I’m Erin Dealey, and I write books for kids. I’m a teacher, presenter, rhymer, blogger, and proud Drama Mama.

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Happy Book Birthday to AN EQUAL SHOT = 4 Qs + 3 tips for #kidlit Illustrators just starting out–> from the amazing Dow Phumiruk.

February 23, 2021

Happy Book Birthday to

An Equal Shot: How the Law Title IX Changed America

Written by Helaine Becker,  AN EQUAL SHOT (Henry Holt) is a nonfiction picture book introduction to the history and importance of Title IX as civil rights legislature, featuring illustrations by Dow Phumiruk*.


Dow rhymes with “wow!” : )

Phumiruk has a sneaky silent h: Poo’ mee ruck.

Interior art by Dow Phumiruk, from AN EQUAL SHOT, written by Helaine Becker (Henry Holt).

“…Title IX is about more than just giving girls and women the ability to play sports. . .Both an easy-to-read introduction and a powerful reminder that we must always fight for equality.” ―Kirkus Reviews

The TEAM: Dow’s agent Deborah Warren, Christy Ottaviano (editor), Dow, Helaine Becker, and her agent Susan Schulman.

Dow Phumiruk is the award-winning illustrator of COUNTING ON KATHERINE: How Katherine Johnson Saved Apollo13, which won the Bank Street Cook Prize and was named an NSTA Outstanding Science Trade Book as well as an NCTM Mathical Honor Book, among many other honors; AN EQUAL SHOT: How the Law Title IX Changed America; MAYA LIN: Artist-Architect of Light and Lines, which was an Amazon Best Book of the Year and an NCSS Notable Social Studies Trade Book for Young People; and  ONE GIRL–among others! She is also the author / illustrator of MELA AND THE  ELEPHANT, and HUGSBY, which released in 2020. Dow, who is ALSO a general pediatrician (The “WOW” fits, doesn’t it?), lives in Colorado with her family.

We have Questions for you, Dow Phumiruk!

Q 1. Congratulations on your ever-growing successful #kidlit career! Did young Dow envision any of this as a child? I see you wrote and illustrated your first book, THE PINK AND YELLOW SUNHAT, at age 9. How and when did you realize your creativity could be something more?

Above photo of Dow was featured in an earlier blog post here. 

Dow Phumiruk: Wow, never in a million years would young me have predicted that I would become an author and illustrator of children’s books! It was not on my radar growing up. I loved art as a girl, and my fourth grade book project you mention was something I was very proud of. But I did not ever think to pursue this as a career in adulthood. It took having children and staying home with them (drawing, coloring, and crafting together) to reconnect with my artistic side. My children inspired me! Eventually I joined SCBWI, and that’s where I learned all about the ropes of the industry.

Q 2. What was the biggest challenge you encountered while creating the illustrations for AN EQUAL SHOT? 

Dow Phumiruk: The biggest challenge was figuring out what to draw! The text talks about Title IX, but there are little clues about setting and characters for me to run with and draw – unlike COUNTING ON KATHERINE, with images of Katherine and a progression of her life story being pretty obvious subject matter. Helaine Becker and I were together for that project, with Christy Ottaviano at the helm as editor, as well as for this book. (See Team photo above.)

Interior art by Dow Phumiruk, from AN EQUAL SHOT, written by Helaine Becker (Henry Holt).

How would I draw about a law?

I had to think on how our book would look for a long while! It’s a good example of how authors and illustrators each contribute to making a picture book its best. I think this book will get kids thinking about how they can champion equal rights like Patsy Mink, Shirley Chisholm, Bernice Sandler, and Edith Green did.

Interior art by Dow Phumiruk, from AN EQUAL SHOT, written by Helaine Becker (Henry Holt).

Also for this book, I drew so many people, and that was an ambitious task that was both challenging and exciting. It is fun to imagine being a fly on the wall in congress, for example, or listening to Abraham Lincoln delivering the Gettysburg Address. There was much research to do to portray these scenes as accurately as possible.

Interior art by Dow Phumiruk, from AN EQUAL SHOT, written by Helaine Becker (Henry Holt).

Q 3. I read on your blog that you like to set goals. (I’m not surprised!) What are your goals for 2021?

Dow Phumiruk: I am such a list-maker. I love to make them, and goal setting is just another list! This year, I hope to write two chapter books. I’ve never understood how authors of novels can come up with so many characters, settings, plot twists, and other components that make up a book with thousands of words that people want to read! It’s intriguing, and I hope to figure this out. I’ve learned so much about novel writing at conferences, read many articles and blog posts about writing online, and have friends who live and breathe writing novels who could help critique anything I write. But all this knowledge I am surrounded by can’t be used unless I have written something.

Write those drafts!

Is this your hang-up as a writer? Well, writing something gives you a substrate on which to apply what you’ve learned. That draft can be awful! It’s just a draft. And then you can work to revise it. An art analogy would be if you owned a set of carving tools without any wood or marble or clay to work with and shape! This year, I’ll write those drafts.


Another goal I have is to prioritize a good work-life balance. That is a doozy. I don’t manage to protect enough time to read longer books, and this will be even more important as I try to write a chapter book.

Q 4. Do you have any tips for illustrators just starting out in #kidlit?

Dow Phumiruk:

Tip 1: For artists just starting out, find illustrators who are successful in the industry with a style you admire. Then copy them! Don’t try to sell these drawings or anything. Just copy for practice. It’s a way to teach yourself to draw in a marketable style. You may end up merging your style with theirs and come up with your own unique new and improved style.

Tip 2: Also, really study art that you like. What is it that appeals to you?

  • Is it the palette: is it more limited than what you use?
  • Is it the lighting: have you learned how to best manage contrast and saturation in your work?
  • Is it the composition: have you learned to design a nice background and foreground with your characters well-positioned?
  • Have you used all of these tools to help lead your viewer’s eye to where the action is?
  • And lastly, is it the anatomy?

These all form the foundation for a successful illustration, and you can take time to dig deeply into each to improve your work.

Tip 3: Make sure you can draw stories. This means that your art needs to be more than just nice scenery. In your portfolio, you should demonstrate that you can show characters (people or animals) who are doing something that could be part of a story. The narrative quality of art is integral to children’s book illustration.

Happy Book Birthday to AN EQUAL SHOT! 

Thank you so much for sharing such helpful insights, Dow. 

I look forward to your next project, HELLO TREE, written by Ana Crespo (Little Brown) which releases this September. 

To learn more about Dow and her work, see ArtByDow

and follow her on social media:

Twitter @DowPhumiruk 

Instagram: dowphumiruk

Up next on the blog: Patricia Newman talks about her new nonfiction MG,

PLANET OCEAN–Why We All Need a Healthy Ocean. 

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