Bibbit Jumps: Q&A with Bei Lynn

Bei LynnBei Lynn is an award-winning artist from Taiwan who has illustrated around 20 picture books for children, some of which she has also written. Her illustrations are mainly made of watercolor and pencil and have been published in numerous magazines.

Bibbit Jumps is a charming illustrated chapter book for emerging readers about an enthusiastic frog who sometimes misses the mark.

Can you give some more information about your career so far—your training in illustration, the other work you have done, and your interest in children’s books?

I loved to paint as a child, I studied Fine Arts at university, but not in a particularly rigorous way, and I can’t really say I’m trained in illustration. I discovered “picture books” in my third year at university, and was hooked. So I went to the Institute of Children’s Studies, and read all the picture books I could find. Where the Wild Things Are inspired me to create my first picture book, Pretending to Be a Fish, which won a Hsin Yi Award.

Pretending to Be a Fish is still one of my favourites. Like Bibbit, it’s about children who like to imagine and make-believe, who have wonderful adventures in faraway lands without leaving familiar places like home.

Bibbit Jumps coverHow do children respond to the stories and characters in Bibbit Jumps?

After Bibbit Jumps came out in Taiwan, one child’s mother complained to me “Why did you have to put so many words in this book?” But she didn’t give me time to answer. “My little one won’t go to sleep until I’ve read the whole book!”

For a moment, I’d felt a black cloud creeping over me, and then it was gone. I heard about another child who loved Bibbit Jumps, so I asked her which part she liked best. She talked calmly about all the parts up to when Bibbit insists on eating the whole apple, and then rattled through the rest of the book, giggling so much, that I only caught the first few words, and couldn’t understand what she was saying!

How would you describe the character of Bibbit? What kind of a frog is he?

Bibbit is passionate and sometimes a little silly. He trusts his intuition (well, he is a frog), and once he’s made up his mind to do something, no one can stop him. But he can also see the funny side when things don’t work out as he expects.

Sometimes he’s not as brave as he’d like to be, but he’ll do anything for his little sister, no matter how scary it feels. I love his little sister too, and the way they always look out for each other. And because I live in Taipei, Bibbit is a Taipei tree frog!

How did you create the illustrations for the book—what medium/tools do you use and
what is your process?

I used a rollerball pen to draw the outline, and then watercolours. I like the way the rollerball blurs when the ink and water meet. Actually, I used to think I kept buying the wrong kind of rollerball pen, and I discarded them in the back of my drawer. And then one day, I suddenly started to like the effect! I found that drawing on ordinary wood-free paper suited my stories better than using special watercolour paper.

In the last few pages of this book I added some photo images taken in my neighbourhood. I manipulated the images and colour with photoshop, and combined them with my original watercolour artwork.

What author or illustrator working today would you love to work with, or do you
particularly admire?

I love Kitty Crowther and Isol, they are creators who really believe in children. Whatever their stories are about, there are always new ideas and things to think about, and children get them!

I also like Jockum Nordström. While at first there may not seem to be much of a story, they’re full of interesting and important details—when I look at his pictures I can smell the sea.

And, if I could, I’d like to watch Jon Klasson at work to see how he works with images and text to construct his stories, and how he decides what to leave out from one page to the next. The way he tells stories is really interesting.

What did you love to draw when you were a child?

I loved painting the world under the sea. In one art class, I made a 3D world in a shoe box with a hole in the lid, covered with cellophane. I’d look through the hole at the little fish hanging from different lengths of cotton thread and feel as though I was underwater with them.

When I was older, I liked Akira Toriyama’s manga books about Dr Slump, and for ages I copied his little girl robot Arale. All my classmates kept asking to see my notebook.

Bibbit Jumps is available now from wherever you buy or consume your books and on our website.

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