Her work spans a wide range of ages and genres, from picture book to middle grade; fantasy to mystery. So we asked Elise to share a few books she loved-to-pieces as a child, for a glimpse into the stories that shaped this versatile artist and writer.
The first book I remember being obsessed with was Sam and the Firefly. I made my mother read it to me over and over. Even though I knew it had a happy ending, the book always made me deliciously jittery because Gus the firefly was bent on wreaking havoc. He made me so mad! I felt so badly for Sam, who had to follow Gus around cleaning up his messes. I was livid every night hearing about that firefly and all the chaos he was causing. If you look at the cover illustration, you can even see his evil tendencies: the crazy eyes…the splayed legs, the waving of the arms to get attention—and poor Sam, sitting on his branch knowing that another night of mayhem is about to begin!
On the other end of the spectrum there were the picture books by Joan Walsh Anglund that were given to me by my Aunt Aggie who was a fourth grade teacher. Old fashioned, simple, elegant, with lots of white space, these books were peaceful, quiet and sweet—like nothing I’d ever seen before.
I pored over the pictures and loved them so much that I was compelled to try to draw them. It was, I’m sure, my first attempt at picture book art.
Also I liked, King of the Wind and Misty of Chincoteague.
Another big, BIG favorite of mine was The Happy Year.
It’s by Margaret Cabell Self, about a girl who learns to ride as a member of the New Canaan Mounted Troop. I loved, loved, LOVED this book! The girl starts out knowing nothing about horses and progresses throughout the story to become a good rider.
This is a true testament to the power of books and how they shape our lives as children because my life followed a similar trajectory as the girl in the story.My parents found a stable for me to ride at and eventually bought me a horse. From there I spent many years riding and competing in Pony Club and three-day events.
Lastly there is The Hobbit and The Fellowship of the Ring books, which were huge for me when I was about twelve. I think reading these are part of what made me want to write for children. This was the cover for The Hobbit that I read way back when.
What was it about these Tolkien books that I loved and continue to love to this day?
I suppose ultimately it’s an affirmation that somebody long ago committed pen to paper in an attempt to conjure a world of magic that I will always believe exists somewhere—if only between the covers of a book.
Elise Primavera has been writing and illustrating children's books for more than twenty-five years. She has received numerous awards for her work including a Christopher Award for Raising Dragons by Jerdine Nolen. In 2004 she was asked to illustrate the Christmas Brochure for the White House. Her bestselling book Auntie Claus has sold over half a million copies and is in active development for a feature length animated movie. Elise wrote and illustrated her first middle grade novel the popular Secret Order of the Gumm Street Girls in 2006. Her second illustrated novel, Libby of High Hopes, arrived in 2012. Her latest, Ms. Rapscott's Girls from Dial Books, was a March Amazon Book of the Month and Spring 2015 Indie Next Pick. For more information visit www.eliseprimavera.com.
Ms. Rapscott's Girls
by Elise Primavera
Dial Books for Young Readers
A spring 2015 Indie Next Pick
★ “Fits neatly into the literary world of Mary Poppins and Nanny Piggins… An invigorating romp with more adventures on the horizon.” —Booklist, starred review
“Move over, Mary Poppins, and make way for Ms. Rapscott...these adventures will entice young readers to take Ms. Rapscott’s advice and get 'lost on purpose' in a great story.”—BookPage
"Quirky and imaginative, aimed at middle-graders who like their fiction with a twist." —Kirkus Reviews
"Primavera charmingly depicts the girls' activities in her soft pencil artwork...the suggestion of a new school term will leave readers eager for another outing." —Publishers Weekly
“Elise Primavera blends artful drawings with a whimsical story line… The story is unpredictably unique.” —School Library Journal
Libby of High Hopes
by Elise Primavera
Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books
"Ten-year-old Libby Thump longs to become the best horseback rider in the entire world. However, her path to greatness is not without strife… Still, Libby is plucky and persistent, and her infectious zeal manages not only to bring about the realization of her dreams, but also to inspire those around her. She is a lovely heroine, and her tribulations are relatable and realistic. Expressive full-page illustrations appear throughout. The well-written story teaches the gentle lesson that life can be unfair, but persistence and passion ultimately pay off."—School Library Journal
On Sale: Fall 2015