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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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

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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:

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Sketches for the large cast of characters.

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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

 

 

 

‘OUR BABY’ book announcement

I’m so excited about the announcement of a new picture-book I’ll be working on later this year with my editor for MISS MAPLE’S SEEDS, Nancy Paulsen. The story, called OUR BABY, written by Varsha Bajaj, celebrates a baby elephant’s birth. The text is so sweet, and is bound to be a great new baby gift!

I’ve been paying special attention recently to photos and articles about elephants, and also got a pass for our nearby zoo so that I can sketch them up close. They are fascinating and intelligent creatures, it’s going to be fun spending more time learning about and drawing them. When I was young, one of my favorite Disney films was DUMBO. I’m looking forward to re-watching that for inspiration! I’m trying to collect elephant reference, so please feel free to share any links to articles, photos, or videos that you come across!

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I’m also especially looking forward to working with Nancy Paulsen again — her feedback is always so incredibly thoughtful, and she’s extremely supportive of the creative process. Nancy and I have been working back and forth since the publication of MISS MAPLE’S SEEDS to nail down my next book, and have worked through several story ideas. She’s been patient with my slow pace when it comes to the writing process, and it helps me to know she understands that a great book doesn’t happen overnight. She’s both honest and encouraging (a great combination).

Nancy sent me a random email one day asking, “Have you drawn any elephants?”  I hadn’t, but was eager to give them a try! So I made this sketch in response. The wrinkles and folds are going to be so fun to develop further!

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A huge thank you to Nancy Paulsen for giving me this opportunity, and to my wonderful agent Jen Rofé for working out all the project and contract details!

 

 

ZENO and ALYA Cover Artwork

I created artwork for the cover of a sweet and emotional middle grade novel, The Desperate Adventures of Zeno and Alya, by author Jane Kelley, released earlier this Fall.

The book goes between two characters’ stories: Zeno, a newly orphaned parrot, and Alya, an 11-year old girl struggling to recover from leukemia treatments. Jane Kelley’s story is beautiful and heart-felt, and I wanted the cover artwork to convey the emotional quality of the story within.

 

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The book design, by Ashley Halsey, is so lovely.

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A little behind-the-scenes, here’s the original rough thumbnail and then the sketch.

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Thumbnail Sketch

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Full size sketch

This was another project that came out of my 2012 SCBWI winning trip to New York, where I had a portfolio consultation with Liz Szabla, editor in chief at Feiwel and Friends, an imprint of Macmillan. As my husband and I were looking for the address on my way to the meeting, we stopped to take pictures in front of the famous Flatiron Building.

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Standing in front of the Flatiron Building (and the Macmillan offices) in January 2012

We continued to search everywhere for the Macmillan address all around the buildings nearby, and I was getting flustered that we couldn’t find it anywhere. We finally realized that Feiwel and Friends was actually inside the Flatiron Building. I was delighted to be able to enter and do business in this iconic New York spot!

Working on the artwork with Liz Szabla and creative director Rich Deas was a joy and a breeze.
Thank you to Jane Kelley and Feiwel and Friends!

 Shop Indie


More about the book:

An orphaned African grey parrot who can speak 127 words. A girl so sick, she has forgotten what it means to try. Fate––and a banana nut muffin––bring them together. Will their shared encounter help them journey through storms inside and out? Will they lose their way, or will they find what really matters?

Here is a story that will remind readers how navigating so many of life’s desperate adventures requires friendship and, above all, hope.

 

 

CODY book announcement

I’m happy to be able to announce a new middle grade book series that I’ll be creating illustrations for called NOT EVEN CODY and CODY AND THE MEEN KIDS, by author Tricia Springstubb with publisher Candlewick Press. I’ve always admired the artistry of Candlewick books, and they’ve been one of the publishers I’ve hoped to work with for many years. I’m so thrilled that time has come! Here’s the official Publisher’s Marketplace announcement:

CODY character sample sneak peak

CODY character sample sneak peak

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Eliza Wheeler’s illustrations for Tricia Springstubb’s NOT EVEN CODY and CODY AND THE MEEN KIDS, about a brave, tender-hearted girl who’s always ready to help others out, to Elizabeth Bicknell at Candlewick, for publication in Spring 2015, by Jennifer Rofe at the Andrea Brown Literary Agency.
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Tricia Springstubb has created super lovable characters in the CODY books, and it’s been fun bringing them to life with the black and white chapter illustrations.

Tricia is also the author of the picture book Phoebe and Digger,  and the middle grade books Mo Wren, Lost and Found and What Happened on Fox Street. Visit Tricia here: www.triciaspringstubb.com

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