I got a chance to talk to Amanda Jane Jones, co-author with LaTonya Yvette and illustrator of The Hair Book, which publishes simultaneously in board book and hardcover today. These books celebrate the infinite ways people can style their hair and find their own beauty and sense of self, and I’m thrilled to share my conversation with Amanda here! Enjoy!
With striking, colorful graphics and simple alliterative text, this board book features poufy hair, wavy hair, Afro hair, hair covered in a hijab, and more. A surprise mirror at the end encourages young children to reflect on their own characteristics. The message is clear: no matter what you look like, you are beautiful, valued, and welcome everywhere.
Let’s talk Amanda Jane Jones!
LTPB: How did you become the co-author and illustrator of The Hair Book, also written by LaTonya Yvette?
AJJ: LaTonya and I have been following each others work for years – pre Instagram even, back when blogs were the thing. I was always inspired by her advocacy and style and grace. This book came to be in 2020 when we had just moved from the south side of Chicago to a much less diverse area. I realized my youngest child’s formative years would be very different than his siblings which made it all the more important to teach him messages like “no matter your hair, you are welcome anywhere!” I started playing around with illustrations and asked LaTonya if she’d want to write it together and she graciously accepted. My style is bright and fun – eye-catching for littles. We worked well as a team, and I love how the book turned out.
LTPB: It looks like you do a lot of commissioned work and side projects! Can you tell me what else you do in addition to writing and illustrating children’s books?
AJJ: Yes! I’m originally a graphic designer – I do branding and book design and publication design. Also pattern and product design. I update my portfolio quite regularly here!
LTPB: What did you use to create the illustrations in this book? Is this your preferred medium? How does your process change from book to book?
AJJ: I do all my illustrations with paper cuts, so it’s something I can do with my own kids in tow when necessary. It makes for a beautiful mess – lots of colors and scraps. It’s fun to see what we all create alongside each other. I’ve also done vector art, but yes – paper cut is my favorite. It feels more organic and handmade that way. I love the abstract shapes and textures. So far, since I’ve only done three books, my process is basically the same. I write out a general layout, then just start to play! I cut a million shapes and merge them together until it feels right.
As for the illustrative process, we went through so many rounds! The first draft had only color bright colors, and then LaTonya made the realization how important skin color should be in this book, so we changed the palette which made the book so much better.
LTPB: What are you working on now? Anything you can show us?
AJJ: Yes! my first book Yum Yummy Yuck came out in 2019 and then the sequel Fuzzy Furry ouch comes out this fall…children’s books bring me immense joy to create. Seeing children love and laugh while reading them, makes my heart happy.
I’m also currently working on a new clothing line for Winter Water Factory. They partnered with me on some clothing for Yum Yummy Yuck and we‘re working on a new fun collection for fall – all made with my paper cuts. I can’t share any designs yet, but soon! I’m also doing a mural for the cute kids store Mochi Kids in Salt Lake City that’s using my vector illustration stye – all done on my computer.
LTPB: If you got the chance to write your own picture book autobiography, who (dead or alive!) would you want to illustrate it, and why?
AJJ: Maira Kalman! No doubt. She and I have very different styles but I always feel something when I read her books. Her style and writing and just the way she lives her life have inspired me and my work for over a decade.
A big thank you to Amanda for talking to me about her process! The Hair Book publishes simultaneously in board book and hardcover TODAY from Union Square Kids!
Special thanks to Amanda and Union Square for use of these images!
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May 3, 2022 at 10:51AM firstname.lastname@example.org (Mel Schuit)