Robert’s Snow…Meet Illustrator Amy Young!

Today, as part of Blogging for a Cure,  we’re featuring illustrator Amy Young and the snowflake she created for Robert’s Snow — a fantastic fund-raiser for cancer research at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute.

Blogger’s Note:  I’m a children’s author and a middle school English teacher, so my students are collaborating on our series of illustrator profiles! Today’s feature is courtesy of the Global Citizens in 3rd period English class!

Amy L. Young grew up in Watertown, MA. She started drawing at the age of three, and as she grew up, she dreamed of being an artist.  By going to the Cleveland Institute of Art for two years and then Yale, she accomplished this goal. Later on, her first book, Belinda the Ballerina, was published in 2003.  Like Belinda, Amy Young took dance lessons at the age of seven. She also wrote and illustrated two other books — Belinda in Paris and Belinda and the Glass Slipper.  Her three books do not just attract young, enthusiastic dancers. They also attract adults and other children because of her wit and comedy.  Amy L. Young is a very talented writer and illustrator.

We had a chance to interview Amy about her snowflake and her work.

Globals:  First of all, we were enchanted by your snowflake. What was the inspiration for that design?  What made you think of Emmalina the Mud Fairy and the sunflower that you chose?

Amy: I’m glad you like my snowflake! Emmalina is a character from THE MUD FAIRY, a book I have written which will be published by BloomsburyUSA at some point (no publication date yet).  Emmalina is sort of a tom-boy fairy, who would rather stomp in mud puddles and play with frogs than be all delicate and dainty. But she does still take an occasional nap on a flower, as you see on the snowflake. The idea of  the sunflower just came to me as I was thinking about it. That’s often how I get my best ideas; it’s kind of like magic.

Globals: Why are you participating in Robert’s Snow?   Do you have family/friends who have been affected by cancer?

Amy:  It is a great opportunity to do what I do best, and have it benefit a good cause. I really like that the entire illustration community has risen to the occasion to contribute. It feels good to be a part of a such a  large, generous community. And yes, I have lost loved ones to cancer: two aunts, and, most recently, a very dear friend. It is a cruel disease, and I like to think I might have some small part in fighting it.

Globals: Why do you like illustrating so much, and what inspired you to become an illustrator and writer?

Amy: I remember being in nursery school when I was three years old, gluing one piece of paper to another, and saying, “I am going to be an artist when I grow up.” I have no idea why I have always felt such a strong connection to making images, but it seems to satisfy a need. I have always liked writing, and making picture books seemed the 
perfect way to combine those two things.

Globals: When you were young, what else did you want to be when you grew up?

Amy: Actually, nothing!

Globals: We’re looking forward to reading about Belinda. What made you want to write about a ballerina?

Amy: The first Belinda story came to me in a flash — it was as though I didn’t make it up myself. It was just there. Looking back, I think I liked the idea of a ballerina with big feet. It was a funny image. But I also liked that she was incredibly graceful in spite of, or perhaps because of, her feet. It was a change to gently poke fun at 
people’s prejudices and assumptions.

Globals: Are the ballerina books autobiographical at all? Did you write about Belinda having big feet because you do?

Amy: In most ways I am not like Belinda: I have small, wide feet, like a duck; I am not as shy as Belinda is, and I probably have a bit more of a temper;  I had never taken a ballet class before doing the first book. In spite of those differences, there is one major trait that Belinda and I have in common: I love doing art as much as she loves dancing. Interestingly, Belinda’s love of dancing has rubbed off on me — I now take ballet.

Globals: What’s your favorite book that you wrote or illustrated?


Amy: I don’t have a favorite, but right now I am very excited about the next Belinda book, which will come out on Valentine’s Day. It is called Belinda Begins Ballet, and tells the story of how Belinda started dancing when she was a girl.

Globals: We read on your website that you’ve had a wide variety of jobs and even went to law school before your became an illustrator. Why did you decide to study law, and what made you leave it?

Amy: Well, I panicked. I didn’t think that I would be able to make a living doing art, so I looked for something else. My father is a lawyer, and he loves his job, so I thought “I’ll try that!” I was a lawyer for seven years. There was a lot that I liked about being a lawyer, but I really missed doing art — just the way Belinda missed dancing. (Ah, there’s the autobiographical part!)

Globals: We also noted that you didn’t care for waitressing. How come?

Amy: I waitressed in a pizza place in a big city. When things got busy we were frantic trying to get everyone served, and some of the customers treated us as if we were barely human. Just not my cup of tea.

Globals: Now the rapid-fire questions…things that kids (and grownups who are just big kids) need to know!  What’s your favorite book ever?

Amy: I really don’t have one favorite book. I like so many books, and different books suit different moods.

Globals: What was your greatest accomplishment in life?

Amy: Wow. That’s a toughie. I think it is sort of amazing that I managed to get through Harvard Law School (I worked very hard!), but in a way I would say getting my first book published was a bigger accomplishment, because it was closer to my heart.

Globals: Do you like sushi?

Amy: Yes!

Globals: What’s your most embarrassing moment (that you’re willing to share)?

Amy: That would be eleventh grade math class. I was the only one who got the answer to one of the homework problems, and I was asked to go up in front of the whole class and explain how I did it. So I did, but it turns out my method was all wrong and really pretty stupid. There was this terrible awkward silence, and a few people tittered, and I really did wish I could sink into the floor and just disappear. The funny thing is that now it would take a whole lot more than that to embarrass me. I like to laugh at myself, and it makes life a lot more fun.

Globals: Have you ever ridden a horse?

Amy: Yes, but I would rather pat one and feed it and brush it and tell it how lovely it is, instead of riding it. 

Globals: What’s your biggest fear?

Amy: That I will be in the middle of a big presentation and my slides or PowerPoint will fail me. It’s not that I’d be embarrassed so much as I wouldn’t know what to do, because showing people images of what I do is so much a part of how I present material. I guess I would manage, but it would not be good.

Globals: Your favorite dessert?

Amy: Anything with chocolate!

Globals: Thanks, Amy, for taking the time to visit with us, and thanks for giving of your time and talents for the Robert’s Snow project!

Amy: Thank YOU! One of the things I love about what I do is making contact with people like you!

Here is your chance to win a signed copy of one of Amy’s books from the Belinda series.  All you have to do is leave a comment on one of the snowflakes from Auction #3, and we’ll enter you in a drawing for that signed book. You can also visit Amy Young’s website to learn more about her work.

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