7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #692: Featuring Susanna Chapman

h1 May 24th, 2020 by jules


You all may remember this deferred-hug art from illustrator Susanna Chapman back in late March. Susanna visits 7-Imp again today to talk about creating the illustrations for Laurie Ann Thompson’s Elizabeth Warren’s Big, Bold Plans (Atheneum, May 2020).

This picture book biography takes readers from Elizabeth’s childhood in Oklahoma to her decision to run for President. Thompson stresses young Elizabeth’s love for school and teaching other classmates and writes about her father’s heart attack when Elizabeth was twelve years old — and how it changed the family. She includes Elizabeth’s high school experience; her admission to George Washington University at the age of 16; her decision to drop out of college to get married and teach, while simultaneously finishing her degree; the birth of her children; and her work as a lawyer. The last few spreads focus on her work with Obama and her decision to run for the Senate — and, eventually, President. Through it all, Thompson reiterates, Elizabeth always had a plan. With straightforward prose and much reverence, Thompson also stresses Elizabeth’s work to convince “people in power to do something to help those with none.”

Susanna’s warm, relaxed-line illustrations, rendered in watercolors and with a Photoshop assist, are brightly colored and expertly capture Warren’s body language. She’s here today to talk about what it was like to work on this book — and in a time crunch. I thank her for visiting. Let’s get to it. …

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Susanna: This book had a wildly fast schedule! Author Laurie Ann Thompson and I even overlapped for about a month while she was finishing the manuscript and I was beginning visual research and character sketches.


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I received a preliminary manuscript in October 2019. I had only until January to finish all the art, and I opted to give myself a running start by sketching scenes from that first manuscript. I knew it was a risk — I would need to adjust sketches as the words were edited, perhaps significantly. But in the end it was all a good growing process for learning to be flexible with lots of healthy sketch-pruning along the way. Here is one example of how the first spread’s words and images evolved concurrently:


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Final spread: “As a child, Elizabeth Warren never dreamed
she would one day run for president of the United States. …”

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(I can’t deny I was happy to revisit Pluto’s former glory as a planet for that 1950s classroom scene!)

Along with significant sketch adjustments, there were some smaller, fun edits too. The Atheneum team mused that the tea I had served young Elizabeth Warren’s family looked too British and suggested a more all-American beverage, like milk, for the final art. I agree that, in the end, the scene feels feels more true with that small change.



“The family made it through those tough times, together.”
(Click either image to enlarge both sketch and final art)


There was only one burning question that Laurie and I couldn’t answer through our research alone: What did Missy, Elizabeth Warren’s childhood dog, look like? The pup was mentioned in books, but no photos or descriptions of this dog could be found. Since we were working on this book right in the middle of Senator Warren’s campaign, we couldn’t go to her with willy-nilly questions. But this felt important. Our editor reached out, and in a little while we had our answer: Missy was a brown and black 1-2 lb Pekingese with an underbite. It seems like a small detail to some, and Missy only appears twice in two scenes in the book, but we were all so deeply glad to feel integrity down to the last detail in telling the remarkable story of this inspiring and integrity-filled person.



“Elizabeth finished her remaining classes by mail and earned her diploma.”
(Click either image to see spread in its entirety)


“There was only one choice: She had to try. And she succeeded.”
(Click spread to enlarge and read text in its entirety)


ELIZABETH’S BIG, BOLD PLANS. Text copyright © 2020 by Laurie Ann Thompson. Illustrations copyright © 2020 by Susanna Chapman. Published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers, New York. Illustrations reproduced by permission of the publisher and Susanna Chapman. All sketches reproduced by permission of Susanna Chapman.

Note for any new readers: 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks is a weekly meeting ground for taking some time to reflect on Seven(ish) Exceptionally Fabulous, Beautiful, Interesting, Hilarious, or Otherwise Positive Noteworthy Things from the past week, whether book-related or not, that happened to you. New kickers are always welcome.

* * * Jules’ Kicks * * *

1) We 2020 Boston Globe-Horn Book judges made our decisions last weekend!

