Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Who Would You Like to Have Thanksgiving Dinner With?

In the spirit of Thanksgiving I have put together a bracket of my favorite families from books, movies and tv shows to determine which family I would most want to spend Thanksgiving with. For me the winner is...the Gilbreths from the book "Cheaper By the Dozen." Who would you most want to break bread with on Thanksgiving day?



The Weirs - Freaks and Geeks
Bluths - Arrested Development
The Starks - Game of Thrones
Hills - King of the Hill
Belchers - Bob’s Burgers
Pritchetts- Modern Family
The Sopranos - Sopranos
Crawleys - Downton Abbey


Dashwoods - Sense and Sensibility
Joads - Grapes of Wrath 
Bells - The Crossover
Cratchits - A Christmas Carol
Finches - To Kill a Mockingbird
Gilbreths - Cheaper by the Dozen
The Marches - Little Women
Boatwrights - The Secret Life of Bees


Portokalos - My Big Fat Greek Wedding
Tenenbaums - The Royal Tenenbaums
Von Trapps - Sound of Music
Sycamores - You Can’t Take it With You
Hoovers - Little Miss Sunshine
Corleones - The Godfather
Grants - Nebraska
Orefice - Life is Beautiful

Childhood Favorites

Weasleys - Harry Potter
Ingalls - Little House on the Prairie
Buckets - Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Darlings - Peter Pan
Incredibles - The Incredibles
Burns - Rescue Bots
Kusakabes - My Neighbor Totoro
Robinsons - Swiss Family Robinson


Friday, November 13, 2015


Today I want to talk about a very special book.

Title: Roxaboxen

Author: Alice McLerran

Illustrator: Barbara Cooney

Ages: 4-7

Opening: Marion called it Roxaboxen. (She always knew the name of everything.)

What it's About: A group of kids discover a piece of land covered in rocks, cactus, and old wooden boxes and then turn it in to their own magical world.

Why I LOVE this Book: Some of my fondest memories from when I was a little girl include exploring outside, finding a special place, and making it my own. My friends and I used to gather juniper berries, Strip bark from the trees for bacon, and create little campfire pits. We would spend full afternoons in these places, pretending to be orphans, pioneers, native americans, etc. It was bliss. So when I discovered this book that captured so well that magical world of untethered childhood play I was nearly jumping up and down with excitement. I couldn't wait to go home and read it to my own 4 year old son.

Create Your Own Roxaboxen

1. Hook up with a buddy or group of friends. These sorts of adventures are far more fun if you have a team to share them with. Each child bring new ideas to the table and it's wonderful to watch them learn to work together.

2. Find a special place, it could be in your very own back yard, or where you can immerse yourself in nature and let creativity run uninterrupted.

3. It's okay to bring supplies from your house. Empty flower pots, yarn, boxes, cloth, all these things can be useful when creating your own special place.

4. Utilize nature's resources! Gather sticks to make fences. Collect wild berries, leaves, and bark for food. Nature is full of potential tools and elements for pretend.

5. Step back and allow the kids to do the work. As parents I know it's tempting at times to take over, but it's so important to allow the kids the freedom to come up with their own ideas and carry them out themselves. Help them if they ask for it, and throw out ideas if they are having trouble coming up with their own, but let this be their place, not yours.

6. Have fun!

Friday, November 6, 2015

The Best Picture Books Of All Time!

Happy National Picture Book Month! I am so happy to discover there is a whole 30 days devoted to celebrating the world I've immersed myself in for the past 3 years. Picture books are my life! Just ask any of my co-workers at the library. They'll tell you that at the end of every shift I'm walking away with an armful of picture books. I currently have 72 checked out, and they're sitting on a shelf in my 4 year old's bedroom just waiting to be opened. Every night Samuel and I snuggle up and step into the worlds created for us by Mo Williams, James Marshall, Maurice Sendak and hundreds of other brilliant children's book authors and illustrators. I may forget to have him brush his teeth or change him in to pajamas, but I never neglect to read him his bedtime stories. It's the most important ritual of my day.

