Joanne Gabbin: The joy of creating I Bet She Called Me Sugar Plum grows out of my respect and love for parenthood and my desire to see children in loving, protective homes. It is a touching book about the love between a mother and daughter and the safe place that their love creates. In the stories that they share, there are always discoveries: a grandmother's wisdom, a parent's joy, and a child's curiosity about her origins. The child delights in hearing stories about her gandmother over and over again, and these stories often teach lessons about nature, generosity, and kindness. Using a poetic dialogue to bring life to the two characters, I approach questions about pregnancy, adoption, self-awareness, and self-esteem. The little girl who emerges from the pages of this book is confident, inquisitive, reflective, and secure.
My excitement for I Bet She Called Me Sugar Plum also comes out of my association with artist Margot Bergman, whose enthusiasm for this project is evident in the exquisite collages that she created. Her collages with textures that range from prickly burlap to delicate lace to silky satin entice the book's readers to run their fingers over its pages. She lovingly crafts each art piece to suggest the warmth and affection of the mother-daughter relationship.The book is our testament to reflections on our own upbringing, the memories we cherish of our mothers, and the joy we have experienced as parents.
Margot Bergman: Joanne Gabbin had not yet written the poem when she approached me about making the illustrations. She described the story to me, and I was really touched by it. We had already shared feelings about our children, and we vibrated together on this theme.
I immediately had the impression of how the illustrations should look! The process should embody playfulness, almost like the diversions I used to create with my child when he was little. I wanted to shift freely between realistic representation and constructions using found objects, beads, and fabrics, in a way that would surprise and tickle the imagination of the viewer. But the pictures also had to show real and convincing characters and the love relationship between them.
The poem doesn't use many words, but it shouldn't be rushed through. So the illustrations are full of details to dwell upon and suggest something of the full scope of family life that evelopes the narrative. The ongoing conversation between the mother and daughter takes place over the span of an afernoon and evening. The stories they share about the grandmother go back to when the mother was a child. These illustrations appear in a round format and are slightly more abstract to distinguish them as somewhat remote in time.