It’s #Hockey season! 7 Qs with Jocelyn Watkinson about THE THREE CANADIAN PIGS: A Hockey Story = win-win!

I’m super excited to welcome Jocelyn Watkinson,


(Illus. Marcus Cutler / Sleeping Bear Press)

to the blog today!

Illus. Marcus Cutler, Sleeping Bear Press

We saved this FUN, fractured fairytale picture book, for October because– helloo–

it deserves a HOCKEY SEASON CELEBRATION–right?

But don’t take my word for it:

“Lessons about the importance of good sportsmanship and honoring the terms of competition are delivered clearly, intentionally, and in rhyming verse. ..the emphasis on settling scores with competition instead of violence makes it a sweet, silly lesson for young athletes. A humorous exploration of the value of playing fair.”

–Kirkus Reviews

Time for some questions!

Q 1. What was the inspiration for this book? Also why pigs? : )

Jocelyn Watkinson: I love fractured fairy tales! In 2018, my family and I moved from Canada to the United States and so took up writing as a hobby while I was waiting for work authorization. This story is a nod to Canada, its passionate hockey culture and some yummy foods that I miss from home! I was working on a different fractured fairytale story and bouncing ideas off my family when my mother suggested taking a shot at redoing The Three Little Pigs as Canadian hockey players! (Thanks Mom!). 

Interior art by Marcus Cutler from THE THREE CANADIAN PIGS: A HOCKEY STORY by Jocelyn Watkinson, Sleeping Bear Press.

Saving their bacon!

JW: Hockey being such a staple in Canada, I decided the pigs would face off against the Wolf in a hockey game to “save their bacon” and worked to weave as many hockey references through the text (e.g. pads on their shinny-shin-shins!). I spent the majority of my childhood in hockey arenas watching my little brother play, learning hockey lingo so it certainly shaped my childhood growing up in Ontario, Canada. My entire family are all huge hockey fans and players, including my husband and son so it certainly helped with creating this story! 

Interior art by Marcus Cutler from THE THREE CANADIAN PIGS: A HOCKEY STORY by Jocelyn Watkinson, Sleeping Bear Press.

Q 2. What Hockey term/ slang best describes your writing journey for this book: (Please explain)

a.      Barnburner

b.      Breakaway

c.      Coast to Coast

d.      Silky Mitts

e.      Tic-tac-toe

f.       ___________ your choice

Jocelyn Watkinson: Wow – what a fun question! Undoubtedly, a breakaway. I was in the right place at the right time, I got a lucky pass from (a lot) a teammate(s) (so many supportive people in the writing community) and drove to the net. 

Image by Marcus Cutler

Meet the Illustrator

Q 3. What surprises did the illustrator Marcus Cutler bring to the project?

Jocelyn Watkinson: Where do I start!? Marcus, also a huge hockey fan, and Canadian, put so much Canadian flair into the illustrations. Wolf wears a Canadian tuxedo, his hat references a Tragically Hip song, Highway 1/Yonge Street, and check out all the silly names on the Stanley Cup, just to name a few! There’s a ton more but I’ll leave readers to discover them on their own!

Q 4. What position would your younger self have wanted to play if you’d had the chance to play hockey—and not just watch your brother?

Jocelyn Watkinson: Well I did get to play a lot of soccer and basketball and always seemed to be more of an offensive player. So I would imagine playing forward, probably on a wing and digging in the corners 😉

#Kidlit Tips & Takeaways

Q 5. Do you have any tips for pre-published #amwriting unagented authors?

Jocelyn Watkinson: As an unagented author myself, I’m always looking for tips on querying, so let me know if you have any tips 😉 but as for pre-published authors, just keep writing and take every opportunity you can. Connect with as many other writers as you can, provide good and honest feedback during critiques and you never know what opportunities may come your way!

Q 6. You were matched as the lucky PBchat mentee of the amazing Lori Degman. In addition to these lessons mentioned on your blog what were some of the takeaways from this experience?

