Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Author Kelly Light Talks Mentor Texts

By Kirsti Call

My children and I adore Kelly Light and her book,  Louise Loves Art.  We not only have read the book over and over, we also sing along to Emily Arrow's Louis Loves Art song in the car. So it was thrilling news to hear that today,  Louis and Andie: The Art of Friendship is  released! Congrats, Kelly!  

Thanks for being here, Kelly.  Do you utilize picture books as mentor texts?  -If so, how? 

I spent years sitting in book stores and libraries, pouring over piles of picture books. I don’t use mentor texts as much now. I write straight from my imagination and my heart. The books I read now are mostly made by friends or are the ones that make my jaw hit the floor. I am always inspired by the work of fellow creators. The world of picture books is an endless source for artistic inspiration. 

There is not only less time to read a lot of books with all of my deadlines, there is also a time…after the long period of study...to make books and to get quiet and block out the rest of the world and go inward and hear your own voice.

2. How has reading picture books helped you discover who you are as a writer? 

Brevity is not only the soul of wit, it is the soul of a picture book. To learn the balance of picture and word, one must read as many picture books as it takes. I write in pictures. I write in storyboards. I draw hundreds of little pictures before I choose just the right words and only the fewest words that the pictures need.  

3. Were there any particular mentor texts that inspired you in the creation of Louise Loves Art and Louise and Andie: The Art of Friendship? (or any other upcoming books)

With Louise and Andie, I focused so much more on the idea of building upon the first and growing the series. I needed to open up Louise’s world and I need to continually do that. I looked through some of the character driven series that exist already but mostly, I looked at recurring Sunday funny page strips like Dennis the Menace by Hank Ketcham. I wanted the episodic feel of that strip. The returning back to Louise’s house and bedroom and world, like we just left. I would get that every Sunday in the funny pages.

My mentors come from cartoons and comics, not just from picture books. 

4. What do you feel is the BEST way for picture book writers to utilize mentor texts?

I believe you should study what you love deeply as a forensic artist. I narrow it down to the books and the book makers that really make an indelible mark on me. Then, I will book map their books. I break down the page layout in basic shapes, I try to see how they create a page turn. I not only count the words, I compare each image to the words on the page and see how the two interact. Why so many words? Why so few? 

I pay particular attention to pacing. I try to find the beats. I mark all of this down in little thumbnails in a sketchbook.

Then, when it’s time to make my own book? I never look at it.

I’ve done the study. It should be in my head. It will influence what comes out of my pencil but I don’t want it in the forefront of my mind. I want to have a library in my mind to reference and inform my work that is built on a foundation of the work I love most in my favorite genres of art. I also hope that all of my influences mix together and are poured out through a filter - of my own.

About Lousie and Andie: The Art of Friendship
Louise loves art more than anything.
Imagine her delight when a new neighbor, Andie moves in... and she loves art too!
It's the best day ever!
But liking the same thing doesn't always mean you agree on it. Can they overcome their creative differences?

Kelly Light lives in New York but grew up down the shore in New Jersey surrounded by giant pink dinosaurs, cotton candy colors, and Skee-Ball sounds. She was schooled on Saturday-morning cartoons and Sunday funny pages. She picked up a pencil, started drawing, and never stopped.

Kelly is the author/Illustrator of the Louise series. Louise Loves Art and Louise and Andie, The Art of Friendship (6/14/16) are the first two books in the series. Upcoming books are Louise and the Lucky Pencil (2017) and The Smiley Family Album (2018). Kelly has also illustrated Elvis and the Underdogs and Elvis and the Underdogs: Secrets, Secret Service, and Room Service by Jenny Lee, and The Quirks series by Erin Soderbergh.


  1. Great interview! I like how you use Sunday comics also as mentor texts, Kelly.

  2. I loved Louise Loves Art and this one looks lovely too. Congrats, Kelly & thanks, Carrie :)

    1. Thanks to Kirsti for working on this interview with Kelly. :)

  3. Great interview! And congratulations on Louis and Andie: The Art of Friendship.

  4. Looking forward to reading Louise and Andie, Kelly. 'LOUISE LOVES ART' was so much fun so I know I am in for a treat with 'LOUISE AND ANDIE, THE ART OF FRIENDSHIP'.
    What really resonated with me though is how you used your mentor texts. I do the same thing and that adds not only another element to understanding how to write a great picture book, it was also really fun to break it down like that. Thank you for sharing your insight, let's me know I am on the right track.

    Best of luck to you. Keep the Louise books coming!!!

  5. Very interesting to hear about your process and about what you read now.Thanks for the great interview!

  6. Loved reading about the mentor book pouring over process. Also, congratulations. :)

  7. I find myself studying fewer books more in-depth now. At first, I worried I was being lazy about notes, but I think it's because I've internalized some of it. I like your way of choosing your favorites. Thanks!

  8. I love this post! Writing a sequel is much more interior than a first book with a given structure or character, I think. But I love Kelly's thoughts about mentor texts in general. Thanks, Carrie and Kelly!