Meet the Author:
Welcome to Elephant Notes . . . our periodic take on some of the ideas, issues, and news impacting parents, children, and reading.
Meet our August Author of the Month, Heidi McKinnon. Heidi is a talented author, illustrator, and designer. Her book, There’s No Such Thing, is featured in Elephant Books subscriptions this month. We were delighted to hear from Heidi about the inspiration behind her sweet characters and her favorite part of being a children’s author.
There’s No Such Thing is a whimsical and heartwarming picture book that follows a protagonist named Bear as he spends the night camping in the forest with his friend Ted. Along the way, Bear observes various spooky noises, and though his friend reassures him that there’s no such thing as the monsters he dreams up, the two learn that things aren’t always as they seem.
You are not only a talented children’s author and illustrator, but also a seasoned artist with a background in design. What inspired you to write children’s books, and how does your past experience as a creative influence your work as an author?
I’ve always loved to write, draw and make things, so naturally I sought out a career that was creative. After many years of Art School I found myself working as a Graphic Designer, but it wasn’t until I became a parent that I discovered (or rediscovered) the magic of picture books. I realized that picture books are these incredible art forms… they are like art and design meshing together. So I thought I would give it a go myself!
There’s No Such Thing is the story of two friends on a camping trip—Bear, whose imagination runs wild at bedtime, and Ted, his reassuring companion who would like to get some sleep. What inspired this tale of nighttime fear and an encouraging friend?
There’s No Such Thing was inspired by the idea of exploring the common childhood fear of the dark – especially at bedtime.
This story was inspired from my own personal experience as a parent, endeavoring to comfort my daughter during bedtime, where her wonderfully wild imagination would always take flight.
Bear imagines a cast of spooky characters that might be lurking beyond the tent flap—from a blood sucking spider, to a hungry giant, to a fire breathing dragon! Of course, there’s no such thing. Where did you get the idea for each of these visitors?
The idea came from my daughter’s wonderfully wild imagination during bedtime.
This soothing narrative is the perfect bedtime story for littles, sure to quell fears of monsters under the bed. With themes of imagination and friendship, it not only models a great relationship but also teaches us that things aren’t always as scary as they seem. What inspired you to share this message with your readers?
With this book, I hope to offer both comfort and humor to readers while also showing the power of understanding, empathy, and friendship during the sometimes daunting journey of going to sleep.
Colorful, charming illustrations bring this story to life, from the expressions on worried Bear’s face to the little eyes peeking out behind bushes and trees in the dark night. Can you describe your creative process while writing and illustrating There’s No Such Thing?
I began by jotting down ideas, character sketches, and a rough story outline. I wanted to create an engaging narrative that would resonate with young readers, yet capture the essence of the story’s message – empathy, friendship and overcoming fears. As the characters of Bear and Ted took shape in my mind, I focused on their unique personalities and the dynamic of their friendship. Bear’s worried expressions and Ted’s reassuring gestures became the heart of the visual storytelling, conveying emotions that young readers could connect with. The night time scenes aimed to create a darkness to be both mysterious and inviting, just like the imagination of a child.
What is the best thing about being a children’s author? Who were your favorite authors as a child?
The best thing about being a children’s book author and illustrator is that I can totally get away with daydreaming and doodling funny characters all day! It’s a wild ride full of wonder, and I wouldn’t trade this job for all the chocolate chip cookies in the world!
Some of my favorite childhood books are:
Where The Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
Prince What A Mess by Frank Muir
The Twits by Roald Dahl
When you look around at the current state of kids and reading, what are the biggest challenges for parents or opportunities to address?
The biggest challenge for parents is competing with all the tech distractions that can sometimes make books look as exciting as a plate of veggies to a sugar-craving toddler. But never fear! There’s no experience quite like reading a bedtime story with a child. It’s a magical moment where imagination takes flight, and the world outside fades away. Remember, in the epic battle of kids versus books, creativity and silliness are our secret weapons. 🙂
Do you have any upcoming books we can look forward to reading?
Yes! Thanks for asking. I have a new book called Floof which will be out in the US early next year. It’s story about a very floofy cat called ‘Floof’! It’s a warm-hearted funny story – perfect for anyone who has loved a ridiculous furball.
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