I was wrapped up in stories from as far back as I can remember," says Rebecca Bond, author-illustrator of Just Like a Baby (Little, Brown).

Growing up in the tiny village of Peacham, Vt., Bond and her sister spent much time on their own, playing outdoors, absorbed in art projects and, above all, reading.

They also were read to constantly, she says. "I have to credit my mother a lot, as this had a huge influence on me." This quiet childhood made her very independent, Bond says. "All the things I do--writing, painting, playing the piano--are a result of it. I don't know if I would have become a children's book author and illustrator otherwise."

The idea for Just Like a Baby grew out of an illustration Bond did during her college years. "It was of a full-grown man curled into a child's cradle," she explains. "From there, I started developing this story of a family that wanted to create a cradle for a baby."

Bond, who graduated from Brown University in 1995 with a degree in visual arts, took a number of classes simultaneously at the Rhode Island School of Design, where she met Judy Sue Goodwin-Sturges, an art professor and agent.

"A year after I graduated, she and I decided I would work with her at Studio Goodwin-Sturges, in Boston," Bond explains. "She presented my ideas to a number of publishers, and Little, Brown expressed interest."

Bond met with editor Megan Tingley, and she says the two of them hit it off right away. "I feel very fortunate to be working with her," Bond says. "I think she's terrific, and she has a very keen sense of what will make a story work."

An admirer of Maurice Sendak and Arnold Lobel, Bond credits both Goodwin-Sturges, whose illustration classes she calls "invaluable," and David Macaulay, who taught a class called "Think Now, Draw Later" at Rhode Island School of Design, with sparking her interest in creating children's books of her own.

"I always liked to draw and paint and work on projects, and I always loved to read and write stories, but it took a long time for me to realize that these two parts of myself could come together and create something," she says.

With a second picture book due out next September from Little, Brown (Bravo, Maurice!), the 27-year-old Bond, who until recently was employed as a first-grade teacher, decided to move to Paris for a year. "At the moment I don't have a paying job for the first time in my life, which feels very decadent and a little unnerving, too," she admits with a laugh. "But I sort of missed this opportunity earlier in life and figured I should go now if I was going to go."

In addition to polishing her French, she's taking a sculpture class, and is writing and painting as well, of course. Bond, who works in acrylics--"I love the richness of the colors"--is also toying with the idea of trying oils. "I admire a number of artists who work with oil, including Paul O. Zelinsky, whose work is amazing," she notes. "He's one of those illustrators who could have lived in the 1600s."

Bond is not sure at this point what she'll do when she returns to the United States next summer. "I love to teach, and may well go back to it," she says. "Or work with some social service-oriented program as I have in the past. I like the balance this provides in my life."

What is certain is that she'll continue to write and illustrate. After the initial 15,000 printing of Just Like a Baby sold out (the book recently went into a second printing), with foreign rights pending in eight countries, and the book selected as one of Working Mother magazine's "Top Kids Picks of 99," Bond's future looks bright.

Still, she shies away from taking all the credit. "It's almost ridiculous that only my name is on the front of the book," she says modestly. "It's a huge collaboration! So many people put their time into it--it's all of our book. I really feel that somewhere it should say Megan's name and Judy Sue's name. They helped make it work."