Gina Perry knows a little something about feeling small. “I felt small in most ways as a kid. I was the smallest in the class, in my family, and very shy. I was a late bloomer in more ways than one, even into my college years,” she says. That feeling, and finding what makes you feel big, inspired her to write and illustrate a children’s picture book, appropriately named Small.
Small is the sweet story of a pint-sized heroine who starts off intimidated by the ways city life can overwhelm a kid. She comes to realize the being big comes not from her size, but from being brave and trying new things. Loaded with charming, colorful illustrations, kids will see themselves in the titular character, exactly what Perry hopes will happen. “The first draft of Small was absolutely personal,” she confesses. “I believe reading a story in the first person allows you to connect with the heroine in a way that might be more impactful to kids. I could never sing on a fountain to a crowd in the park, but I almost feel like it’s me when I read the story. There is a power in that. I hope kids feel it too.”
Art was a part of Perry’s life from the time she was, well, small, but being a practical child with no real role models or encounters with working artists, Perry decided to direct her passion for art into something employable—computer animation. Still, she longed to focus on her own work, which led her to a continuing education class on children’s illustration. There? Everything clicked. “I met friends, found a critique group, and joined an amazing organization called the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI),” Perry says. “It was 15 years from the time I took that first class to the publication of Small, so the path has been long. There were hurdles at each step, and inevitable rejection letters once I was submitting book proposals, but I felt more determined as the years went on.”
Now, Perry balances being a working artist and author with being a mom to her own small ones. Most of Small was created in a little coffee shop down the street from her house. “I’ve heard the term juggling as a replacement for balancing lately, and it feels like a better fit,” she says. “Mom business and book business are constantly being rotated and knocked around, always in motion. Some days are a struggle because I desperately want to get to my work, but the kids need me first.” Still, being a mom is not without its inspiration. “I love talking about story ideas with my kids,” Perry says. “And I love observing what makes them laugh, or scared, or proud. They are wildly imaginative and constant reminders of how freely we can create when we aren’t road blocked by fear of criticism. I don’t know how I would create my books without them.”
What’s next for Perry? Another children’s book, of course. “I just finished working on Too Much! Not Enough!, out next summer. Peanut and Moe, monster friends with opposing personalities, have an epic rainy play day where the mess and the stress builds to combustion levels. It’s funny and sweet and riddled with a million blocks and cars and paint blobs. It was actually the first picture book I wrote, so it’s amazing to await its arrival in the world as a real book.” As for her dream project? It’s already here, in the new books she has in the works. “I am living my dream right now. It’s a bit like that feeling you have in the morning when you wake up after a good dream, warm in bed, rolling it around in your head. Everything is so perfect and cozy. I’d like to just stay here awhile.”
To learn more about Gina Perry, visit her blog. For some fun kid’s printables featuring the art from Small visit the activity kit. Sweatpants & Coffee readers can enter to win a personalized copy of Small, for themselves or for a child they love! Enter below!