For Anita Jeram, illustrating the phenomenal bestseller Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney was a labor of love. Even today, she says, “Every time I read this book, I want to cry. The story reminds me so much of my own son, who often plays this kind of game with me when it’s time for bed.” An immediate problem arose during her early brainstorming for the illustrations, however: she had never actually seen a hare. Trying to be helpful, her paleontologist husband brought a stuffed hare home from the museum. In the end though, the winsome Big Nutbrown Hare and Little Nutbrown Hare grew out of her imagination.
Anita Jeram’s son inspired her art again when he asked her which of the children in their family was the best—himself, his brother, or his sister. Anita Jeram explained they were all equal in her eyes, and he came back with another question: “Okay, then, who’s the cleanest?” She laughs as she recalls, “There’s always one in every family.” To answer this timeless question—who is the favorite child?—Anita Jeram reunited with author Sam McBratney to create You’re All My Favorites, a comforting tale in which Mommy and Daddy Bear reassure their three worried cubs that there’s plenty of love to go around.
Even before starting her illustrations for You’re All My Favorites, however, Anita Jeram had plenty of practice painting bears—in a noticeably different style. Kiss Good Night, a tender bedtime tale about a mother bear and a little bear, was a collaboration between Anita Jeram and acclaimed author Amy Hest. “I had recently finished illustrating part of In Every Tiny Grain of Sand (edited by Reeve Lindbergh), using acrylic paint for the first time, and I thought acrylics would give the pictures for Kiss Good Night some depth and warmth that I couldn’t seem to get with watercolors,” she says. “I visited the London zoo to look at the bears for inspiration, but it was a cold day and they all huddled asleep. So in the end I think Mrs. Bear is based on myself. She’s rather tall and big built, but I hope she looks like a nice comforting mom to have.” The illustrator carries the same soothing style into two sequels, Don’t You Feel Well, Sam? and You Can Do It, Sam.
The illustrator of many other popular and critically acclaimed books for children, including All Pigs Are Beautiful by Dick King-Smith, Anita Jeram has also written several children’s books of her own. As author-illustrator of Bunny, My Honey, a sweet story of a bunny lost and then found, she was able to exercise her rabbit-drawing skills. A rabbit is also the hero of I Love My Little Storybook, her magical tribute to the wonderful world of books.
Anita Jeram, a native of Portsmouth, England, studied art at Manchester Polytechnic and published her first book for children while she was still a student. Today, she lives in Northern Ireland with her family and a menagerie of animals. In the future she hopes to establish a wildlife sanctuary.