I don’t ever remember not drawing.
As a child, I doodled animals in the sand in front of our house (I was born on a Caribbean island).
I doodled animals on the walls of my bedroom and I doodled animals on the soft brown paper bags from the grocery store.
Animals were a theme then, as now.
My sense of wonder and belief in the power of books goes way back, to my encounter with my parents’ volume of the “Wonder Book of Knowledge.” On page 469, there was a photo of a sea monster caught off the coast of Florida.
At the age of two, I believed that the sea monster was alive in the book, and I would avoid walking too closely to the Wonder Book—I didn’t want to be eaten by the sea creature!
Do books have power? You bet.
When I moved to this country in 1960, I lived in New Jersey with my Mother and Father. Since Spanish was my first language, it took a while for me to learn English.
The books that I looked at, but couldn’t read, were fairy tales. I loved them because of the pictures. It was then, I think, that I fell in love with picture books. I never imagined that I would be writing and illustrating them as an adult.
I have always loved to write.
When I was in 6th grade, my teacher told me that I could not write. I believed her, and it took me 23 years to get the courage to write and submit a story to an editor.
My art has always been about the things that I find interesting in my environment.
In school, I drew my family and pets and friends. In college, I drew a world inhabited by pillows, each with its own personality. I will never look at a pillow in quite the same way.
And in graduate school, I made prints about a world made up of little chocolate kisses.
I was telling stories with pictures – but never realized that words would someday complement my images and make up a separate world in a book.
When I moved to New York City in 1977, I worked in children’s publishing, but on the weekends, I made little wordless picture books – mostly about New York City dogs.
It was fun to re-create the city in a book and also fun to make up stories about the dogs that I met on the street.
When I moved to Pennsylvania in 1984, my husband Bill and I lived in a log cabin on a lake. I spent time walking, canoeing, swimming, drawing and most importantly—listening—in the woods.
Our time living in the log cabin was the inspiration for the nature books that we made together.
Susan Hirshman published my first book in 1987.
William and Boomer was about our son, William, befriending a Canada goose.
We really did have a goose living with us in the log cabin, and can you guess her favorite food?
Linguini with garlic and butter!
I have created 16 more picture books, and now work with Virginia Duncan, who is the Publisher of Greenwillow Books.
It has been fun to paint my family and pets, and write about them in my books. Campbell, our daughter and William, our son, have appeared in almost all the books.
Since they are now adults, Campbell and William have outgrown modeling for me, but now I can test my stories out on them—they are very good listeners!
And you can see all of our dogs running through the pages of my picture books.
I have always loved telling stories.
I have always loved to draw.
Every little mouse, every dog, every child—everyone has stories to tell.
It is fun to be able to help make these stories come to life for a child—in a book.
I now live in an old school house, built in 1898, in northeast Pennsylvania, with a miniature Dachshund, 2 cats and a very handsome duck.
For a little girl whose passion was drawing birds and fish and flowers and trees, to end up as an artist and book maker whose passion is drawing birds and fish and flowers and trees…it doesn’t get any better.
Children’s books rule—and so do the kids that read them!