How to Record a Great Interview with Your Kid (At Any Age)

 
Art by Claire Astrow

Art by Claire Astrow

We are so thrilled to have trailblazer Hillary Frank—of the absolutely laugh-out-loud, pee-in-your-pants, heartfelt, insightful, cutting-edge, quirky, and thought-provoking parenting podcast The Longest Shortest Time—here with a guest post that is sure to inspire you to capture some archival-worthy recordings of your wee ones at their most confessional/talkative/silly/sweet/________ (fill in the blank with your child’s mood of the moment). If you haven’t heard Hillary’s podcast yet, do it! Also check out her powerful op-ed in The New York Times, “The Special Misogyny Reserved for Mothers,” and her recent interview with Terry Gross on Fresh Air. Without further ado, here’s Hillary on How to Record a Great Interview with Your Kid (at Any Age).
Thank you, Hillary!!!


On the eve of my little brother’s second birthday, he refused to go to sleep. He had THINGS to say—about our aunts and uncles and cousins and what color shoes they all wore. I was seven at the time, passed out in my bedroom, but I know this happened because instead of scolding my brother for being a chatterbox way past his bedtime, my parents grabbed a tape recorder and captured it all on cassette. After naming every relative he knew, my brother went on to proclaim that our Florida-based grandmother lived in “her ammie.” (Replace “her” with “my.”) He spoke enthusiastically about the alligator toothbrush he’d just gotten from the dentist. And he fervently tried to get my mom to remember something he called the “wekka fwabeewing.” For around twenty minutes, my mom took guesses at what he was saying; he’d yell No!; she’d try to change the subject; he’d bring it back to the wekka fwabeewing. Finally, after a lot of exasperation on both sides, my mom figured it out. My brother was talking about the Levitt Pavillion, a local outdoor performance venue where he’d seen a kids’ show.

The next morning, my parents played me the recording and challenged me to guess what a wekka fwabeewing was. I got in on the first mention. After all, I was the one who had taught him to say it. My parents and I laughed over how cute my brother was, attempting such big words and kinda, sorta pulling it off. Then the tape went in a drawer.

When I was a teenager, I went through my old cassettes, listening to them one by one. And I came across the wekka fwabeewing tape. I’d forgotten about it, and decided I’d play it for my mom on Mother’s Day. I knew she’d enjoy it, but I did not expect the nonstop weeping-nose-blowing-laughter that followed soon after I hit play.

wekka fwabeewing_square.jpg

I think the reason my mom had such a big, emotional reaction to the recording is about more than the fact that it captured a funny moment; it’s a moment that reveals a lot about both my brother and my mom. You can hear his determinated persistence even at the tender age of two, his unwillingness to let anyone off the hook. You can hear her patience through exhaustion and frustration… and eventually you can hear that patience wearing thin. In the end, you can hear her relief—”Mommy’s a little dumb, but she finally got it”—followed by his relief—”Mmhmm”—that they finally understand one another and can shut off the recorder and go to bed.

Recording your kid can be a great way of capturing the realness, the rawness, the connection, and the disconnect, that marks every fleeting stage of your relationship with them. These moments can make for great keepsakes to be listened to for a rolicking good time with the entire family—or when you’re an empty-nester and need a good cry.

Kids can be resistant to being recorded, especially if you frame it formally as a sit-down interview. And given the ease of voice memo recording on phones and tablets, there’s no reason not to be spontaneous about recording conversations with them. But not every conversation is going to yield archive-worthy material. After working as a radio journalist for nearly two decades, mostly interviewing parents, teens, and young children, I’ve developed tricks for getting kids of all ages to talk. Here are some of them:

Technical setup. First things first: let’s make this audio listenable. Get yourself in a quiet room, preferably one with a rug. Steer clear of refrigerators, air conditioners, and noisy vents. If you’re recording on a phone, remember that your microphone is at the bottom of your device, so you’ll want to turn it upside down and aim that mic at your kid’s face—ideally a few inches below their chin. But if they’re loud, you can pull back a bit to prevent the sound from distorting. If your kid finds this closeness intimidating, it’s fine to keep the mic farther away; just don’t cover it up.

Littles. Catch your toddler or preschooler when they’re already in a chatty mood. Are they telling you their crazy theory on how babies are made? Making up a story about a giant bunny who eats teachers? It’s time to press record! Ask them follow-up questions, with the goal of getting a fuller picture of their interpretation of the world. “Oh, babies float down to Earth from bubbles in the sky. What color are the bubbles? How big are they? Who made the bubbles in the first place? What happens if they pop?”

Or, turn the mic around and encourage them to ask *you* questions. They’re more likely to ask you whether a dinosaur goes to heaven or hell than what made them go extinct. And whether or not you believe in heaven and hell, that question will get a more interesting reaction out of you than the extinction one.

The Longest Shortest Time  is an award-winning podcast about parenthood in all of its forms. But you don’t need to be a parent to listen.

The Longest Shortest Time is an award-winning podcast about parenthood in all of its forms. But you don’t need to be a parent to listen.

We made a whole series based on this idea at The Longest Shortest Time called Kids Ask Unanswerable Questions. This episode with comedian Chris Gethard includes the dino question, and many more mind-blowing  examples.

Middles. Would-you-rather questions are a hit with adults and kids alike, but I’ve found that kids are way better at them. If your grade-schooler is resistant to spilling their guts to you, ask them if you can record yourselves playing a few rounds of Would You Rather. My daughter’s best one: Would you rather eat a skunk or poop in front of a thousand people? Just imagine where the conversation could go from there!

Sometimes talking in an unusual place or engaging in another activity can help get a kid to open up: huddled under the blankets in bed, sitting on the floor doing a jigsaw puzzle, in the basement folding laundry. Anything to make this “interview” not feel like a formal Interview.

Here’s Hillary with a panel of teens for the episode, “The, Like, Show. Deadass Edition,” where teens give advice to parents. (YES, please!!)

