Dawn Young has a new picture book THE NIGHT BAAFORE THE FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL, illustrated by Pablo Pino and published by WorthyKids will hit bookstores on June 22nd and is available now for pre-ordered. Dawn has agreed to share a copy with one lucky winner living in the United States.

All you have to do to get in the running is leave a comment. Reblog, tweet, or talk about it on Facebook with a link and you will get additional chances to win. Just let me know other things you do to share the good news, so I can put the right amount of tickets in my basket for you.

Sharing on Facebook, Twitter or reblogging really helps spread the word for a new book. So, thanks for helping Dawn and Pablo.

If you have signed up to follow my blog and it is delivered to you everyday, please let me know when you leave a comment and I will give you an extra ticket. Thanks!


The sheep won’t let Bo sleep in this hilarious tale of what can go wrong when the sheep you count run amok the night before the first day of school.

Anxious for the first day of school, Bo just wants to fall asleep so he’ll be ready for the day. But when he tries counting sheep, the sheep get bored and scatter, and chaos ensues: “Sheep 5 snags a lunch bag and makes a strange creature. 6 swallows the apple Bo picked for his teacher. Sheep 7 grips scissors, and piece after piece, she snips and she clips, and she trims the flock’s fleece.” Children can count along with Bo as he finds the 10 mischievous sheep misbehaving throughout the house. With a house full of sheep and a mess to clean, will Bo get enough sleep before his big day?

With 10 out-of-control sheep and the beleaguered Bo, this action-packed story will provide comic relief for anyone who might be a little nervous about the first day of school.



In 2017, I read a post by the wonderful Kathy Temean informing us that WorthyKids Publishing was seeking holiday stories, so I submitted The Night Baafore Christmas, and in Oct 2019, it was published. Thank you, Kathy! After The Night Baafore Christmas was released, my editor asked if I had other Night Baafore stories, specifically Easter and the first day of school. I did have others, but not The Night Baafore Easter or the first day of school, so I got right to work.

I wrote The Night Baafore Easter next. Like Christmas, Easter gave me so much to work with – décor, traditions and goodies, but the first day of school, being a non-holiday, gave me much less to work with, or so I thought, until I realized I could give Bo a backpack and school supplies. With crayons, pencils, paint and glue to use, I was ready. However, I soon found that although a backpack and school supplies gave me a lot to work with, they didn’t give the sheep a reason to leave Bo’s bedroom. In fact, the sheep could have stayed in there all night and had a blast, so I had to find a way to get them out of Bo’s room and into the house. Then, I got an idea – have Bo mention taking the bus. As soon as he did, the sheep took off and so did the story.

Since this book is the third in The Night Baafore series, I had to find new mischief for the sheep to get into, and I wanted to make much of it school related. From making puppets and paper airplanes to painting, drawing and coloring, I tried to include as many school-related activities as possible.

I also wanted to give readers the opportunity to get crafty, so I had one sheep make a creature puppet that kids can easily make at home, another make paper airplanes and some draw and color which may inspire kids to do the same. Warning – the sheep also get a hold of the glue so keep that bottle close by.

When I finished the story, I sent it off to my wonderful critique group, of course. After I got their feedback, I made some more edits and then sent The Night Baafore the First Day of School to my agent.

My agent sent the story to my editor, and she loved it. I had a few minor changes to make, then the story was ready.  Pablo agreed to do the illustrations and, once again, he did an incredible job. He gave readers so much to look at and laugh at. The Night Baafore the First Day of School couldn’t be more perfect!

We all know that the first day of school is very big day. Super-excited or somewhat scared, kids have all kinds of emotions about the first day of school. Filled with crafty chaos and loads of fun, The Night Baafore the First Day of School aims to build excitement for the big day.

The Night Baafore the First Day of School, dedicated to readers, teacher and students everywhere, comes out June 22. 


Dawn graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering, and later with an MBA.  For years, Dawn worked as an engineer and, later, as a manager at a large aerospace company, until her creative side called her to pursue her dream of writing children’s books. After reading and writing hundreds of corporate documents, none of which were titled The Little Engineer Who Could or Don’t Let the Pigeon Fly the Airbus, Dawn is thrilled to now be reading and writing picture books instead.

Dawn is also a math enthusiast. When she’s not busy writing and reading, she can be found doing math problems, sometimes just because… In high school, Dawn’s dream was to have a math equation named after her, but now, she believes having her name on the cover of books is a million times better! Dawn lives with her husband, three children and golden retriever in sunny Arizona. Dawn is an active member of SCBWI and many other children’s writing groups.






Pablo Pino was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina. He grew up watching cartoons, playing football and drawing a lot. These days, he doesn´t watch as much TV and only plays football once a week, but still has the joy of painting every day. Why? Because, for the last 10 years, he‘s been working as a professional illustrator for different print media. What he enjoys the most is illustrating books for children and teenagers. Besides the 40 published books Pablo’s illustrated, among novels and tales he also does characters designs, board games and collaborate on designs for schoolbooks and magazines with various worldwide publishing companies. Pablo is self-taught and his illustrations are mostly computer drawn, but he always adds textures that he makes with pencils, crayons, acrylics and pretty much any material that lets him get messy like when he was a child.




Dawn, thank you for sharing your book and journey with us. So glad to see your have continued to add books to this series. The sheep are always so funny with their shenanigans that cause so much chaos. Kids will love it!
The illustrations add to the fun. Good luck with the book.

Talk tomorrow,


Posted by: Kathy Temean | June 9, 2021

Book Winners & Industry Changes


Darlene Beck-Jacobson won

What the World Could Make by Holly McGhee

Ashley Seirra won

LITTLE SOCK MAKES A FRIEND by Kia Heise & Christopher D. Park

Danielle Hammelef won

WAY PAST JEALOUS by Hallee Adelman

Heather Stigall won


Manju Beth Howard won 


Laura Graves won

INVENT A PET by Vicky Fang

Aleen Fueling won


Em Mahr won

BEST DAY EVER by Michael J. Armstrong

Please send me your name and address and mention the book you won.




Little, Brown Children’s: Esther Cajahuaringa has been promoted to editor, and Regan Winter has been promoted to associate editor.

Henry Holt Children’s: Mark Podesta has been promoted to associate editor.

Viking Children’s: Tamar Brazis has been promoted to associate publisherAneeka Kalia to associate editor; and Meriam Metoui to assistant editor.

Penguin Children’s: Ellice Lee has been promoted to senior art director, and Kate Renner has been promoted to associate art director.

Kids Can Press: Patricia Ocampo joins as senior editor; she was previously president of IBBY Canada.

Cara Lee Simpson has joined PFD as a literary agent.

Elizabeth Trout has been promoted to assistant editor at Kensington.

Talia Benamy has been promoted to editor at Philomel.

Nate Lanman has been promoted to associate editor at William Morrow.

Mia Council has been promoted to associate editor at Penguin Press.

Tiffany Liao joins Zando on June 9 as executive editor leading their young readers initiative. She was previously senior editor at Holt Children’s.

Martha Wydysh has been promoted to literary agent at Trident Media Group.

Adam O’Brien has joined Apollo Publishers as an editor. Previously, he was editor at Sterling Publishing.

