antonsson brought to the book?

Shawn Peters: As soon as I saw Petur’s portfolio, especially some of his work on the UK versions of the Artemis Fowl series and Joshua S. Levy’s “Seventh Grade vs. The Universe” book, I was unabashedly thrilled he was doing my cover. But I had no idea until the cover was almost set that he was also adding several illustrations throughout the book. Each one is like a surprise mini comic book when you turn the page.

Hooray for Random Facts

–and copy editors!

“Kittyhawk Circle was named after the place where the Wright Brothers made their famous first flight on December 17, 1903…although to be fair, the flight was actually in Kill Devil Hills, which is almost four miles away from Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. That is a fact.” –Logan Foster

THE UNFORGETTABLE LOGAN FOSTER, by Shawn Peters
(Harper Collins / Illus. Petur Antonsson) 

Q 4. I’m a big fan of the random, SMART facts that spill from Logan’s eidetic memory. I noticed in your YouTube interview (Caution: spoilers) that your brain “collects” facts too.  What’s your favorite fact in TULF? What’s one that got cut from your manuscript.

Shawn Peters: I’m a sucker for those random facts too, both in Logan’s world and my own. And it’s true that as a kid (and sometimes still) I’ll instantly retain a very specific fact that I’ve seen or heard. It was pretty helpful at school, I’ll admit.

But Logan has that trick times a million, and it is his “superpower” to be sure. My favorite example in the book is when he hears Spanish word and reveals what the same word means in Korean, but I can’t say more than that. As for facts that got cut out of the book, there weren’t many. In fact (no pun intended), Logan got even more factural in the editing process. That’s the thing about this book. So many of the locations and almost all of the details are actually real – the names of books, auditoriums, scientific quotations–  that the fabulous copyeditors at Harper Collins actually had more questions when I made things up, because they couldn’t find actual citations.

THE UNFORGETTABLE LOGAN FOSTER, by Shawn Peters
(Harper Collins / Illus. Petur Antonsson) 

Q 5. My first reading experiences—at least the books that hooked me the most — were comic books. Was that your experience too?

Shawn Peters: Reading comic books wasn’t my first reading experiences, per se, but they hold a really specific place in my heart. When I was home sick as a kid —  and as a child with rampant allergies and tonsils the size of golf balls that never were removed, I had my share of sick days—my parents would go to the store and buy every comic book they had and I’d read them until I felt better. Maybe it was just the cough syrup and fevers, but it felt like those heroes were rescuing me from feeling so crummy. I even liked the Marvel Universe comics, which were basically just encyclopedias of all the heroes and villains and their origins. I never collected comics as a hobby, but I definitely held on to those characters and stories.

Q 6. What has surprised you most about the process as a debut author?

Shawn Peters: I’d say two things. The first is that everyone expects authors, even debuts, to “know” how the process is “supposed” to go. Being part of a debut group and then connecting with a few more established authors, I was shocked that everyone, even people working with the same imprints, have wildly different experience depending on genre, audience, editor and publicist. The standard is… there is no standard. And the second is that writers genuinely believe in the “pay it forward” ethos. When I was trying to write screenplays, it felt like writers were competing to get seen. At least among the Middle Grade writers I’ve met, everyone wants to help each other, both out of empathy and a sense of doing the right thing. The first thing a lot of debuts want to do, even before their books are out, is get a chance to be mentors for Pitch Wars and other contests. It legitimately feels like authors get that it’s not a zero-sum game; every time one person’s book “hits”, it actually creates more opportunity for all writers because it brings in more readers. It’s beautiful, and it spills over to all the librarians, bloggers, teachers and bookish folks who make up the community. The act of supporting others has zero downside.

To learn more about Shawn and his work, check out his web site ShawnPetersWrites

and follow him on Twitter @ShawnTweeters and Goodreads.

Heads up MASSACHUSETTS friends–

Don’t miss the in-person launch party for this awesome book TONIGHT!

