Our guest: Janet Hill is an artist and illustrator based in Stratford, Ontario. Her debut picture book, Miss Moon: Wise Words from A Dog Governess, is available now from Tundra / Penguin Random House.
The Proust-Esque Questionnaire is based on a set of 36 standardized questions designed by Marcel Proust in the 1890’s to give an overview of the respondent’s personality. Our goals are less lofty, but hopefully will provide some insight into how your favorite authors and illustrators work and what they love.
I remember the Madeline books quite vividly. I found Ludwig Bemelmans illustrations so unusual and fascinating. I loved the nuns, even though their black pointed silhouettes scared me a little.
I also remember my mother giving me the Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch with the understanding that this was a very important book for me to read.
Another early memory was The Value of Believing in Yourself by Spencer Johnson, about Louis Pasteur, who invented the Rabies vaccination. It was a little scary with the boy being mauled by the dog, but the message that you should always trust your own instincts is very valuable.
Lastly, what really appealed to my imagination was Miss Nelson Is Missing, by Harry Allard. I thought Miss Viola Swamp was just great.
2. WITH WHICH CHILDREN’S LITERATURE CHARACTER DO YOU MOST IDENTIFY?
The Paperbag Princess. I’ve had some similar experiences with so-called Princes.
Ludwug Bemelmans. (Right, working with his wife and muse, Madeleine.)
4. IF YOU WERE TO THROW A KINDERLIT PARTY FOR FIVE GUESTS, WHO WOULD YOU INVITE?
I think a villainous dinner party would be interesting. Amoung the guests there would be Cruella de Vil, The Wicked Witch of the West, Captain Hook, The Grand High Witch (from Roald Dahl’s The Witches) and Rumpelstiltskin. I may not make it to the dessert course, but I think it would make for a very entertaining evening.
5. WHICH QUALITY DO YOU THINK IS MOST IMPORTANT IN GOOD CHILDREN’S LITERATURE?
Rich imagery that really captures the imagination.
6. IF YOUR OWN WORK HAS A DEFINING CHARACTERISTIC, WHAT WHAT IS IT?
I think my work is quite painterly. I work in oils and have no real illustration skills so each image is a complete oil painting.
Is it weird to say Mary Poppins? I love how she gets blown in by the wind (something I thought I could do when I was a kid and I jumped off the picnic table and landed on my face on the patio stones). What also makes her interesting is that although she’s a proper English nanny, she’s capable of some pretty serious magic.
8. IF YOU COULD GO BACK AND REDO ONE THING IN YOUR WORK, WHAT WOULD IT BE?
Nothing. I don’t mind making mistakes.
9. WHAT IS THE GREATEST PIECE OF ADVICE YOU WERE EVER GIVEN?
I’ve been given a lot of good advice over the years, but I think the most valuable one is to not be afraid of failure. If you fail, accept it, and never be embarrassed by it. Failure is a great way to learn and become stronger.
10. DESCRIBE YOUR WORK PROCESS.
I tend to write in the morning and paint in the afternoon. There are dog walks in between and plenty of procrastination, but I try to work every day when I’m at home.