How did it come about that you were asked to illustrate this book? How did you connect with Arbordale?
Because I love science, I naturally loved Arbordale books (back when they were Sylvan Dell—they had a name change), and often sent them samples in hopes of being asked to illustrate one of their books. Little Gray’s Great Migration was my first book with them, followed by Wandering Woolly and now Been There.
What made you want to illustrate this book, and what was your favorite part?
My father was a wildlife biologist who spent a lot of time showing me animal signs in the woods. In fact, I spent one summer helping him track collared deer with radio collars. So I already had an interest in animal signs. I love drawing wildlife!
Was there anything particularly hard about the project?
Drawing people is not easy for me. I definitely am more comfortable drawing animals! Luckily my neighbor, Lulu, and her best friend, Mason, were willing to pose for me, which helped greatly.
If you had to illustrate this book all over again, and you weren’t allowed to paint, what would you do instead?
Hmmm . . . I always wanted to do a book with cut paper illustrations. So maybe I’d try that.
Of the animals in the book, which is your favorite and why?
I really liked the snowshoe hares. It is a challenge to paint white animals on a white background.
I love the hares, too!
Have you had any cool animal or animal-sign sightings? Tell us.
Oh yes. Once, when hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, and my hiking buddy was miles ahead, I saw prints of a mama and young cougar. That woke me up! I also love to see how all the squirrels chew down the pine cones before they are ripe, and sometimes the bears get to them before the squirrels can. I love to see snake tracks in the sand.
If you were to do a follow-up book with kids hiking in a different place, where would you have them go and/or what animals would you have them looking for?
I would love to see a book with kids hiking in the Sonoran desert. So much to see!
Name a picture book you wish you had illustrated.
Animalia. Yes, I definitely wish I had made that book.
I have that one on my bookshelf. Yep, that’s a good one!
If you could paint with only one color for the next three years, what would it be?
You have to paint something but you can’t get any paint on your hands, and you can’t use a brush. What do you do?
I would use sponges.
Pretend your next picture book project is about a yummy dessert with a problem. What is the dessert, and what is its problem?
I guess it would have to be a chocolate mousse. Well . . . can you imagine how amazing it would be to catch a chocolate mousse? I imagine he has a problem with strangers who want to lick his fur.
If you couldn’t be an artist, what would you be?
I would like to be an ornithologist at Cornell.
You’re going to be locked inside a closed factory for a weekend. What kind of factory do you choose and why?
Hmmm. I think I would like to be in a factory where they make virtual reality games and equipment. I would like to play all weekend without anyone noticing how silly I look or how bad I am at games!
A piece of your art will be displayed anywhere in the world you choose. What piece of art will you show and where?
What would be fantastic is if Oprah Winfrey decided to buy one of my otter paintings for millions and millions of dollars donated to wildlife preservation, and then displayed it in her house.
The celebrity of your choice will read our book on the TV show of your choice—and we will both become rich, famous, beautiful, brilliant, and fit. Who is the celebrity and what is the show?
I would like Helen Mirren to read our book on Masterpiece!
Oooooo, I’d like that, too!
You know, I’m pretty sure both Oprah and Helen read this blog, so you’ll probably be getting phone calls soon.
Books by Andrea Gabriel
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Categories: Alaska, Children's writing, Interviews