Celebrate Women’s History Month with Albert Whitman & Company

March is Women’s History Month! Take the time to learn about, remember, and appreciate women by reading about them! Albert Whitman has a huge selection of historical picture books showcasing women’s accomplishments. You’ll find everything from female athletes, scientists, and detectives to famous women that made a difference in our shared history. Check out this list for some of our favorite girl-power picks!

#1 Swimming with Sharks

Swimming with Sharks: The Daring Discoveries of Eugenie Clark

This beautifully illustrated book follows Eugenie Clark’s lifelong obsession with sharks. Her discoveries changed the way scientists thought about sharks, but her choice to pursue a career as a scientist changed the way society thought about women. This picture book shares the story of her entire life, but focuses mainly on her years of research from the 1940s to her death in 2015. Told in a narrative style, this true story will make all readers want to dive in for more.

#2 An Apple for Harriet Tubman

An Apple for Harriet Tubman

This story follows Harriet Tubman through her life as a slave working in an orchard up to her escape to the North. It’s a great start for teaching little ones about America’s past and the struggles of those who haven’t always been free.

#3 Dorothea Lange

Dorothea Lange: The Photographer Who Found the Faces of the Depression

Dorothea Lange traveled the country during the Great Depression to take photographs of those affected most. Her struggle with her own physical disability and her development as a photographer are told in this captivating picture book. Available now in hardcover, this story is great example of how women have made differences throughout history.

#4 Touch the Sky

Touch the Sky: Alice Coachman, Olympic High Jumper

Share the story of Alice Coachman, the first African American woman to win an Olympic gold medal in the 1948 games. Bright illustrations and lyrical captions will engage and inspire readers with the story of a woman who jumped over every obstacle to accomplish her dream. Photos of the real Alice Coachman are also included in this picture book.

#5 How Kate Warne Saved President Lincoln

How Kate Warne Saved President Lincoln

Most Americans know a lot about President Lincoln, but not so much about the detective who saved his life before his inauguration. Explore the adventures of Kate Warne, the nation’s first female detective, as she breaks down barriers for women and saves her president in this colorful picture book.

#6 Heart on Fire

Heart on Fire: Susan B. Anthony Votes for President

It may seem hard to believe, but woman have had the right to vote for less than a hundred years! Learn about Susan B. Anthony’s fight to give women the right to vote in Heart on Fire. Her daring (and illegal) vote for president in 1872 helped spark the movement for women’s suffrage across the country. This non-fiction picture book will remind all readers about the importance of the right to vote.

#7 Mary Walker Wears the Pants

Mary Walker Wears the Pants

Not only was Mary Walker a suffragist and one of the first female doctors in America, she also wore pants, something unheard of in her time! This picture book discusses the story of a Civil War hero who challenged traditional gender roles. Share this illustrated biography and inspire young readers to question societal norms.

What are your favorite stories about women in history? Visit our website to find more books about women!

Celebrate Women’s History Month with Albert Whitman & Company

Saving the Bees and Other “Green” Reads for Spring

April showers bring May flowers, but what else keep the flowers blooming? Bees! These little helpers stay busy all spring and summer pollinating plants and making honey. In recent years though, many bee species have been dying out. Though they may be small, they play a huge role the ecosystem and in our food production. Stay busy as a bee this spring with books about the bees and other stories about saving our planet from Albert Whitman & Company.

 

#1 Please Please the Bees

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Benedict the bear has been enjoying honey his whole life, but one day the bees go on strike! Rather than getting angry, Benedict decides to listen to the bees. Once he realizes he can help, he gets to work planting flowers, improving their hive, and learning to be a better beekeeper. Funny illustrations of Benedict drinking cups of tea with honey and bees holding strike signs will leave kids buzzing with laughter in this story of cooperation, listening to others, and doing your part. Follow this link for a preview.

#2 What’s So Special About Planet Earth?

