All posts by Dylan

Interview with Mr. Evan Turk

Hey Evan! Thanks for joining me here to talk about your latest book projects!

Thank you so much for inviting me!


Tell us a little bit about The Storyteller, which was released last year.

The Storyteller is my first book as author and illustrator, and it is a story, within a story, within a story, about the power of stories to give us hope, protection, and sustenance in times of need. It is based on the Moroccan art of public storytelling, a tradition that extends back a thousand years, and follows a young boy who inadvertently becomes an apprentice to one of the last master storytellers.the-storyteller-9781481435185_hr.jpg

Tell us a little bit about Muddy, which is coming this summer!

Muddy, written by Michael Mahin, is a picture book biography of Muddy Waters, one of the most legendary and influential blues musicians. It follows his journey from the cotton fields of Mississippi to the juke joints of Chicago, and the creation of his electric sound that brought the souls of those, two places and their people, together. Muddy Waters was a part of the Great Migration of African Americans fleeing the violence and oppression in the South during the first half of the 20th century. He and other blues artists created a unique music out of this painful and pivotal period that would be the backbone of American music for generations.


For me, it was a wonderful project to be a part of. The writing is beautiful. Artistically, it was exciting to delve into research and learning about something new. I was able to go to where Muddy was from in the Mississippi Delta, see where his music blossomed in Chicago, and hear and draw musicians playing the blues in the both places. The artwork was inspired by incredible artists like Romare Bearden, Jacob Lawrence, and the Gee’s Bend quilt-makers of Alabama, as well as the music itself. The roots of blues are so deep, and what Muddy did with them was so electric and new, that I wanted to show those two sides coming together in the artwork.

Tell us a little bit about your illustration process. 

My process usually begins with research! I do a lot of reading and looking at artwork related to a particular project. Then I will try to find some way to make it real. For The Storyteller, it was about going to Morocco and meeting and talking with real storytellers and carpet weavers, and getting a feel for the place by drawing it. With Muddy, I went to listen to the blues musicians in Mississippi and Chicago, and talked with the people there. The on-location drawing I do usually has a big impact on the final artwork of the book.

Have you always been into writing and illustrating ?

Pretty much! I always loved writing and illustrating picture books when I was in elementary school. They were usually about an obscure animal of some kind. Then, in art school, I continued working on my own illustrated book projects, and thanks to my art director, Ann Bobco, I got an early entry into the industry right out of school!

What’s the most exciting part of your job?

I think the most exciting part of creating books is the research phase. I just get to learn and draw, which is the best. I love making the final artwork, seeing it all done, and talking to kids! Really every part of the process is wonderful. Getting to talk with kids about the artwork and the story on school visits is so exciting for me!

What inspires your creativity?

I get inspired by drawing and by reading. When I learn something new, or see something new, I want to study it and share it, and that usually leads to some kind of story! I always love looking at new kinds of art, and seeing the endless possibilities.

What is one thing that readers don’t know about you, that only you could tell us?

I have two cats! Bert (Full name: King Aethelbert) and Pica (Full name: Empress Pica Bunnycup (because she has a little bunny tail))

If you weren’t writing books, what do you think you’d be doing?

I think maybe making movies? It’s kind of a similar process, but coming from a completely different angle. I’d also love to design a stage show! Costumes, sets, lighting… That seems like an amazing job.

What can readers expect from you in the future? 

I am almost done working on a new book right now called Heartbeat. It’s about a baby whale who loses her mother during the heyday of American whaling in the 19th century, and swims through the next 200 years seeing how human attitudes towards whales shift throughout the decades. In the end, she’s able to find solace in the compassion of one young girl who hears her song and sings with her, with hope for a brighter future. It’s based on the the reality of whaling, in that there were many orphaned whale calves, and that recently some whales have been discovered to have been over 200 years old! The amount of things we have used whales for over the decades is staggering: Oil for light, mechanical lubricant in the industrial revolution, machine guns and bombs in the two World Wars, food, automatic transmission fluid in cars, and whale oil even coated some of the first photos we ever took of the moon in space! So it’s a book about a lot of things: whales, history, the environment, loss, compassion, empathy, and the way we treat/commodify the most vulnerable in our society. In the end, it’s really about connection, and how listening and understanding can unite us. It will be out from Atheneum in 2018!