In honor of National Picture Book Month I would like to share with you our top 10 favorite picture books. These are the books that threw us into fits of giggles, or caused an unexpected burst of emotion in me as I tried to wipe away the tears before Samuel could see. These are the books that I can recite word for word. These are the books that made me want to be a children's book author/illustrator in the first place. They are my haven, inspiration, and delight. They are the best of the best, and I hope you'll enjoy them too.

Samuel's Top 10

1. Tin - Chris Judge
2. Sneeches and other short stories - Dr. Seuss
3. Rhyming Dust Bunnies - Jan Thomas
4. There are No Cats in this Book - Vivian Schwartz
5. No David! - David Shannon
6. Bedtime for Mommy - Amy Krouse Rosenthal and LeUyen Pham
7. Goodnight Goodnight Construction Site - Sherri Duskey Rinker
8. Room on the Broom - Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler
9. Hooray for Hat! - Brian Won
10. Go Dog. Go! - P. D. Eastman

My Top 10 

1. A Story, A Story - Gail E. Haley
2. The Giving Tree - Shel Silverstein
3. Julius the Baby of the World - Kevin Henkes
4. Heckedy Peg - Audrey and Don Wood
5. The Mitten - Jan Brett
6. Home - Carson Ellis
7. Are You My Mother? - P. D. Eastman
8. Ernest the Moose - Catherine Rayner
9. No Fits Nilson - Zacharia O’Hara
10. The Eleventh Hour - Graeme Base

What are your favorites? What are the books that you loved as a child? What are the books that your own kids pull off the shelves over and over again? Please share! 

Thursday, October 8, 2015

When the North Wind Blows

I am very excited to announce the upcoming chapbook of Christmas poetry by the talented Catherine Valentine and cover illustration by...yours truly!  I am honored to be a part of this beautiful book.  Stay tuned because it will be available soon around Thanksgiving!  You won't want to miss it!

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Urbana Art Expo: A Priceless Experience

Selling my art in a little corner amidst a gigantic room full of 23 other incredibly talented artists is probably the scariest thing I've ever done in my entire life.  This is no garage sale we're talking about here.  This is my life's work!  Extensions of my heart and soul spread across a navy blue bed sheet on a little fold-out table for the assessment of total strangers.  I could not have done it if my good friend Jana had not agreed to share a booth with me.  She and her husband Thomas were my anchor through this crazy adventure.  They provided wire and hooks, extra lighting, much needed advice, a way for customers to pay with credit cards, and most important of all, moral support.

But even with their invaluable support I still felt insecure.  No insecure is an understatement.  I felt
like a candle flame getting dimmer and dimmer with each person who barely glanced at my work without a word and moved on.  Each one felt like a rejection.  I am not used to feeling ordinary.  I'm used to standing out and getting praised for it, but at the expo every artist was extraordinary, making me just a part of the crowd.  So many people would breeze through our booth not even stopping to look closely or comment on my work.  I asked Jana, "Does this make you feel invisible?"  She looked thoughtful for a moment and said, "It's funny you should say that because I always feel invisible.  For me, to feel invisible is to feel safe."  That simple statement just blew my mind.  I never realized how privileged I was to grow up in great big family and community who constantly praised and made it a point to make me feel special.  To me this was the norm.  So when I came to an event like this where I received no such special treatment it was a bit of a culture shock.  I wanted people to gush over my work.  I wanted them to purchase my overpriced originals.  I wanted to feel adored.

                                                                                                                      Photo Courtesy by 40 North
But this was not the reality.  Two full hours went by and I only sold one bookmark, a total of $1.  It was agony.  I just wanted to hide in the bathroom and cry.  My flame kept growing dimmer and dimmer with until I felt just about ready to give up.  Just as I was trying think up some kind of escape route, a co-worker of mine, Rachel Wooley, came by and purchased a print of my scarlet tanager illustration.  That simple purchase gave me the courage to stick it out for the rest of the day.

