In her debut children’s book, Tea with Oliver, author-illustrator Mika Song tells the story of two lonely little critters finally connecting as friends. Oliver is a cat who just wants someone to share his tea and cookies with. Philbert is a mouse who lives under Oliver’s couch and wants to be that someone Oliver shares tea and cookies with, if only he could get Oliver’s attention! In our Meet the Illustrator chat, Mika talks about her childhood surrounded by art and artists, shares a simple yet sweet sketch of herself, and recommends a new picture book that completely blew her away.
What first made you excited about art?
My life was filled with art. My father is a photographer. My family was always around artists. My first love of art was dance. My mom worked at a cultural center and so I was able to watch practices and performances. I loved how people could express themselves with just their bodies. I was always drawing and looking at books.
What’s your favorite thing to draw at the moment?
Trucks and squirrels. Want to see? They’re feisty.
Which illustration from Tea with Oliver did you especially enjoy creating?
I like the way this drawing of Oliver using Philbert’s note to blow his nose came out. I had fun writing the “BPPHHTHH!!”
Which character from Tea with Oliver would you like to spend time with?
They are both amalgamations of myself and my friends. I’m really with both of them at all times.
Can you draw us a self-portrait?
Here you go.
What illustrated book have you read recently and been wowed by?
I just picked up Professional Crocodile by Giovanna Zoboli and Mariachiara di Giorgio and was really blown away by the whole story and the images. The lighting in all the scenes is beautiful and it’s funny. I was excited to find Tea with Oliver along with it as an Amazon Editor’s Pick for Best Children’s Books this month.
Why do you think art is important for kids? What can grown-ups do to encourage kids to engage with art?
They are very creative and they express themselves precisely with confidence. I don’t think you have to do any special things, but try to facilitate their interests. Books are great sources of inspiration. Art is important for kids because it is empowering and shows them a way to be part of the world.
What’s the best name for a color that you’ve ever heard?
Midori — for green.
Books by Mika Song
Mika Song grew up in Manila, Philippines. As a child she wrote letters to a mouse who lived under her mother’s desk. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband, daughter, and cat. This is her first book as author and illustrator.