Catalina Echeverri Interview

Catalina Echeverri‘s children’s book, There’s a Dinosaur in my Bathtub has recently been published by Bloomsbury Publishing. To celebrate its release, Catalina will be taking part in Bloomsbury’s ‘Illustrated Windows’ project and will be bringing a touch of magic to the window of Under The Greenwood Tree bookshop in Clapham, south London this Thursday (Feb 27th). The project invites popular children’s illustrators to unleash their imagination in decorating the windows of bookshops across the country.

Catalina will be returning to Under The Greenwood Tree on March 22nd for storytime and crafts. She’ll also be signing copies of There’s a Dinosaur in my Bathtub.

Catalina, congratulations on the recent publication of There’s a Dinosaur in My Bathtub,  in which you really capture the magic of a child’s imagination. What gave you the inspiration for this book?
The idea came as I was talking to a good friend one afternoon over coffee. She shared with me that a little boy had come up to her and whispered in her ear very secretively “I have a BIG dinosaur hidden in my bathtub!” and then he had just ran away. My friend is a very talented Children’s writer herself so I asked permission if I could use the idea for a story. She very kindly agreed. So I got to work to draw what became the very first drawing of Pierre. This is what it looked like: (see accompanying image). And so that is how the Dino idea was born : )

Is it hard to step back into a child’s way of thinking when you’re working on a book?
I don’t find it hard if I am wearing the right pair of glasses…Let me explain to you what I mean. Children have an amazing imagination and I believe this is due to the wonderful way they have of looking at the world. They look at it through the glasses of curiosity. To them, everything is new and ready to be explored. One of the things I think when you grow up you lose are those glasses. You instead replace them with very stiff and ‘squared’ ones which make you see the world in a more ‘squared’ kind of way. Everything must have a logical explanation. Things lose their novelty and their charm. For children instead, nothing is impossible, their imagination is their limit, curiosity is their driving force. So when you are writing a book for children that is the kind of glasses you should have. Not squared and logical but the glasses of curiosity.

We understand that you have an MA in Children’s Book Illustration. Was working as a children’s book illustrator a long-held ambition for you?
Not really…Although drawing has always been my passion I only fell in love with the world of Children’s Books while working as a Graphic Designer back in Italy. I had stopped drawing since I had graduated from high school and was really missing it. Then I was asked to make some drawings for the Sunday School I was helping with at my local church. I enjoyed it SO MUCH that I wondered if there could be something where I could keep on telling stories with my drawings. So I googled if there were any available courses in Children’s Book Illustration and that’s how I ended up in the MA. I quit my job and decided to become a children’s book illustrator. Although I loved my boss and my job as a designer, becoming a Children’s Book Illustrator has been one of the best decisions I’ve taken in my life.

There’s a Dinosaur in my Bathtub is the second book which you have written as well as illustrated. How enjoyable was the process of both writing and illustrating a book?
It is very enjoyable! Being able to work at the story and the drawings at the same time, allows you to work on the book as a whole and I think gives you a unique way of shaping both text and image. I think this is a great advantage because it allows you to chop off, add and reshape both text and image simultaneously.

Can you remember the feeling when you first walked into a bookshop and saw copies of your book on the shelves?
Yes I do! It was a great feeling. Actually the first time I saw a copy of my book displayed was at Under the Greenwood Tree. I took a picture and everything. After so much work and effort you put into it, when you see it finally displayed, you almost can’t believe it! Its so rewarding!

What is the most rewarding aspect of taking part in a book-related event for children?
Seeing them smile and enjoy the story and interacting with it is definitely one of the highlights of those events for me.

Do you have your own favourite bookshop or book-related haunt?
My favourite local bookshop is Under the Greenwood Tree. I like to go there to see what’s new in the children’s book world. They also make a great selection of cakes and lovely tea! Other bookshops I like going to for inspiration are  Hatchards in Piccadilly Circus and Foyles in Charing Cross Rd.

Can you name your personal three favourite children’s books, either from your own childhood or contemporary favourites?
My favourite Childhood book was Matilda. Both for the Illustrations and for the story. More recent favourites are The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt and Oliver Jeffers and Shel Sirvestein’s The Giving Tree.

We understand that you’re going to be decorating the window of Under the Greenwood Tree in Clapham this Thursday. Can you give us any idea of what we can expect?
You can expect a trip to the moon and lots of Hot Galactic Chocolate to enjoy!

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