Fayston children’s book author Sarah Dillard has been nominated for a Gourmand Award for her picture book “Blueberry Cake.” The Gourmand Award celebrates the best cookbooks of the year. Dillard called it “the Oscars of cookbooks.” Although “Blueberry Cake” is a picture book, not a cookbook, it does include the author’s family recipe for blueberry cake.
“I had so many memories of having blueberry cake with my grandmother,” Dillard said. “When my mom was sick, I made it for her.” Her mother grew up in Maine in the blueberry business. Family history along with a love for the classic children’s book “Blueberries for Sal” by Robert McCloskey inspired Dillard to write the book. “ ‘Blueberry Cake’ is inspired by my childhood and books I loved.” She said she’s been getting a lot of emails from parents whose kids love the book and who now ask for blueberry cake. “It’s becoming other people’s family tradition,” she said. “Recipes are stories.”
Dillard is the author/illustrator of 12 books for children, including the “Mouse Scouts” chapter book series and the “Extraordinary Warren” graphic novel series. Her picture book “I Wish it Would Snow” was inspired by living at the base of Mad River Glen. “I’m inspired by the world around me,” she said. “I draw pictures and make up stories and walk in the woods. That’s my ideal day.”
She is a presenter for The Children’s Literacy Foundation, based in Waterbury and serving low-income, at-risk and rural kids throughout Vermont and New Hampshire. She shares the process of how she creates books with children and gets them excited about reading and writing. While she’s done a lot of virtual visits over the last two years, she said, “There’s something really wonderful about visiting places in person and seeing kids get inspired.”
She studied English and art in college and launched a freelance illustration career, taking on projects such as illustrating greeting cards and eventually children’s books. “I always wanted to do children’s books,” she said. “I started writing and kept working.” She eventually began writing and illustrating her own books.
When asked about the role of nature and animals in her books, she said, “There’s something accessible about books with animals. They’re more approachable … I have a dog. I spend a lot of time in the woods, walking around. As a child, I loved books about animals.”
There will be a ceremony for the Gourmand Award in Umea, Sweden, in June, which Dillard plans to attend. “Blueberry Cake” is one of four finalists in the fruit category. It, along with Dillard’s other books, can be found at The Collection in Waitsfield. The book will be exhibited for nearly three months at an exhibit of Sustainable Gastronomy at Alfred Nobel House and Museum in Karlskoga, Sweden.