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CAT Agency Representing Illustrators of Children's Books
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Just learned of the HUGE Book Fair in Princeton this Sat.  So if you can get there, and like book fairs, (who doesn’t) this one is a must!….lots of BIG names…including our very own Melissa Iwai and Anne Rockwell with their TRUCK STOP (from Viking).  stop and say hello!



1 Comments on THIS SAT 9/20 BOOK FAIR!, last added: 9/17/2014
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freedom Tadgell

CONGRATULATIONS NICOLE TADGELL illustrator, and author Susanne Slade, and Charlesbridge  for a wonderful addition to youth non fiction!

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I’ve been noticing….. month after month we read in PW and other reports about publishing still being down or at least margins down. BUT KIDS (to YA) is always UP!  Last 6 months of 2014 has been very good generally.  While adult publishing is a minus or single digit, Pic bks, kids fiction and non fiction and brd bks are up double digits compared to last year at this time!

There was a quote in the PW Sept 1 2014 issue from Devin Wenig president of eBay Marketplaces I liked: ” I think the last two years…have been extraordinary in the sense that technology has deconstructed…retail.”  This sticks with me as basic truth.  He continues: ” we’re past the tipping point.”  It’s a fact, and it’s being dealt with now.   It’s all about ALL the ways to find and buy whatever (BOOKS) phone, desktop, store or library. The pub. industry is trying hard to catch up…using technology to keep connected and offer service.  Just as it should be. 

from Priscilla Burris…the bottom line….


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We at CAT agency are so happy to help Launch the wonderfully friendly new series about the Hamster Humphrey and his Tiny Tales from Penguin Putnam!  See his first two books here, and a little video about how he is created by our artist PRISCILLA BURRIS         https://vimeo.com/104481200

Humphrey1 (3)

Humphrey2 (3)

1 Comments on WELCOME HUMPHREY!: BK Launch!, last added: 8/28/2014
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5. ‘New box of crayons’ time…..

Oct Bk to Sch blast

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6. Why is my Dummy still a Dummy?!

Writers and artists work so hard at conceiving, then executing wonderful stories and images for potential picture books, only to be left holding rejection letters and wondering “WHY NOT?”

I wish I had answers…it would make an agent’s job much easier!  But I do have some possible reasons to share with you today.  Number one, your manuscript (ms) and your images (dummy) need to be as ready for publication as possible.  Not just a ‘good idea.’  Those are everywhere.  Not just a few sketches, but a well thought out flow of visual story telling.  OK, now you are ready to be ‘snapped up.’

There are good market reasons that even the BEST stories might get missed or rejected by well meaning houses.  First of all keep in mind that picture books are VERY expensive to print!  When the economy is down or slow (!) it’s likely that houses might not do as many.  When the dollar is weak, as it is now, it’s more expensive to print even in China! Fewer books means more care in selection.

PREFERANCES also vary yearly and are very cyclical. “Spunky” over “quiet” etc.  What was ‘hot’ last year, might not be this year.  Your story might have been perfect for last year, but not this.  But remember it might be perfect 3 years from now again! This past year or two, more novels have been published than picture books.  They are all the rage, and without pictures, much cheaper to print. Yet picture book sales have held their own, proving that they ARE worth the expense in the long run.

Speaking of the long run, the Back List effects what they take on new.  Editors need to bring in books to ADD to the bottom line, and which promise to ADD to the strong Back List for the house.  Often they ‘borrow’ from that back list and redo books that are strong. This all means they won’t be able to publish all the new stories they might want to. I’ve noticed that this seems to be a trend these days (which is nice for illustrators!). They are constantly ‘balancing’ their lists as well as adding to the imprints list balance.  A Publisher may have 2-4 lists a year.  Each tries to add balance and income, minimize risk and loss.  The “P & L” (profit and loss) is ALL important these days! They project several years in advance! Your book might not pass that test. They want to add new writers and illustrators, but will they ‘last?’  Will they produce on-going to add value to the imprint? And of course, the bottom line: will they sell well?

