Author-Illustrator Amalia Hoffman and her artistic and monsterly picture book–MY MONSTERPIECE

Amalia Hoffman is an award-winning author and illustrator of many children’s books, including ALL COLORS, one of 2019 School Library Journal Best Board Books, and DREIDEL DAY, a PJ Library Book. She is the author of THE BRAVE CYCLIST: THE TRUE STORY OF A HOLOCAUST HERO, a Junior Library Guild Gold Selection Book. Amalia frequently tells her stories in schools, libraries, and bookstores with puppets and props. She lives in Larchmont, New York. Today I had a lovely chat with Amalia about her new picture book with Yeehoo Press, an artistic monsterly book–MY MONSTERPIECE.

Let’s watch the book trailer:

A short introduction of MY MONSTERPIECE:

A humorous celebration of imagination and creativity that invites kids to create their own monster masterpieces with everyday materials. Perfect for art lovers of all ages!

What’s the SCARIEST, MEANEST, most TERRIBLE monster you can imagine? For one child, every proper monster means a green tongue! Pointy horns! And definitely extra sharp teeth. But what’s a kid to do when the entire family thinks their monster drawings are “cute” and not frightening at all? Maybe monsters aren’t what this child previously thought—and it might just take some thinking outside the box to reveal surprising lessons about fears and perceptions.

Using found objects like buttons, cereal, string, along with traditional paints and fun cutouts, My Monsterpiece encourages children to pour over the details and look around them for materials that can be turned into art.

“Have the art table and smocks ready.” –Kirkus

Recently Amalia talked about the creating of MY MONSTERPIECE, you can check it out here:

1. What was your inspiration for MY MONSTERPIECE?

My inspiration for My Monsterpiece was the 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, scraps 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 than with brushes. I also spritzed paint with a toothbrush, letting the bits of the color drop where they may. At the end of the day, my studio was a mess but I felt liberated!

2. What do you hope readers will learn or discover from reading MY MONSTERPIECE?

My hope was that even though My Monsterpiece is funny and entertaining, it would also have a non-preachy message that when we free ourselves from bias and stereotyping, our world is more colorful and we can befriend each other even if we don’t look or behave in the same way.

3. Please describe how you came to write this book, including any interesting experiences researching or experimenting it.

My Monsterpiece involved a monstrous journey of over 2 years, from the time I started exploring the idea and “playing with it” in my mind to the time it actually sold to Yeehoo Press. I spent months just making a whole menagerie of monsters. I worked with crayons, color pencils, chalk, poster paints, and finger-paints. It was important to me that the monsters will be fresh and not over-done.

I had the story idea lined up but I went through dozens of revisions with agent, Anna Olswanger. I shared my drafts with my critique group as well and kept tweaking the story.

After the book sold to Yeehoo Press, I had many conversations with my brilliant editor, Brian Saliba. We brainstormed over the phone and via email. Then, I went through a couple of rounds of revisions. When we felt that the story was tight and solid, I created a dummy—based on the new text, which was quite different from the original text. Since Yeehoo Press publishes simultaneously in English and Simplified Chinese, my dummy had to fit within the format and dimensions for both versions.

Once we were happy with the black and white sketches and pagination, I worked with the art director, Molly Shen, and the graphic designer, Xuyang Liu on the final interior pages. Once these were completed, I came up with concept designs for the endpapers, final cover, and jacket design. We decided to make the jacket slightly different than the cover underneath, which is something that I really love about the book design. Also, the front endpapers are different than the endpapers at the end of the book. I believe that the endpapers are just as important as the interior pages in a picture book and I was delighted that Yeehoo’s creative team agreed with me. We also spent many hours deciding what fonts to use and the colors of the lettering.

It takes a village to create a picture book and working with the team at Yeehoo Press was a wonderful experience!

4. What is the most surprising thing you discovered while writing or illustrating MY MONSTERPIECE?

The most surprising thing I discovered is how creating My Monsterpiece brought me closer to my childhood. Apparently, I was a very temperamental child. When I got angry with my mom and dad, I used to punish them by tearing the greeting cards I created for their birthdays and anniversaries. Years later, when I visited my parents who lived in Jerusalem, I found an envelope with all the bits of torn art that my father saved. When I created My Monsterpiece, I showed the kid’s frustration by creating one spread that feature the kid’s torn monsters.

Suddenly, while I worked on the book, I remembered that when I was about 8, 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…

5. How do you describe your art style? How did you find your art style?

I don’t really have one specific art style. I pick the technique I use according to what I feel would be the right technique for each book. I love experimenting, using mixed media and cutouts. For My Monsterpiece, I decided to create the illustrations with art supplies that kids actually use. Children are very free in their creative process. They’ll doodle on any torn paper, the kitchen table, wall — anything!  Well, I didn’t doodle on my table or wall, but I did paint on a supermarket shopping bag, crumbled bits of paper, and even paper plates. In some illustrations, I glued on yarn, glitter, buttons and even fruit loops. I collaged tissue papers as well. 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!

6. Can you show some images or texts that didn’t make into the final book, and the reason behind that?

This one felt too scary & didn’t look as if produced by hand.

This cover design idea felt too confusing and scary.

7. If you read this book to a room full of kids, what message do you want to share with them?

The message I want to share is that kids, from a very young age, develop certain perceptions about what is “normal” and what is not. They are often afraid of people that are different than them or their family members or come from different places and have different habits. When I read My Monsterpiece to a room full of kids, I want to share with them that in our diverse society, we should be tolerant, non-judgmental, and welcoming to all people.

Thank you Amalia for stopping by and sharing your journey of making MY MONSTERPIECE! I wish you every success with this wonderful book! Amalia did a blog tour for MY MONSTERPIECE. You can check more about her and the book from these amazing interviews and posts:

Dec 1, 2020, Liza Wiemer’s Blog

Jan 2, 2021, Angie Quantrell’s Blog

Jan 14, 2021, Elizabeth Dulema’s Blog

Jan 15, 2021, Kidlit411

Jan 29, 2021, Darlene Jacobson’s Blog

Feb 1, 2021, Lynne Marie’s Blog

Feb 9, 2021, Kathy Temean’s Blog

Feb 13, 2021, Vivian Kirkfield’s Blog

Feb 17, 2021, Helen H. Wu’s Blog

Feb 19, 2021, Kirby Larson’s Blog

Feb 20, 2021, Helen Ismursin’s Blog

Mar 3, 2021, Maria Marshall’s Blog

Mar 6, 2021, Dear Author

On Friday, March 12, at 7:15 PM PST, a group of 8-10 yrs students from the Voice of Grace-Allstar program interviewed Amalia! Check out the replay here:

Visit Amalia Hoffman online at http://amaliahoffman.com/ , on Twitter and Instagram.

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