Wednesday, May 12, 2010


KN: My Heart Is Like a Zoo is a great blend of creativity and emotional intelligence. How did the idea for this book develop?

MH: While in San Francisco for my brother’s wedding, I was inspired by a public art exhibit called “Hearts in Union Square.” On the plane ride home, I started to put together a story about the wedding that moved from one heart illustration to another. One of the pictures in the story was an elephant seal — a sight to see in the San Francisco Bay area. From there, I instinctively began making other animals out of hearts without any idea of what they might become. Four years later, I began to picture them in a book called “My Heart Is Like a Zoo.”

KN: Why did you choose to focus on hearts instead of another shape?

MH: I have little collections of pictures made from many different shapes. The heart is particularly effective because it has circular, straight and pointy parts within it.

KN: How did you decide which animals to include?

MH: I began with about 75 animals and grouped them according to the kinds of feelings they might represent. I wanted to represent a wide variety of feelings and characteristics. I chose animals that I liked visually and that seemed unique in some way. Toward the end, as I was tweaking the text, I had to change a number of animals because the rhythm just didn’t work. For example, one of my favorite animals was a sneaky raccoon. But “sneaky as a raccoon” didn’t flow well because the beat is on the wrong syllable in raccoon.

I wrote a blog post about the animals that didn’t make the cut for the Greenwillow blog:

KN: The sparse text rhymes and is alliterative at times. Were those poetic elements always part of the text, or did you add them over time?

MH: Initially, I didn’t plan to use rhyming text, but as the book unfolded, I could see that I needed to break the long list of animals into sections. The rhymes help to emphasize this.

The alliteration occurred naturally. I like that it is there, but I didn’t change any words in order to create that effect.

KN: Is there anything else you’d like to tell us?

MH: A few weeks before I planned on showing the book, I noticed that about a third of the animals were overworked to the point that they seemed lifeless. I rebuilt them from scratch so that they were less animal and more heart.

Anyone interested in learning more can visit

KN: Thanks for the interview!

MH: Thank you.

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