Sara Gillingham is an award-winning art director, designer and the author/illustrator of books such as: How to Grow a FriendSnuggle the Baby, The Empowerment Series and the bestselling In My Series. Sara has a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of British Columbia, and a Masters in Illustration/Design from the Glasgow School of Art and has taught children’s book illustration at California College of the Arts and UC Berkeley Extension in San Francisco.

Questions from Kids’ BookBuzz reviewer, Liesel, age 4


Q. Did you ever have to mend a heart?

A. Yes! In my family, we have had to say some difficult goodbyes over the years. I have helped mend my son and daughter’s hearts, as well as my own. While I was working on this book, my very dear uncle passed away. My family is still working on mending our hearts from that loss. We miss him a lot.


Q. I once sewed a Barbie Doll dress. Do you ever sew other things?

A. I used to sew doll dresses when I was a kid, too! I still love to sew. When I have time, I design and sew clothes (for humans, dolls and stuffies!). I made my own wedding dress: it was yellow with feathers!


Q. Why does the book say there’s helping hands all around you? Do you have any brothers or sisters that help you mend a heart?

A. I wanted to remind my readers that when they are hurting and sad, they are not alone. When my own heart needs mending, it’s easy to get lost in a dark cloud. Sometimes I forget that there are friends nearby who would love to help if they knew I needed it. I think it’s so important to let the people we care about know when our hearts are hurting, and to ask for help when we need it.

Sometimes, that helping hand is a brother or sister or other family member – and sometimes it is a friend or a teacher. I do have brothers and sisters, and they have helped me a lot!


Q. Is it fun to be an author?

A. Well, I can’t tell a lie. I love to make things with pictures and words, so for me, being an author and an illustrator is THE BEST! But it is hard work, too.  Still, I would not trade my job for anything.


Q. When you were a child, did you know that you wanted to be an author when you grew up? Or did you want to be something else? 

A. I knew that I wanted to make things, and I knew that I loved books, words, and pictures. I also loved making clothes from a very young age, and a lot of people thought I might become a fashion designer.


Q. Did you have a stuffed elephant when you were little, like in the book? What was your favorite toy?

A. I did not have a stuffed elephant – but I had a stuffed owl that could be wound up in the back to play a song. I chose the elephant for this book because I think of it as an animal that is very kind and gentle. It also has an interesting shape – and two big ears that look a bit like a heart when you see them from the front.


Q. Did you have a pet chew up your toys so you had to fix them?

A. I had a dog who liked to chew things up, but luckily, she never ate my special owl!


Q. Do you have any children you like to read books to? What books do you like to read to them?

A. I have two children who gobble up books! We read together a lot. Right now, my daughter is loving the Mercy Watson books, by Kate DiCamillo and illustrated by Chris Van Dusen, and my son just finished Pax by Sarah Pennypacker and illustrated by Jon Klassen and says it’s the best thing he’s read in years.


Q. What is your favorite children’s book? 

A. I could never, ever pick just one favorite! But if I was only allowed to own one book, it would be Where The Wild Things Are. I also love anything by Gyo Fujikawa and Richard Scarry. My favorite book as a kid was Professor Wormbog in Search for the Zipperumpa-Zoo – I used to get lost in Mercer Meyer’s illustrations.


Q. If you could be in a book, who would you be?

A. I would love to be Goldbug or Lowly Worm from Richard Scarry’s books. Those guys have blast!


Q. What do you like to do for fun when you aren’t writing books?

A. I like to sing, play, cook, watch movies, read books, make art, and be outside with my family.


Q. Where is your favorite place to go for fun? 

A. It’s a toss up between thrift/antique shops and the beach.


Q. What is your favorite food, and is there something you really don’t like to eat?

A. My favorite food is anything salty! And bubble water! I’m not a big fan of sweets.


Q. Did you like to draw pictures and write stories when you were a child?

A. Oh yes! I used to make books and magazines all the time. My best story was probably my own version of Thumbelina when I was 8 or 9.


Q. What is your favorite thing you remember about being a child?

A. You can probably tell by now that I don’t like to pick favorites! I remember lots of nice things about being a child: crocheting by the fire with my grandma at our cottage, having foot fights with my brother, singing with my mom at the piano, building a paper world for my dad’s kittens, and making messy art projects wherever I went!