If Elephants Disappeared -- Q&A with Lily Williams

I was so excited to be able to ask Lily Williams some questions for this blog post. It was even better because I was able to set aside some time to have my fifth grade students at ACE Academy (in Austin, TX) create the questions. We read Lily's first two books - If Polar Bears Disappeared and If Sharks Disappeared. Then we looked at some of the information on her author site to give us better ideas for questions. My students were fascinated. A few made the connection to some of the current activities going on around the world to call attention to climate change, and we had a good discussion about that.

I highly recommend all three of these picture book titles. The information is shared in a way that captivates kids and gets them excited about learning. The illustrations are amazing!

Here are the questions my students created, along with Lily's answers...

Do you use reference photos for illustrating?

A. I always do for my If Animals Disappeared series. Even though my style is "cartoony", it is crucial that the plants, animals, and ecosystems be accurate just like the words are scientifically accurate.

Do you have favorite snacks while working?
A. Fruit, probably. I love all fruit.

Have you always cared about environmental issues? What got you started?

A. I absolutely loved sharks my whole life and this series started with a set of infographics I made to help people understand why sharks are important. I wrote and illustrated it in a way where someone like myself (a person who has often struggled with traditional teaching methods) could understand. Then my editor saw them online and loved them and asked me to write a book, which turned into a series. So it all started with a desire to explain something to myself, out of a love for a favorite animal.

How do you plan out your illustrations?

A. I start with thumbnails which are very small, then I go to sketches, and then finals. I often collect my reference images when I am in the sketch phase so that when I go to final illustration, I have all of the reference images I need ready.

What do you hope students will do with this information after reading?
A. I hope it first sparks some thinking and discussion about our planet. Talking about issues is a great way to spread the word and maybe even educate those around you! I always include a list of things that kids can do in the back of the books so that they feel empowered by their own voice and ability to make a change after reading.

What do you plan for your next book? Have you already started?

A. I am almost finished with If Bees Disappeared!

How do you draft? (type, hand write)

A. A combination of both.

Who was your favorite author as a child?

A. Kevin Henkes, JK Rowling, and so many more... I have tons of favorites!

Check out Lily Williams' website for more information about her books, her art, and what she hopes we will all do with this information!

Since we created these questions, I received a copy of her newest book - If Elephants Disappeared. I can't wait to share that one with my students as well!

(I purchased my own copies of her first two books and received a copy of the third from the publisher.)


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