Thank you ALA!

Today is Ground Hog Day as well as the announcements for  American Library Association’s youth media awards. It is humbling, thrilling and a huge honor that The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus by Jen Bryant garnered the Sibert Medal as well as a Caldecott Honor. The right word? over the moon. Thank you to the Sibert committee and the Caldecott committee for all your hard work and dedication. And to Kwame Alexander who won the Newbery Medal, Dan Santat for the Caldecott Medal and all the other honorees, BRAVA! For more information about the The Right Word, please visit Eerdmans Books for Young Readers.

The Right Word: launch, send into orbit, commence!

The Right Word: Roget And His Thesaurus by Jen Bryant and published by Eerdmans Books for Young Readers is here at long last. I will be signing books at the Owl and Turtle Bookshop in Camden, Maine. We’ll be giving away a signed copy (signed by both me and Jen) and a print of the endpapers which has Roget’s original word list– the precursor to his Thesaurus. If you can’t make the signing, the Owl and Turtle will ship signed copies! Download a Discussion Guide  for this book here.

Here are links for more information and reviews: Kirkus starred review, Publisher’s Weekly starred review, a wonderful review by educator and writer Monica Edinger, The Wall Street Journal, Scope Notes, and the fabulous Trifecta Interview with Colby Sharp, John Schu and Donalyn Miller of the Nerdy Book Club HERE.



Happy Birthday E.B.White

Today, July 11, is the birthday of E.B.White. On Thursday July 17th from 1-3 there will be a fitting birthday tribute at the Owl and Turtle Bookshop in Camden, Maine with Martha White, Sharon Creech, Chris Van Dusen and me reading from his books. Check out this great video of  author Kate Dicamillo talking about Charlotte’s Web here. And here’s a favorite quote from Charlotte’s Web:

“Why did you do all this for me?” he asked. “I don’t deserve it. I’ve never done anything for you.” “You have been my friend,” replied Charlotte. That in itself is a tremendous thing.”

Parents’ Choice Awards gives Firefly July a seal of approval…

Firefly July garnered a gold seal from the Parent’s Choice Awards 2014 in the poetry category. It will take all summer to get through this list of wonderful books, but a summer of great reading! Many thanks to everyone at Parents’ Choice.

Online Indie: Children’s Bookstore with Jake Ball

If you haven’t seen Jake’s beautiful website, you’re in for a treat. It’s an online indie bookstore where, as Jake writes, “juvenile literature is the sole focus.  We don’t sell TVs, cosmetics, auto parts, and children’s books, just children’s books.” Bravo! See his review for Firefly July here. I’m thrilled to have an author page on his site. Click here to see more.

Speaking of Firefly July, Paul Janeczko and I will be reading aloud and signing books at Longfellow Books in Portland on Saturday, May 17, 2014 at noon for the INDIES FIRST STORY TIME DAY. Hope to see you there!

Spring from Winter

This is the best time of year with nesting nuthatches, balmy breezes and Maine’s own Reading Round Up!  The Maine Library Association Conference, RRU, is always a treat. Hundreds of dedicated librarians gather to talk about books and libraries and this year’s keynote speaker Anita Silvey was extraordinary. The Lupine Committee presented the Lupine Awards and it is an honor and privilege to have Brave Girl by Michelle Markel awarded a Lupine Honor for a Picture Book. Congratulations to my friends and colleagues who garnered awards for their beautiful books including:  Rebekah Raye and Kimberly Ridley, Megan Frazier Blakemore, and Maria Padian. And to Anne Sibley O’Brien, the recipient of the  a Katahdin Award for lifetime achievement. See more here from The  Lupine Librarian. Thank you to the Lupine Committee and the organizers of RRU. Maine librarians are so inspiring!

Firefly July: A Year of Very Short Poems

Our launch for FIREFLY JULY is March 29th at the Maine Coast Book Shop in Damariscotta ME. Join us from 11am–1pm for  Poetic Shorts: a short reading, a short poetry writing workshop and other “shorts”…For those who cannot attend, MCBS will reserve signed books by request, to pick up at a later date, or ship (plus shipping fee). Look forward to seeing potential poets!

It’s almost Spring and happy poetry month…

Today is the day FIREFLY JULY: A Year of Very Short Poems is out. The poems were selected by the incomparable Paul Janeczko and as always with Candlewick books, the production is beautiful.  We are thrilled and over the moon to receive 5 starred reviews and FIREFLY JULY is a March Indie Next selection. Our book launch is March 29th at the Maine Coast Book Shop in Damariscotta, Maine. We’re calling the event Poetic Shorts. See more about the event hereCANNOT ATTEND? The Maine Coast Book Shop will reserve signed books by request, to pick up at a later date, or ship (plus shipping fee).

ALA 2014! The Life and Art of Horace Pippin

Many thanks to the Schneider Family Award Committee for honoring A Splash of Red: The Life and Art of Horace Pippin by Jen Bryant the Schneider Family Book Award. We could not be more thrilled. AND to the Sibert Committee for selecting A Splash of Red as a Sibert Honor Book. Talk about over the moon!  As if that was not enough, this book was also awarded the Orbis Pictus by NCTE . This book was privilege and a pleasure to research and to work on. Thanks to all, and a hearty congratulations to all the winners for all of the ALA awards. (Brian Floca deservedly won the Caldecott Medal for Locomotion). A happy day! For more information and to download an Educator’s Guide visit the Random House website.

