How did you go about developing illustrations for Grandma’s Favorite and Grandpa's Favorite? How did you decide upon the cultures you chose to celebrate?
When I was presented with Erin’s beautiful, funny and warm-hearted manuscript, I immediately envisioned these two books as a tour around the world, taking a look at shared moments between grandparents and grandchildren. Partly because I come from another country myself, and partly because it is absolutely essential to show kids diverse, inclusive viewpoints now more than ever before, I never miss an opportunity to bring other cultures to my work.
Deciding which countries to portray was a real challenge! It became a bit of a puzzle game; of course we had to try to include as many and as diverse places as possible but also be true to the manuscript, and true to the cultures themselves. For example: some countries are more fanatic about car racing than others. The card game of bridge is more popular in Anglo cultures than others. At the same time, I had a lot of fun adding some fun “twists,” and Erin does too in the text. In Grandpa’s, the stanza says, “My grandpa’s favorite sport / would be too hard to choose. His favorite teams are on TV. / (He hates it when they lose!)” I heard from a Pakistani friend of their passion for cricket, and I thought it would be wonderful to show a Pakistani grandpa and grandkid rooting for their teams playing cricket, field hockey and soccer - instead of the traditional American sports. In Grandma’s, it was a lot of fun illustrating a grandma fixing her car before heading to a tai-chi class with her granddaughter, or the grandma who does NOT like her grandson’s pet frog - but still tries to help, of course!
Were any of the scenes in either book inspired by real people in your life?
Some of them. For example, the illustration of the grandma waving goodbye to her granddaughter in a jeepney (a type of bus) in the Philippines and the grandma and her grandson dancing to the rhythm of “mbalax” in Senegal. Sometimes the connections were via a third country! The Middle Eastern grandma and girl are a memory from a friend in Brazil with Syrian roots. Some scenes were inspired by countries I have visited - for example, a Grandpa fishing with his granddaughter was a rendition of a real duo that I saw fishing on the banks of a creek in Laos. Other scenes were the result of research and firsthand stories told to me by people I know.