Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Using Illustrations in Children’s Illustrated Books by author Marissa Bañez


Hope and Fortune is a modern-day fairytale, featuring multicultural, multiracial (e.g., Filipina, African-American, Latina, Asian, Muslim, etc.), multigenerational, and multigender (including a boy) fairies of different shapes and sizes who help a sad little child who has lost her way to find her path.  Each fairy represents an ideal - Hope, Innocence and Wonder, Truth and Virtue, Generosity and Kindness, Strength and Courage, Respect and Dignity, Confidence, Imagination, Happiness, Beauty, Wisdom and Intelligence, and Love and Friendship. Although the protagonist is a little girl, the life advice given by the fairies is non-gender-specific and could resonate with anyone facing a difficult situation at any point in her/his/their life. Purchase a copy of Hope and Fortune on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and You can also add this to your GoodReads reading list.


Using Illustrations in Children’s Illustrated Books to Add Depth and Meaning to the Story’s Text

“A picture is worth a thousand words.” In contrast, illustrated children’s manuscripts are usually limited to only 1000-1500 words in total. Authors would be well-advised to carefully curate each illustration not only to complement but, more importantly, to supplement the book’s text to give their stories greater depth and meaning. Unlike publishers who don’t allow the submission of illustrations with manuscripts because they want to use their own illustrators, my publisher gave me a list of illustrators and told me to just submit the completed work for final approval. That was ideal for me because I had a clear view of what I wanted the illustrations to portray. I chose an illustrator willing to give me full creative control.

I wrote Hope and Fortune to be a multi-layered story. At face value, it’s a modern-day fairy tale in which a child finds herself in a scary situation. Twelve fairies give her life advice and then show her the way to safety and security. Beyond that, I wanted to introduce the reader to the concept of diversity. First, I sketched the characters to be multiracial, multicultural, multigender and multigenerational of different sizes and shapes. Then, I learned that numbers, colors, and animals symbolize certain ideals and principles that dovetail nicely into what I wanted to say in the book. For example, in spiritual traditions of certain cultures, people use animals to represent kindred spirits to guide or protect them through their life journeys. The various spirit animals I sketched personify the views and ideals of their respective fairies. The illustrator made the computer-generated illustrations according to my exact specifications.

The Fortune Fairy of Strength and Courage is an example.

Female Asian warriors are the epitome of strength and courage. Red is traditionally associated with the idea of courage. As a symbol of protection and agility, the black cougar (her spirit animal) represents a fierce protector, just like the fairy. Am I asking too much for my readers to read beyond the lines? For those who choose not to do so, I hope they’ll still enjoy the story and lovely illustrations. For others, I want to present a challenge for them to see more and become curious about what I included in the illustrations and why. I want Hope and Fortune to grow with the child and, with each reading, for the child to see and appreciate new things. There’s so much that illustrations can convey. Barring a publisher’s limitations, authors should expand the breadth of their storytelling by judiciously curating each illustration to create a more meaningful experience for readers.


About the Author: A first-generation immigrant to the U.S. from the Philippines, Marissa Bañez is a graduate of Princeton University and a lawyer licensed to practice in New York, California, and New Jersey. She has published legal articles for the prestigious New York Law Journal and the American Bar Association, but her true passion is in her children's stories. She currently lives in New York City with her husband and daughter, whose childhood was filled with many original stories and puppet shows made up entirely by her mom. In her free time, Marissa likes to travel, design and make clothes, cook, binge-watch Star Trek shows and Korean dramas, and occasionally strum the guitar. She is currently working on her second book, Hues and Harmony (How the Singing Rainbow Butterfly Got Her Colors), a story about mixed or multiracial children, self-discovery, and respect for others as told through the life and adventures of a caterpillar. It is scheduled for publication on July 20, 2023.You can find her online:



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