THE POMEGRANATE WITCH…new release!

 A new book that I illustrated, written by Denise Doyen, came out last week; THE POMEGRANATE WITCH. It’s here in time for the fall season coming up, and is such a fun romp between a group of neighborhood kids from the suburbs, and the old Pomegranate Witch who guards a legendary pomegranate tree.

This release kicked off with an awesome starred review from Publisher’s Weekly!

“Luscious rhymes and an atmospheric eeriness immerse readers in a neighborhood battle: five children versus the witch who guards the tempting pomegranates that hang from a tree on her property: “Its unpruned limbs were jungle-like, dirt ripplesnaked with roots,/ But glorious were the big, red, round, ripe pomegranate fruits.” Wielding tree branches, rakes, and badminton racquets, the children mount an assault in what is quickly dubbed the Pomegranate War, but hoses blasting water, a scattering of walnuts, and the thrashing tree itself foil their efforts. On Halloween, the witch’s sister, the Kindly Lady, invites the town’s children over for cider and celebration—but could the two women be one and the same? Working in ink and watercolor, Wheeler (Tell Me a Tattoo Story) contrasts the rich red of the pomegranates with washes of pale, sickly green, saturating the pages with a sense of otherworldly magic. And yet: Doyen (Once Upon a Twice) leaves many hints that the Pomegranate Witch is less a malevolent presence than a woman who happily plays that role in the children’s imagination-fueled games. Delicious. Ages 5–8. Agent: Jennifer Rofé, Andrea Brown Literary. (Aug.)”

Some peeks into the book: 

Delight yourself with a copy of your own, or ask your library to order one!

Buy THE POMEGRANATE WITCH at your local indie bookstore
-or-
Order from Barnes and Noble here
Order from Amazon here

THIS IS OUR BABY BORN TODAY book birthday!

My new picture book, with author Varsha Bajaj and Nancy Paulsen/Penguin Books, came into the book world today! THIS IS OUR BABY, BORN TODAY celebrates the birth of a baby elephant. Over the course of one day the jungle family and friends rejoice the baby’s arrival. The book is set in the lush wilds of India and is a tribute to all little ones getting their first warm welcome into the world.

I’m so excited to share more about this book, its author, and the process of creating the illustrations later this week on the Picture Book Builders blog.

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A box of real books arrives!

So far the reviews have been lovely:

Kirkus Reviews
When a baby elephant is born, “wrinkled and gray,” not just the herd, but the whole world rejoices, from morning to night. From the proud Mama to the grand Aunts, from the “fertile and firm” Earth to the ancient Banyan tree, everyone and everything around the new baby elephant joins in celebration and care for the Baby “who warms the hearts of the world today.” Glowing with warm golds and greens and shadowed with deep blues and greens, the gorgeous artwork lushly illuminates the day of an elephant’s birth as it is cared for by its family and surroundings. The expressions on the elephant faces are sheer joy to behold; the elephant smiles are realistic and yet radiate affection. Seemingly simple, this gentle rhyming story works on two levels: the playfulness of the young elephant and its friends ensure that young children will be able to see themselves in the story, and given the depiction of the natural scenes, at least some young readers will become fascinated with the lives of elephants as well. An author’s note at the end provides background from the Indian-American author’s own life and also draws attention to the present-day need to protect elephants from poaching and the loss of habitat. The soft cadence of the rhyming verses and the joyous pictures of the elephants will make this a bedtime favorite. (Picture book. 2-5)

Publishers Weekly
Bajaj (Abby Spencer Goes to Hollywood) traces the first day in a baby elephant’s life, an event celebrated by family members, other animals, and even elements of nature itself. The soft, gently repetitive text quickly establishes a soothing message of love and acceptance: “These are Aunts,/ caring and grand,/ who circle the Baby/ born today.” (There’s a hint of “The House That Jack Built” to the episodic structure, minus the cumulative aspect.) Bajaj focuses on a female-centric cast of elephants, subtly referencing their matriarchal societies, and glancing mentions of monkeys and peacocks give a fuller look at the book’s Indian setting. Working in pen, ink, and bright watercolors, Wheeler (Wherever You Go) evokes a lush environment of towering banyan trees and dense vegetation, helping create another personified character in the setting (“This is the Lagoon,/ calm and waiting,/ to bathe the Baby/ born today”). It’s an intimate and celebratory look at the early days of an elephant’s life, and a reminder that human births are pretty special, too.