Jocelyn Watkinson: The biggest takeaway from the mentorship was a great relationship with an even greater writer. Lori is an amazing mentor, talented and just an all around wonderful human being. I’m so lucky that she saw potential in my work and took me on. I’m so happy to be able to call her my friend and soon co-author on our upcoming picture book, the sequel to TRAVEL GUIDE TO MONSTERS (2020) which is TRAVEL GUIDE FOR MONSTERS PART DEUX: A CANADIAN ADVENTURE. 

TRAVEL GUIDE FOR MONSTERS PART DEUX: A CANADIAN ADVENTURE. by Lori Degman & Jocelyn Watkinson, Illus. Marcus Cutler, Sleeping Bear Press
–Coming April 2023!

Launch Challenges

Q 7. What are the challenges in launching a picture book these days?

Jocelyn Watkinson: Luckily, I haven’t experienced the same challenges that picture book authors and illustrators had with their launches in 2020 and 2021 since society is starting to open back up. The biggest challenge I have in launching this particular book is geography! I’d love to be able to reach more readers in Canada and young hockey players but living in California makes that a little difficult. If anything, the advantages to doing digital launches and virtual readings, which really kicked in during the pandemic, have made that a little easier!

PS Thank you so much for a fun fun fun interview, Erin!

Thank YOU, Jocelyn.

To learn more about Jocelyn Watkinson and her books,

check out her website:

And follow her on social media:

Twitter: @JoceWatBooks

Instagram: jocelynwritesinrhyme


We think this one’s a WINNER!

Happy Book Birthday OZZIE & PRINCE ZEBEDEE + 8 Qs for debut Author/Illustrator Gela Kalaitzidis!

OZZIE & PRINCE ZEBEDEE by Gela Kalaitzidis, Flamingo Books / PRH

Happy Happy Book Birthday to Gela Kalaitzidis and her picture book debut


(Flamingo Books / PRH).

Photo credit: Jay Sherman

First things first, however. I’ve asked Gela to teach us how to pronounce her name.

Gela Kalaitzidis: That’s a perfect place to start. Many people seem a bit intimidated by my name. Gela is pronounced Gay-lah and Kalaitzidis, Ka-lights-see-this, sounds like “Can I see this”. 

ED: Thank you!

( I admit I’ve been pronouncing it incorrectly so I will be practicing a bit here…)

Meanwhile here’s a little more about Gela’s (Gay-lah’s)

delightfully clever book:

Interior art from OZZIE & PRINCE ZEBEDEE by Gela Kalaitzidis, Flamingo Books / PRH

Ozzie and Prince Zebedee are the BEST of friends. They do everything together, but things change when Prince Zebedee accuses Ozzie of cheating and Ozzie swallows up Prince Zebedee in one big GULP!

Listed in Barnes & Noble’s Best Picture Books of 2022

And check out this Kirkus review:

“..Digital artist Kalaitzidis’ debut picture book [Ozzie & Prince Zebedee] is most notable for the expressiveness of its characters. Whether they are furious or blissfully at play, Ozzie and Zebedee make a charming pair against detail-filled, clever backgrounds… the illustrations and the overall story feel true and relatable even if most friends don’t eat each other. “

“A fun pair of characters and a good friendship lesson make for a worthy dragon tale.”


Time for some questions!

Q 1. Since you are the author/illustrator of OZZIE AND PRINCE ZEBEDEE, I’m curious which came first in this project—the illustrations or the characters or the story?

Gela Kalaitzidis (Ka-lights-see-this / “Can I see this”) : I would say the story came first. I actually wrote and illustrated something similar when I was around 16 years old. It was a longer story about a boy named Hugo who suffered from insomnia and while he was walking around at night, he ran into a dragon and a prince.

