Authors & Illustrators
Suzanne Bloom is the author-illustrator of the ever-popular Goose and Bear series, including the Geisel Honor–winning A Splendid Friend, Indeed, as well as many books outside the series, such as The Bus for Us and A Mighty Fine Time Machine. She lives in McDonough, New York. suzannebloom.com
Suzanne Bloom was born in Portland, OR but moved to Queens, NY with her parents and younger brother Tom when she was 5 years old. She has lived in upstate New York for the past 25 years with her husband, two sons, and several combinations of cats and dogs, surrounded by trees and weedy gardens. She is the author and illustrator of several books featuring the loveable characters Goose and Bear, including WHAT ABOUT BEAR?, TREASURE, OH! WHAT A SURPRISE! and ALONE TOGETHER. In 2006, she received an inaugural Theodor Seuss Geisel honor award for her book, A SPLENDID FRIEND, INDEED. Below, Bloom talks about her background and beginnings, and why she writes and illustrates books for children.
Q. How did you become interested in art?
A. We all start out as artists, until other interests take over or we become too self-conscious to continue. I continued to draw, perhaps because I was encouraged by my parents and teachers. This led to a painting on display at Lever House in the New York City-wide school art exhibition, and several awards in yearly Brotherhood poster contests. In the fourth grade, a poem I had written was published in a magazine for teachers. It was called “Blue is My favorite Color”.
Q. Why did you decide to attend Cooper Union in New York City after graduating from high school?
A. Full disclosure: I was not a stellar student, a solid 83 except for Art and English. And although typing turned out to be useful, chemistry produced tears and math produced anxiety. So the thought of four more years of academics filled me with dismay. The entrance exam for Cooper Union included a lot of drawing. I didn’t even know such a thing existed! It was the best test I ever had to take!
Q. What did you do after graduation?
A. Having lost a prestigious position at Macy’s (hanging up the skirts and blouses that careless customers had thrashed their way through), I was free to pursue a more artistic job. I worked for an architect, making drawings of buildings (architectural renderings). And I helped my boss create a book on the subject. Not only did I learn how to draw spaces and buildings, I also learned that most mistakes can be fixed.
Q. What ultimately led you to illustrate children's books?
A. In 6th or 7th grade, I had an assignment to write an autobiography. Mine ended with the wish that someday I could write and illustrate children’s books. I’m not sure where that idea came from but I was a voracious reader and the library was only a bike ride away. A next-door neighbor gave me Louis Untermeyer’s Treasury of Poetry on my 10th birthday, full of poems, and drawings by Joan Walsh Anglund. It is a reference and inspiration, to this day. But I was in my twenties when I began actively collecting picture books because the art was mysterious, beautiful and within reach.
Q. What sorts of artistic mediums do you work in?
A. Tempera, the kind of paint kindergarteners use, was my choice for my first book, We Keep a Pig in the Parlor. I wasn’t brave enough to invest in high quality materials. Timidity and temerity go hand in hand as the artist overcomes the fear of ruining that expensive piece of paper and decides to play. Now, my paint box contains gouache, inks, crayons, colored pencils and pastels. Some characters want to be painted with layers of translucent water colors. But Goose & Bear demanded pastel. Pastels let Bear look touchable.
Q. What was your breakthrough as an illustrator of children's books?
A. The first book always feels like a fluke. By the third it seems possible that there is a real path to follow. After showing a couple of dummies to a very important editor she said, “You write small stories.” I‘m not sure how she meant that, but it helped me to identify and understand the direction of my books.
Q. What’s the best part of being an illustrator of children’s books?
A. To hear that a kindergartener said to his teacher, “I feel a little like the bear today!” is to know that the book lives beyond the boundaries of the drawing board or the book shelf.
Fast Facts about Suzanne Bloom
Favorite Books: Because of Winn Dixie by Kate DiCamillo and Webster’s New World Dictionary
Favorite Colors: Blues, greens and purples
Favorite Places to Visit: My back yard, Cape Cod, and Portland, Oregon (in the presence of a friend)
Hobbies: Gardening, the Sunday Times crossword puzzle, building fairy tree-houses
Favorite phrase: “Stepping stones and stumbling blocks differ only in their use.”