9780399166846Buy THIS IS OUR BABY, BORN TODAY at your local indie bookstore
or
Order from Barnes and Noble here.

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Published by Nancy Paulsen Books
Aug 02, 2016 | 32 Pages | 9 x 10 | 3-5 years | ISBN 9780399166846

Tell Me A Tattoo Story

TattooStory_coverWEBI have illustrations in two picture books releasing this year. The first is TELL ME A TATTOO STORY, written by Alison McGhee and published by Chronicle Books, came out this spring.

In TELL ME A TATTOO STORY, a father tells his little son the story behind each of his tattoos, and together they go on a beautiful journey through family history. There’s a tattoo from a favorite book his mother used to read him, one from something his father used to tell him, and one from the longest trip he ever took. And there is a little heart with numbers inside—which might be the best tattoo of them all.

I share about the process of making the art for this book in this post on my ‘Picture Book Builders’ group blog, The Story of TATTOO STORYwhere you can read about how I developed the characters, sketches, and a color story throughout.

ewheeler_process3One story behind this book that I haven’t shared about yet is one about the cover art. The original sketch for the cover was to show the father in this arm-flexing position, as if he’s showing off his muscles, but he’s actually sharing his tattoo story. When the publisher, Chronicle Books, shared this sketch with international publishers at the Bologna Book Fair in Italy, they pointed out that this arm position is offensive in Italy (the equivalent of dropping an F-bomb). Yikes! Luckily this was discovered in the pre-publication stage, and we were able to change the position of the father to an embracing pose for the final cover.

When getting inspired to illustrate this story, I found myself staring at the tattooed folks all around my neighborhood (and then usually had to apologize and explain why I was studying their tattoos). I also frequented a great shop, Wacko Soap Plant, around the corner from my apartment to capitalize on their great collection of tattoo books (like this one).

It’s been a lot of fun to see this unique book go out into the world, and I’ll admit that I wasn’t exactly sure how it would be received by the world at large (being a picture book about tattoos and all) — but what I did know was that this book has an audience of tattooed parents who would be certain to appreciate it. Luckily, this story seems to be finding that audience, and some lovely reviews have been the icing on the cake! Here’s a highlight:

ewheeler_process4The New York Times: “Tell Me a Tattoo Story,” by Alison McGhee and illustrated by Eliza Wheeler, seems, at first glance, written specifically for the hipster parent who longs to see himself reflected in literature, tat sleeves and all. Here, tattoos are emblems of personal history, as a father describes to his son what inspired each one. The first is from his favorite childhood book, the next — the phrase “Be Kind” — was something his own dad said to him. Wheeler’s lush, detailed images beautifully dramatize each moment from the father’s past, and we move seamlessly between the present to these memories.

I was also able to share and sign TATTOO STORY at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books in April, and Chronicle books set me up on a lovely discussion panel of Picture Book illustrators with Dan Santat, Nikki McClure, Jose Lozano, and Lee Wind.

For more?
Blogger and reviewer Jules Danielson wrote this sweet article about TELL ME A TATTOO STORY.
Alison McGhee collected and shared tattoo stories on her blog, and here’s one of my favorites.
Alex Cohen of Southern California Public Radio conducted an interview with Alison McGhee here.
You can Buy ‘Tell Me A Tattoo Story’ HERE!

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9780399166846This year’s second picture book with my illustrations is coming out August 2nd, 2016: THIS IS OUR BABY, BORN TODAY by Varsha Bajaj, published by Nancy Paulsen/Penguin Books. I look forward to sharing more about this book in the coming weeks!

 

 

Happy Book Birthday WHEREVER YOU GO and THE UNMAPPED SEA

Today was the official release of not one, but two books that I worked on over the past two years:

The first book is WHEREVER YOU GO, written by author Pat Zietlow Miller.  I’ll be traveling to Madison, Wisconsin to celebrate this book’s release in May. For those in the area please join Pat and I on May 15th at Books & Co. Bookstore, and/or May 16th at Mystery To Me Bookstore.

A special thank you to Pat for creating the words, Connie Hsu and Leslie Shumate for editing and story directing, and Patti Ann Harris for art directing.

If you missed the book trailer for WHEREVER YOU GO, check it out HERE.

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WYG Invite back_web

 

To order a copy of WHEREVER YOU GO, visit your favorite Indie Bookseller, Barnes and Noble, or online retailer, such as Amazon.com.

 

INC 5_coverThe second book is THE UNMAPPED SEA, the 5th book in the INCORRIBILE CHILDREN OF ASHTON PLACE series by Maryrose Wood. I had such fun working on the cover and interior illustrations. Maryrose is truly a talented writer — these books are witty, playful, and lovable. I will admit that in each of my several readings of this manuscript, I got a little weepy at the end.  I wish I could have been in New York for the book launch to celebrate with Maryrose.

A special thank you to Maryrose for her writing, Donna Bray for her editing, and Dana Fritts for her art directing (and incredible patience!).  This is a dream team!

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“No party is complete without a dance. Tonight we shall be doing the Sea Sway.”

Along with THE UNMAPPED SEA, we’re also celebrating the release of this series in paperback (which sport my new cover illustrations!).

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Today I came home to the absolutely sweetest and totally unexpected surprise:

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AWWWW — Maryrose, thank you!!

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To order a copy of THE UNMAPPED SEA, visit your favorite Indie Bookseller, Barnes and Noble, or online retailer, such as Amazon.com.

 

 

 

CODY Book Birthday & WHEREVER YOU GO Trailer

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Page 1 of CODY AND THE FOUNTAIN OF HAPPINESS

Today!
In the life of children’s book creators, many things are beautiful:
A book’s birthday.

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Happy Book Birthday to Tricia and Candlewick!

If you’re looking for a positive book with sweet writing and diverse characters for a 7-10 year-old, this is your book!
MORE INFO

A brand new book trailer.

My husband, Adam, created this beautiful video for a new picture book I illustrated, WHEREVER YOU GO (coming April 21, 2015), by Wisconsin author Pat Zietlow Miller. Thank you, Adam!

MORE INFO ABOUT THE BOOK

Some New Things

It’s hard to imagine two months have already passed in this new year of 2015! With a new year comes new things. Here’s an update on what a few of these things are for me:

Picture Book Builders Blog

PB builders

I’m excited to join a handful of children’s book writers and illustrators on new blog that’s solely dedicated to discussions around picture-books. For each post, the blogger chooses a picture-book or a quality of picture-books to discuss. DSantat_Beekle_CoverWe cover a range of picture books, from new to old, well-known to little-known.  So far I’ve written about: ‘The Steadfast Tin Soldier‘ (Andersen/Rylant/Corace), ‘The Little House‘ (Burton), ‘The Spider and The Fly’ (Howitt/Diterlizzi), ‘The Arrival’ (Tan), and Dan Santat’s newly Caldecott Medal-donned book ‘The Adventures of Beekle: an Unimaginary Friend’.

Check it out at picturebookbuilders.com

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On April 21, 2015 the picture-book I illustrated comes out called WHEREVER YOU GO (Little Brown), written by Pat Zietlow-Miller, author of SOPHIE’S SQUASH (which received SCBWI’s Golden Kite award last year!). We were thrilled to get a star and absolutely sweet review from Kirkus:

“A rabbit’s cross-country bike excursion introduces the open road . . . through an animal kingdom of forests, treehouses, country cottages, bustling seaside villages, glimmering cities and mountain overlooks. The sunshine-hued, delicate artwork embraces both the panoramic vastness of the countryside and the definitive details nestled in its valleys, meadows, towns and treetops. Each double-page spread invites readers to stop and look closely at the lichen hugging the tree, the bending roses, the bouncing musicians, the twinkling carnival, the romantic dinner parties, the ships’ many sails, the cactus’ sharp needles, the wisps of clouds on a mountain ridge . . . Children, thanks to captivating artwork and rhyme, will want nothing more than to ride his handlebars, bouncing and merry.”

Here’s an interior spread from the book:

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Another book coming out in May 2015 sporting my illustrations is an early middle-grade called CODY AND THE FOUNTAIN OF HAPPINESS (Candlewick), written by Tricia Springstubb, which is the first in a series.

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For whimsical Cody, many things are beautiful, especially ants who say hello by rubbing feelers. But nothing is as beautiful as the first day of summer vacation, and Cody doesn’t want to waste one minute of it. Meanwhile, teenage brother Wyatt is moping over a girl, Mom is stressed about her new job as Head of Shoes, Dad is off hauling chairs in his long-distance truck, and even camp has been closed for the summer. What to do? Just when all seems lost, Cody bumps into a neighborhood boy named Spencer who is looking for a runaway cat. With a new friend and a soon-to-be-found cat, Cody is on her way to the fountain of happiness.

Tricia Springstubb’s writing is playful, musical, and endearing. Through the process of illustrating this book I found myself grown attached to lovable Cody and her friends and family. There are over 30 black and white interior illustrations in the book. Here’s one of them:

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After over a year in the making, I’m eager for these new projects to go out into the world and be shared with everyone!

 

Happy Book Birthday SPIRIT’S KEY!

SpiritsKey Invitation

Today I was able to attend Edith Cohn’s book party for her debut middle-grade novel, SPIRIT’S KEY, at Children’s Book World in West Lost Angeles. It seems a rare opportunity to have the author and artist who worked on a book living in the same city, and it was a special experience to finally meet Edith in person and celebrate this book together.

There was a great crowd, raffle prizes, a reading, and dog-bone shaped cookies–what better way to spend a Saturday afternoon?

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A packed house!

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Edith and a professional voice-over artist reading a scene from the book

20140913_150247One thing I learned from Edith was that she was asked by her publisher, FSG, what kind of  cover she wanted, and she said that she liked the cover of DOLL BONES–which is why they approached me to do the artwork for this book! I’m so glad they did.

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Andrew Arnold at MacMillan Publishers did such a fabulous job with the book design work! I’m enjoying finding all the details he used for the jacket and throughout the book. Special thanks to Andrew for choosing me to work with him on this project.

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Decorative element for the chapter openers.

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This map was a fun new challenge for me. I totally loved it.

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So sweet Edith mentions me in the acknowledgements

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Awwww . . . shucks!

Congratulations to Edith, and SPIRIT’S KEY!

To learn more about the book, visit Edith’s site: www.edithcohn.wordpress.com

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THE GRUDGE KEEPER, released!

No one in the town of Bonnyripple ever kept a grudge.
No one, that is, except old Cornelius, the Grudge Keeper.
Ruffled feathers, petty snits, minor tiffs and major huffs, insults, umbrage, squabbles, dust-ups, and imbroglios–the Grudge Keeper received them all, large and small, tucking each one carefully away in his ramshackle cottage.
When a fierce wind blows through Bonnyripple, the residents are forced to rescue Cornelius and deal with their various disputes . . . 

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A picture-book that I illustrated, THE GRUDGE KEEPER (written by the talented Mara Rockliff), was released on April 4th, 2014. It’s such an exciting moment to see the book all put together, in real life!

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Boxes of books to be signed!

Check out this wonderful interview about the writing and illustrating process with Mara and me on Peachtree Publisher’s blog, here:
The Making of The Grudge Keeper

A few peeks into the process:

GrudgeKeeper_characsketches_72dpi

Sketches for the large cast of characters.

GK_storyboards1.pdf

Thumbnail layout of the book.


Here are a couple of the sketches paired up with the final page spreads from the book:

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Three cheers to Mara Rockliff’s wonderful story, and to Peachtree Publishers for all their amazing work bringing it to fruition!

For more info about the book, visit Peachtree Publishers online.

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Buy ‘The Grudge Keeper’ HERE