Another trend I see is ‘in house’ ideas being developed, particularly for series ideas.  They go through the same scrutiny as other proposals, but that might make it harder for ‘outside’ ideas to be considered.  Often writers worry as well that their ‘ideas’ will be ‘borrowed.’  That is possible of course, but I find it rarely a problem in this honest, supportive industry. That does bring us to another LEGAL point that might mean they do NOT take on your dummy.  Many houses will not accept unsolicited  manuscripts.  One legal reason is that they might find themselves turning down an idea that is actually being developed in-house currently!  This can LOOK like a ‘stealing of ideas’, when it is pure coincidence.  If you look at new lists in stores, you will see how often this does happen even between houses!  Two ‘bird’ books, or three ‘princess’ books etc. that are too close in feel.  Trends happen and it’s like a wave at times!  So houses protect themselves by not taking on ‘outside’ ideas at all.  Therefore, your ‘perfect dummy’ won’t even be looked at by these publishers.

It’s a tight market these days, and the stakes are high. Do your best, understand it’s NOT personal, and keep trying! A good story, well done, will find a publisher at the right time.

and I had to share this ‘artist’s block’ image of my 21 month old granddaughter, Billie….. we all know the feeling! (thanks Christy!)

artist block

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7. Summer stress ………..

Sunglasses Day (4).jpgBURRISby Priscilla Burris for June 27…


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8. Summer coffee break with books!

Heidi at Ink and Bean, CA

This image just in from CA CAT artist Priscilla Burris…. it’s of ‘her’ HEIDI HECKELBECK sitting in front of a new Coffee/Book place near Disneyland apparently, called INK AND BEAN, and it’s all about books and coffee!  how perfect is THAT!  So as Priscilla said, Heidi had to go over and check it out. Wish I could join her!  The series about Heidi, written by Wanda Covens and published by Little Simon,  is now in it’s #13/14 book and growing… very popular young “witch” who everyone loves to read about apparently. And no wonder! …. lets ALL join her for coffee this summer at the Ink and Bean!    Or BOOKS OF WONDER, (NYC, 18th street) or any other coffee and book summer hang out!

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9. Launch and award …

I’m a bit late in congratulating our CAT artist Martha Aviles (in Mexico) for her SILVER MEDAL Honor from the SYDNEY TAYLOR BOOK AWARD  presented by the Association of Jewish Libraries.  This award for STONES FOR GRANDPA from KarBen/Lerner publishing, is in the younger readers category. CONGRATULATIONS all!

Stones Aviles

ALSO, Priscilla Burris illustrated a wonderful trade picture book that just launched…. EDGAR’S SECOND WORD written by Audrey Vernick from Clarion.  It’s so endearing and might help an older impatient sibling should you know one!  congratulations Priscilla!

edgar COVER (3).jpgBurris

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10. NY Artist lunch…. and so much more

Time seems to be just running away this long awaited spring! Part of the race for CATugeau Agency was run in NYC recently…the first visitation trip Christy and I have done together.  Thank you to the wonderfully welcoming editors and AD’s at Penguin Group’s Grosset & Dunlap, Dial and Viking for letting us practice on you! :) I think Christy thinks this is all FUN! and I think I agree.

We started with a very special, fun lunch at Westville Hudson with our four NYC artists. They surprised Christy with a silver pin with two cats sitting together! So perfect and she wore it all day! Thank you CAT gals…

NYC artist partyleft to right: Melissa Iwai, Lisa Fields, Christy Tugeau Ewers (coral sweater), Chris Tugeau (me!), Heather Maione, Nina Mata

The next day we started BEA at the early Children’s Breakfast…always special and inspirational. Then we ‘walked the halls’ seeing publishing people from out of town, and literally bumping into others from ‘town.’  Always fun.  We loved seeing so many great children’s books displayed (though I might have picked up a couple of ‘advance’ adult books too!) We passed out lots of our BEA BOOK BRAG SHEET too.  Here it is for you to peruse as well. We’re very proud! Hope you’ll check them out at your local bookstore.


So now the follow-ups are done, and we’re settling back into the ‘day to day.’ Oh I almost forgot - Christy and 6 other of our artists have a new email Blast about ready for June’s “Adopt a CAT Month!” How perfect is that?  come back soon to see that one…. and of course, we wish all a HAPPY FATHER’S DAY!                    image by Michelle Hazelwood

fathers day



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11. first quarter news good….

