Headshots of Deborah Kerbel and Angela Poon

Creator Corner: Meet author Deborah Kerbel and illustrator Angela Poon


Welcome to Creator Corner! Every month, we’ll be interviewing the creators of our recent books. This month, we interviewed Fred & Marjorie author Deborah Kerbel and illustrator Angela Poon. Their graphic novel about the true story of the lifesaving discovery of insulin published in August 2021.

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

Deborah Kerbel: Back in 1991 while I was studying Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley. She was nineteen when she wrote the novel and I was nineteen when I read it, and this coincidence forged a connection between us – at least in my mind. It might sound odd, but I truly felt like teenage Mary was reaching out through the pages, tapping me on the shoulder and whispering in my ear: You could write a book, too, Deb.

Angela Poon: I’ve always loved to draw and make pictures since I was a kid, but it wasn’t until my senior year of high school that I considered pursuing art and illustration as a career.

OKB: Deborah, what was the inspiration for Fred & Marjorie?

DK: I’d come across an article about heroic dogs in history – which immediately caught my interest because, dogs! When I read about Marjorie and her contribution to the discovery of insulin, I knew right away that I wanted to write her into a book. Marjorie’s been called ‘the most important dog in the world’ – her story needed to be told! Plus, I have a deeply personal connection to the discovery as well. My father-in-law was a Type 1 diabetic, and my husband and children are alive today because of Fred and Marjorie’s work.

OKB: Angela, what was the most challenging part of illustrating a graphic novel?

AP: This might sound obvious, but I was confronted with the fact that graphic novels involve a whole lot of drawing! It was easy for me to get caught up in the details and dwell on a single a panel for too long. So I had to constantly remind myself to move along to ensure that all pages were done on time and with a consistent quality. It was more important that the panels flowed and worked together to tell the story!

OKB: What’s a fun fact people don’t know about both of you?

DK: I was born in what is now a police station in London, England. It was converted from a hospital the year after I was born. And also, strawberry Twizzlers are my writing fuel. Each and every one of my books has a bit of licorice hiding behind the pages!

AP: In elementary and high school, I enjoyed learning about science and biology almost as much as art. I even remember having done a few school projects about insulin and the work of Dr. Banting. It was such a pleasant surprise to find myself working on a project about the discovery of insulin again after so many years, but this time as an illustrator for the story!

OKB: What do you hope readers take away from Fred & Marjorie?

DK: That anything is possible if you’re determined and committed to doing the work. Just think: diabetes had been around for thousands of years with no treatment or cure. Dr. Banting had an idea, was determined to give it a try, and — even though he had no experience in research or diabetes — within one year he had discovered insulin; one of the most significant breakthroughs in modern medical history.

AP: The efforts, struggles, and sacrifices of Dr. Banting, Marjorie, and their team that made the life saving discovery of insulin possible! I hope Fred & Marjorie can be a story about hope to readers, as they are reminded how precious the life of every child, adult, and animal is.

 

 

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