Happiest #BookBirthday to HAPPY BIRTHDAY BELLY BUTTON! = 12 Qs with illustrator Luciana Navarro Powell & author/poet Kalli Dakos

We’re celebrating the #BookBirthday of this adorable book HAPPY BIRTHDAY BELLY BUTTON! by Kalli Dakos & Luciana Navarro Powell, which released last week from Amicus.

It’s always so much fun–and informative!–to interview an author/illustrator team, and you’re going to love their insights and answers.

But first…

Meet the team:

Kalli Dakos is the best-selling author of 18+ picture books & 3,000+ poems about elementary school life.

You might recognize Luciana Navarro Powell‘s wonderful art from illustrations in magazines like Highlights, Cricket, and Spider, or books from Chronicle, Lerner/ Millbrook, Kane Miller, and more!

Click image to view the book trailer created by Luciana Navarro Powell.

Let’s ask some questions!

Q 1. Kalli: What was the inspiration for this fun story?

KD: I was visiting a school one day and it happened to be a child’s birthday.  She was thrilled and excited and said:

My eyes are six!

My nose is six!

My tummy is six!

My heart is six!

My legs are six!


And I had a great idea for a new book!

Q. 2 Kalli: Did you always know this would be a picture book or did it start as a poem?

KD: It definitely started as a poem and went through many revisions of poetry before I decided that this was a great idea for a picture book.

Picture Book Tips

Q 3. Kalli: Are there any tips you might share for poets who would like to write picture books?

I am a reading specialist and I know that books in rhyme like Happy Birthday, Belly Button! help children to become literate on so many levels.  The rhyme itself helps children to fall in love with words and language, but it also helps them to decode the text as beginning readers.  The story and illustrations are so much FUN that children will be inspired to want more books in their lives. 

I would encourage poets to place great value on their poetry and to create books like this one that inspire children on so many levels.

Illustration Qs

Q 4. Luciana: What is your process when you first receive a picture book manuscript to illustrate? How did you begin with H B Belly Button?

LNP: I usually read the manuscript, let it percolate through my visual brain for a few days. Only then do I start sketching. If the story has a main character like this one, then I work on character studies for a few days before starting to tackle the whole story as thumbnails. I prepared an image with some behind-the-scenes sketches and character development

Sketches by Luciana Navarro Powell for HAPPY BIRTHDAY BELLY BUTTON, written by Kalli Dakos (Amicus)

Q 5. Luciana: What medium/ technique did you use with this project?

LNP: I used pastels, color pencils, watercolor… and real-life cake sprinkles, because a good book about birthdays has to have some real sprinkles in it! It was all scanned and finished digitally in Photoshop.

Q 6. Luciana: What is your favorite spread?

My favorite spread is the one that shows the child running away from the poor parent who is trying to brush their hair – with brush entangled in hair and bright pink underwear! This scene was very much inspired by my rambunctious 3 year-old niece Emilia.

Interior art by Luciana Navarro Powell from HAPPY BIRTHDAY BELLY BUTTON! by Kalli Dakos (Amicus)

Q 7. Luciana: When and how do you find time to illustrate with two growing boys in the house?

LNP: When my boys were younger and less independent it was very challenging and physically exhausting. Now they are teenagers and more independent, but need me in different ways than when they were younger. Being very productive when they are at school is my recipe. I work from 8am to 3pm in my books, and after that I dedicate myself to whatever they need with their after school activities, sports and classes.

Q 8. Kalli: What surprises did Luciana bring to the project?

KD: I am totally amazed by her illustrations. She took this manuscript to heights I had never imagined, and I love every single page.

Q 9. Luciana: How much research did you do for this project?

LNP: Because this book does not have a non-fiction approach to the different body parts and how they grow, it was not research-heavy. A challenge was how to create a narrative that weaved together Kalli’s delightful stanzas.

With the illustrations I created a “second layer” that runs parallel to the text. The reader sees the child getting ready for their birthday party throughout the story, as the body parts are shown and celebrated, until the satisfying end of the book: “Happy Birthday” with friends, presents, cake and candles (and real sprinkles).

Speaking of Birthdays

Q 10. When is your birthday?  Do you have a favorite childhood memory of a birthday party?

