Posted in Illustrators, Meet the authors

Author/Illustrator: Lori Richmond


Website/social media
Twitter: @loririchmond
Instagram: @loririchmonddraws

When you were my age, did you like to read?

Yes! I used to stay up late every night and devour the Nancy Drew mystery stories.

What was your favorite story?

My number one favorite was THE CLUE IN THE OLD STAGECOACH. I know what the cover looks like, and I probably read it 100 times. But now I can’t remember the storyline!

How do you get your ideas?

Both of my author-illustrated titles, PAX AND BLUE and BUNNY’S STAYCATION (coming in 2018), came from real life things that were happening in my family or with my children. There is so much inspiration in our everyday surroundings. The most important thing about making books is being a good observer and paying close attention to the world around you. Ideas are everywhere!


Is it hard to write a book?
Since I consider myself an illustrator first, it is very hard for me to write and I have to go through many, many drafts. I’m good at thinking of ideas, but turning them into a whole story is something else. It can be frustrating, but all the do-overs ALWAYS make the book come out better in the end. It’s really important to keep at it and keep trying, especially if you really believe in your story.

As an illustrator, how do you get matched with an author?
An author’s manuscript is received by the editor, who works at the publishing house. The editor then meets with the art director and they go through illustrator portfolios and websites to find an artist they think will be a good fit for that story. The editor sends the manuscript to the artist for review. If the artist likes the story and is available to do the work, it’s great news!

Do you have a favorite among the books you have written/illustrated?

That is so hard for me to choose. I love PAX AND BLUE because it is my first book, but I also love BUNNY’S STAYCATION because it addresses an issue that so many modern families face — a parent who has to travel for work and leave their child at home. I hope my book helps little bunnies everywhere with that tough situation!
How many books do you work on at one time?
I have 3 books coming out in 2018, so the past few months were a little tough for me with a lot of work to do. I prefer to only work on one book at a time, but sometimes schedules overlap and I have to get all the work done anyway. It’s a good thing the work is so much fun!

What author do you really like right now?

I am really obsessed with Jon Agee’s book LIFE ON MARS. I love it so, so much. I think it is a perfect book.

What advice do you have for a kid who wants to be an author?
Are you already writing stores? Well, then, you’re already an author. Keep writing. Keep
drawing. Keep dancing. Keep singing. Keep creating. Don’t lose the joy you find in your art, you’ll carry it with you all the way to being a grown-up.

Annoying Little Brother question: how excited are you to be working with Tim Kubart? How did you get matched with him?
Haha! That is not annoying at all. I am VERY excited to be working with Tim! I haven’t met him yet but I can’t wait to! Our editor Nancy Inteli at Harper Collins thought my art style would be a nice fit forTim’s story. I read it and loved it, and the rest is history. Look for our book, OOPSIE-DO, next spring!



Posted in Meet the authors

Meet Caroline Starr Rose


Tell me a little about yourself:
I’m a children’s author who lives in Albuquerque, NM. I’m the mom to two teenage boys, am a former teacher, and a pastor’s wife. I love to read, to run, and marvel at this gorgeous world we live in!
When you were my age, did you like to read?
I loved the Little House on the Prairie series and any book about Ramona Quimby. I also looked forward to reading a chapter of a Nancy Drew book with my mom each day after school.

What was your favorite story?

I loved thinking about Laura Ingalls Wilder as a young girl — how nervous she was when she went to school for the first time, how she traveled across the country in a covered wagon, how she lived in cabins and dugouts and houses her Pa had built, what it must have been like to grow up at a different time in history. I thought about Laura so much, I talked about her without using her last name. I’d tell my mom, “Laura did this” or “Laura did that,” and she’d think I was talking about someone in my class. Laura felt so real and so close that the fact she’d been born 106 years before me didn’t matter. She wasn’t just a girl from my story books. She was my friend.

What environmental book(s) do you recommend for kids?

Because I’m such a fan of poetry, I thought I’d share these picture book poetry collections with you:

How do you get your ideas?

Sometimes I have to work really hard for ideas to form, and other times they just come to me. Over in the Wetlands grew out of the years my family lived in Louisiana, from 2007-2010. I was fascinated by the animals and plants of this very unique part of the country and wanted to share them with readers everywhere. I was also surprised to learn about the loss of Louisiana’s coastal wetlands. This was well-known throughout Louisiana and often discussed, but I’d never heard about it before moving there. I wanted to be sure the rest of the country understood how important wetlands are as ecosystems and how vital it is that we care for the ones that are threatened.