After that more and more people began flooding in and my work received a lot more attention.  One woman bought my "As Big as this World Piece" for her nephew in New Orleans.  She said, "I just have to buy it.  It's too perfect not to."  Another woman who spent a good 20 minutes looking over my work finally decided to buy prints of, "Going out on a Limb" and "Summer."  She said "I had such a hard time trying to decide!  They are all so wonderful."  The piece that got the most attention was my original "Walking the Black Dog." A woman tugged on her husband's shirt nodding toward that piece and said, "I like this one."  One boy pointed at it and said, "Daddy look at this!"  Many others walked up to it and simply looked for a long time.  Each time I swelled with pride.

The absolute highlight of the day was watching a moment between two women when they discovered
a print of my piece titled "Love Wins." One held it up for the other to see and I was awe-struck by what happened next.  They wrapped their arms around each other.  Their backs were turned to me so I could not see their faces, but their heads were tilted toward each other in such a way radiating a love so tender it took my breath away.  Then they set it down and without a word walked off together holding hands.  That tiny little interaction was worth more to me than my total earnings that day.  I even had to fight back the tears of joy as I watched them walking off together.  This is why I do art.  This is what I live for.

I earned $126 that day which was more than enough to cover the expenses for participating, but even if I made nothing the experience would have been worth it.  There is nothing that compares to watching the raw reactions people have to your work.  My mind keeps returning to the couple after they saw my piece "Love Wins".  They did not purchase or even look over at me to comment.  They simply walked off together with one resting her head on the other's shoulder and holding hands.  To me this is priceless.

Friday, September 11, 2015

3 Goddesses: Penelope, Hestia and Artemis

This is a commissioned piece for a dear friend of mine.  It is an illustration of 3 Greek Goddesses Penelope, Hestia, and Artemis.  I loved this excuse to tap in to my love for Greek mythology.  When I was a kid I loved Greek mythology so much I decided to make a family tree of all the Greek Gods and Goddesses.  It's been a delight to return to that world once more.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Friday, August 14, 2015

Celeste the Snake

When I went to the Wildlife Preserve in Frankfort Kentucky I saw a snake that looked quite serene.  So I was inspired to make this paper cut out illustration.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

An Exciting Discovery!

I've been fooling around with the paper cut outs and I finally figured out how to make facial expressions with this style.  This has been quite a challenge for me and so this discovery makes me very happy.  This opens up a lot of doors to new and exciting illustration possibilities.

Monday, July 13, 2015

It's Just Hair

Last month I shaved off all 18 inches of my beautiful red hair and sold it for money.  Originally I was just going to sell 14 inches for $500, but when the buyer offered $1000 for me to shave my head I said, "What the hell.  I'll do it." It all happened so fast.  I cut it all off that very night before I could change my mind.  "It's just hair."  I kept telling myself.  "It will grow back."

The day after I posted a picture of my newly shaved head on Facebook and received an overwhelming response.  190 likes and 58 comments.  Some of them were even from famous authors and illustrators whom I stalk including: Vanessa Newton, Patricia Hruby Powell, Lita Judge, Debora Underwood, Diana Aston and Sharon Lovejoy.  It is by far the most popular facebook post I have ever made.  

It turns out that shaving your head can be a really fun social experiment.  I've always received a lot of compliments from strangers about my long red hair, but I received even more after I shaved it all off!  It was fun to come in to work at the library and watch my coworkers do double takes.  One of them said, "I forgot to wear my tie today, but you forgot to wear your hair!"  My boss kept saying.  "I'm not used to it.  I'm still not used to it."  Patrons at the library tend to stare at me more, especially children (probably trying to decipher whether I'm a boy or a girl.)

I was surprised by how supportive my husband has been through the whole thing.  He immediately accepted my decision and even shaved my head for me.  He jokes around and says I look like a boy, but it is clear he still finds me attractive and makes me feel beautiful.

This whole thing has certainly been a roller coaster full of ups and downs.  Some days I feel sexy, but there are many days I miss my long hair (especially now that my current look is an awkward buzz cut).  However, I never regret my decision.  It's just hair after all. The experience has been so eye opening and unique.  If I could go back in time I would do it all over again.

Here is a poem I wrote about my own reaction when I first cut my hair.

A New Haircut
That was the word that came to mind
As the hair clippers moved repeatedly
across my vulnerable scalp.