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Ever wonder what it would be like to live on a different planet? Fun as that may be, it’s impossible for humans to survive anywhere else. This eye-opening picture book explains the differences between Earth and other planets in our solar system to show just how unique our planet is. Little ones will learn about the Earth’s atmosphere, the sun, and other planets. Take a look here for more.

#3 Polar Bear, Why is Your World Melting?

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Come back to planet Earth and get a picture of the rapidly changing Arctic. Through colorful illustrations kids will learn about the effects of greenhouse gases and ways they can help prevent the destruction of polar bears’ homes. Part of the Wells of Knowledge collection, this book introduces science in a fun way. Check out more by clicking this link.

#4 This Tree Counts!

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One owl, two spiders, three squirrels, four robins…how many animals can a single tree provide a home for?  Find out with Mr. Tate and his class as they take a closer look at the tree behind their school. The students learn about the small ecosystem within the tree, but notice something seems to be missing. Told by an easy-to-follow counting pattern, this fun book will leave kids ready to investigate and appreciate nature wherever they go. Follow this link to see more.

#5 Rooting for Rafael Rosales

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For older readers, this middle-grade novel shares the stories of Rafael and Maya. Rafael is growing up in the Dominican Republic and has dreams of playing baseball in the major leagues. Maya is living in present-day Minnesota and is worried about the bees dying and the harm her father’s company is doing to the environment. This novel switches between two different time periods and places, but weaves the stories together as Maya and her sister follow Rafael’s first year in the minor leagues. Maya starts rooting for Rafael because if he can make it, maybe she—and the bees—will be okay, too. For more, click here.

 

#6 Dig Too Deep

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For teen readers who like mystery, Dig Too Deep is a perfect pick. Liberty Briscoe’s life is turned upside down after her mother’s arrest (for political protest) means she must live with her Granny in Ebbotsville, Kentucky. Though she’d been there before as a kid, things have changed drastically. Coal mining has destroyed the tip of Mt. Tanner, and people, including her Granny, seem to be getting sick. Liberty starts an investigate and soon realizes there’s something suspicious going on. What will she do? Find out more by clicking here.

 

Want to find out more about our planet and how to save it? Follow these links for more books about the Earth and protecting our environment.

Saving the Bees and Other “Green” Reads for Spring

Q&A with Elizabeth Briggs

Future Threat by Elizabeth Briggs is an action-packed adventure for teen readers about time travel gone awry. In it, Elena Martinez and a group of friends are required again by the Aether corporation to travel into the future and save another teen who has gone missing. They arrive in a future that’s amazingly advanced, thanks to Aether Corporation’s reverse-engineered technology. The mission has deadly consequences, though, and they return to the future to try to alter the course of events. But the future is different yet again. Now every trip through time reveals new complications, and more lives lost—or never born. Elena and Adam must risk everything—including their relationship—to save their friends.

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We were lucky enough to sit down with Elizabeth to chat about Future Threat, finding inspiration, and writing routines.

Q: What was your inspiration for your title?

A: Future Threat is the second book in the Future Shock trilogy. The first book, Future Shock, was inspired by this question: what if you discovered something terrible was going to happen to you in the future? Would you be able to change your fate? In Future Threat I decided to take the opposite approach by giving the characters a glimpse of an optimistic future…and then took it away from them and made them fight hard to get it back.

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Q: Do you have a regular routine while creating a book?

A: I start with an idea and then I try to flesh it out by creating the characters, setting, and plot. I brainstorm for a while before making a scene by scene outline. Once that’s done, I start writing a really messy first draft, and my book usually changes a lot from the outline as I get new ideas. After that, I spend a lot of time revising the book to take it from a very rough draft to a polished manuscript.

Q: What’s the easiest and hardest part of creating a book?

A: The easiest part is coming up with the idea, because I get ideas for new books all the time and each one sounds like it would be a ton of fun to write. The hardest part is writing the first draft and turning that idea into an actual book.

Q: What makes your book stand out?

A: There are lots of other time travel books out there, but very few of them go to the future, especially multiple times. The book also has a diverse cast and a Mexican-American heroine, which we unfortunately don’t see enough of in YA sci-fi.