Early art by Gela Kalaitzidis –> the beginnings of OZZIE & PRINCE ZEBEDEE Flamingo Books / PRH

GK: Many years later I remembered that story and rewrote it. My critique group helped me see that the heart of the story was with the bickering side characters, and slowly the manuscript evolved to what it is today. I recently found the illustrations I made as a teenager in my father’s attic. I had completely forgotten how I drew back then, but seeing how much of the story I’ve been carrying around with me all these years was fun. That’s a pretty long production time, from 1989-2022!

Q 2. Where does Prince Zebedee’s name come from?

Gela Kalaitzidis: My oldest daughter had a friend in kindergarten whose brother was named Zebedee. I’d never heard that name before but it felt perfect for my main character. I should also mention that Ozzie’s original name was Ozymandias after Percy Bysshe Shelley’s poem. And Zebedee’s cute looks are from my Godson. Inspiration comes from everywhere.

Photo credit: Gela Kalaitzidis — Inspiration is everywhere!

Q 3. They say every book is a bit autobiographical in some way. Are you more like Ozzie or Prince Zebedee? 

Art from OZZIE & PRINCE ZEBEDEE by Gela Kalaitzidis,
Flamingo Books / PRH

Gela Kalaitzidis: I’m Ozzie. I’m like a friendly dragon until I pop. Then you have to stay away or I might swallow you whole. My mom used to call me Linda Blair from the Exorcist. She claimed I was possessed when I had my anger tantrums. But I’ve never cheated in cards.

Art from OZZIE & PRINCE ZEBEDEE by Gela Kalaitzidis, Flamingo Books / PRH

Q 4. What medium did you use for this project? Do you have a favorite?

Gela Kalaitzidis: My favorite tool is watercolor Caran d’Ache pencils. For Ozzie & Prince Zebedee I went back and forth between traditionally sketching and coloring to digitally enhancing the images. Nowadays I’m staying away from the computer as much as I can. I find myself spending just as much time trying to recreate a hand-drawn look in Photoshop as it takes to achieve that style by working directly in traditional media.

Photo credit: Gela Kalaitzidis

Q 5. What tips or advice would you give to young Gela (dreaming, drawing, and reading back in Sweden), or other pre-published author/illustrators with stories they hope to share?

Gela Kalaitzidis: Don’t only dream. Get to work. Young Gela spent way too much time dreaming about the books she wanted to make, instead of making them. I also would tell myself that everything doesn’t have to be perfect from the beginning. Just like stories grow and change your skills as an artist improve.

Reach out!

GK: I wish I had reached out for help more. Nowadays I take art and writing classes, surround myself with mentors, and regularly meet with my critique groups. For me, it takes a village to make a story. I’m glad I found that village.

More about that village.

Q 6. How has your career as a movie digital artist (wherein you’ve “made Robert Downey Jr. fly, Brad Pitt age backwards, and sank Johnny Depp in numerous pirate ships…”) influenced your work as a picture book creator?

Gela Kalaitzidis: When you work with Visual FX for movies you work in a team. You have a client, a director, a supervisor, etc. guiding the shots. From that, I learned that critique is never personal against you, it’s a way to improve and get the best out of your art. Sometimes I wish I still had a VFX supervisor checking my work on a big movie screen, circling areas to improve with a bright laser-pointer. I guess that’s who my talented agent and editor are to me now.

Gela with her agent (and mine!) Deborah Warren, East West Literary Agency

Q 7. What inspired you to take the leap from movie digital art to children’s books? How are these paths similar/ different?

Gela Kalaitzidis: My uncle is a famous picture book maker in Sweden, Jan Lööf. I always wanted to be just like him, but I got sidetracked for a couple of years making movies. Finally, what made me take the leap was out of necessity. My husband also works in the movies and it’s hard to raise three young children with both of us working weekends and late nights. Little did I know that making picture books takes just as many weekends, nights, and hard work as any movie production, the only difference is that you’ll have more control of your work hours.


Q. 8 What new projects are you working on now?

Gela Kalaitzidis: I have one book written and illustrated by me on submission right now, fingers crossed. Then I just received a request to illustrate a very talented artist’s story. We’ll see where that goes, but that would be a dream project of mine. I love to get the experience of collaborating with an author.

