High School French Follow-up!

Favorites / Featured Books / Foreign Exchange

Above: illustration by Mel Dietmeier (from my high school French text book)

I cannot believe I wrote this post a year ago. When I put it on Facebook, I hadn’t thought much about it. But lo and behold Mark from my high school French class (and just about every other class I had growing up) kindly contacted me to tell me he still had the books. Not only did he still have the books, but if I wanted them, those books could be mine! And so thanks to Mark, those books are now mine! They make me so happy.

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Event alert! Sex and Violence in Children’s Books at the PEN World Voices Festival


A still from a pilot episode of The Muppet Show.

Hey, literary New Yorkers! Sex! Violence! Also, The PEN World Voices Festival has been going on this week—and this weekend, they’ve got not one but two children’s lit events! Children’s books are literature, YESSSSSSSS! And psst, the organizer tells me: “You can also pass on the discount codes: PEN14 or PEN2014. I think it’s 20%.”

Sex and Violence in Children’s Books: Where The Wild Things (Really) Are, with Sarwat Chadda, Robie Harris, Susan Kuklin, Sharyn November, and Niki Walker – Sunday, May 4, 12:30 pm, Frederick P. Rose Auditorium, Cooper Union, 41 Cooper Square

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The best yes ever

News / Videos

Some time ago, I wrote and dummied this story about a bear named Ursula (natch) who does water ballet. She’s training for the big water ballet championship with her friend Ricardo..

…until one morning, when they discover a new pool policy: NO BEARS ALLOWED!

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A Studio Visit with Paul O. Zelinsky

Interviews / Process / Studio Visit

Above: An original painting for Swamp Angel written by Anne Isaacs, illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky. Oil on wood veneer.

I was first introduced to Paul O. Zelinsky’s work when I heard him speak at the 2010 SCBWI Illustrator’s Intensive. I was inspired by the way his style changes depending on and in service to the story, so I was very excited when he recently agreed to speak with Liz and me at his Brooklyn studio.

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Sunshine covers!

Featured Books / Inspiration / Just Because


These three books are on my bedside table*; they make me happy. First and foremost, they happen to be fantastic reads that I highly recommend full of humor, heart and outstanding illustrations. I look at them and rearrange them often and even though I’ve finished them, I just don’t want to put them away. I think that has something to do with the yellow. I rarely use yellow in my work, it seems like a bold choice and an even bolder one for a cover.  But seeing these three side by side is a reminder that I should. I can’t get over how great they go together and most of all, how they make me feel just seeing them. I looked on my bookshelves and found only two other book covers that were yellow (both unremarkable books). Is this a trend in publishing and book design or is this just a happy circumstance?

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“If you are drawing characters really swing your cat.” Highlights From the 2014 SCBWI Winter Conference

Events / Inspiration / Process

Above: My piece for Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, an assignment for the Illustrators’ Intensive.

I am still riding an inspired high from last weekend’s SCBWI Winter Conference. I’ve been to the conference four times now and the Illustrators’ Intensive Day is always the highlight for me. Art Director Cecilia Yung’s interview of Tomie dePaola was fantastic. They structured the talk around a comparison of Tomie’s book illustrations and his costume and set design work. Tomie and Cecilia drew insightful parallels between the stage and the picture book spread and picture books and the theater in general. As an illustrator, you are the casting director, costume designer, set designer and director.

Cover from Fun With a Pencil. Brett Helquist says "If you buy one book on drawing, buy this."

Cover from Fun With a Pencil. Brett Helquist says “If you buy one book on drawing, buy this.”

Brett Helquist offered some great insights into creating memorable and engaging characters. He also encouraged us to practice every day. “Musicians practice daily,”  he said. We should practice things that won’t necessarily be published to refine our skills. His recommended reading: Fun With a Pencil and Creative Illustration, both by Andrew Loomis, and Cartooning the Head and Figure by Jack Hamm.