Q: Are you working on any other projects?

A: Right now I’m working on Future Lost, the final book in the Future Shock trilogy. It will be out in 2018 and asks the question: what if you discovered the world was going to end? Would you be able to change it, even if doing so required a huge sacrifice? It’s going to be a big, epic end to the trilogy and I hope readers will enjoy it!

 

Thanks, Elizabeth. Find out more about Future Threat and the whole trilogy on our website. And, make sure to check out Elizabeth’s events calendar for a chance to hear her talk about her books in person this spring!

 

 

Q&A with Elizabeth Briggs

Q&A with Brenda Reeves Sturgis

Still a Family, a picture book by Brenda Reeves Sturgis with pictures by Jo-Shin Lee, is a sweet look at a family who remains together, despite living at different homeless shelters.

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We were lucky enough to sit down with Brenda Reeves Sturgis to chat about Still a Family, writing routines, and the importance of having a great team.

Q: Why write children’s books? 

A: I have wanted to be a writer for as long as I can remember. I love children, adore them, and am a nanny for Portland Nannies in my other life. I am the mother of four children, and seven grandchildren. I love writing, and so writing for children combines two of the things I love most in this world. I believe children believe what we tell them and they become what they believe and if my books help a child to believe that there is hope to get out of a homeless shelter, that there is hope for their family to find and live a better life, that there is hope that things will get easier then it is nothing short of a gift for me to be able to write about it. This story has been a magical experience, I am so humbled and honored to be part of Still a Family.

Q: What was your inspiration for your title?

A: My inspiration in creating Still a Family ensued after a social media discussion about the plight of the homeless, and why there wasn’t a book to educate children about this very serious subject. I thought it was a meaningful subject, and one that I wanted to write thoughtfully and carefully, with a lot of heart. There are over six million children displaced into shelters annually, that’s a lot of people who are touched by poverty, or dire circumstances. It was my hope in writing this book that this story touches hearts and hearts change lives.

Q: What makes your book stand out?

A: This book is not merely about a child living in a homeless shelter, but a story about how a family remains a family while living in a homeless shelter. This gives it a sense of realism because everybody wants to connect with their own children or spouses. This book is a perfect marriage between art and text. The art makes this book stand out. Jo-Shin Lee did phenomenal work on this story, Albert Whitman couldn’t have chosen a more perfect illustrator to illustrate this very serious subject matter. It was illustrated in a non-threatening way to a child, in kid-friendly colors, and childlike illustrations. This makes this book visually appealing and I hope the text tells an important story to parents and for their children, and most of all, I hope it raises awareness to the journey of homelessness and gives everyone a desire to help, instead of roll up their windows, lock their doors, and avert their eyes.

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Q: Do you have a regular routine while creating a book?

A: I tend to be a fast reviser, spending hours and days at my computer until I get the subject matter, the text, and the story just right. I am in incessant researcher; I am always dabbling into my thesaurus or on Rhyme Zone to find new ways to say something. It is always my deepest desire that the text I write will sing to the reader. I hate to keep editors waiting for me, and so I often write in the middle of the night. My usual writing time is 3:00 a.m.

Q: What’s the easiest and hardest part of creating a book?

A: I think the easiest part is my relationship with my agent, Karen Grencik of Red Fox Literary; she is an amazing agent and allows me the liberty of bouncing ideas off her, and she is always willing to look at my work and gets back to me quickly. The hardest part for me is always finding the problem in the story. I enjoy the process and I enjoy finding inventive language. It’s difficult to remain optimistic hoping that an editor will love what I have written and want to take a chance to see what I can bring to the table.

Q: Do you have any writing quirks?

A: I am a solitary writer, obsessive compulsive about getting everything exactly right. As I said above, I hate to keep editors waiting and so I tend to write quickly but carefully, always cognizant of an editor’s other commitments and time.

Q: What was the process of working with your editor like?

