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The Picture Book Buzz

The Picture Book Buzz - Interview with Isabelle Simler

Isabelle Simler is an award-winning French author and illustrator who lives in Paris.

Author/illustrator photo of Isabelle Simler.

She first worked as an illustrator for advertising and the press, then cartoons, and since 2011, Isabelle has devoted herself exclusively to children’s literature.

Isabelle’s the author &/or illustrator of over twenty books for children, including A Perfect Spot (2022), Sweet Dreamers (2019), My Wild Cat (2019), A Web (2018), The Blue Hour (2017), and Plume (2017). She is also co-illustrator of The Book of Amazing Trees by Nathalie Tordjman, co-illustrated by Julien Norwood (2021).


Isabelle’s newest picture book, Home, releases in the U.S. on March 26th.


Welcome Isabelle,


Tell us a little about yourself. (Where/when do you write or illustrate? How long have you been writing or illustrating? What is your favorite type of book to write or illustrate?)


Drawing has (almost) always been part of my life. Writing came later. Today, the two are totally linked. I love working with text and images. That's what I love most, playing with words and drawing. Nature is very present in my books. I love observing it, drawing it, and discovering its infinite richness. I like to question our relationship with the animal world.


What is one of the most fun or unusual places where you’ve written or illustrated a manuscript?


I've drawn on the train when I was behind with a project. But it's not very comfortable, it moves too much. 😊 I can think or write almost anywhere, but to draw, I need more privacy.


I can imagine it would be a little bumpy to draw on a train. Who was your favorite author, illustrator, or cherished book as a child?

Book cover -  with a glaring octopus with crossed arms.

 I loved the classic fairy tales of Grimm, Perrault, Andersen, and the books of Tomi Ungerer.


Now that we know a little about you, what was your inspiration or spark of interest for Home?

Book Cover - on left, the back cover with a rocky sea cave. On right, the front cover, with a bird looking to a woven nest.

The behaviour of animals and our relationship with them is a subject that has interested me for a long time. The idea for this book came to me when I read an article about octopuses and the way they place stones at the entrances of their homes.


What is the hardest or most challenging thing about writing or illustrating Home? Why?


Writing and illustration provide different but very complementary pleasures. You have to find the right balance between words and drawings.


How many revisions did the text or illustrations of Home from first draft to publication?


I went back over the text and images at least 3 or 4 times. I need to let them rest for a while and rework them with the benefit of hindsight. I like to work on the text and illustrations with precision, until they feel right.


Many illustrators leave treasures or weave their own story (or elements) throughout the illustrations. Did you do this in Home? If so, could you share one or more with us?

Internal image - a look in the blue pavillion of a satin bower bird, full of blue collected trinkets.

Text & Image © Isabelle Simler, 2024.


Projecting myself into these small, intimate, and surprising spaces took me back to childhood memories, to dreams of cabins and secret places to visit.


What's something you both want your readers to know about or take away from Home?


I hope that readers will be touched, as I have been, by all these different ways of inhabiting the world. It can help us broaden our horizons and question our place in the world. 

                 

Is there a book that you were especially excited about or proud of? Or perhaps one which is your favorite?

Book cover - an eye with long lashes and feathers.

"Home" is one of my favourites. But the book I'm most attached to is "Les idées sont de drôles de bestioles" (Ideas Are Funny Creatures). It's a book in which I try to describe how ideas come to mind.


Are there any new projects you are working on now that you can share a tidbit with us?


I'm working on a new book that is both an album and a sketchbook in which I take an imaginary walk and draw landscapes and animals that don't exist or no longer exist. The title of the book is Carnet lointain (Far Away Notebook).


That sounds like such a fun book! Last question, what is your favorite National Park or Forest, regional park, or city park (anywhere in the world)? Or the one you’re longing to visit. Why?

Photo of Jardin des Plantes in Paris © F-G Grandin.

© F-G Grandin


There's one park that's very familiar to me and that I love, and that's the Jardin des Plantes in Paris.


Thank you, Isabelle, for sharing with us a bit about yourself and your stunning new picture book.

the front cover, with a bird looking to a woven nest.

Be sure to come back on Friday for the Perfect Picture Book #PPBF post on Home.


To find out more about Isabelle Simler, or to contact her:

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Maria Marshall

 Photograph © A. Marshall

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