Here’s Hillary with a panel of teens for the episode, “The, Like, Show. Deadass Edition,” where teens give advice to parents. (YES, please!!)

Teens. Teenagers are my very favorite people to talk to. They are passing from childhood into adulthood, and you can hear that tension in almost everything they say. With teens, you can ask big, open-ended questions: How does the world work? What do all children need to know? What is love? Most of them will be more than happy to philosophize. Here’s an example of a story I did, asking high school seniors if they thought the robot babies in health class were preventing them from having underage sex. It surprised me how profound these kids’ thoughts could be over a hunk of plastic.

And here’s one in which teens give advice to parents—on dating, school lockdowns, and what to name a pet. I’ve found that lots of teens enjoy dishing out advice. In their answers, you can hear them sorting out what they make of relationships and the world around them. Watch out, though, for correcting your teen or judging their answers; “parenting” them during a recording session will likely make them shut down. Make them feel heard and let them go on a rant if that’s what they want to do.

Remember, the goal here, no matter the kid’s age, is not to get them to “open up”; it’s to capture something real. Maybe that means you let *them* ask the questions. Maybe that means you’re both lying on the floor talking about how tired you are. Maybe that means letting them whisper the entire time (one of my favorite stories to report was all about quiet kids). And if they really don’t want to be recorded, don’t push it; a forced recording is not going to be a good recording. Put the control in their hands. Tell them that sometime in the next week, you want them to pick a time to hit record. To capture what you both sound like at the ages that you are. Because neither of you will ever be this age again. And wouldn’t it be cool to listen back in ten years to what you sounded like together and hear how you’ve changed?

The night my mom spontaneously decided it would be fun to record my brother back in the 80s, she had no idea how emotional it would make her to hear it years later. But she also had no idea what an impact that recording would have on me. There was a time in my twenties when I listened to the “wekka fwabeewing” tape obsessively. I memorized certain passages—the exact intonation in my brother’s tiny voice as he passed in an instant from curious to outraged. It’s that kind of vulnerability that I chase every time I press record at my job. 

Hillary Frank is the creator of The Longest Shortest Time podcast. Her most recent book is Weird Parenting Wins: Bathtub Dining, Family Screams, and Other Hacks from the Parenting Trenches.

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A fave mus-try weird parenting win from her book: 

 What’s your #weirdparentingwin ? Head to our insta or The Longest Shortest Time and let us know.

Now go dust off that tape recorder or download a voice memo app and get recording!

 

Food for Thought

A guest post by Elizabeth Haidle, Illustoria’s art director.

I was recently visiting the Kansas City Art Institute, as a guest artist this fall. I ran a special assignment, asking students to illustrate a topic related to food & to pair words with their images in any style of their choosing. I was pleased with their surprising variety of responses—family recipes, history of food, cultural traditions, comic journalism featuring food, and food-related ethical concerns. Some went the scientific route, with food diagrams and food traveling through the digestive tract. (Yuck, but fascinating!) Here are some of my favorites, with comments by the artists about their choice of imagery / subject matter:

————————

Art by Nicole Richardson  @crimsonrib

Art by Nicole Richardson

@crimsonrib

“With my piece, I wanted to illustrate some things you might find in your kitchen that you might not want to eat. I chose to do this in a style like a medieval herbal manuscript.” — Nina Gookin  @NinaGookin

“With my piece, I wanted to illustrate some things you might find in your kitchen that you might not want to eat. I chose to do this in a style like a medieval herbal manuscript.” — Nina Gookin

@NinaGookin

"This illustration was inspired by an emotional revelation i had late one night about how dumplings mirror the human experience. Despite the vast differences in food around the world, nearly every culture has some variation of the dumpling, as diverse in form as the cultures they come from, but all the same in their basic form. It is nice to remember that no matter where you come from or who you are that we all understand the universal comfort and appeal of a small packet of dough." — CJ Nelson  @crowclub

"This illustration was inspired by an emotional revelation i had late one night about how dumplings mirror the human experience. Despite the vast differences in food around the world, nearly every culture has some variation of the dumpling, as diverse in form as the cultures they come from, but all the same in their basic form. It is nice to remember that no matter where you come from or who you are that we all understand the universal comfort and appeal of a small packet of dough." — CJ Nelson

@crowclub

“For the Illustration, I was struggling to create a fun artwork for anyone to learn and appreciate. Then I got inspired by my nostalgia for bubble tea when my friends and I recalled our memories. I remembered that I almost always go to a Bubble Tea booth to get a tea with my friend weekly. It was one of my favorite memories. Yet that hangout time with my friend led me to a new drink that I grew very fond of. I realized that I barely know anything about my own favorite drink, thus the informative illustration!” —Lacey Vonderschmidt  @Impossibmax

“For the Illustration, I was struggling to create a fun artwork for anyone to learn and appreciate. Then I got inspired by my nostalgia for bubble tea when my friends and I recalled our memories. I remembered that I almost always go to a Bubble Tea booth to get a tea with my friend weekly. It was one of my favorite memories. Yet that hangout time with my friend led me to a new drink that I grew very fond of. I realized that I barely know anything about my own favorite drink, thus the informative illustration!” —Lacey Vonderschmidt

@Impossibmax

“The recipe I chose to illustrate is a very important one. During the holidays my family and I always make this yummy tea together as a way to bond. We take turns juicing the fruit while mom gets the other ingredients ready. Its always a wonderful time and the house is always left smelling delicious!” —Lana Laughlin  @lanalaughlinillustration

“The recipe I chose to illustrate is a very important one. During the holidays my family and I always make this yummy tea together as a way to bond. We take turns juicing the fruit while mom gets the other ingredients ready. Its always a wonderful time and the house is always left smelling delicious!” —Lana Laughlin

@lanalaughlinillustration

“Because I'm originally from Oklahoma, I chose to bring up one of the wackiest facts I know about the state! Most people don't believe me when I tell them about my state vegetable, so I created a colorful comic about it!” — Parker  @Hardcoreparker