Thank you for joining us on the blog today, Gela.

To learn more about Gela Kalaitzidis and her work, see

And follow her on social media:

Twitter: @gelakalaitzidis

Instagram: gelakalaitzidis

Happy Book Birthday to OZZIE & PRINCE ZEBEDEE!

Happy Book Birthday to Building Bridges: Peace, Salaam, Shalom = 8 Qs about connections, communities, and moving mountains…together.

BUILDING BRIDGES: Peace, Salaam, Shalom by Callie Metler, Shirin Rahman, and Melissa Stoller; Illus. Kate Talbot; Spork / Clear Fork Publishing.

It’s a Happy (almost) #Book Birthday

for BUILDING BRIDGES: Peace, Salaam, Shalom

–and we’re celebrating the Oct. 18th release of this lovely book

created by 3 #kidlit authors

+ 1 illustrator

–with 8 questions!

Callie Metler, Shirin Rahman, and Melissa Stoller & Illustrator Kate Talbot are the same team behind PLANTING FRIENDSHIP: PEACE, SALAAM, SHALOM, which published last year.

PLANTING FRIENDSHIP: Peace, Salaam, Shalom by Callie Metler, Shirin Rahman, and Melissa Stoller; Illus. Kate Talbot; Spork / Clear Fork Publishing.

I love it that co-authors Callie Metler, Shirin Rahman, and Melissa Stoller are three women authors of three different faith traditions – Jewish, Christian, and Muslim.

Interior art by Kate Talbot from BUILDING BRIDGES: Peace, Salaam, Shalom by Callie Metler, Shirin Rahman, and Melissa Stoller; Spork / Clear Fork Publishing.

As Melissa explains, their picture book series stars three girls – Hannah, Molly, and Savera, who are from these different faith traditions: Jewish, Christian, and Muslim. In each of the stories, the girls help bring peace, kindness, and empathy into the world.

Don’t you love this already?

We are lucky to have author Melissa Berger Stoller and illustrator Kate Talbot joining us!

Fun fact: Melissa lives in Manhatten, NY, and Kate lives in Auckland, New Zealand, so we are thankful for the “bridge” of technology to bring them together today.

Let’s get started!

Q 1. Congratulations to all of you on the second book of this wonderful series. This is indeed a collaboration of friendship and respect! Can you tell us how the project evolved?

Melissa Berger Stoller: Thank you for featuring me on your blog again, Erin!

(ED Note: see Melissa’s previous interview here.)

MBS: I’m so happy to share about BUILDING BRIDGES: PEACE, SALAAM, SHALOM. And I am truly LUCKY to be collaborating with Kate Talbot!

Callie Metler is also the publisher of Clear Fork Publishing, and I had met her in person at writing conferences and museums in Texas and New York City.

I was lucky to also know Shirin Rahman through several writing groups as well. Shirin brought the initial idea to Callie and me – to write an interfaith story together. We absolutely loved working all together, and when Kate joined the fun, we became a true “Dream Team!” 

About the Book

Q 2. What’s the significance of the book’s title, BUILDING BRIDGES?

Melissa Berger Stoller: In BUILDING BRIDGES, the three girls, Hannah, Molly, and Savera, discover that their beloved bridge into Peace Park is crumbling. Together, using problem-solving skills and lots of creativity, they find a way to help save the bridge, showing their community that three small girls can make a big difference. Along the way, they build bridges of connection among friends, families, and communities.

Meet the Illustrator:

Q 3. I’m always in awe –ahhh!– of the magic that illustrators bring to picture books. What are some the ahhhs that were added by illustrator Kate Talbot?

Melissa Berger Stoller: Kate’s incredible artwork has brought both books alive. I love how she highlights all three religions in the setting, showing a church, synagogue, and mosque. And Kate also spotlights cultural symbols throughout the stories. Kate also lovingly showed diversity in the classroom and community in both books. And – Kate’s work is just overall bright, brilliant, and beautiful. 

