Tag Archives: Violet Lemay

GEMS Podcast

12 May

This morning I was interviewed by the lovely Genesis Amaris Kemp on her podcast, GEMS.

We talked about publishing, creativity, inspiration, and following your dreams… and even cures for writers block.

Click here to listen.

If you prefer to watch on YouTube, click here.

GEMS is a fun and inspiring podcast to follow. Whenever I listen, I feel like I’m having tea with friends. Make sure you subscribe!

The 500 Section Lounge Podcast

4 May

Hi, Everybody!

Yesterday, I was a guest on The 500 Section Lounge Podcast.

The 500 Section Lounge is a fun show, fresh and entertaining. The hosts—three dads who’ve been friends since high school—talk a lot of sports, so you may be thinking one of two things:

1) I want to hear three dads talk about sports and interview lots of cool sports personalities!

If that’s you, no worries, settle down. All you have to do is click here, or use your Google machine. There are many ways to listen and subscribe.

2) What’s a children’s book illustrator doing on a podcast hosted by three dads?

Well, let me tell you. The 500 Section Lounge podcast isn’t just cool, it’s super cool. There is something for everyone. Sam, Matt, and Richey talk to all kinds of people. In my favorite episode, they interview a beekeeper! Check it out, and make sure you subscribe.

The guys asked me all about what it’s like to write and illustrate books for kids. They were completely gracious, their questions were insightful, and the experience was overwhelmingly positive. The only thing missing was pizza and beer. Or White Castle. (This is an inside joke… gotta listen to get it!)

I forgot to take a screenshot, so this illustration will have to do. :o)

Click here to listen on Spotify… or just Google the show. There are tons of ways to hear it.

Cynthia Majinau, School Librarian

13 Apr

Hey, everybody! Meet my friend Cynthia Majinau. Cynthia is the librarian at Shattuck-St. Mary’s Forest City International School in Johor, Malaysia—an American international boarding school, where we both happen to live. (My husband works SSM-FC.)

SSM-FC’s facilities include two amazing libraries, one for the lower school (ages 3-11) and the other for the upper school (ages 11-18). In the photo above, Cynthia is standing near her desk in the lower school library.

Empty slots on the display = kids reading books!

Besides managing SSM-FC’s two extensive libraries, Cynthia also teaches Malay language courses. Since there is only one of her and there are two library spaces, books are often signed out with pen, paper, and the honor system. Cynthia’s favorite task is re-shelving, because that’s when she sees what everyone is reading. Her least favorite moments involve missing books. (The honor system has its drawbacks.)

SSM-FC’s student body is incredibly diverse. For most, English is a second (or third!) language. The school’s libraries are curated by faculty wish lists. Cynthia acquires the books through Follette, and keeps the libraries looking like posh bookstores. Both are inviting, gorgeous spaces filled with contemporary titles as well as beloved classics, and plenty of comfy reading and study areas.

Shattuck-St.Mary’s Forest City is a marvelous school with terrific libraries, and we are fortunate to have Cynthia watching over them!

The Plight of School Librarians

In a recent Zoom interview with Children’s Book Insider’s Laura Backes Bard, author J. T. Fox advocated for school librarians. If, like me, you weren’t aware that school librarians’ jobs in the United States are in jeopardy, buckle up and click here to watch the interview.

This image is from J. T. Fox’s presentation; click here to watch the interview.

Book-Fest Award!

6 Apr

I’m excited to announce that my latest book, Let’s Be Friends, has won Book-Fest’s first place award for
multicultural children’s books that celebrate diversity. Thank you, Book-Fest!

Let’s Be Friends Art Activity

My cousin Tom helped me film a thirty-minute Let’s Be Friends author event for Missouri’s Boone Regional Library, which includes a craft activity. The video was originally posted on the library’s website, but is now available on my YouTube channel. Click here to watch the video, or click here to download the activity. It’s free! :o)

Let’s Be Friends

Let’s Be Friends, a fun lift-the-flap book by Violet Lemay, was published by HarperFestival in December, 2021. Click here to order your copy today!

