Meet the author: Yasmeen Ismail


    The award-winning children’s illustrator and author talks new work, feminism and artistic heroes

    You’re back with a new title – tell us more about Happy, Sad, Feeling Glad.

    Happy, Sad, Feeling Glad is the third in the Draw & Discover series, so really this story starts with the first two books. With Inside, Outside, Upside Down I wanted to take intangible ideas and help kids put them into context. I created three characters to take them through it; Bear, Duck and Rabbit. When it came to Happy, Glad, Feeling Sad the same rules applied. Three characters – Donkey, Cat and Dog – and activities in which to explore intangible ideas – this time, feelings and emotions.

    So how does the Draw & Discover series differ from your other books?

    The style is more graphic and the palette, of course, is very limited. It’s not up to me to make the books colourful this time. I have to leave space for the children to draw, paint and stick. These books are for them; it’s their space to play with.

    How did you first get into illustration, and what drew you to children’s books? 

    I spent my twenties working as an animator and co-owned a small production company. When we drew a line under that, I was left wondering what to do with myself. Illustration was always in the back of my mind – I decided this was the time to take the leap. So, I got a portfolio together and enrolled onto an evening class. After nearly a year of work, I found an agent. Originally I wasn’t sure what sort of illustrator I would be, but I had a meeting with an agent a long time ago. I went in with my portfolio, full of black and white pictures, and he told me, “Your work is leaning towards children’s illustration, but you need to work in colour.” I knew he knew what he was talking about – I owe him a lot really.

    Yasmeen’s latest book features a series of fun art activities to encourage young readers to express themselves

    You are known for challenging children’s stereotypes. Where does that passion stem from? 

    I’m a Girl came from my sister, originally. When we were kids she would often be mistaken for a boy and it drove her crazy. And, of course, there is a new wave of feminism right now, something I feel strongly about. I have been given a small platform and I decided to try and do something with it. I never want to waste an opportunity to give my opinion!

    Are any of your other characters based on real people? 

    Actually, now I think of it, Gracie in Christmas Time for Greta and Gracie is loosely based on my niece, and Lila in Nothing! is based on her sister, and Fred in Time for Bed, Fred is based on Rocky, a friend’s dog. Ha! So yes!

    Who are your inspirations?

    I meet incredible people all the time. I recently met Marion Deuchars, she is lovely. And Laura Carlin – wow! I love the work of Axel Scheffler, Maira Kalman, Lucy Cousins, Marta Altes… but on a personal level, my husband, my sister, my son.

    What does this year hold? 

    Well, I am just coming off maternity leave and straight into a new book. Then another after that, and another and another… until one day, I will look in the mirror and realise I am 140 years old.

    Happy, Sad, Feeling Glad (£8.99, Laurence King) is out April 3rd 

    To get an exclusive 25% discount on the full Draw & Discover series, buy online at and enter DRAW25 at the checkout.

    Offer valid until midnight 31st May, 2017. Terms and conditions apply, see website for details.