Well, things are looking better for books…at least kids books which seem to lead the markets often these days. A bit ago the first quarter stats were discussed in PW, and I wanted to share only a bit of all that.  Stay positive.  Trade sales are reported UP across the board in kids… 1200 publishers were feeling ‘solid’ in Jan 14.  Divergent trilogy (which I loved!) was a big driver…congrats Veronica Roth and Katherine Tegen Books!  and thanks!

They said the “surging children’s/YA sales’ were up 44 million in Jan where adult was up 10 million.  GO KIDS!  but UP is UP and all good.  E book sales up 12% also…and is the largest selling format in adult books.  I just bought a nook myself recently…. it’s light and easy to hold (becoming important even though I love a big fat hard cover too! Try GOLDFINCH on…yummy)  and I like the back light.  Nice as an option.

So lets jump happily into the spring books and next quarter.  FINALLY it’s warm more than not everywhere.  And BEA is next week!  Christy and I can’t wait to attend…. hope there are some freebies left Friday!

And we wish you all a very memorable Memorial Day this weekend (actually the 30th, but hey….)  Michelle Hazelwood has a fun piece to share with you….

BetsyRossHazelwood (3)

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12. Missing my mother…..

This day is always a special one for mothers and their children…just an easy opportunity to THANK a love one in any small kind way.  This is my first without my mother, and it is a mixed bunch of emotions I have to admit!  But mostly all very good and immensely grateful.  So I wanted to pass on this image of ANA OCHOA’S which does show the complexity of nature and expectations and dreams….something mothers live with and nurture.  Enjoy the day ALL!

mother's day-OCHOA

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13. REPETITIONS….an ‘I’ve noticed’ comment….


Last month I was visiting a son’s family in Cleveland OH and we visited our favorite place there The Cleveland Museum of Art. Even the 3 young grandkids love this fabulous building and their interactive kids room!  just for grandma’s too!  The show we went to see was Van Gogh “Repetitions.”  (it’s on till May 26th if you can get there)

I got thinking about how we learn from practice as I gazed at this versions and variations on one of his own compositions and subjects.  We see differently and deeper as we experience a thing, person or place repeatedly.  Studying the differences and similarities between several of his repeated works gives us a new window into the mind and eye of this ‘well known’ artist.

On returning home to Williamsburg I was lucky enough to catch the last day of a small Caravaggio show at our own Muscarelle Museum of Art here on the campus of Wm and Mary.  Caravaggio has always blown my mind’s eye anyway with his beyond realistic talents, but this too presented a repetition study of two similar paintings that might have been both by the artist himself…or not. Two unsigned versions of ‘Saint Francis in Meditation’.  The viewer, after following the studies and exercises they presented, was to come to their own conclusion!  The show also spotlighted the very fine and famous Caravaggio ‘The Capitoline Fortune Teller’ which was a true treat.

I couldn’t help but to notice the message I was to share with my artists and all of you readers! REPETITION = an intentional practice to learn and expand the opportunity to deeply know a subject.  Illustrators of course conceive, sketch and revise then paint and maybe revise again on a regular basis.  We forget perhaps that famous artists walked this same path over and over that we all walk. Dive in! Deeper! and again!  Get to REALLY know your subjects to bring them more fully to the world to view!

my artist son Jeremy Tugeau and grandkids at the Cleveland Museum of Art new atrium…

Cleveland Museum of ART!

4 Comments on REPETITIONS….an ‘I’ve noticed’ comment…., last added: 4/30/2014
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14. Top Christian Book Award…art by our Kornacki!

Our very own Christine Kornacki has WON the Children’s AWARD


cover Sparkle box KORNACKI

Announcing the 2014 Christian Book Award® Program Winners

The Evangelical Christian Publishers Association (ECPA) has announced the winners for the 2014 Christian Book Award® program. Presented annually to the finest in Christian publishing since 1978, the Christian Book Award® program honors titles in seven categories: Bibles, Bible Reference, Non-Fiction, Fiction, Children, Inspiration and New Author.

Five finalists are selected in each category following a stringent judging process by judging panels specially selected for each category. The top scoring book in each category is named the Christian Book Award® winner. The Christian Book of the Year™ is chosen among the finalists to represent Christian publishing’s highest quality and greatest impact for 2014.

