Mt. Airy resident Amy Ignatow, a great illustrator of children’s books, will appear at the Mt. Airy Kids’ Literary Festival on Saturday April 27, 1 p.m., at Big Blue Marble Bookstore, 551 Carpenter Lane in West Mt. Airy.

by Len Lear

According to her author biography, Amy Ignatow, who has lived in Mt. Airy for 10 years, has worked as a teacher, a farmer, a florist, a short-order vegan cook, a ghostwriter for Internet personal ads, a telefundraiser, a wedding singer and an air-brush face and body painter. But she has apparently had enough energy (and talent) left over to create some of the most charming and delightful illustrations you will ever see in her series of children’s books.

You can meet Ignatow at the Mt. Airy Kids’ Literary Festival on Saturday April 27, 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., at Big Blue Marble Bookstore, 551 Carpenter Lane in West Mt. Airy. She is one of three writers who will run a workshop starting at 1 p.m. on “Writing Diverse Characters.”

Ignatow is the author and illustrator of the seven books in “The Popularity Papers” series and the Odds Trilogy: “The Mighty Odds,” “Against the Odds” and “Odds and Ends,” as well as “Jedi Academy: Revenge of the Sis,” the first book in the New York Times Jedi Academy best-selling series with a female protagonist written by a female author. It came out on March 26 of this year.

“I’ve received very positive feedback from kids and parents,” Ignatow told us last week. “Kids love how they can see themselves and their friendships in my books, and parents love to see their kids devour books and ask for more.”

“The Popularity Papers: Research for the Social Improvement and General Betterment of Lydia Goldblatt and Julie Graham-Chang,” (Amulet Books) the first book in “The Popularity Papers” series, published in the spring of 2010, began by introducing the series’ characters and following the two girls’ quest for popularity as they prepared to enter middle school. It received positive reviews from the New York Times, and Ignatow was featured on NPR’s “Goodbye From Listeners,” saying goodbye to her old apartment and hello to her new home.

With each book, “The Popularity Papers” chronicled Lydia and Julie’s days as they passed through their formative pre-teen years. They want to be popular, and they observe the girls who are already popular and try to emulate them. Both characters keep a journal to document the process, but “the story progresses from them being overly obsessed with popularity through middle school, where they gain survival skills.”

Ignatow’s children’s books are as different from most as lightning is from a lightning bug. “The Popularity Papers” are laid out like a scrapbook a pre-teen girl might keep, complete with its hand-passed notes. Ignatow found inspiration in the collection of notes from her grammar school days, and she consulted with many of her friends from that time to develop scenes and dialogue.

“It’s sort of easy to access those memories of what it was like to go to middle school,” said Ignatow in an earlier interview.

The entire text of each story is handwritten, and a youthful style permeates the author’s drawings that accompany the text. It is clear the 41-year-old mother is in touch with her inner-child. Ignatow, who was influenced by “my own travel journals and diaries from when I was a kid,” generously gives much of the credit for her success to Moore College of Art, from which she graduated in 2002.

“Moore gave me the artistic training I needed to make the books,” she said, “but more importantly, Moore instilled in me a work ethic and an ability to receive and consider criticism that’s necessary to make it in publishing.”

Ignatow, who has a daughter, 7, and a son, 4, told us that the hardest thing she has ever done was to “answer these questions. I’ve had a very easy life.”

What is the best advice Ignatow ever received?

“Always go to the bathroom when the opportunity presents itself, even if you think you don’t have to go.”

If Ignatow could live well anywhere on earth, what place would she choose and why?

“Mt. Airy, only we’d have central air conditioning and a bathroom on the first floor. And a unicorn in the backyard, which is about as likely as finding an affordable home in Mt. Airy with central air conditioning and a bathroom on the first floor.”

If Ignatow could meet and spend time with anyone on earth, living or dead, who would it be and why?

“My husband. I genuinely enjoy his company. Plus, talking to dead people seems icky.”

Ignatow loves living in Mt. Airy with her family, five fish (not scallops or halibut), a cat named “Dr. Jones” and a snail. We are encouraging her to have her children walk the snail on a leash. So far, no luck.

For more information, call 215-844-1870 or follow Ignatow on Twitter @amyignatow

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