HomeBooks by AgeAges 0-3My Writing and Reading Life with Alex Willan, Author-Illustrator of Jasper & Ollie

My Writing and Reading Life with Alex Willan, Author-Illustrator of Jasper & Ollie

The Children’s Book Review | March 28, 2019

Alex Willan

Alex Willan

ALEX WILLAN grew up in Louisville, Kentucky, where he was seldom seen without his sketchbook in hand. His love of drawing led him to earn a BFA in illustration from Savannah College of Art and Design. Alex has exhibited in art galleries and has painted murals, theater sets, and squirmy kids’ faces, but his true love has always been children’s books. He lives in Chicago with his dog, Harley. Jasper & Ollie is Alex’s first book.

I write because …

Whether it’s a new character I’ve drawn in my sketchbook, or a sentence I’ve overheard while walking my dog, I enjoy taking the spark of an idea and letting my mind run with it. If it leads somewhere interesting or even if I just enjoy the mental journey, then I can use writing to share my journey with others to, hopefully, help spark some ideas for them. Fairly often these ideas do not go anywhere interesting or entertaining, but that’s ok too; my dog will always need to go for another walk.

I read because …

Reading develops empathy and imagination. Every book has the potential to be a diving board into wonder.

My latest published book is …

JASPER & OLLIE. It’s my debut book!

I wrote this book because…

I liked the idea of showing two friends who react to their surroundings very differently. I didn’t want to write a story where one character is “right” while the other is “wrong”, but rather a story where both characters can learn something from each other.

Jasper and Ollie Illustration
Best moment …

I have had many “best moments” while on this journey. Recently I was shipped a couple of advance copies of my finished book. For the very first time I was able to hold it in my hands. That was a truly special moment for me.

My special place to write is …

In my head. I know that writers are encouraged to get their ideas ‘on paper’ as soon as possible so they can be evaluated and revised. I tend to find it works better for me if I let the ideas float around in my head for awhile before I ever write them down. I don’t necessarily recommend this approach for others, but it seems to be what works best for me.

Necessary writing/creativity tool …

The support of those closest to me.

The person who has been my greatest writing teacher of inspiration …

I went to school for illustration, not writing, so for me the greatest influence on my writing has been reading other people’s books, figuring out which ones I liked best, and why.

Currently reading …

Cucumber Quest by Gigi D.G. It is really funny and the art is wonderful.

Favorite bookshop …

There are a ton of great bookshops in Chicago and I think it’s so important to support local independent shops. Volumes Bookcafe, Women & Children First, Book Cellar and Quimby’s are a few of my favorites. Whenever I am visiting my hometown of Louisville I always stop by Carmichael’s Bookstore.

All-time favorite children’s book that I didn’t write …

It is impossible to pick just one. Some of my favorites are:

Creepy Carrots


The Wolf the Duck & the Mouse

A Hungry Lion, Or A Dwindling Assortment of Animals

Marigold Bakes a Cake

Favorite Illustrator …

There are so many incredible illustrators! One that I keep coming back to lately is Júlia Sardà.

A literary character that I would like to vacation with …

All of the insects from James and the Giant Peach.

When I am not reading or writing I am …

Making illustrations. When I am not reading, writing or making illustrations I am feeling guilty that I am not reading, writing or making illustrations. But I do enjoy a good game night.

See more of Alex Willan’s work at alexwillan.com, and follow him on Instagram at @alexwillan.

Jasper and OllieJasper & Ollie

Written and Illustrated by Alex Willan

Publiser’s Synopsis: Two funny, unlikely friends—a thoughtful sloth and an impatient fox—make their big debut in this hilarious new picture book celebrating friendship and the wonderful ways in which we’re all different.

Best friends Jasper and Ollie decide to go to the pool. On your mark, get set . . . WAIT! As Jasper races ahead—crashing into the mailman, speeding past the ice cream truck—Ollie takes his sweet time, pausing to admire a butterfly, smell a daisy, and help the mailman pick up his letters!

Jasper and Ollie Interior

With a clever design that shows Jasper’s hectic rush compared with Ollie’s casual stroll, this hilarious story allows young readers to easily recognize the differences between the two pals. It’s a smartly paced, hugely funny celebration of what makes each person special. Kids AND grown-ups will giggle as they decide if they’re more of a “Jasper” or an “Ollie.” It’s also a great story to share the concept of “taking time to smell the roses”—a perfect lesson in our overly scheduled world.

And look for book two from this exciting new author-illustrator, coming in summer 2020: Jasper & Ollie Build a Fort.

Ages 3-7 | Publisher: Doubleday Books for Young Readers | May 28, 2019 | ISBN-13: 978-0525645214

Available Here

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Discover more books like Jasper & ollie, written and illustrated by Alex Willan, by checking out our reviews and articles tagged with , , ,and ; plus, be sure to follow along with our Writing and Reading Life series.

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