A: Working with Andrea Hall was a dream for me. She was very attentive, and thoughtful in her revision notes. We worked closely for a year on a rewrite and many revisions. She had a very clear vision for Still a Family and I trusted her implicitly from our first hello. She made every page better, every word count, and she was a delight. I am hoping that we can work together again because it was an amazing and surreal experience for me, and one for which I am eternally grateful. 9780807577073_int2

Q: Are you working on any other projects?

A: I am working on several projects presently. I’ve recently paired with a wonderful writer that I’ve known for years, and we have partnered and are creating stories together. She is a perfect Yin to my Yang, and she was my very first friend at Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. We are in the process of writing fractured fairy tales both in rhyme and in prose.

Q: What books did you like to read as a kid? What type of books do you like to read now?

A: I loved all books that I could get my hands on, and would spend all weekend every weekend holed up in my room, reading and writing. When my friends were at parties, I was home reading. It was a normal occurrence in my house for me to read two or three books in a weekend. It is still my favorite way to spend a lazy weekend. Tea and books, books and tea, and occasional coffee. I love autobiographies, I love history books, I love a good YA, and of every picture book is a great book to read.

 

Thanks, Brenda! Learn more about Still a Family on our website.

Q&A with Brenda Reeves Sturgis

Q&A with Andrea Wang

In The Nian Monster author Andrea Wang and illustrator Alina Chau reimagined a Chinese folktale about the horrible legendary monster that returns at the New Year and is intent on devouring Shanghai, starting with little Xingling!

 

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We were lucky enough to sit down with Andrea to chat about The Nian Monster, food, and celebrating the holiday.

Q. What was your inspiration for your title?

A. Chinese New Year is one of my favorite holidays. Several years ago, I was looking for interesting information about the holiday to tell my children and I came across the folktale of the Nian Monster. I had never heard it before and I loved that it was a trickster tale. My husband’s family lives in Shanghai and I had been thinking about setting a book there to showcase this wonderful city. I was inspired to re-tell the folktale in a contemporary setting using some of my favorite foods.

Q. Do you have a regular routine while creating a book?

A. I always start out by writing my story ideas in a fresh notebook – in my case, I use composition notebooks. I brainstorm, free-write, and take notes on any research. When I feel like I finally have a good grip on the kernel or heart of the story, I start writing on the computer. Then I revise, send out the manuscript to my critique group, revise again, get more critiques, and keep revising until I think it’s ready to send to my agent.

Q. What’s the easiest and hardest part of creating a book?

A. For me, the easiest part is coming up with a story idea. If you’re curious about the world, there’s an endless number of things to write about. The hardest part for me is making that idea into a compelling story with heart and underlying themes.

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Q. What makes your book stand out?

A. I like to think that it’s the contemporary Chinese setting that makes The Nian Monster stand out. Many of the picture books that are set in China show small villages with thatched huts and people wearing old-fashioned clothing. While rural places in China may still look like that, modern China is full of skyscrapers and people in current clothing styles. I think [illustrator] Alina Chau did an amazing job illustrating how vibrant and cosmopolitan Shanghai is, alongside the ancient parts of the city.

Q. Do you have any writing quirks?

A. I get obsessed with finding the perfect names for my characters. The name has to have a special significance or meaning that relates to the story. In The Nian Monster, Xingling’s name means something like “born with a clever nature.” Don’t you think that describes her well?

Q. Are you working on any other projects?

A. I’m working on two other projects right now – a nonfiction picture book biography and a coming-of-age middle grade novel about a young Chinese girl. True to my obsession, it’s about names and whether they define her identity.

 

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Q. What was the process of working with your editor like?

A. Working with Kristin Zelazko was a wonderful experience. As a debut author, I had no idea what to expect, but it turned out to be a lot like working with a great critique partner. I felt like we had a conversation going on through emails and comments in the manuscript. Kristin also asked me how I envisioned the illustrations for the book, and was very gracious when I deluged her with notes and photos of Shanghai. I’m so grateful for how receptive Kristin, Jordan (the art director), and Alina were to my suggestions!

