Creator Corner: Author Heather Camlot and illustrator Erin Taniguchi

Welcome to Creator Corner! Every month, we’ll be interviewing the creators of our recent books. This month, we interviewed Secret Schools author Heather Camlot and illustrator Erin Taniguchi. Their informational picture book about hidden classrooms and covert education around the world (and throughout history) publishes September 15, 2022.

Owlkids Books: When did you know that you wanted to be an author or illustrator?

Heather Camlot: I was always a creative kid, making up stories for books, TV shows, movies, you name it. When I was older, I decided to go to journalism school; even though I couldn’t make up stories, I did get to write A LOT. It was while writing an article maybe 10 years ago that I came across a novel called Okay For Now by Gary Schmidt. All of a sudden, the stories in my head made sense — I knew what to do with them! Today, I write children’s fiction, in which I get to make stories up, and I write children’s nonfiction, so I get to use my journalism training. Win-win!

Erin Taniguchi: I have a grade one assignment that says I want to be an author and artist when I grow up, so I guess I have known from a very young age. As an adult, my career didn’t start out in illustration, I started as a graphic designer. Then in my late twenties/early thirties, I made the decision to go back to art school, and become an illustrator.

OKB: Heather, what inspired you to write this book?

HC: I was working on my previous nonfiction book, What If Soldiers Fought with Pillows?, when in my research I came across a secret school in Spain. I already knew there had been secret schools in Jewish ghettos during World War II and I wondered if there were more secret schools around the world. The more research I did, the more schools I found, and the more fascinated I became.

OKB: Erin, what was the most challenging spread to illustrate?

ET: The story titled “Word for Word”, where British spies were taught Russian to interpret messages sent during the Cold War. I found it challenging to visualize language training and rooms with electronic equipment in a visually exciting way. I had lots of support and art direction from the art director and designer, so together we created the final illustration.


OKB: What do you both hope readers will take away from this book?

HC: I hope readers come away understanding the risks some people take to get an education, whether it is for themselves, for their families, or for their countries. We are so fortunate here in North America; I think education is something we often take for granted, and we don’t realize how dangerous school can be for some.

ET: Learning about underground education throughout history, and gaining an appreciation of the effort and stealth that was required sometimes to get an education.

OKB: What’s a fun fact people may not know about you?

HC: Even though it came out 20 years before I was born, I am a huge fan of the movie Singin’ in the Rain and one of its stars, Donald O’Connor. When I was 16, my dad got tickets for a show Donald O’Connor would be doing in Toronto. We took the train from Montreal and hung around outside the performance hall before the show. Suddenly a limousine pulled up, and Donald O’Connor stepped out. He saw me – the only teenager among a much older crowd — and put his arm around me so my dad could take a picture! I was so dazed, my dad had to help me walk into the hall!

ET: I am a twin, and my twin is deaf, so I know American Sign Language.




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