Best Yard Sale Ever!

We had a yard sale at my mother’s house over the weekend. Not your run-o-the-mill yard sale, oh no. One with a whole bunch of my aunts and uncles, some of whom are antiques dealers. So the stuff was GOOD, and it ended up being a bit of a swap meet amongst us collecting types. Thanks to Uncle Larry for finding these beauties:


Now that’s GOOD ART! I love these panels, which must have come from a carnival booth in the 50’s.
He also had a clown panel, but clowns are evil.
Everyone knows that.

NESCBWI Conference in Nashua, NH


Just got back from the springtime funfest known as the New England SCBWI Conference! This is the first time lovely husband Eric (also an illustrator/designer) came to the conference with me. Somehow he eluded the camera for the whole conference! We went to different sessions operating on the “divide and conquer” theory of info gathering. Well, sometimes, anyhow!

At top you can see Marilyn Salerno, Conference Director, informing us about the cornucopia of events about to unfold. But how could we have known that THIS would unfold:


That’s writer/illustrator Anne Sibley O’Brien and her editor at Charlesbridge, Yolanda LeRoy performing. They regaled us with the musical version of the emotional rollercoaster of book acceptance and contract negotiation, in true full-blown Broadway style.

Zowie- I must say, I did NOT expect that! And they were GOOD! Very, very brave of them- but they are both clearly multi-talented!

But that wasn’t all, no-


This is the one-and-only Sid Fleischman performing a magic trick on Janet, a willing but wary “volunteer” from the audience. She survived! And then it was time for:


Oh, yeah- rockin’ writers and illustrators, and a few kids with some very fine moves! Good music was on tap, like “YMCA” and “Dancin’ Queen” (possibly requested by a certain Disco Goddess who shall remain nameless).

Morning came early after that, but keynote speaker Bruce Coville was first up- and you simply CAN’T sleep thru that- he was totally funny and engaging, ocasionally jumping on chairs to prove a point. I seem to recall Laurie Halse Anderson saying at Whispering Pines that “if you get a chance to see Bruce Coville speak, do it.” Now I know what she meant! Sorry, I was too far back to get a picture! Next up:


Here’s Anne Sibley O’Brien again, this time in a slightly less musical atmosphere, talking about graphic novels. She’s done an interesting book that is a synthesis of a traditional picturebook and a graphic novel called The Legend of Hong Kil Dong: The Robin Hood of Korea. She’s a very good speaker; friendly and casual. She made a good point- graphic novels are a good bridge between traditional books and stuff like TV, video games, internet, etc. for today’s media-driven kids. Books that can move along sequentially hold their attention more by “making” them flip that page!


Here’s our Photoshop and Painter Guru pal Carlyn Beccia during her presentation called “Digital Painting: Dirty, Lazy Pixels.” I find Carlyn’s work fascinating, not only for it’s gorgeously grungy excellence, but for how freakin’ different it is from mine! We use some of the same programs, but oh Lordy, in very different ways! She loves that well-worn “dirty” look that serves her book extremely well- it’s all about the gritty, bygone days of the circus, previously blogged here. Bonus! She somehow managed to do this session with a dislocated shoulder- way to go, Carlyn!

The afternoon keynote on Saturday was Sid Fleischman, who has been writing for at least 70 (70!!) years. There are not too many people out there who can give you an overview of publishing that spans that long; right thru WWII and beyond. Needless to say, things have changed a LOT, but Sid’s still there in the picture, actively writing. Now that’s inspirational.

Well, whattya know! I won a door prize!


Here’s me and Shennen with my prizes. Killers and naughty schoolgirls! YES!! Perfect for the girl who draws bunnies and writes for 3-year-olds! I guess this is, once again, nature’s way of telling me to read more YA books. I won a big batch of them at Whispering Pines, too!


Here’s Sunday’s keynoter Cheryl Zach at the podium. Cheryl always wanted to write books that were compelling, that kids wanted to read under the covers after they were told to go to bed. She gave us a good overview of the genre, which was interesting to me because I have never read or written mysteries per se. But now I realize that some books that pull you along actually have mysterious elements in them.


Here’s Mark Peter Hughes, Sid Fleischman, and moi, getting my books signed. I believe that is Jacqueline Davies in the lineup, too.

Mark gave a FABULOUS hands-on session about plotting a middle grade/YA novel. I am glad I went to this, despite my lack of writing for this age group (see: bunny writer, above). Knowing the how to jack up the angst of your protagonist thru suspense and how to satisfyingly resolve conflict in your story- well, it’s all good. Eric went to this session, too- high marks from Team Dubois! Another good session that Eric went to was the one John Bell gave about dialogue. You’ll need to revisit that one again, John, so more of us can hear it, too!


That’s Laura Fry, Shennen Bersani, and moi, giving the thumbs up for a good conference! It was great meeting new folks and seeing friends again while soaking up some inspiration.