Talk tomorrow,


Darshana Khiani has a new picture book HOW TO WEAR A SARI, illustrated by  Joanne Lew-Vriethoff and published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books will hit bookstores on June 22nd, but is available now for pre-ordered. They have agreed to share a copy with one lucky winner living in the United States.

All you have to do to get in the running is leave a comment. Reblog, tweet, or talk about it on Facebook with a link and you will get additional chances to win. Just let me know other things you do to share the good news, so I can put the right amount of tickets in my basket for you.

Sharing on Facebook, Twitter or reblogging really helps spread the word for a new book. So, thanks for helping Darshana and Joanne.

If you have signed up to follow my blog and it is delivered to you everyday, please let me know when you leave a comment and I will give you an extra ticket. Thanks!


Sparkling with voice and charm, this picture book about a fashionable kid out to prove she’s not as small as everyone thinks is perfect for kids eager to grow up, and for those who love to play dress-up.

Being a little kid isn’t always fun and games. Sometimes, it’s downright annoying.

When a little girl tires of being treated like she’s TOO little, she sets out to prove to her family that she can do ANYTHING she puts her mind to . . .

. . . including putting on a colorful, twinkly, silky sari. Sure, they’re long and unwieldy—but that only means her family will be even more impressed when she puts it on all by herself.

Naturally, there are some hiccups along the way, but she discovers that she’s not the only one in her family who has set out with something to prove, with hilariously chaotic results. That’s what photo albums are for!

Book Journey:

Thank you for hosting me on your blog! I always loved reading as a kid. I remember my mom telling me to put away my Nancy Drew book and help with housework. One thing I didn’t see in the books I read was someone like me, an Indian-American character.

When I started writing picture books, my goal was to write for 2nd and 3rd generation South Asians like my two daughters. Books that centered their lives in this country. Books that had universal themes about growing up with a South Asian backdrop and a touch of humor.

In the summer of 2016, I was studying 2nd POV picture books for a different story. Before I knew it was fall and time to start planning my outfits for Diwali parties. I’m remiss at how my younger cousins can wear saris with style and grace, whereas it’ll take me 45 minutes. I started wondering if it’s this hard for me to wear a sari what would it be like for a young Indian girl. That was the seed for HOW TO WEAR A SARI. A sari can be stylish, sophisticated, a symbol of womanhood in South Asian culture much like wearing high-heels or a long fancy gown is in Western culture.

From the start I knew the plotline – how to put on a sari. The two areas that took multiple revisions were the voice and motivation. The first voice was a used car salesman which was too sleazy, then a grandmotherly voice which was too sweet. The voice I ended up using was an encouraging voice with a touch of mischievousness. The hardest aspect to nail down was the character motivation. Why did the girl want to wear a sari – to be noticed by her family, to prove that she could do older things, to look glamorous, to be like an older sibling? After eleven revisions, I finally got it which was to prove she wasn’t “too little” and could do anything she put her mind too. My agent loved the story and it went out on submission in the summer of 2017.

It took a while for the story to sell. Some editors weren’t connecting with the 2nd POV and questioned if it was the most effective way to tell this story. One editor gave me an R&R, so I wrote two new drafts in 1st POV. However, my agent felt that my original version in 2nd POV was fresher so she continued subbing the 2nd POV version. In winter 2018, I attended the Winter SCBWI National Conference and met Erika Turner from Versify during the Diversity Social. I pitched her my SARI story and she loved the concept. In March 2018, Erika made an offer! Ironically, the 2nd POV which one editor questioned was the aspect that Erika loved. Just goes to show you how subjective this business can be.

The rest of the process went smoothly. I was thrilled Erika found Joanne Lew-Vriethoff to create the art. Joanne’s art has this magical combination of energy, heart, and lightness which is exactly what I wanted for this story. Since the art was amazing from the beginning, I didn’t have too much feedback unless it had to do with cultural accuracy.

I hope readers will smile and laugh and see a bit of themselves in this joyous story about dressing up and growing up.


Darshana Khiani dreamed of being an astronaut someday, but when that didn’t pan out, she got two degrees in Engineering instead and began working in the computer industry. After becoming a mom, she remembered how much she loved books and creative writing as a kid so she began writing picture books. She works as a computer engineer by day and a children’s writer by night. She also enjoys spreading the word about the latest in South Asian Kidlit.

Darshana lives in the San Francisco Bay area with her husband, two daughters, and a furry pooch. In her spare time, she enjoys hiking, solving jigsaw puzzles, and eating dark chocolate.

She is a proud member of the Soaring 20s, a group of picture book authors and illustrators debuting in 2020/2021.

You can find Darshana online at www.darshanakhiani.com and on Twitter and Instagram at @darshanakhiani.


Joanne Lew-Vriethoff is an children’s book illustrator creating mostly picture books and middle grade books.

She was born in Malaysia, grew up in Los Angeles, and lived in Amsterdam for the last 20 years. After 20 years in Amsterdam, Joanne and her family decided they needed a change and a new adventure so six months ago, they moved to Malaysia. They plan to spedn their future traveling between Amsterdam, K.L, L.A, and NY.

After receiving her B.A in Illustration from Art Center College of Design in Pasadena,California, she worked in the television industry as a character and concept illustrator for clients pitching children’s television shows.  A few years later she moved to New York and trained as a graphic designer at a Design Studio working with various clients such as Columbia University, New School, and IJDG in NYC.

Many of her illustrations are focused on relationships, connections, struggles and in children’s daily lives while giving her art a certain tenderness and humor. She loves illustrating themes that help readers better understand and communicate with their families or friends. For example: Parkinsons (A Day with Parkinsons), death or separation from a love one (You’ll Find Me or Invisible String series), Autism (Too Sticky). Beautiful is another great book that she worked on which “encourage all girls to embrace who they are and realise their endless potential”

Joanne is represented by Mela Bolinao at MBARTIST in NYC.

You can visit Joanne using the following links:

Website: http://joannelewvriethoff.com/
Instagram : @joannelewvriethoff
Twitter: @jlewvriethoff
Facebook: joannelewvriethoffillustrator

Thank you Darshana for sharing your book and journey with us. I have been reading a lot of MG and YA books with Indian characters and culture. I have learn a lot. I am glad to see it is also being shared in picture books. Joanne did a great job with the illustrations. Good luck with the book!

Talk tomorrow,



How We Illustrated 1000 books and Lived to Tell the Tale!

Oh golly! Where do we even start…

Burgen and I met in first year Graphic Design and this design training has underpinned our careers. Burgen completed a fourth year Higher Diploma, specializing in illustration and I started working in a small ad agency. We were on different tracks, but we kept in touch. Burgen moved up to Johannesburg and I moved to a bigger agency. I became Creative Director and Burgen started his own business – Crazy Cat Designs. Then we met up again and there were fireworks – of the marrying kind!!

I left my job, moved to Jo’burg and went freelance in 1999. Burgen had already been working for himself since 1995. Now it’s 2021, we’ve illustrated over 1000 books between us, and gathered decades of experience as full-time illustrators! How did we do it? 

Here’s a quick checklist:  

1Pitch up: Keep taking action, results happen from what you do. Submit your work every chance you get, enter reputable contests, and say yes as often as you can – especially to things that will get your work out there.

