Penguins. I don’t know about your children, but penguins fascinate my kiddos. Last week, the Bug had to bring in a picture or small replica of her favorite bird for show and share. Of course, she chose a stuffed penguin!

Children’s book author and illustrator Melissa Guion (last name rhymes with knee-bone) also loves penguins — and creates gorgeous whimsical art featuring these charming little characters. Her debut picture book Baby Penguins Everywhere! was selected for the 2012 Original Art exhibition at the Society of Illustrators. Her latest book, Baby Penguins Love their Mama, came out last winter and was selected as a Children’s Book of the Month club book.

I had a chance to catch up with the Brooklyn mom over email to chat creativity + and inspiration. And narcoleptic wild strawberries. You’ll just have to read…

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Penguins. Both of your books just happen to be about penguins — so we have to ask, why penguins?
Penguins frighten most people. I wanted to help rehabilitate their image. To show people that these terrifying predators also have a cute side.

Your bio mentions that you once removed a dead possum from someone’s garage. Assuming you didn’t aspire to be a possum-remover as a child, what did you want to be ‘when you grew up?’ Why?
Honestly, I wanted to be a writer and an artist. I liked to write and draw. I felt I might have things to say, and dreamed of finding a way to say them.

Tell us about your creative process. 
My process usually starts with a character that makes me laugh. These just pop into my head. The character’s qualities usually suggest a predicament they could get into, and voila! I have a story. Sometimes I can weave it into something an editor would publish; more often I can’t, or don’t. I’ve been telling my daughter about a narcoleptic wild strawberry for months, at bedtime. I frankly can’t see most publishers wanting a collection of stories about sick fruit. If there are editors out there who are interested, they should let me know.

Really, most of my creative work happens when I’m playing with my daughter. We’re never not making things up. Creativity is woven into my daily life. Making a children’s book is a separate activity that requires creativity, but also demands a lot of things I have less of, like discipline, motivation, organization, and courage!

Ice Cream or Gelato? (This is a very important question).
Ice cream, all the way.

What three things inspire you right now?
The Carson Ellis original on my desk. The Tomi Ungerer retrospective that just opened at The Drawing Center in NYC. My author and illustrator friends who are making great work.

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What’s the next “BIG” thing for you (and the Penguin series)?
The biggest news for the Baby Penguin series is that BABY PENGUINS LOVE THEIR MAMA is coming out as a board book this fall. I’m thrilled.

My next book will not involve penguins. I’ve been all-penguins-all-the-time for so long, it’s been hard to move on. But keep your eyes peeled, it will happen!

Editor’s Note: Melissa is our featured doodler for this week’s #dropanddoodle project! Join us!

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