The Christian Book Award® program winners and Christian Book of the Year™ were announced at the ECPA Awards Banquet on April 28, 2014 at the Focus on the Family Headquarters in Colorado Springs, CO.
2014 Finalists
Program Information



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15. Pic Book Tips (borrowed but brilliant)….

I just read the end of the submission guidelines for an Australian/International Picture Book competition, and these TIPS were there.  Nothing new, but to read them all together is wonderful and possibly helpful to all.  Thank you Kathy Temean (Writing and Illustrating WordPress Blog- check out for contest guidelines).

and PRINT THESE….then place above your writing illustrating space… and remember!


Golden Rule: don’t use too much dialogue, text or description. Let the pictures do the talking—don’t say what the pictures can show. Cut and cull your text. Be ruthless! If your text is 400 words long, it should be vibrant and intensely edited.

Think carefully about rhythm and flow—this is one of the most common obstacles between a work-in-progress and a publisher-ready ms. Read the work out loud and listen to the way the words work together. ‘Hear’ the beat and flow as you read, and adjust words as necessary.

Don’t attempt rhyme. It is not popular with publishers but if you simply can’t resist, make sure it’s infallible. Two rhyming end-words do not a perfect rhyme make. Rhythm and beat is as important as word rhyme—in fact, even more so. Don’t create awkward sentences with odd word placement in order to make a rhyme; rewrite the entire stanza instead.

Look at your word usage and sentence structure. Is it dynamic and interesting? Does it pull the reader along and make them want to read more? or does the reader stumble or become confused? Does it delight? Does it sound good?

Never talk down to the reader. Use big words. Use unusual words. Use a unique voice. Don’t patronise and don’t explain. Never hammer readers with morals. If you simply must use them, thread them through the story in an imperceptible way.

Unless you want your book to appear like an information brochure, attempting to educate children on social, physical, emotional and mental issues and conditions needs to be done cryptically and cleverly. Add humour. Create an unexpected storyline that intimates things in a subtle way and you will have a winner with kids.

Think about the plot. A good story leads the reader through conflict to resolution in a Beginning Middle Ending way, or in a Cyclical way. Things HAPPEN. Showing someone going about their day and going to bed at night is not a story. It’s an account. Write a story, not an account.

Have a protagonist. Your protagonist, or main character, does not sit by and observe—they action, take part and instigate.

Think outside the square. Cover unusual topics, with untouched themes (avoid monsters, fairies, trucks, mud, grandma dying, rainbows, farmyard animals, dogs and other overdone topics). Use different writing voices and story structure. Do something DIFFERENT.

Think twice about supplying detailed illustration notes. Too many notes absolutely do hamper your text; rely on the reader’s ability to imagine what your words are showing. Only supply notes if the text is very cryptic and needs ‘explaining’, and even then—make notes extremely short.

Look objectively at your story. Is it clear and simple or cluttered and confused? Be wary of submitting something that is wrapped up in your own head and unable to be deciphered by someone else. This happens A LOT.

Have an ending. A PB ending needs to be shocking, surprising, funny, quirky or in some way resolving and/or related to the plot. Around sixty per cent of the ms endings we have seen are either non-existent, confusing or dull. Go out on a top note, not a kerplunk. A great ending demands a repeat reading—and that is exactly what you want.

Write your book for kids, not adults. If you hit the nail on the head for kids, most adults will love it, too.

Keep it simple.


picking books1

OK, this is my youngest granddaughter…a book lover already! Like my 8 year old granddaughter as well!

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16. EARTH DAY ! …can’t be ignored…

from CAT artist: Michelle Henninger….earth day_email (3).jpgHenninger

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CATugeau Agency is so proud to announce the launch today of I Pledge Allegiance written by Pat Mora and Libby Martinez and illustrated by our own PATRICE BARTON for Random House Children’s Books (Knopf).  Seems a wonderful time to remind ourselves how lucky we are who can make that pledge…and share it with our children. ENJOY!

I PledgeSmall (4).jpg BARTON

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Wanting to wish EVERYONE a very happy Spring/Easter week and weekend! Do believe it Spring is finally here…. in most places anyway.  (sorry Cleveland!)  Even The Cat has his ears on for the occasion!

easter blast

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19. To aspiring artists everywhere…..

I just had to share this note our agent Christy sent an aspiring children’s book illustrator today. She was asking for advice, and this is like a mini course in what to do to find your style and get into the industry!  It may not be rocket science, but it does take talent, industry knowledge and persistence!