“Because I'm originally from Oklahoma, I chose to bring up one of the wackiest facts I know about the state! Most people don't believe me when I tell them about my state vegetable, so I created a colorful comic about it!” — Parker

@Hardcoreparker

"When people think about the ethics of eating, they normally think about vegetarianism and animal abuse. I grew up knowing that my extended family were produce farmers that used migrant labor, grew up worrying about the human rights abuses that farm workers have suffered since the days of Cesar Chavez. The food industry is a huge, wasteful, looming titan that consumes workers and animals alike, and I wanted nothing more than to illustrate exactly why it took up so much space in my head." — Malachi Peters  @malachi_makes

"When people think about the ethics of eating, they normally think about vegetarianism and animal abuse. I grew up knowing that my extended family were produce farmers that used migrant labor, grew up worrying about the human rights abuses that farm workers have suffered since the days of Cesar Chavez. The food industry is a huge, wasteful, looming titan that consumes workers and animals alike, and I wanted nothing more than to illustrate exactly why it took up so much space in my head." — Malachi Peters

@malachi_makes

“My interest in honey began with by my agricultural roots. My aunt and uncle are beekeepers. When I moved to the city, I was surprised to learn that some people don't know where food comes from. Migrant workers and small family farms perform the difficult labor that makes our food possible. I love honey in particular because it has beneficial medicinal properties and because beekeeping directly improves the health of the environment. We rely on farmers as much as farmers rely on bees!” —Casper Warren    @Holytheft

“My interest in honey began with by my agricultural roots. My aunt and uncle are beekeepers. When I moved to the city, I was surprised to learn that some people don't know where food comes from. Migrant workers and small family farms perform the difficult labor that makes our food possible. I love honey in particular because it has beneficial medicinal properties and because beekeeping directly improves the health of the environment. We rely on farmers as much as farmers rely on bees!” —Casper Warren

@Holytheft

We at Illustoria are always so amazed to see how various artists and writers interpret a theme—often in ways that we would have never imagined ourselves, and certainly in styles and voices that are original and captivating. Thanks to Elizabeth and the students at the Kansas City Art Institute for sharing their beautiful, thoughtful, and inspired illustrations with us!


DIY Custom Kicks

 
Activity featured in ILLUSTORIA Issue 2: Canvas, Art by Elizabeth Haidle.

Activity featured in ILLUSTORIA Issue 2: Canvas, Art by Elizabeth Haidle.

Have you always dreamed of customizing your own pair of sneakers? It’s way easier than you ever thought. In honor of #Inktober, we thought we’d share a favorite DIY activity from ILLUSTORIA Issue #2: Canvas. Check it out!

Materials:

-pair of canvas sneakers (or a piece of fabric if you don’t want to draw on your shoes)

-sharpie, fabric paint, or stamps with an ink pad
-brush, if you’re using fabric paint
-scrap piece of paper and pencil

  1. Ask for your parent’s permission before decking out a design on a fresh pair of shoes!

  2. Sketch out your shoe design on a piece of paper. Challenge yourself to come up with your very own logo or catch phrase!

  3. Once you’ve settled on a design, grab a sharpie, fabric paint + brush, or stamps and ink and doodle to your heart’s content.

  4. All done? Now it’s time to show em’ off! Head outside and display your awesome new kicks to the world.

Activity featured in ILLUSTORIA Issue 2: Canvas, Art by Elizabeth Haidle.

Activity featured in ILLUSTORIA Issue 2: Canvas, Art by Elizabeth Haidle.

Loved this DIY activity? ILLUSTORIA #1—7 are filled with even more rad do-it-yourself art projects, recipes and story telling activities from fabric painting to delicious cherry almond bars. Take a look here, and happy drawing.

 

Aw, Shucks—Thanks for the Love!

 
Art by Claire Astrow.

Art by Claire Astrow.

In the past few months, Illustoria has received a tidal wave of support from librarians, independent shops, book reviewers, and readers across the country. We are incredibly humbled by the thoughtful reviews and positive feedback given to us from both seasoned Illustoria subscribers and new readers, and wanted to take a moment to share some of the kind words we’ve received. A very big, warm thank you to everyone who continues to support our indie mag, whether by ordering Issue #7: Black and White, pre-ordering Issue #8: Home, checking us out at your local library or bookstore, or sharing the mag and our mission to inspire creativity in all with your friends and family. We highly encourage you to check out the work of Fab Book Reviews, Let’s Talk Picture Books, Book.Nosed, Happily Ever Elephants, J.T. Moore Library, Sarah Walsh, and Ziraffe Store —all high quality advocates (and creators!) of art, literature, and children’s goods.


Michelle, Fab Book Reviews

ILLUSTORIA   Issue #7: Black and White   ,  Cover art by Rebecca Green.

ILLUSTORIA Issue #7: Black and White, Cover art by Rebecca Green.

It might be safe to say that I quite love this magazine- such a terrific and welcome surprise! It is a keeper of a magazine- and it is one that you really do want to happily save (and re-read) alongside comics, art books, graphic novels, etc. I could see this magazine making a home in an elementary and/or middle school; maybe even at a high school or at an art program/institution. It might even be worth exploring for a library whose patronage is especially art/comic-focused. On the whole, ILLUSTORIA is beautiful and high-quality. As someone who is so entrenched in kid lit (and delighted to be familiar with some artists featured), ILLUSTORIA is a special delight; I feel that the magazine is just perfect for other children’s librarians! Teachers and educators would find much to love in the magazine as well and want to share with colleagues and students; but the reach of the magazine really does extend to any individuals- kids and grown-ups alike!- who enjoy any of the aspects and topics that the magazine focuses on.


Goodbye, Night; A Brief History of Street Lights  by Sofie Louise Dam, featured in ILLUSTORIA   Issue #7: Black & White  .