2. Say YES: All commissions will teach you something – from pricing insights to new techniques. Each job has positive and negative components, which will help you grow.

3. Keep learning: We started in the pre-digital age and have continually moved with the times.  Look at new technology, new ways of production, new software and new systems and don’t get stuck on one particular thing – be open to change. Take courses to expand your knowledge and hone skills.

4. Welcome all opportunities: There are some very surprising outcomes. We’ve been working on a series of caricatures lately – it’s not our core business, but we’re learning some amazing things about characterization that we can apply to our picture books!

5. Accept insights: Constructive criticism is not personal. While you may be the creator of an illustration, you are not the illustration. Remember, we do the best we can within time and budget parameters, so perfection is not the objective!

6. Get some basic business skills: Learn how to hustle. Get specialists and professionals to assist you (like an accountant, a tech specialist to troubleshoot, a social media guru etc).

7. Market yourself: But not too aggressively. You are a brand and a commodity, so you need to put that out there. Be brave about your skills and what you have to offer (it’s hard, we know, but do it!!).

8. Keep up with current trends: But don’t be a slave to them. There is a Zeitgeist, a “spirit of the age” for every point in time. If you can tap into that, you’re going to be a rock star!

9. Tackle a few drawing challenges: The best way to grow is to draw every day. Back in our college days, Burgen and I had a lecturer whose favorite phrase was “kick it around a bit”! It made us cringe and roll our eyes, but it was probably the best piece of advice we ever received! We’re passing it on to you…

10. Build relationships: This is the most important thing we can tell you. Our longest standing business relationship started in 1990 – 32 years ago! Sometimes the people we work with at various companies change, but the publishing house has remained a consistent and loyal client. And remember to be kind to everyone you meet- you never know where they may pop up again!

Relationships are the key to a successful business – and according to the longest-lived Harvard research study, relationships are the key to a happy, healthy life too! Take us being here on Kathy’s blog: the first time Kathy spoke to us was back in 2016. We’d signed up with our first agent that year – The Organisation in London – and Kathy had featured several of their artists. After finding Kathy, we became BIG fans of her blog, followed and subscribed and learnt a great deal from all her informative articles, and it was here that we first encountered the Fairy Godmother of picture books – the magical Mira Reisberg! Kathy had featured a few stories about the Children’s Book Academy and their wonderful courses, and we felt we just HAD to attend!

At this time, we were coming to the end of our largest educational project to date: Pearson’s Vuma Reading Series. We’d pitched for (and won) the Chief Illustrator’s job for Vuma, which meant we created a Style Guide for other artists to follow of over 200 illustrations, as well as completing a mammoth 132 readers in the 4 years we worked on the project! We were looking for a way to re-direct our careers into trade books and Mira’s course was exactly what we were looking for.

After completing ‘The Craft and Business of Illustrating and Writing Children’s Books’ in October 2018, our career path began to change. Some of it was actually a direct result of the course – Clear Fork/Spork had acquired fellow student, Sandra Sutter’s ‘The Real Farmer in the Dell’ and we were chosen as the illustrators. At the same time as we were commissioned to work on that book, we were contacted by a local South African publisher to illustrate Wendy Hartmann’s ‘The Singing Stone’. So suddenly we had two trade books within two months of completing Mira’s course – magical!!

Take a look at the relationship network in action: 

Because of all our educational hard work (illustrations for thousands of text books, readers, big books etc) we got the opportunity to compete for the Vuma pitch. The Vuma work persuaded our agent, Lorraine Owen at The Org, to take us on. It was the Org that put us in touch with Kathy. It was Kathy that put us in touch with Mira. Other than (literally) saving our lives (which is a whole other story!), Mira put us in touch with Sandra Sutter, author, and Callie Metler-Smith, publisher and owner of Clear Fork/Spork.

Through those relationships, we won our first gold medal (from Reader’s Favourite for ‘The Real Farmer in the Dell’) and had two books published (Sandra’s other book is ‘Stan’s Frightful Halloween’). Our long-standing relationship with author Wendy Hartmann, won us our first local trade book: ‘The Singing Stone’ with Jacana Media. Because of that, we were invited to illustrate another two books with them: ‘Wanda’ (now available in the USA and Canada) and ‘Kantiga Finds the Perfect Name’. More are in the pipeline with Jacana for this year.

If you’re still not convinced that relationships are key, here’s another link for you: because of our first agent (who sadly passed away due to cancer), we were invited by our current agent, Paul Moreton, to join Bell Lomax Moreton Agency in London. And it was the Art Director of our book with Stripes Publishing UK who put in a good word with Paul for the work we’d done on ‘Speedy Monkey’!

I’m going to stop there – I could go on for hours – but if you really want to hear more from me and Burgen or the magical Mira Reisberg, sign up for the new Children’s Book Academy course starting 7th June. Whether you’re completely new to Picture Books, or (like us) you need a boost to your career, it’s a GREAT investment!!


Click here to register:

Or, click here to take advantage of what we’ve learned from illustrating 1000 books! Schedule a tailor-made, person-to-person, one hour critique of your work with us:

Thank you Chantelle and Burgen for sharing this with us.

Talk tomorrow,


Posted by: Kathy Temean | June 6, 2021

Victoria Yu Illustrator Critique by Chantelle and Burgen


My name is Victoria Yu, and I recently took Mira’s Craft & Business of Writing Children’s Book course. I will also be taking the upcoming Illustrating course. I’ve been working on some illustrations for the story that I developed during Mira’s course. The story is called The Hollow-Hearted Princess and The Moon Child, and is based on a Japanese folktale, The Bamboo Cutter and The Moon Child. See below for the story pitch and my bio (same as my final submission for the Golden Ticket competition in Mira’s course).


Aiko has a problem — her heart is hollow. She finds a tiny girl (Hikari) inside a glowing bamboo stalk. Aiko takes care of Hikari and shares her world. Hikari eventually reveals that she is from the moon and must return. But though she is alone again, Aiko is not lonely because her heart has been filled with happiness and memories. She remembers Hikari whenever she looks up at the moon and they reunite once a year on the bridge of stars. 


Victoria’s path to picture book writing was not the straightest. She majored in English literature, took some murky detours in law and ecommerce, and bounced between countries from Hong Kong, to the UK, to the US. Victoria is most inspired by folklore, mythology and fairy tales, and hopes to bring more Asian representation to the table for her book-loving toddler.


Hello Victoria. Thanks for sharing your illustrations and part of your story with us for review. We hear you will be joining us for the upcoming Children’s Book Academy course starting 7th June and we’re looking forward to seeing more of this interesting story! We can’t wait to find out what happens to the Moon Child and the Princess – you’ve done a great job of building suspense with the images you’ve sent! Well done.

Let’s get started and talk about your first illustration.

