David Roberts, New York Times Best-Selling Illustrator, Talks About Imagination, Following Our Children’s Lead, and the Importance of Constructive Feedback, Episode 18

David Roberts is a multi-award-winning and New York Times best-selling illustrator who has earned great acclaim for his distinctive style. While the world comes together to fight a global pandemic, schools have closed, and the public activities that we are used to experiencing with our children are all off-limits. David joined me to share his insightful thoughts about how to interact with our children during this odd time in our lives. He offered this wonderful piece of advice too: allow your children to lead you with their imagination, and pick up on the points they are giving you about the world and about life. David also shared how he uses thoughtful and constructive feedback in his work, his love of fashion, and the art of storytelling through his illustrations.

Sofia Valdez, Future Prez and her admiration for Sade.

David was born in Liverpool and studied fashion design at university in Manchester. After graduating, he worked as a milliner and a fashion illustrator but always felt his true calling was in children’s books. David finally realized his dream when his first book was published in 1998, and since then he has collaborated with some of Britain’s finest children’s authors, including Julia Donaldson, Sally Gardner, Philip Ardagh, Jacqueline Wilson, and Andrea Beaty. He is also the creator of the popular Dirty Bertie books (Stripes/Little Tiger Press). His previous work includes collaborations with his sister Lynn on retellings of several classic fairy stories.  Their book Little Red was shortlisted for the 2005 CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal. 

The clerk in Sofia Valdez, Future Prez, (pictured above) is just one of the many ways David and other illustrators keep stories fresh for parents.

In 2006 he won the Nestlé Children’s Book Prize Gold Award for his line drawings in Mouse Noses on Toast (Faber & Faber). Tinder written by Sally Gardner was shortlisted for both the CILIP Kate Greenaway and Carnegie Medals in 2015. He lives in London with his partner.

Tune in to hear David’s thoughts pertaining to:

  • A reminder to adults and parents: It’s okay to face the oddness of this situation and to not expect too much of ourselves. (5:08)
  •  How to re-introduce characters in a kid’s book to our children other ways and allow them to bring their imagination to life. (6:00)
  • How to encourage imagination and creativity: Take, for example, Rosie from the book, Rosie Revere Engineer:  Ask your child what you think you’d like to invite Rosie to do. It’s about making a space in your life to craft an environment your child wants to explore. (8:03)
  • Feeling as if you have to be everything to your kids right now, so why not play with creativity. (9:00)
  • David shares one of his earliest memories of his grandmother and toilet paper rolls. (11:21)
  • We discuss the moments that shaped us, for David it was during his childhood, when he was diagnosed with dyslexia and how his school teachers celebrated his drawings. (13:30)
  • Listen to David’s career journey from his youth to art college. (16:20)
  • David shares how he began his career as a milliner in Hong Kong, how he stepped away from that part of his life and pivoted to a career in illustration.
  • He talks openly about the process of illustrating a book and how it can be extremely isolating. (19:49)
  • Do children’s books have hidden messages for the parents? Listen to find out David’s thoughts on the topic. (44:00)
  • Sofia Valdez, Future Prez, the clerk’s tiny toe and other ways illustrators keep stories fresh for parents. (53:00)
  • We talk about the mention of Sade (the singer and songwriter) in Sofia’s book and how David created his own plot through imagery and hero-worshipping. (01:00:00)
  • David’s tips for parents during this pandemic. (1:04:00)
  • David offers a tip on how you can find your favorite illustrators on Instagram to participate in drawalongs during this pandemic. (1:06:00)

A key question I ask David is: Tell us about how you handle constructive feedback? How do you let it roll off your shoulders (or incorporate it to improve your output)?

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Melissa Llarena

Melissa helps movers and shakers up to those in the corner office rediscover what makes them unique so that they can land their dream job in a forward-thinking company where their ideas are listened to, valued, and supported.

She brings insights from having worked in 16-business units (including Human Resources) in NY, Paris, and London. Additionally, in her former corporate career, she worked on billion-dollar brands for P&G and on IBM for Ogilvy & Mather. Later, as the founder and CEO of Career Outcomes Matter, Melissa created a 3-step “sellable strengths” process which has been the centerpiece of her clients' results.

Melissa applies this method consistently to support mid-level professionals up to the c-suite to get into Fortune Global 500 organizations and agencies. She studied Psychology at NYU and earned her MBA from the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth.

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