Goodbye, Night; A Brief History of Street Lights by Sofie Louise Dam, featured in ILLUSTORIA Issue #7: Black & White.

Though I've already seen a few other issues I still gasped when I opened this one. Basak Agaoglu? Rebecca Green? Natalie and Lauren O'Hara?? If these names sound familiar, you're on the right track: they're all people I've interviewed here on the site! And with good reason—they're all immensely creative and relatively new to the industry. What a unique and creative way to showcase new and talented illustrators and still keep things cohesive under a general theme. Not to mention there are a ton of people included within that I cannot wait to go out and research!


ILLUSTORIA  Issue #4: Grow , photograph courtesy of  Book.Nosed , Cover art by Lindsay Stripling.

ILLUSTORIA Issue #4: Grow, photograph courtesy of Book.Nosed, Cover art by Lindsay Stripling.

I dragged out my copy of @illustoria_mag from my inspiration box (nestled next to my twice-used watercolors) today as I geared up to create. The article on creating natural dyes inspired me to fill my watercolor pen with my leftover morning coffee! 🙌🏼💥☕️✊🏼


Ziraffe Store

ILLUSTORIA   Issue #6: Symbols  , Cover art by Marina Muun.

ILLUSTORIA Issue #6: Symbols, Cover art by Marina Muun.

@illustoria_mag’s issue 6 - The Symbols Issue is here! We LOVE it. The new issue explores the meaning we find in letters, shapes, objects and more through the eyes of many creative artists, writers, and makers. It is packed full of original and inspiring stories, art, interviews, and DIY that will get the creative juices flowing in readers of all ages.

Lauren Davis, Happily Ever Elephants

ILLUSTORIA   Issue #7: Black and White  , photo courtesy of Lauren Davis,   Happily Ever Elephants  .

ILLUSTORIA Issue #7: Black and White, photo courtesy of Lauren Davis, Happily Ever Elephants.

How many of you adored reading Highlights as a kid? If you were anything like me, you ❤️loved ❤️getting a kids’ magazine in the mail just for you! Well how about trying a super cool, super artistic, and super educational new magazine for your kids and students? Illustoria is a tri-annual print mag and a new fave of ours, and it’s one I definitely recommend checking out and getting a subscription to! The magazine celebrates storytelling, makers and DIY culture, and it’s just awesome. The edition featured here, the seventh issue entitled “Black & White,” features interviews with illustrators, fun comics, black and white crafts and more. It’s a stellar read, informative, and fantastic for both kids and grownups alike. Check out @illustoria_mag now! This also makes a fantastic gift for the holidays which will be here before we know it!


Joanne Meiyi Chan and Mark Rogero imagined a magazine for kids ages 6 to 12 that concentrated on visual storytelling, DIY activities, and creative collaboration with up-and-coming writers and illustrators that are new to the playground of children's publishing. Chan and Rogero's vision debuted in 2016 to critical acclaim from School Library Journal, Library Journal, and award winning children's author Cece Bell to name a few…. The writing is challenging but accessible, making this a read that is most beneficial with a grownup alongside to give some of the authors, artists, and histories context.  


Andreas Frisch, ILLUSTORIA subscriber

ILLUSTORIA Issue #4: Grow, Cover art by Lindsay Stripling.

ILLUSTORIA Issue #4: Grow, Cover art by Lindsay Stripling.

I really love the magazine as do my two daughters and we consider issue #4 the most perfect magazine ever printed. We frequently browse through it and always, always find something new and inspiring in it. Almost as if something essential in the universe aligned perfectly and as a result produced that magazine.


Sarah Walsh, Illustrator

ILLUSTORIA   Issue #6: Symbols  , Cover art by Marina Muun, Image courtesy of Sarah Walsh.

ILLUSTORIA Issue #6: Symbols, Cover art by Marina Muun, Image courtesy of Sarah Walsh.

AMAZING MAGAZINE ALERT! Wow, finally able to look at my first issue of @illustoria_mag that came in the mail weeks ago! It’s absolutely gorgeous, fun to read and you can tell it’s made with the utmost care and consideration. It’s really giving me life right now as I’ve been functioning in burn out mode 😣 There’s even a piece about the quilts of Gee’s Bend which if you’re not familiar I highly recommend learning about. Truly inspiring 🌈💙✨Thank you Illustoria Mag for putting something so beautifully inspiring into the world! Lovely cover image by @marinamuun and wonderful Gee’s Bend piece by @clur_astroid


A big thanks again to everyone who has shared kind words about ILLUSTORIA! If you’d like to share your feedback or images of the magazine, feel free to email us at contact@illustoria.com or share on instagram with the hashtag #loveillustoria. We love seeing copies the mag out in the wild!

ILLUSTORIA  Issue #7: Black & White , featuring  Not So Black and White Party  by Basak Agaoglu, Image courtesy of Yunyi Zhang.

ILLUSTORIA Issue #7: Black & White, featuring Not So Black and White Party by Basak Agaoglu, Image courtesy of Yunyi Zhang.

 

Creator Crush: Lindsay Stripling

 
art by Lindsay Stripling 

art by Lindsay Stripling 

 

It's clear that we love Lindsay Stripling here at ILLUSTORIA. Not only did she do the breathtaking cover for Issue 4: Grow, but she does regular features with Alexis Joseph (hi, Case for Making!) on the brief history of all of the coolest colors. A master of watercolors, she creates amazing fantastical worlds and nature-infused portraits that make you contemplate what your inner animal would be. From creating a booklet series to teaching classes, Lindsay puts her expertise to spread the good word of watercolor. We were able to pick her brain on all things creative, so be prepared to get inspired by her rad art! 

 
photo courtesy of Lindsay Stripling

photo courtesy of Lindsay Stripling

 

What are you currently working on?

Currently I am working on the second booklet in my watercolor booklets series, this one will be for people looking for expanded information on how to paint with watercolor. I planned a mural for Point Reyes Bookstore which is nautical themed, I just hung a tiny show in June at Fayes Video in the Mission District here in SF, and I am always working on commissioned paintings. 

