Q&A with Illustrator Holly Hatam

Holly Hatam is the illustrator for Jack (Not Jackie), a sweet story about the changes facing one family. In this important picture book, Susan discovers that her little sister Jackie prefers to play with mud and be a Superbug, rather than play forest fairies and wear dresses. Jackie also asks to be called “Jack,” which Susan is first confused by. This is a timely story that carries a message of acceptance for everyone. Read below for insight into Holly’s illustrating process and the inspiration behind her art!


1. When did you first realize you wanted to be an artist?

I knew I wanted to be an artist from a very early age. By the time I was five years old, I was drawing Disney characters. When I was eight years old, I used to tape my drawings to my bedroom wall and charge my parents 25 cents as an entrance fee. When I was twelve years old, I watched Disney movies like The Little Mermaid and Beauty & the Beast every Saturday morning and dreamed of becoming a Disney animator myself. It was in high school that I finally knew that my heart belonged to book illustrations. I have always been a bookworm (or better yet, book dragon). I actually wrote my first children’s book in high school…and I still have it today!

2. How did you come up with your illustration ideas for Jack (Not Jackie)?

I don’t begin sketching for a book until I have done RESEARCH! Research is so important. It gets the ideas flowing and makes the sketching process move more smoothly. For Jack (Not Jackie), the first thing I did was research little girls and boys. Their different hairstyles, clothes, mannerisms. I collect photos from the web that I’m inspired by and make an inspiration board. From there I begin doing character sketches.

3. Which part of Jack (Not Jackie) was your favorite to illustrate? Why?

My favorite page in Jack (Not Jackie) to illustrate was the one of Jack and Susan dancing in the forest. You can just feel the joy jumping off the page. And I love to draw anything nature-y.

4. What do you like to do when you’re not illustrating?

When I’m not illustrating I’m either reading, writing, hugging trees and drinking tea. I have books in every room of my house. I love to touch them, smell them and absorb every word in them.

I’ve also been a writer from a young age. I almost went to university for writing, but my high school art teacher demanded I go to art school! 

My most favorite thing to do in the whole wide universe is be out in nature. I love to go on long hikes with my husband and son. And I’m so proud of the fact that I’ve passed down my tree-hugging gene to my son. 🙂

I have shelves and shelves packed with tea. I have a different tea for every mood. That first sip of hot, delicious tea in the morning…I mean…ahhhhhh.

5. What was your favorite book to read as child?

My favorite book to read as a child was Just as Long as We’re Together by Judy Blume. That book went with me everywhere. It was an old, comforting friend. I still have my tattered copy from 1987.

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