Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Children's Literature Network Article

My article for Children's Literature Network is up on the Bookscope section of their website:
 I chose to write about how I pick scenes to depict when illustrating a book. My favorites are the “the anything can happen” moments.

Posted June 5th, 2012

Liz Amini-Holmes shares the story behind her story …

The ProtectorsI always love the time right before a storm; the rustling of the leaves, the wind picking up, clouds racing across the sky. You never know what was about to happen next. I feel the same way about choosing which moment to illustrate from a story. There are moments in a story where an illustrator must make a choice about what to depict. I love the times in-between when things are not said yet, the action is not in full swing, “the anything can happen” moment.
Working as an illustrator is about deciding which moments to depict. With often short and intense deadlines, there is an immediacy, the need to capture something ephemeral, which for me comes in making an emotional connection between the action and the characters. There is an apparent place where the character can make a choice—go down that path of pins and needles or play it safe. My goal is to make the reader more connected to the character by living in that frozen moment, fully experiencing it from the character’s point of view and the choices they can make.
The Protectors was one of the first Leveled Reader books I illustrated. The story had plenty of excitement and even some danger that gave me many opportunities to engage the reader’s attention. Naomi James is the adventurous daughter of a marine biologist who knows how to sail her own boat, free dive, and take underwater photos. I related to Naomi because I too was an only child who liked nature adventures either in real life or in stories. It made illustrating her a lot easier because I could relate to her independent spirit. She was not a girly-girl, but a tomboy on a mission to explore her world.
When Naomi stumbles upon a plot to illegally capture dolphins near her home’s reef area she manages to take pictures of the poachers threatening the dolphins, which eventually leads to their arrest. But she must face danger to get close enough to see them. Here is one example of where my interest really peaked. At one point her boat capsizes and she must swim all the way back to shore. I could have to depicted her near the capsized boat or safely on shore but I chose the moment where she is swimming and tired and not sure if she will make to the beach, “the anything can happen” moment. And hopefully the reader is with her in the water, for that moment not knowing what is going to happen.
Illustrating The Protectors and subsequent books gave me insight and experience I needed to go on to create paintings for the award-winning books Fatty Legs: A True Story and its sequel A Stranger At Home. These stories have several difficult emotional situations and frightening “anything can happen” moments, and, for me, many thrilling choices to make.