Books·My Life in Books

6 books Debbie Ohi would love to illustrate

The author and illustrator shares the stories that she'd love to draw.
Debbie Ridpath Ohi is a children's book writer and illustrator. (

Debbie Ridpath Ohi reads, writes and illustrates books for young people. The Toronto-based creative is the author of Sam & Eva, Where Are My Books? and has illustrated several Judy Blume books.

Below, Ohi shares six books that she would love to illustrate.

The Dark Is Rising by Susan Cooper​

Susan Cooper's classic five-book fantasy sequence The Dark Is Rising won the Newbery Medal and a Newbery Honor. (Tsar Fedorsky/Simon & Schuster Canada)

"This book was my favourite in the series. It's deliciously dark. The version I own has a wonderfully creepy cover illustrated by Alan E. Cober and a few black & white interior illustrations. Years before I ever considered the idea of illustrating children's books professionally, I remember sketching scenes from The Dark Is Rising, just for the fun of it. I used a ballpoint and tried to copy Cober's cover style. I'd love to try again, now that I have more experience under my belt. Hmm.

"Even as I write this, I'm realizing that I would need to get over my fear of drawing horses if I was going to illustrate this book. But I WOULD! I'd move to a horse farm and practice day and night until I could draw a properly malevolent Black Rider!" 

Bog by Karen Krossing

Karen Krossing writes novels and short stories for kids and teens. ( & Whiteside)

"I love all of Karen Krossing's books for young people, but this is my favourite. It's full of magic, adventure and humour. On the surface it's a wonderful story about a troll named Bog and the friends he makes along the way — including a young human girl named Hannie.

"It's also a story of hope, about how empathy can overcome distrust of others who are different — it's this latter underlying theme that ties it all together for me. It would be fun to bring Bog and his friends to life in the interior illustrations, especially since the setting is in northern Ontario. The gorgeous cover by Félix Girard hints at the characters already.

Favourite Folktales from Around the World by Jane Yolen

Jane Yolen is an American writer of fantasy, science fiction and children's books. (Jason Stemple/Pantheon)

"This is a fantastic collection of folktales from all over the world, and I love Jane Yolen's general introduction as well as her intro to each thematic section. So many different countries and cultures and so many different types of stories! This would be such an interesting and challenging illustration project.

"It would take a lot of time to research the visual reference sources for each story, but I'm imagining all these books I'm listing would be illustrated in an alternate universe in which I had Hermione's Time-Turner. I'd be torn between using the same illustration style throughout or modifying each story's illustration style to match or at least integrate some visual style element consistent with the story's setting."

MiNRS series by Kevin Sylvester

Kevin Sylvester is an award-winning writer, illustrator and broadcaster. (Simon & Schuster/Kevin Sylvester)

"I'm a big fan of Kevin Sylvester's gritty sci-fi adventure survival series and am also a science fiction fan. The catch: Kevin's an illustrator, so if these books were ever released with illustrations, chances are good that he'd want to do the art himself! Still this book's on my list!"

The Pain and The Great One by Judy Blume

Judy Blume is an American writer known for children's and young adult fiction. (Wikimedia Commons/Simon & Schuster)

"I love The Pain and the Great One, and I adore Irene Travis's illustrations in the 1974 edition. I also did do the illustrations for chapter book edition, which might prompt one to wonder why I'd pick this title AGAIN. My answer: I love this story so much and am also such a Judy Blume fan that if I was ever given the opportunity to illustrate a revamped picture book edition, I would die of joy. Though I might wait to die of joy until — after — I had handed in my final art.

"I was thrilled to meet Judy Blume in person a few years ago, thanks to my editor. I vowed to myself and my editor that I would restrain my fangirl impulses and behave professionally. When the moment came, however, I burst into tears. I was mortified! Ms. Blume, however, was gracious and friendly. Later on, I heard that my reaction was a common one, among women my age who grew up on Judy Blume's books."

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Erin Morgenstern is a writer and a multimedia artist. (Penguin Random House/Adam Scott )

"I have read Erin Morgenstern's The Night Circus at least 20 times since it came out in 2012. It is one of my favourite comfort books, a story I can always count on being absorbing and satisfying, no matter what else is going on in my life. The writing is lyrical and richly detailed, with such vivid imagery.

"Jim Dale's audiobook narration is stellar; I highly recommend it! I find the story of Celia and Marco is utterly compelling, as is their world. I'd so enjoy illustrating the different circus attractions like the Wishing Tree, the Ice Garden and (of course) the Illusionist. Just writing all this is making me want to reread the book yet again. I think I will."