Thanks for your email. And congratulations on your interest in joining the wonderful world of children’s book illustration! Your first step is to visit book stores. Look at trade, educational and mass market books, and study the artwork (and the difference in artwork) in those markets. Compare it to your style. Is your artwork geared more towards the trade market, or more mass market? Then you’ll kinda know where you belong!


Move beyond pencil in your artwork. Sketches are SO important and good idea to show, but you need FINISHED SAMPLES.  Lots of illustrations (color and black & white) showing characters, storyline, character growth and interaction. Show a consistent style or two.  That helps you to be memorable. Work on samples that tell little stories – 2 or 3 sequential illustrations that have a story flow and book feel. Art buyers (and agents!) need to see this.


Once you have a good portfolio of samples (black and white & color), build a website. It doesn’t have to be fancy, but you will need one in order to easily show your work. You need to have an online presence. They can’t HIRE you if they can’t SEE you.


And then, get yourself out there! Get advice and feedback on your samples and portfolio from industry professionals and follow it. Listen to what people want and are looking for…and their honest critiques of your work. But most of all, have fun with it! Working artists are lucky because they get to do what they love! Have fun with the process of finding your style, and then enjoy working on your samples and building your portfolio. It should be a fun journey – not a mountain to climb!”

here is an aspiring artist by CAT artist Meryl Treatner

Li Li's House-a



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20. I’ve noticed PLAY… the way to development

I’ve just always been amazed as I watch my children, and now 7 grandchildren, grow, learn, become themselves.  The grands range now from 15 months (my agency partner and daughter Christy’s baby girl Billie) to my elder son Morgan’s 15 year old twin boys, Christopher and Riley, now in High School. (WHAAAAT!?)  In between is their brother Coady, 7, and my other son Jeremy’s 8 year old daughter Ruby and sons, George (7) and Harrison ( 3 1/2).  Lots to observe!  And what I’ve noticed is HOW they learn … not only at the beginning, but into adolescence.  They learn from play… and the practice, practice, practice that comes naturally with play.

Formal education is important and valuable of course, but it seems more and more it leaves little time for outside and free play.  Unstructured time,  or play, is the cornerstone of childhood.  That ability is important all through our lives as we change, grow and attempt new things.  Play keeps us learning, adaptable, engaged and excited about life.

I often encourage artists who are feeling frustrated, stiff or tired, to take up a new medium and just play with it. The end result isn’t important, it’s the process to cherish.  Or go outside to a park and sit sketching kids playing without really looking at the pencil lines.  That becomes the artists ‘play’.  With practice and more play it will be impossible to stay stiff and frustrated. Like little Billie who is just learning to walk without holding on, we grow stronger and braver and happier as we learn by playing.  Maybe we take spills, but we also laugh with the glee of a Gold Medalist at the Olympics!  Got to run – PLAY TIME!

art by CAT artist Nina Mata….sledding Mata

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21. Sharing the love….

Been away in warm (!) Key West…. but coming home to a LOVE FILLED day is lovely too.  Wanted to share our CAT agency love with you all!  And DO check out our new agency FACEBOOK PAGE (CATugeau: Artist Agency) that my daughter and partner Christy T. Ewers is doing for us….full of more visual content and sharings.


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22. A time to brag….

Awards are wonderful but particularly because they better the chances that books will GET to kids….the point!  we’ll be bragging about some awards this year…past and present.  I’ll start with this:

Reading is Fundamental. “First Peas to the Table” ( Illustrated by Nicole Tadgell from Albert Whitman) has been selected one of 40 titles (chosen from a pool of 800 vetted titles) for 2013-14 Macy’s Multicultural Collection of Children’s Literature. They will be distributing collections to schools across the country.


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23. another ‘borrow’- the Henninger interview:

Writing and Illustrating

Sharing Information About Writing and Illustrating for Children
Posted by: Kathy Temean | January 4, 2014

Illustrator Saturday – Michelle Henninger


Michelle is a tea drinking (a robust Irish Breakfast, thank you), cozy sock wearing children’s illustrator living, drawing, and enjoying life in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. She prefers a traditional approach of pen/ink, and watercolor: with a touch of digital thrown in for good measure.

