Thursday, November 6, 2014

An Interview with Illustrator Hazel Mitchell

I met Hazel Mitchell when we were both at a book event in Massachusetts called Inside Story. I told the inside story of Monkey Ono and she shared her inside story for her charming book One Word Pearl.

See.  We switched books just to confuse you.

Hazel has a new GORGEOUS book that she illustrated out entitled, Imani's Moon, and I thought you guys might want to hear from an illustrator other than myself.

But before I go on, let me give you a bit of info on Hazel.

Hazel Mitchell is originally from England and now lives and works in Maine.  Her latest
titles include, Imani's Moon, One Word Pearl, and 1,2,3 by the Sea.  Her first book as both author and illustrator, TOBY, will be published in 2016 by Candlewick Press.  I can tell you from first-hand knowledge that she is bubbly and charming.  You can see from her work that she's fantastically talented!

On with the interview!

Julie:    I read on your blog that you were once part of England's Royal Navy. How did you get from the Navy to picture book illustration?

Hazel:   That's right. I joined the Navy after leaving art college. My brother was in the navy, so it was kind of a family thing. I did however work as a graphic designer in the military which taught me a great deal and I got to do some technical illustration too. When I left the Navy I worked and ran a print and design company for many years and dreamed of illustrating books. Finally, when I met my husband and moved to America I joined the SCBWI and got a portfolio together about 5 years ago. It's been quite a journey!

What would you say if the greatest perk of being an illustrator and the greatest challenge of it?

Greatest perk of being an illustrator - illustrating children's books. Greatest challenge? Illustrating children's books.


So far, I've illustrated my own stories, so I develop the illustrations as I'm writing. I'm curious as to what your approach is when you read someone else's text.

I read it many times. First not thinking about the illustrations (although that is hard!) and just letting the words sink in. Then I usually go back and start thinking about how it might be spilt up on the pages. Then I write notes on the illustrations. Then I usually start work the character sketches ... and finally the thumbnails. I try to keep in mind the mood, theme, style that the manuscript suggests to me and why. 

How has Imani's Moon differed from the other books you've done?

The first big difference is that Imani is African, and the first time I have illustrated a book solely about a child with a darker skin tone. I had to spend a lot of time looking and drawing the Maasai people. They are so beautiful and elegant. This was also the first time that I had illustrated a book that had a very strong folk tale theme and that was a lot of fun. I also loved drawing the African landscape and all the fantastical elements involved in the story. I could really get lots of detail in!

One last silly question, if you were stranded on a desert island and could bring three books and a snack, what would they be?

Ha! Three books - Compendium of Jane Austen's works, Lord of the Rings, Chronicles of Narnia. And Yorkshire Tea.

Thanks so much, Hazel!  The book is beautiful!

If you, dear reader, would like the chance to win a free copy of Imani's Moon, you're in luck! The publisher sent me one.  (I'm tempted to keep it, but no.  I'm too nice.) Leave me a comment on this post and I will draw a winner Monday, Nov. 10th!

CONTEST CLOSED!  Congratulations Margi Hayes! 

Margi - I will try to track you down via your Blogger account, but if you see this first, please send me an email at and let me know where you'd like your shiny new book sent!

THANKS TO ALL WHO PARTICIPATED!  Look for Imani's Moon at your neighborhood bookstore.


rita borg said...

I love Hazel Mitchell's illustrations. The book looks like a great read. I hope I win.

Margi Hayes said...

I love Hazel and her illustrations. I hope I win, too.

Lynn Plourde said...

This is on my TO READ list. Hazel is a treasure!

Loni Edwards said...

Love Hazel's work. I can't wait to read this beautiful book!

Emily Wayne said...

I can't wait to read this beautiful book! I'd love to win a copy! And Hazel I LOVE your desert island choices! Those are some of my all-time FAVORITE books (I can't even count how many times I've read ALL of Jane Austen's books, and I own three copies of Pride and Prejudice!) and I'd hate to be stranded anywhere without tea!

Verbenabeth said...

I just love Hazel's illustrations, and believe me - as the mom of two lovely Ethiopian daughters, it's very hard to find good illustrations of darker skin! Thanks for the chance to win such a wonderful book!

Catherine said...

I would love to win a copy of this beautiful book for my daughter's book Advent calendar. Thankyou for the giveaway.

Linda Boyden said...

I always learn from Hazel's works. Always.

Elle Jauffret said...

I would love to receive Hazel's new book. Hazel's work has this je-ne-sais-quoi quality that transports the reader. It exudes love with a whimsical charm and makes the reader ( adult or child) want to turn the pages and rediscover her illustrations many times to relive the feeling of wonder she has so expertly created.