Imagine you’re an eighth grader in Woodbury, NJ – a little bored, a little anxious – sketching horses in your notebook while a teacher, “Peanuts” style, booms out in front of the class. Suddenly the child in front of you turns and says, “One day you’re going to make children’s books.” You may think you are too cool for such a job, but the prophecy sticks with you and somehow comes true. Now you have two picture books on the bestseller list.
Welcome to the career path of Jessie Sima, a pronoun-using writer and illustrator who, in a telephone interview, sounded both delighted and humbly stunned by the success of “Perfectly Pegasus” and “Not Quite Narwhal.” Their accompanying stories introduce young readers to the world of Kelp, a unicorn who doesn’t match his narwhal brethren, and Nimbus, a Pegasus who feels lonely between the clouds and the stars. The pastel-colored creatures come from opposite parts of the planet (sea and sky) and have several distinguishing features – Kelp a striped horn, Nimbus feathered wings – but both have horse bodies.
“I’ve always liked the challenge with horses,” Sima said. “They have so many weird joints.” Sima never went to art school, but spent a lot of time studying animal anatomy books and perfecting a lifelike steed: “I’m someone who thinks there’s benefits in learning how to do a reasonably technical, realistic drawing of an animal. makes. So even though Kelp and Nimbus have little conical legs that can wiggle, I think about the anatomy of horses when I try to figure out how they gallop.”
Sima has written and illustrated five other picture books and collaborated with Christian Trimmer on “Snow Pony and the Seven Miniature Ponies.” Today they live in New York and have no contact with the farsighted classmate. Sima doesn’t spend much time with horses in real life; the author is terribly allergic. They now draw on a Wacom tablet, which “uses digital brushes intended to replicate certain types of traditional medium, such as watercolors or ink brushes.” But if they’re thinking about a new project, or just drawing for fun, they still pick up an old-fashioned black-and-white marbled notebook — the kind that brought peace, promise, and escape at age 14.
Sima said, “Nothing I can do in this book will be fun enough to show to anyone. It really doesn’t feel intimidating; it’s just for me, scribbling and writing and writing down my ideas.”