An impromptu portrait of a donkey and tales of life on a Caribbean island captured the attention of students at Newmarket Elementary School, Maryland on Friday, April 15, as they learned about the process of publishing. Our very own Donna Seim and illustrator Sue Spellman spent the day talking with students about their work, specifically two books they collaborated on: Where is Simon, Sandy? and Hurricane Mia — A Caribbean Adventure.
Donna Seim (left) and Sue Spellman (right) at Newmarket School
“We’ve done two books together (and) we’re working on a third,” Spellman said. “We were friendly first, we knew of each other and each other’s work. She’s just been great; it’s wonderful to work together.”
Students loved both books and asked many questions. “(Spellman) is really good at drawing,” said kindergarten student Lexi Catalone. “I really liked the book a lot, especially the donkey.”
Seim spoke to students first, explaining her inspiration for the book and showing photographs that she used to help her tell the story. Then Spellman talked to students about how a book is created.
“After she wrote her words for the story, it was my job to make the illustrations,” Spellman said. “I usually read the story first, using my imagination to make pictures in my head. … I would think about what I wanted on each page, how many pages I have to work with. Scribbling is the first part, then a rough sketch, then using color on good paper.”
Sue Spellman with a sketch of Sandy the donkey.
One student said he was surprised how much work goes into creating the artwork for a book. “I thought it was pretty cool that she starts with scribbles before she does her final art,” said second-grade student Owen Tower. “I love to draw too, especially chibi manga characters.”
“I liked how she did the dark drawings after the light ones,” said Emily Hoover, a second-grade student. “My favorite things to draw are chibis, bunnies and cats.”
For both, visiting with the students is an especially rewarding part of their jobs. “It helps kids to understand more about the process,” Spellman said. “A book is a labor of love, it’s not instantaneous. It develops over time for both the author and the illustrator.”
Proceeds of Where is Simon, Sandy? help students in the Caribbean by going to the children’s club at the Turks and Caicos National Museum.