Anything else you’d like to share with readers of this blog?

Just a thank you to you for doing the work of spreading your passion for books to kids and everyone else! And a thank you to anyone out there who is reading these books! It really is a remarkable feeling to have someone connect with something you’ve made, and I am so grateful!

A Few Questions for Tim Miller

Joining me today is the author/illustrator of the brand new Moo Moo in a Tutu books, Tim Miller!


Hey Tim! Thanks for joining me here to talk about your new book and what else is going on for you!

Hi Dylan! Thanks so much for having me. It’s a pleasure to speak with you!


Tell us a little bit about Moo Moo in a Tutu.

Moo Moo in a Tutu stars Moo Moo, an enthusiastic cow who’s always looking for the next adventure, and Mr. Quackers, the most loyal duck a cow could ask for. They’re a pair of unlikely best friends who share different adventures together. This time around they’re heading to the ballet thanks to Moo Moo getting it in her head that she wants to be a ballerina even though she’s never taken ballet lessons before. With a somewhat skeptical yet supportive Mr. Quackers at her side, Moo Moo graces the stage with a performance that the ballet world will never forget. Although everything doesn’t go exactly as planned, Moo Moo prevails triumphantly thanks to the enthusiastic cheers of applause from her good buddy Mr. Quackers.

Will we see more of Moo Moo and Mr. Quackers?

Yes, Moo Moo & Mr. Quackers will be back! The follow-up to Moo Moo in a Tutu is called What’s Cooking Moo Moo? and will be published in Winter 2018. This time Moo Moo and Mr.Quackers team up and open a restaurant together with a few unexpected missteps along the way. It’s quite a feast that will leave readers quacking up.

Tell us a little bit about your illustration process.  

My process can vary depending on what medium I’m working in, but for the most part it’s pretty straightforward. For Moo Moo in Tutu, I started by making sketches of the first visual impressions I had based on the manuscript. Next, I organized these into storyboards to see it all together, and then made a dummy book incorporating everything into the standard 32-page structure of a picture book. In doing so, I tried to find the best way to give emphasis to key moments and keep the page turns fun and exciting. Anything that wasn’t necessary, I cut.

Once the dummy book was settled, I started making the finished illustrations. I worked directly from the rough sketches on a light box and drew everything with brush and ink. I tightened things up so that they read clearly while also trying to keep the raw energy of the rough sketches. Instead of drawing each composition out in its entirety, I broke them down into fragments. Although it sounds complicated, this allowed me to ignore my mistakes because I could just redraw a piece of something if I needed to. After I had finished collecting the fragments for each composition, I scanned everything into the computer and pieced the images together in Photoshop. From there, I added color digitally and made some final tweaks and that was that.

Have you always been into writing and illustrating?

I’ve been drawing ever since I read my first Garfield book around the age of seven. It was a big revelation when I discovered how to copy the character because I could make it my own. I was living on a dairy farm and there wasn’t much to do besides milking cows, so drawing and reading comics was a welcome outlet. In middle school I got into stuff like Bloom County, The Far Side, and Calvin & Hobbes, and started making my own comic strips (basically Bloom County, The Far Side, and Calvin & Hobbes rip-offs). In high school my interest turned to the superhero stuff and my drawings got jacked up with bulging muscles and skintight attire. My seminal work from the period is a seven-page comic called The Samurai Schnoz and His Ninja Nose, the story about a not-too-bright Samurai with a big nose that has mystical ninja powers (imagine Opus the penguin meets Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles meets Groo the Wanderer).

What’s the most exciting part of your job?

Deadlines are a lot of fun, but I would have to say that connecting with readers gets the prize. I love the opportunity to engage kids and see their reactions.

What inspires your creativity?

A bad sense of humor and a love for pictures.

What is one thing that readers don’t know about you, that only you could tell us?

I used be in 4-H as a kid and showed sheep. I was actually pretty good at it (got the ribbons to prove it) until one day a bear paid our sheep a visit and that was the end of my sheep-showing career.

If you weren’t writing books, what do you think you’d be doing?

I would continue teaching and paint full-time.