LNP: My birthday is June 6th – D-day in 1944 which expedited the end of WW2. I always joke that they celebrate my birthday every year in Europe. My birthday parties growing up in Brazil were always small and at home. In Brazil one will always find delicious home-made treats at the party table: brigadeiros (chocolate truffle balls) quindins (sweet glossy cakes made of egg yolk and coconut) cajuzinhos (made with peanut paste and condensed milk).

KD: My birthday is on June 16th.  I don’t have a specific memory, but I loved celebrating birthdays as a child.  It was all so much fun – the presents, the games, the birthday cake, the hats, all of it.  I especially loved creating unique birthday parties for my daughter, Alicia.

Q 11. Kalli: I see that you were a teacher and also you wrote plays as a child that you and your sisters performed. Have either of these experiences influenced your writing process as a picture book author?

KD: Yes, the creativity behind all this inspired not only my writing, but my school author visits.  When I visit a school, we celebrate books through play and drama.  Everyone participates and the stories and books come to life for even the most reluctant child.  I am going to have so much FUN sharing Happy Birthday, Belly Button!

Interior art by Luciana Navarro Powell from HAPPY BIRTHDAY BELLY BUTTON! by Kalli Dakos (Amicus)

Q 12. What are your upcoming projects? Please share.

KD: I have so many projects on the go.  There is a poetry collection for beginning readers about life in school.  I’m working on a manuscript about a garbage truck that says, “I take away the old so there is room for the new.”  I’ve collected stories over the years from my author visits to schools and am creating a book of the funniest stories of all (I think a school is the funniest place in the world).  I have a Valentine’s collection of poems and another one about PENCILS.  Children have a passion for their pencils and there are so many stories here. 

LNP: I am currently working on illustrations for a series of textbooks and waiting to finalize a deal on a PB that hasn’t been announced yet.  I am also illustrating some of my own stories and other writer’s stories to get them ready for my agent to submit to publishers soon. Keep your writing fingers crossed for me.

Thank you for interviewing Kalli and me,  and for helping to promote so many kids books creators with your blog, Erin!

My pleasure!

To learn more about these creatives, check out their websites:

kallidakos.com lucianaillustration

And follow Luciana on Instagram : lucianaillustration

& Twitter: @LucianaIllustra

Next on the blog:

Three #GreenPB23 authors and four amazing books!

7 Qs with John Schu + THIS IS A STORY = This is a #BookBirthday!

Today we’re celebrating the #BookBirthday of THIS IS A STORY by John Schu (aka MrSchuReads), Illus. Lauren Castillo, Candlewick!

Once a librarian, always a librarian, John Schu was one of the first people I met (long ago!), and a huge help when I was learning about that thing called Twitter. He is such a generous advocate for the #kidlit projects of others, I am extremely honored and thrilled to have the chance to do the same for him.

SLJ Starred Review: THIS IS A STORY

“An homage to book and library lovers everywhere, Schu and Castillo’s book takes readers on a journey that shows how words can lead to human connections. . . . Those in the know will have fun spying illustrated covers of actual picture books. . . . A valentine to reading, books, the love of books, and the rooms that house them, this charmer will find a home in every heart.”
School Library Journal

Interior spread by Lauren Castillo from THIS IS A STORY by John Schu, Candlewick.

Let’s get started!

7 Qs for John Schu:

John Schu in action at a school visit. (What lucky kids!)

Q 1. Happy Book Birthday! Since you champion the books of so many in our kidlit world (Thank you!), and I read that your 5th grade teacher, Dr. Mary Margaret Reed inspired you with her book talks way back when, what might Dr. Reed say to you, the 5th grader, if she were to book talk THIS IS A STORY?

John Schu: Thank you for the happy book birthday love, Erin! Thank you for featuring This Is a Story! And thank you for your beautiful picture books!

I recently reconnected with Dr. Mary Margaret Reed. A copy of This Is a Story will arrive at her house today. I truly wonder what she would say. She might say something like, “This Is a Story is John Schu and Caldecott Honor illustrator Lauren Castillo’s love letter to libraries, librarians, and how stories can help our hearts grow and connect.

Interior spread by Lauren Castillo from THIS IS A STORY by John Schu, Candlewick.

Q 2. I know we share a love of musical theater. Which of these might be a metaphor for your kidlit journey or writing process:

a.     Between the Lines

b.     Company

c.     Into the Woods

d.     A Strange Loop

e.     Hadestown

John Schu: Oh, wow! This is a pretty brilliant and deep question. I’m responding to your questions from Times Square. I can see the St. James Theatre from where I’m sitting right now. That’s where the recent revival of Into the Woods played, which I saw seven times. Into the Woods has been on my mind as I revise my debut middle school novel, LOUDER THAN HUNGER.