How did you transition from your day job to being a full time artist?

Well, honestly its still a work in progress. I currently work full time as a restaurant manager for my friends at Outerlands here in the Sunset, I teach watercolor classes at Case for Making regularly and I try and have a regular painting schedule when I am not doing those things. It is hard to balance and I think I will be taking the plunge soon into working freelance full-time, but that is a scary and exciting step, and one that I don’t take lightly. I believe in checking in with myself regularly, assessing where i am at mentally as well as financially- being an artist requires a lot of administrative work that isn’t as fun as the painting part, but over the years I have come up with my own systems that work for me.

 
photo courtesy of Lindsay Stripling

photo courtesy of Lindsay Stripling

 

Can you talk about your process of creating a work/project/book/zine/product from start to finish, and share some process pics with us?

When i am working on a painting or an illustration, I first start with really loose sketches. It is hard for me to allow myself to make quick doodles and concept sketches, so I do them as really small thumbnails. Then I choose my favorite layout from there and do a more detailed sketch- or sometimes I move straight into my under drawing. I typically draw out my painting first in a 3H or 4H pencil on watercolor paper and then before painting I erase the majority of it. I like to erase it because it gives me the freedom to adjust small things, and also removes most of the pencil lines from the final. THEN i get to move into the fun part. I typically start with light washes to cover larger areas and then move into the detail colors and pieces. There is usually a part in the beginning as I am laying down washes where I hate the painting, or I can’t see it coming together. It is hard to push past that sometimes, but when I do and I trust in the process I am usually really happy with the result. And if I am not, I do it over again...

 
art by Lindsay Stripling; lettering for A Brief History of Ultramarine Blue, from  Illustoria  Issue 4: Grow

art by Lindsay Stripling; lettering for A Brief History of Ultramarine Blue, from Illustoria Issue 4: Grow

 

What makes watercolor your medium of choice?

Watercolor is so vibrant, accessible and easy to take with me on trips- and I LOVE watercolor paper. In the last few years I have gotten to work with Alexis at Case for Making to make watercolors from scratch and experiment with color in a different way than I ever have before.

We love the Brief Histories of Color series in the mag! What is your favorite color?

I don’t really have a favorite color, I love all of them too much. But I do have favorite color combos- a tried and true combo is dirty pink and burgundy with a splash of neon orange but recently I’ve been really into lemon yellow and brown (think old banana). 

 
photo courtesy of Lindsay Stripling

photo courtesy of Lindsay Stripling

 

Much of your work involves half-human, half-animal characters. What would the animal-half of your body be?

Probably a coyote!

What were you like as a kid?

I was always swimming and playing different sports, and when I wasn’t doing that or going to school I was reading and drawing. I would make maps of stories that didn't exist yet because that was my favorite part of the books I would read. So many maps. I also would practice my handwriting all the time, my friends and I would spend hours drawing, making maps and copying our favorite handwriting.

When did you know you wanted to be an artist and writer?

I think I have always wanted to do that, I just didn’t know I actually could until I was much older. I had no actual examples of people around me who were artists or writers so it didn’t feel like something that was attainable. When I got older I realized that the best thing about this world we live in is that if you want to achieve something, you just gotta hustle. The best part of that is maybe you don’t achieve that thing that you were initially hustling for but you’ll figure out what it is that you want along the way, through many failures and mistakes and realizing who it is that you are and where it is that you actually want to go.

 
art by Lindsay Stripling; for A Brief History of Yellow Ochre from   Illustoria  Issue 6: Symbols

art by Lindsay Stripling; for A Brief History of Yellow Ochre from Illustoria Issue 6: Symbols

 

Who or what inspires you?

Reading and being outside.

 

Now get lost in Lindsay's dreamy paintings and make some of your own! You can also check out Lindsay's latest features in Issue 7: Black and White!

Summer Reading Roundup

 
Illustration by Paige Geimer

Illustration by Paige Geimer

School’s out and summer is settling in! It’s the best time of year for jumping in lakes, beating the heat with ice-cold drinks, and falling asleep in the shade with a good book. Don’t know where to start with all of the wonderful titles lining the shelves? We rounded up some of our favorites that are the perfect companions for all your summer adventures! There is plenty of time for fun activities, thrilling stories, and books that take you to a new and unique world during these long days.

The Kid's Awesome Activity Book by Mike Lowery

 
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 Kids Awesome Activity Book  by   Mike Lowery

 Kids Awesome Activity Book by Mike Lowery

activity 2.jpg

It’s no secret that we love Mike Lowery here at ILLUSTORIA - how can we resist the amazing doodle-esque illustrations and immensely fun activities?! This book has you coming up with some funky monsters hairstyles (mullets are back in, right?), deciphering secret messages, and creating a masterpiece to go on the walls of a museum. Lowery has made a book that is perfect for long car rides or sitting hanging out in the backyard. Plus, the book comes with stickers, finger puppets, and a fold out poster to keep you creative even when you can’t see the white spaces in the book anymore! 

The Better Tree Fort by Jessica Scott Kerrin and Qin Leng

 
tree fort 1.jpg
 
The Better Tree Fort  by Jessica Scott Kerrin and illustrated by Qin Leng

The Better Tree Fort by Jessica Scott Kerrin and illustrated by Qin Leng

Jessica Scott Kerrin’s story will have you feeling nostalgic about long summer nights that were spent dreaming of the world’s raddest tree house - equipped with a skylight and fireman’s pole for getting down, obviously. The Better Tree Fort focuses on Russell who is building a tree fort with his dad, but can’t help but be jealous of the bigger one 3 doors down. After spending some time at the bigger fort, Russell realizes that his tree fort is better after all! We absolutely love Qin Leng’s watercolor illustrations, which we have gotten to know and love in her book A Family is a Family is a Family. She perfectly captures the ambiance of a summer’s DIY activity; we can almost hear the crickets chirping in the beautiful sunset spread. 

