The Picture Book Buzz - Interview with Lindsay Bonilla
After Lindsay Bonilla toured Spain and Portugal teaching ESL, she told stories to school children in Haiti and Ghana, taught workshops to youth pastors in Guatemala and El Salvador, and performed street theatre in Puerto Rico and New York City. These experiences made her "passionate about building understanding and relationships across cultures while inspiring the imagination." She lives in North Canton, Ohio with her husband and two sons.
For more information on Lindsay Bonilla see my earlier interview with her (here).
Lindsay, thank-you so much for stopping by to talk about your newest book, I Love You with All of My Hearts, which I'm excited to say releases tomorrow.
Thank you for having me! It’s great to be back!
What was the inspiration for I Love You with All of My Hearts?
It actually came from something super silly I used to do with my oldest son when he was about 3 years old. I’d tell him, “I love you with all of my ears,” then I’d rub my ear on the top of his head. Or “I love you with all of my toes,” and I’d tickle him with my toes. I was always adding different parts – elbow, nose, etc – but whatever I said, it always made him laugh hysterically! At the same time, it conveyed a deeper truth – that he was loved 100%.
When I thought about turning our silly tradition into a book, I started to think visually. That’s where the idea for the animals came in. I knew illustration-wise that it would be a lot more interesting to see an elephant with big ears than a mom rubbing her ear on her son’s head! LOL Using animals gave me a lot more to work with too, since humans don’t have scales, stripes, crests, etc.
It's interesting how you took a real event and created a wonderful story. How did writing I Love You with All of My Hearts compare to Polar Bear Island (Sterling Children's Books 2018)? How many revisions did it take?
It was very different! With Polar Bear Island, I had to think a lot about plot and characters. I think from first draft to final draft, about a year and a half elapsed.
In contrast, I Love You with All of My Hearts, came together very quickly. I think between first to final draft only a month or two elapsed. It felt so easy that I second-guessed myself, wondering, “Shouldn’t this be more difficult? Shouldn’t it take longer?”
I spent the bulk of my time researching the animals that would represent the different body parts/features and trying to find ones that would rhyme. It was so much fun because I have always loved animals, and I’m thrilled that their unique characteristics get to shine in this book!
A month or two, even with rhyme, wow! This was a book meant to be! Is there something you want readers to know about I Love You with All of My Hearts?
Yes! There’s a page at the back of the book with interesting facts to go along with each animal. It can be easy to miss if you don’t know it’s there!
There are also little hearts throughout the book in unexpected places. I didn’t know Eleonora was doing that, and I didn’t spot them all during my first read-thru so it was fun discovering them. I love that touch and think readers will enjoy finding them too!
Eleonora was ingenious! One of the best parts of reading picture books is scouring the images for treasures and additional information. When you first got to see Eleonora Pace’s illustrations, did anything surprise you? Which is your favorite spread?
Yes! So when I was working on the manuscript, I found it hard to narrow down which animal to use for certain parts. For example, the elephant has very big and interesting ears and so does the fennec fox. So I wrote out facts about both of them. When I sent it to my agent, I asked her, “Should I choose between the two animals? Or should I keep them both?” My agent thought the facts were so interesting that she suggested subbing it as it was, with multiple animals/facts on some pages, and allowing the editor to decide.
I didn’t know if once it went to the illustrator they would choose the animal they most wanted to illustrate each spread or how it would work. Instead, Eleonora used all of the animals and combined them in very unique ways – like combining the bodies of the tiger and zebra to blend into one another on the spread about stripes!
Text © Lindsay Bonilla, 2021. Image © Eleonora Pace, 2021.
It’s hard to pick a favorite spread but I think mine may be the first one where the fennec fox is sleeping in a cave, but the cave is really the elephant’s ear! I also really love the crocodile and octopus spreads.
Thank you, it's so cool to learn about the origins of these creative illustrations. How are, or have you been, staying creative during these times? Have you found anything that helps you “prime the well”?
I haven’t had a hard time staying creative during this time, I’ve had a hard time finding time to work on my ideas! Both of my children (4 and 7) have been home with me since the start of the pandemic. The downside of that has been less time to myself to work. The upside of that has been more time spent with two founts of boundless creativity who are super-inspiring and also super-invested in my writing. I read them most of my drafts, and my 7 year old will straight-up tell me, “Mom, I think it would read better if you cut this word, changed that, etc;.” And he’s usually right! He’s turning into a great editor! LOL
We have also done a TON of reading during this time – more than we’d ever have been able to do if my kids were in school. Reading so many great books (picture books, chapter books and graphic novels) has definitely helped prime the well. Writing during the pandemic with kids at home has also taught me to prioritize my projects. I tend to be someone who has a LOT of ideas, but now I can really only work on the ones that absolutely need my attention!
It definitely has been a couple of crazy years! I'm glad you found some upsides though. Are there any projects you are working on now that you can share a tidbit with us?
I’m working on a humorous early chapter book featuring a walrus who thinks he’s rather ordinary, only to discover that he has a mysterious power. With my son becoming an independent reader over the last year, I’ve been so grateful for those early chapter book series that hooked him and made him eager to get the next book – so it was fun to try my hand at my own!
I’m also working on a bunch of different picture books, including one about a child celebrating their bicultural identity and another about a child facing their fears at bedtime. Both of these (and many of the others!) are inspired by my own kids, which proves that they really are endless sources of inspiration for me! LOL
I am intrigued by your walrus. I'll have to keep an eye out for this book. If you could meet anyone real, literary, or imaginary who would that be?
Wow! This is a tough question for me. I think I’d like to meet Aslan from the Chronicles of Narnia. I love that he is the perfect combination of strength and gentleness. In general, I think I’d love to visit Narnia, a place full of magic, talking animals and interesting creatures! What could be better than that? :)
Oh, I loved that series, too. It would be lots of fun to skip out for a day or so and spend time there. Thank you Lindsay for stopping by again. It was great to chat with you.
Be sure to stop by on Friday for the Perfect Picture Book #PPBF post on I Love You with All of My Hearts.
To find out more about Lindsay Bonilla, or get in touch with her: