Friday, November 21, 2008

Ilustrator Interview: Dimitrea Tokunbo

I'm excited to be wrapping up the week with an interview with Dimitria Tokunbo, illustrator of Amadi's Snowman.

When you received the text for Amadi's Snowman, what did you want to capture through your illustrations?
I really wanted to convey the colors I remembered from my visits to Nigeria. I wanted the readers to see the rich orange and copper tones of the dirt and pottery, the lush greens of the trees and bushes that lined the roads and the multicolored fabrics that swished by me as the people hurried past.

I see that your father grew up in Nigeria. Did you draw from your own experiences to create the art in Amadi's Snowman?
I have been to Nigeria a number of times and I did use my experiences there, but I also relied heavily on my relatives & friends through the internet to provide me with valuable research and photos.

Tell us a little about your art. What medium did you use for Amadi's Snowman? Is this your preferred medium or do you use others?
I used acrylic paint for Amadi’s Snowman. I’ve used acrylic paints for a few magazine assignments but not for a full length picture until Amadi’s Snowman. For previous books, I used water color and colored pencils.

The overarching theme of Amadi's Snowman is about the importance of literacy. Why do you personally think literacy is important?
I grew up in a family of teachers and story tellers. My great, great grandmother’s sister was a missionary who taught newly freed slaves in America to read. My mother was a special reading teacher before she retired. I believe that reading is an essential part of a good education and I believe that a good education unlocks limitless opportunities for the world’s children.

How do you think parents and teachers can help reach out to reluctant readers?
I think that graphic novels and comic books are a great tool in getting reluctant readers to read. I am dyslexic and so I resisted reading for a large part of my childhood. I loved to be read to but didn’t get excited about reading chapter books to myself. I’ve always been attracted to pictures. And found that Graphic novels helped me (and later one of my daughters) transition from picture books to chapter books.

Do you and your daughters read together as a family?
My daughters are ages 11 and 14 and they still love it when I read novels to them at bed time, if I’m too tired one of them will read a chapter or two. Our schedules are hectic but we still squeeze family reading time in. Sometimes we will be seen riding the subway and each of us is deep into our own book (o:

What are some of your daughters' favorite books?
When my daughters were much younger they loved books like “Is your Mama a Llama?” and “Why Do Mosquitoes Buzz in People’s Ears: A West African Tale”. We went to the local library at least three times a week so they got a chance to have a lot of favorites.

What can we hope to see next from you?
Well, I have a book coming out in Fall of 09 that I’ve written for Scholastic Inc. titled, The Sound of Kwanzaa, illustrated by Lisa Cohen.

Any final thoughts?
I am really glad to be a part of the team that put together Amadi’s Snowman. It was fun to work on and it is fun to share it!

Dimitrea, thank you so very much for stopping by. I look forward to seeing The Sound of Kwanzaa when it comes out, and best of luck with all of your future projects!


  1. Thank you, Jill, for your participating in our blog tour. I enjoyed reading Dimitrea's interview, and I'm so glad that you liked the book. Thanks again.

  2. Agh, should have read myself before I hit "send." For your participation, of course :))

  3. Thank YOU, Katia, for writing such a great book and so thoughtfully taking the time out to answer my questions. Best of luck!

  4. Great interview, Jill. It is interesting how much Dimitrea's personal experiences flow with the book's themes.

  5. I enjoyed the book, and it was fun to hear from the illustrator.

    I love her photo too - so real and open.