I was scrolling through Facebook one day when I saw the most adorable watercolor painting by illustrator Amy Huntington – five adorable kids skipping across a street led by the neighborhood hound? Amy’s sweet, happy drawing touched my heart. I stopped scrolling and said, “Wow. I LOVE her work!”
I interviewed Amy on a Zoom call a few days later, meeting her face-to-face as she sat in her farmhouse near Burlington, VT, with her artwork hanging on the wall behind her. Amy lives with her husband, a rooster, two wild cats, hens and one or two sheep in an old Vermont farmhouse.
Her Story Begins
Amy began painting back in kindergarten in North Attleboro, MA, using the tips of pigtails as her paint brush. As her legs grew longer and she grew older, she’d climb trees out in the yard and sit up there and write poetry and draw. She went on to study fine art at a small school in New Bedford, MA called the Swain School of Design, transferred to the University of Florida, and finished with a B.A. from the University of Vermont.
Amy wrote and illustrated her first book One Monday, which was published in 2001. One Monday is a tall tale about what happened during a very windy week on Annabelle’s farm. Cats flew across the barnyard. Sunflowers spun off their stalks.
Her tale spun along too. Amy says she doesn’t consider herself an author, but don’t listen to her. Look at the words she writes, because as talented as she is at painting children, cats, barns and dogs, she is equally as talented at painting fun descriptions with words. Take these from the first few pages of One Monday:
One Monday on Annabelle’s farm, it was so windy, the tin roof banged like thunder.
By afternoon the pigs’ curly tails were straightened out like rulers.
On Tuesday morning it was so windy, all the hens’ feathers turned inside out…”
Amy received two offers for her manuscript, and Orchard Books, a Scholastic imprint, bought it. Amy remembers the day she received the phone call that her book had been accepted. “I was so excited.” She bought a bottle of champagne to celebrate but says humbly, “I lucked out.”
That wasn’t luck. That was pure talent, and all hers.
Amy’s Road to Publication
Amy got interested in illustrating children’s books after she began reading books to her two children on their Vermont farm. One book that inspired her is called The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs! by A. Wolf as told to Jon Scieszka and illustrated by Lane Smith. A. Wolf is the narrator of this book, and Amy loved the clever way the author and illustrator thought outside the box in creating spin on the classic fairy tale:
Everybody knows the story of the Three Little Pigs. Or at least they think they do. But I’ll let you in on a little secret. Nobody knows the real story because nobody has ever heard my side of the story. (A.Wolf)
Amy was inspired to write ingenious, imaginative books too. She sent some of her first stories to Ladybug magazine in the late 1990s, and the magazine published one. She also began attending SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) and spoke to authors and illustrators at organization events. With her submissions came rejections, along with renewed determination. “I just had to learn how to write. I had to get better at writing.”
The Books that Followed
Any didn’t publish any books for six years after One Monday, but since 2007 her name has appeared on the cover of a bundle of them. I peeked into a book she wrote but didn’t illustrate this year. It’s called How to Make a Mountain: In Just 9 Simple Steps and Only 100 Million Years! (Illustrated by Nancy Lemon)
Amy wrote the manuscript five different ways, trying to find a way to make the book fun for kids. She succeeded too. This is no boring nonfiction book for kids. This imaginative NF gem teaches scientific facts in an entertaining way. Amy sold her the book to Chronicle Books.
More to Come!
Amy said Covid was a blessing. She wrote three books and has been sending out more. “I have a few things out there,” she admits. Here is what reviewers say about two of her recent books that she both wrote and illustrated:
Monsters Like Us (Beaming Books, 2021) “A magnificent mishmash of mostly merry monsters.”
Frankie Gets a Doggie (Astra Young Readers, 2021). “Sure to deliver all the warm and fuzzy feels. Cute alert!” Kirkus
Advice for Other Authors and Illustrators
Now that Amy’s become successful at her craft, her best advice to others is to join SCBWI, where an aspiring author or illustrator can get information on the business of writing or illustrating. “SCBWI is really great,” she said. “You can’t beat it, just talking to people and listening to what the professionals say.”
Finally, “be persistent, she says. “It’s hard, but persistence is key.”