We love the princess on this page. She has a wonderfully authentically oriental feel to her clothes and parasol (you’ve really done your homework) and she’s very beautiful, as a princess should be – nice work! We like the blossoming trees behind her but we think they’re a bit dominant and are stealing the princess’s limelight. The same goes for the very bold paving that takes up a good deal of your page and detracts from the delicate work in your pretty princess. So let’s bunny hop to our suggested fixes…

If you’ve been reading our other reviews on Kathy’s blog, I’m sure you’d guess that we’d bump up the size of your main character as a first step. This is to engage our reader with the main character and to make the most of the wonderful work you’ve put into your princess. To that end, we’ve sadly said goodbye to the flowering trees. Sometimes what you don’t put in can add to the message – white space can add emphasis and tension to a scene. If you feel you must have the trees, perhaps consider having just one that curves around her, bending in a pretty shape to the left and top of the page, and make sure to tone down the very dark trunk so that it doesn’t detract from the main character. We’ve kept the paving, so that she and the bunny are not floating, but dropped them down and given them a lot less emphasis so the reader is free to engage fully with what’s happening between the princess and the bunny. We’ve simplified him to match the style of the princess and aimed him to look at her, setting up a visual ‘dialogue’ between the two characters. This creates some suspense as to what happens next…

Again, some gorgeous detailed work in the bamboo! You’ve created a lovely pattern with the shoots to the sides and we like the placing of the central cane with the glow – the stage is set for drama! Take a look at what we changed…

We’ve upped the contrast between the bamboo and the background, this makes for more interesting negative spaces in the leaves and between the foreground plants and the central cane. Similarly, we’ve heightened the contrast to make the central cane glow more – let’s leave no doubt that magic is about to happen! We’ve duplicated and enlarged your bamboo to create a more dense jungle to the sides of the page. Once again, this adds to the contrast and gives ‘centre stage’ to the action.

Let’s move on to your final image.

What a peaceful looking child! We like the Moon ‘crown’, setting the stage for what you’re about to show us next. This is an excellent storytelling device, particularly in picture books where the illustrations are of primary importance to the story. We also like the glow around the child, showing the magic and linking to the glow from the previous page. Here are our suggested tweaks:

We’ve brought in some of the bamboo leaves to strengthen the link between this page and what’s come before. We’ve also upped the contrast and saturated the golden glow – this creates a bond between the background and the moon crown on the child’s head. To make the child younger, we’ve enlarged eyes, removed grey, added more colour and made the little hand much smaller.

We hope you like our ideas and we look forward to seeing more of your illustrations and how you apply these suggestions to your work. See you in class very soon!


Chantelle and Burgen are excited to be co-teaching the June 7th Craft and Business of Illustrating (and Writing) Children’s Books interactive e-course, where they will be sharing their 25 years of experience and technique development. Find out more here or purchase the course with over 30 lessons, all the bonuses, the 16 submission opportunities here
https://www.childrensbookacademy.com/cbicb.html  or directly purchase the full course etc. plus a one-hour in-person critique with Chantelle and Burgen here.


Readers: if you don’t know or haven’t signed up yet, click the link below to register for ‘The Craft and Business of Illustrating and Writing Picture Books’ with the Children’s Book Academy. Starts 7th June. Don’t miss out!!



Chantelle and Burgen, thank you for taking the time to share your expertist with Ruth and the rest of us. I am sure many illustrators will benefit from your review.

Talk tomorrow,


Posted by: Kathy Temean | June 5, 2021

Illustrator Saturday – Sally Walker

Sally Walker is a Suffolk (UK) based award winning illustrator.

After working as a graphic designer for over 15 years she decided she wanted to explore her love of illustration further. Sally graduated from an MA in Children’s Book Illustration at Cambridge School of Art in 2017, which she thoroughly loved. Not only did it make her start drawing from life again, it took her away from the computer and back into the print room. She really enjoys the experimental process and often ends up using textures from this stage in final artwork, and then using my digital skills to layer and compose.

Awards & exhibitions:

2020 SCBWI Don Freeman Work in Progress grant –  winner in published category
2019 Picture This – Winner
2019 Templar Illustration prize – Shortlisted
2019 Exhibition of Illustrating life IV in Beijing
2018 SCBWI Undiscovered Voices – Winning finalist
2017 Tragaluz International Illustration award – Finalist Little Hakka – Shortlisted
2017 Communication Arts Illustration awards – Shortlisted
2016 Golden Pinwheels Young Illustrators Award  – Silver Winner


Chase the Moon, Tiny Turtle was my first published picture book and a huge learning curve for me in discovering how the publishing industry works. Although I was prepared for numerous rounds of changes to sketches and artwork, most of it went pretty smoothly. However, the opening spread did take a few tweaks until we got it right.

When I was initially sent the manuscript, I started drawing out rough thumbnails for each page and exploring different ways in which the story could be told visually. In one of the very first drafts I had an idea of having a little girl in the story who lived in a house near the beach, and one day goes out and builds a sandcastle.

I don’t think I ended up  even sending this version to the publisher, as in the end as I felt it was distracting from the main story. However, I did keep the sandcastle in the first dummy book, which appeared in the first spread. I knew I wanted this spread to be a scene setter and that a double page spread of the beach would do just that.

There’s usually a bit of a wait once sketches for the dummy have been sent, so that the whole team at the publishing house can review and gather comments. During this time, I took the opportunity to work up a colour test

This was mainly pencil and digital to quickly get down my ideas and see if they worked. I remember being pretty happy with it at the time although it is quite different in colour and style from the final version.

When the feedback came back it became apparent that the sandcastle wasn’t going to work, so that was dropped altogether, and the scene adjusted to include the houses, fox and owl. At this point I drew up a more detailed (and neater) rough which was approved by the publisher team and meant I could move onto final artwork.

My process for making illustrations is always evolving, but usually incorporates both digital and traditional art techniques. For this book I made some time to experiment with traditional materials for the sea, sand and sky and the big bright moon. These are all very important elements to the book, and I really wanted to make them stand out. Using Acrylic inks and acrylic paints I layered up textures on paper using brushes and a palette knife. I made numerous versions of these trying out different strokes and colours each time.

Then I moved onto creating the other elements using pencil and ink. Some of these were taken straight from my sketch book and used in the final artwork. Others are redrawn a few times using a lightbox until I’m satisfied enough to scan them.

At this point I have a bank of textures and scanned line art and I’m ready to start composing digitally. I always start by piecing together the line art using the rough sketch as a guide. And from there I will usually work on the background first to have a base to build upon. This is where the acrylic paint textures are used and sometimes recoloured and layered over other scans.

From there I keep layering and colouring  and adding more textures digitally, until I’m happy. I realise that this sounds a lot simpler than it is and usually takes the most time!

This version (apart from the crabs which I did also finish) was sent back to the publisher as final artwork but it was highlighted that some of the test readers couldn’t quite make out the nest of eggs. So, I went back to the drawing board to try and create a more 3d image to make it clearer that it was an underground nest.

Unfortunately, it was still not clear enough, so with the help of the graphic designer we went back to the drawing board and eventually came up with this solution which made it into the book.

This cross-section, which was the designer’s idea, is a much simpler and clearer viewpoint, and also shows why making picture books is such a team effort!

You can also see in this final version that the colours are more vivid than previously. Partly, this is due to me reworking the image later on after I’d created the rest of the book. I find that colour palettes can evolve during the process and some earlier versions end up needing tweaking. I also added some more contrast and saturation as I really wanted those colours to pop!


How long have you been illustrating?

As a hobby on and off for about 10 years before embarking on my MA in Children’s Book Illustration. It wasn’t really until then that I started to take it more seriously and illustrate on a regular basis.

What and when was the first piece of art you created for money?