A member of the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, she was a New England SCBWI Ann Barrows Illustration Scholarship recipient, and has conducted a well-received workshop for elementary aged children entitled “The Art of Illustrating: Make Your Mark and Make a Splash.” 

She is represented by Christina Tugeau at CATugeau.

Here is Michelle:


Above is a Self-Portrait done by Michelle.


Above is the cover art for Michelle’s new book, The Princess and the Frog written by Nancy K. Wallace and illustrated by Michelle. It was published by Magic Wagon in August 2013. Below are a few illustrations from the 32 page picture book,


The Princess and the Frog is a fractured fairy tale based on the story of the princess and the frog. When the princess loses her ball in the well, a helpful frog is willing to get it for her–for a price! But the kiss doesn’t cause the traditional transformation. This book provides information on putting on a production–including tips on sets, props, and costumes. An easy-to-follow script with color coding for character cues is ideal for readers’ theater, puppet shows, or class plays. Teachers can download a free guide with additional tips and reading level information for each character.


Here is Michelle discussing her process:


First some Character studies


I began with this illustration.  I needed to work on older kids and had sent this one to my agent.  She liked it, and asked for these two characters in another illustration.


My favorite part of the process is in developing the characters. So, I like to start with faces.   I did a loose pencil sketch, playing with their expressions.  I scanned them in, and brought them into Photoshop.  I reduced their size, and then printed it out, so that I could work on their bodies next.  (That part of the process varies – most often I’ll sketch out their full bodies, but in this case, I was happy with their expressions, but had run out of space to sketch their bodies, hence the scanning).


michelleProcess_4I sketched in their bodies, scanned into Photoshop and cleaned up the image up a bit. Print.


I wanted them to be in a school setting, so I sketched in the lockers and hallway.


At this point, I focused on other kids in the hall.   I worked on a sketch of a group of kids.  Scanned them in and added them to the scene in Photoshop.


I still felt there needed another kid in the scene, and sketched her.  The thing I love about Photoshop is using it to work on the composition of the scene.  So, so, helpful!!

After placing everyone where they needed to be in Photoshop, and cleaning up the sketch.  I printed it out on watercolor paper, and paint. Below is the final image.


How long have you been illustrating?

When I was in elementary school, I would draw all the time. I had a big desk in my bedroom, and that’s where I’d work.  I studied the classics.  You know, Ziggy, Snoopy, Family Circus.


Did you study art at Pennsylvania State University?

Nope, not even close.   I double majored in the Russian, and Sociology: with a minor in Russian Area Studies.  I lived in the Soviet Union for four months the summer before my senior year.  In fact, I was in Moscow when the Soviet Coup of ’91 occurred and Gorbachev was taken by the Soviet hardliners.  I stood in Red Square amongst the tanks and heard Boris Yeltsin speak.  It was an incredible experience. I had hoped to work for the CIA, but due to a governmental hiring freeze, that never came to be.  It’s funny the winding path that life takes you on, isn’t it?

michellepenguin_dayDid you study art anywhere else?

No, not really.  I took a figure drawing class at The New Hampshire Institute of Art which was really helpful in learning to capture gesture.  But most of what I’ve learned has been from looking at the work of those whose illustrations I’ve admired: Matt Phelan, Marla Frazee, RW Alley, Freya Blackwood.


When do you think you developed your illustrating style?

There wasn’t a point where I sat down and thought… hmmm, what’s my style going to be.  I think  style just happens when you’re busy drawing.  My style constantly evolves as I learn new techniques, and am influenced by the things going on around me.


What was the first thing you illustrated where someone paid you for your work?

That’s an easy one.  The SCBWI Bulletin published one of my spot illustrations.  I was over the moon!  My illustration accompanied a poem on the same page as an article about Judy Blume.  JUDY BLUME – I couldn’t believe it!


Did the college help you find work?

No.  Not in the art world, since I was on the road to Covert Ops.


How did you get your first big break?

My first big break was when, after years of hounding Christina Tugeau with samples, she finally agreed to give me a chance to prove myself.  For years, I admired her cadre of illustrators, and thought she was an amazing woman.  I poured over her blog and the articles she had written about the business.  It was both fantastic and frightening when she said she’d bring me on.  Fantastic for obvious reasons, but frightening because now I had to prove myself worthy.  Nothing like a little pressure. :)


When did you decide you wanted to illustrate a children’s book?

