Emma Reynolds: Interview

Yippee! Emma Reynolds is HERE.

Have you read her picture book, written by Aaron Reynolds? It is hilarious. Speaking from a teacher’s view point for a minute – children ALWAYS do a double take when they spot you outside the school grounds… and Rescuing Mrs Birdley captures that so brilliantly.

After chuckling through the pages of Rescuing Mrs Birdley I reached out to Emma, and tempted her in to answer My Book Corner’s infamous questions. Enjoy…

Tell us about you in 25 words or less.

Hi! I’m Emma, a children’s illustrator and author who loves nature, and making books!

Tell us how your latest book came to be?

I had just signed with my amazing agent Thao Le from Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency in August 2018, and a few weeks later Thao told me that Justin Chanda from Simon & Schuster had seen our announcement online and thought I’d be perfect for a nature-y book they had coming up! I was sent over Aaron Reynold’s manuscript for ‘Rescuing Mrs. Birdley’ about an adventurous, wildly fantastic little girl called Miranda and it was an instant YES! I worked on illustrating the book with my amazing art director and designer Lizzy Bromley over a year, and now it’s finally out in the wild, horray! 😀

 Ok, here’s a challenge… can you sum up your book in five words? [runs and hides!]

Adventurous girl, teacher nature rescue/mayhem (6 shh!)

What does a typical day look like for you?

I get up! (Not an early riser, my circadian rhythm is a late start late finish :)) Do my exercises and stretches, have my breakfast (usually a banana, oat milk and peanut butter smoothie but lately I re-discovered how amazing Wheetos are!) and work from 11ish-lunch, then back to it until dinner, and then a few hours after that 🙂 Before the pandemic I would work a lot in my fav local cafe! But for now, I’m working in my bedroom 🙂

What’s your worst habit?

Addiction to pizza! Though to be fair, I am not ashamed of this haha.

Can you share some of your illustration process for Rescuing Mrs Birdley with us?


I start SUPER rough, as you can see here! The first round of thumbnails are just about basic blocking and communicating what is going to be on each page. It’s not about being super neat at this point.

I worked closely with my lovely and amazing art director & designer Lizzy Bromley throughout this whole process. Some of the thumbnails don’t change that much until final art, but a lot did.


More Refined Sketch


Colour Key Rough


Final Outlines


Final Artwork

I did colour keys for the entire book – not too much detail, but it showed me how the book would look as a whole, and was an invaluable guide throughout!


We had three main palettes in the book – the warm natural palette of her ‘real world’ suburbia, the limited palette of green tones and flashes of yellow to show the ‘Nature Joe World’ where Miranda is imagining that, and then the supermarket cool colours.


Nature Joe palette on the left where she is setting her trap for Mrs. Birdley.
Supermarket reality palette on the right where the trap fails and the poor Deli Man gets caught up in the action!!

I hope you enjoyed a little window into my book making process!

What are your top tips for budding illustrators?

– Be yourself! Let me elaborate. Ask yourself not ‘what SHOULD I be doing?’ And ask yourself ‘What do I WANT to be doing?’ Seems simple but it can really help define what you actually want to make and spend your time doing.

– Make the kind of art you want to be commissioned for, and fill your portfolio and social media with it. Let the world know what you wanna be hired for! Wanna work in editorial (aka magazines)? Find an article you’re interested in and make a self initiated illustration of it. Make it into a mockup (lots of free ones online – google ‘free magazine mockup for designers) and show your work in context. In summary – Make your portfolio filled with the things you -want- to be commissioned for! That is what I did with my ‘Amara and the Bats’ project, and it eventually got me my agent and a book deal!

– Wanna make picture books? Make a picture book dummy! A dummy is a fully sketched out version of a picture book, usually 32 pages which includes the front, back, endpapers, title page and copyright page in that page count. Along with the sketched pages, about 3 of the spreads should be fully illustrated to show agents and publishers your finished work in the context of a picture book! Don’t write? Don’t worry! Use a copyright free fairytale and put your own spin on it 😀 You can also illustrate your own version of book covers for existing fiction books to show off your skills.

Can you give us a glimpse / hint at your current WIP? (I can bribe you with cake!)

I’m currently finishing the artwork for my author-illustrator debut ‘Amara and the Bats’! About a little girl who loves bats, but when she moves to a new town she is sad that no bats live nearby because so many trees are being cut down. So, determined to make a difference, Amara rallies with her new friends to save the bats! It’s a story about perseverance in the face of climate anxiety, community action, and hope.

Did we forget anything?

Wear a mask y’all!
And thank you so much for having me on board! 🙂

Just for fun

Tea or coffee?
Twinings Green tea with Mango and a slice of Battenberg cake 🙂
Paper books or e-books?
Paper books! I have nothing against e-readers I just don’t have one.
Cake or chocolate?
Hmmmmm… Cake!
Write or type?
Both! Mostly type though.
Poetry or prose?
Oof that’s hard I love both. I used to want to be a poet in fact!
Hot or cold?
I’m always ruddy hot!! So I’d have to say cold 🙂


Hugest thanks to Emma Reynolds, for this amazing insight into picture book creation!

Twitter: @EmmaIllustrate

Instagram: @emmaillustrate


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