An Illustration for a poem in Baby Bug magazine in 2019.

Have you always lived in the UK?

Pretty much apart from when I took a years working holiday Visa in Australia. I travelled the East Coast but was also lucky enough to work as a graphic designer there too.

What made you decide to go to Cambridge School of Art to get your MA in Children’s Book Illustration in 2017?

I’ve always loved learning and had been taking evening courses in illustration at a local college. Through that I heard about the course went along to an open evening. There you got the chance to speak to students and see their work, and also look around the facilities (including the wonderful print room). I left feeling completely inspired knowing that I had to apply.

What school did you attend to get your BA. Is that where you studied Graphic design?

I attended the University of Central England which was based in Birmingham. The course was a BA in Visual Communications which allowed you to study Illustration, Photography, Tme Based Media and Graphic design. I actually ended up specializing in Time Based Media, focusing on motion graphic design.

When did you decide you wanted to study illustration?

During my working holiday in Australia, I worked as a graphic designer for a small gift company. I got to work alongside an illustrator in residence who was creating beautiful designs for the products and it blew my mind. This was the first time I realised that illustration could be a real career and as soon as I got back to the UK I started looking into evening classes in illustration.

Did Cambridge School of Art help you find work after you graduated?

Not in the traditional sense but getting into publishing isn’t as straight forward as a lot of careers. What they did do was give opportunities to get your work in front of the eyes of agents and publishers. After finishing the course they organised a week long exhibition in London with a private viewing for publishing professionals. Alongside that they also had their own stand at Bologna Book Fair and took meetings with publishers on behalf of the students throughout the event.

What type of graphic design work did you do?

I have worked as a graphic designer for a mobile phone content provider, the gifts company, and for my current job as an Art Director at an elearning communications company. My work there is a mixture of motion graphics and screen based graphic design. I help to create elearning courses, printed materials, presentations and animations.

Did you ever do any art exhibits to help promote your art?

I haven’t organized my own exhibition as of yet, but have taken part in an alumni show, a SCBWI BI show and Illustrating life IV in Beijing.

What made you decide to focus on Children’s illustration after 15 years of doing graphic design?

I think one of the biggest attractions for me is the chance to step away from the computer and create something by hand. I love drawing and print-making and raiding my kids art supplies to creating interesting textures and shapes. I still work part-time in Graphic Design and have found the cross between both disciplines really compliment each other. And also the computer skills I have gained from Graphic Design do come in very handy.

What published work did you submit to win the SCBWI Don Freeman Work in Progress grant in published category? 

I submitted my dummy book ‘Lily and the Dragon’. It’s a story I really believe in and have been working on for a few years now. Hopefully it will find its home one day!

How did you connect with Jennifer Rofe at Andrea Brown Literary Agency?

Jen approached me, she’d seen some of my work on Instagram and reached out. I was taking part in a lot of social media challenges at the time which helped build my portfolio, and share my work by posting on social media regularly and got me noticed. I'[ve nee with them since 2018.

Was Chase the Moon, Tiny Turtle the first picture book you illustrated?

Yes it was.

Did Jennifer Rofe sell this picture book to Page Street Kids for you?

No I was the illustrator for this book and it was written by Kelly Jordan. Page Street Kids approached me via Jen to see if I would be interested in illustrating it. And I immediately was, Kelly’s writing is beautiful, I could visualize it straight away.

Did you take pictures or do research before you started illustrating this book?

I did research turtle hatchlings quite a bit! Unfortunaly I don’t live anywhere near nesting sites, so couldn’t do any field trips (which I would love to do one day). But I did watch videos and research pictures and facts on the turtles and other animals in the book.

You have a section on your website titled “Projects” Are these projects, book dummies or school assignments?

These are largely self-initiated projects. Some are from my Masters course work and others are ideas that I wanted to experiment with.

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

Yes I do! I have written a couple of picture books and hope to get back to them and writing some new ones very soon!

Would you illustrate a book for an author who wants to self-publish?

At the moment I’m concentrating on building my career with traditional publishers, but if the right person approached me with the right story at the right time…

Have you done any illustrating for children’s magazines?

Yes I’ve illustrated for Baby Bug, Ask magazine and Mighty Kind Kids.

Have you tried to illustrate a wordless picture book?

No but I have seen some beautiful wordless picture books and do have an idea floating about for one. Maybe once I’ve finished my current project I’ll get back to that idea!

What do you think helped develop your style?

Print-making, being playful with materials and drawing from life. Having two small children around has given me plenty of inspiration too!

Do you have a studio in your house?

Yes I’m very lucky to have a gorgeous studio that my husband built me, although we’re moving soon so will need to find a new work space.

What do you think is your biggest success?

Being a published illustrator and seeing my work in the hands of children.

What is your favorite medium to use?

I don’t have one specific medium as I guess I’d be classed as a mixed medium artist. But pencil and ink are used in most of my illustrations.

Has that changed over time?

Each project uses slightly different mediums. I try to take time to experiment before starting final artwork for a piece/project, and the outcome from that will determine the medium.

Do you own or have you used a Graphic Drawing Tablet when illustrating?

Yes I do, I use a tablet regularly. Once I’ve created all my textures, and line work I scan everything into my computer in greyscale and then compose and colour digitally. I will then use a drawing tablet to add some more textures and colours.

What materials and/or tools do you use to create your work?

Pencil, Ink, foam stamps, etching ink & roller (for monoprinting), acrylics, watercolour, Geli plate and my computer.

Do you try to spend a specific amount of time working on your craft?

When I’m working on a book I have to be strict and work most days. But I do have young children so I have to be flexible and the time spent each week can differ. When I was studying on my MA I aimed to work 2 hours every night!

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

I try to research as much as possible and sometimes do take pictures. Especially of facial expressions and poses but I prefer to draw from life whenever possible. I have sketch books full of observational drawings.


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

I’d love to have an author illustrated picture book published,  work on chapter books and also a graphic novel if I get the chance.

What are you working on now?


Currently I’m working on a picture book with Penguin Random House which is due to be published next year.

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.

Use cheap materials. It’s tempting to spend a small fortune on art materials but some of my favourite tools have been the cheapest. I often raid my children’s art supplies and mainly use recycled copier paper.

Any words of wisdom for new illustrators?

Keep going and try not to spend too much time comparing yourself to others. I say this as I’m terrible for doing it and its good to step away from social media sometimes as it can play with your confidence.

Sally, thank you for taking the time to answer the interview questions and showing us your process. Please let me know about your future books and successes so I can share them with everyone. 

To see more of Sally’s work, you can visit her at:

Website: https://www.sallywalkerillustration.com/

Posted by: Kathy Temean | June 4, 2021

June’s Agent of the Month – Kelly Dyksterhouse



Raven Quill Literary Agency

Kelly Dyksterhouse grew up with a book always in her hands and a story always in her head. The important role that books played in her early years developed into a passion for children’s literature in her adult life. Kelly holds an MFA in Writing for Children & Young Adults for Vermont College of Fine Arts and has interned as an editorial reader at leading literary agencies and worked as an independent developmental editor and writing mentor. She considers the opportunity to help bring books into existence to be a great honor, and it is a particular joy for her to work alongside authors as they develop their project from idea to polished manuscript. The best feeling of all is when those manuscripts end up as books in the hands of children.

