Steve Jenkins and Robin Page are the award-winning and Colorado-based author/illustrator duo behind countless children’s books, including What Do You Do With a Tail Like This?, currently featured on our StoryWalk® installations. Their books are defined by the collage-style artwork and emphasis on the animal kingdom, wowing young readers and inquisitive minds around the world. Jenkins and Page share their book making process, wild animal facts and more in the virtual event Art and Animals with Steve Jenkins and Robin Page on Friday, September 17.
To get ready for the event, we had a quick chat with Jenkins to learn more about his history and the importance of creativity when raising young readers.
What got you started writing children’s books?
Reading to our own children when they were little got us thinking about making children’s books of our own.
What prompted your interest in writing books about nature and science?
I was interested in the natural world from childhood and considered a career in the sciences, though I ended up in the visual arts. Robin had a different childhood. She grew up on a farm in North Carolina, where she spent time with cows, pigs, chickens and other creatures both domestic and wild. Writing about animals came naturally to her.
We love that you work as a writer/illustrator duo and would love to hear the story of how you and Robin started collaborating on books together.
We each worked on separate books at first (and still do), but we realized that it would be fun to work together. Animals in Flight was our first joint effort. Since then, we’ve done some 20 books together. It was easy for us to work on books together — we’d been collaborating for years on design projects.
Do you have a favorite book out of your collection? Is it the same for you and Robin?
I think my favorite is The Animal Book, perhaps because, at 200+ pages, it was such a challenge. Robin’s favorite is Creature Features, because of the art and the tongue-in-cheek voice.
What’s your research process?
We have a large library of books about animals and other aspects of the natural world (weather, earth science, space, etc.). We constantly refer to those books. And, of course, we use the Internet, which is especially helpful in discovering new information that has not yet found its way into a book. Once we have an idea, we start collecting facts and data in a computer file. We also jot down notes in a notebook.
How long does it take you two to write and illustrate a book?
It’s typically about two years from accepted proposal to printed book. But there is a lot of downtime in that period (waiting for editorial feedback or production). If the time were compressed, it’s probably around a six-month process.
When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
An oceanographer or paleontologist.
If you were not an author/illustrator, what would you be?
I’d probably still be a graphic designer, as would Robin. We worked as corporate graphic designers for many years before becoming children’s book authors and illustrators.
What was your favorite book growing up?
One of them was All About Strange Beasts of the Past, by Roy Chapman Andrews (the head of the American Museum of Natural History). It was about hunting for fossils in Mongolia in the 1930s.
What’s Robin’s favorite book?
It was called The Little Red Hen.
What inspired your love of reading (and writing and illustrating)?
For both of us, it was probably our parents reading to us as children. As kids, we both also loved to draw and paint.