Why do you write about the environment for kids? 

The world is a beautiful, amazing place. Everyday I find something to appreciate. I want to bring that same joy and appreciation to young readers.

Do you have a favorite among the books you have written/illustrated?

That’s a really hard question to answer! All my books hold a special place in my heart.

What author do you really like right now?

I think Kwame Alexander is incredible.

What advice do you have for a kid who wants to be an author?
Read and read and read and then read some more. Writer stories that matter to you. Stay curious! Ask questions! Wonder and enjoy.


Posted in Meet the authors

Meet the author: Lisa Mantchev

Author website/social media: (links to everything else on that page)When you were my age, did you like to read?  

I loved to read so much when I was younger that if I got into trouble, my mom grounded me FROM BOOKS. Seriously, I remember it being like torture, so I tried to never get into trouble. I would read in the car, in the bathtub, and in the closet (for privacy… I have a younger sister who used to be a pain in my backside.) I used to spend hours sitting on the floors of the library and our local bookstore, too.

What was your favorite story? My first “favorite” book was BALLET SHOES by Noel Streatfeild. Then I read all her other novels, and other old-fashioned favorites like SECRET GARDEN, A LITTLE PRINCESS, MARY POPPINS, and such. I liked books set in England, especially if they included boarding schools and theatre. As a grown-up, I got to revisit that when the HARRY POTTER series came out!
How do you get your ideas? My ideas come from everywhere… from conversations with my kids to the pictures I see on Pinterest to memes that are posted on Facebook. Basically, my mind is always open for a story seed to be planted.
Is it hard to write a book? Yes! It takes a lot of time and concentration and determination and focus to write and revise a novel. The picture books are easier, because they are shorter, but they still take concentration and attention to detail, because you have to make each word count.
Do you have a favorite among the books you have written/illustrated? That is like picking a favorite kid. I don’t think I’m allowed. *whispers* The tiny elephant book is my favorite right now.
What author do you really like right now? I am reading Terry Pratchett’s Tiffany Aching series. I love all of his Discworld books. He is very good at being very funny, but all the jokes are smart jokes. Also, he made me realize it was all right to write humor in my own books.
What advice do you have for a kid who wants to be an author? READ, READ, READ. WRITE, WRITE, WRITE. You have to treat it like a job where you are the boss. You answer to yourself by setting challenges and meeting deadlines. Also, there are conventions where you can go and listen to authors speak about all sorts of things, so start going to those as early as possible. Meeting other authors is an important thing we call “networking.” Knowing people in the industry is always a good thing.
Posted in Meet the authors

Meet the author: Brenda Reeves Sturgis



Author website/social media:http://www.brendareevessturgis. com, brsturgis

Tell me a little about yourself: I am the mother of four grown children and seven grandchildren. I am also a nanny for Portland Nannies. I live on a little lake in Maine, I love chocolate, my favorite is seasalt caramel. I like to help me, and that is why I wrote Still a Family.

When you were my age, did you like to read? I LOVED to read. I read all the time. Do you like to read? What do you read? What is your favorite book. Sorry, I know this is my interview but I am interested in YOU!

What was your favorite story? My favorite story was Caps for Sale, and it still is!

How do you get your ideas? Sometimes I get ideas when I am driving. Sometimes I wake up at 3:00 a.m. with ideas. Sometimes I find ideas on social media like facebook.

Is it hard to write a book?  It is not hard to write a book. BUT, it is hard to write a book that a publishing house wants to publish. And it’s hard to revise and it’s hard to rewrite, and it’s VERY HARD to write something that somebody else hasn’t already written.

Do you have a favorite among the books you have written/illustrated? My favorite book is THIS book, Still a Family because I hope it’s going to help people to be better to each other. To be kinder and more loving and more understanding. And that is the biggest hope that I have. That if this book touches a heart that that heart will do something to make the world better.

What author do you really like right now? I have a lot of author friends but if I had to pick one author friend, I would pick Salina Yoon and her picture book, Be a Friend!  (I agree!)

What advice do you have for a kid who wants to be an author? My advice is to keep on reading. Keep on writing. Don’t let anybody tell you that you can’t write because if you want to YOU CAN. This is what I say to myself. “Children believe what we tell them and they become what they believe!” If you believe you can be an author then keep writing and keep learning and someday your dreams can come true just like mine have.

Posted in Meet the authors

Meet the author: Kiki Thorpe


Tell me a little about yourself
I’m the author of over fifty books for kids, including The Never Girls series. I’ve also written middle-grade fiction under the name Mimi McCoy. I live in Colorado with my family. I love skiing, hiking, swimming and traveling, but reading has always been my favorite pastime.

When you were my age, did you like to read?

Yes! I read all the time, though I never would have described myself as a bookworm. I just took for granted that reading was part of everyday life. I remember being astonished when a friend in junior high told me she didn’t like to read. I thought it was just something everyone did, like sleeping or bathing.

What was your favorite story?

So many, I can’t name just one. I loved Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising series, The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster, and Jane Langton’s books like The Diamond in the Window and The Swing in the Summerhouse. My favorite books often had an element of mystery or magic, but I also liked historical fiction, like Caddie Woodlawn and Maud Hart Lovelace’s Betsy-Tacy series.

How do you get your ideas?
 As your books are related to another series (Tinkerbell), Do others have input?
Ideas can come from anywhere. I’m lucky in that the Never Girls stories are set in Never Land, so there’s a lot to drawn from. I might think, “I want to write a mermaid story” or “Let’s see what happens if the girls take some fairy dust home with them.” When I don’t have a clear idea, I start with a character and think what attributes s/he has that might lead to an interesting conflict.

Yes, others have input. This series is a little unusual in that I have two editors—one at Random House (the publisher) and one at Disney, who reviews the text for consistency with the Disney world.

Is it hard to write a book?
Starting can be especially hard. If I’m struggling to begin a book, sometimes I’ll start writing in the middle with a scene I can see clearly in my head.

You write an ongoing series, is it hard to keep facts straight?
I’ve been writing about the world of Pixie Hollow for a long time. Before I wrote the Never Girls, I wrote some books in the Disney Fairies series. So I feel I know the world pretty well by now.

Do you have a favorite among the books you have written?
Not really. Some were more fun to work on that others, but I like them all.

What author do you really like right now?

I’ve been enjoying books about siblings like Hilary McKay’s books about the Casson family and Rita Garcia-Williams’ books about the Gaither sisters. And I reread the original Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie at least once a year. It never gets old.
Read a lot! And take revising seriously. No story is ever perfect the first time it’s written.

Posted in Illustrators, Meet the authors

Meet the author/illustrator: Matthew Cordell


Website/social media:
Twitter: @cordellmatthew

Tell me a little about yourself: I was born and raised in and around the small-to-medium-sized town of Greenville, South Carolina. At the age of 24, I moved to Chicago and have lived here and in the suburbs ever since. I’m married to young adult author, Julie Halpern, and we have two wonderful children, Romy and Dean, and a crazy cat named Norbert.

How long have you been illustrating books? The very, very first book I was hired to illustrate was a middle grade novel titled The Gorillas of Gill Park (written by Amy Gordon). That book came out way back in 2003. Shortly after, the first picture book I illustrated, Toby and the Snowflakes (written by none other than my wife, Julie Halpern), was released in 2004.

How did you become a book illustrator? As long as I can remember, I’ve loved to draw. I always looked forward to and thrived in my art classes throughout elementary, middle, and high school. I ended up studying art in college, learning all I could about all different ways to make pictures. Once I graduated college, I tried a few different ways to make a living at art, and lucked into children’s books. (When I met my wife, she was an elementary school librarian.) I loved illustrating children’s books above anything else I’d ever done in art! I love the people I work with, and I love the entire process of making books. All the way from the scribbles and sketches, to the planning out of pages, to the creation of the final art, and all the way to the end where I finally get to hold a finished book in my hands. And I love knowing that these books will land in the hands of the best audience in the world: kids.
How do authors pick their illustrators? One would think that authors choose the illustrators of their books and that authors and illustrators work together on the story and pictures until the book is finished. But believe it or not, this is not how it happens! When the author and illustrator are not the same person (when you have one person who writes the story and another person who makes the pictures), usually the story has been written and finished first and has been accepted by a publisher to begin making it into a book. Then the folks at the publisher (an editor or art director or both) will decide what illustrator they think would best fit the story. An illustrator is hired to make the pictures for the book and the author is typically not involved at all in the making of the illustrations. Even though, in most cases, I do not work directly with the authors of books I’m illustrating, I always enjoy meeting them on social media or better yet in person, whenever possible!

How do you know how to illustrate an author’s story? That’s an interesting question with a kind of complicated answer… For the most part, when I’m hired to illustrate someone else’s story, what I choose to do is completely up to me. Sometimes there are some notes about certain things or certain parts of the text, but I have to figure out much or most of it all by my lonesome. I always start by creating sketches of how the main characters will look. I share those with the publisher and they sometimes share with the author. Some changes may need to be made here and there, but once those character looks are finished, I start sketching the pages. It’s a lot of problem solving. Trying to figure out backgrounds for things and colors and facial expressions, and so on. So many details that have to be figured out. But it’s a lot of fun. Sort of like solving a puzzle or something like that.

Do you have a favorite book you have illustrated? I love all of my books and all of the authors of the books I’ve illustrated for all of their many different qualities. But I’m going to give an incredibly selfish answer and say that my favorite books to illustrate are the ones I’ve written! It’s not that often that I get to write and illustrate my own books—and be in complete control. [insert evil laugh] I always have considered, and maybe always will consider myself an illustrator. Occasionally, I am bequeathed a good story idea by the universe that is deemed publishable by the… publisher. Generally speaking, my favorite book is always my newest one, so in this case that book is WOLF IN THE SNOW.

Do you illustrate by hand or by computer? I use the computer for some things, but generally speaking, I illustrate using pens and brushes and paper. My art is drawn with old-fashioned pen and ink (very much like when folks used to write with a feather dipped in ink) and color is painted with watercolor. I know my way around the computer a bit, but I do not use it completely to make my artwork. Nowadays, though, one could make illustrations for a book without touching a single piece of paper! But I like paper way too much to ever do that.

Posted in Meet the authors

Meet the author: Frances Watts

Frances Watts lo res.jpeg

I was born in the city of Lausanne, in Switzerland, and moved to Sydney, Australia –where I live now – when I was three. I have had 21 books published, ranging from picture books to books for teens.

When you were my age, did you like to read?
I have always loved to read. Always! From the moment I first held a book in my hands, I was hooked.

What was your favorite story?
Two of my favorite books then (and still among my favorites today) were The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame and Winnie the Pooh by A.A. Milne. I’ve always loved books about animals, and nature, and friendship.

How do you get your ideas?
Ideas can come from anywhere. The Sword Girl series was inspired by a medieval castle near Lausanne that I often visit when I travel to Switzerland. I have also felt inspired to share my own interests with others (I have written a picture book called Parsley Rabbit’s Book about Books, which is all about…books!). I’ve even had ideas just walking down the street. The idea for myy first book, a picture book called Kisses for Daddy, came to me when I overheard a dad asking his young son for a kiss and the boy responded: ‘No! No kiss for Daddy!’ I always carry a notebook and pen wherever I go, so if I see or hear something interesting, I can write it down straight away.


Is it hard to write a book?
It is hard to do it well. I always take a lot of care with my books, writing several drafts and editing and rereading my writing to make sure it is good as it can possibly be – and that’s before I even show my stories to a single other person. But it is also very rewarding. For someone who loves books and stories as much as I do, it is the best job in the world.

Do you have a favorite among the books you have written?
I really do love them all, so I couldn’t choose a favorite. But I can tell you that the Sword Girl books are some of my favorite books to share with kids – and you actually mentioned the reason for this in your review, Bridget. The books are loved by both girls AND boys…because Tommy is awesome! I am so happy to see boys enjoying stories about awesome girls and seeing just how awesome girls are. It’s important to me to have strong, brave girls in my books who are also thoughtful and kind.

Will there be more Sword Girl stories? I really want to know if she becomes a squire!
There are no more stories planned right now…but I do believe Tommy will become a squire. (Me too!)

What author do you really like right now?
At the moment I am really loving the work of author/illustrator Jon Klassen. His new book, We Found a Hat, is so funny and clever. It is a perfect picture book, where both the words AND the pictures tell the story.

What advice do you have for a kid who wants to be an author?
If you want to be a writer, it is so important to be a reader first, and to read as much as you can. That is the best way to learn what makes a great story, and you can use that knowledge when you write your own stories. And reviewing books, like you do, is a really wonderful next step – it means you are really thinking about what you read. Your blog is fantastic, Bridget – congratulations!