New Summer Stuff

So, it seems that after an eternal period of bad and/or middling weather, it’s finally summer! Let us celebrate, shall we?

Maybe you’ll hit a Newport Creamery sometime soon, and grab an AwfulAwful… while you’re there, pick up one of my children’s menus. This one is Block Island themed. It was fun for me to work on this one, as I spent many summers out there courtesy of my uncle, Captain Nick.




And maybe, in your beach bag you’ll have a copy of the current July/August 2014 issue of Rachael Ray magazine. If so, you may find one of my design items in there… it’s TingTing Tongs, which are salad tongs shaped like one of those cymbal-bashing monkeys. Thank you Rachael and staff for featuring it!



Recent Highlights

Happy, happy, joy, joy!

Here is some recently published artwork, as seen in various magazines in the Highlights family!

First up is a Find It feature from the December 2013 issue of Highlights Hello magazine:




This one came in a cute envelope that had a little preview of the feature:


Next is a Look and Look Again feature from January 2014’s issue of Highlights High Five:

HighFive_WhatsCooking_Jan2014_LO(I was really happy o get the chance to do anthropomorphic mice for this one!)

And finally (for now), here’s a rebus feature called “Family Band” that is in the February 2014 issue of Highlights:

Highlights_FamilyBand_Feb2014_LO(I have often done pieces for the younger kids’ magazines, but this is the first time doing a feature page in the “big kids” Highlights.) 

Have I mentioned lately how much I love all the Highlights magazines?

2013 RI Festival of Children’s Books and Authors

This year’s Book Festival at Lincoln School in Providence was fabulous- just full to the brim with great presenters, and very well-attended by a huge crowd.


Here’s Jarret Krosoczka with one of his first books, and whipping out a Lunch lady drawing. I like how he is so candid with kids and adults about the non-direct path to publication. And he happens to be a great guy, too.


Kate Messner was there. I had never heard her talk before- she is truly a natural speaker and I loved her approach to writing and life in general.


Laurie Keller is a big favorite of ours, and she led the mixed audience of kids and adults in drawing otters.4_keller1
5_keller2(Just check out that concentration!)

Kim Newton Fusco gave a great talk about her path, and finding your own path and voice. She has a beautiful and slow approach to honing her books to be the best they can be. 
6_fuscoThis is Lemony Snicket. I think. Otherwise, he sent some guy named Daniel Handler to handle the ginormous crowd that was there for him.

7_snicket1(he had the crowd in stitches,and also occasional headlocks).  


8_snicket2Marin, Steve and Lesley get their book signed- he takes time to harass everyone in the line, it’s sweet!
9_wildWild Thing, I think I looove you.

Here’s Chris Van Allsburg signing one of his amazing books.



Susannah Richards “interviewed” Sharon Creech in a casual discussion about her writing path, and getting the Newbury call.



Dan Santat- the hardest workin’ man in illustration, and one of the best!

Some new book loot. What, it’s not like I could just NOT buy SOME books. 🙂


As always, a great time- looking forward to next year, already!


Well, Hello, Little Highlights!

I got a happy surprise in the mail today- it’s Volume 1, Issue 6 of Highlights Hello magazine for toddlers- with my art on the cover!

I did this piece quite a long time ago, well before the magazine debuted in January 2013. It’s great to finally see it “in action”!




These nifty little magazines come in a protective sleeve, so they are fresh and ready to be handled by your baby when they arrive. Here’s what the sleeve looks like:



It is a treat and an honor to have my art front and center like this. Thank you Highlights, for always creating quality material for children!

Blizzards, Then and Now.

So, we have a blizzard occurring at the moment here in RI. Anytime there is a serious quantity of snow, those of us who were alive at the time remember the legendary Blizzard of 1978. I know I do! I was 11 at the time, and it made a huge impression.

So, when asked to come up with a winter themed Newport Creamery kid’s menu, I thought it would be interesting for todays’s kids to hear about the storm that many of their parents lived through. A lot has changed in the meantime, especially the ability to know a storm is coming well in advance. We all have SO much information these days that it’s hard to envision a time where we could literally be caught off guard by weather!

The menu cover shows what I remember it being like (sort of). There were actually no cows or other farm animals at my house then. But snowdrifts halfway up the house? Yes! A mom who barely made it home on time? Yup. A dad who got stuck downtown at the Providence Marriott for 3 days, and then decided to walk home to Scituate? Yup. There was no school for days on end, and no power either. We had a fireplace and could cook some things in it. I remember making impressive snow forts and sculptures after all was said and done.

So, after THIS blizzard passes through, and you find yourself in a Newport Creamery, check out the kid’s menu. Go ahead, just ask for one. Here’s a peek at the inside. J. Joseph Garrahy, the Governor of RI at the time, appears inside since he was the one who had to deal with the situation. I hope kids will like this issue, and that it sparks conversation!


