An accomplished sculptor and painter, Rosy Lamb has found a new vehicle for her artistic muse. Her debut picture book, Paul Meets Bernadette, was published by Candlewick in December and has received multiple starred reviews. The deceptively simple story about two fish introduces Paul, who aimlessly swims in circles until Bernadette splashes into his bowl and confidently points out—and humorously misidentifies—objects outside the bowl. From her imaginative perspective, a banana is a boat, a teapot is an elephant, and two fried eggs are the sun and moon.
A native of New Hampshire, Lamb graduated from the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia, where she majored in sculpture. In 2001, she moved to Paris to work for the sculptor Jean Cardot and hone her own sculpting skills. “For the last 10 years, I’ve been more focused on painting than on sculpture, but I find there’s somewhat of a gray area between the two,” she explains. “I paint on plaster, and sometimes my paintings have a somewhat sculpted surface.”
Lamb says that she wrote Paul Meets Bernadette eight or nine years ago, and that the story “came to me all at once, almost as a dream. I once had a French boyfriend who was kind of unhappy, and would say this phrase, which translates to ‘I’m going round and round.’ And it made me think of a little fish in a bowl, swimming in circles. And then I realized that we are all going around in circles in some sense.”
The author put her story aside, “adding some things and refining it every now and then,” but didn’t act on finding a publisher until summer 2010, when, she says, “my husband pushed me to take a few months off and make a dummy.”
Lamb’s book found its way to Candlewick with the help of her father, Albert Lamb, a picture book author who published Tell Me the Day Backwards with the house in 2011. “My father got me an appointment to show my dummy to Sarah Ketchersid, his editor at Candlewick, since he thought she’d like the book,” says Lamb. She left Paris to spend the summer in New Hampshire to complete her dummy—but then hit a logistical snag.
“Rather than showing Sarah my dummy, I showed her that I am a dummy of sorts!” says Lamb. She’d planned to meet with the editor on her way to Philadelphia to fly back to Paris the following day. “But the morning of the appointment, my husband called me to say that my plane ticket was actually for that very day. Luckily I made my plane, but unhappily I missed the meeting.”
Her father delivered the dummy to Ketchersid, who contacted Lamb some months later to express her interest. The timing, notes the author, was ideal. She started painting the book’s oil illustrations the day after the birth of her daughter Meena (now two), whose name happens to mean “fish” in Hindi.
“At another time, I would have found it difficult to stop my other work to do the book, but I was able to paint while Meena slept by my side,” says Lamb. “It was a great way to begin motherhood. Doing this book, playing with colors, was such a natural fit for me, and such a peaceful place to be. Sometimes with my other work, there can be a lot of frustration. This was pure fun, and very healthy for me creatively.”