Alas, now that I have spent my night blogging, I need to put the inspiration on hold for a few days and get a bunch of work done! Wah.

Lloyd Alexander, we’ll miss you.

I just found out that Lloyd Alexander died. He was truly one of my childhood heroes.
The Chronicles of Prydain blew me away as a kid, I loved them so much.
Ironically, a few days ago I found a neat little project that I did when I was about 10 (roughly the same age that my own kids are now).
Here it is, my very own High King Card Game!


It was fun rediscovering this for a few reasons. It shows that I was already into making “products” at that age (earlier, actually). I am sure that I got out of some other kind of report or boring project by offering to do this instead. It also shows what my art looked like at age 10 or 11, which I really wanted to show my kids.
Sometimes they ask me “Why can’t I draw as well as you?”
To which I say, “Because I have been drawing for 35 years!”
This little card set is proof positive that they already do draw as well as me, at the same age, if not better.

It also shows that I was obsessed with The Chronicles of Prydain, which they fully understand, too.
There are a lot of good things about having kids, and it’s particularly fun watching them read the same books and seeing their reactions.
They often make me want to revisit old series and re-read them, or read new ones that they like.

Who out there hasn’t yet read The Chronicles of Prydain?
Try them out if you haven’t, you won’t be dissappointed.

HOP Sighting!

A few months back I did the art for a Hooked on Phonics production called Read, Rhyme and Clap. When I opened up my Children’s Book-of-the-Month Club mailing today, I was surprised (and glad) to see a big promotion for them. Check it out:


My illustrations are on the DVD with the fox on the front. I did the Muffin Man sequence. You know the Muffin Man, right? He lives on Drury Lane, wherever that is. The DVDs are well done- they have expanded on the rhymes to include cute little vignettes with real children, and also with these 3-D characters on the covers. Nice little multi-media presentations for younger kids.

I also did art for the book version of Muffin Man- not sure where or when those will turn up!

Step Right Up…

…here inside this ordinary-looking Barnes and Noble bookstore you’ll find five, count ’em FIVE, glorious illustrator babes in one place!


This is the scene from Carlyn Beccia’s booksigning event for Who Put the B in the Ballyhoo, a non-traditional (shall we say) alphabet book that celebrates vintage circus themes.

It’s about time, says I! I happen to love old circus memorabilia and trivia, and Carlyn’s art just so happens to be astonishing! Amazing! Not-to-be-believed! And she does it digitally, bless her heart! The children of Maison Dubois give this one high marks- they were fascinated by the weird subject matter and simply HAD to know more- it’s very good for sparking interest.

In the back row of the picture you can see me, the Dazzling Liz Goulet Dubois (holding the poster), the Miraculous Mary Beth Cryan, and the Lovely Laura Fry. Up front, you have the Convention-Defying Carlyn Beccia and the Marvelous Monica Lee. Voila!

Illustration Friday: Neighbor


This is my ode to the best neighbor ever, Mr. Rogers.
He was quite a big hero of mine as a child, and still is.

It’s a fast-paced world out there, kiddies.
Sometimes you just have to slow down, put on your sweater, and feed the fish.
Oh, and the occasional trolley trip to the Neighborhood of Make Believe never hurt, either.

Who’s with me??

The Aesthetics of Cute


I found this picture of a rabbit doll on Ebay a few weeks ago, and it really spoke to me.

Cute, huh? Or is it? Maybe by today’s standards it’s a bit bizarro! I love it just the same.

It makes me think about changing ideas about style, and what is acceptable and/or desirable in children’s products.

Now, this googly-eyed bunny doll is definitely a product of it’s time, which I gather to be from the teens or 20’s. It has the look of a Rose O’Neill “kewpie” doll: traditionally cute baby proportions, sideways glancing eyes, and bountiful eyelashes.
People responded in droves to this look at the time- it was very popular. I guess you can say this look has evolved into these kinds of toys:


Ah, the giant-headed joy of the Littlest Pet Shop! Different times, different materials, but hot dog- same cute! We as a species must be programmed to respond to this babyish, big-headed, big-eyed look. As a kid, I had a book about animation by the legendary Preston Blair. Here is the “cute” page from his book that was imprinted on my brain at a very young age:


This is still a MUST HAVE book if you, as an illustrator or animator, want a quick ‘n’ easy reference guide on caricature and motion. Genius!

I am always thinking about appeal- in my art, my books and my toy design. “Cute” doesn’t always hit you over the head in these most obvious of ways, that’s why I think it’s interesting to observe what people (kids) respond to best. It’s equally interesting to see what they specifially don’t respond to- the things that they reject. It’s never an easy call; it can be a fine, fine, line!

Sorry to blather on- like I said, I am always thinking about this stuff. Even when I should be in bed.