Please invite me back to your fabulous blog to discuss that book. I’ll share why Into the Woods feels like a metaphor for a lot of my childhood.

E.D. Gladly, John. Consider the invitation sent–and accepted. : )

“I put our book on the window ledge in my [ NYC ] hotel room as inspiration as I worked on a new picture book manuscript tonight. It looks like a billboard in this photo.”
John Schu


Q 3. Were there any surprises that illustrator & Caldecott Honor recipient, Lauren Castillo brought to THIS IS A STORY?

John Schu: So many surprises! I’m excited for readers to pore over the Easter eggs hidden throughout This Is a Story. Lauren had so much fun showing real books she and I love in the art. I wonder how many of the books you’ve read! Also, my cat, Lou Grant, makes an appearance!

Interior spread by Lauren Castillo from THIS IS A STORY by John Schu, Candlewick.


Q. 4. To me, THIS IS A STORY feels like, not only a magical portal to the joy of reading and books, but Professional Development for educators and parents. What do you want readers—young and not-so-young—to take away?

John Schu: In many ways, This Is a Story is a companion to THE GIFT OF STORY: Exploring the Affective Side of the Reading Life. The moment Lauren captures on the cover brilliantly shows how it feels when a book opens our hearts. That moment was on my mind as I wrote This Is a Story. I hope every child finds a book one day that inspires them to close their eyes, hug the book to their chest, and take in the beauty of the moment. A moment that stays with you for a long time. A touchstone book, a forever book, a book of your heart.

To hear more from John about Lauren’s illustrations, watch this YouTube from Candlewick.

Q. 5 Since we’re talking about connections to story, and you have given away endless copies of Katherine Applegate’s THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN, which character in the book did you connect to the most?

a.     Ivan

b.     Bob

c.     Ruby

d.     Julia

Newbery Award Winner THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN by Katherine Applegate (Harper Collins)
Illus. Patricia Castelao.

John Schu: I connected the most with Ivan. Again, I have a lot to say about why when Louder Than Hunger releases. J

E.D. LOUDER THAN HUNGER release date: Spring 2024. We can’t wait, John! Meanwhile…

TOMORROW! Go meet John Schu & Lauren Castillo at an In-Person event hosted by Anderson Books / Naperville. They will give a short talk, take audience questions, and have a signing line. Each ticket includes a copy of the book, along with an art print signed by Lauren Castillo. * Info here.

So many hats!

Q 6. How have your previous jobs —B&N (your college job!), Teaching 3rd & 4th, and your many Librarian “hats”– influenced your writing process or your approach to marketing?

John Schu: All of those hats and moments and memories inspire everything I do. Every student I’ve taught and met during school visits are on my mind and heart when I write and revise. Everything I do, I do for them.

Art by Lauren Castillo from THIS IS A STORY by John Schu, Candlewick.

Raising Readers

Q. 7. Taking a question from your blog, please finish this sentence: You should have asked me: about my advice for helping grow a love of books and reading at an early age.

John Schu: When we read aloud, purchase and promote books that honor a child’s individual journey, we take an extra step toward creating possibilities for stories to heal and inspire their young hearts. The most powerful read-alouds bring to life an image in our minds that we observe, and through that observation, we can experience a jolt of empathy. I see it happen all the time.

Happy Book Birthday to THIS IS A STORY

Thank you John, for taking time from your crazy-busy schedule to join us today!

To learn more about John Schu, check out his web site: JohnSchu.com

Twitter: @MrSchuReads

Instagram: mrschureads

FB: John Schu

And his Linktr.ee / MrSchuReads

And come back in Spring 2024 to find out the answers to Questions 2 and 5
when LOUDER THAN HUNGER releases : )

Next on the blog:

It’s a Happy (belated) #BookBirthday to HAPPY BIRTHDAY BELLY BUTTON with Qs for the author/illustrator team of Kalli Dakos & Luciana Navarro Powell (Amicus)–also releasing TODAY!

Happy #BookBirthday to JUST A WORM + 5 Qs with debut author/ illustrator Marie Boyd = A #GreenPB2023 Celebration!

