12 Days of Christmas – Debbie Ridpath Ohi

All the way from Toronto in Canada comes another friend – the always amazing Debbie Ridpath Ohi. I first met Debbi at the 2010 SCBWI Summer Conference where her work was displayed (and won an honour award) in the Portfolio Showcase and this led to publication!

Here Debbie shares not one but TWO memories, one distant and one recent.



A Christmas memory from the past

One Christmas morning when I was little, I remember being too excited to wait in my bedroom for my parents to wake up. Instead, I tiptoed downstairs and went to the family piano. Counting on the fact that Mom and Dad were always encouraging me to practise piano, I pulled out some Christmas carol sheet music and began to play.

I eased into it, starting with the mellower “Silent Night” and pressing the keys as lightly as possibly. When no one yelled at me to go back to bed, I boldly opted for the “Hark The Herald Angels Sing” and a jauntier “Deck The Halls,” gradually playing louder and louder until I heard my family stirring upstairs. My sister and brother wandered down, and then my parents. Instead of the chastising I was half-expecting, Mom told me how much she enjoyed being woken up by such beautiful piano playing. After that, it became a tradition.

A more recent Christmas memory:

Just before Christmas in 2013, my Simon & Schuster children’s editor (Justin Chanda) invited me to audition for a Judy Blume illustration project. I jumped at the chance, even though it meant working through the holiday season; happily, my husband was supportive. More than supportive, in fact. A few days after I began the audition process, Toronto was hit by a severe ice storm that took out the power from many homes…including ours. My friend Cathy Rutland volunteered to let me work at her apartment, so my husband helped me move all my gear to Cathy’s. After setting up my computer and getting me settled, Jeff returned to our powerless house where he worked to keep the pipes from freezing and other issues. Justin and I ended up emailing back and forth at least once a day throughout the holiday season except for Christmas Day; I estimate I did around 150 sketches and sent Justin 50 of those.

Judy Blume ended up approving me as the illustrator (YAAAAAAAAY!!!!!) and her revamped books came out from Atheneum earlier this year, includingAre You There God? It’s Me Margaret. You can see them on my “Illustrating Judy Blume” page (http://debbieohi.com/judyblume).

As exciting as I found last year’s holiday season, I can’t help but look forward to a more laid-back winter holiday this year. Ideally, one that involves  a comfy reading chair and a pile of good books!

A few images from Debbie to prove her wintery Christmas —
  • Winter-themed found object art;
  • Sketches she created during the 2013 Christmas holiday for the Judy Blume project;
  • and a photo she took during the Toronto ice storm when she was auditioning for the Judy Blume illustration project.

Debbie Ridpath Ohi is a children’s book writer/illustrator whose recent illustration projects include NAKED! written by Michael Ian Black and Judy Blume reissued classics (Simon & Schuster Children’s). Her first solo picture book, WHERE ARE MY BOOKS?, comes out in 2015. More info on Debbie at at DebbieOhi.com. Her blog for writers/illustrators: Inkygirl.com. Twitter: @inkyelbows. Do go and find out more about Debbie!

For ten Judy Blume classics reissued by Atheneum/Simon & Schuster Children’s as chapter books and middle grade Debbie has created the cover and interior illustrations for FRECKLE JUICE, THE PAIN AND THE GREAT ONE, THE ONE IN THE MIDDLE IS THE GREEN KANGAROO, and cover illustrations for ARE YOU THERE GOD? IT’S ME, MARGARET, BLUBBER, DEENIE, IT’S NOT THE END OF THE WORLD, IGGIE’S HOUSE, STARRING SALLY J. FREEDMAN AS HERSELF, THEN AGAIN, MAYBE I WON’T.

And Debbie has sent along this wonderful comic from a few years ago. And there is much much more of this in the places where she dwells on the world-wide-interweb. Check it out!


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