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The Picture Book Buzz

The Picture Book Buzz - Interview with Marion Kadi and Review of Harriet's Reflections

Marion Kadi is a French artist and illustrator/author of picture books.

Photo of author/illustrator Marion Kadi

She creates original artworks for magazines, books, brands, private collectors, and herself. Marion frequently gets commissions to paint portraits and food, as well as genre scenes and landscapes.


Collage of the covers of 4 of Marion Kadi's books.

Marion’s the co-author of Newton and the Club of Astronomers, with co-author Abram Kaplan, illustrated by Tatiana Boyko, translated by Jordan Lee Schnee (2019) and the illustrator of 6 books in France, including La Vraie Fiancee by Olivier Py (2017) and Pinok Et Barbie by Jean-Claude Grumberg (2017).

 

Her debut picture book as author/illustrator, Harriet’s Reflections, released on February 13th.

 

Welcome Marion, it’s nice to meet you!

 

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

 

I’m pretty shy and have a hard time with this kind of question. I never know what people would care about hearing. I wanted to make books for a long time, and it took me a long time to figure out how to do that. I didn’t get formal training as a writer or illustrator so my journey to becoming a published author-illustrator was long and winding. I’m really happy that I was able to make Harriet, and I plan to keep making books as long as I can find good ideas for them. I work wherever I can. Right now, I’m lucky to be renting a little office, but I’ve also worked from home. The most important thing is that I have a good cup of coffee.

 

Sorry to make you uncomfortable, but it is wonderful to "meet" you and I totally agree with you about the coffee. Who was your favorite author, illustrator, and/or your favorite book as a child?

Book cover of three black hooded, black caped robbers carrying a red double bladed ax against a blue sky.

I think the books that I remember most were those of Tomi Ungerer, from The Three Robbers to Zeralda's Ogre to The Beast of Monsieur Racine. His images are very powerful--sometimes dark, sometimes funny--when I came back to them as an adult, I felt like every page was familiar, I had looked at them so much. I was also, like many children of my generation, very taken with the books of Roald Dahl, which are also a mixture of dark and funny.

 

I can see a little of the influence of these humorously dark styles in your book. What was your inspiration or spark of interest for Harriet’s Reflections? Which came first, the text or the illustrations?

Book Cover - a young girl kneels at a pond's edge and sees the reflection of a lion.

I worked on the text and the illustrations at the same time. The lion came first. He was a character in another story I was working on. I had worked out his part in that story and started to illustrate him. Then I realized he had his own story, and that’s what led to Harriet. Just like in the story itself, the reflection led me to Harriet the character, not the other way around.

  

It's so interesting how that worked out. How long did it take from the first draft to publication for Harriet’s Reflections?


Almost two years. Both the story and illustration style went through several revisions.

 

As the author/illustrator, what was the toughest aspect of writing or illustrating Harriet’s Reflections? And what was the most fun part of creating this book?


The toughest thing was to figure out what Harriet looked like. I didn’t want her to look too static, so I introduced some drawing and ink. The most fun part was borrowing from and referencing books and works of art that I like. My publisher pushed me to add more details to the illustrations, and I had to figure out how to make it work for me and for the story.

  

You did a great job. I was totally captivated by the cover and your style. What is one of the most fun or unusual places where you’ve written and/or illustrated a manuscript?


I worked on the book for two months at Deep Springs College, in the Sierras. A few elements of the place are in the book, visible in the first few pages.

  

It sounds like a very interesting place. Is there anything special you want your readers to know about Harriet’s Reflections?


I’m happy when readers have their own interpretations, but there is no message I was trying to convey.

 

I appreciate that you've left lots of room for the reader to interact with the book. Many illustrators leave treasures or special elements in their illustrations. Did you do this in Harriet’s Reflections? If so, could you share a few with us?


I painted a Bonnard painting in Harriet’s room.

 

How fun. Which is the spread you are most proud of?

Full book cover - on left (back) two trees grow next to a winding stream. On right, a young girl kneels at a pond's edge and sees the reflection of a lion.

I’m happy with the cover (and the back--they’re continuous). It draws on Piero della Francesca.

 

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


I’m working on an exhibition in Paris that will open at the end of March. I’m also working on an alphabet book with a friend.

 

Good luck with both of these projects. 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?


The city parks in Berlin are great, not any one in particular but the whole collection. I used to live there and I’m pretty nostalgic for it.