I’m very excited to celebrate the #BookBirthday of JUST A WORM, by debut author/ illustrator Marie Boyd which releases March 14th with Greenwillow Books!

Look at Marie’s beautiful quilled art!

This STEAM-themed picture book explores the many wonderful and unique ways in which Worm and friends contribute to the garden and work together to make it grow. 
JUST A WORM celebrates everyone’s individuality and highlights the importance of interdependence—how it’s necessary for a stable, collaborative, and healthy environment.
Using the ancient craft of quilling, Marie Boyd meticulously created each illustration out of strips of colored paper that she shaped, layered, and glued to produce a lush three-dimensional world.


You will love this clever #STEAM read-aloud!

Let’s get started, shall we?

Q 1. When and how did you first begin quilling?
Marie Boyd: About ten years ago I was at a craft store and the store had all its quilling supplies on clearance. I didn’t know what quilling was, but I love paper and trying new crafts, so after looking up “quilling” on my phone, I bought the supplies. Once I started making cards for my family and friends, I quickly fell in love with quilling. Soon I began cutting my own paper, which opened up so many new creative possibilities, and eventually led to JUST A WORM.

Q 2. What was the inspiration for JUST A WORM?
Marie Boyd: In many ways, I’ve been preparing to write and illustrate JUST A WORM since I was a child as the book brings together my longstanding interests in art and science.  When my mother saw the completed book for the first time, she even remarked that the book incorporates so many my childhood interests.

Art + Science

MB: As a child I spent countless hours observing insects and other creatures in my parents’ garden, collecting, pressing, and sketching flowers, and studying seed catalogues. I spent a lot of time making things with my parents and younger brother, including tissue paper flowers and beaded bugs.

In college, my concentration was in chemistry, but I also took biology, children’s literature, and art history courses, and spent time at Harvard’s natural history museum, where I was particularly drawn to its collection of glass flowers and biological specimens.

“It’s just a worm.”

I love spending time outside with my family. And I still get excited every year when the seed catalogues arrive in the mail. I have a small garden and many potted plants in and around my home. I’m intrigued by insects and have even written about them in my work as a law professor.

“It’s just a worm” is something I frequently told my son when he was younger as we went on walks after the rain. I wondered how a worm might respond if it overheard my words and could understand them. This question inspired JUST A WORM.

Interior art from JUST A WORM, by debut author/ illustrator Marie Boyd (Greenwillow Books).

Q 3. One of the themes of JUST A WORM is overcoming self-doubt. I love that (spoiler alert) Worm compares himself to others and then eventually sees the important part he plays in our world. As a debut author/illustrator, have there been moments in your #kidlit journey where you experienced self-doubt? How did you keep going?

Marie Boyd: The message in JUST A WORM is one I’ve needed at times. One piece of advice I kept coming across for aspiring children’s authors was don’t try to illustrate your book if you aren’t a professional illustrator. I saw myself as a lot of things, but even though making art has always been an important part of my life, I did not see myself as an illustrator. In addition, I had never seen a picture book illustrated with quilling.

Trust Your Instincts

MB: As a result, when I first started querying agents, I did so as a writer and not an illustrator. When I imagined the garden in Worm, however, I imagined it as a lush, quilled paper garden. To make my vision of the garden a reality I had to ignore that advice and trust that even though I was not a professional illustrator, I had the skills to make my vision a reality.

Bonus–> For Kids & Crafty People of all ages:

Teachers–A perfect craft + Read-aloud for your class!

 Click this link to view an easy quilled craft tutorial
with Marie Boyd.

And she’s a Law Professor too?

Q 4. What aspects of being a Law professor might apply to your #kidlit journey thus far?

Marie Boyd: I’ve found a lot of the skills I used when I was a lawyer, and continue to use as a law professor, have been helpful in my kidlit journey. In my experience, practicing law, teaching law, and writing for kids all involve a lot of research and writing, and many, many revisions. All three jobs also involve conveying information to different audiences.

Interior art from JUST A WORM, by debut author/ illustrator Marie Boyd (Greenwillow Books).

What’s Next?

Q 5. Is there a project you’re working on now that you can share?

Marie Boyd: I don’t have any other projects that I can share right now, but I will note that my contract with Greenwillow is for two books, and I have several dummies I’m hoping to send out this year. So, stay tuned for more!

We can’t wait!

Aren’t these cute?

