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September 22, 2023
By Marian Amo
In 'Julian Blooms,' Phoebe Fox presents an inspiring message to young readers.

It’s natural to want to accomplish things in life during the same time period as our peers, but sometimes things take a bit longer. Phoebe Fox presents an inspiring message to young readers with her picture book Julian Blooms, which a recent BookLife Editor’s Pick review called a “tender ode to late bloomers.” BookLife spoke with the author to learn more.

What inspired you to write Julian Blooms?

Growing up in Phoenix, Ariz., I often went to Whitfill Nursery with my mom, who loves to garden. There, I would observe the peacocks that strutted around the nursery. I was so amazed when they would fan out their gorgeous, iridescent tail feathers! Years later, I married a man who claimed to be a late bloomer. And, as it turns out, he came from a family of late bloomers and became a father to three of them. One day in 2020, I took our boys to the Phoenix Zoo during the Wildlife Lantern Safari exhibit. The bright pink peacock in full bloom inspired me to write a story about a late-bloomer peachick named Julian.

Have you always written for children, or do you also write for adults?

My writing has always been for children. As a teacher and school librarian, I have had many opportunities to work with kids, and I’ve always had an affinity for children’s books. I’ve been collecting them since I was a child, and my collection grew and grew when I began teaching. After some years in the library, I decided to try getting published. A friend from childhood told me about a picture book–writing contest with Southwest Human Development, and I submitted a manuscript. It won the contest, and, at that moment, I felt fairly certain I was on the right path.

How long did it take you to write Julian Blooms?

The story took approximately three years to go from a rough idea to an actual printed book. I spent about six months writing the first version. Then I solicited feedback from my author friends, trusted family members, and an editor, and made numerous revisions. When I began working with my illustrator, even more changes were made. I’m thrilled the book is finally out in the world!

How did you find the right illustrator?

My friend Susan Stolz, an author of numerous books for children, introduced me to her illustrator, Melissa Bailey. It was a great experience working with Melissa. She is a true professional. After seeing the first character sketch, I knew she was the one to bring Julian to life!

What made you choose the self-publishing route? And would you ever consider pitching your book to a traditional publisher?

I chose the self-publishing route for this book because I wanted to select the illustrator and have complete control over the end product. At this point, I don’t think I would pitch the book, but if a traditional publisher came to me and wanted to acquire Julian Blooms, I definitely wouldn’t refuse!

Your book captures a lesson many children, and adults, can relate to. “Blooming” later than others doesn’t mean that we’ve lost our chance at having an impactful and meaningful life. Are there other positive messages you hope your readers will learn from your book?

Yes, the story is about patience and enjoying our individual journeys in life. These days, it’s tempting to hurry along with our busy lives and forget to be present. And, often, the present moment is where we get the most joy! It’s also about encouraging others when they’re facing life’s challenges—whether big or small. And, lastly, it’s about courage. Julian knows he’s not the same as his brothers, but he discovers that he has something very special: the spirit to stand up to danger when it comes to saving someone he loves.