Interview August 2005
August 2005 interview with Kim Parker, author and illustrator
of Counting in the Garden.
was your favorite picture book as a child?
The first picture books I treasured most were the small sized
Joan Walsh Anglund books, one in particular, “A Friend
is Someone Who Likes You”. By the time I was three or
four, I was filling books with little girls in colorful dresses
with only two eyes, no other features, similar to hers. I also
loved Maurice Sendak’s “Little Bear” books.
Later on, without hesitation, my favorite childhood book was
“The Secret Garden”, by Frances Hodgson Burnett.
That book left the greatest impression on me. The whole idea
of a garden being off limits for so long, and harboring tragedy,
and then it transforming into a magical, loving place by three
curious children, must have embedded itself deeply in my psyche
because all I do is paint my own versions of such gardens!
What authors have influenced you the most?
Well, as I said, Frances Burnett was my favorite childhood book
author, because of “The Secret Garden”. I also loved
all of the Laura Ingalls Wilder books too.
Do you have any advice for young writers?
My advice is, whatever you decide to write about, or illustrate,
trust it – someone will eventually see the merit in it
if created from the heart. I believe that when something is
created with love, it reveals itself, but not until someone
else with that same inner understanding, comes along and embraces
it. That can take time, but don’t be disillusioned if
someone doesn’t “get it”. Stick to what you
What is your writing process like?
My first book, “Counting in the Garden” doesn’t
have much of a “writing process”, as it is a counting
book. However, I write seriously every single day, and have
been working on a few other books presently. In my “Counting
in the Garden” book, which I illustrated, the process
was one of the most joyful experiences I have ever had with
my paintbrushes. I am a serious textile designer, and painter,
and as I set out to create this picture book, I felt so free.
Scholastic had originally asked me if I would be interested
in illustrating any book in the public domain, and I went home
and thought about that for a while, and felt that I didn’t
want to re-illustrate someone else’s already beautiful
When the idea of a counting book presented itself, I at first
felt it was “too easy”, and “not challenging
enough”, as I have a million colorful stories of my own
waiting to birth themselves. But what appealed to me immediately
about coming up with my own counting book, was the freedom it
would give me artistically with my brushes.. that I wouldn’t
be tied into words, and could simply open up and freely express
my love for textiles, color, animals, and children all at once,
without words. The original version I submitted had no words,
just illustrations. The editors felt it would add a little something
extra to incorporate a sentence on each page, so I went along
with that, and had fun with that too. So in answer to your question,
whether I am writing, or illustrating, the process feels very
What was your inspiration for ‘Counting in the
The idea came to me when my mother handed me an Eric Carle book
on counting. Like Eric Carle, I love to play with color, and
surface design. The simplicity of entering the children’s
book world with a counting book, rather than a story book, seemed
like the sky was the limit for me and my brushes. I was happy
to not be tied into words, and to just focus on painting. With
my career as a textile designer, I knew that my book would have
to involve my love for painting flowers. I had an orange tabby
cat named Rudy, who was completely mischievous, always hiding
under furniture and then attacking you when you least expected
it. The idea to put him on the first page, hiding amid the flowers,
sneakily, triggered off the concept for the book. My golden
retriever Maggie, inspired page 3, where the three dogs are
frolicking in the garden.
Did you have trouble with math when you were little?
I still am, to this day, mathematically challenged. I think
somewhere after I learned my times tables, my aptitude for math
fell off a cliff.
If you could be any character from any book, who would
I would be Dickon, from "The Secret Garden". His affection
for animals and his gentle, loving way with them, is something
I feel we have in common. In the book, he always had animals
around him and had an intimate relationship with them all -
something I have with my "children" (pets). His love
of nature in general and his very sweet disposition, although
from a poor family, left me with quite a crush on his character.
Are you working on anything now?
Yes, I have three other books I am working on. One is a fairy
story, one is an ABC Book, and one is a serious book on “Color”
for my other world – the home interior design industry.