In 2007, I was diagnosed with Stage IIIA breast cancer, the same year my eldest daughter entered Kindergarten. She was a shy little girl and we were all under a lot of stress, so to help her get through her day, (and to help me get through my treatment) I would draw a little picture to put in her lunch box every day. That was the push I needed to get my act together, follow my bliss, and not let the fear of rejection stop me from a career in illustration.


How many picture books have you illustrated?

I have illustrated four books. explore_paint

What was the title of your first book? Who was it with?

My first picture book (board book) was The First Easter Day (2013 Candy Cane Press), written by Jill Roman Lord.


How did that contract come about?

Christina Tugeau. She got in touch with me and let me know that the folks at Candy Cane Press were interested. It was fabulous, because I had just signed on with her when this opportunity became available!


Have you done any work for children’s magazines?

Yes, I have done work with New Moon Girls, and most recently I did a Hidden Pictures illustration for Highlights Magazine.


Have you done anything for educational publishing houses?

Yes, my three most recent books were published with ABDO Publishing, Magic Wagon.  They were Readers’ Theatre books written by Nancy Wallace, and were so much fun to work on: Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow, Farmyard Security, and The Princess and The Frog.


How did you come to be represented by Chris Tugeau?

Relentless hounding.  :)  And working on my skills, taking her advice, reading the articles she had written about the business, looking at the work of those illustrators I admired, and hours of drawing.  Drawing, drawing, drawing. And hounding her.


Do you think you have gotten more jobs by having representation than you would have found on your own?

Absolutely. Without a doubt.


Do you have a favorite illustration? Of my own work? 

My favorite illustration of my own work is probably this one.  I love music: my daughters play violin and flute. Whenever I see this one, it makes me happy.


(Orchestra illustration from Sketch to Final)


Do you have any desire to write and illustrate your own book?

Yes. I have a few ideas for picture books that I’m working on.  But writing is HARD! I definitely hope to go that route though! michelleelection_dayWhat is your favorite medium to use?

My favorite is pen and ink and watercolor.  I’ve been exploring digital but I love the way the paint flows in watercolor, and the happy accidents that inevitably happen with watercolor.


Do you take pictures or do any research before you start a project?

I do. I don’t know what I’d do without the internet.  If I can’t find a reference online, I’ll make my kids or my husband pose for me. Or if I’m just really stumped on something ,like a weird hand position, I’ll take a photo of myself.


What is the one thing in your studio you could not live without?

Hmmm.  My HB pencils.  Closely followed by my children’s book library.  I love being inspired by the talents of other illustrators!


Do you try and spend a certain amount of hours every day working on your art?

When I don’t have any projects in the works, I work M-F from 8-3 – while my kiddos are at school.  When they are home, I like to focus on them.  Unless, there is a project in the works, in which case, I make the time where there is none. :)


Do you think the Internet has opened doors for you?

Absolutely.  It is through the internet, that I discovered SCBWI, my agent, my illustrator pals, technique tips, etc. michellesunglasses day paint Do you use Photoshop with your illustrations?

I do.  Mainly, for cleaning up my sketches, and finishing up paintings.  I would like to get more involved in the digital side of illustration.  That is one of my goals for this year.


Do you own or have you ever tried a graphic Drawing Tablet?

No.  I’d like to try out a Wacom Cintiq, but I fear spending the money and discovering I don’t like it.


Do you think your style has changed over the years? Have your material changed?

Oh my gosh, YES!!  I mentioned earlier how I used to draw little pictures for my eldest daughter when she was in Kindergarten.  She pulled them out not long ago, and oh my.  They were NOT good.  It’s really hard looking back on my older stuff, because I’m constantly changing – for the better (I hope!).


How do you market yourself?

Christina Tugeau does several group mailings, and I try to send out my own personal postcard mailings three times a year.  I keep a blog, and website presence, and am active on Facebook/Twitter.


Do you have any career dreams that you want to fulfill?

I’d really, REALLY love to illustrate a trade book.  I’m constantly working on improving my technique with the hopes that one day I’ll be able to see my book up on a shelf in the local bookstore! Closely followed, by being an author and illustrator of a trade book.  That’s the dream.