What can readers expect from you in the future?

I have three more installments of Tom O’Donnell’s Hamstersaurus Rex middle grade series (HarperCollins) on the way, and Snappsy the Alligator And His Best Friend Forever Probably by Julie Falatko is coming out in Fall 2017 (Viking), followed by What’s Cooking Moo Moo? in Winter 2018 (Balzer+Bray).



Anything else you’d like to share with readers of this blog?

Thank you everybody for stopping by! Feel free to visit me anytime at I’m always happy to hear your thoughts and feedback.

COVER REVEAL: Red and Lulu by Matt Tavares

It’s a thrill to have Matt Tavares here with me today to share the cover for his Fall 2017 title with Candlewick, Red and Lulu. 

Tell us a little bit about Red and Lulu:

Red and Lulu make their nest in a particularly beautiful evergreen tree. It shades them in the hot months and keeps them cozy in the cold months, and once a year, the people who live nearby string lights on their tree and sing a special song:

O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,
thy leaves are so unchanging…

But then one day, something unthinkable happens and Red and Lulu are separated. It will take a miracle for them to find each other again.

But luckily, it’s just the season for miracles.

Red and Lulu is a story about the joy of Christmas, the magic of New York City, and the real meaning of the holiday season: just how important it is to be surrounded by love.

Where did you get the inspiration for this book?

Red and Lulu grew from a few completely unrelated story ideas, over the course of several years. It began with a pair of cardinals who visited the bird feeder in my yard countless times, finally inspiring me to write a story about them. I was struck by their devotion to each other, and wondered how far one of them might fly to be with the other, if they ever became separated. Meanwhile, inspired by the magic of New York City at Christmastime, I was working on a different idea for a nonfiction picture book about the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree. But neither idea was coming together- until it occurred to me that maybe the story about the cardinals and the story about the tree might actually work together.

This book was a labor of love that started back in 2011. And even though it’s the first book I’ve written that features main characters who are not human, it’s also the most personal book I’ve ever written. I wanted to write about what happens when your world is turned upside down unexpectedly and you are forced to focus on what really matters. It turned out that these two cardinals were the right characters to tell that story.

Is this a wordless book?

My first version of Red and Lulu had about a thousand words. Then my editor and art director at Candlewick asked if I would consider turning it into a wordless book. I was excited about that idea, and spent months rebuilding the book as a wordless picture book. I printed a dummy of that, and shared it with friends, but found that while people really seemed to connect with the first version, there was something missing in the wordless version- sort of an emotional disconnect. So I went to my editor with both versions, and we worked on creating a sort of hybrid by adding back some words where they seemed absolutely necessary.

The final result is a book that has about 450 words (I think). Most spreads have words, but some are wordless. I do think that the process of trying to tell the story with no words really helped the book, and was a great exercise for me as an illustrator. I feel like I learned a lot about visual storytelling, even though this is my 19th book and I should probably know all this stuff by now!


What are you working on now?

I’m at the very early stages of another fiction picture book with Candlewick, slated for Fall, 2019. I also have a nonfiction idea I’m working on, about a girls’ basketball team.

Anything else you’d like to share?

Sure, here’s one of the interior illustrations from Red & Lulu! Thanks, Dylan!


Interview with Anna Kang and Christopher Weyant, author/illustrator of I AM (NOT) SCARED! PLUS GIVEAWAY!

Tell us a little bit about I Am (Not) Scared.

Anna & Chris: I Am (Not) Scared is the third book in the series of “Not” books starring our fuzzy creatures. In the first one, You Are (Not) Small, Orange Guy and Purple Guy argue with each other about their size; in the second one, That’s (Not) Mine, they argue over an object that they each consider “theirs.” For the third book, we wanted the story to reflect that they are now friends, despite having different perspectives. This time, the source of their conflict isn‘t each other, and they must rely on their friendship to get through it. 


Tell us a little bit about your process of working together.

Anna: I will have an idea or a draft of a story and I‘ll bounce it off Chris. He gives me honest feedback and I’ll either rewrite it or move on to another idea. This process keeps going until I have a final manuscript that we’re both pleased with.