San Francisco and Pixar

This past weekend I had the great pleasure of speaking at the San Francisco SCBWI Illustrators Day at Fort Mason, right on the water overlooking Alcatraz in a little firehouse. What a setting. What a wonderful group of enthusiastic and talented illustrators and authors! It was fun and informative. A number of art directors and editors I work with were there and I think the participants got an amazing overview of making a book and the team-work involved. Many thanks to all of you for being there.  Here’s a little inspiration from Pixar’s 22 Rules of Storytelling. Back home now as the color is creeping in, and back to work. Happy autumn!

Little Red Writing has made her debut!

We’ve seen the proofs, held the new book, given it to every member of the family and even signed it for hundreds of  young scholars in Texas. Then the day arrives when the book officially comes out and it’s still really exciting. In Texas, Little Red was a hit with all the kids, but especially the third to fifth graders who are writing stories. As I told them… you’ll never forget what an adverb is again! Many thanks to Joan Holub for writing such a witty, fun and informative fairy tale that was a blast (if you’ve seen the book, no pun intended) to illustrate. Chronicle Books has created a wonderful Discussion Guide for this book including Common Core Standards. And check out this review: My what colorful crayons you have on Amazon. Write on Little Red!

The Matter of Back Matter

Back matter is the first place I turn to in a nonfiction picture book. I want to see where the author and illustrator began their research. The Horn Book has a great article on all kinds of back matter. As the article states, “Far more than just acknowledgments and glossaries, back matter can matter a lot for educators looking to address literacy skills defined in the Common Core State Standards (CCSS).”

Awhile back I spoke in an interview with Cyndi Giorgis about the research and art for Brave Girl by Michelle Markel and A Splash of Red by Jen Bryant. (And a hearty bravo! is in order to Michelle for garnering the Pen Award for Picture Book Writing!) The interview is now in Book Links with many thanks to Cyndi for her wonderful questions.

Texas School Visit Rodeo

Here in Frisco, Texas the young scholars and artists have blown me away. Balloons Over Broadway is on the Texas Bluebonnet List and the students have been hearing the stories behind the story of Tony Sarg. Many thanks to the Frisco Barnes and Noble for hosting me today for an awesome book signing event. Tons of kids came and it was fun to watch them make parade puppets. The artwork below, inspired by Carmine: A Little More Red, greeted me at the Borchardt Elementary School yesterday. Check out librarian extraordinaire, Nancy Jo Lambert’s blog here.

Little Red Writing

Summer is slipping by so fast, but lots of good things to look forward to. Here are a couple of fun reviews of Little Red Writing which will be in stores near you in September. In Reederama, librarian Jennifer Reed sums up the story, “Danger, humor, excitement, adventure, mystery, suspense and writing advice all in one?  This one’s a keeper!” (You MUST see the visuals on her blog post). And another wonderful blog, Three Book A Night Caryn gives a witty and extensive review. Many thanks from and Joan! Visit here to download the super spectacular Educator’s Guide thanks to the designers at Chronicle Books.

EB White

Today, July 11th, is the birthday of author extraordinaire, EB White. Here is a favorite quote he wrote in response to a letter from a child, “All that I hope to say in books, all that I ever hope to say, is that I love the world.” –EB White


Just back from the sublime ALA conference in Chicago. Martha Parravano of the Horn Book writes about the ALSC preconference, A Wild Ride: 75 Years of the Caldecott Medal here. Brian Selznick’s keynote brought down the house. Here are a few pix, the first with the wonderful Jenny Brown of Bank Street College and who writes Twenty by Jenny.  And my “fascinator” head-piece celebrating River of Words: The Story of William Carlos Williams by Jen Bryant, a 2009 Caldecott Honor book. (I cut up a few pages of the book to make it). It’s from This Is Just to Say is my favorite William Carlos Williams poem.

It was a thrill to meet so many wonderful librarians, teachers, colleagues and see old friends. I loved meeting Louise Borden whose book, The Journey That Saved Curious George made me want to illustrate nonfiction.

Lastly, congratulations to Maine author Toni Buzzeo who wrote One Cool Friend, illustrated by David Small, which won a 2012 Caldecott Honor. Brava Toni and David!

And the Fascinator:

With Louise Borden at the Chronicle party:

ALA Chicago 2013!

ALA is right around the corner! I’ll be at the Preconference Reception and Book Signing, The Honor Book Luncheon Panel moderated by Leonard Marcus, at booths signing Little Red Writing, A Splash of Red, A River of Words, Balloons Over Broadway and more. Hope to see you there!  See Jen Bryant’s blog, Flying Tidings for more information and giveaways!  Happy summer.

A Splash of Gold!

Many thanks to the 2013 Parents’ Choice Book Committee for honoring A Splash of Red with a Gold Award for Non- Fiction. We are thrilled, and in very good company!  See more here.

Once upon a time in Pencil School…

Meet Little Red Writing by Joan Holub (Chronicle Books). Little Red will make her debut at ALA in Chicago in June, (though the publication date isn’t until September, 2013). I’ll be signing this new book at the Chronicle booth at ALA with more details to follow. It’s hard to wait for a book to come out, but until then, here’s a wonderful first review by Richie Partington: A very funny picture book that, I guarantee you, lots of savvy teachers will be eagerly sharing with students as part of the process of teaching creative writing. — Richie Partington MLIS, Richie’s Picks

Margaret Wise Brown

Today is the birthday of Margaret Wise Brown who wrote Good Night Moon and other classics. She said, “A good picture book can almost be whistled. … All have their own melodies behind the storytelling.” See more at the Writer’s Almanac. Check out Leonard Marcus’ biography of her: Awakened by the Moon, which is top on my reading list.

