My interest in animals and nature as well as my love of color and rhyme began in my formative years. I grew up in sunny Miami, surrounded by lush vegetation, flowers and skittering lizards. I loved visiting an attraction called the Parrot Jungle, where I was enchanted by the birds’ bright, bold colors and feathered patterns. I also spent a few childhood years in Ireland. The Irish landscape was green and sparkly, filled with cows, horses and other animals I’d never seen in tropical Miami.
Throughout these years, my mother, a published poet and author, instilled in me a love of words. She used to rhyme them together in a casual, playful way, showing me that words were joyful and to be celebrated. My favorite was “Shake and shake the ketchup bottle; none will come and then a lot’ll!”
After graduating from college as an art major, I exhibited my paintings of fantasy landscapes and animals. I also freelanced as a textile designer for the clothing industry, giving me an opportunity to express my love of pattern and color, which are still hallmarks of my artwork in children’s books.
The idea for Fabulous Fishes emerged during a snorkeling trip that my husband and I took to Belize. I was astounded by the diversity, shape and color of the fishes I saw beneath the water. My most memorable moment was when our snorkeling guide pulled back a rock to reveal a porcupine fish, looking right up at me like a big balloon.