Chris: As I’m drawing the characters or designing the layout, I’ll talk with Anna throughout the process and see what she thinks. We have similar sensibilities in terms of what we like in children’s books, so I value her input greatly. I think the continual conversation elevates both of our work.


Have you always been into writing and illustrating?

Anna: As a kid I loved to write stories, but I never did it too seriously because it didn’t occur to me that it could be an actual job. Going to film school for graduate school gave me the confidence to pursue it full time.

Chris: Yes, I always drew, painted, and cartooned as a child. All kids love to when they’re young, but over time, fewer and fewer keep doing it. I just never stopped, until one day, it became my career.

What’s the most exciting part of your job?

Anna & Chris: Hands down, the best part is connecting with kids, teachers, and librarians all over the world. It’s truly an amazing feeling when a child tells us that one of our books helped him or her learn how to read. It’s an enormous honor. Being able to work from home in pajamas is also a huge bonus.

What inspires your creativity?

Anna: My children, nature, reading books, going to the library or bookstore and browsing, Mike & Ike candy, naps.

Chris: My kids, other artists’ amazing work, the changing seasons, and coffee. Lots and lots of coffee.

What is one thing that readers don’t know about you, that only you could tell us?

Anna: I take great pleasure in shopping for bath mats, especially plushy ones.

Chris: When I was growing up, I wanted to be a ventriloquist. That dream ended the day I became scared of my dummy staring at me from the corner of my room.

If you weren’t writing books, what do you think you’d be doing?

Anna: Teaching.

 Chris: Cartooning.

What can readers expect from you in the future?

Anna & Chris: WILL YOU HELP ME FALL ASLEEP? is the second story about our worried little frog, Monty. It will be published by HarperCollins in 2018; ERASER is a new picture book about a young eraser who feels unworthy compared to the other school supplies because she doesn’t create, she only takes things away. It will be published by Two Lions in 2018.

Chris: I am also illustrating Laura Gehl’s charming new book, MY PILLOW KEEPS MOVING!, which will be published by Viking in 2018.

Anything else you’d like to share with readers of this blog?

Anna & Chris: To all the educators and parents, thank you for doing the most important job in the world. We were very fortunate to have both highly supportive parents and a few outstanding teachers in our lives. Everything we have achieved so far is thanks to them.

And to all the kids who might be reading this: be kind, stay curious, and read books. These three things will give you strength your entire life.


Anna Kang and Christopher Weyant are the creators of two other books featuring these characters: Theodor Seuss Geisel Award winner You Are (Not) Small and That’s (Not) Mine. Christopher’s work can be seen regularly in The New Yorker magazine and his cartoons are syndicated worldwide. This husband-and-wife team lives in New Jersey with their two daughters and their Bich-Poo. Visit them at and

Twitter: @annakang27 @chrisweyant05

Instagram: annakangbooks; christopherweyant

Facebook: Anna Kang – Author; Christopher Weyant

For more information, and to download a free activity kit, visit, or download at:

One lucky winner will receive a set of squeezable stress balls, two adorable plush characters, and a copy of I AM (NOT) SCARED courtesy of Two Lions (U.S. addresses). All you have to do is Retweet this blog post with the hashtag #IAMNOTSCARED to be entered to win! Winner will be chosen on Friday March 31 at 10:00 PM (CST).

Interview with Matylda Bright and Tender Author Holly McGhee

Today is Matylda Bright and Tender’s book birthday! I am so thankful Holly is here to answer a few of my questions.


Hey Holly! Thanks for joining me here to talk about all you have in store!

Hi Dylan, it’s such a big honor to be here. Thank you for having me!  

Tell us a little bit about your newly released book, Matylda, Bright and Tender.

Matylda, Bright & Tender is my first novel; I wrote a chapter-book series and three pictures under my pen name Hallie Durand, but with Matylda and my future books, I wanted to simplify and integrate my life as a literary agent and a writer, so from here on out I’m using my given name, Holly M McGhee. Matylda is the story of Sussy Reed, her best friend Guy Hose, and their leopard gecko. Sussy and Guy are inseparable until the worst imaginable thing happens, Guy is killed while trying to save Sussy’s life, on a simple bike trip. Sussy thinks that if she can just love their lizard Matylda enough, she can hold onto Guy—it’s a story of love and loss, but most importantly surviving.