It sounded so harsh,
a word you might use to describe
Nazis shaving the heads
of their Holocaust victims.

Fistfuls of thick red hair
tumbled to the kitchen floor
in graceful spirals,
leaving my head

I looked at the 18 inches of hair on the floor,
then looked in the mirror.

Staring in to my reflection
I did not think,
I did not think,
I did not think,

I thought,
I thought,
I thought,

It’s nice to know that it was not my hair that made me beautiful.
It was me all along.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Open for Business!

Hi all!

Please excuse this shameless advertising, but I am excited to announce that I've finally opened a shop on Etsy!  You can now purchase 8.5x11 prints of my artwork for $15.  I am also providing some new services including customized t-shirt designs and illustrated portraits.  You can visit my shop here.  Please feel free to browse and see if there is anything of interest to you!  Also let me know if you have your own Etsy shop you would like me to favorite.  I am very new to all this and would like to try building up a circle of friends on Etsy!

Monday, June 22, 2015

A Scarlet Tanager Surprise

This ink and watercolor piece is an entry for Susanna Hill's Illustrator Contest.  The prompt is "Discovery", and I am so incredibly excited!!!  There are already some wonderful entries and I can't wait to see the others.

I don't want to say too much about this piece because I want to leave room for the viewers' imaginations and interpretations, but I will say that scarlet tanagers are not very common birds, and for a young birdwatcher to happen upon an entire tree of them is rare.

Monday, June 8, 2015

It's Time to Stop Categorizing Books by Gender!

I love reading lists.  I have a whole board on pintrest devoted to them, and I follow bloggers who frequently post them.  Reading lists are great!  However, there is one thing that absolutely drives me nuts about book lists.  Especially the ones for kids.  So often they are grouped in to "Books for Boys"and "Books for Girls." Why do people feel like they have to categorize literature by gender?  We shouldn't limit our kids like that.  They should be able to read whatever they damn well please without worrying about whether it's a girl book or a boy book.

Here is an example of what I mean.  Often times lists will look something like this.

Books for kids in Kindergarten and Under

Fancy Nancy
Angelina Ballerina
Ladybug Girl
Amelia Bedelia
The Paper Bag Princess

No David!
Cars, Trucks, and Things that Go!
Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site.
Freight Train
How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight

Chapter Books for Young Kids

The Secret Garden
Little House on the Prairie
American Girl Books
Ramona Books
Ella Enchanted

The Mouse and the Motorcycle
Adventures of Tom Sawyer
The Tale of Despereaux
Call it Courage
Encyclopedia Brown

GAH!!!  It's so infuriating!  I don't want to have to defend myself for checking out books like Fancy Nancy and Ella the Elephant for my son.  I don't want him to feel judged for reading A Little Princess in elementary school.  I want him to live in a world where he can proudly read Anne of Green Gables, Little Women, or Jane Eyre without fear of being called a sissy.

There is no such thing as "Girl Books" and "Boy Books."  There are only books. If we raise our kids to think likewise a whole new world of possibilities opens up, and the world will be a better place.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

The Illustration Process

I just finished a super fun illustration for a client and I thought I might give you all a peek in to the illustrating process.

Step 1 - Sketching

This is the backbone of all my artwork.  The sketch is always the most important.  With the rest of the art process I usually listen to audiobooks or music while I'm working, but when I'm sketching I need absolute silence and all my concentration.  My sketches tend to look something like this.  Lots of lines.  Lots of erase marks.  Sometimes I have to make 4 or 5 sketches before I am satisfied.

Step 2 - Outlining with Ink

This is my favorite part of the illustration process!  I trace the final sketch with a Prismacolor fine line marker.  Unlike the sketching process it does not requite a great deal of thinking and I can do it anywhere.  I can be sitting outside in the shade of a tree watching my son play at the park, or I can watching an NBA basketball game on the TV with my husband.  It's the best!

Step 3: Coloring it in

For this particular illustration I colored the whole thing digitally with Photoshop.  Figuring out the color scheme is always a bit stressful for me.  I often feel overwhelmed by the multitudes of color possibilities so usually I go with a limited palette.  In this case I simply used white and dark blue.

