Tibetan Wildlife Cover.2.indd

This is my first author interview and it seems fitting to welcome Naomi as my first guest. We met several years ago when I was first working on Into the Land of Snows. Naomi was a children’s author/illustrator who had already published a book on Tibetan culture and I sought her out for guidance. She graciously supplied it. I am happy to welcome her here to talk about her fourth picture book entitled Where Snow Leopard Prowls.

Thanks, I’m very honored to be your first interviewed author!!


Naomi, your first three picture books dealt with Tibetan culture and Where Snow Leopard Prowls marks a change for you. This book is all about wildlife on the Tibetan plateau. Can you talk about how your vision shifted and you were drawn to paint these images?

I’ve had the joy of creating books for children for many years. Two of my previously published books are wisdom tales from Tibet. Several years ago, while painting the illustrations for these books, I found myself painting more and more Tibetan wildlife into the scenes. And as I painted, I felt more and more endeared to these animals. When I finally painted a snow leopard, I knew the animals were calling me. It was time to create a book for and about them. 

I’ve always thought of picture books as a child’s first introduction to art. The time and care that goes into the production of a picture book is amazing. How long was it from the time you decided to write and illustrate this book until you held it in your hands? What was the process like?

I think it was about five years from conception to birth. I really try to give each book the time it needs, to let the inspiration, the art, the book itself lead the way. When I first felt the call to do a book on Tibetan wildlife, I envisioned an activity book. But when I had completed that, I realized there was something more wanting to emerge. So I switched gears and created a full 32-page picture book. Then I posted the activity book as a free companion book off my website.

Baby Leopard

The paintings also evolved in an interesting way. I painted Snow Leopard’s portrait first. To my surprise, I felt very compelled to paint Snow Leopard’s eyes before any other feature. This was NOT how I was taught to paint portraits, but I couldn’t resist the urge. Once the eyes were painted, it felt like Snow Leopard was watching me paint, and guiding me on various details of its portrait. This turned out to be the case with each portrait, culminating in a deeper connection with each animal. 

Some of the animals in the book readers may be familiar with but there are some that were new for me. I’d never heard of a Himalayan Tahr, for example. Was there an animal you researched that was totally new to you? I know the book is full of animal facts and I wonder if there is anything in your research that surprised or even shocked you.

Many of the animals were new to me. Himalayan Tahr is a good example. I don’t remember what drew me to this particular animal, but somehow Tahr popped out at me as I studied the animals and the land of Tibet. Once Tahr showed up on my radar, I had to paint it and give it a place in the book. That’s sort of how it went. I think the animals found me as much as I found them. I had great fun learning about them and finding fun tidbits to put in the book. They’re all so amazing!  These animals became so personal to me that I had to treat them as individuals, thus referring to them by name (“Snow Leopard” instead of “a snow leopard”).

You’ve talked about the importance of having children connect with wildlife. It is in that connection and caring that we may be able to do a better job protecting whole environments. Can you outline a few of the factors that threaten some of the species in your book?

That’s a really interesting question because I ended up choosing to not study those factors.  When I first worked on the book, I focused on how these amazing animals were at risk of extinction as a way to motivate children to care for Mother Earth. Then I realized that approach wasn’t right for me.  I wanted to motivate from the same place that motivated me to do the book, a growing personal connection. I believe that’s another way to motivate; by fostering a love, respect, and connection with wildlife and nature, children will naturally grow to care about Mother Earth and her precious animals. In hopes the book has motivated children to care, I’ve listed things we can do to help in the back of the book. I’ve also listed activities for cultivating a personal connection to the natural world. 

Baby Monkey

My favorite illustrations were the baby snow leopard and the red panda. What animal or animals were the most fun for you to paint and why?

I loved painting them all, of course. But I had a special fondness for the baby animals. They are all soooo cute!  And painting Mama Snow Leopard was especially powerful.  I invite folks to see more of the animals in the short video on my website:

Thanks, Naomi for sharing your wonderful book with us. Please visit Naomi’s sites to see more of her beautiful work.