Matylda is not an easy book to read, and I know it won’t be for everybody. But it’s the book I had to write—as a kid, I was also in a terrible accident, and it took me decades to put my life back together; with Matylda, I wanted to reach kids who might be suffering too, and I wanted to let them know that they will survive, that there is a light on at the end of the tunnel, hard to see but it’s there if they can keep going forward. That as crazy as they may feel they’ll be okay. And I hope Sussy’s story helps its readers find hope more quickly than I did.

What were you doing before you started writing? What made you want to move into writing?

As a middle schooler, I sold a lot of sweet corn from my dad’s red pick truck at a local gas station ☺ But as a grown up, I was first an editor at HarperCollins before I opened the doors of the literary agency Pippin Properties, Inc. Nine years into my work as a literary agent (and as the mom of three very small children), I started writing my first book (under my pen name); it’s probably a natural outcome from being around creative people all my working life. I think of my writing as a passage to a deeper part of myself—Matylda is a work of fiction but with a plum line straight through my heart.

And I’ve heard buzz about a 2017 title you wrote, Come with Me. I love the premise for that. Can you tell us a little bit more?

Oh, thank you for bringing up Come with Me. I think Come with Me actually started with the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center in New York. At that time, my Belgian artist friend Pascal Lemaitre sent me and my daughter a painting of an angry grieving man planting a flag at the trade center site—on the flag was a big red heart. Pascal and I have worked together as literary agent and artist these years and then last spring, with the Brussels lockdown, he and I were emailing every day because I was worried about him and his family this time—he’d tell me what he was doing during the crisis, walking the dog, shopping at the Moroccan grocery as always, watering the garden. Going on. And the idea for Come with Me was born, fast and furious, the first draft done in one night. What do we do in the face of an angry, hate-filled world—what do we do amidst the Pulse nightclub killings, the shootings In Dallas, Newtown, Paris, Nice . . . what do we say to our children? We show them how to go on, that’s what we do. And that’s what this simple book is about. Every one of us has a part.


Have you always been into writing?

In some ways, yes, as an editor and an agent. But I never thought I would be a writer too. Now I am all three: editor of my authors’ books before submission, literary agent for authors and artists, and a writer. I feel like there is an ever-expanding universe in life, and if we allow ourselves to follow our hearts, if we don’t try to put people neatly into drawers and label them, we can do everything that calls to us. We can be free.

What’s the most exciting part of your job?

Far and away the most exciting part of my job as a literary agent is helping to create and share projects that resonate with me emotionally, first with publishers and then with the world, in book form, audio, television, film, theatre, everything! As a writer, the most exciting part is when the idea begins to gel . . . and you see the pieces falling into place before your eyes, you remember exactly where you were when you got that scene, what you ate that night, who said the thing that helped you along the way, what came to you in your dreams.

What inspires your creativity?

Paying attention. This past summer I was talking to the man who owns the fish shop on Long Beach Island, where we buy our seafood when on vacation. A five-foot high waterline from Hurricane Sandy is still marked on the wall. I asked him what he does in the off-season, this incredibly helpful, good-spirited, rotund young guy. He said “This” pointing to a picture of a man fishing, and “That” pointing to a beer can. I’ve been thinking about it ever since—this guy sells enough seafood during the summer to fish and drink beer all winter, and he is very, very happy. It makes me smile / he is a fully developed character in my mind already / he enjoys the simple pleasures of life. “This and that.” All to say anybody, any word, any pet, anything at all can be a source of inspiration if we pay attention.

What is one thing that readers don’t know about you, that only you could tell us?

While I was writing the scene in Matylda where the lizard loses her tail, my own lizard lost his tail. Our geckos Midnight and Speedy used to share a tank, and they got along well, until one day when Midnight attacked Speedy, and Speedy dropped his tail. It was a terrible, terrible day and the coincidence was uncanny. It can’t be just chance. (Obviously Speedy and Midnight each have their own tank now.)

If you weren’t writing books, what do you think you’d be doing?

If I weren’t writing, I would probably represent even more writers and artists. I would cook more extravagantly too. Whenever I finish writing something, I head to the kitchen—I love chopping vegetables and roasting stuff.

