Alison Limentani has always been fascinated by wildlife. She has a degree in Animal Behaviour and worked as a zookeeper before training as a veterinary nurse. She is passionate about drawing animals, and sharing her knowledge about them. Her first picture book, How Much Does a Ladybird Weigh?, earned fabulous reviews and made the New York Public Library's Best Books for Kids list in 2016.
Alison at work...
Find out more about Alison
What is your favourite animal and why?
Yikes, what a question! I love all animals, but I used to work with fruit bats and aye-ayes when I was a Zoo Keeper. Most people think they're scary, but actually they're pretty amazing once you get to know them.
What is your least favourite animal and why?
Hmmmm, my least favourite animals are probably the most dangerous ones. I can appreciate them from a safe distance, but I'd rather not get too close!
What's the funniest thing you've ever done as a veterinary nurse?
I had to give mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to a very large frog once. Sadly it didn't turn into a prince...
We were giving an endangered Mountain Chicken Frog at Jersey zoo a special tracking chip so that scientists could follow him when he was released back into the Montserrat jungle.
Frogs can hold their breath for a very long time, partly because they can breathe though their skin. They only know to take a breath when the carbon dioxide in their blood becomes too high, which means that if we give them oxygen when they are asleep for an operation, they forget to breathe! Instead we have to do it for them. Because human breath has a mixture of carbon dioxide and oxygen in it, it works best to help their bodies remember to breathe. Luckily for me I got to breathe through a special tube! Kissing frogs is actually a really bad idea because they have toxins on their skin to stop animals from eating them.
What's the worst thing you've had to do?
Well, sometimes my job isn't the most glamorous. You have to clean up a lot of pee and poo, but I don't actually mind that. The worst thing about my job is when we can't make the animals better. That can be quite sad.
What do you do when you are not working with animals or creating fabulous artwork?
I spend a lot of time outside in nature, usually in a race kayak, but sometimes jogging or sitting with a sketchbook. I absolutely love kayaking and go most days, even in winter when sensible people are inside in the warm. Sometimes I compete in races, but usually I just paddle to give me time to think about new ideas. My first book 'How much Aoes a Ladybird Weigh?' was inspired by all the nature I see when I'm paddling between Cambridge and Grantchester. For instance, once I caught lots of baby stickleback fish in my boat after I capsized!
What's your favourite food?
Chocolate! Isn't it everyone's favourite?
I'm quite partial to sugar-snap peas too (Now I know you're thinking eww, peas, but they're not like normal peas, honest - if you try them, you'll understand).
Where is your favourite place?
I enjoy being anywhere near nature or close to the river. I'm very fond of Jersey, especially Durrell Zoo, because working there was an amazing experience.
Where do you live?
I live in a wonderful little flat on the outskirts of Cambridge. There's a naughty squirrel that likes to hang out on my balcony and tease my foster cats.
How long does it take to research a book?
Researching the books usually takes a month or two. I want to make sure I get all the facts right so I spend a lot of time looking things up in books and working out the calculations. I'm dyslexic so it takes me a bit longer to read and write. That's why I like picture books so much.
How do you check all your facts?
I do a lot of research using books and the internet, but sometimes I ask other people for help too. 'How Tall Was a T. rex?' was more difficult to research because there is so much information out there about dinosaurs, but not all of it is right. We find out new things about dinosaurs all the time so getting the right information was very important to me. I asked a palaeontologist (a dinosaur expert) called Maureen for help. She works at the Natural History Museum in Los Angeles and she gave me lots of information about their T. rex, Thomas.
Do you have any pets of your own?
Not at the moment, but I foster animals from work instead. This week I am taking a very shy cat called Nala, who will stay with me until she finds a new home. I usually take animals that aren't coping with the stress of staying at the animal shelter or animals with injuries that require extra TLC.
What do you like most about running book-related craft events for children?
Everything! I love running craft events for children because I'm a big kid at heart. I get dressed up in clothes that have animals from the books on them. I've just bought a dinosaur dress for the launch of 'How Tall Was a T. rex?', which I'm very excited about. I really enjoy being able to encourage children to get creative and look more closely at the incredible things in world around them.
A terrific introduction to the ups and downs of measurement as well as relative scale.
How Tall was a T. rex? review by Kirkus
...fact-filled and playful...
How Tall was a T. rex? review by Publishers Weekly
...the sheer size of the planet's largest animal is awe-inspiringly clear in her stunning presentation...
How Long is a Whale? review by Booklist
Shortlisted for Read it Again!
The Cambridgeshire Children's Picture Book Awardt