Author & Illustrator

Alison Farrell

Alison Farrell ‘s bike collection includes a tandem, a longtail, a box bike, a unicycle, and a trail bike. In other words, you won’t be surprised to learn she lives in Portland, Oregon. This is her first book

Most Recent Book
The Hike book

My Creative Process

So far, my books have needed illustrations in order to begin the process of writing. I wonder if I’ll ever be able to create a manuscript without integrating visuals into the preliminary process! With my first book Cycle City, I began by drawing loads of characters on bikes and then needed to figure out how to pull them together into a story. However, the first draft of my second book The Hike (Chronicle Books, 2019), came to me with words and pictures together as a book dummy. I am most drawn to picture books because I love the play of pictures and words, how they can work together to make a story.

"About" via Chronicle Spring 2018 Catalog.


When is your favorite time to work?

I love working in the morning. It's quiet and I don't feel a lot of pressure to achieve a goal or meet a deadline. I often do a small sketchy painting in the morning. A big portion of the picture book making process is just drawing and editing, so when I get to finals, it is nice to have had some regular painting time! Otherwise, moving from black and white to color can feel overwhelming.

Do you have a favorite children’s book?

I grew up in Massachusetts where I was introduced to the work of Barbara Westman. Throughout my childhood, I poured through her book, A Beacon Hill Christmas (I still have a copy but it is out of print: Houghton Mifflin, 1976). I loved the many quirky details, the offbeat humor, and the landmarks we could recognize in Boston, where the story takes place. I especially loved the main character, who was often charmingly inconsistent--my sister and I would debate about who she was on some spreads!

Revisiting this book as an adult, I love it just as much! In fact, some of the character chatter in Cycle City is influenced by A Beacon Hill Christmas!

What advice do you have for parents and others who are trying to raise readers?

I think the best way to raise a reader is to make reading a ritualized, nurturing activity for your child. Read to them daily, and encourage them to read to you too! My favorite types of books for my young son Finn were illustrated with lots of detail that we could get lost in together. More often than reading the text, we would talk about what the characters were doing and imagine what they might do next. Reading pictures is reading!

Do you have any upcoming books you can tell us about?

My next book is called The Hike. Inspired by my own hikes with my son and nieces, this book aims to capture a sensory experience of wonder, joy, and connection to the natural world. The Hike will be published by Chronicle Books in 2019.

Farther in the future is a book called Runaway Signs, written by Joan Holub (Penguin: Nancy Paulsen Books), a second Cycle City, and a few board books by Kristen Tracy: one about a bear cub and another about a fox kit (Chronicle Books).

If you could collaborate with anyone on creating a children's book, who would it be?

Right now, I would say Tove Jansson. She was so great at adventure stories and at filling her worlds with a unique and offbeat cast. The Hattifatteners are my favorite characters--my son Finn and I talk about them often. And of course, her illustrations are stunning as well.

What do you do to brainstorm for new ideas?

To brainstorm for new ideas, I draw whenever I can. I especially love low-stakes drawing, like drawing while watching TV, or drawing with kids, or drawing while traveling. This kind of drawing is very freeing for me and allows me to generate ideas and take more risks.

If you weren't a children's book author/illustrator, what would you do?

I might be a farm to table chef, or possibly run a bicycle museum, or do bike tours in Italy or Holland.

picture Books

nature · friendship
The Hike
vehicles · transportation · aunts · animals
Cycle City
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