Acclaimed children’s author and illustrator Marla Frazee (marlafrazee.com) has been creating books for over 30 years, while living—and finding inspiration—in Pasadena. The two-time Caldecott Medal recipient and New York Times bestseller originally came up with the idea for her new book, In Every Life, at a local landmark. “Twenty-five years ago, during a service at All Saints Episcopal Church, I heard a beautiful Jewish blessing in call-and-response style,” Frazee says. “I immediately felt it could be a picture book. But it took all these years to figure out how to do it. It was a puzzle!” Here, the literary legend shares her local finds.
I’ve lived in Pasadena since 1986. My three sons grew up here. I live in Bungalow Heaven with a Little Free Library in my front yard and so many interesting book-loving adults and children use it. It’s been a nice way to connect with people. / My dad worked in Pasadena while I was growing up. He had a clothing manufacturing business in the heart of Old Pasadena, on the corner of De Lacey and McCormick Alley. I painted the exterior sign on the brick building when I was in high school. / I went to ArtCenter College of Design and received a BFA in illustration. My favorite teacher was Judy Crook, who taught color theory. She was brilliant and intense, no pun intended. / I often hike in the mornings before I head into my studio. I’m usually in Eaton Canyon or Millard Canyon, on Mt. Wilson Trail to First Water or beyond, or Gabrielino Trail behind JPL. / Whenever my son James comes to town, we go to La Grande Orange for ahi tacos with kale salad on the side. I used to hang out at that place when it was the old train depot. / My son Reed is a stained-glass artist and designer at Judson Studios in Highland Park. The studio’s founder was at the forefront of the Arts and Crafts movement that really took hold in Pasadena. Judson Studios has been operating out of the present building since 1920 and it’s worth going for a tour. / Last year I participated in a LitFest Pasadena panel on picture books and also spoke to students in the Visual Arts and Design Academy at Pasadena High School through a nonprofit Pasadena-based arts organization called Light Bringer Project. Their mission is “building futures through the power of art and education.” / Vroman’s Bookstore is one of the places I go to wander around and unwind. And I’ve celebrated the publication of many of my books there with book signings. I also deeply love Once Upon a Time in Montrose, the nation’s oldest children’s bookstore. We are so lucky to have these independent bookstores, and others, in our community.