Happy Birthday Henri Rousseau…

…who said,“When I go out into the countryside and see the sun and the green and everything flowering, I say to myself, Yes indeed, all that belongs to me!” Last year Michelle Markel’s lovely book, The Fantastic Jungles of Henri Rousseau was published by Eerdmans and quickly became one of my favorite picture book biographies of the year. (Michelle is also the author of Brave Girl). Looking forward to seeing what she has out next! Here’s the book with illustrations by the incomparable Amanda Hall:

Spring Sprang at Candlewick Press

This past week I had the pleasure of delivering final art to Candlewick Press in Cambridge, MA for a new book: Firefly, July and Other Short Poems. Paul Janeczko complied some amazing gems for this book and I love the title. It is especially nice to deliver art and meet the people you’ve been working with in person. My friend and colleague at Candlewick, Anne Moore, took the picture if the art below. A little sneak peek until the book comes out in time for  National Poetry Month in March, 2014. And I’m including a picture of an eeBoo Tot Tower which looks so festive in this New York City store front window.

Every Picture Tells A Story Lecture Series

May, 2013:  The Farnsworth Art Museum has a new show that just opened celebrating NC Wyeth’s work from the Brandywine River Museum. The lecture series for this show starts Saturday, May 4th with Leonard Marcus, May 11 Nick Clark, Chief Curator at the Eric Carle Museum will be there and I’ll be speaking May  18th. Jennifer Greenhill will be May 28th.  Find out more here. Hope to see you there!

Happy Birthday John James Audubon!

“How can I make a little book when I have seen enough to make a dozen large books?”–John James Audubon This past week I had the pleasure of seeing my dear friend, Jackie Davies, who wrote: The Boy Who Drew Birds: The Story of John James Audubon (and the author of the brilliant Lemonade War series).  This story is a wonderful introduction into Audubon’s life and tells the story  of him observing eastern phoebes and “banding” them with a silver thread to observe if they returned to their nests in the spring. (It is the first known incident of banding birds). Checkout the Educator’s Guide for this book here. For those who can’t get enough of the birds in spring, The New York Historical Society’s exhibit, Audubon’s Aviary: The Complete Flock. Audubon’s original paintings are breathtaking! Lastly check out this budding naturalist in the blog: Under the Sycamore.

Illustrating this book was a breakthrough for me in creating 3-dimensional collages. Here is some of the art from the book:

Got my cowboy boots on! Heading to Texas and TLA…

Hope to see many of you at the Texas Library Association conference April 25+26. I’ll be on a star-studded panel on Thursday at 2pm: The Best of Both: Nonfiction Picture Books. How can the same facts result in such different books? Join our panel of nonfiction authors as they share their approach to making a subject uniquely theirs and offer ideas for using children’s nonfiction to improve the expository reading process. With Shana Corey, Candace Fleming, Doreen Rappaport, Tanya Lee Stone, and Chris Barton moderating.  And on Friday at 10:30am I’ll be signing books at the Houghton Mifflin Harcourt booth. Stop by and say hi!


One windy day at the Carle Museum…

A few weeks back the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art hosted me for a fun kite-making workshop and story hour. If you’ve never been, it is not only a wonderful gallery space, but the museum has an art studio with every art supply imaginable, and parents and kids can make art to their heart’s content. And don’t get me started on how great the bookstore is… Many thanks to Diana MacKenzie , Public Art Program Educator for the photos below. Check out the blog here for more news and the super simple kite directions.

Starry Nights

This week was the birthday of Galileo Galilei. Thinking of Galileo makes me think of stars and Tupelo Rides the Rails, where a starry night and the constellations play a starring role. I began that book with a favorite quote by Vincent Van Gogh:

To look at the stars always makes me dream.”

Download the Educator’s Guide to Tupelo Rides the Rails here.

If you’re looking for a book to learn about the the night sky, 365 Starry Nights by Chet Raymo is brilliant, (no pun intended!). It’s very kid-friendly and makes it easy to make sense of the myriad of stars in the night sky.

Here’s Tupelo making a wish to the dog star, Sirius…

April Pick!

Thank you to Bank Street College Center for Children’s Literature Children’s Book Committee for choosing A Splash of Red as the April Pick! In more news,  Jen Bryant will be at International Reading Association April 19-21. See Jen’s schedule at IRA here. Looking forward to heading to Nashville for school visits soon. Got my cowboy boots on!

New York Times Review of Brave Girl!

This review has a great line up of biographies ” for the pre-Silicon-Valley-job set”.  All these women deserve their day in the sun and kudos to the author and illustrators who portray them. Brava to all! And my hat is off to Michelle Markel for writing the brilliant Brave Girl. It was such a pleasure to illustrate. See the book reviews here. Check out the NYT Multimedia Slide Show and here is the review by Pamela Paul of Brave Girl:

I love the opening of this biography of Clara Lemlich, righteous rabble-rouser. It shows a sweeping scene of New York Harbor as a ship pulls past the Statue of Liberty, and the next page declares that a surprise is in store for New York City. “The surprise is dirt poor, just five feet tall and hardly speaks a word of English,” Michelle Markel writes in this excellent, timely portrait of the labor leader, adding jauntily: “This girl’s got grit, and she’s going to prove it. Look out, New York!” Many schoolchildren today learn about the Triangle shirtwaist factory fire, but they don’t often learn about what precipitated the disaster. Markel’s sympathetic, fact-filled and moving story of a garment worker with gumption rounds out the lesson. In a previous book, “Balloons Over Broadway: The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy’s Parade,” the illustrator Melissa Sweet proved herself a fine hand at giving New York City street scenes their color. With her distinctive mixed-media collages, she may have surpassed herself here. And with an inspiration like Lemlich — smart, ambitious, gutsy — it’s easy to see why.

Spike Activity Guide Is Here!

Susan Hood has written an amazing guide for Spike:the Mixed-Up Monster. It’s 15 pages of fun activities, masks, mazes, “draw Spike” and more. Download the PDF here. Reading Specialist Tracie Vaughn Zimmer wrote the Common Core Curriculum Standards for K-3 included in the guide. Many thanks to Susan Hood, Tracie and everyone at Simon and Schuster. Here is a sneak peek at the scavenger hunt bookmarks:

Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire

March 25 is the anniversary of the 1911 factory fire where many young workers lost their lives. In Brave Girl, Michelle Markel tells the story of Clara Lemlich, who led the largest walkout of women workers in the country’s history in 1909. Harper Collins has created a wonderful Discussion Guide for the book. Download the PDF here.

Spring Snow

Snow falling on the daffodils makes it a Mary Oliver kind of day…“Keep room in your heart for the unimaginable”

Blow Winter Away! March 23+24 2013 at the Eric Carle Museum

On Saturday, 3/23/13 at the the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art,  the New England SCBWI is hosting Children’s Books in the  Classroom. I’ll be on a panel discussion with author Susan Hood (and others authors and illustrators). The panel will be moderated by Grace Enriquez, Assistant Professor at Lesley University, who writes for the wonderful blog: The Classroom Bookshelf . More info about this event

On Sunday, 3/24/13, I’ll be doing a kite workshop at the ECMPBA at 1pm with a storytime and booksigning to follow. Come join us! These kites are easy and fun. I’m calling this kite the RED Turbo ’13. More info about this event

The Horn Book and Women’s History Month

The Horn Book celebrates Women’s History Month with reviews on four wonderful titles including Brave Girl (four starred reviews!) by Michelle Markel. Michelle recently launched the book at the Workmen’s Circle in LA. Here are some photos of the mural outside the building–that’s Clara in pink!  Brava! Michelle. Check out the Educator’s Guide for this book utilizing Common Core State Standards here.

Happy Birthday Ezra Jack Keats

As collage artists go, it doesn’t get any better than Ezra Jack Keats. It’s hard to believe that SNOWY DAY was his first book. He said, “I love city life. All the beauty that other people see in country life, I find taking walks and seeing the multitudes of people.” See more on today’s Writer’s Almanac.

Spring!…well, almost, but close enough.

The birds are back and they’re in “Audubon’s Aviary” at the New York Historical Society too. Here is some art from the Boy Who Drew Birds: The Story of John James Audubon by Jacqueline Davies. For more about this book and to download the Teacher’s Guide, click here. This is still one of my favorite books. It was a breakthrough in making 3-D collages for picture books.

And one of Audubon’s pieces in the back of the book:

Women’s History Month

Check the Kid Lit Celebrates Women’s History Month blog for some wonderful titles about amazing women, including Julia Morgan Built a Castle, Temple Grandin,  Mrs. Harkness and the Panda and one I can’t wait to dive into: The Bad Girls of Children’s Literature by Jane Yolen and Heidi Stemple. The Educators Guide for Mrs. Harkness can be downloaded here. For more information about Mrs. Harkness (2012 Cybil Award winner!) visit the Random House website. And Brave Girl: Clara and the Shirtwaist Makers’ Strike of 1909 has a Educator’s Guide found here.

A Book giveaway for Horace Pippin’s Birthday!

In celebration of Horace Pippin’s birthday, I’m offering a couple of signed copies of A Splash of Red by Jen Bryant. Just be the first ones to answer to this question:Which president does Horace Pippin share a birthday with? (This is too easy for words). Email me the answer at I’ll send off a few boxes of our fancy pencil boxes to the next few winners, too.

Thank you to Jeanne Walker Harvey for featuring  A Splash of Red on her blog: True Tales With a Cherry on Top . And many thanks, too to Mary Ann Scheuer for this wonderful review in the blog:  Great Kids Books.  More good news…we recieved a 4th starred review from Publishers Weekly: “Quotations from Pippin about the psychological scars of war and his artisitic process are hand drawn into Sweet’s images, underscoring how art was not only a joyful outlet for Pippin, but also a vital means of interpreting the world.” Below is Pippin’s End of War, Starting Home which Jen Bryant talks about in her blog here.

The Cybils, Etc.

Yesterday the 2012 Cybil Awards were announced and Mrs. Harkness and the Panda by Alicia Potter won the Nonfiction Picture Book Award. Thank to everyone for this wonderful honor! Check out all great Cybil Award winners here.

And A Splash of Red got a nice write-up in Metro magazine in a review of books on creativity.

Overcoming Odds

On the eve of Black History Month Book Page has reviewed a number of wonderful titles: Overcoming Odds in Stories of Inspiration. Thank you to Robin Smith for her insightful and thoughtful reviews, including A Splash of Red. Jen Bryant and I are in august company!

Caldecott Announcements

Yesterday was the children’s book world’s equivalent  of the Noble Prize and there were lots of surprises. I was routing for Laura Vaccaro Seeger’s GREEN which garnered a Caldecott Honor. Brava to Laura! Congratulations too, to fellow Mainers, Toni Buzzeo and Phil Hoose whose books came away with well-deserved awards.

-2 degrees but warm inside…

One of my favorite bloggers, Julie Danielson of 7 Impossible Things Before Breakfast, has posted a wonderful interview talking about my new books on Kirkus today. See it here.  She mentions Mrs. Harkness and the Panda, Brave Girl and A Splash of Red, among other books. (All these books have Discussion Guides that can be found here on my site under MAKE STUFF). Thank you Julie for your insightful questions!

January 22, Welcome Brave Girl!

Today is publication day for Brave Girl: Clara and the Shirtwaist Makers Strike of 1909 by Michelle Markel. It’s the amazing story of Clara Lemlich who led the biggest walk-out of  women workers in this country’s history. See more about the book here. We ‘re grateful for the 3 starred reviews and it’s an Amazon Best Picture Book of the Month for January, 2013.  Brava Clara! There’s an Educators Guide underway, hopefully by Women’s History Month.

As a Charlotte Zolotow fan….

It is a thrill to see Spike: the Mixed-Up Monster on the Cooperative Children’s Book Center, (CCBC) list on the Charlotte Zolotow Award Books for Highly Commended Titles. And check out the New York Times on Sunday, (Jan 13th)  for reviews on Artists. A Splash of Red is there along with a beautiful book on Matisse illustrated by Holly Berry, Michelle Markel’s Rousseau, the Mona Lisa…Great reading and viewing! Makes you want to go to an art museum.

A Slice of Life: Horace Pippin

Today and is publication day for A Splash of Red! It’s always exciting when a book is finally out and in the world. Here’s a great blog post from Two Teachers Writing, from Jen Bryant’s blog: Electric Moccasin, and another insightful review from Richie’s Picks.  Check out for more information, interviews and news. Thank you again to Kirsten Cappy of Curious City and to Liz Long, Maine College of Art intern extraordinaire,  for all their work o the site. Lastly, check out this video for a sweet introduction to Horace Pippin.

Happy 2013 !

So far, so good…Both A SPLASH OF RED,  by Jen Bryant and BRAVE GIRL: Clara Lemlich and the Shirtwaist Makers’ Strike of 1909, by Michelle Markel are on Amazon’s Best Books of the Month.  Both books received 3 starred reviews from Kirkus, School Library Journal and Booklist. Nice news for nonfiction picture books and an auspicious beginning to the new year!

For BRAVE GIRL:  “The zingy images masterfully (and appropriately) incorporate fabric and stitches as well as old images of checks and timecards…This book had fighting spirit in spades–you go Clara!”  —Booklist, starred review

For A SPLASH OF RED: “This outstanding portrait of African-American artist Horace Pippin (1888-1946) allows Pippin’s work to shine—and his heart too.” Kirkus, starred review

Two great blog posts

Last week I had the pleasure of meeting Liz Long, an intern from Maine College of Art, (MECA) who is working with Kirsten Cappy on promoting A Splash Of Red, due out in a few short weeks. Here’s Kirsten’s post at Curious City, (and be sure to visit Curious City’s Department of Public Works, DPW, for amazing downloadable materials for teachers, librarians and readers HERE).  They have created the magnificent website, which is live and ready to view.  I had such a good time talking with Kirsten and Liz about books, maps and color–the best Friday ever! A recording of the interview with pictures will be on the website soon. Thank you to Liz, Kirsten and MECA for this gift. And author Jen Bryant is offering a copy of A Splash of Red on her blog: Flying Tidings. The picture below is in honor of today’s first snowfall…


Scholastic’s Top Ten Trends for 2013

Scholastic editors forecast the top ten trends in children’s books for the upcoming year. Lots of good reading to look forward to and  A Splash of Red is mentioned as “intriguing nonfiction” along with Kadir Nelson’s: Nelson Mandela and Lincoln’s Grave Robbers by Steve Sheinkin.

Happy Hannukah!

Here’s to the light in the dark of winter.

Beatrix Potter: The Picture Letters

If you like Beatrix, (and who doesn’t), you will love the show at the Morgan Library in NYC. You can see the genesis of Peter Rabbit and his escapades in her letters to children. And if you’re in New York City, don’t miss the Original Art Show at the Society of Illustrators.  Lastly, check out the play: The Old Man and the Old Moon, or at least their website at Really good fun and brilliantly designed.

Books of Wonder, December 2nd 2012

Books of Wonder,  one of the best bookstores in New York City, is having a holiday extravaganza. I’ll be there signing SPIKE with the author Susan Hood along with James Howe, Lane Smith, Michelle Knudsen, Douglas Florian and other rock stars of the children’s book world. Susan and I will also be signing SPIKE on Dec 1st at Barnes and Noble on the Upper East Side at 150 East 86th St. at noon-2pm. Hope to see you there!

Happy Thanksgiving and a letter to lift your spirits!

This past year I had the pleasure of meeting Jenn Choi who writes the blog Toys Are Tools. Today’s post, inspired by the genius of Tony Sarg, celebrates all the young inventors out there. The post is in the form of a letter, (the nicest letter I’ve ever received!) and inspired by Balloons Over Broadway, Jenn writes: Use this book to inspire your child’s inventor qualities and aspirations, demonstrate problem-solving skills in a historical context, talk about machines in a storybook for kids. Thank you Jenn! Inventors, play on! Check out her post here and to enter to win a signed copy of the book.

Balloons Over Broadway Activity Kit

To make your own Parade-in-a-box, download the wonderful Activity Kit here and be sure to read the blog post at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast for more about the book and to see some rare vintage parade photos. Macy’s Parade preparations can be found here. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Parade Preparations!

Tony Sarg’s creations circa 1930.

NCTE and the Orbis Pictus

Looking forward to being at the National Council of Teachers of English, (NCTE) annual convention in Las Vegas. Balloons Over Broadway garnered the Orbis Pictus Award from NCTE. What is the Orbis Pictus? Finding out took me all the way to the Library of Congress. The Orbis Pictus by John Amos Comenius was the first picture book for children. It’s incredibly beautiful and hard to imagine life before picture books.

Balloons Over Broadway Giveaway

Curious City’s Department of Public Works (DPW) is giving away 10 copies of Balloons Over Broadway and EVERY entry will receive a recipe postcard for Thanksgiving Panache via snail mail. Delicious! The parade is just around the corner and check out what Macy’s has in store. Go to “Make Stuff” on this site to download an Activity Kit and Discussion Guide.

KIDSBUZZ! November 7, 2012

Shelf Awareness KidsBuzz is offering another chance to win a signed copy of A Splash of Red by Jen Bryant. (We’ll send you a postcard just for entering!). And more good news… we received another starred review, this time from Kirkus, “This outstanding portrait of African-American artist Horace Pippin (1888-1946) allows Pippin’s work to shine—and his heart too.”  Please check out the Discussion Guide for this book!

November 3, 2012 Book signing!

Tomorrow is the big day at the South Portland Public Library. Come join us with your little ones for a booksigning, make your own helium balloon characters, and fun Thanksgiving Day-Parade activities. See you tomorrow at 2pm. And check out this year’s Macy’s Day Parade news. Click here for more information about Balloons Over Broadway.

Happy Halloween treat from Kidsbuzz

No tricks! To enter your name to win a signed copy of A Splash of Red by Jen Bryant (with pictures by me), go to Shelf Awareness Kidsbuzz. You have plenty of time to enter–the books will be mailed in January after it’s published by Knopf/Random House. Meanwhile, check out the wonderful Educator’s Guide for this book!  “Outstanding…”–starred review,  Booklist.

October 2012 Big News from Texas!

We just learned that Balloons Over Broadway is on the Texas Library Association Bluebonnet Award master list!  Be sure to check out all the books for some wonderful reading.

PiBoIdMo: Picture Book Idea Month

In a few days I’m going to participate in PiBoIdmo, (creating 30 picture book ideas in 30 days) to shake things up and get down ideas that keep swimming around. See the PiBoIdMo blog to join. I’ll be posting in the PiBoIdMo blog later this month. Stay tuned!

October 2012, Portlandians! (the Maine Contingent)

The South Portland Public Library is hosting an event celebrating Thanksgiving and Balloons Over Broadway on December 3rd from 2-4pm. We’ll be decorating helium balloons, just like at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, (except we’ll be using googly eyes and streamers!). Come join us for the festivities and book-signing. Download the Balloons Over Broadway Activity Kit and the new Educator’s Discussion Guide for more fun things to make.

…A charmer!

A wonderful review for SPIKE: the Mixed-Up Monster just in at Shelf Awareness.

Two New Discussion Guides!

It’s so exciting to have discussion guides for educators, librarians and parents to use with picture books. The new Balloons Over Broadway Discussion Guide also connects to the Common Core State Standards. This curriculum guide began as a blog post on The Classroom Bookshelf by Grace Enriquez. Thank you, Grace! Next, though my new book by Jen Bryant will debut in January 2013, here is a sneak preview with wonderful ways to introduce young readers to an American treasure: A Splash of Red: the Life and Art of Horace Pippin Discussion Guide. Thank you to Reading Specialist Rose Capelli and Dr. Lynne Dorfman, Educational Consultant for writing this informative guide.

Happy Birthday to comic book artist Harvey Pekar

When asked why he wanted to turn his life into a comic book, Harvey Pekar said, “I wanted to write literature that pushed people into their lives rather than helping people escape from them.”

A Splash of nice news

We just learned that A Splash of Red: the Life and Art of Horace Pippin has received a *starred* review from BOOKLIST.

“…a well-structured narrative with recurring themes and a highly accessible styleoutstanding.” –Booklist

Wonderful news! The book will be released January, 2013 from Knopf/Random House.

Brava! to Susan Hood, author of SPIKE: the Mixed-Up Monster

Check out Susan Hood’s publication party this past weekend at the Play On Words blog. If the pictures tell a story, it looks like a good time was had by all. See more about SPIKE and Susan’s other new books at

The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is not far away…

Get ready for the festivities on November 2nd, 2012 at 2pm at the Portland Public Library. We’ll be talking about Tony Sarg and Balloons Over Broadway: The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy’s Parade, making a “parade in a box”, and decorating helium balloons to take home,(yep, you can design your own character balloon!) To get in the holiday spirit, visit Macy’s 2012 parade website. Hope to see you in Portland!

September 19, 2012

The Children’s Book Synposium is this weekend in New Hampshire. I’ll be speaking about the making of Balloons Over Broadway: The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy’s Parade. Joining me on a panel discussion from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt will be art director Rachel Newborn, and production supervisor, Crystal Paquette. It will be a rare treat to hear them speak about the makings of a picture book. Authors/illustrators extraordinaire Annie O’Brien and Brian Lies will be speaking as well. Hope to see you there!

Happy Birthday to the poet William Carlos Williams!