  

With about 2,500 parks in Berlin, there is a lot of variety and something for everyone. Check out The Official Website of Berlin (https://www.berlin.de/en/parks-and-gardens/) for images of some of them.


Thank you, Marion for sharing about yourself and your author/illustrator debut picture book with us.


For more information about Marion Kadi, or to contact her:


Review of Harriet's Reflections


Sometimes, our reflections don't always show who we are. (I love the song, Reflection, in Mulan). But what would happen if suddenly a reflection changed? If one day, it was just more confident and maybe a little wild? In this poignant, funny, and whimsical tale of a commandeered reflection, a young girl grapples with melding the best parts of a confidence boost and her own identity.

Book Cover - a young girl kneels at a pond's edge and sees the reflection of a lion.

Harriet's Reflections

Author/illustrator: Marion Kadi

Publisher: Eerdmans Books for Young Readers (2024)

Ages: 4-8

Fiction


Themes:

Reflections, confidence, emotions, humor, and identity.


Synopsis:

An imaginative tale about a rambunctious lion reflection and the fierce little girl he decides to mirror.


One day the reflection of a lion decides to reflect someone different. He picks a little girl named Harriet, who eagerly accepts the new face staring back at her. Harriet loves how ferocious she is now at school: she’s not afraid to speak up in class, and she can romp around the playground like a wild beast. But soon Harriet starts to miss the reflection she had before, the one who looked like her. Can Harriet find a way to balance her old reflection and her new one? 


This whimsical story explores themes of confidence and identity with colorful illustrations and a sly sense of humor. Delightful and unconventional, Harriet’s Reflections is the perfect read-aloud for anyone who’s ever wondered about the face on the other side of the mirror—and what they might do next.


Opening Lines:

Once upon a time there was an old lion. He had lived a good life, hunting

eating, and sleeping, and one day he died. He left his reflection all alone.


What I LIKED about this book:

This is such an interesting start to a picture book. A little whimsical and a little dark, like Aesop's fables or Roald Dahl. Did you notice how the stream flowing around Harriet, on the cover, could vaguely be the silhouette of a lion?

Internal spread - an old lion dies next to a pond, leaving his reflection alone in the water.

Text & Image © Marion Kadi, 2024.


Left alone in the lake, the lion's reflection soon tired of flowers and ducks. As he sets off to find something or someone to reflect, we meet Harriet. A grumpy, grouchy young girl preparing for school.

Internal spread - on the left three scenes of a girl dressing and grumpily getting ready for school. On right, a lion's reflection looks in a window at the girl putting on shoes.

Text & Image © Marion Kadi, 2024.


The lion’s reflection watched her.

Voilà! He wanted to be Harriet’s reflection.


Like any good lion, he waited for the right moment and then pounced. The succinct text and magical world of independently functioning reflections is so beautifully captured here as Harriet's wavy reflection's startled reaction is so at odds to the girl trudging to school with her nose in a book. Initially nonplussed, Harriett simply marvels at how fierce she looks and feels this morning. Marion Kadi uses curvy, wavy blue lines to depict the watery aspect of the various reflections. Interestingly, Harriet's orange skin and bushy eyebrows at times create expressions which actually mirror those of the lion.


Internal spread - a lion's reflection jumping into a puddle and scaring off the girl's own reflection.

Text & Image © Marion Kadi, 2024.


With her new confidence, Harriet has a great day at recess and in the classroom. She has so much fun, she even forgets about her own reflection. The bright, vivid images are full of energy and tons of whimsy. However, since lions aren't the best students, the wild reflection soon gets Harriet into trouble. After she confronts the reflection about not really being her reflection, Harriet sets out to find her own. I love the little black and white sidekick cat (playing with its own reflection above). It's fun to look for it, the hedgehogs, and other animals Marion added throughout the illustrations.


This is an interesting book about how what we see in our reflections can have a bearing on our personal well-being. The ending is satisfying and as unique as the book itself. An humorous tale about identity and a fun whimsical book on reflections and perceptions.


Resources:

Collage of photos of girls looking in a mirror and vibrant art reflected in a mirror.

  • what animal's reflection would you want to change places with yours? Why? Write a description of this new reflection or draw a picture of you looking at this reflection in a puddle or mirror.


Photo of an art project of fall trees reflected in a pond.
  • make an easy fall (mountain, city, or other) reflection painting. Then experiment and see what other reflections you can create.

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Maria Marshall

 Photograph © A. Marshall

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