Illustrator Spotlight: Leila Nabih


© Leila Nabih

Sept. 1, 2019


On the first of each month in 2019, we feature an illustrator who won or placed in our Kidlit411 Banner Contest, and we switch our website banner and Facebook page cover image. Today we present Leila Nabih.


Be sure to enter into the giveaway for her recent picture book, LITTLE LENA AND THE BIG TABLE, by P.J. McIlvaine (Big Belly Book Co. June 2019).




Congrats on your banner design for Kidlit411. Can you tell us how you approached the assignment?

When looking at your original banner art, it reminded me of a saying “birds of a feather flock together.” I knew it meant that all those passionate about the same things, got together, but instead of looking at all of us teachers and parents and carers (that have a passionate interest in children’s book), I imagined us all as little children doing something different but on a similar theme. I wanted it to be fun, so i replaced the wires by a bunting and as walking on a rope is usually a circus performance, I consequently chose to illustrate fun things one could do on a rope. I also wanted to include diversity while keeping it as simple and subtle as possible. After all kid lit is about children for children.


© Leila Nabih


Congrats on your recent book, LITTLE LENA AND THE BIG TABLE. Tell us about the story. What kind of research, if any, did you do to illustrate it? 

Here is a very brief summary of the story: “Little Lena has her heart set to sit at the big table. But every year her family tells her she’s just not big enough. Little Lena is determined to show everyone how big she is.”

Originally, I thought of this book as a Thanksgiving themed book and I did a lot of research on Thanksgiving and on traditions and customs of this celebration (its not part of my personal culture). My initial sketches were very “thanksgivingy” until the publisher told me she didn’t want it to be just about thanksgiving but rather about the little girl. I then had to spend time researching kids tables vs adults tables and find a way to illustrate these that would reflect me as an illustrator. I was also looking at correctly depicting emotions as Little Lena clearly had a lot of them going on in this little chapter of her life.

What projects are you working on next? 


© Leila Nabih

I’ve applied to an Artist in Residence Program in the town where i live in the UK, and I am also working on updating my portfolio. I have a few personal projects on the back burner such as my own version the the Aesop Fable of the Fox and the Crow, but I’m waiting for my four year old to start school to officially go back to my illustrating work. What I would love to do next year however, is illustrate a story about mental health for children. 


© Leila Nabih


You mentioned in a recent blog post that you've had a lot going on in your life recently. What advice would you give others to balance work and life responsibilities?

The last year was a very difficult one. During the time I had to illustrate Little Lena, I’ve had to deal with financial turmoil, I’ve had to move house twice (one of which included changing towns), I’ve lost my father to dementia and wasn’t able to attend his funeral overseas, and my grieving took over my mental health for a couple of months until I realised I needed help with anxiety and depression. All whilst I was looking after my very demanding three year old. 


© Leila Nabih


I felt like a failure as a mother, a wife and an illustrator. There were days when I just couldn’t get myself to hold a pencil or felt like everything I was drawing was just bad and burst into tears. I would have loved to be able to spend more time on that little gem of a book, as I still look at some of my spreads and don’t feel overly happy with them. That was not an option however as I was already late on delivery and the publisher very graciously already had given me one additional month. 

I’m not yet sure how to balance work and life responsibilities. I’m still figuring all this out. I do however try to take a day away from home and go to London once a month. I also refrain from working while my son is at home as I find it just triggers my anxiety levels to the roof. There was a time when I used to be able to multitask. That is no longer the case now. 


© Leila Nabih


When I must work, I use my mornings while he is at nursery and my evenings after he is bed. If anyone’s got any tips to help me with that balancing act, I’d sure love to hear from them. 

My illustration of a woman on a broken bike was my way of illustrating what I was going through. 

Where can people find you online?

I have a facebook page called Leila Nabih Illustrations, a Twitter account @Ln_illustration and an instagram page @LeilaNabihIllustrations. You can also reach me on my website www.leilanabih.com where i always add new free colouring sheets and some activity sheets for the children, information on the books I have illustrated and a portfolio of work along with a blog, although I write less regularly than I used to before.