Huge thanks to Marie Boyd for joining us on the blog today.

To learn more about Marie and her books, check out her website: www.marieboyd.com

And follow her on:

Instagram: @artistscholar

FB: @MarieBoydAuthor

Marie Boyd is a member of the #[email protected] group,

featuring NEWLY RELEASED picture books about nature and our environment.

Find out more on Twitter: @GreenPB2023 Insta: greenpb2023

and FB Greenpb2023

Happy Book Birthday to JUST A WORM!

Up next on the blog:

A #BookBirthday celebration for John Schu’s wonderful picture book:

Happy #BookBirthday to The Enchanted Life of Valentina Mejía = 4 Qs with Alexandra Alessandri on Colombian myths and legends, her debut MG, and something more…

It’s an honor to celebrate my #kidlit friend Alexandra Alessandri’s INCREDIBLE debut middle grade fantasy/adventure on the blog today. Think: “Encanto meets The Chronicles of Narnia by way of Colombian folklore.”

I am telling you now, I see GREAT things happening with this book!

Cover by @danasanmar
Design by Debra Sfetsios-Conover
Atheneum / Simon & Schuster

But don’t take my word for it…

Praise for The Enchanted Life of Valentina Mejía

“Alessandri expertly weaves an immersive tale bursting at the seams with folklore, enchantments, and spirit.”–Publishers Weekly.

“Beautiful prose combines with gripping adventure in this magical ode to Colombia and its legends. Fans of Roseanne Brown’s Serwa Boateng’s Guide to Vampire Hunting (2022) and Zoraida Córdova’s Valentina Salazar Is Not a Monster Hunter (2022) will adore this book, for both its mythic monsters and its plucky heroine.” – Aurora Dominguez, Booklist

And a STARRED Review from KIRKUS:

“Modern kids meet traditional tales with thrilling results.” —KIRKUS

Let’s ask some questions!

Q 1. They say every book is a bit autobiographical in some way. Are you more like Valentina, her brother, Julián, or their father?

Alexandra Alessandri: I am definitely most like Valentina! Valentina is creative but also anxious, eager to please her parents but also wanting to carve a space that’s hers alone. She second-guesses herself and is sometimes indecisive, especially when the stakes are high because she doesn’t want to fail. All of these are traits that I share with her.

Also, in the opening of the story, Valentina wants nothing more than to get into a prestigious art program in Bogotá, mainly because she wants to get away from what she perceives as her mundane life on the farm. I remember feeling like that when I was Valentina’s age, dreaming of something more than where I was.

9-year-old Alexandra is with her cousin (left), cousin’s wife (center), and tío Germán (right), in the Andes Mountains. 

Something More…

Q 2. Did you do much research about the fantastical Colombian myths and legends, or –like your protagonists– are these stories you grew up with?

Alexandra Alessandri: Several of the stories are those I grew up with, like that of the mano peluda, los duendes, and the patasola. My late uncle had this wonderful farm, Villapaz, which I visited several times, and he loved spinning these stories to his children and nieces and nephews. He claimed a kind brujita lived in the small cottage on the property, that duendes roamed in the copse of bamboo (so we better be careful they didn’t take our shoes!), and that a dragon resided in the depths of a small pond there, protecting the farm.

 7-year-old Alexandra (center) is with her mom (left) in her tío Guillermo and tía Ruth’s finca, Villapaz.

A.A. : Still, I had to do a lot of research into those and other legends, in part because memory is fickle, and in part because what I knew was at the surface level. I needed to dig deep into the legends and their histories to understand the role they would play in Valentina’s story.

Q 3. Which mythical creature were you most afraid of as a child?

Alexandra Alessandri: La mano peluda! It’s a hairy, disembodied hand that lurks beneath children’s beds—and it was my cousins’ favorite tale to spin as we tried falling asleep at the farm. I remember being so scared and refusing to leave my bed, for fear that the mano peluda would come get me.

Take Aways

Q 4. What do you hope readers will take away from The Enchanted Life of Valentina Mejía?

Alexandra Alessandri: I hope readers will take away a different image of Colombia than the one often shown by the news or media. For so long, Colombia has been synonymous with drug cartels and violence, and while that is certainly part of its history, it’s not all of it by far.

9-year-old Alexandra dreaming of something more

A.A. : I hope readers will discover the beauty and magic of Colombia, as well as that of their own backyards, and that they may feel compelled to care for the earth.