January 18th ~ 6-7pm EST

at An Unlikely Story Bookstore, Plainville MA

You can also help Shawn celebrate–and buy a FIRST EDITION of his book–

on Saturday, Jan. 22nd – 3pm EST at Aesop’s Fable Bookstore, Holliston, MA.

Pre-Order Signed First Edition. Available on January 18.
If you would like your copy personalized copy, please email the shop and we’ll be happy to assist you (aesops01746@gmail.com)

Now about that #GIVEAWAY…

Stay tuned for part 2 of this super** Book Birthday blog party —Tuesday, Feb. 1st –and the details about how YOU can be randomly selected to receive a copy of THE UNFORGETTABLE LOGAN FOSTER–as well as Shawn Peters on world building, this crazy #kidlit world, and a possible sequel—(Fingers crossed!).

And that’s a fact!

On the blog next week, Author / Illustrator team Ella Schwartz & Dow Phumiruk join us to talk about their new picture book, HER NAME WAS MARY KATHARINEThe Only Woman Whose Name Is on the Declaration of Independence (Christy Ottaviano Books).

Happy Book Birthday to ANZU THE GREAT KAIJU + 10 Qs with Benson Shum!

It’s our first Book Birthday celebration of 2022 and I’m happy to welcome author/illustrator (and Disney animator) Benson Shum. His latest book, ANZU THE GREAT KAIJU (Roaring Brook), is the sweetest!

But don’t take my word for it.

“[E]ngaging and heartwarming. . . . A tongue-in-cheek bildungsroman spun around celebrating differences and the underrated superpowers of gentleness and sweetness. ―Kirkus

“Shum’s experience as an animator. . . is evident in the way he storyboards the narrative, pulls readers along with cinematic energy, and celebrates Japanese aesthetics―with everything from bonsai trees to golden picture frames to tiny creatures that look like adorable walking dumplings. [A] wholly original tale, which proves humorous, heartfelt, and as sweet as the flowers Anzu conjures.” ―Booklist

Time for some questions:

Q 1. What was the inspiration for Anzu the Great Kaiju?

Benson Shum: Anzu the Great Kaiju was inspired by my love of giant monsters. The idea of a creature that towers over buildings and is larger than life blows my imagination. They’re always seen as destructive and I wanted to see them from a different perspective. 

Interior art & text by Benson Shum from ANZU THE GREAT KAIJU (Roaring Brook).

Q 2. Is a kaiju originally a mythical creature? Can you explain how you first became aware of them?

Benson Shum: Yes, kaiju means giant monsters in Japanese. When I saw Godzilla or King Kong as a kid, I loved the fantasy of it all. Where do they come from? What do they eat? How do they live?

Q 3. I love Anzu’s special power. (No spoilers here!) If you were a kaiju, what would you want your power to be?  

Benson Shum: Thank you! If I was a kaiju, I would probably say the power of water. Water gives life and can create amazing things. Or wind, I would love to be able to fly. 

Interior art & text by Benson Shum from ANZU THE GREAT KAIJU (Roaring Brook).

Putting pen to paper.

Q 4. Since you are the author/illustrator of this book (the first of many in a series,  I hope!) Which came first—the story or the illustrations?

Benson Shum: For this book, the story came first. Though, while I write, I’m always picturing ideas and characters in my head. The situations they are in. But in my head, the designs of the characters aren’t fully realized until I put pen to paper. Sometimes an illustration does spark the story, but it depends on the story I’m telling.

Q 5. What was one of the most surprising discoveries you made in creating this book?

Benson Shum: The most surprising discovery I found when creating Anzu was, the character wanted to write itself. It had its difficult moments, but Anzu has so many stories he wants to tell and explore.  Maybe my mind was jumping from one idea to another, so I had to stay focused. haha!

