My father John Strevens, was born in east London. He managed to
earn a living painting portraits and other pictures, supporting his first
wife and their three daughters. After she died, he met and married my
mother and then I was born, so he had to work hard and sell hard. My mother,
Julia Marzo, had left her native Barcelona after the Spanish Civil War,
to go to France and then England. She met my father when he was in his
early fifties. We lived in London, then spent a while in America where
my father had some portrait commissions. When I was six, we moved to the
outer suburbs of London. From very early on, I painted and drew alongside
my father in his studio. In the holidays I spent many hours in the back
of a car travelling to and from England and Spain, across France. Then
I spent a lot of time walking to and from school with an increasingly
heavy bag and sitting in front of a desk studying for exams. I still carry
a heavy bag.
Years of working on magazine posters and graphic games for pre-readers, led to Les Petites Mains Dessinent, published by Bayard in France and conceived with Marie-Pascale Cocagne. Each large page is a story picture that a child can complete with their crayons. It’s a challenge to keep things simple and leave space for others to draw!
In 2006, I completed Bridget’s Book of Nursery Rhymes. Like many illustrators before me, I have tried to give a new slant to some favourite rhymes from Mother Goose. I’ve also included a few less well-known rhymes like Cross Patch, and Jumping Joan because I love how they ring true for little ones coping with anger or playing alone. In Philemon Sturges’s How to Make a Baby Smile (HarperCollins US ) there’s a funny parallel in the poem between human and animal parents and babies of many different kinds. To help link the human baby to the ‘real’ animals which I show in their natural habitats, I decided to give the baby toy versions of all the animals, to snuggle up with on the last page.
As SCBWI International Illustrator Coordinator, I take part in conferences
with other children's book creators in France and elsewhere in the world.
I also teach at Parson's Paris School of Design where I enjoy sharing
with the students my love of originally designed and illustrated books.