There you have it!  A peek in to my creative process.  If you have any more questions please feel free to comment!  I would love to hear from you.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

My Aunt Vicky

This year my beloved Aunt Vicky, a woman short in stature, but fierce at heart, has been fighting a ghastly giant called cancer.  This amazing woman who baked me cinnamon rolls, made me double over in laughter from her performance singing "Sadie, Sadie" from Funny Girl, and taught me how to make beautiful crocheted flowers is now battling this horrific beast and it hurts my heart.

Through it all, Aunt Vicky is handling this with tremendous grace and courage. If you would like to read more about her journey visit my Uncle David's blog Little Woman Big Soul. Her story is truly touching and has brought tears to my eyes on more than one occasion.

I love you Aunt Vicky! You are truly an inspiration and even though I live so far away and I am not able to show my support for you in person, I just want you to know I'm here in Illinois rooting for you on the sidelines! You are a star.

Sunday, May 24, 2015


SCBWI is starting an awesome new feature called "Draw This!" where each month the illustrators are given a prompt and their work is displayed online.  This month's prompt is "Bounce"

This piece is a paper cut-out piece that was modified slightly on Photoshop.  My inspiration came from a childhood memory of piling thousands and thousands of autumn leaves on the trampoline with my siblings and getting lost in the swirling masses of red, orange, and yellow.   If you have never experienced this I strongly suggest you put it on your to-do list this upcoming fall!

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Neil the Fabulous

This year I have decided to do an illustration for all of my family members on their birthdays.  Since I have 5 brothers and sisters this will add up to quite a lot.  Today is my brother Neil's birthday.  He is a big tall guy, with a big personality, and even bigger heart.  I love this crazy younger brother of mine.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Confessions of a Dyslexic Library Page

I couldn’t believe my ears when I got the call from the Champaign Library offering me a position as library page. To others this may seem like a small victory. A part-time job that pays barely over minimum wage? What’s the big deal? But for me it was a big deal. It was huge! I’ve been applying for library jobs for years, but to no avail. I’m sure there are multiple reasons for the rejections I’ve received, but one of them stands out in my mind above the rest. My dyslexia

My parents never told me I was dyslexic until I came home in tears after taking a reading test in 7th grade. I’d learned to my horror that my score was significantly lower than the class average. My face burned with shame as I sank lower and lower in my desk each time someone asked me my score. I couldn’t understand it! English was my best subject. I loved reading far more than the majority of students in my class. But there I was with a test score telling me my reading level was far behind theirs. Stupid. Stupid. Stupid. The words beat over and over again in my head like the sound of a drum.

So when my mom came to pick me up from school I let loose an avalanche of tears as I told her what happened. That’s when she told me. “You are dyslexic.” I was never angry at my parents for keeping this from me. In fact I am glad they did. By not treating me like a special case, someone with a disability, I never had any reason to doubt myself. I had no excuses to give up on reading. Sure I wondered why it took me longer to learn how to read than the other kids in first grade, but back then it didn’t bother me so much. I’d always loved books and I was determined to learn. When things finally did click there was no stopping me. I read American Girl Books. I read the Boxcar children. I read Witch of Blackbird Pond, A Wrinkle in Time, and Little Women. By the time my parents told my I had dyslexia I’d already developed a fierce passion for books. Dyslexia could not hurt me in that respect.

It did, however, hurt me when it came to test taking. I managed to pull off mostly A’s in high school, but when I took the ACT for the first time I got a crushingly low score, 18. Again the words stupid, stupid, stupid beat mercilessly into my insecure, adolescent brain. I cried and cried, but months later after studying like crazy I took it again and brought my score up 3 points to a 21.

So yeah. Test taking has always been a problem for me. You can imagine how my heart sank when I realized there was a test I had to pass to get a library page position. An alphabetizing test at that! When I went to take the test at the Urbana Library they put a big stack of papers in front of me full of multiple questions. I was asked to complete it in 25 minutes and only allowed to miss 15 questions to pass. Despite my best efforts I didn’t even make it to the dewey decimal section before I heard those dreaded words, “Times up!”