(Penguin Workshop)

Q 6. Which title /story –from three of your other books—best describes your creative process or #kidlit journey thus far?  (Please explain.)

a.      Alex’s Good Fortune

b.     Sloth Went

c.      Little Seed

(written by Adam Lehrhaupt / Bloomsbury)

Benson Shum: All three had a different process/journey. But maybe I would say Alex’s Good Fortune and Little Seed. I learned to go with the flow and let the story take you where it’s meant to be. Both stories originally started off as picture books. Then we got a note from the editors about possibly having them as an easy reader (Alex’s Good Fortune) and a board book (Little Seed). I’ve never written in both formats before. So it was a challenge to learn, and I love it!

(Little Simon)

Let’s talk ART!

Q 7. What is your preferred medium—or does it vary with each project?

Benson Shum: I can work digitally or traditionally, but I do love working with watercolor and ink. I love and hate the fact that I can’t fix my mistakes, once the ink or watercolor sets, I’m stuck with it. But I think that adds some charm to the painting and illustration. 

Q 8. How has your work as an animator at the Walt Disney Animation Studios–where you were a part of such films as Frozen, Big Hero 6, Zootopia, Moana, Frozen II, Raya and the Last Dragon, and the recent hit, Encanto—influenced your work as a children’s book creator? 

Benson Shum: Thank you! Yes, animation has totally influenced my work. There is a lot of crossover in book making and animation. It’s all about storytelling. How we layout the book, how we direct the readers eyes, using words and illustration to make you turn the page. Clarity, posing and emotions in our characters.

Interior art & text by Benson Shum from ANZU THE GREAT KAIJU (Roaring Brook).

Q 9. Any tips for would-be children’s illustrators just starting out?

Benson Shum: Read. Read. Read!  Definitely read in the genre you are writing in, but also read others as well.  For illustrators, look at how the illustrator of the book uses the format of the page. Is the book square shaped? More horizontal or more vertical?  Ask the question why. Everything in the book was decided for a reason. I love talking about these little things during story times with the kids too. And maybe the adults will find it interesting as well. 🙂

Q 10. Please tell us about your other projects, to be released or in the works. Also–will there be more ANZU books in the future?

Benson Shum: I have a couple of projects in the works that I’m writing and illustrating. And am developing some new ideas as well. They’re all in my head mostly, but there are some with one liners that I keep in my notes folder. As for more ANZU, the answer is YES! I’m almost wrapped up on the 2nd Anzu book. I’m super excited to share more of Anzu’s stories. And hope there will be many more.

Thank you for joining us on today, Benson, and

HAPPY BOOK BIRTHDAY!

Benson Shum: Thank you so much for hosting me on your wonderful blog, Erin! It’s been fun sharing Anzu’s journey with you. I really appreciate it! 

You can learn more about Benson Shum and his work at

his website: http://bensonshum.com/

Twitter @bshum79

Instagram bshum79

For those celebrating Lunar New Year soon, here’s a little more

about ALEX’S GOOD FORTUNE.

And –> heads-up friends:

Don’t miss TODAY’s VIRTUAL STORY TIME with Benson Shum hosted by Once Upon a time Bookstore in Montrose, CA. (Click link for more details.) at 4pm Pacific/ 7pm EST. Purchase a personalized/signed book through Once Upon a Time and receive an Anzu Art print with every book!

Next week, we’ll hear from Shawn Peters, about his #MG debut novel, THE UNFORGETTABLE LOGAN FOSTER –which, coincidentally, is also about super powers.

Wow!


4 COOL #NewYears books + 1 bonus idea= 5 EASY activities & New Year fun for #teachers, #homeschool, #librarians & young readers everywhere.

Happy almost New Year to all.

For you, dear friends!

Looking for NEW picture books for January, New Years,

and yes, dear #Teachers,

AFTER Winter Break?

