Congratulations, everyone; we made it into February of the new year! January 31 to February 6 is Children’s Authors and Illustrators Week (CAIW), a time to celebrate all of the wonderful contributions so many talented writers and artists make to children’s literature.
To celebrate, we sat down with three blue manatee press authors—Sarah Jones, Noelle Dingeldein, and Casey Riordan Millard—to find out more about what it’s like to be part of the children’s book world. Here’s what they had to say.
Sarah Jones is the author of one picture book and numerous board books for blue manatee press. She also leads guitar story time at blue manatee children’s bookstore three times per week.
Have you always wanted to be a children’s book author/illustrator?
The idea to write and illustrate children’s books hit me like lightning after I began working at Blue Manatee Children’s Bookstore in 2011. Being an artist all my life and studying fine art and education, drawing, painting and working with children have always been at the peak of my interests. When I began working at Blue Manatee, I had the opportunity to put it all together, and I haven’t looked back since!
Can you tell us a little bit about your books?
All of my books strive to provide an educational, fun and bonding experience for grown-up and child. Books in my “ROYGBaby” series, such as Orange Triangle Fox and Bunnies Near and Far, offer multiple concepts in one easy-to-digest book. As the main storyteller here at Blue Manatee, I have lots of interactions with storytelling to little ones and their caretakers, which provides me with a wealth of inspiration. There’s nothing better to inspire my work than being surrounded by children and children’s books all day!
What were some of your favorite children’s books when you were a child?
As a child, I was always surrounded by books. Some of my favorites were the books that were chock-full of detailed illustrations, such as Richard Scarry’s Busy, Busy World and The Way Things Work by David MacAulay. I also loved books full of whimsy and sweetness, such as Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes, and The Little Mouse, The Red Ripe Strawberry and the Big Hungry Bear, by Don and Audrey Wood.
What is your best reading memory from childhood?
My younger brother Evan and I were master fort-builders. A fort was never complete without a reading nook—equipped with ample pillows, twinkle lights and snacks. Evan and I loved pouring over the pages of our book collection while safely tucked away in our fort.
Read more about Sarah and her work here!
Noelle is the author of Walter’s Wheels, one of the newest board books from blue manatee press. She is also a sculptor, and does amazing work with homemade clay!
Tell us a bit about Walter’s Wheels. Where did the idea come from?
I always like to imagine the secret lives of pets, and I imagine that my cat Walter has great adventures while I’m away. Cars, trains, and tractors seemed like a great thing for him to be doing.
What was the best part about writing this book? What was the most difficult part?
The best part was trying to work in small details into the pictures. The most difficult part was finding a good rhyme for “wheels.”
Are there any authors, illustrators, and/or artists you have been particularly inspired or influenced by?
Jim Henson, Edward Gorey, Edward Hopper, Thomas Hart Benton, and Alexander Calder.
Is there anything else about you that you would like to share?
I also have a wonderful tabby cat named Maddie, who is a bit jealous of her brother’s new found fame.
Read more about Noelle and her work here!
Casey Riordan Millard
Casey is a local Cincinnatian and the author of one of blue manatee press’s quirkiest picture books, Shark Girl and Belly Button.
Explain a little bit about the evolution of Shark Girl—her many forms and mediums over the years.
Shark Girl grew from my sketchbook. She began to appear so frequently on its pages that I decided to make some finished fine art with Shark Girl as the subject matter. After creating a number of drawings and watercolors, I felt the need to create a life-sized sculpture of my Shark Girl. I had not sculpted since college, but I knew that three-dimensions would be necessary for this work. Following my first three life-sized mixed media sculptures of Shark Girl, I began creating porcelain pedestal pieces, more paintings, large-scale installations, prints, a short animated movie, and, most recently, plush Shark Girls.
Where did you get the idea for the story format (a set of vignettes, or trifles)?
The “stories” I was writing were so short, they contained the bare minimum of a three-act structure (setup, conflict, and resolution). I hesitated to call them stories, or even chapters. I decided on “trifles” because of its double meaning of being of little importance or a beautiful layered cake, which is very important!
What does your family think about the book and/or of you as a published children’s book author/illustrator?
My family was excited to see the book in print. They had been encouraging me to attempt publishing for years. My oldest son said to my husband, “Did you read this? It’s really funny.” That is the best compliment I could ask for.
Read more about Casey and her work here!