By Judy Antell

If You Give An Artist a Story


Felicia Bond is a modern-day Beatrix Potter, known for her appealing illustrations of animals. The Bronxville native’s success in the world of children’s book began 20 years ago, when she illustrated If You Give a Mouse a Cookie. The If You Give books are perennial best-sellers, and Mouse Cookies & More: A Treasury (HarperCollins, $24.95) is her latest accomplishment.

Bond says she never thought about the books becoming so popular. In fact, she had just quit a job as an art director in New York, and had moved from the city, when she was asked to illustrate Laura Numeroff’s story idea. The two collaborate in a way that sounds surprisingly non-collaborative, though it’s the norm in picture books; Numeroff writes the books, and sends them on to Bond for illustration. They work entirely separately, and in fact rarely see each other, though they have “worked together” for two decades. Bonds admits she found the immediate success of Mouse “overwhelming”, but gradually grew used to her success.

Since Bond doesn’t have children, she draws on her own childhood, as one of seven kids, to convey the books’ sense of fun. And she uses real-life friends as models for her characters: a former boyfriend is Mouse, and she is the girl in Pig. In one of the books she wrote and illustrated by herself, Poinsettia and Her Family, the title character (also a pig) has six siblings.

Though Bond creates a ‘back story’ for the characters to aid her artistic process (Treasury includes mouse’s home, which never appears in the stories), she says she has never ascribed names to the characters; they are simply, Mouse, Pig and Moose.

One of Bond’s favorite books as a child was the relatively obscure Candy Floss, by Rumer Godden. She also loved the “painterly, expressive Madeline books, and the graphics of Goodnight Moon.”

The new Mouse Cookies & More has the complete books of If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, If You Give a Pig a Pancake, If You Give a Moose a Muffin, and If You Take a Mouse to School. It also includes related recipes, songs, and a CD with the books read by actors.

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