I am looking to acquire middle grade and young adult novels and narrative nonfiction, as well as picture books and graphic novels.

For 2021, I am especially looking for graphic novels. I’ll consider text only, but am hungry for author/illustrators.

For picture books, I am drawn to books that are character driven with a strong narrative arc, and I particularly love books with a surprise or subversive twist to them that make me laugh. I also love lyrical texts with a classic feel, and am looking for nonfiction picture books about a little known period of history or that focus on the natural world. Author/Illustrators are always a plus.

In middle grade, I’m looking for a wide range of genres. I enjoy high-concept, fast-paced adventure books with a commercial hook, either contemporary or speculative, as well as literary works featuring lush, lyrical writing. I love ghost stories, magical realism, historical fiction and mysteries–books that get you to look at the familiar in a different light and to see the possible in the impossible. I enjoy books that feature ensemble casts, unlikely heroes, underdogs, surprise friendships and complicated, yet hopeful, family dynamics. I am particularly interested in books written by and featuring underrepresented voices in ways that showcase kids being kids in all the above scenarios. For nonfiction, I’m interested in projects that shed a light on a little known historical time period or discovery, projects that focus on the natural world, and issues of social justice. In all genres, I’m looking for beautiful writing and strong voice.

For YA, I’m looking for speculative fiction that is layered, has a distinct voice, and is grounded in a universal emotional desire. I seem to be drawn toward literary works that have a commercial hook, and I’m interested in genre mash-ups. So whereas I don’t love sci-fi, I’d jump at a mystery set in space; I would also really love a historical that feels relevant or that has a light magical twist. I find that I’m especially drawn to YA that has vivid, immersive and contained settings–settings that almost function as a character themselves (Think Scorpio Races or Frankie Landau Banks). As with MG, I enjoy books with ensemble casts and fast action. I’m not usually a great fit for straight romance, but I do enjoy a romantic thread. I always enjoy a good enemies to lovers story. A couple of specific wishes: I would love a smart, funny heist and a moving novel in verse along the lines of Poet X. 

Fun facts about me:On my nightstand right now: When You Trap a Tiger by Tae Keller, Elatsoe by Darcie Little Badger, King and the Dragonflies by Kacen Callender, The Way Back by Gavriel Savit, You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson, and Everything Sad is Untrue by Daniel Nayeri.

What I miss most about life “Pre-COVID”: live music and breweries, soccer, traveling, working in coffee shops.

What I am thankful for during these months of social distancing: Long walks in the woods. Zoom. Chocolate. Books (duh). Animals-dogs, cats, birds, squirrels, foxes, deer, owls…anything living and breathing I can watch or talk to during the day.

Submission Guidelines

Submissions should be emailed to QueryMe.Online/KellyDyksterhouse https://querymanager.com/query/KellyDyksterhouse 

Submissions are only accepted through Query Manager. You may submit one project at a time to one RQLA agent at a time. If that agent passes on your query, you may then query another RQLA agent after a period of one month. For picture books, you may submit the entire manuscript in addition to your query. For novels, please submit a query, a one-page synopsis, and the first ten pages of your work. Authors and artists from underrepresented groups are invited to make note of that in the referral box.



In the subject line, please write “JUNE 2021 FIRST PAGE CRITIQUE” Example: Paste the text in the email, plus attached it as a Word document to the email. Please make sure you put your name, the title of the piece, and genre: a picture book, chapter book, middle grade, or young adult, Non-fiction, contemporary, historical, Sci-fi, fantasy, etc. at the top on both the email and the Word document (Make sure you include your name with the title of your book, when you save the first page).

PLEASE name the Word document file by putting 2021 JUNE – Your Name – Title of first page. Thank you.

REMEMBER: ATTACH THE WORD DOCUMENT AND NOT GET ELIMINATED! Your First Page Word document should be formatted using one inch margins and 12 point New Times Roman font – double space – no more than 23 lines – only one page.

Send to: kathy(dot)temean(at)gmail(dot)com. Sending it to my hotmail account will probably keep me from seeing it and including you in the running.

PLEASE FOLLOW THE GUIDELINES: Your submission will be passed over if you do not follow the directions for both the pasted email and the attached Word doc. This is where most people mess up.

DEADLINE: JUNE 25th. – noon EST


Talk tomorrow,


Posted by: Kathy Temean | June 3, 2021

Book Giveway: WANDA by Sihle Nontsokweni & Mathabo Tlali

Sihle and Mathabo have written a picture book, titled, WANDA, illustrated by Chantelle and Burgen Thorne and published by Crocodile Books – Interlink Publishing. They have agreed to send a copy of the book to one lucky winner. 

All you have to do is leave a comment. Reblog, tweet, or talk about it on Facebook with a link and you will get additional chances to win. Just let me know, so I can put the right amount of tickets in my basket for you.

Sharing on Facebook, Twitter or reblogging really helps spread the word for a new book. So, thanks for helping Sihle and Mathabo.

If you have signed up to follow my blog and it is delivered to you everyday, please let me know when you leave a comment and I will give you an extra ticket. Thanks!


An empowering picture book from South Africa about a young girl who overcomes endless teasing

Meet Wanda, with her beautiful head full of hair. She is brave and strong, but she’s unhappy because of the endless teasing by the boys at school for her “thorn bush” and “thunderstorm cloud.” Through Grandma Makhulu’s hair secrets and stories she finds the courage to face her fears and learn to appreciate that her hair is a crown‚ “not a burden‚” and it is something to be proud of. This book is about identity and beauty, celebrating how cultural pride is learned and passed on over generations.


In 2015, I was living in the eclectic and smoggy city of Beijing, pursuing a Master’s degree at Peking University. I’d submitted an acting tape, casting for a role and had submitted a headshot picture of myself where I was wearing a black, bouncy weave. After the audition, I had removed the curly weave and naturally returned to my small, budding dreadlocks. The show called me back and I was immediately nerved, because I had changed my hairstyle. In conversation with my friend, I unconsciously, yet verbatim say: “I just don’t think they’ll think I’m as beautiful with my natural hair.”

Somewhere in my journey, I had internalised that hair like mine was not appropriate, and that with it on, I was less beautiful. It reminded me of these words:

“there are places like this everywhere,
places you enter as a young girl
from which you never return.”

Later on, that year, two friends and I were researching the weave hair market in Guangzhou in relation to African markets.

Reflecting on the hair market, and how we Africans were the largest consumers and importers of wigs and weaves led me to reflect on the messaging on hair as an identity marker. I then wrote this blog African Rapunzel blog. This initial transcript on hair, became the first draft from where I developed the storyline on Wanda. As I developed the story, I reached out to my long-time friend Mathabo Tlali, to see how we could jostle ideas to bring this story to its fullness. I sent the story to Mathabo who laced the story with creative magic undergirding the story with key elements of intergenerational transmission of confidence and other key themes like the big switch. We spent months looking for an illustrator alongside Jacana Media. We put a great deal of energy co-creating with Chantelle and Burgen on the representativeness of the characters so that the book could capture a diverse range of young girls.

Our friendship had been solidified through the creative arts studying in high school together, then we used to dream of having our own theatre and a scholarship for children in the arts. Through the years we stayed connected and shared our creative passions. Collaborating on the book was a natural extension of those long-shared childhood hopes of being on stage, telling stories.