You probably already know about these favorites–

SQUIRREL’S NEW YEARS RESOLUTION (Pat Miller/ Kathi Ember / Albert Whitman )

HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYWHERE (Arlene Erlbach / Millbrook)

SHANTE’ KEYES AND THE NEW YEARS PEAS (Gail Piernas-Davenport / Marion Eldridge / Albert Whitman)

THE NIGHT BEFORE NEW YEARS (Natasha Wing / Amy Wummer / Grosset & Dunlap)

But CHECK OUT these cool NEW books:

FELIZ NEW YEAR, AVA GABRIELA by Alexandra Alessandri & Addy Rivera Sondra ( Albert Whitman)
  1. Felíz New Year, Ava Gabriela! by Alexandra Alessandri and Addy Rivera Sondra:

“This gentle family story lets readers know that shyness is nothing to worry about.”

STARRED Kirkus Review 

Ava Gabriela is excited to visit her extended family in the countryside of Colombia, and wants to join in on the traditional New Year’s festivities, but unlike her cousins, she is very shy.

***Activity: Students can make their own “Año Viejo” (old year) –and learn about other traditions including wearing yellow underwear and eating grapes for good luck!

Clink this link for more awesome activities and the Felíz New Year, Ava Gabriela! Teacher’s Guide.

PS Read more about Felíz New Year, Ava Gabriela! and author Alexandra Alessandri here.

FREEDOM SOUP by Tami Charles & Jacqueline Alcántara (Candlewick)

I LOVE Ti Grand and Belle and their delicious New Year’s tradition –and readers young and old will too.

From Ti Gran ceremoniously adorning Belle with a matching apron to the final view of city windows full of revelers, this book is a start-to-finish celebration of family, history, and culture. A delectable first purchase for libraries.
—STARRED School Library Journal

***Activity: Remember the days of “Stone Soup”? Wouldn’t it be cool to have your class dance and clap as they contribute to and prepare their own version of Freedom Soup–like TiGrand and Belle?

Read more about Freedom Soup in this ShelfAwareness post.

ALEX’ GOOD FORTUNE by Benson Shum (Penguin Workshop)

This new easy-to-read book about Lunar New Year is filled with traditions and friendship.

***Activity: This year, Lunar New Year is Feb. 1st. What IF your students celebrated by cleaning their classroom? More fun activities –banner making and dumpling recipes here.

Whoa–win-win!

Read more about ALEX’ GOOD FORTUNE and Benson Shum on his website here. (We’ll also chat with him on the blog about his newest release on Jan.11th. Stay tuned!)

DEAR EARTH…FROM YOUR FRIENDS IN ROOM 5 by Erin Dealey & Luisa Uribe (Harper Collins)

Perfect for January, DEAR EARTH… begins when the kids in Room 5 make a New Year’s resolution to help Earth!

Interior art from DEAR EARTH…FROM YOUR FRIENDS IN ROOM 5
by Erin Dealey & Luisa Uribe (Harper Collins)

A well-thought-out presentation of an important environmental message.

— Kirkus Reviews

***Activity: See this link for the many extensions we’ve created for DEAR EARTH…From Your Friends in Room 5–including writing friendly letters. But for now–what IF you start January by having your class make their own New Year’s resolution to help Earth–like room 5?

DEAR EARTH…FROM YOUR FRIENDS IN ROOM 5 by Erin Dealey & Luisa Uribe (Harper Collins)

PS The book jacket reverses to become a How to Be An Earth Hero all year long poster! (Cool, right?)

+ Bonus Activity

Happy New Year Madlibs by Gabrielle Reyes
  • 5. Happy New Year Madlibs by Gabrielle Reyes is my pick for some extra January fun–with built in language reinforcement.

***Activity: Start the new year with some laughs. Whether you teach traditional grammar or not, students will learn (and have fun with) parts of speech in this New Year’s version of this longtime fav classroom game. (YOU will too!)

Happy New Year, friends.

And HAPPY READING to all!

It’s the most WONDERFUL time of the year: a VERY SPECIAL ICYMthem Book List & recap of #kidlit books we celebrated in 2021!

