This month we are highlight writer / illustrator Amalia Hoffman’s newest book, My Monsterpiece.
1.) Tell us about how My Monsterpiece came about.
I wanted to create a picture book about inclusion and tolerance that will be easy and the message will not come out preachy. I had an idea of writing about two different groups of kids that didn’t understand each other but eventually became friends. But I soon realized that this has already been done in so many ways. Then, I came up with the idea about kids and monsters.
I remembered that when I was about seven years old, I entered a contest, sponsored by a children’s magazine, to draw a scary witch. Apparently, mine wasn’t scary enough because I didn’t win..
That gave me the idea for the book: A kid who wants to make a scary monster, only to be frustrated when his mom, dad, sister and best friend aren’t scared .
For many years, I worked with young children. I noticed that kids love to experiment with art. They explore many media and like to paint on paper plates, scarps of paper, and even grocery bags. This inspired me to create the illustrations for the book using kid-friendly art techniques and supplies. In some illustrations, I glued on yarn, glitter, buttons and even fruit loops. Kids love to get their hands messy. So I dipped my fingers in gooey blobs of paint. It was very therapeutic. A lot of the art in the book was painted with my fingers, rather then with brushes. I also spritzed paint with a toothbrush, letting the bits of color drop where they may. At the end of the day, my studio was a mess but I felt liberated!
2.) What helps you stay creative during the pandemic?
I’ve always worked in my studio at home, so even though I couldn’t travel, socialize or go out to eat, I loved walking to the park, sitting on a rock and dreaming up ideas. In my studio at home, I worked themselves into anecdotes in my new books.
3.) What challenges have you met promoting your book during quarantine? Has anything in particular worked well?
Yes, there are many challenges promoting the book during the pandemic. I usually do live presentations and get a big crowd. Now the kids are tired of “Zooming” and prefer to spend the time that they don’t study via Zoom to be outdoors.
On the other hand, now I can present everywhere in the world. And I can invite people from everywhere. When I do a zoom presentation with young kids, I prefer not to use slides or power point because the kids don’t see me and I can’t see the, I prefer to use a puppet that looks like a character in my book and engage the kids with storytelling, singing and doing an art project related to the book with simple art supplies that they have at home.
4.) Who are some illustrators and writers that you admire?
Chris Van Allsburg, Betsy Lewin, Yevgenia Nayberg
5.) What’s coming up next for you?
PJ Library board books and another picture book, Masha Munching, all to be out in 2022
More about Amalia:
Amalia Hoffman is an author, illustrator and storyteller. Her picture book, The Brave Cyclist: The True Story of a Holocaust Hero (Capstone Publishing, 2019, illustrated by Chiara Fedele) is a Junior Library Guild Gold Selection book. All Colors (Schiffer Publishing, 2019) made the list of best board books, 2019, chosen by School Library Journal.
Dreidel Day (Lerner Publishing Group, 2018) is a PJ Library book and received the PJ Library Author Incentive Award. She is also the author/illustrator of Astro Pea (Schiffer Publishing, 2019.) Her picture book, My Monsterpiece launched from Yeehoo Press, March, 2021. The Chinese edition will be published in May, 2021.