What can readers expect from you in the future?

I have a couple of picture-book ideas in the vein of Come with Me I’m about to get serious with, I am working on a very crazy formatted book for adults, and I have the underpinnings of a new middle-grade novel . . . it’s beginning to take shape. But they may take years—you never know.

Anything else you’d like to share with readers of this blog?

Just a shout out to say thank you for being a champion of books for children. Not everybody starts reading in kindergarten or even first grade, I know from my own three children. The oldest was a voracious reader from early on, but the middle child didn’t get hooked until second grade. And my son, the youngest, didn’t get the bug until third grade with Tin Tin. As long as we keep the books in front of the kids, I believe they WILL become readers—there is a book for everyone. I always tell my adult agent friends that there wouldn’t be a single reader of adult books without kid readers. Pay attention to children’s books; they’re essential.

Interview with Deborah Freedman, author/illustrator of This House Once

Deborah Freedman’s book, This House Once, comes out next Tuesday, February 28th. To help celebrate, Deborah has stopped by my blog to talk about the book and what else she’s been up to. Enjoy!

Hey Deborah! Thanks for joining me here to talk about all you have in store!

Hello, Dylan — I’m honored to be here!

Tell us a little bit about your new book, This House Once.

It is a meditation on a house and where its different parts came from. It’s very quiet and cozy, and suggests that readers be mindful of all that surrounds them.


What inspired you to do this book? It’s quite unique- and beautiful!

Thank you, Dylan! I’ve probably had this book in my head, at least unconsciously, ever since I trained as an architect over thirty years ago and learned about how buildings come together. After my daughters were born, I started playing around with children’s books, and naturally began by drifting through ideas that had something to do with architecture. Then my husband and I eventually bought our first house — which we have since added on to and altered, a never-ending work in progress — so we have both been thinking and talking about houses and homes for a long time. Also, I’ve always loved to spend time walking in the woods, and digging and planting in my rocky New England yard…

So buildings, children, the natural world — basically those passions all simmered for years, until they finally bubbled up together and out spilled This House Once.

Have you always been into writing and illustrating?

I’ve loved to draw and make things ever since I was a kid — always the “artsy” type — which is why I eventually ended up in architecture. But making picturebooks is way more fun than designing buildings, and the audience is cooler. IMO.

What’s the most exciting part of your job?

Connecting with my young readers. Nothing in my pre-published life prepared me for how moving that could be. Or how much they would make me smile!

What inspires your creativity?

Reading… looking at art… I majored in art history in college and have always loved to spend time in museums, almost always leaving them with some sort of spark. And, of course, I’m inspired by KIDS.

What is one thing that readers don’t know about you, that only you could tell us?

I realized recently that several of my favorite childhood books have the word “house” in their titles: The Little House, by Virginia Lee Burton; A House is a House for Me, by Mary Ann Hoberman; The Dolls’ House, by Rumer Godden; the Little House books, by Laura Ingalls Wilder… it must mean something!

If you weren’t writing books, what do you think you’d be doing?

Do I have to do something else? I don’t want to do anything else!

What can readers expect from you in the future?

Hopefully, the unexpected… 🙂

COVER REVEAL: IT’S NOT JACK AND THE BEANSTALK by Josh Funk, illustrated by Edwardian Taylor PLUS Interview!

Hey Edwardian & Josh! Thanks for joining me here to talk about your new 2017 book, It’s Not Jack and the Beanstalk, and especially for the honor of revealing the cover here!

Dylan: Tell us a little bit about It’s Not Jack and the Beanstalk.

Edwardian: It’s Not Jack and the Beanstalk is a twist on its namesake fable.  However, we come in contact with characters that seem to have other ideas about how the story should be told.  It’s quite funny because we all know how the story goes, but our characters seem to take over their own story.

Josh: It’s not just a Mixed-Up Fairy Tale – it’s a META-Mixed-Up Fairy Tale – where YOU – the reader, the teacher/librarian/parent/grandparent/caregiver/2nd Cousin-three-times-removed – get to interact DIRECTLY with the characters in the book (and hopefully appear foolishly entertaining doing so).

