Thursday, December 18, 2014

Thank yous!

Here is a random assortment of thank you notes from the students at George C. Baker Elementary school - which I visited in early December. I read them THE WATERMELON SEED, NUMBER ONE SAM, and the forthcoming TRICKY VIC, TEMPLETON GETS HIS WISH, and DRAGON WAS TERRIBLE, which Kelly DiPucchio wrote. I couldn't scan and post them all - but here is a sampling of the notes the students sent me. If anyone from Baker is reading - THANK YOU!!! - you guys are the best. I hope to visit again.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Kirkus Starred Review for Tricky Vic

Tricky Vic: The Impossibly True Story of the Man Who Sold the Eiffel Tower - my first nonfiction picture book - just received its first review, and it's a star from Kirkus! 

Here's a link to the full review.

Anyone who knows me, knows how much I care about this book, and how it started as a zine in an offset printing class at UArts - and how I figured it could never be published traditionally. Sitting here this morning and reading this incredibly generous review felt pretty surreal. 

Three more months and I can share it with everyone - and I am so looking forward to that. Look for it on March 10th!


Sunday, November 2, 2014

ALA "READ!" Poster (and bookmarks)

I was honored to make a "READ!" poster and bookmarks for the American Library Association featuring my picture book characters. Super excited to say they are available now!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014


So today is my 3-year anniversary of making books and illustrations full-time. It's been an incredible few years - I'm so grateful to everyone who has bought books, or come to events, or sent me notes, or hired me for jobs - it's all very much appreciated.

The next couple of years are packed with more books, more events, more big news (soon!), more everything. I couldn't be happier doing this work - and I couldn't do it without you guys and your support - so thank you!

art from my forthcoming picture book, Templeton Gets His Wish (May 2015)

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Princeton Children's Book Festival

SATURDAY JUNE 20th from 11am-4pm

I'll be at the PRINCETON CHILDREN'S BOOK FESTIVAL on Saturday, sharing a table with my buddy Zachariah OHora. We'll be signing books and I hope drawing pictures with kids, too. Hope you can make it out!

Sunday, August 10, 2014




Oh, it's August 12th?


Ok, well, I'm in a Halloween mood anyway, since NOT VERY SCARY is out today!

NOT VERY SCARY was written by Carol Brendler and I did the pictures. Janine O'Malley was our editor at FSG, and I really couldn't wish for a better collaborative team.

We had a lot of fun making this book, and we're all thrilled that it received a starred review from Publishers Weekly. I've decided to share some sketches and early stuff here for those interested - here goes . . .

The final cover
Very early cover thumbnails

Early concept sketches of Melly
Melly in the final book

Early Goblin sketch

Some lettering options (we went with my favorite at the top)

A spooky house that I threw out

Some rats that also got canned - hope to find a purpose for these guys someday
Rat close-up

And here is some of the final art from the book:

The Title Page (sans author/illustrator/publisher type)

My wife's favorite character is this spooked ghost

I threw in some easter eggs, too, for any super fans out there (and mostly to keep it fun for myself)

A screenprint by my friend Tim Gough that hangs in my living room
found it's way into the book as the "Pin the Drool on the Ghoul" Game
Here's Tim's poster in the book (with his permission of course)

Sculpture by my mother-in-law Julia Healy, made from pencils and a tree branch
Melly's cousin Malberta has a very similar sculpture in her living room
In a way the whole look of the book felt like my version of a tribute to one of my art heroes, Charles Schulz, and I directly referenced his work from the "A Charlie Brown Christmas" movie:

Pretty obvious right? 

NOT VERY SCARY is out now! Hope you'll check out the book, and Happy Halloween!*

*In 2 and a half months

Wednesday, July 30, 2014


My buddy (and Caldecott Honor-winning author/illustrator!) Molly Idle recently tagged me to do this blog thing where you answer some questions about current projects. Since Molly is the nicest person in the world, I had to say yes. So here goes! A rare blog entry…don't blink!

1. What am I currently working on?

Usually I work on several projects at once, but typically I have one that I'm really focused on - and a few others I pick away out in the early morning or when I'm waiting on something related to the big project. Multiple projects are easier to manage for me as long as they stay in different stages - for example - I can sketch thumbnails of one book while executing final art for another and making a book trailer for a third. And throw some magazine and product illustration in there, too.

Right now I'm feeling pretty good about my work schedule because I just turned in the final art for TEMPLETON GETS HIS WISH, my next book with Disney*Hyperion, coming summer of 2015. Check out the cover:

And I just approved the proofs for TRICKY VIC, The Impossibly True Story of the Man Who Sold the Eiffel Tower, my first nonfiction picture book which is coming out March 2015. Here's the cover:

I've got a book coming out in a couple of weeks - NOT VERY SCARY, written by Carol Brendler, and illustrated by me - the book just received a starred review from PW, and I'm super excited for it to make it's way into bookstores. I illustrated this book way back in 2012, so it's fun to see it finally coming out. Here's the cover and some spreads:

And I'm just starting the final pencils for DRAGON WAS TERRIBLE, by Kelly DiPucchio, which will be published by FSG in 2016. It's a hilarious book so it's keeping me entertained as I draw. Here's a little something:

2. How does my work differ from others of it's genre?

I have no idea how to answer this except so say that the books I make are the only ones made by me. Nobody else does that (as far as I know).

3. Why do I write what I write?

Another tough one!

I think I can safely say I only write what interests and entertains me.

I think it was only well after The Watermelon Seed came out that I fully realized that other people would read it. I realize that sounds silly and might make me seem a little dense, but I worked on that book for about a year, and most of the time I was just thinking about how to make it "perfect" in my own head, and I didn't really think about what other people would think when they read it.

Tricky Vic started as a zine that I made because I didn't think any picture book publishers would be interested in publishing a book about a con artist. But I loved the story and wanted to do something with it and so I made it into a zine. And then Viking got a hold of it, and now it's a picture book. I could have never dreamed it would happen the way it did, but I was just enthralled by the story and wanted to try to make it into something. 

Zine vs. Picture Book

4. How does my storytelling process work?

Usually I start with either a sketch of a character or one line of text and that sets things in motion. I write and draw constantly and characters that keep popping up are usually the ones that are chosen for a specific idea.

I did a really long blog post about my writing and illustration process for The Watermelon Seed last year, which is linked right here. Check it out!

Right now I'm illustrating the book I mentioned above, DRAGON WAS TERRIBLE, written by Kelly DiPucchio and edited by Janine O'Malley. I've got the sketches more or less approved, so I've blown everything up to 11x17 on copy paper and taped each of the spreads to the back on a new piece of bristol, and I'll start the final pencils. Then I'll scan everything and color it in Photoshop. I like to change my art process up as much as possible, and I'm trying to do a lot of this particular book by hand, since the last book I did was almost all digital.

That's it! Can't say anything more or I won't have anything to blog about until 2016!

And now I'm tagging my friend Brian Biggs who has a new series with Jon Scieszka coming out this fall. Brian, you're it!