Publishers Weekly called Josie and the Scary Snapper, Elisa Downing’s debut picture book, “ideal for bedtime reads,” a book that will “resonate with readers who might be afraid of the dark” because it gives “a salient reminder of the power they hold within themselves.” We reached out to Downing to ask her about her love of picture books and how she met Isadora Machado, her illustrator.
Your passion seems to be picture books. What draws you to them?
Picture books are one of my biggest passions! I think we can learn so much from books for kids. They tell us everything about how we see the world and childhood. If you’ll allow me a nerd moment: as a medium, picture books exist somewhere between literature and more visual forms of storytelling like film and comics. To me, the way image and text work together in picture books is fascinating and totally unique to anything else I’ve written or studied. These kinds of books offer so much in terms of meaning.
It can be difficult to find an illustrator you connect with. How did you meet Isadora?
Isadora and I met online. My vision for Josie’s world was one of bold colors and cute monsters—those were my only ideas to start out with! As soon as I saw Isadora’s portfolio, I knew her art would complement what I’d written perfectly. Isadora took my sparse ideas and turned them into these gorgeous and detailed illustrations. She’s amazingly skilled, and many reviews for Josie have mentioned how much kids love the monsters. The coatrack monster seems to be a particular hit.
What do you hope children take away from Josie and the Scary Snapper?
My number-one goal in writing Josie is to help kids with their fear of the dark. But, beyond that, I really hope the story of empowerment hits home with kids, and they take away the idea that they have the power to acknowledge, examine, and reframe their fears. As a writer, I wanted to be very specific that Josie faces her fear on her own. In so many picture books about fear, parent characters swoop in to save the day at the end. Nothing is wrong with that, of course, but I wanted the parent’s role in my story to be someone who instead offers a tool for Josie to use—the Scary Snapper. That way, Josie can discover that it’s possible for her to be brave on her own.