I had failed. I managed to keep my head up and put on a brave face as I left the library, but as soon as I was out the door hot tears began to flow. Stupid. Stupid. Stupid. Luckily I have a loving husband who held me in his arms when I got home until the hateful voice inside my head subsided. Later I mustered up enough courage to apply for the library page position at the Champaign Library.

I got an interview and sure enough there was a test. I was given two stacks of cards, one to organize alphabetically and the other to organize in numerical order. I did the best I could, but of course when I handed them over I had a sinking feeling that I had failed again. The interviewers were very kind, but they didn’t tell me whether I passed the test or not. I told myself not to expect anything as I waited for the call. I’ve always been the kind of person that hopes for the best, but expects the worst. So when I got the job offer I was ecstatic.

My first two days working at the library has been a whirlwind of new information. There is so much to learn and a never-ending load of work to do. Sometimes when I fell like I am being particularly slow about shelving books the familiar pounding of Stupid. Stupid. Stupid. rises again, but I’m learning to push it away. I have earned my right to be here, in a library, a place I’ve always dreamed of working in. I am wanted. I am capable. I belong.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Happy National Children's Book Week!

It's here!  The one week of the year devoted to what I am most passionate about, children's books!!!  I have some fun posts planned for this week, but for today please enjoy this paper-cut out illustration and make some time to pull a favorite picture book off the shelf (regardless of whether you have kids or not) and read.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Picture Book Friday - Art and Max

Happy Picture Book Friday everyone!

Title: Art & Max
Written and Illustrated By: David Wiesner
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2010, Fiction

Recommended Age: 3-7

Opening: Careful Max!
                 Hey, Art, that's great!
                 The name is Arthur.
                 I can paint too, Arthur!
                 You, Max?  Don't be ridiculous.

Brief Synopsis: Art is painting portraits of his lizard friends when Max comes along and creates chaos.

Why I like this Book: I've always loved David Wiesner, but somehow this one flew under the radar for me.  When I discovered this at the library I was delighted.  It is uproariously comical and unusual.  My 4 year-old son Samuel loves it too.  Usually he doesn't ask me to read books spontaneously in the middle of the day, but he asked me to do so with this book multiple times.  It's the perfect book for both kids and adults.

To see more fabulous picture book recommendations visit Susanna Hill's blog here.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Help! I Need Blogging Advice.

I am trying to make my blog more inviting and approachable.  I want it to be the sort of blog that when people visit for the first time they think, "Hey!  She seems awesome.  I want to be her friend.  I want to follow this blog and continue to see what she has to say."

So my first step toward making this happen is changing my bio.  My current one is decidedly lame.  I've written a few scenarios and I'm leaning toward using the 3rd, but I would love your input.
  1. “Tell me what you love, and I will tell you who you are.” - Arsene Houssaye                                                                                                                                        There are so many things in my life to love! I love to write. I love to draw. I love books (especially picture books). I love nature. I love Marlon Brando. I love to play board games. I love my dog Ginny. I love my husband. I love my 4 year-old son. So I guess that makes me a writer, artist, bookworm, tree-hugger, old movie junkie, geek, animal lover, wife, and mother. That’s me!
  2. When people used to ask me, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I said, “A picture book author/illustrator.” Then as I got older I decided that wasn’t practical so I majored in sociology. But when I became a mother and started reading picture books again. The childhood dream was revived, and now I spend my days doing what I love: writing, drawing, and reading lots and lots of picture books!
  3. Hi!  My name is Heather.  As an aspiring children's book author/illustrator I am constantly reading picture books.  They are my research, my inspiration, and my mentors.  I am always looking to connect with other picture book enthusiasts.  Parents, librarians, teachers, illustrators, you are my people!  I would love to hear from you!  Seriously if you have any book recommendations or have a blog devoted to picture books like mine, please make yourselves known!  My email is  
Also if you have any other blogging tips or advice I am all ears. What can I do to improve my blog?  How can I form lasting friendships with other bloggers of similar interests? What in your opinion is the key to having a successful blog?

Thanks so much for your time!