 

Rad Girls Can by Kate Schatz and Miriam Klein Stahl

 
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Rad Girls Can  by Kate Schaltz and illustrated by Miriam Klein   Stahl  

Rad Girls Can by Kate Schaltz and illustrated by Miriam Klein Stahl 

This summer reading list wouldn’t be complete without including the newest edition of the Rad Women series with Rad Girls Can by Kate Schaltz and Miriam Klein Stahl. Their new book featuring 50 (FIFTY!) girls that have done, well, rad things that all of us are completely in awe about. Turning the focus onto girls under the age of 20, girls can see that they are never too young to stand up and make a difference. In fact, some of the most revolutionary ideas come from young minds! Flashback to Issue 5: Motion, Kate and Miriam talked to us about what inspires them and how to use their talents to support women and girls alike. Now the duo is releasing the third book in the series and we are more inspired to get out there and help more than ever. Rad Girls Can comes out July 17, so make sure to keep an eye out at your fav local bookstore!
 

Under the Canopy by Iris Volant and Cynthia Alonso

 
 
Under the Canopy  by Iris Volant and illustrated by Cynthia Alonso

Under the Canopy by Iris Volant and illustrated by Cynthia Alonso

This one is for all of the nature lovers out there! Under the Canopy not only showcases Alonso’s stunning, colorful illustrations of some of the amazing trees that we find around the world but also highlights the cultural context of these seemingly everyday sightings. Did you know that Hawthorne trees were thought to be the meeting place of Celtic fairies? Or that Anne Frank used to look out to a large Horse Chestnut Tree outside of her hiding spot in Amsterdam? Just because school is out doesn’t mean that the learning has to stop, especially when it is about awesome subjects like this! After reading this Flying Eye book, you’ll want to go out and see what trees you can find in your own backyard. (Super cool bonus: check out Cynthia’s sweet illustrated story in Issue 6: Symbols.) 
 

Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes

 
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Ghost Boys  by Jewell Parker Rhodes

Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes

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While this might not exactly be beach reading, Ghost Boys is a fantastic and necessary tale to be told. Jewell Parker Rhodes paints a heartbreakingly poignant story that is all too familiar - a young boy dies at the hand of a trigger happy policeman. This middle grade novel retells the story by weaving through time and relationships that were made both while alive and after death. He comes across many sides of the story, including another boy whose fate was not unlike his as well as the policeman's daughter, highlighting different perspectives of these events. While the hectic nature of school is gone, summer could be a great time to open up a conversation about these themes with your young one. 
 

I Really Want to See You, Grandma by Taro Gomi

 
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I Really Want to See You, Grandma  by Taro Gomi

I Really Want to See You, Grandma by Taro Gomi

I Really Want to See You, Grandma is one of those books that we keep going back to over and over. Probably because Taro Gomi is a genius and we can’t stop looking at his illustrations, but also because this book reminds us of what it’s like to miss someone we are close to and do everything we can to see them. Gomi does a perfect job at creating a sweet story about the bond between a grandmother and granddaughter who both have the same idea to make a trip, but keep missing each other in the process. Though, this doesn’t discourage them and we get to follow these journeys, inspiring us to reach out to our grandparents too. Pack this book in your backpack and go on a journey to read it with a loved one!


The Forest by Riccardo Bozzi, Violeta Lopiz, Valerio Vidali

 
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The Forest  by Riccardo Bozzi, Violeta Lopiz, Valerio Vidali

The Forest by Riccardo Bozzi, Violeta Lopiz, Valerio Vidali

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The Forest refuses to be put into a category, and that’s what we love about it. Bozzi, Lopiz, and Vidali do a phenomenal job at making every single aspect of this book special. The story is a sweet rendition of life - from birth to death - using the metaphor of a forest, but it doesn’t lay a heavy hand. Instead you follow travelers through stunning and bright illustrations that are paired with delicate cut outs, where you can see the forest through the physical perspectives of the travelers. Ending in full circle, the book inspires to not take life for granted and to appreciate the small things. 

Be Prepared by Vera Brosgol

 
 
Be Prepared  by Vera Brosgol

Be Prepared by Vera Brosgol

Shout out to all of us out there who feel as if we don’t fit in - Be Prepared’s for you! This comic focuses on Vera, a girl whose family and economic background doesn’t quite fit in with her other friends... They can afford the coveted (and expensive) "Historical Dolls". She decides to go to a summer camp and feels even MORE out of place then before. It’s a perfect story that is sure to give you some laughs while also acting as a gentle reminder that you aren’t alone. We all feel out of place sometimes. Not to mention, Vera Brosgol is able to capture the perfect summertime camp vibes.
 

Hoakes Island by Helen Friel and Ian Friel

 
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Hoakes Island  by Ian Friel and Helen Friel

Hoakes Island by Ian Friel and Helen Friel

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Are you and your kiddo stuck inside when it’s hot enough to fry an egg outside? Have no fear! Hoakes Island will have you solving a mystery within one of the most interesting amusement parks ever. Complete with a fold out map and a detective magnifying glass, this book has you working your way through pages of puzzles with the help of some animal friends. What’s even cooler? Hoakes Island was written by a dad and daughter duo - Helen is a paper engineer and visual artist and Ian is a historian and has written books about ships. It inspires us to collab with our families and see the genius that comes out of it. So get your brains movin’ again and help save Hoakes Island!


