Isabel Pfaff ’25 Illustrates Children’s Book

April 21, 2022

Myles McPartland ’24

Student Isabel Pfaff holding a book
Photo credit: Jonathan Clark '25

Isabel Pfaff has always enjoyed creating artistic work, seeing it as an “escape from reality.” Now her artwork can be an escape for others. 

Pfaff was asked to Illustrate the children’s book Who Knew What a Blanket Could Do by author Leigh Mayo. Inspired by Mayo’s grandchildren, the ABC activity book centers on a pair of sisters who engage in make-believe play with blankets and was published by Newman Springs in February. 

A first-year from Lexington, Virginia, and member of the women’s swimming and diving team, Pfaff was in elementary school when she first got to know Mayo, who was her sixth-grade English teacher. The teacher and student kept in touch as Pfaff moved through middle school and high school. Mayo knew she liked to paint and draw, so during Pfaff’s sophomore year of high school, Mayo decided to approach Pfaff about the book project and ask her if she would want to be her illustrator for a book. Pfaff was excited to join the project, which offered the opportunity to “create something with one of [her] favorite people.” Mayo and Pfaff began to brainstorm various aspects of the book including its structure, layout, and images.

Completing this children’s book did not come without difficulties, however. The biggest challenge for Pfaff was making the time to paint for the book. School and swimming commitments meant she would “sometimes go weeks, or even months, without working on any illustrations.” Despite their busy schedules, they agreed that the book would “remain a source of joy, rather than stress.” 

Over the course of three years, Mayo wrote the book and researched the publication process while Pfaff created the illustrations. Looking back on the project, what Pfaff enjoyed most about working on the project was the opportunity it gave her to spend more time with Mayo. “She is such a supportive, kind, and incredible person and I enjoyed getting to know her better.”

Pfaff continues to explore her creative work in her first year at Oberlin, taking a studio art class which she says gave her immense enjoyment while allowing her to learn new techniques and skills. She isn’t completely sure how art will figure into her future, but she would definitely like to keep creating art in some capacity.

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