What I do
I am an illustrator and also a writer of non-fiction. I often combine the two, as in my books for National Geographic, which I both wrote and illustrated, and sometimes I illustrate things for other people. I love working on all things related to the natural world, both prehistoric and living. I have created illustrations for books, exhibits, science outreach materials, articles, and even cookie packages. Clients I’ve worked for include National Geographic Books, WGBH, Scholastic, the Smithsonian’s Natural History Museum, UC Berkeley, the Finnish Museum of Natural History, the Spanish Oceanographic Institute, Carus Publishing and more. Oh, and those cookie packages? They were for Pepperidge Farm. Scroll down if you’d like to read my full bio.
I grew up on the Spanish island of Mallorca, in an American household. As a child I loved to draw, and I loved nature. When I was seven and my younger sister was five we moved to a village by the name of Puigpunyent. Our house was on a hill, surrounded by a garden and terraced fields full of bugs and birds and the occasional hedgehog. I raised baby sparrows that had fallen out of their nest, kept mosquito larvae in a jar in order to watch them hatch, and drew things I saw under the microscope. A friend and I set up a Natural History museum in the woodshed where we displayed bones, fossils and shells we’d found (to say nothing of the skull of my pet hamster, which in the name of science I had dug up a year or two after it died).
My sister and I went to the village school for several years, and to public school in Palma, the capital, after that. As a result we (and my much younger brother later on) became trilingual: classes were in Spanish, but the moment we stepped out of class everyone spoke in Catalan, the local language. Our mom tutored us in English after school. I was really bad at spelling, but she was patient, and today I don’t have to worry – I’m saved by the spellchecker.
When I was in high school, my father wrote a book about the plants of Mallorca, and I did pen-and-ink drawings to go with it. This was my first illustration job.
After high school I attended Oberlin College in Ohio. Quite a change from the Mediterranean! Instead of being surrounded by the sea, I was surrounded by cornfields. But being with a great mix of creative, zany fellow students was just right for me, and several of them are still close friends.
I started college unsure whether to major in biology or in art, but ended up majoring in Studio Art. I went on to illustrate all sorts of things: first-grade readers, folk tales, classroom materials for the science show Nova, books about local mammals and birds and more. I gradually realized that I could bring my two passions together by specializing in Natural Science illustration.
My introduction to paleontology came when a paleontologist friend of mine asked me to draw a reconstruction of a Mallorcan prehistoric goat called Myotragus balearicus, a small, stocky eating machine with forward-facing eyes. I went on to do other reconstructions, and discovered that I loved learning about the past and bringing it back to life as realistically as possible. I also love sketching from nature, and I enjoy explaining things in the lively format of cartoons and comics. Quite a mix!
In 2000 I did over two hundred illustrations for the Scholastic Science Dictionary. It was a great job, but at that point I was itching to try my hand at writing as well as drawing. My opportunity came when Nancy Feresten, my editor at Scholastic, moved to National Geographic Children’s Books and asked me to write and illustrate a book about prehistoric life. When Bugs Were Big, the first of the When series was the result. The rest, as they say, is (pre)history.
And in case you were wondering where I live now, I spent many years in Boston, but in 2004 I decided to move back to Mallorca. There is a local saying, “Sa Roqueta estira”, which means “the Little Rock pulls at you” and it’s true; I missed the island terribly during the years that I lived abroad. Thankfully in this digital age I continue to work for US publishers seamlessly from here, as well as occasionally working for local Spanish clients.