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Interview with ‘The Change Your Name Store’ picture book illustrator Tina Kugler

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Illustrator Tina Kugler lives in the Los Angeles area with her artist husband, three boys and an enormous hairy dog named Harryhausen.

Tina's illustration debut is the May 2014 picture book ‘The Change Your Name Store’, written by Leanne Shirtliffe, published by Sky Pony Press.

Her picture book written and illustrated with her husband Carson Kugler, IN MARY'S GARDEN, will be published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers, arriving May 2015.

Tina spent ten years drawing storyboards in the animation industry for studios such as Walt Disney, Nickelodeon, and Warner Bros. She also owned an independent children's bookshop, and worked in the youth department of a public library.

Before we get started, let me just commend you for naming your dog Harryhausen!

For what age audience do you write and illustrate?

Primarily picture book, but I also have an easy reader collection out for submission, as well as a funny graphic novel-ish picture book I am currently revising & polishing. I consider picture books to be for ages three to adult. Well, COOL adults.

Tell us about your latest book.

I illustrated ‘The Change Your Name Store’, coming May 2014. It is my very first book. It's a wonderful story and great read-aloud picture book, written by the very funny Leanne Shirtliffe in rhythmic rhyme. The main character, Wilma Lee Wu, is unhappy with her name. She visits the Change Your Name Store and tries out new names in search of the perfect one. The overall theme is celebrating your own identity-- positive self-image and self-acceptance.

Henry: I think some people need time to grow into their names. Hey, I spotted the Lord of the Rings character names on your artwork!

What do you hope readers will get from reading that book?

There is nobody as special as YOU. Embrace who you are, without trying to become someone else. Actually, that is my advice to illustrators, too.

Henry: I agree that we should embrace who we are, but I’d still like to embrace Kate Beckingsale as well. Is that wrong?

What aspect of writing or illustrating do you find most challenging?

I often find that I have a story to tell, but I don't have the right words. I struggle with the rich but sparse language that makes a truly great picture book.

Henry: I’ve heard that some people think writing a picture book is easy. But, telling a complete and compelling story in 500 words presents very different challenges from doing so in a novel.

What is a powerful lesson you've learned from creating books?

Don't presume anyone will automatically care about your subject matter, just because you find it interesting. You need to draw them in along the path to your story.

Henry: Hmmm, I guess I’ll have to scrap my dystopian picture book idea for The Very Hungry Caterpillar Games…

Read the full interview at Henry’s blog on KidLit, science fiction, and fantasy.

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