Why, Hello, Little Magazine!

I am happy to say that my artwork is currently appearing in a brand NEW little magazine published by our friends at Highlights.

Highlights Hello is designed for the youngest babies and toddlers, and is even printed on rip-proof coated paper and stitched like a little board book.

I love illustrating for this age group. Here is my “Find It” feature, which is like baby’s first Hidden Pictures!




My Favorites by Maurice Sendak

What a blow to lose Maurice Sendak this week. Somehow, he seemed like he would just always be there. I’m glad he was writing, working, and being his straight-shooting, famously cantankerous self right up ’til the end. He was the Book King. I knew this as a kid, too.

Here are two of my all-time favorite Sendak books from childhood. They made such a huge impression, that looking back at them now literally brings me back to being a kid.

First up: Some Swell Pup, or Are You Sure You Want A Dog?

Here’s my dog-eared (haha) copy from 1978. This book is genius, straight up. Every kid (and adult) who is contemplating getting a dog should be issued this book. That is from my adult-perspective view. But as a kid, I found this book hilarious and ridiculously frank. The good, the bad, and the ugly is explored with an unblinking eye.

The story begins when a “mysterious stranger”, who seems to be a dog himself, leaves a puppy on the doorstep of a brother and sister. The initial joy of owning a puppy soon turns to reality when the pup does everything “wrong”… and they do everything wrong.

This book was way ahead of it’s time, if you think about how many books use the “graphic novel” approach. This story is laid out like a comic book, and the details in each panel are spot on. The puppy pees. It poops. It shreds things. The kids fight over it, yell at it, hold it the wrong way, and get aggravated with each other. It’s real. And there is a happy ending, but it’s a realistic one. All is not happy until the kids really get what’s involved in having a dog. And they do, the hard way!

It’s so obvious! You’ve got to love! Love! Love!

Next up: Higglety Pigglety Pop! Or There Must Be More To Life.

I mean, really. Just the title. There was nothing like this on the bookshelves in the early 70s, when I first found it. I recall repeatedly borrowing it from my grammar school library and poring over the illustrations, and the surreal words. The story was weird. It had layers. The pictures felt real to me.

It was moody. And a bit scary. Jennie the dog leaves a life that’s just fine in search of “something more”. She becomes a nursemaid to a baby that won’t eat, and ends up stuffing the baby into her suitcase. But that’s OK, because there’s a lion that is interested in eating the baby, too. Eventually, Jennie ends up in a stage show, in which she eats a mop made of salami every night.

Jennie never returns to her good home. She writes to her old master at the end and tells him to come and visit, except she doesn’t know where she is. Traditional storytelling? Not on your life. I loved it.

Looking back at it now, I am struck by two things that hadn’t occurred to me before. One- I have loved scotty dogs forever. Jennie isn’t a scotty per se, but I think this is where my love of them came from. Two- as an adult, I find myself ensconced in the world of community theater. I write, direct, make costumes and sets, etc. Maybe it was this book that “set the stage” for this hobby. I remember being obsessed with the mini stage play that ends this book. The page turns were theatrical, like watching a little movie (and I know Sendak was himself a theater lover). I just adored it. And now I stage plays of my own. A little seed planted in childhood? Quite possibly.

I’m thankful there were alternative books like this on the shelves when I was a kid, and they will surely endure.

So maybe it isn’t really “the end”.

My Book In Rhode Island Monthly!

The May issue of Rhode Island Monthly Magazine has a feature called Rhode Readers, highlighting books by local children’s authors. How happy am I to see What Does A Seed Need? in the lineup!

Check out the other titles by friends Anika Denise and Chris Denise, Peter Mandel, and my old RISD teacher, R.W. Alley and his wife Zoe B. Alley. There are so many great artists and writers in this state!

Illustration Friday: Surrender

The cookies are just sitting there, unattended.
You know you are powerless.
Surrender. Surrender to the sweet, sweet call of the cookie!

I tried to not “overthink” this and just sketch quickly. It has been noted recently by my
art gal pals that even my rough sketches look finished.

I guess it’s true. I surrender to my own style!

A Blizzard of Books!

OK, so, it’s merely snowing today, and my author copies don’t exactly amount to a “blizzard”. But they finally are here!

Real, printed copies of What Does A Seed Need?

They look nice when stacked neatly…

OR, when you toss them up in the air and let them land on a blue Snuggie™!

Inside, you’ll find flap, tabs and pop-ups designed for preschoolers. I adore books for this age group! Little discoveries on every page.

Thank you to everyone who has supported me with their enthusiasm upon it’s release!