A trip into my daughter’s closet last week revealed a startling discovery: the Bug has a serious shoe fetish.

We have an assortment of boots (cowgirl, UGGs, rainboots), three kinds of sneakers (light-up, glitter, gym shoes), ballet shoes, tap shoes, gymnastic shoes and don’t even get me started on the flats… {Her collection puts my three-pairs-a-season to shame. On a side note, I should remedy that}.

So when local Baltimore publisher duopress released Isabella’s Shoe Studio: Read! Doodle! Create! (A Doodle Storybook) by Violet Lemay, a book that provides space for your stylish pint-sizer design over 100 shoes, I knew it would be a surefire winner in our house.

Or as Heidi Klum so eloquently puts in on Project Runway, I would be ‘in’ — not out.

Isabella's Shoe Studio - (cool) progeny

The Bug LOVES the book. I love the fact that she can doodle and create along with Isabella, stimulating her imagination and giving her an outlet for creativity that’s not my family room wall. It’s a perfect blend of art and literacy.

I caught up with author Violet Lemay to learn more about Isabella, the series and her fashion inspiration.

Isabella's Shoe Studio - (cool) progeny

Your doodle story book concept is fantastic and a great way to engage young readers. We’ve seen such creativity with your foodie books and state/city-inspired doodle books. I’m curious though — why a doodle concept for Isabella and not just a picture book?

My first draft for Isabella’s Shoe Studio actually was a manuscript for a picture book, but duopress—who contracted the manuscript—publishes “innovative books for curious children.”Isabella’s Shoe Studio had to be more than a picture book; it had to be innovative and, if possible, interactive. After having illustrated eight doodle books for duopress, applying the doodle concept to the picture book manuscript to make it more innovative was the first (and only!) idea that sprang to mind. We were excited to merge a story with drawing activities. As an art professor and a mom I have to say, I think the Doodle Storybook™ concept is genius. I wish books like this had existed when my son was younger. Mauricio Velázquez De León, owner of duopress, gets all of the credit for the concept, and he helped with every step in the long process of making the book.

Isabella's Shoe Studio - (cool) progeny

What I love about this book — even more than the fact that kids can draw along — is the character development. Isabella has such personality! How did you come up with the character?

Thanks to my complete inability to write fiction, there is a lot of me in Isabella, with two notable differences: First, Isabella is outgoing. I tend to be introverted and quiet. I have heard that “quiet” manuscripts for kids’ books get rejected, so I was careful not to let my social inhibitions affect little Isabella. Something else that helped was this question from a business book that I read once: “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?” I kept that in the back of my mind while writing the manuscript. Isabella is me, if I wasn’t afraid. I wanted her to be a good, strong role model for girls, and she needed some chutzpah for that. Second, Isabella’s parents and grandmother all work in creative fields and obviously have a great appreciation for the arts. My parents are wonderful in every way and I wouldn’t change them for the world, and they are nothing like Isabella’s parents. A fairly “normal” midwestern couple of the boomers’ generation, they weren’t exactly stocking our shelves with books about Le Corbusier. By contrast, Isabella’s home environment is a lot like a college art classroom!

One of the themes that really comes across in the book is finding inspiration for art and design through everyday experiences. Isabella is inspired by her mom, her nana, and more. What three things inspire you right now?

There are three things that always inspire me: sitting in a well-designed book store cafe; window-shopping in a bustling city; and wandering through an airy art museum—including the gift shop. Unfortunately my lifestyle doesn’t afford opportunities to do any of that most days, so, like Isabella, I have learned to take inspiration from everything around me. I collect children’s books and patterned paper for their illustration, design and palettes, which I flip through quite regularly. Also, I watch a lot of movies. It’s amazing how much inspiration can come from the opening and/or closing credits of a well-crafted film.

Isabella's Shoe Studio - (cool) progeny

It’s fitting that the design of Isabella’s Shoe Studio is so stylish… particularly the decision to print in pink and black ink. Reminds me of the Eloise or Olivia series. What influenced your illustration/design decisions in this particular work?

It’s funny you mention Eloise and Olivia—both are huge favorites of mine. My love of those books and any nostalgic two- or three-color children’s books (Harry the Dirty Dog, Pretzel, etc) is always in my mind affecting every design decision that I make, ever. As far as more contemporary books go, I love the use of pattern in Les Exploits de Bombilla by Sophie Dutertre, and I can Do It Myself, illustrated by Sara Gillingham.

I have a little budding fashion designer in our home. How fun! She’s curious what Isabella would do if she went to New York Fashion Week?

First of all, obviously Isabella would explode with excitement at the prospect of going to Fashion Week. Her mom and Nana wisely understand that anticipating an event is half the fun, so… Together, the three of them would spend the months preceding the event putting together just the right outfits to wear: the perfect age-appropriate combinations of comfort and style; comfort being of primary importance, with style running a close second.

Isabella would ask for (and receive!) a brand-new sketchbook, packs of pencils and erasers, and a canvas messenger bag—which she would personalize, of course, with puffy fabric markers. She would carry the bag with her at all times, giving her easy access to her sketchbook, so that she could jot down ideas and inspirations for future projects. While in NYC she would attend events in the morning with her mom (who tries not to miss ANY of them and rues the fact that certain shows overlap), while making little trips to Kate Spade, FAO Swartz, and the Central Park Zoo in the afternoons with Nana.

They would also squeeze in a few museum visits, if possible, and a day in the garment district shopping for fabrics, buttons, and trims. Isabella would be happy whether sitting in the dark for Fashion Week runway shows, or beside her Nana in a subway, bus or cab—but her very favorite thing about traveling anywhere, even to Fashion Week, is breakfast in the hotel. And no matter where she is, she is always noticing and sketching shoes.

Regarding her favorite designers, Isabella appreciates all fashion—especially any nod to the likes of Audrey Hepburn or Grace Kelley. Pamela Roland never disappoints. 🙂

What’s next for Isabella? For you?

Isabella wants to make art accessible to all children, so she is considering starring in a book with themes that are broader than her Shoe Studio endeavor. Meanwhile, she has been doing some traveling—if you scroll down on her Facebook fan page, you’ll find links to several vacation slide shows that are very cute and fun. She was even recently in Federal Hill!

That’s as specific as I can be right now, concerning Isabella.  {Editor’s Note: We got the 411 from Violet’s publisher that she’s working on another Isabella book… can’t wait!}

As for me? Hmmm. As a free-lancer, it’s always difficult for me to answer questions about my future. Many days I don’t know what I’m doing until I check my e-mail. I just finished three art assignments for duopress, all with a Spring 2014 release date, and just today I sent in an editorial illustration for USA Today, which will be published soon. Meanwhile, as duopress’s art director, I am busy helping teams of artists with a variety of other upcoming duopress projects.

In other words, my life is wonderful.

(cool) tip: Have a little fashionista in your house? Pick up a copy of Isabella’s Shoe Studio from your favorite local bookstore — and download the FREE paper doll and clothes from Violet’s blog!