What are you working on now?

Right now, I don’t have any big projects in the works.  So I use this time to focus on character sketches, bringing movement into my work, playing with technique, working up book ideas, basically all the stuff needed to make you a better illustrator.


Do you have any material type tips you can share with us?

Example: Paint or paper that you love – the best place to buy – a new product that you’ve tried – A how to tip, etc. Pencils – General’s Kimberly Drawing Pencil HB, Prismacolor colored pencils – Black, Prismacolor colored pencils mixed color tin Pens – Micron Paint – Windsor Newton Watercolors Paper – Arches Hot Press Sketchbook – Decadence – Moleskine, Typical – whatever I can get my hands on for cheap.  :)  Printer/Scanner – Epson WF-7520, and Epson R2000 (for printing on watercolor paper) Where to go to buy art supplies – Blick.com

michellebest friends

Any words of wisdom on how to become a successful illustrator?

I think the number one most important piece of advice for illustrators is to believe in yourself. It can be really tough being rejected. Really tough. You need that belief in order to dust yourself off (grab a cup of tea), and do it all over again. The second piece of advice is to get your work out there. No one will hire you if they haven’t seen what you can do. Remember: postcards, on-line portfolio, blog, FB, Twitter. Oh, and draw.  Paint. Do it all the time. Look at the work of people you admire.  See how they tackle an area you’re weak in. Learn, adapt, work hard.


Here are a few examples of Michelle’s expertise with black and white illustrations.



Michelle thank you for helping to kick-off 2014 with your wonderful talent and thanks for sharing your journey and process with all of us. Make sure you let us know of each success story.

You can visit Michelle To see more at: www.michellehenninger.com or www.michellehenninger.blogspot.com I am sure she would love you to leave a comment below for her. Thanks!

Talk tomorrow,


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  1. Michelle, Love your work.  I couldn’t help but smile when I saw the French hens.  Wonderful! :)

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24. Heidi Heckelbeck greets her creator!

Sometimes characters are just climbing the walls to say HELLO! …and for Priscilla Burris  on a visit to Little Simon offices after the SCBWI Winter Conference, Heidi Heckelbeck, most popular child ‘witch’, did JUST THAT!  (written by Wanda Cloven)  Here are Ciara Gay (designer) Chani Yammer (Executive. AD) and Sonali Fry (Ed. Dir.) and many of the Heidi series books greeting Priscilla as she gets off the elevator!  Such moments aren’t forgotten…. ever!

Heidi and Friends SS (3)

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25. LAUNCH: Maggie and Milo: frog hunters

Just in time for spring, a grandma (!) sends a surprise package of JUST what you need to Frog Hunt…so off go Maggie, a wee lively gal, and Milo, a huge loving dog!  Our Priscilla Burris brings the characters alive in her usual adorable and spunky way:  do check it out…. and it just begs for more adventures!  Kirkus Review loves it! as do others…. go Maggie and Milo!  and happy Spring finally to all….

A Maggi and Milo pic (3)cover, and below author reading to class….

milo author




What do you need for a frog hunt? Big polka-dot boots, a book about frogs and one giant border collie best friend.

Maggi, a wisp of a girl with spindly legs and a large, wobbly head, is an excellent adventurer. She can’t wait to try out her new boots and search the pond for frogs. After a good night’s rest—and imparting forbiddingly specific instructions to her brother at the breakfast table (“Please keep the chitchat to a minimum. I’m in a hurry!”)—Maggi and her shaggy sidekick, Milo, are ready. However, after waiting “a million minutes” (or three) in the water, they haven’t found a single frog. With shoulders slumped and head bent low, Maggi declares frog hunting to be capital B-O-R-I-N-G. Until…Milo finds a frog! And another. And another. After 16 frogs total, Maggi and Milo rest. (Frog hunting is hard work.) As the sun sets and the palette changes to a dusky blue, the frogs quietly croak “good night” to their new friends. Debut author Brenning has created a charming duo; Milo’s steadfast loyalty (and joyful, lolling tongue, courtesy of Burris) fully balances Maggi’s quirky proclivities. A simple, everyday adventure is always better when shared with a friend.

Move over Ladybug Girl (2008), there’s a new spunky gal-and-canine twosome in town. (Picture book. 3-6)

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