Monday, April 27, 2015

The Best Mother's Day Picture Books

 For the 4 years I've been a mother it's been our family tradition to go to a book store each Mother's Day to buy two or three new picture books.  It's my way of treating myself.  It does my heart good to watch treasured picture book collection grow.   With Mother's Day being only 2 weeks away I thought I'd share my top 15 favorite picture books celebrating motherhood.  After all, you can't go wrong with giving a fabulous picture book as a Mother's Day gift.


1.  Little Lost Owl
     Written and illustrated by Chris Haughton
     Recommended for:  Ages 0-5
     Style:  Funny, simple
     Why I Love this Book: The illustrations are so unique and colorful, and the plot is both funny and endearing.

2.  Just Me and My Mom
     Written and Illustrated by Mercer Meyer

     Recommended for:  Ages 0-5
     Style:  Funny, detailed illustrations
     Why I Love this Book:  When I was a kid we had a computer game version of this book.  I loved that game so much, and I am delighted that my son loves this story as well.

3.  The Pinkish, Purplish, Bluish Egg
     Written and Illustrated by Bill Peet

      Recommended for: Ages 5-8
      Style: Intriguing plot, animals
      Why I Love this Book:  My dad read me many of Bill Peet's work when I was a girl and his books will always have a special place in my heart.  

4.  Hush!
     Written by Minfong Ho
      Illustrated by Holly Meade

      Recommended for:  Ages 0-5
      Style:  Animal noises, rhyming, set in Thailand
      Why I Love this Book:  It's catchy, it's fun, and I couldn't stop quoting for days after reading it.

5.  Owl Babies
     Written by Martin Waddell
     Illustrated by Patrick Benson

Recommended for: Ages 0-5
Style:  Sweet, few words
Why I Love this Book:  This is by far one of the most adorable books I've ever read.  The 3 little owls have the cutest little personalities and their subtle facial expressions are fantastic.


6. Someday
    Written by Alison McGhee
     Illustrated by Peter Reynolds

Recommended for:  Ages 3-7
Style:  Whimsical, Touching
Why I Love this Book:  Every illustration and word rings with truth and beauty.  

7. A Chair for My Mother
    Written and Illustrated by Vera B. Williams

Recommended for:  Ages 5-8
Style: A story about family values and community
Why I Love this Book:  I found the story so touching that it nearly brought me to tears.

8.  Heckedy Peg
     Written by Audrey Wood
      Illustrated by Don Wood

Recommended for:  Ages 5-8
Style:  Fairy Tale
Why I Love this Book:  This is another nostalgic one for me that my family read to me when I was a girl.  Also the mom is a total bad ass.  I love her.

9.  Before I was Your Mother
     Written by Kathryn Lasky
      Illustrated by LeUyen Pham

Recommended for:  Ages 3-7
Style:  Sweet, nostalgic of the old days
Why I Love this Book:  The rhythm and flow of this book was wonderful and I always love LeUyen Pham's illustrations.

10.  It's Snowing!
      Written and Illustrated by Olivier Dunrea

Recommended for:  Ages 0-5
Style:  Simple, few words
Why I Love this Book:  As a mother who enjoys taking her kid out in the great outdoors I found this book really resonated with me.


11.  Mama Do You Love Me?
       Written by Barbara Lavellee 
        Illustrated by Barbara M. Joosse

Recommended for:  Ages 3-7
Style: Reassuring, touching
Why I Love this Book:  It captures so well the relationship between mother's and their children.

12. Are You My Mother?
     Written and Illustrated by P. D. Eastman

Recommended for:  Ages 3-7
Style:  Sweet, Repetitive
Why I Love this Book:  This is one that my son wants me to read again and again, and I never get tired of reading it.

13.  Mommy Hugs
       Written by Anne Gutman
        Illustrated by Georg Hallensleben

Recommended for:  Ages 0-3
Style:  Interactive, Simple
Why I Love this Book:  This book demonstrates many different ways to communicate love and encourages the readers do each of them.

14.  Bedtime for Mommy
       Written by Amy Krouse Rosenthal
        Illustrated by LeUyen Pham

Recommended for:  Ages 3-7
Style:  Funny, Few words
Why I Love this Book:  This is one of the first books I ever bought as a parent and it remains a family favorite in our home to this day.  

