“Most hobbies are on hold at the moment, as the family is so young (and demanding with my time!),” says children’s-book illustrator Paul Howard. Indeed, with three young children, it’s a wonder the artist is able to find time even to work. Luckily, Paul Howard’s family seems to bring out the best in him, inspiring him to illustrate Look at You! A Baby Body Book by Kathy Henderson. Paul Howard also looked to his children in working on the picture book Grandma’s Bears.
Grandma’s Bears by Gina Wilson is the endearing story of Grandma and the bears that share her cottage—and of her grandson’s first meeting with these furry roommates. “Nat, the little boy who comes to meet the bears at his grandma’s cottage, is very like my eldest son,” the artist says. “Especially in the picture where he is snuggling into the soft, warm fur of Floss the old, shaggy polar bear.” Despite the warm ending, the story deals with Nat’s fear, which proved a challenge even for this veteran illustrator. “I wanted the bears to be quite realistic, but not at all scary,” he says. “They would be big and have sharp claws, but they would be soft and lovable at the same time. I think I must have drawn Arthur a hundred times or more!”
Paul Howard is also the illustrator of Trish Cooke’s Full, Full, Full of Love, another story that celebrates a grandmother’s love for her family. Of this book, the artist says, “Jay Jay’s Sunday reminds me of my own nan’s mammoth Sunday dinners when I was a child. From behind your shoulder Nan would always put more food on your plate—despite the helpless pleas, ‘No more! No more!’” The illustrator is not alone in his childhood recollections. “Scenes of Jay Jay and his grandmother and of the family gathered around the dining room lingering over coffee are sure to trigger some sharable memories for the adults reading this title,” notes the Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books. “Children listening will be happy to hear them, and they’ll want to make some memories of their own.”
Paul Howard lives with his family in Belfast, Northern Ireland, where he is “collecting lots of references from my own family life, which may well surface in my own books someday.”