He summed up his poetic philosophy, “no ideas but in things”. And he he wrote,”We are blind and live our blind lives out in blindness. Poets are damned but they are not blind, they see with the eyes of angels.”

Here is a favorite piece of art from my book, A RIVER OF WORDS: The Story of William Carlos Williams, by Jen Bryant. Check out the Educator’s Guide for this book here.

Happy Birthday to the poet Mary Oliver!

So many favorite books and poems by M.O., but here is the essence of her:                                                                              “Instructions for living a life. Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it.”–Mary Oliver

September 13th 2012 One Evening in Maine Original Children’s Book Illustration Auction

One Evening in Maine is a benefit dinner to support the Maine Humanities Council’s programs for educators and at-risk populations on the 60th anniversary of McCloskey’s book. Works from the wonderful Lisa Jahn-Clough, Cathryn Falwell, Charlotte Agell, to name a few of the illustrious illustrators. A great night for a great cause. Hope to see you there. Here’s a piece of mine up for bid from RUBIO AND THE THREE OSOS :

Labor Day 2012

How did it get to be September so fast? Happy Labor Day and here are some wise words from William Carlos Williams from A RIVER OF WORDS: The Story of William Carlos Williams by Jen Bryant. And here’s a sneak peek at some information on my new book with Jen Bryant out in January: A SPLASH OF RED: The Life and Art of Horace Pippin.

Children’s Book Illustration Symposium, Sept. 29th

The New England Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators + New Hampshire Institute of Art is hosting their 2nd Annual event on Sept. 29th in NH. For more information see their website here. And check out this poster by Jim Burke,  (professor of Illustration at NHIA), Ryan O’Rourke and Lara McCormick! Thank you all. Can’t wait to celebrate autumn and books with everyone.

More great news for SPIKE on TV!

Susan Hood has 3, (count them…THREE!) of her books featured on News 12, Connecticut. Brava to Susan! Here’s to more big news for our favorite little axolotl.

Congratulations to SPIKE!

SPIKE: The Mixed Up Monster by Susan Hood is a PAL Award (Play Advances Language) winner! See the review at Play On Words. “Spike the Mixed-up Monster is a must-read, playful, delightfully illustrated tale that charms readers and expands their language learning.” Due out this fall, SPIKE is also a Junior Library Guild selection. Muchas Gracias!

Girl Power and the Mars Rover

When I saw the film 7 Minutes of Terror about landing the Mars Rover, I wondered what they made the parachute out of. Turns out it was partly Kevlar, (the same material used in bullet proof vests) which was invented by Stephanie Kwolek, an inventor featured in GIRLS THINK OF EVERYTHING by Catherine Thimmesh. Stephanie rocks, and so does Catherine!

Toys Are Tools: Inventor Giveaway! Summer 2012

Jenn Choi, editor at Toys Are Tools has posted a fun interview we did together. AND there is a giveaway for an eeBoo Drawing Book and Carmine.  After researching Tony Sarg for Balloons Over Broadway, I’m a firm believer than toys are most definitely tools. It’s a great site. See more here. Plus, I love being consider an inventor!

Summer 2012

Summer afternoon…the two most beautiful words in the English language   –Henry James.

Preparing to head to the SCBWI conference in LA. I’ll be giving a talk: Swinging Out: 10 Ways To Open New Doors into Designing Picture Books, plus an illustrator’s panel discussion: From Pictures to Stories, and accepting the Golden Kite Award for picture book for Balloons Over Broadway!

Voting! July 2012

In the spirit of this year’s elections, the Library of Virginia Literary Awards People’s Choice is underway and Balloons Over Broadway has been nominated for the Cardoza Award. Please vote HERE! And thank you and applause in advance.

More news…2012

Because I can hardly contain my excitement, here is the cover of my next book with Jen Bryant, A Splash Of Red: The Life And Art of Horace Pippin, due out in January with Random House. This book really inspired me and I hope budding young artists will see themselves in Horace’s desire to make art against all odds. Jen Bryant is amazing!

Back from ALA 2012

ALA was magnificent. I was in great company with the folks at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and meeting the Sibert Committee was such a thrill. Look forward to posting pictures soon, but you can see more at my Facebook page: Melissa Sweet Illustration. (Like it!) Thank you to everyone for the incredible honor of the Sibert Medal. See more of Andrew’s remarks here at ALANews.

Summer Expeditions 2012

The Cleveland Plain Dealer reviewed three biographies of brave women, including a wonderful review of Mrs. Harkness and the Panda. Happy intrepid travels this summer!

Spring  2012

Two wonderful awards from Bankstreet for Balloons Over Broadway….first the Flora Stieglitz Straus Award for nonfiction, and equally as exciting, the Cook Prize which honors the best science, technology,engineering and math, (STEM), picture book for ages eight to ten. My gratitude to everyone at Bankstreet and School Library Journal is as big as a Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade balloon! I am so honored. Thank you. Tony Sarg still has the Midas touch.

Spring  2012

Check out the new educator’s guide for Mrs. Harkness and the Panda. Tracie Zimmer wrote the guide and did an amazing job, as usual!

Spring  2012

Definitely gardening season. It’s always a little hard to stay in the studio this time of year. It is fantastically green out there.

Big Dreams!  2012

This Friday, May 11th at 3pm,  I’ll be celebrating Baby Bear’s Big Dreams By Jane Yolen with Raising Readers and Kirsten Cappy at the Maine Discovery Museum in Bangor, Maine.

Seattle SCBWI 2012

Just back from Seattle. The Western Washington Chapter of the SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) was an incredibly fun and informative conference. See more here on my FaceBook page.

