Get ready for more big hugs and hullaballoo – we’re going behind the scenes with Stephanie Six, illustrator of the picture book What Mommies Like by Judy Carey Nevin. Stephanie also made these adorable printables – a Mother’s Day Card and a coloring sheet. (You can read our Q&A with author Judy Carey Nevin here!).
1. When did you first realize you wanted to be an illustrator?
I remember that moment very clearly! My teacher Ms. Drew was reading a book to my class in third grade (it was Julie of the Wolves). She read out the author of the book and then the illustrator, a word I hadn’t heard before. My hand shot up and I asked what the word “illustrator” meant. Ms. Drew explained that some people make the pictures in books for a living. I didn’t know that was a job! From then on I wanted to be an illustrator.
2. How did you come up with the character designs for What Mommies Like?
The bears in the story came from a sketch I had in an old sketchbook. They lived there for a long time, until the manuscript for my first project, What Daddies Like came out. My wonderful agent remembered them and the bears turned out to be the perfect match with What Daddies Like and later for What Mommies Like. I really like soft, simple shapes, and I wanted the bears to look very huggable, almost like a stuffed animal, with big expressive faces. I have been asked whether baby bear is a boy or a girl, and the answer is: whatever the reader prefers! I intentionally chose a gender neutral outfit for the cub so that all kids can relate to the story.
3. Which page from What Mommies Like was your favorite to illustrate? Why?
Definitely the page that says “Mommies like listening,” where the bears are eating spaghetti. I wanted to add some humor, so baby bear is excitedly looking at a worm book while Mom looks down at her spaghetti with a newfound queasiness. I love book art that spurs conversation between kids and adults, and this page has a lot to talk about. Also I discovered that spaghetti is surprisingly challenging to paint!
4. What do you like to do when you’re not illustrating?
I enjoy people watching around New York, which always gives me ideas for characters. I’m also very into cooking and baking, another reason I enjoyed painting that spaghetti page so much!
5. What was your favorite book to read as child?
It’s so hard to choose just one! I was always drawn to animal books; Runaway Bunny by Margaret Wise Brown, King of the Wind by Marguerite Henry, and Swimmy by Leo Lionni. I have a special place in my heart for the Frog and Toad books. The stories make me crack up, and they are such a genuine representation of a loving friendship.