Finally, I hope readers will choose kindness and fight against stereotypes and assumptions.

Choose Kindness

You may remember meeting Alexandra previously on the blog, when we celebrated her bilingual picture book (also about kindness) : ISABEL AND HER COLORES GO TO SCHOOL.

Fun Fact: Both of the above picture books are part of Alexandra’s Story Storm Success Story!

To learn more about Alexandra Alessandri and her books,

check out her web site: alexandraalessandri.com  and follow her on

Twitter: @apalessandri

Insta: apalessandri

We’ll be back next week with a Book Birthday celebration for #GreenPB23 author/illustrator

Marie Boyd‘s debut


Happy #GreenPB2023 #BookBirthdays x 2 = Qs with #kidlit Illustrators Gabriela Lyon (9 Kilometers) + Luisa Uribe (Dear Earth…From Your Friends in Room 5)

We’re switching it up today on the blog with questions

for two incredible #kidlit illustrators:

Gabriela Lyon lives in Santiago de Chile.

Gabriela Lyon is the illustrator of 9 KILOMETERS written by Claudio Aguilera / translated by Lawrence Schimel ( Eerdmans Books for Young Readers). The English edition releases next week–February 28th. Other books include  A SMALL HISTORY OF A DISAGREEMENT  by Claudio Fuentes (Greystone Kids). Lyon studied visual arts at the Finis Terrae University in Santiago, Chile, where she now teaches drawing classes.

Luisa Uribe lives in Bogotá, Colombia.

Luisa Uribe is the illustrator of DEAR EARTH…From Your Friends in Room 5, written by Erin Dealey (Harper Collins). The softcover edition releases TODAY–February 21st. Other books include ARELI IS A DREAMER: A True Story by Areli Morales, a DACA Recipient (Random House Studio). Uribe graduated as a Graphic Designer from the National University of Colombia and has an MA in Art and Design from Loughborough University. In 2018 she was awarded the SOI Dilys Evans Founder’s Award for THE VAST WONDER OF THE WORLD by Mélina Mangal (Lerner Books).

We are thrilled to share their insignts about their illustrations of two #GreenPB2023 books.

Let’s ask some questions!

Q 1. What happens when you first begin to illustrate a picture book like 9 KILOMETERS (Gabriela) or DEAR EARTH… (Luisa)?

Gabriela Lyon: Before quarantine, I was lucky enough to visit southern Chile where 9 KILOMETERS takes place. That trip was essential to be able to observe the light and the colors of the place that I wanted to capture.

Interior Storyboard by Gabriela Lyon for 9 KILOMETERS, written by Claudio Aguilera (Eerdmans)

I took care to create a perfect storyboard, one that efficiently unites both text and illustration so that there would be harmony in terms of visual and textual content. With acrylic on 31×70 cm. paper, I was able to delve into each illustration. I wanted nothing to be left over.

I started the first illustration of 9 KILOMETERS in April 2020. Personally, illustrating a book like this with so much landscape provided a wonderful escape during the pandemic.

Interior art by Luisa Uribe from DEAR EARTH…From Your Friends in Room 5, written by Erin Dealey (Harper Collins)

Luisa Uribe: I read and reread the text so I can have a good grasp of the story and context, and I’ll start thinking about what decisions I want to make in terms of setting and characters. For DEAR EARTH I knew I wanted a bright and diverse group of kids so I focused on designing visually interesting characters. After that I thought it would be a powerful contrast to have the classroom on one side and these wild places that represent the Earth on the other.


Q. 2 How much research was involved in illustrating these books?

Gabriela Lyon: 9 KILOMETERS takes place in the mountains and rain forests of Chile. I had to study the flora and fauna of the area, which is very particular and beautiful. There is a tree that I tried to capture in each scene, which is the Chilean Canelo (Drimys winteri), a sacred tree for the Mapuche culture. It has medicinal properties, and its flower is shaped like an 8-pointed star. 

GL: In addition, making this picture book was the main topic for my master’s degree, which focused on the creation of a picture book. Therefore I also studied a lot about the history of the picture book, how it is structured and what makes it what it is.

Interior art by Luisa Uribe from DEAR EARTH…From Your Friends in Room 5, written by Erin Dealey (Harper Collins)

Luisa Uribe: I was careful in researching the places and species I wanted to show. I wanted to have different biomes represented in the spreads where Earth is answering through its habitants. Take for example, the black-footed ferret which was thought to be extinct, but was found and reintroduced, and the prairies it lives in of which there is so little left. 