Spring! 2012

March came in like a lion and went out like one, too. But the daffodils are up and all is well. Especially since my new drawing book with eeBoo just came out. Check out this great article in the blog Toys Are Tools. Thank you Jenn Choi for allowing me to use these great images from the post. The book is working!

March 2012

In celebration of Women’s History month, the New York Times reviewed books about real-life heroines, including Mrs. Harkness and the Panda. Find it here in the March 11, 2012 issue.

March 2012

Woo-Hoo! Awesome news! Balloons Over Broadway garnered the Golden Kite Award from the SCBWI in the picture book category. See more here.

Leap Day 2012

Lots of great news for Mrs. Harkness and the Panda by Alicia Potter due out March 13, 2012:

“This is a gorgeous book. The illustrations are a combination of small and large watercolor drawings, background collages using decorative Chinese papers, floral prints, maps, and Chinese lettering, as well as a few photographs. This little gem will be perfect for one-on-one sharing and for those second-grade biography assignments. It’s simple stunning.” –School library Journal, starred review.  Click here for more reviews and information.

February 2012

Teaching Books has posted an interview with me on their website, They’re a great audio resource.

January 2012

Sunny news on a grey day in Maine! BALLOONS OVER BROADWAY garnered the Sibert Award for the most distinguished informational book published in the United States. Thank you to the Sibert Committee, family and friends, bloggers and writers who gave me such words of encouragement. I am honored and blown away.



January 2012

Many thanks to everyone at NCTE for awarding Balloons Over Broadway the 2012 Orbis Pictus Award. It is an honor and congratulations to all the honorees. I’m smiling as wide as this tiger!

Happy New Year 2012

Looking Forward to speaking and giving workshops at the SCBWI conference in Seattle in April. For more information click here.

December 2011

This magnificent zebra was made by the youngest person at the Society of Illustrators puppetry workshop in early December.


December 2011

Thank you to Kirsten Cappy of Curious City for these great photos. A good time was had by all.

11/20/11 See you today at Macy’s Herald Square and the NY Historical Society:

11/20/11: Booksigning for Balloons Over Broadway, The New York Historical Society celebration for the opening of their newly renovated children’s room, 11:30am

11/20/11:Booksigning for Balloons Over Broadway, MACY’S Herald Square!!! 2-3pm

Here is the Balloons Over Broadway Activity Kit!

Once Upon a Time in New York City…

November 13, 2011, the New York Times Book Review by Pete Hamill of Balloons Over Broadway along with 2 other wonderful titles about New York City.



A very auspicious day and Balloons Over Broadway is released! That’s Tony Sarg looking up at Bil Baird painting a character balloon.

First Snow! 2011

Just back from the Society of Illustrators Show in NYC. So much beautiful art in one place. The Ezra Jack Keats show at the Jewish Museum was a stunner, too. Made me want to come home and make a collage.
























































































…the leaves are coming down… 2011

Balloons Over Broadway has a piece in the Original Art at the Society of Illustrators in NYC. It’s always amazing to see so much great art. Don’t miss it!

breezy fall day 2011

Thank you to BookPage for a fun way to present an interview. I wish I could illustrate every interview. See more here at

Autumn 2011

Less than 2 weeks until Balloons Over Broadway is officially out, but it’s in bookstores now.

Looking forward to 11/1/11!

This is Tony Sarg clowning around in the Goodyear hangar. circa 1920’s

Autumn 2011

Balloons Over Broadway has received 5 *starred* reviews! hurray!

The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade poster will be on their shopping bags for the month of November in Macy’s flagship stores. See more about Tony Sarg and Balloons Over Broadway at  Macy’s website.

Early autumn 2011

The poster for the 85th Annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is done! It will be on the streets of New York City soon and the art will also be on the Macy’s shopping bags in November. Here’s a snippet from the poster–a touch of Balloons Over Broadway in the style.  AND the Activity Kit for Balloons Over Broadway can be downloaded here!

Summer 2011

The reviews for Balloons Over Broadway are starting to come in and the first is a *starred* review from Publisher’s Weekly !

Summer (is not almost over!) 2011

Children’s Book Fair By the Sea in Camden, ME

This is always a great event for the kids (and book collectors!). I’ll be bringing Balloons Over Broadway posters. For more information and a list of the amazing authors attending, visit the Camden Public Library I’ll be reading from the Sleepy Little Alphabet and showing the kids how to draw these rascally letters.

Children’s Book Illustrators art opening at the UNE Portland, ME

A great chance to see original art! for more info: The Maine Drawing Project

Summer 2011

Back from Italy…buongiorno

to Venice and the Biennale…

…then to Tuscany and the village of Collodi, the medieval town where the author of Pinocchio is from…

…the best souvenir?  My sketchbook:


Spring 2011

Rubia and the Three Osos…fabuloso!

Rubia and the Three Osos is a Junior Library Guild Selection and a 2011 Notable Children’s Book. Bueno!

Art from Rubia as well as from Charlotte in Paris will be included in the show: Tell Me A Story: Folktales and World Cultures at the University of Southern Maine, June 17-August 12, 2011.

Spring 2011

It won’t be long before until Balloons Over Broadway is here!

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt has created an amazing downloadable Activity Kit for Balloons Over Broadway. It’s a parade in a box! Thanks to Erin Wallace for her photo of Elisabeth with some of the new puppets.The Activity Kit will be available from this site soon.

Hello and welcome to the new site!

Stay tuned for more of what is happening in the studio.

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