Q. What is your favorite Chinese New Year tradition?

A. As you can tell from the book, I love food! We always try to have noodles, fish, and sticky rice cake for Chinese New Year. We often make Lion’s Head Casserole, too, and not just for the holiday. The whole book is really a tribute to all my favorite New Year foods. I love the symbolism behind the different dishes and trying different versions of the recipes. There’s a savory version of sticky rice cake, made with pork and pickled snow cabbage, that is popular in Shanghai and is also one of my favorite dishes.

Q. What would you do if you saw the Nian Monster?

A. It’s a toss-up between running away and petting him. Nian is so adorably ferocious – I kind of just want to cuddle him!

 

Thanks so much, Andrea! Find out more about the Nian Monster with this adorable trailer and more about the book on our website. Plus, get insight from the illustrator, Alina Chau, on how she created the illustrations here and here.

Q&A with Andrea Wang

Q&A with Andrea J. Loney

Bunnybear by Andrea J. Loney and illustrated by Carmen Saldaña tells a story of a bear who feels more like a bunny. Bunnybear prefers bouncing in the thicket to tramping in the forest, and in his heart he’s fluffy and tiny, like a rabbit, instead of burly and loud, like a bear. The other bears don’t understand him, and neither do the bunnies. Will Bunnybear ever find a friend who likes him just the way he is?

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We were lucky enough to sit down with Andrea and discuss Bunnybear, celebrating diverse stories, and being true to yourself.

Q: Why write children’s books?

A: Over the years I’ve been a poet, a playwright, a screenwriter, and a television writer, yet becoming a children’s book author was always my dream. Why? It was through picture books that I fell in love with words, reading, and the whole world around me.

Also when I was in the second grade, my family moved from a big city with many folks of all ethnicities to a small town with few people of color. I had a hard time fitting in. So I escaped my fear and sadness by reading. Books were always there for me. Books delighted me. Books saved me. By the third grade, I vowed that when I became an adult, I would never forget how it felt to be a little kid and that I would write the kind of stories that I’d wished were available when I was a child – stories that embrace the humanity of all children.

Q: Do you have a regular routine while creating a book?

A: Usually, I start by getting to know the main character. I wonder how my character would see the world, speak, or handle different situations. Once I have a good sense of the character, I see the story in my head with as many of the words and pictures that I can imagine. I play it in my head over and over like a movie. I tell the story to myself out loud until I have much of it memorized. And only then do I scribble the first draft into a notebook. After revising it on paper a few times, I type the manuscript up and send it to my online critique group. After they give me notes, I make changes and share it with a different critique group. I do this over and over until I have a draft that feels like a real book manuscript. Sometimes it takes a long time.

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Q:  What was the process of working with your editor like?

A: Working with editors is always a fascinating process for me because they see the story with new eyes. As a picture book writer who is NOT an illustrator, I never know how my story will be interpreted visually – what if the artist doesn’t understand what I was trying to say? But with Bunnybear the editors and the artist visualized the story almost exactly as I did, and I was so thrilled!

Also at one point I was fussing over a clunky line in the story, and my editor Wendy McClure made a tiny change to the text and suddenly the words just sang! It was like magic!

Q: What makes your book stand out?

A: Aside from Carmen Saldaña’s adorably dreamy illustrations? Well, there are bear books, there are bunny books, and there are even bear and bunny books. But to my knowledge, this is the only story of a Bunnybear.

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Q: How do you stay true to yourself?

A: I stay true to myself by listening to that still small voice within me that says, “This is right for me,” or “This is not right for me.” Of course, the voices of people all around me are much louder than my still small voice. I love collaborating with others, so sometimes it can be challenging to stay true to myself – what if I end up all alone? But I find that when I follow what is true for me – no matter what people think – folks with similar truths show up everywhere.

I believe that we all have a story to tell, and no one can tell our story as richly and authentically as we can. But we can only tell those stories when we have the courage to be true to ourselves.