An interior page from Fun With a Pencil by Andrew Loomis.

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Sara Fanelli’s My Map Book

Favorites / Featured Books


Above: Map of My Heart (page from My Map Book by Sara Fanelli)

I’ll never forget when I came across Sara Fanelli’s  My Map Book while I was re-shelving books at the independent bookstore I worked at many yesara_fanelli_my_map_bookars ago. It made me chuckle that the bookstore had decided to shelve it in the non-fiction area under geography. Anyone looking for a map or an atlas would not find what they needed in this book. Though I’m not sure where I would have shelved it. After all, it is non-fiction. Read More


Events / Videos

Above: Still from Ruthie’s stop motion animation about today’s post.

This is a lucky time of year for New Yorkers. There are a bunch of fantastic things to get out and see in the world of children’s books. And it’s the usual suspects who offer us these great opportunities. Click the bold title for more details: Read More

Endpapers (a short postscript)


Speaking of endpapers: I was at my friend Sarah’s recently, digging through her children’s books. (Sarah teaches third grade.) She kept handing me stuff, saying, “Oh, this one is GREAT.” Then she handed me Johnny Penguin, published by Doubleday in 1931.


My immediate reaction: “OH HELLO DELICIOUS ENDPAPERS.”


(Click to enlarge.)

Ah, the good old days of pre-separated artwork (some of which appears to have been prepared in lithographic crayon, yum yum!). These endpapers, and some of the interior illustrations, are printed in black, a lovely warm gray, orange, and turquoise. All I can say is that I would like wallpaper made out of this stuff.

Trick or Treat!

Show and Tell

Illustration from Miss Elephant’s Gerald, a tablet app based on a song by the Pop Ups.

A couple of months ago, the awesome Brooklyn-based children’s band The Pop Ups contacted me, asking me if I wanted to illustrate their jazzy Halloween song Miss Elephant’s Gerald. There would be animals. Playing instruments. Wearing costumes. Oh yes, I was very interested.

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Creatures of the Night

Show and Tell

Above: Opening image for Creatures of the Night, Real Simple Family 2013 by Robin Rosenthal

Art Director Tova Diamond at Real Simple asked me to create some illustrations for an article about sleep for their 2013 family issue. The article, titled “Creatures of the Night” and written by Naomi Shulman, details different child sleep behaviors and how parents can handle them. Each behavior is represented by a different animal.

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We Art Boston

Events / News

Above: Christoph Niemann: Petting Zoo, Limited Edition Silkscreen Print

Fellow art director Jenn McManus recently tipped me off to We Art Boston, an awesome online auction of original children’s book art that starts today.

Susan and Joe McKendry have collected over 100 original works of art from 50+ amazing children’s book illustrators and are auctioning them off online to raise money for the Emergency and Trauma Fund at Boston Children’s Hospital in memory of the Boston Marathon bombing victims. The auction runs through October 24.

A beautiful message from Susan and Joe, excerpted here, sums up the amazing generosity they encountered while putting this auction together.

“…As so many parents felt in those hours and days afterwards, I was certain that it very easily could’ve been us. We were anxious to find a way to help. As an artist, my first thought was to auction off a few paintings I’d created during the making of my first book, Beneath the Streets of Boston, and send the proceeds to the One Fund. But if I wanted to get involved, I thought, perhaps others would, too. I reached out to a few other children’s book author/ illustrators—David Macaulay, Matt Tavares, and Chris Raschka—to gauge interest in putting together a small collection of original art to be auctioned. Not only did every single one say yes, without hesitation, but they were so enthusiastic that they offered to help solicit donations from other illustrators as well.”

Read the full message here and check out all of the artwork here. A sampling of the great art for sale below…


Mo Willems: Elephant, Piggy & Pigeon, Blue Pencil on Layout Bond


Oliver Jeffers: The Great Paper Caper, Page 8 & 9, Print on Archival Paper from Pencil & Digital

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