A number of years ago when Caroline was just a baby, I happened across the children’s picture book Apple Farmer Annie at a bookstore in Traverse City, Michigan. I instantly loved it! I loved the story, the graphics, and just how cozy it was. I’ve since read a number of Monica Wellington’s books and have enjoyed them all.
So imagine how delighted I was to receive an email a few weeks ago from Monica Wellington asking me if I would be interested in doing a review of her new picture book Colors for Zena. Of course I would! So today we have an interview with Monica and three of her books to give away to three lucky readers!
Colors for Zena is the story of a little girl who discovers how different colors come together to make new colors. Throughout the book her world is impacted by the colors. This is a wonderful book for parents, primary teachers, and art teachers who are introducing primary colors and how those colors comes together to make new colors.
And now on to the interview!
Welcome, Monica! It is great to be able to share your beautiful work with my readers!
What led to the writing of “Colors for Zena?”
It is hard to say where a book begins – probably in some way from my own childhood. But this book, at least partly, came from color games my daughter and I played when she was little. Walking down the street in the busy city, we would pick out everything that we saw that was red, and then yellow, and so on. Was that blue or was that purple, we would ask? What is our favorite color today? … Then back at home she loved discovering for herself how colors worked – there was always an abundance of paint!
At the end of Zena there is a color wheel and suggestions of some fun things to do with color. I hope readers will be inspired to be creative and paint colorful pictures themselves!
Who inspires you as a writer? An artist?
Just the other day I was at a library book sale where I found some old classics by Roger Duvoisin, Robert McCloskey, and Barbara Cooney. These are some of the artists who continually inspire me in children’s books.
You have a very unique illustration style. Who or what was influential in developing that style?
Some people can draw and paint with such fine technique and I’m quite in awe of that! I’m not really a versatile artist myself, but on the other hand I guess I have my own particular style! When I went to art school I focused on ceramics – I wanted to be a potter. It took me some time on my own after college to figure out my true passions. I loved drawing and painting when I was a child. When I was young we lived in Switzerland and I have very distinct memories of how much I loved to draw then. I think I picked up where I left off about 20 years later! Everything fell into place when I had the good luck to discover the field of children’s books.
How can parents best encourage their artistically-inclined children?
I think the best thing is to simply provide plenty of good art materials, readily available all the time. And I think it is great to always carry a notebook and color pencils for spontaneous projects when you are out and about.
Do you have a personal favorite from your own books? Why is it your favorite?
Probably Crepes by Suzette – my homage to Paris. It was published a while ago, it went out-of-print and people often contact me looking for copies. “Suzette” is special to me because I now have the chance to work on it again: I’m bringing it back to life as an app, a digital book. The illustrations that I originally made for the book were mixed media collages of photos and all sorts of things I had collected from France. It has been so much fun expanding the concept of collage and adding a lot of new content. I went to Paris and collected sounds, voices, and music with my digital recorder and I have learnt new skills as a sound editor. There will be narrations in many languages, including French. There will be short videos, showing Paris and crepe making. All Suzette’s customers are out of famous French paintings and I have been able to add much more about that in the app as well. Hopefully the project will be ready soon!
Who would be in your Top 5 must study artists for young children and why?
I would say, let your children lead the way to the artists that appeal to them. If you possibly can, bring them to museums and follow them. Pull out those notebooks and color pencils and encourage them to draw in front of their favorite paintings.
Some of my favorite artists are represented in Crepes by Suzette by her customers: Matisse, Chagall, Van Gogh, Seurat, Picasso – you could also begin there.
Is there anything else you would like to share with the parents and teachers reading here?
Writing and illustrating is very solitary. My studio space is at home in my apartment in New York City. I work with music and my two cats for company. Even after 25 years of doing this, I am still amazed at how lucky I am that my books go out into the world to children. Sometimes I hear directly from families who are reading my books and I love that! Thank you!