Today I am delighted to be doing a joint interview with picture book author Danielle Dufayet and illustrator Jennifer Zivoin. YOU ARE YOUR STRONG (Magination Press, 2019) is Danielle’s debut work. Jennifer has illustrated many books, but this is their first collaboration. Thanks so much for joining us today.
From the Front Flap: “YOU ARE YOUR STRONG is an empowering exploration of children’s emotions that will develop self-awareness, peace and calm. With diverse characters and scenes featuring a range of different family relationships…the book shows kids that they will have help along the way to being strong and in control.”
Now for the interview with my questions bolded.
Laura: Please tell us a little bit about yourselves and your journey into the world of children’s book writing/illustrating.
Danielle: I was not a reader as a child –too busy running outside and climbing trees! I wasn’t read to either – just wasn’t a tradition in our household, but before you feel sorry for me…I am now a published children’s book author!! I always loved writing, however, even as I child. I’d write poems to express my feelings and observations. When I graduated high school I told myself I wanted to be a children’s book author. I read an awesome picture book by Lilian Moore (Little Raccoon and the thing in the Pool). I was blown away by its simplicity and deep message – all executed in the sweetest, most entertaining way! I thought, I’m going to do that too!
Jennifer: I have always been attracted to visual storytelling, and originally thought that I wanted to pursue animation. However, illustration turned out to be the perfect fit for me. I love being able to conceptualize and then bring to life the entire visual world of each book, from the character designs to the settings to the lighting in each piece. I began illustrating children’s books in 2006 when I was chosen as the artist for the “Pirate School” books by Brian James. A few years later I signed with my agent Mela at MB Artists, and have been illustrating books and children’s projects ever since.
Laura: So interesting, Danielle, that you weren’t a reader, but clearly always a keen observer and participant in all the wonders of the world – climbing trees etc. That is so key to writing! And, wow, Jennifer, what a great journey into the field and I’m also particularly grateful to have had one of my magazine pieces illustrated by you!
Danielle, can you tell us a little bit about the inspiration behind this book?
Danielle: The inspiration behind this book was: Life (going through a difficult situation where I was feeling mad, sad, scared and worried all at once.) and Art: I saw the movie, Room, in which a 5 year old boy (played by Jacob Tremblay) tells his mom his (long) hair is his strong. Later, he cuts it off to give to his mom who’s had a nervous breakdown. It made me ask myself: what is my strong? Turns out, I am my strong –we all are our own strong! And sharing strong is good!
Laura: And such a good message it is!
Jennifer, you have illustrated over 30 picture books. What drew you to Danielle’s YOU ARE YOUR STRONG?
Jennifer: The editors at Magination Press selected me as the illustrator for “You Are Your Strong,” and when I received the manuscript, I loved the way that the text made me feel. The words were empowering and poetic. Since the text focused heavily on emotions, there was tremendous freedom for me to explore how I wanted to create characters and environments.
Laura: And you did an amazing job! One of the most striking aspects of your illustrations, in addition to your wonderfully charming and diverse depiction of children, is your sweeping use of color to capture each emotion. Tell us about this choice. How did you choose your colors?
Jennifer: First, I chose a color palette for the whole book. Then from that palette I selected only about 4 colors for each page – a main color representing the emotion, an accent color to make the character stand out, and usually two other colors that blended nicely with my other choices. For example, pages about sadness were filled with shades of blue while pages about anger were bright red. Then, I used light and the color strokes to define the atmosphere, movement and energy of each page. For pages in which the emotion is directed externally towards another person or the environment, the lighting and movement were bold and energetic. For emotions that were directed inwardly and were more contemplative, the scenes were softer.
Laura: This is so interesting and I’m delighted that the publisher has permitted us to share one of your interiors so readers can get an idea of what we are talking about. In this illustration you use red to depict anger.
Laura: Danielle, teachers and parents are always looking for ways to tie picture books into the curriculum or extend the enjoyment with post-reading activities. Do you have any extension activities your readers might enjoy?
Danielle: I have a handout that kids can fill in as to what their strong is. It asks: what are the things that bring out the happy, calm, brave and gentle already in you? The key word is already. I want kids to know they already have everything they need inside of them!
Laura: Sounds great! And I would also add that your book also includes wonderful “Note to Parents and Caregivers” by Julia Martin Burch, PhD which includes thoughtful tips and suggestions for helping children handle strong emotions.
Finally, for both of you, what’s next? Are there more picture books and projects in the pipeline? Also, where can interested readers find your books?
Danielle: I have a couple of manuscripts out on submission and I’m working on a funnier picture book right now about impulse control, friendship and the love of picture books!
Jennifer: I am currently creating the artwork another of Danielle’s titles through Magination Press, which readers can look forward to in the next year! In addition to this forthcoming publication, I am keeping busy illustrating several other book projects. I am also excited to have finished a dummy for my first authored/illustrated picture book, which I hope to see on bookstore shelves someday.
Thank you BOTH so much for stopping by today and I wish you the greatest success with this new book. Learn more about Danielle and Jennifer below.
Danielle Dufayet, born in Yonkers, New York, now lives in sunny San Jose, California, where she writes children’s books and paints. She also teaches English and Public Speaking (Self-Empowerment) to grades K-12. Danielle read her first picture book (Little Raccoon and the Thing in the Pool) when she was 18 whereupon she was blown away by its simplicity, timelessness and transformative power. That’s when she knew it was her calling. Thirty-five years and a Master’s Degree later, she finally made her dream come true and she’ll have TWO books out in 2019 – one about inner strength and managing big emotions, called You Are Your Strong and the other, Fantastic You!, about self-love/compassion.
Art Website: https://www.danielledufayet.com
Jennifer Zivoin has always loved art and storytelling, so becoming an illustrator was a natural career path. She has been trained in media ranging from figure drawing to virtual reality, and earned her bachelor of arts degree with highest distinction from the honors division of Indiana University. During her professional career, Jennifer worked as a graphic designer and then as a creative director before finding her artistic niche illustrating children’s books. When she is not creating art in her studio, her favorite hobbies include drinking cocoa while reading a good book, swimming on hot summer days, and spending time outside with her family.
Jennifer lives in Carmel, Indiana.
Visit her at http://www.JZArtworks.com