Any Favorites?

Q 3. What is your favorite spread?

Interior art by Gabriela Lyon from 9 KILOMETERS, written by Claudio Aguilera (Eerdmans)

Gabriela Lyon: In 9 KILOMETERS, my favorite part is when the text says that there are things that cannot be counted with numbers, and the illustration shows a boy looking at the raindrops. I feel that it’s a powerful and poetic scene.

Interior art by Luisa Uribe from DEAR EARTH…From Your Friends in Room 5, written by Erin Dealey (Harper Collins)

Luisa Uribe: The September letter spread with all the kids gardening and composting, is a good representation of the spirit of the book, and I had a lot of fun working on it. 

ED chiming in here with my favorite spread from our book, DEAR EARTH...:

Interior art by Luisa Uribe from DEAR EARTH…From Your Friends in Room 5, written by Erin Dealey (Harper Collins)

ED: I love the perspective of the illustration above. Readers focus on the beautiful turtle and many don’t notice the plastic bag in the middle of the fish at first. It shows us first hand how turtles might mistake plastic for dinner!

Q 4. Were there any surprises or difficulties you encountered while working on this project?

Gabriela Lyon: I think that the biggest difficulty was to create a consistent storyboard that efficiently unites both text and illustration so that there was harmony in terms of visual and textual content, I wanted nothing to be left over.

Environmental awareness

Q 5. I have read that there are several organizations dedicated to protecting Chile’s Natural and Cultural heritage, and that Colombia is the second-greatest biodiverse country in the world. Can you share a few earth-friendly habits of the children of your countries, or ways their teachers and families encourage #environmental awareness?

Gabriela Lyon: In Chile, there are a lot of infographic-illustrated books for children that help promote care for the environment. For example. a book I llustrated, Yo, sustainable (La Bonita Ediciones) tells the story of a Chilean girl who is an environmental leader like Greta Thunberg.

I always try to add flora and fauna to the books that I illustrate. Whatever the story is, I want to capture the beauty, generosity, and at the same time, vulnerability of our nature.

Luisa Uribe: In Colombia we are lucky to have a system of protected natural parks called Parques Nacionales Naturales de Colombia, which is part of the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development. They focus on conservation and ecotourism.

We also have a group of young activists called Guardianes Por La Vida, who work to educate kids around the country on climate change and sustainable ways of living, and they fight really hard to make their voices heard on a global scale as well in the spirit of Greta Thunberg.

In the Beginning…

Q. 6 As a young child, did you always want to be an illustrator? 

Gabriela Lyon: I was about 7 years old when my mother bought a picture book from the illustrator Tatjana Hauptmann, a compilation of children’s classic stories. The illustrations were beautiful, and I felt an enormous desire to be able to draw like that woman.

So yes, I always wanted to be an illustrator, although in my country it was very difficult to become one, there were not many publishers that accepted work from national illustrators, and there were no schools that taught that either. Now in 2023 it is different. Being an illustrator has become very popular.

Luisa Uribe: I didn’t know what an illustrator was when I was little, I just really loved to draw and read, and books were my treasure and solace when I was growing up. I just kept drawing and eventually illustration became the one and only path to take. 

Interior art by Gabriela Lyon from 9 KILOMETERS, written by Claudio Aguilera (Eerdmans)

Draw, draw, draw. Read, read, read.

Q 7. Are there any tips you might share for artists who hope to illustrate children’s books?

Gabriela Lyon: There are no good and bad books, there are no good and bad images or illustrations. At first, you must see and read everything without prejudice. Try to learn all you can first, and then you can chose what works for you. You must draw everything you can. Ddraw, draw, draw.

Luisa Uribe: The one tip that comes to mind right now is to be aware of trends and read lots of picture books, both new and old. If you know the trends and what is being published right now you can figure out what kind of stories you’d like to work on, and it’s easier to build a portfolio around that. 

¡Muchas gracias!

Thank you to Gabriela Lyon and Luisa Uribe for joining us on the blog today.

To learn more about their work, check out their web sites:

Gabriela Lyon: www.gabrielalyon.cl


Luisa Uribe: The Bright Agency

And follow them on social media:

Instagram glyonb lupencita

Twitter: lupencita