Canby-born Carrie Tillotson grew up wanting to be a children’s book author or illustrator, but for many years it seems life has taken her down a different path.
“I wanted to be an illustrator when I was very little,” the Canby High School graduate said on a recent episode of The Now listen to this: Canby Podcast. “When I was 3 years old, I wanted to be the person who made the pictures for the coloring books. I was always an art child. I never really thought of myself as an author.
In fact, she harbored a childhood belief that books were only written by dead people – until the fateful day she met an actual author – and it occurred to her that this career path could also be open to him.
But, again, life happened. Tillotson ended up earning a master’s degree in epidemiology and public health and worked for more than a decade as a biostatistician, researching various studies and helping to verify their results and make them more accessible to scientists and the general public.
All along, however, there was this little voice in the back of her mind, whispering that she still had other talents to explore. This eventually led her to the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators website.
“I was always following their website thinking, ‘How cool would it be to be an author or an illustrator,'” she recalls. ‘stop apart from yourself.’ So, I dove in and started writing. That was about eight years ago, and I’ve never looked back.
The journey culminated this week with the release of her first children’s book, Counting to Bananas: A Mostly Rhyming Fruit Bookillustrated by Estrela Lourenço and published by Flamingo Books, an imprint of Penguin Young Readers.
Hilariously written and delightfully illustrated, Count to Bananas has already received rave reviews from Kirkus and Parent review and has been compared favorably to Jory John and Pete Oswald The bad seed series.
The book tells the story of a narrator counting various fruits and non-fruits, and increasingly heckled by the titular Banana, who wants more spotlight. The story is charming, funny, silly and, believe it or not, inspired by real events.
“The story comes from an interaction between my son and his swim instructor,” Tillotson said. “Each class he had to do a skill called a starfish float for 10 seconds. And his instructor counted ‘1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9… bananas!’ And, of course, he thought it was hysterical.
Carrie Tillotson on Twitter: “🌟🍌 It’s finally here! 🍌🌟 Counting Bananas was released worldwide today! PBs don’t often have space for acknowledgments, so I want to thank the MANY people who have contributed to the creation of this book: a thread.1/16@kidlitcaravan @penguinkids @penguinclassroom pic.twitter.com/ T0vjLOsa0K / Twitter”
🌟🍌 He’s finally here! 🍌🌟 Counting Bananas was released worldwide today! PBs don’t often have space for acknowledgments, so I want to thank the MANY people who have contributed to the creation of this book: a thread.1/16@kidlitcaravan @penguinkids @penguinclassroom pic.twitter.com/ T0vjLOsa0K
“I remember once his instructor asked him, ‘You don’t like me counting to the bananas?’ And I just thought, “That’s a great title for a picture book.”
Amazingly, the book also dovetails with Tillotson’s previous life.
“In my first epidemiology class, our professor said to me, ‘As an epidemiologist, you matter. That’s the job,” she recalls with a laugh. “So really, this book is related to epidemiology and biostatistics.”
The project was made by Lourenço, a Portuguese illustrator living in Ireland. Despite spending countless hours together working on both Count to Bananas and its upcoming sequel, the two only met via Zoom.
“I hope to meet her in person one day,” Tillotson said with a laugh. “She is truly wonderful, and I was so excited to be able to work with her on this book. Her work is amazing, I feel so lucky to have been paired with her.
The couple’s next project is B is for Bananas: A Going Bananas Alphabet Book and is due out from Flamingo Books next spring. In this story, the lovable and opinionated banana returns to disrupt the conventions of a bedtime primer.
For more information about Tillotson and her work, visit carrietillotson.com or follow her on Twitter and Instagram @carrietillotson. Count to Bananas is now available online and wherever books are sold.
Tillotson will be hosting a book launch and story time in Canby at 11 a.m. on Saturday, April 23 at Book Nook, 249 NW 2nd Avenue.
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