Q 4. This question is for Kate: How does your degree in filmmaking and career as a Film Producer (the highlight of which was “spilling an entire tray of drinks in Russell Crowe’s lap before falling butt-first into a fountain” ) influence your work as a picture book illustrator?  

Kate Talbot: Because I come from a filmmaking background, I tend to not only see stories visually but as moving images. When I’m creating illustrations, I almost feel like I’m watching a movie in my eye’s mind, and it’s then my job to capture the right frame to put into the book.  


Q 5. What was one of the most surprising discoveries you made in illustrating this book?  

Kate Talbot: Having come straight out of illustrating the first book (we had about three weeks’ break between books one and two) there weren’t too many surprises illustrating BUILDING BRIDGES. I felt like I already knew the characters intimately and the additional characters in this book simply felt like an extension of the world we’d already created. As such, I got to spend a lot more time developing the environment in which these three characters could live and play.  

Interior art by Kate Talbot from PLANTING FRIENDSHIP: Peace, Salaam, Shalom by Callie Metler, Shirin Rahman, and Melissa Stoller; Spork / Clear Fork Publishing.

KT: As we’d already shown establishing shots of the town in the previous book PLANTING FRIENDSHIP (see interior spread above), I had to think carefully about where events like the concert and Building Bridge Day could take place. I couldn’t suddenly include locations that hadn’t been shown in book one.

World Building

As such, a lot of thought went into “world-building”. I think my background as a filmmaker really helped in this regard as in my mind’s eye I could visualise the space and move my “camera” around to reveal or avoid showing certain areas. This is a skill I most definitely developed in low-budget filmmaking, in which we’d have to shoot from certain angles or crop things out of the image in order to create the appropriate world.  

Interior art by Kate Talbot from BUILDING BRIDGES: Peace, Salaam, Shalom by Callie Metler, Shirin Rahman, and Melissa Stoller; Spork / Clear Fork Publishing.

Q 6. Do you have a favorite spread –or one that was most challenging?  

Kate Talbot: Illustrating this book was such a pleasure, as each page is bursting with joy and colour, so it’s hard to pick one favourite. I literally had a smile on my face each time I sat down to work. However, I think my absolute favourite would have to be the final double spread in which (spoiler alert!) the community celebrate the new bridge at Peace Park.

We wanted to have all three girl’s families, all their classmates, teachers and community leaders in the page, so there was a lot to cover. We also wanted to have a diverse community, so a lot of thought went into this spread.  

Interior art by Kate Talbot from BUILDING BRIDGES: Peace, Salaam, Shalom by Callie Metler, Shirin Rahman, and Melissa Stoller; Spork / Clear Fork Publishing.


Q 7. What do you hope readers will take away from this story?  

Kate Talbot: In a world that feels ever divided, it is my greatest hope that books such as BUILDING BRIDGES will help show children that a kinder, more tolerant world is possible. BUILDING BRIDGES doesn’t seek to point out the differences between the main characters, but highlights that we all have something to bring to the table, and collectively, we can move mountains. If nothing else, I hope this message comes across loud and clear.  

Melissa Berger Stoller: I hope that readers take away the message that we can all help create peace, salaam, shalom in our families and communities – by reaching out to help others, showing empathy toward everyone we meet, and looking for ways to be a creative problem solver to bring positive change to the world.

Thank you both so much for joining us today!  

Melissa Berger Stoller is also the author of the chapter book series The Enchanted Snow Globe Collection – Return to Coney Island and the picture books Scarlet’s Magic Paintbrush; Ready, Set, GOrilla! She is a Blogger and Course Assistant for the Children’s Book Academy, a Rate Your Story Judge, a volunteer with SCBWI/MetroNY, a judge with Rate Your Story, and a founding member of The Book Meshuggenahs. She also interviews authors on her blog, This Writing Life, and offers book tips and resources. 