When we read the story, we just knew this was an important book! Sihle and Mathabo had crafted a story around several central issues of our time: being bullied, finding one’s own identity and being proud of one’s cultural history and traditions. Being part of the multicultural society that is South Africa, this was a message that spoke to our hearts and we were honored to be asked to illustrate this special story.

With a long history in literacy and education, we pay great attention in adding our ‘visual voices’ to the stories we illustrate, and so, drawing from our own experiences and childhood feelings, we added in our own (pictorial) notes. You will see (in the pages we’ve selected) the heckling bullies that make Wanda’s life a misery – take a close look at these two! While they criticize Wanda, are they so perfect? Perhaps Wanda might find fault with them in return, but she doesn’t – she finds fault with herself, not with those around her. Perhaps the parent reading the story might see how imperfect the bullies are and point that out. Perhaps that parent might also point out that Wanda held fast and did not retaliate with inappropriate behavior. We hope so!

Thank you so much Kathy for having us back on your blog to talk about ‘Wanda’ – freshly launched in the USA and Canada this March 2021 by Interlink Books. Thanks also to Interlink Books for sponsoring this Book Giveaway (USA only).

Our journey with ‘Wanda‘ began when publisher Carol Broomhall of Jacana contacted us about the book. We had worked with Carol the previous year on ‘The Singing Stone’ – a beautiful tale of magic and song from author Wendy Hartmann, so we were delighted to hear about this exciting new book coming from childhood best friends and debut authors Sihle and Mathabo. Working as a duo ourselves, we were excited to be paired with an author team of two, too!

When we worked on the character of Makhulu (Wanda’s granny) we wanted to show her character to reveal the very special person that she is. We gave her funky grey dreadlocks, a bold and bright print dress, kind and loving eyes behind her glasses. It was such a joy to hear author Mathabo shrieking with delight when she saw the final illustration. ‘That’s her EXACTLY!’ she shouted. A very good day!!

We’re very proud to say that ‘Wanda‘ is Jacana Media’s fastest selling children’s book. That ‘Wanda‘ has been taken on by Interlink Books and is now published as a beautiful hardcover in the USA and Canada. And that’s not all… but we can’t yet tell you where else ‘Wanda‘ will surface in 2022 – watch this space!!



Mathabo Tlali was born and bred in the Eastern Cape and has the yearning to understand and engage the thoughts and realities of others through various artistic and digital platforms. A thespian at heart, she is a practitioner who currently engages the form of contemporary performance in order to translate her ideas; writing, directing, physical performance and producing are her key areas of interest.

She is currently completing her second undergraduate major in sociology at Rhodes University, after completing her primary major, drama and performance studies. She seeks to explore intersectional ways of connectivity between the past, present and future, more so pertaining to identity politics within the performance and academic space.


Sihle Nontshokweni is a PhD candidate at KU Leuven. Her research is focused on the successes and failures of school desegregation in post-apartheid South Africa. Prior to that, she lived in China, completing a master’s at Peking University, where she studied the aspirations of African migrant entrepreneurs living in Guangzhou, south of China. She has a deep interest in how racialised contexts affect identity and aspirations. Sihle is an avid reader and is passionate about creating positive content through YouTube and her personal blog sihlesapplecrunch.com. She is a lover of adventure and fitness, having completed a marathon and the popular Cape Cycle Tour.


Chantelle and Burgen Thorne are internationally published illustrators with over 20 years’ experience in educational publishing. Their focus is picture books for children with several more titles being released internationally this year, because the magic of children’s books is that they’re not just for kids. Avid bookworms themselves, they take great delight in the visual storytelling of picture books, art and text working together, every word and every image adding to the reader’s experience.

Both have fond memories of being read to as children and this inspires them to make their illustrations as engaging, honest and relevant to young readers as they possibly can—what a wonderful way to spend one’s working day!

MATHABO and SIHLE thank you for sharing your book and journey with us. I love the theme of the book. I love how everything came together for you. I love that it is winning awards and I love how Chantelle and Burgen’s wonderful illustrations brought the story to life. Good luck with the book.

Talk tomorrow,



I own a small art gallery and participate in SCBWI seminars as well as 12×12 PB.  I am an artist at heart and transitioning from a fine artist to a picture book author/illustrator has been a huge, yet worthwhile challenge.  Recently I began a mentorship with SCBWI/Southern Breeze Chapter.

My husband, Gary and I, are proud of our choice to leave a small footprint and utilize solar power and rain catchment.

When I am not out diving, snorkeling or kayaking with my dogs, Margarita and Lili, you can usually find me in my studio, writing, painting or creating.

You can visit my website and illustration gallery at www.picturebookisland.com.

Twitter @pbibooks


Hello Sheryl. Thank you so much for sharing your work with us and inviting us to help you make it even better! We hope you like our
suggested improvements. Let’s dive right into your first image:

We really like the sweet little ‘hello’ waves from your characters – what a great way to introduce them! We also like how you’ve shown us their house and the city they live in – some lovely details in those buildings. Leaving faded spaces in the building and tree for the text is a nice idea and we’ve tinkered with that a bit in our suggested revisions.

You’ll see we removed the building and left space for the text in the sky (top left) to simplify the image and keep the focus on the
characters and their house. The text space in the tree has moved up, closer to the other text for ease of reading. This also allowed us to put the characters together and make them bigger. Your characters are the most important part of the story, so let them take up a bit more space and be the focal point without dividing the reader’s attention by splitting them up on this page. To make them cuter, we’ve enlarged eyes, reduced noses, and added a few details to hair etc.

These clouds are really lovely and well observed. They make me feel a bit sad though – maybe it’s the blue colour and the heaviness of them. Are they meant to hint at the sadness of moving house? We didn’t have the text to refer to, so making a guess with what you wanted to show here. Your character looks quite happy though and that hint of sunlight on the face also shines with hope for a bright future wherever they’re headed. We really like this!

You’ll notice that our suggestions are similar to what we’ve done with your first image: zoomed in on the character and sweet expression; enlarged eyes and reduced nose (for cuteness) and added details to hair and mouth; ditched some of the bits of car that weren’t adding much to the story and gone in for a more true close up so that the reader can really connect with the character.

I hope you like what we’ve done? We’d love to hear more about this story and where your character is off to – will you be joining us for the upcoming Children’s Book Academy course staring 7th June? Hope to see you there!


Chantelle and Burgen Thorne are internationally published illustrators with over 20 years’ experience in educational publishing. Their focus is picture books for children with several more titles being released internationally this year, because the magic of children’s books is that they’re not just for kids. Avid bookworms themselves, they take great delight in the visual storytelling of picture books, art and text working together, every word and every image adding to the reader’s experience.

Chantelle and Burgen are excited to be co-teaching the June 7th Craft and Business of Illustrating (and Writing) Children’s Books interactive e-course, where they will be sharing their 25 years of experience and technique development. Find out more here or purchase the course with over 30 lessons, all the bonuses, the 16 submission opportunities here https://www.childrensbookacademy.com/cbicb.html  or directly purchase the full course etc. plus a one-hour in-person critique with Chantelle and Burgen here.

Click to find out more.



