children's books


 A few months ago we had a little get together with some members of the writing and illustration group. It was there that DAY'S LEE approached me about whether I would be interested in doing a Q and A about the Razia book. Below you'll find the full interview. Thanks Day's!

Montreal has a terrific writing community and there is no doubt that its members have helped me grow as a writer. I met Suana Verelst, an award winning illustrator, several years ago at a get-together for writers and illustrators of children’s and young adult books.  (She also makes great home-made soup which I tasted at our last Christmas pot luck.) Her latest, Razia’s Ray of Hope, is an award winning book based on the true story of a girl in Afghanistan who desperately wants an education and sets about to convince the men in her family to let her attend the new school for girls.  The book will soon be published in the United Kingdom. [Below you can see the new front- and back cover and a collage of the US and Canadian version of the Razia book]


Written by ELIZABETH SUNEBY  and illustrated by SUANA VERELST

DL: What inspired you to work on this book “Razia’s Ray of Hope” and do you have any connection to Afghanistan?

SV: I was inspired by Razia Jan’s courage and vision to start a school under such adverse conditions and also by the human rights aspect of  the topic. I was attracted to the beauty of the barren landscape and the architecture. I wanted to learn about the customs and the mystery that seem to be hidden behind the walls of the houses. When I started researching the project I knew very little about Afghanistan. All I knew was the violent past of the country.

I did have some idea of the Afghan people’s craftsmanship, their jewellery and their carpets. I learnt about the country by looking at hundreds of images and several videos. My objective for this book was to create a dance alongside the story. I wanted the illustrations to speak for themselves hinting at the country’s past and its present tension.

DL: Why did you choose to illustrate the book using a combination of realistic and non-realistic images?  Is there any special significance to the illustrations, or did you just choose to do them that way because it is your style?

SV: I combined photographic and drawn elements to create a contrast or an emphasis to interpret the text. The photo-collages of the buildings that appear throughout the book allude to little Razia’s dream of an education and the eventual building of the school. The dove symbolizes the yearning for peace. The hinges pointing at the burka-clad women illustrate the tension and violence towards women. The pink blossoms speak of renewal and hope. In contrast to the very real feeling of the photographic elements the pencil drawings are softer in nature, the bright colours and textures speak of traditions, customs and hope. Finally, the paper elements and collages that appear as backgrounds refer to Razia’s secret reading and writing efforts.

DL: When did you realize that you wanted to be an illustrator?

SV: A professor in one of my graphic design courses in college introduced me to the art director of a publishing house for children’s books. Eventually I was offered the position of assistant production manager. I became familiar with the making of a book and what it takes to create a book. During this period I did not create or do anything specifically “creative”. This came only later when the senior editor came back from Italy with a fantastic catalogue of the illustrators that had exhibited at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair. I was very much inspired by the creativity and the possibilities these illustrators had put into their work! It was then that I made the decision to become an illustrator for children’s books. The magic and the beauty I had discovered as a 6-year old had finally caught up with me…  again!

DL: What advice do you have for someone who wants to become an illustrator?

SV: Being an illustrator is a wonderful career but one also has to be aware  of the ups and downs. Acquaint yourself well with what is involved in being an illustrator before you jump.

Routinely analyze your situation and career, and be ready to reinvent yourself periodically. Keep creating new work, keep improving, continuous effort and persistence, have a passion for the work, stick to deadlines and  be open to advise and criticism. Talk to illustrators. Study the  market. Read books about illustration. Be flexible.

To learn about the real Razia Jan and the Zabuli Education Center go to RAZIA’S RAY OF HOPE FOUNDATION


a few days ago I received a package of some long-awaited translated copies... i am very happy to show you one of the beautiful copies of la saison des pluies in korean. below you can see some of the interiors and the cover... :))

il y a quelques jours, je recevais mon paquet de copies traduites long-attendues... je suis très contente de vous montrer l'une des belles copies de la saison des pluies en coréen. ci-dessous vous pouvez voir la couverture et une partie de l' intérieur... :))



as temperatures are rising and montreal being what it is during the summer months [hot and sticky], i just wanted to drop in at the blog before i melt away... ;) below is some progress on one of the projects that are waiting to be finished - 

températures sont en hausse à montréal. avant de fondre ;), voici quelques détails d'un projet qui est en attente d'être fini -



here at the blog, things seem to be absolutely quiet...
so i thought to pop by...

during the x-mas vacation, i did some sketching on one of the projects that has to be finished by spring. once back in the studio, i translated sketches onto a large format, un-crusted some of the dried paint bottles ;],
steadied the easel and...
well yes, things are progressing steadily...
until later xo s.
ici, sur le blogue ça a eu l'air un peu trop silencieux...
bon, c'était le temps de me montrer...
pendant mes vacances, j'avais fait des esquisses sur un de mes projets [date de finition printemps]. à l'atelier, j'avais traduit des esquisses en grands formats, mélangé mes peintures et ... parti!
à plus tard, xo s. [voilà quelques détails du travail...]


and the rain is pounding on the pavement, I must admit, that I also, feel that we'll soon be pulling our hats, scarfs and fat coats on. yes, fall is here and some announce ... snow!!

for a little while now, I have been neglecting this blog either i had little to share or was to busy and hope to get back into the routine of regular posting.
since end august, i've been working on a children's book project which i hope to post about a little later on, and soon will start on a new project with the same publisher. the project of
...  has been collecting dust for a while now and also that will have to be finalized. we're still waiting for answers from the right publisher for les enfants disparus and i'll be participating in a new exhibition of a book of death in new hampshire and one in new york + a very new collaboration with anne-gaelle balpe [but more about that later].
have an excellent weekend everyone!
* this mask is one out of 25 heads/self portraits
i completed in 1990, "transformation", my first solo exhibit


the temperatures here in montreal are stifling: inside 32ºc, outside on the balcony the thermometer is hovering around 38ºc - !

despite the hot and humid days here, the illustration work for "les enfants disparus" is steadily progressing. here is the first double page for the project. i am working on another double page i hope to complete this week.
i'll keep you posted!


an image by a photographer, who i don't know the name of, seems to be very appropriate for my present state, except, that the person in this photograph is still and looking at the viewer — more appropriate for what i am going through these days would be a person running — new job, getting used to different tasks, preparing for the roundtable discussion tomorrow at blue metropolis [a first time for me + en français!] and getting ready for my move.

wishing everyone a wonderful weekend! xo