Science Book a Day Interviews Will Hillenbrand


Special thanks to Will Hillenbrand for answering 5 questions about the book he illustrated, which was recently featured – Kiss the Cow!

I grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio, where my family owned a barbershop. During the summer I would walk to the shop and deliver my Dad’s hot lunch. Then I would take a break and listen to the conversations. Many customers told “big fish” stories laced with humor and exaggeration. I enjoyed drawing those stories at the kitchen table when I returned home. Later I went to art school, and after taking a class in picture book art, I decided to try illustrating children’s literature. After more than 50 books, I still feel lucky to do what I love. – From Will’s Homepage

Illustrator’s Homepage:

#1 – How did you get involved with Kiss the Cow!?

The manuscript for Kiss the Cow! was sent to me by my publisher. I remember reading the first few paragraphs and then dashing into our kitchen where my wife and son were. I showed Jane the manuscript and asked her to read it aloud. My three-year-old son, Ian, was playing at his sand table but when he heard the story he moved right in front of Jane. She then sat on the floor and continued reading. Ian sat in her lap and stared at the words. He remained there until the story was over. I was impressed and amazed that he could enjoy the story without seeing or demanding a single picture. I knew that I loved the story and that children would, too. I also knew that my pictures would need to complement a story written so well that a three-year-old did not need pictures. The pictures I would need to create could not get in the way of this wonderful story.

#2 – What was your inspiration for the cow and the other characters in the story?

I grew up in the city. As a child, I thought milk came from cartons in a store not from cows.  Fortunately, my mother’s sister Ruth lived with her 13 children on a farm in Indiana. While visiting them, we city boys (my three older brothers and I) got a glimpse and fell in love with our country cousins and their farm animals, including their cows. To complete my research in preparation for doing the art for the book, I traveled to the farm to see if I could kiss a cow. That experience didn’t work out so well for me but I do think it helped me make better pictures.

#3 – How do you try to make your illustrations accurate? Did you do research about cows and life on the farm?

I make very accurate observations for all of my characters and animals in my stories.  Please keep in mind that my characters are story characters living in the storybook world. Thus I breathe that context and accuracy into the space in which my characters live… in the pages of a book and in the imagination of the reader.

#4 – What would you say the characteristics of your illustrations are?

I have often been told by my readers that my work is “warm” to them or that my stories make them feel warm. They also say that my characters are very expressive and show true emotions. I like to think that my work is both contemporary and classic.

#5 – Are you working on any new projects/books you can tell us about?

I completed my first wordless picture book, Snowman’s Story, earlier this year and it’s just been published this month. Most recently, I completed All for a Dime!, the fourth book in the Bear and Mole series and it’s due to be out in fall 2015. On my studio table, I am working on the final art for Bear and Bunny written by Daniel Pinkwater; it’s the companion book to Bear in Love which was published two years ago.

[Image Credit: ]


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