Author Spotlight: Lindsay Bonilla

Oct. 19, 2018

Today we are pleased to feature author Lindsay Bonilla and her debut picture book POLAR BEAR ISLAND, illustrated by Cinta Villalobos (Sterling Children's Books, October 2, 2018).  Enter to win a copy below!

Tell us about yourself and how you came to write for children.

I’ve been an avid reader and writer since I was young. As an only child for ten years I had to entertain myself most of the time and that definitely fueled my imagination. I was always making up stories to act out and write down. I would turn boring chores, like unloading the dishwasher, into “plays” about working at a restaurant, imagining the conversations I’d have with patrons, etc. — anything to make it more fun. 

I wrote some stories in college, but I never really thought of them as being for children. Many of them were actually allegorical stories that helped me to make sense of certain things that were going on in my life. C.S. Lewis, one of my favorite authors, said: "We do not write in order to be understood; we write in order to understand.” That’s definitely one of the reasons I write.

Years later I pulled out some of my college stories and said, “I think these could actually be children’s books.” That’s when I started pursuing publication. But I think having my own kids in the midst of all of this has fueled my love of writing for children that much more. 

Congrats on your PB, POLAR BEAR ISLAND. Tell us about it and what inspired you.

POLAR BEAR ISLAND is about Parker, the mayor of an island of polar bears. He wants to keep his island only for polar bears. Then Kirby, a fun-loving penguin arrives with her cool invention. Parker wants her to leave, but the other bears want her (and eventually, her family) to stay. The story explores diversity, inclusion, and our attitudes toward “others.”

Over the years I’ve been a volunteer ESL teacher, helped to resettle refugees in my community and had a lot of immigrant friends both here in the States and while living in Spain. I was familiar with all the negative stereotypes surrounding immigrants and frustrated by this perception. Then one day my husband, a Colombian immigrant, came home from work and told me how a supervisor on a job he was managing had avoided speaking with him because of his accent. He felt both disrespected and hurt. 

Pretty much immediately I decided that I wanted to write a story that would focus on the positive contributions that immigrants make to our communities but in a way even the youngest children could understand. That’s how POLAR BEAR ISLAND was born.

Was your road to publication long and windy, short and sweet, or something in between?

I would say somewhere in between. In many ways I went about things backwards. I started pursuing publication before I even knew what SCBWI was and before I’d read widely in kidlit. I’m glad that eventually the road circled me back around to where I needed to be! 

What other projects are you working on? Any new books coming out?

So many different ones! I have more ideas than I have time to write. With two adventurous, overly-energetic sons, I have my share of dinosaur, pirate and superhero stories! I’m also working on a picture book about a child visiting his father’s homeland for the first time. We are taking our kids to Colombia for their first visit in December, so I’m hoping the trip will give me fresh eyes for the manuscript!

No new books coming out yet, but a few are under consideration at the moment, so I’m hopeful! 

What are the one or two best things you did for your career? 

Joining SCBWI and becoming part of a critique group have been invaluable to me. Going to the SCBWI Michigan Roundtable Retreat was also a pivotal point in my career. I highly recommend these smaller conferences where you can really get to know faculty and get hands-on feedback.

What is one thing most people don't know about you?

Most people don’t know that I’m an aspiring minimalist! I love the idea of living with less so I can have more time for the things that really matter to me — like my family, my faith, and writing and storytelling. I think I get as excited (or maybe more excited!) about getting rid of things as I do about receiving new things. I tend to appreciate experiences more than stuff.

Where can people find you online? 
Twitter: @LindsayBonilla 

Lindsay Bonilla is a professional storyteller known for her high-energy interactive programs based on folktales from around the world. When she's not teaching workshops or telling stories, she's busy writing her own or acting them out with her kids. Lindsay's love for travel has taken her to five continents, but most days she can be found at home in Ohio with her husband, sons and their rescue dog, Blitzen. Visit

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  1. So excited to see one of my critique partners achieve this milestone with her 1st picture book and her debut. I've known this story since its early days. Its magical so to it as a REAL book. Congrats, Lindsay.

    1. Thank you Kathy! You are one of the biggest encouragers I know and I'm so grateful you've been on the journey with me!

  2. I love this post and the sound of Polar Bear Island. Sounds like it's a ms have picture book. Congratulations, Lindday!

  3. Congratulations, Lindsay!! The combination of theme and fun sound fantastic.

  4. Congrats, Lindsay. Love the sound of this story and the message it conveys.

  5. Hilarious cover! This has to be a really good book!

    1. Thanks John! I was so excited when I saw it the first time!

  6. I love the fun cover and the premise is something that everyone needs to learn in their lives. I also enjoy that you are trying to live with less. I'm working on that too.

    1. Thanks Danielle! Living with less is definitely a challenge (mostly finding the time to de-clutter/get rid of stuff with 2 little ones!) but I've already noticed the benefits!

  7. Congratulations! It sounds wonderful and looks hilarious!

    1. Thanks Amanda! I hope it makes you laugh! :)

  8. What a great way to teach children about welcoming newcomers and refugees.

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  10. Replies
    1. Thanks Jennifer! So glad you were part of the Roundtable where it all came together!

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