Friday, October 24, 2008

An Interview with Amy Bates and Amy Hest

Last week I read and reviewed a wonderful picture book that warmed my dog-loving heart. The dog who belonged to no one is not only wonderfully written but it is also beautifully illustrated. Wanting to talk to Amy Hest, who wrote the book, and Amy Bates, who illustrated it, I contacted them and asked them a few questions about their work.


1. You have illustrated many different kinds of picture books and chapter books. Was this book different in some way from the others?
This book was different for me because it allowed for a lot of the
narrative to take place visually. I loved the text and it was a lot
of fun. The author and the editor made it a real collaboration. I think the emotions in the book are ones that everyone can relate too.
2. How did you create the pictures for The Dog Who Belonged to No One?
All the illustrations are watercolor and pencil.

3. Do you have to draw a lot of sketches before you begin working on the final version of an illustration?
Sometimes. Sometimes it all comes together immediately. You can imagine I prefer the later :)

4. Did you use a model to create the image of the homeless little dog? If yes what was your model like?
I usually don't use models directly. However I did see a jack russell out walking one day, and I thought "that 's it! but with a hint of shaggy mutt thrown in.

5. You so beautifully captured the emotions of the dog in the story. Have you had dogs in your life?
I actually sort of think of my animals as people, even going so far as to pose in their position, so I can sort of "feel" their emotion. My kids think it is funny because if I am painting someone or something that is sad, I often have that expression on my face while painting. I did have a labrador when I was young. Unfortunately I have bad allergies, but I love other people's dogs! My kids are a great inspiration too.

6. The layout of the text and the artwork is so beautifully done in this book. Did you come up with this format or was that the work of a designer?
I wanted it to look old, maybe like a silent movie. we talked about some ideas, and the designer at Abrams did an absolutely beautiful job.

7. Have you always loved to draw and paint?
Always loved it. My Dad is great at drawing and we loved it when he would draw us funny pictures and play drawing games with us (although professionally he is a Professor of Computer Science ) also my Uncle is an Illustrator and a Professor, he taught me so much about the business and drawing the figure. My Grandma always encouraged me and filled me with a great appreciation for art.

8. Did you like to read when you were growing up?
My Mom would laugh at that question. The problem wasn't getting me to read, I guess it was getting me to stop. I lived in books. SO I loved reading and I loved drawing. If there was an interesting character in a book I liked to find all the details about that character and draw him/her. I liked visualizing the imaginary world that a book could make. I think of my work as a stage where anything can happen. And really what I do is one of the very oldest art forms.
All the way back to cave painting people were painting stories. I love stories.


1. The way in which the little girl in your story connects with the dog suggests that you know something about the child/dog relationship. Did you grow up with a dog?
Yes, we always had a dog when I was growing up. There was Sleepy ... there was Taffy ... then Rusty ... and Mr. Chips. The most misbehaving dogs in the world but we adored them .

2.What inspired you to write this story?
I wanted to write a love story .

3.What do you feel this story tells children?
It tells children that loneliness need not be forever .

4. In this day and age life can sometimes be so complicated. Do you think that we should simplify our lives somewhat and focus on the important things like family relationships, friendships, finding our own way, and appreciating the lives that we have? – These are all sentiments that I have picked up from your books!
Absolutely! Thank you, Marya, for getting me!

5. It would seem you that you have always loved books and made them a part of your life. What do you think we can all do to help our children appreciate and love books?
We should read to babies ... read to toddlers ... read to all kids ... read with joy and gusto and drama ... read!

Thank you ladies for giving us such wonderful answers and for letting us into your lives for a short while. You can find out more about these talented people on their websites:

If you want to know more about this delightful book take a look at my review.

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