Dylan: Tell us a little bit about your process.

Josh: As writing picture books isn’t my day job, I generally try to find time in the evenings, mornings, weekends, lunch breaks, coffee breaks, and bathroom breaks to brainstorm ideas and write. Once get an idea that really excites me, I usually make the time to write a whole first draft in the following few days, sharing with my wife, kids, and cats throughout the process. Once it’s done, I’ll share with some critique partners and revise and then share with more critique partners and revise and revise and share with my agent and revise and then send it out to some publishers to be rejected a few dozen times. Every once in a while, though, I trick a poor editor into turning one of my stories into a book… (sorry, Marilyn).

For this story, specifically, my kids played a HUGE role in building the text. There are essentially three characters with speaking roles in the story (with one slight exception): Jack, the Giant, and the Reader. As I developed the story, I often played the role of ‘Reader’ while my oldest played ‘Jack’ and my youngest played ‘the Giant.’ It was a blast to read this with my kids around the dinner table, at family gatherings, and to the cats. I can’t wait to perform it at Readers’ Theater at their school next September!

Edwardian: For this book, I was given Josh’s manuscript to read.  This is to me the most important phase because of the exploration needed to figure out the characters and the world they live in.  My background is in animation, so I treated my rough sketches like storyboards, but keeping in mind the text would also play a part like a character in the story.  When you read the book, you’ll see that the reader is a part of the story so its text is purposely considered and placed within each composition. One thing I enjoyed at this stage was seeing what worked or didn’t work within the context of the story once the visuals were in place.  Josh was always open to ways to improve the story or to edit things as I was illustrating the pages.  I think that kind of collaboration is a fantastic motivator to me as an illustrator, because I feel like I’m contributing more to the story instead of just being limited as just the illustrator.

After the rough sketch phase, we dive into the rendering (color) pass.  This part tends to take the longest.  Since I also have to figure out the general colors for object, characters, environment there is lots of decision making I have to do make sure color pallets make sense and are still fun and whimsical.  Something I was mindful too was the use of lighting to tell time.  Since we are experiencing the story in a single day, having these differences in lighting to tell time helped aid to move the story along.

Once the color phase is finished, we move into final adjustments after the designer places the text in the illustrations.  Then Voila!  It’s Not Jack and the Beanstalk is born.

Dylan: Edwardian, have you always been into Illustration?

Edwardian: Actually, to be honest, I kind of fell into it. I’ve always loved children’s books, but I had always thought it was something you had to go to school for.  But what I do as a visual development artist for animation is very similar in how I approach working on illustrations.  After having been let go at my last full time studio job, I had taken this as an opportunity to cast my net wide and see where else my art could take me besides animation.  I had applied to several illustration agencies, and I was fortunate to find my current agency The Bright Group.  I had been with them a couple weeks before I got my first book gig.  And each book I’ve worked on has been such a labor of love, especially It’s Not Jack and the Beanstalk.   I knew then that this was going to be an adventure into something I never imagined I could get to do.  But boy am I glad I had been let go from my old job, cause now (along with freelancing for animation studios), I get to do this rewarding and fun job of illustrating children’s books.

Dylan: Josh, have you always been into writing?

Josh: No! At least I never thought I was. I wasn’t a huge reader as a kid. But I married a voracious one (reader, not kid). While we dated, we read books out loud to each other (often kidlit, like Harry Potter and Lemony Snicket). I started listened to lots of audio books on my long day job commute in the early to mid-2000’s. And when I had kids, I read a ton of books to them. It was only about five and a half years ago when I wrote my first really really REALLY bad picture book manuscript.

However, ever since becoming an author, I’ve looked back and realized that I actually did enjoy writing. In middle school, B.J. Novak and I wrote a 150 page radio show script together, along with a few short stories. I also wrote some goofy editorials for the Newton South High School student—run newspaper (The Lion’s Roar). And in college I learned to play guitar and I wrote lots of songs (more They Might Be Giants-quirky than Eddie Vedder-poetic rock). So maybe the answer is ‘Yes?’

Dylan: What’s the most exciting part of your job?

