After our teacher read aloud Harriet the Spy, my childhood best friend and I started our own detective agency. We dressed in disguises and roamed the neighborhood observing people and taking notes. Back at spy headquarters (my friend's house) we shared these discoveries and tried to make sense of the lives of others. Our play evolved, and soon every day after school we rushed home to write, illustrate, and read aloud our original stories to each other. By age ten I knew what I wanted to be when I grew up.
I have illustrated over twenty-five award-winning books for children, and have also written three including: The East-West House: Noguchi's Childhood in Japan; Dreaming Up: A Celebration of Building, which was an ALA Notable, a Horn Book Honor Award winner, an International Reading Association Honor Award winner, and more; and Water Land: Land and Water Forms Around the World. I also work as an art director, designer, and educator. I teach "Writing for Picture Books" at the Academy of Art in San Francisco. I live with my family in Palo Alto, CA.
Todos Iguales/All Equal: Un corrido de/A Ballad of Lemon Grove will be published in Spring 2019 by Lee & Low Books. I have written this as a bilingual book and am finishing the illustrations now. It is based on the 1931 Lemon Grove Incident, the nations first successful school desgregation court case. The book celebrates the power of community and is a testimony to an immigrant community that successfully safeguarded its children’s rights to equal education.
I like repurposing materials, making things--creating something beautiful out of discards. I also love travel and learning about other cultures.
I think my main personality trait is curiosity. My brain is a constant storm of ideas. I can't work on everything at once, so I jot my ideas down on scraps of paper and tuck them in folders. Each idea has a different incubation period. The seed for Dreaming Up (Lee & Low, 2012) sprung from a trip to Barcelona in 1993. Antoni Gaudi's La Sagrada Familia reminded me of a sand castle. The idea for my new book, Water Land (Roaring Brook, 2018) came from a project my daughter did in first grade in 2002. Not all my ideas take so long to find their final form. Sometimes I need additional life experiences to be ready to fully develop them.
I am very fortunate to be a member of both a writers group and a separate illustrators group. My illustrators group is featured in one of the pictures, helping me celebrate receiving my silver plate/Boston Globe Horn Book Honor Award for Dreaming Up.
Each group meets monthly. Knowing a meeting is coming up spurs me on in my projects. Sharing work helps me to see it in a more objective way. My trusted peers both challenge and support me, aiding me in problem solving trouble spots or affirming what is working well. After meetings I feel charged up and eager to revise because I see a path forward.
I also am enormously thankful for my terrific editors and their insights. I've come to love revision.