When people ask me: “What’s the one thing you’d like to change about yourself?” like most of us, I have many answers: be thinner, be richer – you know the list. But in the end, what I always come back to is this: I wish I could draw! My dad was a great artist and woodcarver, but I inherited ZERO talent. Although I can draw a passable rose, a not bad tree and a recognizable horse – because he tried to teach me – I didn’t ever take art as an elective because it would be embarrassing. But in my secret life, I spent countless hours and used up reams of paper drawing. All during my childhood, I drew rows of girls with different hair and different dresses and yes, I did make up storylines about them, but I didn’t write them down. It was just for fun. I’m also an inveterate doodler. I even dabbled a little in throwing paint on paper a few years back and found I could manage postage stamp sized paintings but not big ones. The problem is, I can’t draw. When it comes to art, I’m a klutz!
To make things worse (well, better, really) I worked in advertising for years where I was always teamed up with an artist or art director (think Mad Men), so all my close friends were and are artists. Even my two beautiful stepdaughters, Rebecca and Anna, are amazing artists, both graduates of prestigious art schools, while artistically, I am chopped liver! Even today, I am lucky to count amazing children’s book illustrators as my friends. I can’t believe they’d even speak to me.
I was so lucky that my book, The Seven Wonders of Sassafras Springs, was illustrated so beautifully by Matt Phelan – his first book and he now has an impressive body of work. Here’s a sample from the bo
I had two wonderful picture books published almost two decades ago – Tyrannosaurus Tex, illustrated byJohn O’Brien, whose cartoons I had long admired in The New Yorker, and Pie’s in the Oven, illustrated by Holly Meade, who sadly passed away far too early last year. She generously sent me the artwork for an entire spread, which is on my wall and will remain there always.
But the According to Humphrey books aren’t illustrated. They have photographs (wonderful ones) on the covers both in the U.S. and U.K. I like that because it makes Humphrey totally real and believable . But when Humphrey’s Tiny Tales were underway, the question was what would Humphrey look like? And even more importantly, what would his classmates and teacher look like? The books were published in the U.K first, charmingly illustrated by Penny Dann.
When the books were going to be published here in the U.S., I knew they would be re-illustrated. Different countries, different publishers, different tastes. And then my editor, Susan Kochan, said the magic words: “How about Priscilla Burris?” I know Priscilla! She’s a Southern Californian, as I am, but she’s actually a native Angeleno, while I’m a transplant. I knew who she was because she’s on the board of SCBWI! (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and I know you may be tired of hearing it, but if you want to write or illustrate children’s books, JOIN!).
My answer was: YES-YES-YES! And I wasn’t disappointed. Priscilla is the perfect illustrator for Humphrey. I always say that I AM Humphrey but now she is Humphrey, too. She creates so much heart with her deceptively simple lines.
So as a “wish I could be” artist, I was delighted to see this video of her drawing Humphrey. In typical Priscilla fashion, she added a charming bee friend for Humphrey. I’m so happy, I could spin on my wheel! In fact, I think I will!
The first two Tiny Tales; Humphrey’s Playful Puppy Problem and Humphrey’s Really Wheely Racing Day are now available in paperback and hardcover. And there will be more!