2) The winners will be announced this Wednesday.

3) My daughters wrapped up the school year.

4) And we baked a cake to celebrate their hard work and good grades.

5) Sharing books and seeing friends, even if from a distance.

6) Because I gave away stacks of books, I can see my office floor again.

7) New music:



What are YOUR kicks this week?

7 comments to “7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #692: Featuring Susanna Chapman”

  1. I have been eyeing this book. Susanna’s illustrations are terrific. I am glad to see Warren’s plans throughout her life.
    Jules, congrats on be finished with the Boston Globe awards yay for the end of school. Not sure how your girls’ distance Learning went but I think everyone is ready to be done.
    My kicks:
    1. Attending the school parade to support the teachers and see kids. Saw some of my favorites.
    2. Saturday morning drive.
    3. Book club last week included a Facebook friend from Maine who read the book, The Dutch House, and wanted to talk about it.
    4. Dark chocolate.
    5. Good feedback on writing.
    6. Sun breaks.
    7. A stack of books to read.
    Have a great week.

  2. Good afternoon, Imps! Hello, Susanna! Always cool to see the process and the changes, like the tea / milk swap!

    Jules: Congrats to your kids, and to your fellow judges!

    Jone: Yes to the dark chocolate, and yay for the books, writing, and celebrations.

    My kicks for the past week:
    1) Inspiration
    2) Support
    3) Encouragement
    4) Comedy
    5) Songs you love
    6) Replenishment
    7) Suitability

  3. Love this book and illustrations, and the chance to see how it all came together – love the detail about how important it was to know what kind of dog her childhood dog was!

    Jules – Hooray for being done with judging! Congrats to your girls for finishing this (unusual) school year! Cake – YUM.

    Jone – yay for attending the school parade and getting to see some favorite people, drives, book club and dark chocolate – you had a good week!

    Little Willow – love all your kicks this week so much its hard to pick favorites – but 1-5 are my favorites. Its so important to have inspiration, support and encouragement. And comedy and favorite songs are essential.

    My kicks this week:
    1) Finished a work project that was stressing me out – the relief at having it done is tangible. Phew!
    2) Finished The Librarians tv series, which was a fun, nerdy comfort watch.
    3) Homemade chia bliss smoothie for breakfast.
    4) Sunshine today.
    5) Planting vegetable starts I bought from a small local nursery last week.
    6) Social distance walks with a friend.
    7) Discovering Tabitha Brown and her positive voice and incredible looking (and sounding) vegan dishes. Going to make carrot bacon later today. (No actual bacon in the recipe – we’ll see how it tastes.)
    7.5) Daisy making me laugh. When she could go to underwater therapy she didn’t need to have baths at home because the treated water was keeping her clean. Her response at the indignity of being made to have a bath yesterday was pretty funny. between the side-eye and the indignant huffs she had me cracking up. And now she smells great and her fur is super soft again. Love that big personality so much.

    Hope everyone stays safe and has a lovely weekend!

  4. Jone, the girls’ distance learning was all optional. They did most of the work, but we told them that they didn’t have to do any assignments they thought were pointless or redundant. We’ll see what the Fall brings in the way of school. … Love that first kick.

    LW: Love seeing your videos on social media. I saw a couple this week!

    Rachel: Why haven’t I even heard of The Librarians? I’m curious about this carrot bacon and will have to look it up. Hugs to (clean) Daisy.

    Have a good week, you all!

  5. Rachel: Thanks! Congrats on finishing that project. I know how that feels – so nice to just breathe after something like that. Yay for the forthcoming vegetables! Awww, Daisy. Hi there, clean puppy.

    Jules: What a great approach to their schoolwork. Thanks for the support! I liked listening to Beautiful and Strange. The music had a very fun, almost circus-performer-like feel.

  6. Little Willow, sounds like there’s a theremin in that song. I got a theremin for Christmas, and now that the book-committee reading is done, I hope to learn how to play it!

  7. Jules: Yay!! Have fun with the theremin!

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