The Great Dog by Davide Cali and Miguel Tanco

 
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The Great Dog  by Davide Cali and Miguel Tanco

The Great Dog by Davide Cali and Miguel Tanco

The Great Dog is a playful and comforting picture book that is a great summer read. A father walks his child down a great hallway of ornate family portraits while retelling their stories. Descending from a policeman, an athlete, and an astronaut, the pup wonders what he will be when he grows up. This makes us reminiscent of the long, hot summer days when we pictured what our lives will look like in the future. *Cough* My bounce house castle might still be under construction. The important thing to know, relayed in this book, is that no matter what you are you will be great. Plus, there is more than meets the eye to all of our great heroes, as noted by the snarky and beautiful illustrations done by Miguel Tanco


That Night, a Monster by Marzena Sowa and Berenika Kolomycka

 
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That Night, a Monster  by Marzena Sowa and Berenika Kolomycka

That Night, a Monster by Marzena Sowa and Berenika Kolomycka

You know that feeling after watching a scary movie where everything feels spooky? Even the tree right outside your window? That’s what Tommy, the little boy who went to wake up his parents on a Saturday morning, felt; his mom turned into a fern! Of course, she did not turn into a fern, but rather had a bad hair day that got out of control. That Night, a Monster is a self-aware graphic novel that plays with our worst fears, but in a light-hearted way that makes you turn around an appreciate what you have. Plus, these painted panels by artist Berenika are so silly and relatable at the same time that they remind us that our fears can be the scariest thing of all! The book is on sale August 21, 2018, but is available for pre-order now. 

If you're looking for even more, check out: Boats on the Bay, Book of Bones, Square (it would be an understatement to say we adore everything by the duo Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen!), and The Wild Robot Escapes.

So there you have it - enough books to fill those times when you are bored in the summer and need a creative pick-me-up. We hope you enjoyed them as much as we did and we want to see what books you've enjoyed this summer. Show us what you've been reading on Instagram @illustoria_mag and be on the lookout for the release of Issue 7: Black & White. You can pre-order it now!

 

Pride Month Book Review

 
illustration by  Claire Astrow

illustration by Claire Astrow

The summer equinox is here folks, and that’s pretty much the adult-version of throwing textbooks in the air and sprinting out of 7th period with “School's out for the Summer” by Alice Cooper blasting out of the school’s PA. In addition to being known as the beginning of summer, the time when dreams of pools and working AC machines flood our minds, June also importantly marks LGBTQ+ Pride Month and the anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion.

During Pride, we take to the streets to honor our sisters and brothers of the not-so-far-away past who fought fiercely for the queer and trans community as well as those who continue to pave the way for a more inclusive future. When all the dust (and glitter) from Pride parades across the nation has settled, we remember June as a celebration of inclusion, diversity and love. With this short reading list, we hope to commemorate exemplary releases of kids' literature that embody the inclusion of Pride Month. The books featured were chosen for their representation of gender-nonconforming and/or queer characters as well as LGBTQ+ civil rights leaders.

Here at Illustoria, we’re still dreaming of an even more diverse children’s book world, where overlooked or ignored voices are embraced (anyone up for writing a picture book on Audre Lorde or Martha P Washington?). But in the meantime, we’re jumping for joy about these incredible releases. We hope you enjoy our list, and have a happy Pride Month!

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George by Alex Gino 

In a forward-thinking addition to the middle-grade genre,  Alex Gino has penned a tender story of a fourth grader named George whose male body doesn’t fit her true identity. George longs to star as the female spider Charlotte in the school production of “Charlotte’s Web” rather than Wilbur, the male pig, but worries whether her family and community will understand. With a main character that is as eloquent as she is strong, George soars beyond the typical story of the challenges of being young and queer. Better yet, George offers much needed visibility to gender-nonconforming and transgender communities in children’s literature, and is a story of bravery that every middle grade student should read and re-read.

Reading Level: 3rd grade + 

Lumberjanes 50 by authors Shannon Watters & Kat Leyh; illustrators Dozerdraws & Brooklyn Allen

Lumberjanes 50 by authors Shannon Watters & Kat Leyh; illustrators Dozerdraws & Brooklyn Allen

Lumberjanes 50 by Shannon Watters & Kat Leyh, illustrated by Dozerdraws & Brooklyn Allen

Lumberjanes is a graphic novel series that is bursting at the seams with feminist joy. The story takes place at Miss Qiunzella Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet's Camp for Hardcore Lady Types, and is attended by campers known as Lumberjane Scouts. Each book in the series brings readers on the adventures of a rough and tumble group of five best friends, each unique in their own right. The playful, beautifully colored illustrations are to die for, and the pop culture references couldn’t be cooler (catchy phrases used by the Lumberjane crew include, “What the Joan Jett?” and “Oh My Bessie Coleman”). Plus, each issue features a music playlist by one of the characters, inspiring fan art, and a rotating lineup of illustrators that keep the comic fresh and exciting. We love this series for its diverse representation of young queer characters and storylines, slapdash sense of humor and heartening stories of friendship. Lumberjanes is celebrating its 50th issue with an oversized anniversary edition which features the incredible editor Shannon Watters (co-creator of the series), acclaimed writer Kat Leyh (who has also written for Adventure Time, Bravest Warrior and Steven Universe), illustrator Dozerdraws and long time series illustrator Brooklyn Allen. Lumberjanes 50 is an absolute dream come true for seasoned fans of the series, but if you're a newbie we suggest beginning with the very first issue Lumberjanes Vol. 1: Beware The Kitten Holy

Reading Level: 4th grade +
 

A Family is A Family is A Family by Sara O'Leary, illustrated by Qin Leng

This sweet-as-a-peach tale demonstrates just how diverse and beautiful a family can be. In it, a teacher asks a classroom to think of what makes their family special. The young narrator becomes worried, thinking “My family is not like everyone else’s.” But to her surprise, each student who shares a story about their family is more unique than the next. There are mix race families, adoptive families, gay and lesbian families, families led by grandparents and everything in-between. Soon, the narrator realizes that families comes in all shapes and sizes; what they have in common is the love that brings them together. With cheerful writing by Sara O’Leary and adorable (yet modern) watercolor illustrations by Qin Leng, A Family is A Family is A Family strikes the perfect match of showing appreciation for inclusion without being pedantic or corny. 

