When I fell in love with the dream of an artistic life in children’s books it was through writing picture books. I used to love to draw when I was a kid. I didn’t pursue visual art with the same kind of single-minded determination I applied to the craft of writing fiction and creative nonfiction, though. And when you’re a writer of picture books, you have almost doing to do with the illustration.
Over the years, I got to see the pictures that others dreamed up when they read my words–in the U.S. and occasionally in Ethiopia.
But I never wrestled with what illustrations to put with what text or how to craft things like the page turns of my picture books. Enter my experimentation with Ready Set Go books to give kids (and adults) in Ethiopia practice reading.
For the first time, I had the delight and challenge of working with illustrators and figuring out how to put things together in ways that spark a reader’s understanding and imagination.
Main big problem? Not many of our volunteer illustrators can draw people. One of the first stories I wrote for this project was a variation on the runaway gingerbread man/tortilla/johnny cake…but it languished without an illustrator who knew what scenes and people in Ethiopia look like–and could handle the complex visual storytelling.
Enter Katie Bradley. Through her adopted daughter, she had come to love (and occasionally see) Ethiopia. She worked with some second graders in Vancouver, WA to create one of the Ready Set Go books called Fire. And then she decided to use paper cutting (which she vows never to do again) for the runaway injera story.
I’m always fascinated to models and then an artist’s interpretation…so here’s the girl that served as Katie’s inspiration for the final scenes of the book–and how she’s showing up in the illustration (with the injera rolling near).
The girls are reading Fire, Katie’s first book for Ready Set Go, currently available on Amazon with all proceeds going to create more books. Go, go, go Katie and all the creative people involved in this new project!