For more about Melissa

Visit her webite and blog at

 And follow her on social media:

Twitter: @MelissaStoller 

Instagram: melissa_stoller


Kate Talbot has just finished illustrating Mary Munson’s debut picture book LOVE WILL TURN YOU AROUND set for release in 2023 through Gnome Road Publishing. As with Melissa, Callie and Shirin’s series, the theme of this gorgeous story is about the power of kindness and the importance of connectivity. It follows the story of a little Heart that wakes to discover he’s the wrong way up, but with the help of his friends, turns things around.  

For more about Kate

Visit her webite

And follow her on social media:

Twitter: @KateTalbotBooks

Instagram: katetalbotart

Wishing one and all


Shiho Pate ROCKS! Happy (almost)Book Birthday ANIMATED SCIENCE: ROCKS & MINERALS–> a 2nd grade blog takeover + book reviews.

Animated Science: ROCKS AND MINERALS illustrated by Shiho Pate / Scholastic

Hear ye, Hear ye!

The 2nd graders from Ms. Zapp’s class are taking over Erin Dealey’s blog.


We got to read an advanced copy of Shiho Pate’s new book, ANIMATED SCIENCE: ROCKS & MINERALS, and in honor of her (almost) Book Birthday on Oct. 18th, we are here to tell you about it.

Animated Science: ROCKS AND MINERALS illustrated by Shiho Pate / Scholastic Press + cool postcards!

Shiho Pate is the illustrator. She LOVED collecting rocks when she was a kid. (We like rocks too!)

You can see the cool book trailer here.

This is from the Book Trailer.

Shiho Pate unboxed her new book on Twitter here.

Shiho Pate is also the illustrator of Animated Science: PERIODIC TABLE (Scholastic).

It is a finalist in the CBC Kids’ Choice Awards. (You can vote here.)

Illustrations by Shiho Pate / Scholastic Press
Animated Science: ROCKS AND MINERALS illustrated by Shiho Pate / Scholastic Press

Our Reviews:

If you like rocks you will like Shiho Pate’s book, ROCKS & MINERALS.

We LOVED the illustrations.

It is full of real facts with cartoon pictures.

10 out of 5 stars from Hailey!
Anita described it in three words: facts, awesome, helpful.
This is Ms. Zapp.

We decided it is a ‘hard but FUN’ book for second graders. Ms. Zapp used it to teach us how to use the Table of Contents and then she read parts of it to us.

Mia says: The book is so good and has a lot of facts and it’s awesome.
Vicky recommends this book. (Maybe she will illustrate books someday too!)
Thank you for sending us your cool new book, Shiho!

Ms. Zapp says thanks too:

“The students were really interested in learning about new types of minerals, and especially the minerals they had seen illustrations of on the bookmarks she gave us.”

Ms. Zapp

PS One of Ms. Zapp’s students brought in a rock and a mineral today. : )

This is Shiho Pate.

Shiho talked about her very first book, 2 Pirates + 1 Robot, in her interview with Erin Dealey here.

Happy (almost) Book Birthday to

Animated Science:


Happy #BookBirthday DRESSING UP THE STARS: The Story of Movie Costume Designer Edith Head + 10 Qs with author Jeanne Walker Harvey

I’m seeing STARS –and Oscars–are you?

Happy Book Birthday to Jeanne Walker Harvey’s new #nonfiction PB,


The Story of Movie Costume Designer Edith Head

Illus. Diana Toledano / Beach Lane

I am always in awe of Jeanne’s picture book bios

and this one is no exception!

“Together, the art and storytelling capture Head’s belief in the transformative magic of costumes, which will certainly strike a chord with dress-up enthusiasts.”

— ALA Booklist (STARRED review)

How did Edith Head, a shy miner’s daughter who didn’t know how to sew or draw, grow up to be one of the most legendary costume designers in Hollywood?

Hmmm… read the book and find out!

Meanwhile, we have 10 questions for

Jeanne Walker Harvey

+ and possibly a few Qs for young readers as well…

Q 1. Welcome, Jeanne–I read that you grew up in Southern CA and you and your mom would watch the Oscars together. Did you ever dress up as if you were attending. (Photo please!) 