Josh: There are so many exciting things about being an author, it’s hard to pick just one. The first time seeing an artist’s illustrations of something I wrote is amazing! Having my name on the spine of a book on a library shelf is surreal. And sometimes, just cracking myself up with a silly joke that I’m writing into a story is exciting. But the most exciting? It’s got to be interacting with readers; whether it’s via skype or in person, talking to kids about reading and writing is my favorite favorite.

Edwardian: That’s easy, when I’m designing a new character for the book.  You’ll notice in this one that I took liberties on fairy tale character cameos in it.  There is even a kind of “Where’s Waldo” game to find all the fairy tale characters I’ve placed throughout the book.  It was my fun way of doing little Easter Eggs to make people go back and really look through the illustrations.

Dylan: What inspires your creativity?

Edwardian: When someone on social media tells me how much they look forward to seeing my posts every week and that it brightens their day, is gratifying.  I don’t need to be the most popular artist with the most followers, but having people that let me know I bring them joy is enough and makes me want to make more art.

Josh: Yes! I love Edwardian’s weekly posts from all the illustration challenges he does! If you don’t already follow Edwardian Taylor on Instagram, you MUST! Edwardian’s and other artist’s illustrations always inspire me! I love scanning through illustrators to see what they’re up to on social media. There is so much talent out there in the kidlit art world, it’s incredible!

Other things that inspire me include my kids, spying on people in coffee shops, reading other amazing picture books, and lots and lots of coffee!

Dylan: What is one thing that readers don’t know about you, that only you could tell us?

Edwardian: I’m a huge Meatloaf fan.  Not the meal (which is still good), but the actual rock star Meatloaf.  He actually lives in his hometown of Dallas, Texas.  But I’ve yet to have any run-ins with him.  I remember when I was little, my dad had Meatloaf’s “Bat out of Hell” on cassette tape.  I had kept it for myself, and would listen to it all the time on my boom box.  When I was in junior high my first CD purchase was Meatloaf’s Bat out of Hell 2. I can’t help to sing along when one of his songs comes on.

Josh: Hmm… I’m kind of a sharer and don’t really hold much back (that’s not what readers don’t know – they probably already do – I’m just saying it’s hard to think of things that I haven’t already shared before). To stick with Edwardian’s theme, the first cassette tape I ever bought was The Coasters’ Greatest Hits (I was a big Yakkety Yak (Don’t Talk Back) fan in 2nd grade. The first CD I ever bought was DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince’s Homebase. And now I think I might have overshared…

Dylan: If you weren’t writing or illustrating books, what do you think you’d be doing?

Josh: Sitting in a cubicle (which I do do). Or maybe teaching ballet.

Edwardian: I’d probably still be working as a visual development artist for tv, games, and feature films.

Josh: Hee hee … I said ‘do do.’

Dylan: What can readers expect from you in the future?

Edwardian: My first book RACE! written by Sue Douglass Fliess comes out this year.  And I’m currently working on an unannounced book series with the writer of “Secret Life of Pets” and the “Minions” movies, Brian Lynch. I’ve also been working on studio projects with Sesame Street, Dreamworks TV, Universal Studios, and Out of Order Studios, so keep a look out for any announcements on social media for those.

Josh: Before It’s Not Jack and the Beanstalk releases on September 19, 2017, THE CASE OF THE STINKY STENCH (sequel to Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast) will be served to readers on May 2! Have you ever opened the fridge and noticed that something didn’t quite smell right? In this episode, Inspector Croissant recruits the help of his uncle, Sir French Toast, and Lady Pancake to search for a mysteriously stinky culprit and save the fridge from destruction. And while nothing is announced yet, 2018 might be my busiest year so far …

Dylan: Anything else you’d like to share with readers of this blog?

Josh: At this point, I think I’ve shared too much.

Edwardian: If you want to follow me on social media, I’m on Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr @edwardiantaylor  I also have my blog/website  And finally my online store, where I sell various prints, stickers and art books

Josh: Oh, yeah, you can follow me, too on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook @joshfunkbooks or on my website at Thanks for reminding me, Edwardian! And thank you, Dylan for inviting us to reveal the cover of It’s Not Jack and the Beanstalk.

Edwardian: Yeah. Thanks, Dylan!

And NOW…. here’s the cover!