April 18, 2023

Let's Talk Illustrators #245: Kimberly Annece Henderson and Ciara LeRoy

Today I'm excited to share one of my more unique interviews, with Kimberly Annece Henderson and Ciara LeRoy about Dear Yesteryear. I say unique because there are no illustrations in this book, rather it features archival photos collected and presented by Kimberly supported by hand-lettered text done by Ciara. Again, a really unique and insightful interview––I hope you enjoy looking more closely at this incredible project that honors Black Americans!

Kimberly Annece Henderson photo credit: Kimberly Henderson; Ciara LeRoy photo credit: Ayna Lorenzo

About the book:
Dear Yesteryear is a beautiful and lyrical continuation of that project that addresses the past, honoring the ancestors who made the present possible and celebrating the ordinary goings on of Black Americans.

Let's talk Kimberly Annece Henderson and Ciara LeRoy!

LTPB: Kimberly, where did the idea for Dear Yesteryear come from?

KAH: When I was first given this opportunity, I was trying to figure out what I’d write about; what I would put into words to accent the weight of these incredibly preserved photographs... I realized the one thing I’d actually love to do is talk to the folks in these photographs. That desire to communicate with the ancestors in these photos inspired the poetic letter I wrote – it’s like a thread connecting the images together, while also inviting the reader to connect with them in some way as well.

LTPB: Ciara, how did you become the hand-letterer of Dear Yesteryear? What is your connection to the story Kimberly Annece Henderson tells?

CL: My lettering work was discovered by the art direction team at Penguin, and an editor on the Dear Yesteryear project approached me with the opportunity to design the lettering for the book. My work historically often deals with my identity as a Black woman, and the complexities that come along with that, so I was instantly bonded to the beautiful narrative of Black history— both visually and written— Dear Yesteryear celebrates

LTPB: Kimberly, can you talk about your unique research process for this book? What did you find most difficult in creating this book? What did you find most rewarding?

KAH: Just as I do with my Instagram project @emalineandthem / Emaline and ‘nem, I wrote a line of the letter and would then source an image to reflect or represent that phrase. Some photos I had already seen and knew I wanted to write them into the book. Others were completely new to me, ones I had never seen before. The difficult part was narrowing the image selection and also considering the legalities of some of the photographs, making sure they’re in public domain, etc.

All in all, it was so rewarding to see the final result of the research and the letter come together.

LTPB: Ciara, how did you come up with the unique font in this book? What is your process for creating a new font?

CL: To develop the lettering for this book, I drew from several points of inspiration—the archival photos themselves, reference books about vintage typography & ornament, film & television, even some of my own past lettering work. For a book project, I’m always trying to nod to the subject matter and tone of the book in some way, with the way I design the lettering. My goal is for the visual look of the lettering to keep telling the story the words are as they are read aloud.

LTPB: Kimberly, can you tell me what else you do in addition to creating children’s books?

KAH: So, by day, I’m the Digital Curator at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. My work also includes other curatorial projects like curating the photography featured in the 1619 Project Book, and my Instagram archival photography project entitled, Emaline and ‘Nem.

LTPB: What are you working on now, Kimberly?

KAH: These days, I’m honestly riding the wave of this book release and just taking it all in! I still can’t believe I’m a published author sometimes (lol). Naturally, though, I’ve started mapping out other book ideas and I’m excited to see how those things take shape in the coming years...

LTPB: Ciara, if you got the chance to write your own picture book autobiography, who (dead or alive!) would you want to illustrate it, and why?

CL: If I was writing my own picture autobiography, I’d love the opportunity to illustrate it myself! :) I’ve always wanted to both write and illustrate a book (or several!). I’d also be delighted to have Jade Purple Brown, or Loveis Wise illustrate it.

A million thanks to both Kimberly and Ciara for taking time to answer some questions about this uniquely beautiful and impactful book. Dear Yesteryear published last month from Dial Books.

Special thanks to Dial Books for use of these images!

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