Jeanne Walker Harvey: First of all, many thanks Erin for inviting me yet again on your wonderful blog to celebrate the book birthday of DRESSING UP THE STARS: The Story of Costume Designer Edith Head.

I wish I had such photos, but my mom and I were too fascinated by all the fashion and glamour on the TV to think of dressing up too. However, I often frequented vintage stores with my mom, and I’d try on the most glamorous and over the top dresses we could find — just for the fun of it.

Interior art Diana Toledano from DRESSING UP THE STARS by Jeanne Walker Harvey / Beach Lane/ S&S

Q 2. If you could invite Edith Head to dinner, what would you ask her?

Jeanne Walker Harvey: What a fun question! Well, I hope you would come along too, Erin, as you always ask such interesting questions in all your interviews.

Oh, there are so many things I’d like to ask Edith Head. I’d be interested to hear about what steps she took before she designed a costume for a particular movie.

There was so much more to do besides reading the script! I know she did a lot of historical research for authenticity of costumes for certain time periods. I wonder how much she talked with the director, screenwriter and actors about the motivation of the characters?

I’d also love to know some inside behind the scenes stories about the famous actors she worked with at the movie studios. Edith Head sometimes had to convince actors to wear less than attractive clothing because this fit the role of the character. And that’s when she needed to be a good advocate of the story and explain why it was necessary. I would love to hear her talk about these important connections between movie costumes and the story of the film.

ED : I hereby RSVP yes to this dinner party. Thanks, Jeanne!

Classroom Extensions:

#Teachers–Ask your students what they think Edith Head would say in answer to Jeanne’s questions.

Speaking of which, check out this FREE DOWNLOAD of activities to use with DRESSING UP THE STARS.


Q. 3. One of the themes of DRESSING UP THE STARS is persistence and going forward despite the NOs. We get a lot of rejections in our #kidlit lives as well. Was there ever a time as a children’s author that you felt discouraged by the NOs? How did you keep going?

Jeanne Walker Harvey: Indeed yes! I’ve gathered a slew of rejections over the years, and of course that’s discouraging (especially when a rejection is first read when the hopes were high).  But I’ve actually gotten much better about it because I’ve learned so much from these notes from the editors who kindly took the time to explain what wasn’t working with a manuscript.

And I’ve very much taken to heart what our amazing agent, Deborah Warren of East West Literary Agency, so eloquently reminds us authors and illustrators – – we just need to be patient and believe there’s a perfect home for our work. And Deborah is absolutely a star at finding such homes for our work.

PB Bios by Jeanne Walker Harvey: ABLAZE WITH COLOR (Illus. Loveis Wise / Harper Collins); MAYA LIN (Illus. Dow Phumiruk / Henry Holt & Co.; MY HANDS SING THE BLUES (Illus. Elizabeth Zunon / Two Lions).

Writing Tips

Q 4. What are some tips for authors hoping to write engaging, inspiring nonfiction like DRESSING UP THE STARS, or ABLAZE WITH COLOR, MAYA LIN, and MY HANDS SING THE BLUES?

Jeanne Walker Harvey: Thank you for that compliment, Erin.  I always hope that children will be inspired and engaged by these biographies. It’s amazing how many varied ways nonfiction is being written and illustrated for children these days.  So I think the most important first step for authors is to be sure they are writing about topics that fascinate them. If the authors are fascinated, they will convey that fascination to children. And then, of course, read and study as many recently published books as they can find in that genre and topic.

LOVE THIS TIP (I do it too!)

JWH: I often type up picture book biography manuscripts that I particularly love to glean a sense of the timing of page turns, wording, and pacing.

Q 5. Do you have a tried and true method of research / finding original sources, or has this part of the process differed with each nonfiction biography you’ve written? 