Chantelle and Burgen, thank you for taking the time to share your expertist with Sheryl and the rest of us. I am sure many illustrators will benefit from your review.

Talk tomorrow,


Kathleen Blasi debut picture book MILO’S MOONLIGHT MISSION, illustrated by Petronela Dostalova and published by Yeehoo Press will hit bookstores on June 15th and is available now for pre-ordered. Yeehoo Press has agreed to share a copy with one lucky winner living in the United States.

All you have to do to get in the running is leave a comment. Reblog, tweet, or talk about it on Facebook with a link and you will get additional chances to win. Just let me know other things you do to share the good news, so I can put the right amount of tickets in my basket for you.

Sharing on Facebook, Twitter or reblogging really helps spread the word for a new book. So, thanks for helping Kathleen and Petronela.

If you have signed up to follow my blog and it is delivered to you everyday, please let me know when you leave a comment and I will give you an extra ticket. Thanks!


Outer space is waiting to be explored, and Captain Milo is ready for takeoff! If only he didn’t have to wait for his Second-in-Command—or as he also calls her, Mom—to report for duty. Mom’s list of daily tasks grows ever longer, and she can’t launch until they’re done. So, like any good captain, Milo offers to help! Work? Check. Dinner? Check. Cleanup? Check. When the weather forecast predicts a middle-of-the-night meteor storm, Captain Milo wants desperately to witness it. But will his Second-in-Command have enough time to accomplish this magical mission with him?

Despite Mom’s claim that she has an early meeting with a very important person, Milo plots a midnight adventure to witness, with her, the once-in-a-lifetime meteor storm. Fill the tea pot? Check. Set the counter for breakfast? Check. Pack lunches? Check. Still, will his Second-in-Command have enough time to accomplish this magical mission with him?

In lyrical prose and charming illustrations, Kathleen M. Blasi and Petronela Dostalova capture how the most spectacular night skies are revealed when we plan for the perfect moment—with loved ones by our sides. This heartwarming tale is perfect for space fans and young budding astronauts!


Writers are always on the lookout for story, even if they don’t fully realize it. Jane Yolen calls this “gathering.” Sometimes that gathering could take the form of a passing incident or image. Sometimes it’s a conversation heard in public, the nature of which might land in a story. And once in a blue moon, we gather a family experience that finds its way into a picture book.

It’s ever-surprising how a vision can inspire a story that evolves, and finally arrives at its final form–in unexpected ways.

When I began writing Milo’s Moonlight Mission, I didn’t fully grasp the impact my daughter and nephew would have on the story. When I started out, I managed to capture its literal truth—the wonder of a meteor storm. But at its heart, the story is about something bigger, as depicted in this photo of Meg and Chris.

Here, he is comforting her during a frightening scene in Lady and the Tramp. Having watched the movie many times, he knew this scene scared her, so he scooted over and draped his arm around her. Nice, right? But what does this photo, which embodies the warmth of a cousin relationship, have to do with Milo’s Moonlight Mission? 

More than twenty years ago, Milo’s Moonlight Mission was born, based on a very special moonlit adventure of our own. My husband, Meg, and Chris, who was sleeping over our house, heard about a forecasted meteor storm—hyped as what could be the most intense in decades. At 4AM, we bundled up and trudged outside with blankets and chairs, to watch the sky put on a show. I’d never seen anything like it, and it remains, for all four of us, one of our most vivid, cherished memories.

The next morning, I wrote down my impressions and over the years the story developed and changed. My critique partners saw many rounds of revision and helped me make it a better manuscript each time. There were long periods of time when I set it aside and focused on other projects. Eventually, I realized that the story was as much about the time spent together as it was about the meteor storm, itself. I changed the cast of characters and made the urgency more poignant—by depicting a busy well-intentioned mother and a space-loving, helpful little boy. At its heart, the story is about time. Precious time. Time that seems more difficult than ever to harness in our crazy world.

In March of 2020, a dear friend and colleague introduced me to Yeehoo Press. I submitted two manuscripts to them, and they liked this one. At the time, the title was Clear Skies, Storm Likely, and since this version that captured the attention of Helen Wu was now about much more than the meteor storm, we changed the title to Milo’s Moonlight Mission.

Although, as is standard, I did not have a say in the illustrator, I’m completely pleased with Yeehoo’s choosing Petronela Dostalova. I got to see the art along the way and was able to offer feedback. The collaborative nature of working with Yeehoo Press and Petronela was wonderful.

I especially appreciate the imaginary world Petronela brought to the story. My text did not reflect an imaginary world, only Milo’s real world. But bringing this element to the story through the illustrations adds so much.


I’m over-the-moon grateful for that magical night many years ago, spent with my husband, daughter, and nephew and seeing it depicted so beautifully in Milo’s Moonlight Mission. Even with the change in characters and the added fantastical elements, for me, the beating heart of the story will never change.


Kathleen Blasi writes books for young readers. She is drawn to telling stories that feature quiet heroes—like strong-willed Gaetana (A Name of Honor), community advocate/street musician Hosea Missouri Taylor, Jr. (Hosea Plays On), and young Milo (Milo’s Moonlight Mission), who helps his mom at every turn, in order to carve out quality time for the two of them.

An eager learner, Kathleen participates in conferences and workshops, including those sponsored by the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators, Kindling Words, The Rutgers University Council on Children’s Literature, The Highlights Foundation, and Jane Yolen’s Picture Book Bootcamp.

Active in the children’s writing community, Kathleen has served as Co-President of Rochester Area Children’s Writers & Illustrators and is former Co-Director of the Rochester Children’s Book Festival, for which she and her Co-Director received the 2015 New York State Reading Association Literacy Advocate Award.

Active in the children’s writing community, Kathleen has serves on the Board of Rochester Area Children’s Writers & Illustrators and is former Co-Director of the Rochester Children’s Book Festival, for which she and her Co-Director received the 2015 New York State Reading Association Literacy Advocate Award.

Kathleen holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in English, with a Concentration in Writing, and lives in western New York, where, along with writing, she enjoys fostering the curiosity of young storytellers, through author visits and writing workshops for elementary school students.

Kathleen lives in western New York, where, along with writing, she enjoys fostering the curiosity of young storytellers. Visit her at kmblasi.com.


Petronela Dostalova graduated from the Cambridge School of Art with a MA in Children’s Book Illustration. Before the MA she was studying Fine Arts at the University of East Anglia.

In 2015 her children’s book The Reds and Greens was highly commended for the Creative Conscience Award. The project promoted equality. Petronela comes from a Czech-Slovak-Hungarian background but decided to nest into the heart of Suffolk where she currently lives and works with her partner and their dog Haribo. If you don’t find her drawing at her desk, she will be out traveling or cycling somewhere. She likes to be near, in, on, or underwater at any time of the day except when she is drawing–she is still working on a way to be able to do these things at the same time. Visit her at https://www.petroneladostalova.co.uk/.

Kathleen, Thank you for sharing your book and jorney with us. Kids will love Milo amd his quest to rocket off into outer space. The illustrations are so vibrant, I am sure parents will be happy to read it over and over when their child asks to hear the story again. Good Luck with the book!

Talk tomorrow,


« Newer Posts - Older Posts »


%d bloggers like this: