Sunday, September 28, 2014

Like my Facebook author page

Ok, I have to admit I don't remember to blog very often. I'm much more active on my Facebook author page, and so I invite you to come interact over there:

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Mother's Day Illustrations

They feed us, cuddle us, read to us, teach us, and rub sunscreen on our bald baby heads. In honor of Mother's Day, here are a bunch of illustrations of moms from some of my books.













Tuesday, February 11, 2014


The cover has been revealed for the picture book I illustrated, PRETTY MINNIE IN PARIS, written by Danielle Steel. It'll be published by Doubleday Books for Young Readers in Oct, 2014. 

Ooh la la!

This was such a fun book to illustrate, especially since my husband and I visited Danielle Steel and her little dog, Minnie, at their apartment in Paris and spent a week in Paris taking photos for research. Oh, how I love my job!

Here's the synopsis of the book:

From #1 New York Times bestselling author Danielle Steel comes a charming picture book about Minnie, a tiny teacup Chihuahua with big style! Inspired by the adorable adventures of bestselling author Danielle Steel’s own teacup Chihuahua, Pretty Minnie in Paris is the stylish, ooh la la tale of a fashionable Parisian pup out on the town. Lost backstage during a noisy, crowded fashion show, tiny Minnie is separated from her owner, the girl she loves best. Quel désastre! But chaos turns to couture when Minnie unexpectedly finds herself the star of the runway. With a dreamy Paris backdrop and an atelier full of adorable outfits, Pretty Minnie in Paris is sure to be in vogue as the season’s must-have tale for little girls—and Danielle Steel fans of all ages—who love clothing, glamour, glitter, and all things à la mode.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Growing your Picture Book Portfolio

When I first graduated from art school, I illustrated for the educational market for years. 

My goal was to illustrate trade picture books - ones with hard covers and dust jackets that you find at bookstores like Barnes & Noble. I was sending in art samples to trade picture book publishers, but the problem was that the samples I was sending worked better for the educational market, since that was what they were created for. They had an "educational look" to them. I needed to transform my portfolio to work for the trade picture book market, yet still create art that was my own style and felt right to me. 

The portfolio critiques at SCBWI conferences were my main way of figuring out how to do that. I would ask the art directors very specific questions about why certain illustrations I created didn't work for trade picture books and how other illustrations by other illustrators did work for trade books. It took years to focus my portfolio and get closer to my own "trade book look." Even now, my art is still growing.

I broke into the trade book world by sending illustration samples to Shen's Books that featured a young Asian girl, since I knew they published multicultural books - research who you're submitting to! That landed me a contract to illustrate CORA COOKS PANCIT. That book won an award and had fabulous reviews. After that, I illustrated THE GOODBYE CANCER GARDEN, published by Albert Whitman & Company. That book received a Starred Review from School Library Journal and also had very nice reviews. After a number of other books, I created my first book as both author and illustrator, PENGUIN CHA-CHA, that was published recently by Random House, and more great reviews for that. Now I've illustrated the upcoming PRETTY MINNIE IN PARIS, to be published by Doubleday, an imprint of Random House. That book was written by Danielle Steel, so I'm sure it'll receive a fair amount of press.

I love my career and have been truly blessed by great projects and working with great people.

If you're tweaking your portfolio to break into trade picture books, there are a lot of resources to help. 

First, I'd suggest joining the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). Go to your regional conferences and volunteer. Most states are their own region, some states are joined, and some states have multiple regions. There are SCBWI regions in many countries too. See if you can receive a portfolio critique at a conference. Those have been quite helpful for me. If your region doesn't have much happening for illustrators, ask if you can volunteer to run an event for illustrators. Your Regional Advisor can apply for a grant from SCBWI to go towards an illustrator event to help with the cost. 

If you do receive a portfolio critique, here are some tips on putting together your portfolio:
  • 11” x 14” or smaller size is preferred. 8.5” x 11” works best to easily print samples.
  • Do not bring original artwork in your portfolio - make nice color copies.
  • Have your name on your portfolio and at the top or bottom of each page.
  • Include 10-15 pieces of your best narrative artwork for children’s books showing a variety of emotion, characters, interaction, perspective, and body language.
  • Don't include artwork that doesn't work for the type of books that you want to illustrate. So no nude figure drawings, still lifes, etc. The illustrations need to have a narrative quality; they need to show a story happening. Multiple sequential pieces with the same characters showing part of a story, like Little Red Riding Hood, is helpful.
  • Bring questions that you want answered about your portfolio, such as what is your weakest piece. Bring paper to write down comments made during your portfolio critique.
  • Don't take comments personally. The art director critiquing your work is trying to help. Listen well and look for ways to improve your art.
  • Bring samples to leave with the art director who critiques your portfolio in case he/she asks for some. Don't expect them to ask though. And if they do ask, they may want a different piece than what you thought was your best, so be ready. Or send them a thank you in the mail with their favorite piece afterwards.

SCBWI's publication called THE BOOK has a section for illustrators. If you're an SCBWI member, you can download THE BOOK for free:

SCBWI has recently merged with Verla Kay's Blue Boards, so there are online discussion boards that you can take advantage of that are new. One new one is called Online Art Critiques:

If you search online for children's book portfolio tips, you'll come across a bunch like these:
Happy drawing!

Sunday, December 01, 2013

Picture Book Advent Calendar

For an Advent calendar this year, I used a cute idea from My Little Bookcase. I wrapped up 25 children's picture books about Christmas and Jesus' birthday. Each night, my little girls will open one and we'll all read it together. I love that!

A couple weeks ago, we hosted Betsy Bird from School Library Journal's A Fuse #8 Production at our Indiana SCBWI Member Luncheon. I'm the Regional Advisor for Indiana SCBWI, so I had the honor of getting to spend some extra time with Betsy before and after the event. She's a librarian, children's book reviewer, author, and a just an all-around nice person. On a walk along Zionsville's lovely streets, we came across a Little Free Library in front of someone's house. So adorable!

I'll be a guest blogger for post-PiBoIdMo on Dec 2 on Tara Lazar's blog where you can win a picture book critique from me. Be sure to watch for it!

Monday, November 25, 2013

"Gobble Up Books this Thanksgiving" Coloring Page

Time for another turkey coloring sheet. May God bless your Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Reading at Home is Important

Dancing with a reader at Family Literacy Day
Last night I was the keynote speaker for the Dubois County Family Literacy Day. It gave me a chance to talk to parents about the importance of books in the home and how they can interact with their kids using books. I'll share a bit of it here. This is a talk I love to give!

This is how I often find my girls
Reading is mighty important!
• It builds listening, memory, and vocab skills.
• Reading fosters imagination.
• It helps kids learn about the world around them and lets them travel anywhere and be anybody.
• They figure out how to see things from another's perspective through books.
• Reading helps kids to sort out their feelings and to understand others. They relate to characters in books and are right there with the character as he or she figures out problems.
• Reading shows kids that there can be answers to problems in life.
• Reading creates a stronger foundation for school success.

So what can you do to help your child?
And I find them like this
• Let your kids see you reading! If you haven't read a book for fun in years, try it! Go to the library and challenge your librarian to find a book you'll love.
• Have comfy spaces in your house for reading, writing, and drawing. And fill your house with books that kids can easily access at their level.
• Read with your child. Even if they're old enough to read by themselves, find a story like THE LION, THE WITCH, AND THE WARDROBE, and read it out loud together as a family. Have your older kids take turns reading too. Read a short chapter each night after dinner before any TV gets turned on.
• Download free activity kits and discussion guides for books, like the Storytime Kit for PENGUIN CHA-CHA.
• Interact with your child as you read books. Discuss the issues in the book and ask your child what they would do in that situation. Get into the habit of using books to discuss good decisions with your child now, and when your child is a teen and facing decisions with bigger consequences, you'll be glad that you have that habit.
• Read funny books together and laugh!

I've been interviewed a bunch lately after the release of PENGUIN CHA-CHA:

Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast:

Newspaper story in Evansville Courier & Press:

The Library Police Podcast:

Elizabeth Dulemba’s Blog:

Writing for Kids (While Raising Them)
The blog of author Tara Lazar:


Kathy Temean’s Blog:

Wendy Martin’s Blog

Sometimes books aren't the only things in our book tubs

November is PiBoIdMo (Picture Book Idea Month) and I've come up with a few fairly good picture book ideas. One of my favorite ideas involved a fabulous name for a new character. It's one of those names that defines a character and then the story flows so well from just that name alone. Well, a quick online search revealed that the name was already a trademarked name for a product, so nope, I can't use it. Bummer.

Now I'm off to work on more picture book ideas!

Monday, September 30, 2013

PENGUIN CHA-CHA coloring page

I've created coloring sheets and activities to go with my new picture book, PENGUIN CHA-CHA.

You can download a free Penguin Cha-Cha Storytime Kit to use with your child at home or with a whole group of kids in a bookstore, library, or classroom. The Storytime Kit contains the following:
• Event Invitation
• The Penguin Popsicle Game
• If You’re a Dancer and You Know It
• Penguin Props
• Penguin Family Portrait
• Make a Dancing Penguin Craft
• Coloring Sheet


Friday, September 20, 2013

Illustration Friday: Together

From the picture book, THE GOODBYE CANCER GARDEN,
written by Janna Matthies, illustrated by Kristi Valiant

Breast Cancer Awareness Month is coming up. Experts estimate that 1 out of every 8 women born today will be diagnosed with breast cancer at some point during her life. Hug your little ones and favorite people, and spend your days wisely.

Even though I walk
through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me.
-Psalm 23:4a