2021 was another year of ZOOMS (thank you, #Teachers & #Librarians) –and another year of NO in-store events, or story times & book signings, NO school visits or in-person conferences… Hooray for events that have started popping up, at long last!

This post brings together all the books we celebrated 2021 with Book Birthday Interviews. ICYMthem, check out these fascinating behind-the-scenes stories and writing/Illustrating tips shared by the #kidlit creators who joined us this year.

*Please note that many of the wonderful titles herein fit into multiple categories. Feel free to mix and match, and click the links to learn more!

PS Books are the gifts that keep on giving.

Nonfiction + Biographies

 The Story of Jim Henson by Stacia Deutsch

The Stuff between the Stars  by  Sandra Nickel & Aimée Sicuro

An Equal Shot  by Helaine Becker & Dow Phumiruk

Sakamoto’s Swim Club  by  Julie Abery & Chris Sasaki

King Sejong Invents an Alphabet  by Carol Kim & Cindy Kang

I Am Smoke  by Henry Herz & Mercè López

A BRIEF History of Underpants  by  Christine Van Zandt & Harry Briggs

Planet Ocean  by Patricia Newman & Annie Crawley

Special Days & Celebrations

King Sejong Invents an Alphabet  by Carol Kim  & Cindy Kang  (Hangeul Day / Korea)

Piglette’s Perfect Surprise  by Katelyn Aronson & Eva Byrne  (Birthday /perfectionism)

Peter Easter Frog  by Erin Dealey & G. Brian Karas    (Easter/ friendship)         

Isabel and Her Colores Go to School  by Alexandra Alessandri & Courtney Dawson (First day of school / friendship)

SHHH…The Baby’s Asleep by JaNay Brown-Wood  & Elissambura (New baby)

My Daddy Can Fly   by Thomas Forster, Shari Siadat, & Jami Gigot    (Career Day / Ballet)

Emotional Well-Being

Home for a While  by Lauren Kerstein  &  Natalia Moore     (Foster care)

Sunday Rain  by Rosie Pova  &  Amariah Rauscher        (Moving)

Balloons for Papa  by Liz Gilbert Bedia  &  Erika Meza          (Mental health)

Clovis Keeps His Cool  by Katelyn Aronson  &  Eve Farb            (Bullying)

Kindness is a Kite String  by  Michelle Schaub   &  Claire LaForte     (Kindness / Empathy)

Q &U Call It Quits by Stef Wade  &  Jorge Martin    (Friendship)

Eco-Friendly Stewardship / Environment

Planet Ocean by Patricia Newman & Annie Crawley

Hello Tree  by Ana Crespo & Dow Phumiruk   

I Am Smoke by Henry Herz & Mercè López

Dear Earth…From Your Friends in Room 5 by Erin Dealey & Luisa Uribe

Writing, Letters, and Words

King Sejong Invents an Alphabet  by Carol Kim & Cindy Kang

Kindness is a Kite String by Michelle Schaub & Claire LaForte      

Q &U Call It Quits by Stef Wade & Jorge Martin

Dear Earth…From Your Friends in Room 5 by Erin Dealey & Luisa Uribe

Animals & Friends

Little Penguin by Julie Abery & Suzie Mason 

Little Zebra by Julie Abery & Suzie Mason

Whole Whale by Karen Yin & Nelleke Verhoeff 

Elliot the Heart-Shaped Frog by Matt Forrest Esenwine & Anna Kubaszewska

Arlo Draws an Octopus by Lori Mortensen & Rob Sayegh Jr.

I Love You With All of My Hearts by Lindsay Bonilla & Eleonora Pace

Clovis Keeps His Cool by Katelyn Aronson & Eve Farb 

Piglette’s Perfect Surprise by Katelyn Aronson  & Eva Byrne  

Peter Easter Frog by Erin Dealey & G.Brian Karas              

Again–huge thanks to all of the incredible #kidlit authors and illustrators who joined us on the blog this year.

We encourage you to consider their books for your holiday gifts.

And if possible, #ShopIndie #indiecember.  

See you next year with more wonderful books to celebrate!

Happy #Ballet Book Birthday to Forster & Siadat’s MY DADDY CAN FLY with 8 Qs for illustrator Jami Gigot

It’s a wonderful #ballet Book Birthday blog celebration for

MY DADDY CAN FLY, written by American Ballet Theater principal dancer, Thomas Forster–with Shari Siadat,

and Illustrated by Jami Gigot. (Random House Studio).

I am so excited to dive into these questions with illustrator Jami Gigot. She is not only a fun and fabulous illustrator, but works as a lead texture painter and digital artist on feature films.

Welcome to the blog, Jami.

Illustrator pals –and Librarians, ballet lovers, and young readers everywhere!

–This is for YOU:

Q 1.  How did you approach the illustrations in MY DADDY CAN FLY? Did you play classical music? Did you do any research during the process? Do you have a background in dance?

Jami Gigot: Thanks for having me as a guest today, Erin.

The research for MY DADDY CAN FLY was so much fun! I was given a few incredible photos of Thomas Forster dancing as inspiration. Thomas is a ballet dancer and co-wrote this story with Shari Siadat. I also looked at a lot of videos online of both children and adult ballet dancers. Often I would watch the videos in slow motion so I could analyze the motion bit by bit and sketch out poses. I found it incredibly interesting to study ballet this way and I have so much admiration for the commitment, strength and grace of the dancers. They are amazing!

And yes, I often had classical music from various ballets on in the background setting the mood for my illustration. Near the end of the project, I got some inside help from some of the wonderful team at ABT, The American Ballet Theater, who helped ensure my poses on the end papers and inside spreads were correct and true to form.

Interior art by Jami Gigot from MY DADDY CAN FLY, written by American Ballet Theater principal dancer, Thomas Forster, with Shari Siadat. (Random House Studio)

In terms of a background in dance, I took ballet and jazz dance classes as a child but now I dance mostly at home grooving to some rock n’ roll or Motown, or on the occasional night out.

Rock on! ; )

Q 2.    Do you have a preferred medium? What did you use for MY DADDY CAN FLY and STARBOY?

Jami Gigot: In school, I studied film and 3d animation, and while I did do some life drawing and classical drawn animation, I am mostly self taught when it comes to illustration. Over the years of working in film I moved from animation towards digital texture painting, so working digitally is what I feel most comfortable with and I often use a stylus to sketch and paint directly on the monitor.

Interior art by Jami Gigot from MY DADDY CAN FLY, written by American Ballet Theater principal dancer, Thomas Forster, with Shari Siadat. (Random House Studio)

That being said, I really love working with traditional art mediums, so usually my work is a mix of traditional pencil sketches and paint that is scanned in and assembled in photoshop along with my digital work. MY DADDY CAN FLY was mostly digitally painted and I used washes of paint that I scanned to overlay on top for added texture.

“Gigot’s gorgeous mixed-media illustrations bring the story to life… Regardless of children’s knowledge of Bowie, the message of an outsider who finds his way will resonate and delight.”

School Library JournalStarred Review

For STARBOY: Inspired by the life and works of David Bowie (written and illustrated by Jami Gigot , Henry Holt and Co.) one of the challenges was how to visually represent the music (or what I refer to as “star chatter”) throughout the book. I knew right away that I wanted to use bold pinks, purples, and some swirls and painted stars, so I painted those with watercolor and gouache. I also made several galaxy paintings (a few with my kids too!) and used those throughout the book to give more life and texture to the illustrations. If you would like to try making galaxy paintings yourself, please check out this video I made for Bibliovideo! 

Interior art by Jami Gigot, from STARBOY: Inspired by the life and works of David Bowie (written and illustrated by Jami Gigot , Henry Holt and Co.)

Q 3.    Author Thomas Forster talks about some of his favorite books in this article. What are some of your favorites?