Website link(s):




Filed under Book Review, Books


  1. Hi Ellis — What an amazing, informative, inspirational, emotive and magical post.. Thank you so much for this interview, I have learnt many things and mesmerized with the illustrations.. Naomi, you are an awsome talented lady… Your work is totally enchanting !!..
    What a great idea Marylin for the book being translated in Spanish, it will be great for many countries in South America, a very large audience indeed.. Fantástico!
    Love an light always.


  2. Good interview. You asked the right questions to get the author talking.


  3. billyriel1971

    Thanks for the recent visit to my Western genre site and the “like” of a post about a new Western literary anthology…much appreciated. Seeing that you live in the Denver area (I’m a massive fan of that city! 🙂 )….you may be interested in a new exhibition of the work of Thomas Moran at the Denver Art Museum – here is post/link about that:

    All the best with your own writing.


  4. What beautiful paintings! She has really captured the “baby face” of the young animals. Great interview and congrats!


  5. Thanks for a great interview. I love WHERE SNOW LEOPARD PROWLS. I’ve read Naomi’s tales and fictional stories, and it’s exciting to see her branching out with nonfiction. I especially liked Naomi’s answer about creating a connection between kids and nature. I believe it all starts with that. Thanks again for sharing this wonderful conversation.


  6. I’m an artist too, and I like the way Naomi said she started painting the eyes of the snow leopard first so as to communicate with the being in the art to help her paint it. Haha, I like that. It’s the way I paint too sometimes. I will throw something onto the paper, look at it closely, see what it wants to be then pull it out of the picture best I can, by drawing it in.
    I had two Bengal cats a few years ago, one of them being a snow. He looks so much like these cats. He was such a warm hearted lovely cat. The other one was a little more wild. Their two personalities were so different even though they were brothers. I had to give my snow Bengal away when his brother died, because at that time I was never at home. The family I gave him to was a really good family. I think of him still, hoping he’s happy. A few times I heard Hunter my other Bengal meowing to me from the other side of life (he’s passed away). I could tell it was him.


    • I’ve had two cats who were littermates and entirely different in personality. One liked soft treats and the other would only eat the hard ones. You could predict that when one of them liked a toy, the other would hate it. One of them was outgoing, the other reserved. In a way, it was like children finding their own niche in a family. We lost Harry a year ago (next week) to cancer. George is hanging in at almost fourteen. It’s very tough to lose a pet.


    • Painting all the animals for my book really widened my heart to all animals. Sounds like you had a very special connection to Hunter. My cat passed away last year after 17 years together. Sometimes I hear her jumping up on my bed when I’m falling asleep, just like she used to do.


  7. A few years ago, I happened to go to a book “event” where Naomi was telling about her book, Tibetan Tales for Little Buddhas…at a tiny library in a Pueblo village in New Mexico….the book is a true delight and so were Naomi and the children! What a wonderful interview you did with Naomi! It’s a pleasure to see attention brought to Naomi’s very special books! Kathy


  8. Your artwork is beautiful! If I ever get my children’s story about a baby gorilla published, I hope I get an illustrator as talented as you!


  9. Thanks so much for this interesting interview. It made me want to buy this book, so I think I will buy one and donate it to the Oaxaca Lending Library in Oaxaca, Mexico. Most of the children’s books are in Spanish, but there are some in English, and I know this would be a great addition. (Maybe a future Spanish version…?)
    I have done some work with the Libros Para Pueblos, an organization that helps start libraries in small towns throughout the state of Oaxaca, and I’m sure they would also enjoy sharing the book.


    • What a wonderful idea! Thanks for sharing. I’m not sure about a Spanish language edition- maybe Naomi can answer that.


      • Yes, a great idea! Happy to help make a Spanish edition possible, if you have any suggestions on where to start. THanks for spreading the word to libraries! We have very little information about Tibetan wildlife in US libraries and schools. So I’m hoping this book will help fill that gap.


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