As a child I loved to draw. I also loved books, especially picture books. I still remember certain illustrations, covers, and bindings from books that were read to me as a young girl. At the University of Wisconsin in Madison, I studied books: the history of bookmaking, children’s literature, and how to design, typeset, and print books. I even ran a small press.
After graduation I headed for New York City, where I worked for seventeen years in children’s book publishing, most of that time as Art Director of Viking Children’s Books. As an art director I was involved in all the decisions of how a book will look. What size should it be? Which typeface to use? Who should be the illustrator? Every book was different, and I was part of the team of author, illustrator, art director, and editor that helped each book evolve from a typed manuscript to a finished book. But I didn’t begin to write until I had children of my own.
There really wasn’t a particular event that “made” me want to write children’s books. It was the impact of language on my children— the effect of the sound of a word that would make them laugh, or a rhythm that made them clap, or their delight in a particular rhyme— it was their response to language that intrigued me enough to put some of my ideas down in words. Many of my books are a direct result of their interests and experiences.
When I am working on a book I start by looking for an interesting question. “Does the world change when a baby is born?” (Because Of You), “If I could go anywhere, where would I go?” (The Once Upon a Time Map Book), and most recently, “What are the scariest places I can think of?” (The Scary Places Map Book). After I choose my question I start playing with ideas. Sometimes, I begin by finding the right “language.” Sometimes I spend a lot of time researching a subject. But there is a third thing that I look for as well: the visual possibilities. I don’t try to imagine exactly how the illustrations will look, I really like to be surprised!
Three Things You Might Not Know About Me:
1. When I grew up I wanted to be Annie Oakley or Tinkerbell.
2. I wrote and illustrated my first book, Patsy the Turtle, when I was in kindergarten. (It’s on my website: www.bghennessy.com)
3. I work in front of a big window that looks out onto Mummy Mountain.