This was Andrea Torrey Balsara’s first book award! She earned the #2 spot on The Gittle List 2017 for Greenbeard the Pirate Pig. When you read this book, which Andrea wrote and illustrated, you’ll wonder why this was only her first award for this hilarious book! (Read Aviva’s review.)
How did it feel to win a spot on The Gittle List? What was your first thought after hearing the news? It felt wonderful! I’ve been at this for a long time, and this is the first award I’ve received. My first thought was, “At last!!” I am especially pleased that the award is for my book, Greenbeard the Pirate Pig, a book near and dear to my heart.
What’s you earliest memory of drawing or writing? I have a distinct memory of staring at a picture I had drawn which my mom had taped to a cupboard door. She’d taped it low enough so I could see it. I remember feeling SO PROUD. The drawing was of a girl with loooong hair and a smile that went out of her face and almost off the page, like a railroad track running amok.
Which children’s book contains your favorite illustrations? I love Greenbeard the Pirate Pig, which may sound suspiciously like I’m pandering, but I really do love the illustrations. (Aviva wholeheartedly agrees!) The idea of a chubby guinea pig becoming a pirate makes me laugh. Drawing a chubby guinea pig who becomes a pirate makes me laugh even more.
What is your favorite children’s book? I loved Beauty and the Beast, illustrated by Hilary Knight (written by . As a child, I spent hours staring at the exquisite illustrations. It was only later I realized that I’d only looked at the pictures, and never read the story. My other, all-time favourite is Winnie-the-Pooh. I have an ancient copy from my childhood, and I loved to read it, staring at the incredible, simple, beautifully rendered illustrations. And yes, I actually read it.
Which artists or writers most influenced or inspired your work? I love the art work of Hilary knight and E.H. Shepard, as I said earlier. Garth Williams and George Selden, the illustrator and author of The Cricket in Times Square, had a huge impact on me, and I read the story over and over again. Beatrix Potter’s animal characters became alive to me; her storytelling drew me in (I trembled with Peter, as he hid in the watering can from mean old Farmer McGregor!), and her drawing style influenced my own. I also loved the Donald Duck comics of Carl Barks. I grew up reading Uncle Scrooge, Donald Duck, etc., and the slapstick humour influenced not only my art, but also my storytelling. There are many writers and illustrators of today that I admire (and, dare I say it, envious of their talent!), but the ones who had a lasting impact on me were from my childhood. I am a case study on why quality books for children are so important!
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given? The best advice, which I am still trying to master, is to run your own race. Stop comparing. Comparing oneself to others is the thief of joy. This, more than anything, is something I am working on, as it compels me to try my best, but to also forgive myself for just being me, and not a book-selling titan. I see some people’s success, and if I’m not careful, I get bitter about my own progress. Comparison is like an invasive weed that keeps sprouting in an otherwise abundantly beautiful garden. Constant vigilance (and weeding), and intentional joy is the antidote.
Andrea Torrey Balsara lives in Ontario, Canada with her husband. She is the proud mom of two adult daughters, two dogs, two cats, and two hives of bees. She writes and illustrates for young children up to young adults.