elina Alko was born in Vancouver, British Columbia in Canada. Growing up in a house with a Turkish father who speaks seven languages, exposed Selina to many different sounds from a young age. Her father also taught her how to paint and gave her a starter course in self-expression. Her mother’s involvement in the family’s 95-year old business of metal recycling yielded Alko’s affinity for collage and mixing media (“trash art”) in her work today.
Although Selina has lived in New York since 1991, she still believes that she brings a Canadian perspective to her writing and illustrating. Selina’s optimism permeates her work; it’s filled with her positive viewpoint and tendency to see the glass as half full.
It is important to Selina that her books help children to be more open-minded. She feels strongly that people are fundamentally the same at heart, despite labels of religion, race and class. When she was pregnant for the second time, Selina wrote and illustrated I’m Your Peanut Butter Big Brother (Knopf) about a child who wonders what his sibling-on-the-way will look like. Will it be a girl with a “cappuccino-frosted ‘fro bouncing along,” or a boy who is “ginger cookie brown or midnight licorice purple”? The fictional family bears a strong resemblance to Alko’s own: husband Sean Qualls is African American; their children Isaiah and Ginger, are biracial. Alko will again explore the idea of blended families in a book about a multi-religion household titled Daddy Christmas & Hanukkah Mama (Knopf).
In addition to gathering inspiration from her family and writing directly about diversity in her stories, Selina portrays multiculturalism in her work by creating pictures with people of all different backgrounds and cultures. Alko is also inspired by living in New York City with its constant buzzing energy and the interaction of people from many different backgrounds and walks of life. Selina captures the experiences and emotions of so many people through using bright colors, jazzy juxtapositions, abstract shapes and unusual designs.
Selina lives in Brooklyn, New York with her husband illustrator Sean
Qualls, www.seanqualls.com, and their children, Isaiah and