 

Thanks so much, Andrea! Explore Bunnybear’s journey to understanding his true self on our website.

Q&A with Andrea J. Loney

Illustrator Insight with Jordi Solano

Jordi Solano is the illustrator of Swimming with Sharks: The Daring Discoveries of Eugenie Clark by Heather Lang. He was kind enough to sit down with us to describe the process of illustrating Swimming with Sharks.

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Let me begin by saying that Swimming with Sharks is my first book with an international publisher. So when my agent Hannah told me about this one, the first thing that came was uncertainty, like the first day going to a new school, when you might be a bit scared but at the same time you really, really want to do well.

Then Jordan [Kost], the art director [at Albert Whitman & Company], introduced herself and told me what the book was going to be about. I remember her telling me about Eugenie Clark, who she was, what she did. She told me there were already several books published about her, and that we needed to make ours stand out from the rest. After some quick research, I told Jordan that all those books published about Dr. Clark had their focus on her being a scientist, on her amazing discoveries. Meanwhile, I was under the impression that Swimming with Sharks was a completely different thing: to me, it was the story of a little girl who had a wish, and of how she grew up to fulfill it. This has been my main thought while working on the pictures for this book.

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Jordan has really been very helpful throughout the process. She provided a ton of visual references, gave me useful advice every time I had trouble planning one of the images, and, in general terms, she has done an amazing job to make the book better and helped me save a lot of time by doing a huge amount of research.

And so the work began. I always start by doing lots of sketches, to make myself familiar with the stuff that will appear in the book. This means that I filled several pages with drawings of sharks, fish, and people diving. While most of them were left within the pages of my sketchbook, a few ended up being developed into some of the illustrations you can see in the book, because they already worked well enough on their own.

After this “let’s make myself familiar with stuff” stage, it comes what I consider to be the single most important part of the work. What I do at this point is print a layout of the book (that is, the blank pages with only the text with the final placement) and, while I read it time after time, I start doing very small rough sketches that show the composition for every illustration. After this two-inch sketch roughs are finished, the book is already in my head: I know how I want it to look. Afterwards it’s a matter of developing the idea and making the final result look as close to it as my own ability allows.

 

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Having the clear idea of what I want to do, now it’s time to start doing it. First thing here is the line work. This is important because it’s the first thing that Jordan and the rest of the team will see, and therefore I want it to be very precise. If I feel the drawing doesn’t explain the image in my mind well enough, when I send it to Jordan I would add a short comment, such as “this one will have a very strong atmosphere” or “a warm, yellow-ish light will come from that direction,” so the team can figure out what I am planning to do.

Once Jordan and the team had revised the sketches, they would send feedback and some adjustments would be made. They have usually been minor aspects of the drawings, things like “Make sure Genie’s eyes properly show that she was half Japanese” or “Beware! You’ve drawn the shark’s gills too close to the eyes.” After these arrangements have been made, it’s time to go on to the color.

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This is the stage that I’ll spend more time working in, and one that I really enjoy. I begin by doing high resolution scans of every drawing, since I’ll be using the computer all the time here. Even though I paint digitally, I like to keep it as natural as possible, much like when I used to paint with oils. This means that I don’t like to use lots of layers or digital effects, but still, working this way allows me much more flexibility, lets me try things I wouldn’t do otherwise (because there’s a very good chance that if I try them on paper, I’ll end up ruining the illustration I’ve been working in for so many hours). And last, but not least, I can work quicker this way, since I don’t need to clean the brushes all the time and wait for the colors to dry. This is indeed very good for the deadlines.

Once the color has been done and I’m happy with the result (I’m usually my own worst critic), it’s time to send the finished images to Jordan. She’d usually say how awesome they are and we would all be happy after a beautiful book has been made. Hooray!

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Thanks, Jordi! Dive into Swimming with Sharks today, plus find out more about the author, Heather Lang here.

Illustrator Insight with Jordi Solano