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Finding Inspiration: A Children’s Book Illustrator’s Journey

Check out illustrator Holly Hatam’s post, then leave a comment (below) for an opportunity to win a copy of her new book, A Good Deed Can Grow.

As a children’s book illustrator, finding inspiration is crucial for creating meaningful and impactful illustrations. For me, inspiration comes from different sources, such as my childhood experiences, emotions, diversity, and the wonders of nature.

Permission granted by Holly Hatam.

Growing up as a person of color, I never saw myself represented in the books or shows I watched. But that lack of representation inspired me to create illustrations that celebrate diversity and inclusivity. And as a mom of a biracial son, it’s even more important to me to create illustrations that reflect the world we live in and the diverse people in it. So I paint and draw faces of different colors, shapes, and sizes, making sure that every child can see themselves in my art. Representation matters, and I want to contribute to filling the gap in children’s literature by creating illustrations that celebrate diversity.

Permission granted by Holly Hatam.

In addition to diversity, my illustrations are also inspired by emotions. I believe that emotions are universal, and I strive to convey them through my illustrations. Whether it’s joy, sadness, or curiosity, I want the viewer to feel something when they look at my illustrations. Sometimes, the emotions that inspire my illustrations come from personal experiences or events happening around me. I believe that being open and honest about them can help children and adults feel less alone. Growing up, I struggled with feeling like my emotions weren’t valid or important, but through my art, I aim to show that all feelings are valid and worth expressing. Other times, my inspiration comes from a desire to evoke a particular feeling in the viewer. My hope is that my art can serve as a reminder that we’re not alone in our feelings, and that it’s okay to express ourselves in all our emotional complexity. So I paint with my heart, and let my emotions guide my brushstrokes.

Permission granted by Holly Hatam.

And then there’s nature. Oh, nature! Its beauty and magic never cease to amaze me. The colors, shapes, and textures found in the natural world inspire me to create illustrations that are both stunning and meaningful. Trees, in particular, hold a special place in my heart. I often hug them and share my secrets with them, feeling the strength of their roots and the wisdom of their branches. In return, they share inspiration with me — the way they bend and sway in the wind, the way their leaves dance in the sunlight. Trees remind me of the interconnectedness of all living things, and the importance of nurturing our relationships with the natural world. From the delicate petals of a flower to the vastness of the night sky, nature is a boundless source of inspiration that fuels my creativity.

As a children’s book illustrator, finding inspiration is a never-ending journey that takes me through the depths of emotions, the beauty of diversity, and the wonders of nature. My art is a reflection of the world I see and the world I want to create — a world that celebrates differences, embraces emotions, and connects us to the natural world. Through my illustrations, I hope to inspire young readers to see the beauty in themselves and the world around them, to embrace their emotions as a natural and powerful part of being human, and to cultivate a deep love and respect for nature. The journey may be long, but it’s one that’s worth taking, for the beauty and magic that it holds.

But finding inspiration is not just a job for artists — it’s something that everyone can benefit from. We all have the potential to see the world with fresh eyes, to look beyond the surface and uncover the hidden beauty that lies beneath. Staying curious and asking questions is key to unlocking this potential. As children, we’re naturally curious about the world around us, constantly asking “why?” and “how?” But as we grow older, that curiosity can sometimes fade. We become too busy, too focused on our own lives, and we forget to ask the questions that can lead us to new insights and discoveries. By staying curious and open to new experiences, we can find inspiration in the most unexpected places — in a conversation with a stranger, in a walk through a park, in a book that we’ve read a hundred times before. So, let’s all stay curious, ask questions, and explore the world with open hearts and open minds.

Holly Hatam

Holly Hatam is an artist and author who has been drawing since she was old enough to hold a pencil. Even as a kid, she held art gallery openings in her tiny bedroom and charged her family a whopping 25 cents admission fee! Today she is an author and illustrator working in book making and animation. Holly is best known for the #1 New York Times bestselling books Dear Girl and Dear Boy, and she has worked on over 30 books, both as an illustrator and as an author. You may follow her on Instagram @hollyhatamillustration or her blog.


  • This giveaway is for a copy of A GOOD DEED CAN GROW by Jennifer Chambliss Bertman and Holly Hatam. Many thanks to Hachette Book Group for donating a copy of the book to one of our commenters. 
  • For a chance to win this copy of A GOOD DEED CAN GROW, please leave a comment about this post by Saturday, April 29 at 6:00 p.m. EDT. Stacey Shubitz will use a random number generator to pick the winner, whose name she will announce at the bottom of this post, by Thursday, May 4. You must have a U.S. mailing address to enter the giveaway.
    • Please leave a valid e-mail address when you post your comment, so she can contact you to obtain your mailing address if you win.
  • If you are the book winner, Stacey will email you the subject line of TWO WRITING TEACHERS – HATAM. Please respond to Stacey’s e-mail with your mailing address within five days of receipt. A new winner will be chosen if a response isn’t received within five days of the giveaway announcement.

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Congratulations to Jeremy Mapp who will receive a copy of Holly’s book.

4 thoughts on “Finding Inspiration: A Children’s Book Illustrator’s Journey

  1. Sometimes, before I’d read a book to the class I used to enjoy letting the kids tell the story just with the illustrations and then we’d compare their story to the author’s story. I always made a big deal about the author AND illustrator’s names. Reading your story up above inspires me to want to read more often to kids…take a break in the routine of my subbing day and just read! I love your title, “A Good Deed Can Grow.” 🙂 Thank you.


  2. Thank you for sharing about your art with us. I admire this – “So I paint and draw faces of different colors, shapes, and sizes, making sure that every child can see themselves in my art. ” I imagine that this creativity gives you such joy, as well – it certainly makes me smile, to see your wonderful illustrations. I am a retired preschool teacher – children’s picture book illustrations are the genesis to reading, I think.


  3. Your writing about trees is poetry! So beautiful to read! I appreciate what you wrote about making sure kids can see themselves in the illustrations–I have been working hard to make sure the books I buy represent the diversity of kids, and so I’m really appreciative of illustrators who are creating those books that I can add to my classroom. I also appreciate your reminder of the importance of encouraging curiosity in students. I love your reminder of all the different places we can find inspiration. I tend to think of encouraging curiosity as coming from exposing students to new, interesting things. I haven’t thought as much about encouraging kids to be curious about familiar things as well. Thank you!


  4. The significance of seeing yourself positively in media, text, visuals, and books is nothing that can be measured. It is powerful beyond measure. For a long time society has accepted being fed a one perspective narrative. That is unhealthy for everyone. Now is the time to do different and better.


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