Jami Gigot: For picture books, some of my favorites are I WANT MY HAT BACK by Jon Klassen, THE FOG by Kyo Maclear and Kenard Pak, and SWATCH by Julia Denos. For novels, I like reading all sorts of genres, but a couple of books I read recently that I really enjoyed are KLARA AND THE SUN by Kazuo Ishiguro and THE MIDNIGHT LIBRARY by Matt Haig.

Written and illustrated by Jami Gigot (Albert Whitman)

“Gigot demonstrates that resourcefulness and love go a long way even if time and money are short.”

Kirkus Reviews

Q 4. It seems like all of your books thus far –including Mae and the Moon, Seb and the Sun, and Imagination Vacation–share a common theme of creative exploration. Has this been a common theme in your own life too?

Jami Gigot: That’s a great question! Absolutely. I enjoy pushing myself creatively because its stretches a part of my brain that seems to love the exercise. I love trying new art techniques, or trying to revise a story in a new and interesting way. Creative exploration can be challenging, but I try not to be too hard on myself and enjoy the process of creating even if the end result isn’t what I expect. Part of the fun is seeing where a project ends up! And if I’m really not happy with something, I am okay with scrapping it and trying again. I also like spending time doing creative things that aren’t just book related. Currently I am knitting a hat and taking a pottery class. 

Q 5. How has your experience working as a digital artist on such feature films as Avatar, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and Ant-Man and the Wasp –influenced your process or your illustration work?

Jami Gigot: I can hardly believe it, but I’ve been working in film for nearly 20 years and have worked on more than 30 motion pictures. I see picture books as very similar to film in that they are both a sequence of images that are edited together to tell a story. And I am grateful that my experience in film has given me a certain intuition when it comes to composition, layout, design and pacing which translates very well to children’s books.

Interior art by Jami Gigot from MY DADDY CAN FLY, written by American Ballet Theater principal dancer, Thomas Forster, with Shari Siadat. (Random House Studio)

Q 6. What inspired you to make the leap from film animation to children’s book illustration?

I actually still do both! I have a day job working as a lead texture painter. What that means more specifically is when they shoot  film in front of a green screen, I work with a team to digitally create the objects, characters, vehicles, environments or whatever might be filling that space. While I love working on films and being part of a creative team, I haven’t been involved with the writing or original idea of the films I have worked on, and I’ve always had a little voice in the back of my head wanting to write and create my own stories.

When my kids were little I started reading a ton of picture books and really fell in love with them. I wrote and illustrated a little book inspired by my daughter which eventually became my first picture book, MAE AND THE MOON. I loved the process so much and found picture books to be the perfect medium to combine my love of art and story. I have been working on them ever since.

Mae and the Moon, written and illustrated by Jami Gigot (Chicago Review Press-Ripple Grove Press)

Just Starting Out?

Q 7. Any tips for would-be children’s author/illustrators just starting out?

Jami Gigot: If you are passionate about creating and enjoy the process of making picture books, just stick with it and keep going! It’s important to keep practicing and commit some time to your craft. I have a lot of pretty ugly drawings and drafts, but it’s important to recognize that that’s an important part of the process to get you where you want to go. I would also recommend finding a small critique group of fellow writers and/or illustrators that you can share with and get honest feedback from. Most importantly, write from your heart and tell the story that only you can.

Q 8. What do you most love about being a children’s author/illustrator?

Jami Gigot: It makes me incredibly happy when children get excited about reading and making art, and my hope is to create books that give a child a laugh, or a moment of thoughtfulness, a creative push, an important truth, or a reflection of themselves. Also, this industry is so lovely and full of inspiring and creative people that support each other and that is a wonderful thing!

Many thanks again to Jami Gigot for joining us today.

You can learn more about her work at jamigigot.com

and following her on Instagram: jamigigot

Twitter: @jlgigot

And Tumblr: jamigigot