Sallie Lowenstein

16 Mar

Sallie Lowenstein recently featured Isabella’s Shoe Studio in her newsletter, Old Books, Young Readers. Click here to read the newsletter!

An early version of the spine + front cover/French flap.

Isabella’s Shoe Studio was my first author/illustrator credit. This Doodle Storybook is an interactive design primer for little artists. Huzzah!

Isabella is out of print now and can be difficult to find. Luckily, one of my favorite bookstores on earth, Page 158 in Wake Forest, NC, has copies in stock… and they deliver. (Thank you, Page 158!)

To order Isabella’s Shoe Studio from Page 158 Books, click here.

Continue reading

The Boys from Ukraine

28 Feb

My husband and I relocated to Malaysia just as I was finishing the art for Let’s Be Friends. We moved into the residence hall of the boarding school where he works, and got settled in.

During this transition, my friends at HarperCollins and I were discussing front cover ideas for Let’s Be Friends. We settled on an option that featured tons of children. Luckily, inspiration was all around me. It’s like the UN around here! I drew many of my new little neighbors into the cover art.

Yarema and Oleksa, highlighted above, are from Ukraine. Here they are with their parents, Oksana and Andriy.

In light of recent events, showcasing this Oleksa, Yarema, Oksana and Andriy seems not only appropriate, but vital.

Over the weekend, this lovely family hosted a StandWithUkraine open house.

Homemade flags adorned homemade brownies, and traditional Ukrainian “cushion” cookies filled out the table.

We hugged, we listened to Ukrainian music, we wrote well wishes on yellow and blue paper hearts and stuck them on the wall.

Let’s Be Friends asks, “Can friends come from anywhere?”

Of course they can.

Ukrainian friends, we stand with you.

Want to help?

CLICK HERE to be directed to Andriy’s blog, STAYWITHUKRAINE, which includes links to trusted donation sites.

The Apartment Girl, Yurts, and “Let’s Be Friends”

9 Feb

I grew up in a little ranch house in a midwestern suburb. My classmates were similarly situated. We were all ranch house kids—except for one girl, who lived with her mom in an apartment. Let’s call her Valerie.

Valerie was a tough cookie, let me tell you. Feathered hair, oversized plastic comb, jean jacket. Fierce.

Mousey Me would have feared her even if she lived in a ranch house like the rest of us, but her apartment-dwelling mystique made her all the more terrifying.

Decades later, when gathering ideas for Let’s Be Friends, I found myself categorizing various potential barriers to friendship—and I remembered my bias against Valerie. A “dwellings” category was added. Can friends live in any kind of house? Of course they can!

Originally, I drew a yurt under the flap. I thought a yurt would be a funny surprise.

About the Yurt

For a while, right around the time that I was writing Let’s Be Friends, my husband was fantasizing about retiring in a yurt. With me. We even spent a few nights in a very lovely New Zealand yurt AirBNB, as research—both for retirement, and for the book.

The yurt in Let’s Be Friends was eventually replaced by a treehouse. And unless fate takes an absurd twist, I very much doubt that my husband and I will live out our days in a yurt.

Incidentally, the couple who own the NZ yurt AirBNB also rent out a ship that they converted into a treehouse. Please, nobody tell my husband. We live in an apartment now, and I’d really like to keep it that way! :o)

Let’s Be Friends is the perfect gift for Valentine’s Day. Order your copy today!

Quite a List!

2 Feb

Great News for Babies Around the World

Reader’s Digest recently listed Babies Around the World (which I illustrated) 4th in their list of the 100 Best Children’s Books of All Time.

Wow!

One of my favorite images from Babies Around the World.

A Family Affair

Written by Puck and published by duopress in 2017, Babies Around the World is special to me.

When kicking off the process of illustrating this charming book, I made some style samples. The publisher liked them all and told me to choose, so I called Graham into my studio and asked him to look over my shoulder. “Which one?” I asked. He pointed, and the rest is history. Since that day, I’ve illustrated several books in this fun, splashy style. But that’s not the only way that Graham helped!