Reading Audience: Preschool +

Julian is a Mermaid by Jessica Love

Two rounds of applause are deserved for the outstanding picture book Julian is a Mermaid. One is for Jessica Love, who has created what so many authors and illustrators aspire to: a book with a setting so vivid the reader becomes entranced, and a groundbreaking, socially conscious storyline that sets it apart from the rest. Another round of applause for the main character Julian, whose confidence and ingenuity will  leave them starstruck.

In Love’s story, a little boy named Julian is riding the bus home with his abuela one day when he becomes captivated by three utterly gorgeous mermaids who step on board. They appear like something out of a dream, with long flowy hair and turquoise dresses. As soon as he gets home, Julian balls out in mermaid attire, fashioning for himself a plant headdress, billowing skirt made from a curtain and bright red lipstick. When his abuela finds him, there is a brief moment of fear --will Julian be reprimanded for breaking gender norms he doesn’t yet know exist? Readers hold their breath as the grandmother takes his hand and leads him on a mysterious route. Soon Julian, still in full princess garb, is surrounded by beautiful beings that look just like him. In the book's joyous ending, it becomes clear that his loving grandmother has brought him to the Coney Island Mermaid Parade, to be among the underwater gods and goddesses just like him.

excerpt from  Julian is a Mermaid  by Jessica Love 

excerpt from Julian is a Mermaid by Jessica Love 

Julian is a Mermaid’s morale is as touching as it is richly layered. Readers may interpret the story as one of a young boy’s self discovery, a tale of the abundance of beauty and character found in brown and black communities (the book takes place in Brooklyn, New York), or a narrative about the loving bond between an abuela and her grandson. No matter how the story is interpreted, there is no doubt readers will pour over the details Love works into every nook and cranny of the book (check out the cool-as-can-be lemonade sippers or hip man walking his wiener dog). It’s this thoughtfulness towards character, setting and storyline that has us over the moon for this treasure, that we have our bets on becoming an award-winning picture book very soon.  

Reading Audience: Preschool +

Wave a Flag for Harvey Milk Sing-along Coloring Book by Mr. Greg

At long last, a coloring book for a hero of San Francisco and the LGBTQ+ community at large, Harvey Milk. The artist behind this rad creation is Mr. Greg, a SF-based teacher and indie record label owner.

"Each year, my preschool class in San Francisco leads an assembly in honor of Harvey Milk. After searching fruitlessly for an age-appropriate book or song about Harvey Milk to share with my preschoolers, I decided to write and illustrate one myself. I wrote Wave a Flag for Harvey Milk as a way to introduce the preschoolers to the positive things that Harvey Milk did for San Franciscans in particular, and the LGBT community at large. The words of the book are the lyrics to an accompanying song that I sing with my students." Mr. Greg explains.

The coloring book features quirky illustrations as well as narration that doubles as an interactive sing-along.  Click here (link provided in the coloring book) to hear the original song, which features indie musician legend Cass McCombs. The wholesome, catchy song is a work of art in its own right, and can be likened to the greatness of the School House Rock hits of the late genius Bob Dorough (known for writing and singing Three is the Magic Number and Conjunction Junction among many others).

The coloring book can be purchased here. If you’re a fan of the coloring book and music, be sure to check out the rest of the goodies put out by Mr. Greg’s record label Secret Seven Records. For another great children’s book read on Harvey Milk, read Pride: The Story of Harvey Milk and the Rainbow Flag.

Audience: Preschool +


We hope you greatly enjoyed our Pride Month Book Review! At ILLUSTORIA, it is our mission to publish stories that champion inclusion with a diverse lineup of illustrators and writers. Check out Issue 5: Motion for our interview with the dream team behind Rad Women A-Z, Rad Women Worldwide and Rad Girls Can author Kate Schatz and artist Miriam Klein Stahl who talk about their goals of prioritizing stories about women of color,  becoming a part of the Bay Area's feminist punk scene, and the importance of getting readers of all ages and genders excited about social justice.  

 

 

 

 

Creating Cover Art for #7: The Black & White Issue

Hi All! 

Rebecca Green here (you can call me Becca!). I had the pleasure of creating the cover for Illustoria Issue #7, The Black and White Issue, and today we're going to walk through a bit of the creative process behind the illustration. 

Illustration by ©  Rebecca Green 

Illustration by ©  Rebecca Green 

Besides sending along keywords, details about the features, and some of my previous art they were drawn to, Joanne and Beth of Illustoria gave me a lot of freedom to choose which direction I wanted to go with the artwork. Immediately, I knew I wanted to draw a little boy with black and white animals. I started with this simple sketch. 

Illustration by © Rebecca Green

Illustration by © Rebecca Green

The drawing, I decided, needed something more. The boy would be...an artist! Complete with an easel and lots of brushes and markers. One thing I did like in the first drawing was the use of one simple color. Green felt right. (and not because it's my last name!) The sketch was drawn in colored pencil (I use Faber-Castell and Prismacolor). 

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Illustrations by © Rebecca Green

Illustrations by © Rebecca Green

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As you can see, I drew some of the elements on a separate piece of paper and cut them out so I could try out placing them in multiple places. One I had my complete sketch, I scanned it, cleaned it up a bit in Procreate (on my IPad), and send it in for approval. 

Illustration by © Rebecca Green

Illustration by © Rebecca Green

Once the sketch was approved (this meant making the image a little bigger and enhancing the butterfly), I went to work on the final. I created the final illustration in gouache and colored pencil. Here are some peeks of the cover before it was edited!

Illustrations by © Rebecca Green

Illustrations by © Rebecca Green

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The final illustration was edited in Procreate and Photoshop, along with the hand-lettered text. When finished, it was sent to the kind folks at Illustoria and voilà! A cover was born!

Illustration by © Rebecca Green

Illustration by © Rebecca Green

There you have it - a glimpse into the world of the cover creation. Hope you guys enjoy the issue, and thanks for letting me share a peek into my process. And thanks to Illustoria for having me!