14.  Love You Forever
       Written by Robert Munsch
        Illustrated by Sheila McGraw

Recommended for:  Ages 3-7
Style:  Lyrical, Touching
Why I Love this Book:  Who doesn't love this book!  It's a classic and for good reason.  It drives home the message of unconditional everlasting love.

Sunday, April 19, 2015


My good friend Maggie just commissioned me to illustrate this portrait for her.  This marvelous photograph was my inspiration.  I absolutely love doing projects like this.  Maggie is a very gifted writer and you can read her work at

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

My Wonderful, Talented, Adventurous Sister

Today is my younger sister Brooke's birthday.  She is an amazing person and I wanted to illustrate something to capture the essence of her very soul for this special day.  Happy birthday little sis.  May you always be the strong, passionate, and loving person that you are today.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Being an Artist is like Being a Parent

Trying to juggle my life as an illustrator and stay at home is like trying balance on a beachball while spinning plates on sticks. It’s nuts. It takes every last ounce of energy to just keep everything from crashing to the floor.

As I sat on my bed this morning trying to make sense of my life, it occurred to me that being a parent is rather like being an artist. Sure, they are completely different worlds, but when you think about it there is an undeniable number of comparisons: chaos, heartache, hard work, and a tremendous sense of satisfaction. I’m sure other artists with kids out there would agree. Here are a few examples of what I mean.

No Instruction Manual

There is a tremendous amount of resources out there for both parenting and illustrators. So much in fact that it’s overwhelming. I often wish that there could be a single instruction manual that told me exactly what to do. But there’s not. Trial and error, are our teachers. They can be rather harsh, but it’s the only way we learn.

Each path is different. No two artists are the same. No two children are alike. What works for some may not work for others. We have to find our own way. Sometimes the hardest thing to do in life is trust your own intuition. Human beings crave structure. We are to taught to follow rules and guidelines from a very early age. To think independently can be terrifying! However it is absolutely essential for parents and artists. No one can tell you how to do your job. You have to learn to trust in yourself, take chances, and embrace the chaos. Only then can you live up to your full potential.

Good Days and Bad Days
There are times when I feel like my artwork is fantastic. I’ll finish a piece and then not be able to stop looking at it. I’ll peek at it throughout the day to admire my brilliance. But then the next day I’ll turn around, see the same piece, and want to rip it too shreds. I’ll see nothing but the inconsistencies, the amateur touches, and mistakes. Those are the days I just want to take all of my artwork and burn it in a faraway field, never to be thought of again.

Parenting is the same way. Sometimes I’ll think, “Man, I’m such an awesome mom.” My son and I make cardboard box castles, we go on nature walks, I may even get him to eat a few vegetables. But then come the days when I can barely pull myself out of bed. My son sits in front of the TV, and I stare at the computer screen like a zombie. He eats goldfish crackers and plain, white, store-bought bread while I guzzle coffee just trying to maintain sanity.

Good days and bad days. There’s no way of predicting when they’ll come and go. The key is to enjoy the good times while they last, and learn to forgive yourself when things go wrong.

Fear of Failure
Failure. This is my worst fear, both as a parent and an artist. What I’m just pretending to be something I’m not? What if I never become a professional, published illustrator? What if I’m not cut out for motherhood? These fears plague me every single day of my life. Most of the time I manage to keep them at under the surface, but then someone may make a snide comment about my parenting, or I’ll receive a rejection letter from an agent or editor, and those fears break lose and I become lost in a sea of insecurities and despair.

Fortunately my passion for illustrating and love for my son always reign victorious, pushing those fears back under the surface, but they still lurk, waiting for the next opportunity to pounce. Someday I hope to be rid of them for good.


Never am I more happy than when I get lost in the lines and color of my work, or snuggle up to my son to read him a bed time story. These are the moments I live for. They make up my identity as a human being. There is a quote by Arsene Houssaye, “Tell me what you love, and I will tell you who you are.” I am an artist. I am a mother. These are two facts that will never change for as long as I live. It is who I am.