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


je suis très heureux de vous annoncer que le calendrier annuel de 2014 est maintenant disponible à la librairie monet. je suis honoré d'avoir été invité cette année à illustrer et à concevoir l'affiche / calendrier qui est disponible à la librairie gratuitement :)

i am very happy to announce that the yearly calendar of 2014  is now available at the monet bookstore. i am honoured that i was invited this year to illustrate and design the poster/calender which is available at the store for free :) 



il y a quelque chose dans l'air ... est-ce ce vent doux? ou c'est les oies agités qui préparent pour leur voyage vers le sud ? ou c'est simplement le changement de saisons et de la prise de conscience que le temps passe ? "...aaaaah, septembre ...!"

there is something in the air ...  is it the cool breeze ? or the geese that are restless and preparing for the trip down south ? or is it just the change of seasons and the realization that  time  goes on ? "... aaaaah, september ... !"

er hangt iets in de lucht ... is 't de koele wind ? de ganzen die onrustig worden en zich voorbereiden op de tocht naar het zuiden ? of is 't gewoon een verandering van seizoenen en het besef dat de tijd gewoon zijn stille gangetje verder zet ? "... aaaaah, september...!"



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 -



as i was working on this project, surprising little elements showed up on the pages. There were many of them that i wanted to include but many of them i had to leave out. here a tiny little detail that made it on the page... [later more about this project]

enjoy the weekend and a happy, creative week everyone!



camilla engman, the illustrators and the jury did a fantastic job getting this book off the ground. a truly, beautiful and loving tribute to a sweet, little super dog,  the smaller morran book project, click here [1 dog, 77 illustrations by illustrators all over the world - 80 pages] the morran book project, click here [1 dog, 236 illustrations by illustrators all over the world - 160 pages] all profits will go to the WSPA - world society for the protection of animals - sweden WSPA international