Wednesday, May 8, 2024

Q&A with Miri Leshem-Pelly



Miri Leshem-Pelly is the author and illustrator of the new children's picture book A Feather, a Pebble, a Shell. Her other books include Chloe's Nature Journal. She lives in Israel.


Q: What inspired you to create A Feather, a Pebble, a Shell?


A: Nature has always been my biggest source of inspiration. I live in Israel and as a child I grew up in a nature-loving family. My parents took my brother and me on numerous hiking trips across the country and these trips are my sweetest childhood memories.


When I grew up I often thought about the Israeli nature and wondered if there’s anything special about it. I started researching to learn more and discovered some amazing facts that most people are not aware of.


For example, I was surprised to learn that Israel’s nature is one of the most diverse in the world! That’s how I got the idea for this book, which will take readers on a journey in some of Israel’s most fascinating nature sites. And if you’re now curious to know what makes nature in Israel so unique and diverse - read the author’s note in the end of the book and find out!

Q: Did you work on the text first or the illustrations--or both simultaneously?


A: I guess I could say I worked on the text and the illustrations simultaneously. The first draft was text only, and then I made the first concept drawing.


I knew that I wanted to combine a lyrical text about a girl’s experiences in nature with nonfiction information about the items she finds, but I wasn’t sure how the two types of text would work together. So I drew sketches and played with the layout and design of the pages, then moved back and forth from the text to the images until it all started to work together.


Q: How did you develop your artistic style?


A: This book combines short poetic descriptions of moment in nature with scientific facts about natural items. Therefore I was looking for artistic style that will capture both elements. On one hand I wanted the art to show emotion and a sense of wonder, and on the other hand - a realistic look that would match the nonfiction part.


So I decided to use watercolor and ink, which allows me to go into the smallest of details but also to paint with large, free brush strokes.


Q: What do you hope kids take away from the story?


A: My biggest hope is that this book will inspire kids to get away from the screen for a while and go out to explore nature themselves. And when they are out there, maybe they will look for small nature items such as a feather, a pebble, or a shell to hold in their hands, just like the girl in the book.


Oh, and I hope they will want to come to Israel and visit all the beautiful places that they have read about!


Q: What are you working on now?


A: As you can probably tell by now, I love nature and animals. I’ve recently done an Instagram art project, where I drew 100 animal faces in 100 days. It was a fun project and a huge success, and it led me to try out something I’ve never tried before - to write a story based on the illustrations!


This isn’t an easy task, but I’m enjoying the challenge and I hope it will eventually become a new book.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: I have a spying assignment for the young readers…In almost every illustration in the book I’ve hidden some animals, which are not even mentioned in the text. All of these animals are real species that live in Israel. Can you spot them?


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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