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Tanvi Bhat has illustrated The Shy Supergirl by Shabnam Minwalla, the latest hOle book, published in October 2015. She is interviewed by Lubaina Bandukwala, editor, children’s book specialist and curator of literary festivals.

LB: Do you think that illustrators just draw pictures for the author, or also have a voice?

TB: I would like to think we have a voice. The author definitely helps guide the voice in the desired direction but there’s a part of the story that comes alive in the mind of the reader because of the way the characters are illustrated. When I read illustrated books (and I still do), the pictures definitely help me imagine the world I’m reading about, which makes the escape so much more fun and adventurous!

LB: What kind of voice are you? Loud? Soft? Friendly?

TB: I feel I’m a friendly voice, like the classmate who won’t stop cracking jokes in your ear, making you giggle and not let you finish your work in time.

LB: What does it take to create a Shy Supergirl?

TB: I’m the kind of illustrator who goes largely by instinct. When I read the story, I automatically absorb things like body language and expressions, much like every reader does, and then my instinct takes over. Honestly, I hardly ever have to plan things like, ‘how will her body language be?’ After I read the story, I draw 4-5 quick sketches of how I imagine these characters and I usually find the one among these sketches.

LB: Who was your favourite character to draw in the book? Why?

TB: It’s an obvious answer but it was Nina. I like how she’s so sure of herself and her powers. And even at that age, she’s wise enough to understand that not everyone will ‘get her’ but she’s still confident of herself and comfortable in her skin. I hope all young girls can be like that! I liked drawing her character because she’s not your regular cute girl, beaming with positivity. Her powers make her sense the good as well as the bad in people and that adds this quality of wisdom to her expression which was fun to explore.

LB: Are you a Shy Supergirl?

TB: I don’t think I’m very shy and I’m still hoping my powers will kick in soon. I’m convinced that my Hogwarts letter was lost in the mail or something. But I’m still young. Time will tell.

LB: If you got a chance to be a super girl, how would you like to be?

TB: Firstly, it’s not if, it’s when. When I get the chance to be a supergirl, I hope my power is telekinesis. My superhero costume would be just regular woman clothes and I’d be able to teach nasty people lessons in humanity by breaking bad eggs on them for their bad deeds, without blowing my cover. Although in reality I think telekinesis would make me really lazy. Imagine not having to get up to change my paint water every 20 minutes!

LB: Would you rather be Bill Gates or a children’s illustrator? Why?

TB: I would rather be a children’s illustrator over anything. I’ve tried my hand at animation, graphic design, advertising etc. and nothing makes me as happy as drawing for children does. The satisfaction you feel when you see a kid reading a story you drew is so overwhelming. A while ago, I went to do a book-reading and when I was done, a little girl came up to me and asked me if I’d ‘actually’ drawn all those pictures. When I said yes, she said, ‘OH, so you’re a real life artist!’ She really made me feel like a celebrity! Having said that, a bit of Bill Gates’ wealth would definitely do me good, I won’t lie.

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