© Leila Nabih





Leila is a professional illustrator of children’s picture books whose style would be most appropriate for children between 0 and 5 year olds. She creates illustrations which combine hand drawn lines and digital elements. She is a self taught artist and is  constantly working on improving her craft.

Of both French and Egyptian origins, Leila has travelled the world extensively. She speaks five languages, has a bachelor degree in organic chemistry, a masters degree in international business, as well as a diploma in illustration from a renown London college.
She loves whimsical and soft paced stories where the main characters are little people and where the messages are subtle. She enjoys fiction most of all but is open to consider non fiction if the story resonates with her.
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17 comments:

  1. Your art is so appealing. I love it!
    My condolences on the loss of your father and the myriad difficulties you've had to deal with. Best wishes to you going forward.

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  2. Wow, thank you so much for this interview! Leila, thank you for sharing so honestly about what you've been through. I 100% agree, balancing is so difficult. I used to work on writing while my daughter was awake and my husband had to have a talk with me about it because I wasn't paying attention to our beautiful daughter. I struggle with this memory still, thinking how could I ignore my daughter, but I'm so thankful for my husband for taking with me so I could learn to balance. I'm so happy you're wanting to work on mental health boost for children. I can't think of mla single one of my high school students who doesn't struggle with anxiety or depression and has no clue what to do about it. I'd love mediation and mindfulness to be in our school curriculum like it is in the UK.
    Looking forward to more from you; your style is brilliant ❤️

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  3. Such an adorable cover. Thanks for the chance.

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  4. Very impressed with all you have done while raising a 3 year-old. I know how demanding it can be, and depressing when not getting art jobs, or financial issues, emotional crises - like losing a loved one... but to have all this happen while you are trying to get out your work, need it to do well to move forward - this is so much pressure. Your work is adorable. May the going get easier, work fly your way that you love, supports you, and everything become more fun. <3

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  5. Good to see your banner on KidLit411. Keep up the good illustration work, Leila!

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  6. What charming illustrations and colors with this book!

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  7. Hello, Leila, I can empathize with Little Lena as I was also stuck at the children's table far too long. I love your illustrations. They are adorable. I can also sympathize with what happens when your first child comes and everything goes haywire. It's been a while for me, but I still remember it. Hope things have calmed down for you. I would love to read about little Lena.

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  8. what a beautiful book. I can well remember the struggle to move up to the big table. Good Luck Lena!!

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  9. Love your illustrations! Would love a copy of this book.

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  10. Your art is fantastic and I enjoy your illustrations. Thank you for sharing your personal stories with us and I wish you the best.

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  11. Looks lovely! Can't wait to read it!

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  12. Oh Leila, congratulations on your hard-won success! You are an inspiration, which I know doesn't pay the bills, but maybe will give you what you need to keep on keeping on. Looks like you have good things yet to do!

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  13. Leila, I understand completely what you've been going through. I lost both parents within 22 months (in 2016 & 2018). I understand the depression and the lack of interest in anything. However, after awhile art was the only thing I found joy in and then I talked to my doctor about antidepressants and feel so much better. Your work is fabulous, Leila. Use that to heal. So sorry for the loss of your father. Sending you a big hug and best wishes.

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  14. Leila's adorable faces remind me of Joan Walsh Augland characters! So cute! Thank you for talking so openly about depression and anxiety! Looking forward to reading Little Lena and The Big Table -- so many memories from my own time at the kid's table!

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  15. Congratulations, Leila. The banner is adorable, as is your other artwork. And the story sounds fun.

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  16. Lovely illustrations! So sorry for all you have gone through. Those huge life stressors really interfere with creativity. I also am not as good of a multi-tasker as I used to be...LOVE the new book! So adorable! Congratulations!

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  17. I wish life weren't so hard in so many ways. And I wish I could give tips that would help you find more balance, but it is something I struggle with as well. The only thing I found that worked was not expecting to find balance. A friend of mine once said: "I no longer try to keep any of the balls in the air. I just kick the one closest to me a little further down the road." That thought has helped me realize that I need to focus on what's most pressing at the moment. Little Lena is a beautiful book!

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