My son also contributed a handful of architectural drawings, which I incorporated into the art for Babies Around the World. This was not our only collaboration, but alas, it’s our most recent. The little bugger grew up and into other interests. Color me gobsmacked. I used to say, “Hey kiddo, draw the Petronas Towers for me.” Ten minutes later, a freshly inked masterpiece would appear. IMHO the young man is a remarkable artist. He’s following his own path now though, studying law. (Again. Gobsmacked.)

I treasure every building my baby ever drew, including those featured in Babies Around the World. (He drew the lamp posts in the London illustration, above.) How incredible that Reader’s Digest included Babies Around the World in their auspicious list? And coming in at number four? Talk about gobsmacked!

Click here to peruse Reader’s Digest’s complete list, written by Molly Pennington, PhD. It’s a wonderful resource for anyone curating a home library for little ones.

To read more about how the art for Babies Around the World was made and see some of Graham’s drawings, click here.

And click here to order your copy of Babies Around the World. Make sure to read the reviews, they are great!

Let’s Be Friends

14 Dec

“We are the same, and different.”

Roxane Gay, on the role of literature.

The Backstory

I was living in Auckland during New Zealand’s only mass shooting, which happened at a mosque in Christchurch. Idyllic, peaceful, beautiful New Zealand was shattered by an act of hate.

In the aftermath, I couldn’t stop wondering why our differences matter. Aren’t we all ultimately the same? Does it really matter that people look different, come from different places, worship differently? (And, by the way, isn’t religion supposed to be about love?)

This swirl of questions became the inspiration for a proposed lift-the-flap book, What Matters?. Every spread showed people with different opinions, different life styes, physical differences, etc, and asked the question, “Does it matter?”. Under the flap, the answer was always some form of “No!”.

My original storyboard for What Matters?

My agent pitched the idea to HarperCollins, where an amazing editor took an interest. She shared the proposal in a meeting, and the project sparked conversation. Apparently, a person’s ethnicity, color, and religion do matter. Of course! All of that stuff shapes each person’s worldview.

The concept of material wealth didn’t make it into the final book.

The editor asked me to pivot and send a revision.

The original color sketch and final illustration. Religion made it in—yay!

After a month of thinking and hand-wringing, I rewrote and redrew the book. I was visiting my cousin Tom at the time, who tossed ideas around with me and generally kept me sane.

Can cousins be BFFS? Of course!

I’d been asking the wrong question. “Does it matter?” became “Can they be friends?”. The answer under the flap was always some version of YES, and adds even more positivity to what I hope is a loving, joyful message. 

HarperCollins bought the book, which was a giant relief and an enormous cause for celebration.

Let’s Be Friends is available everywhere as of Dec 14, 2021. Click here to order your copy today!

My Mom

7 Dec

Today—December 7—would have been my mom’s 84th birthday. She passed away in late September.

My mom didn’t have a super-happy childhood, but all of that changed when she met my dad.

The Tragedy

In 1969, when I was very young, my parents and aunt and uncle were in a head-on collision with a drunk driver. My uncle was behind the wheel. His wife, riding shotgun, was instantly killed. (My beautiful Aunt Emma. Mother of five.) My parents were in the back seat. Of the survivors, Mom was the most seriously hurt. She was told she’d never walk again, which turned out not to be true. She also suffered a brain injury, however, from which she never fully recovered.

When I think of my mom, and my own life, I’m reminded of Isaac. Years ago in a bible study, I learned that Isaac’s life was less eventful than other Old Testament heroes. He was nearly sacrificed by his father, Abraham, but that happened when he was very young.

I don’t remember life before the crash, so I never really got to know my mother as her true self. I grew up like Isaac, in relative calm, after my family’s terrible tragedy.

One day I will write all about this, but not today. Today I celebrate my beautiful mother, Marianne, as she was—the Marianne I never got to know.

I love you, Mom.