Jeanne Walker Harvey: I wish I had a tried and true method of research and finding original sources, but it’s definitely varied from book to book. I tell children during school visits that I view myself like a treasure hunter because I try to dig up everything I can find about a person. 

Be a Treasure Hunter

JWH: To me, great tidbits of research are like jewels that will help me find the way to make the story sparkle.


Q 6. It was fascinating reading your recent interview about Edith Head’s work with Alfred Hitchcock and Tippi Hedren for “The Birds.” What other surprising discoveries did you make about Edith Head through your research?  

Jeanne Walker Harvey: I was surprised to learn how many actors truly admired her, not just as a costume designer but as a person. She not only designed incredible costumes, but also advocated and supported upcoming struggling actors in an industry that could be pretty ruthless.

Repost from Insta dianatoledano

Meet the Illustrator: Diana Toledano

Q 7. I see that there is a store front in one of the spreads of the book that says “Jeanne RADIO.” What other surprises did illustrator Diana Toledano bring to the project?

Jeanne Walker Harvey: Yes, I thought that was such a wonderful surprise to spot “Jeanne RADIO” in the Los Angeles street scene. Truly, everything about the talented Diana Toledano’s illustrations for DRESSING UP THE STARS delights me.

I was surprised how creatively and skillfully she was able to capture not only the young Edith Head, but also the struggling and then successful fashion designer Edith Head. And she uses such interesting patterns on everything throughout the book which perfectly reflects Edith’s connection to fabrics in her designs. Even the rooftops in Searchlight Nevada, the town near to where she grew up, and the awnings of buildings in the Los Angeles street scene have playful colorful patterns.

Dreams Come True!

Q 8. Now that you’ve written four nonfiction biographies, who would you say is most like you—either as an adult or a child: Edith Head / DRESSING UP THE STARS, Alma Thomas / ABLAZE, MAYA LIN, or Romare Bearden / MY HANDS SING THE BLUES? Please explain.

Jeanne Walker Harvey: What an intriguing question, Erin! I’ve truly been fascinated and inspired by all four of those creative people. But I think I would say I identify most with Edith Head as a child.

Interior art Diana Toledano from DRESSING UP THE STARS by Jeanne Walker Harvey / Beach Lane/ S&S

JWH: I too spent a lot of time by myself and often found company in my imagination. I too hosted tea parties for my Collie dog named Bonnie, cat named Cola, and a myriad of stuffed animals who were of course also all named. But instead of dressing up the animals, I wrote stories about them.  And instead of a cherished bag of fabric scraps like Edith Head, I had treasured pens and notebooks. And every week I carried home stacks of books from the library and wished my name would someday be on a cover of a book. Dreams do come true, just like Edith’s did!

Q 9. What other projects are you working on? Anything you can share?

Jeanne Walker Harvey: I’m always working on many projects at once. I primarily focus on biographies of creative people, It seems to serve me well to work on these manuscripts, put them away, and then return to them with fresh eyes. Reduce ((the mantra of picture book authors), revise, reduce, revise. And I’m very excited that I have another picture book biography about a creative person, a female artist, in the works. I can’t wait until it can be announced. Stay tuned!

Q 10. Is there a question you wish I’d asked?

Jeanne Walker Harvey: I’d love to share my dedication in DRESSING UP THE STARS.

“In loving memory of my sister,

Amy Filice,

who delighted in art, design, and style.”

JWH: She will always be a sparkling star shining in my heart.

Happy Book Birthday DRESSING UP THE STARS!

Thanks for joining the blog today, Jeanne.

JWH: Thanks ever so much, Erin, for another wonderful interview. It’s always truly such a pleasure to answer your insightful and thoughtful questions.

I hope your readers enjoy learning a bit more about the backstory of our book, DRESSING UP THE STARS – The Story of Costume Designer Edith Head, published by the wonderful Beach Lane Books/ Simon & Schuster and edited by the amazing Andrea Welch. As you know, it takes a team to publish a book, and I feel so fortunate to be part of this team!

To learn more about Jeanne Walker Harvey and her books,

here’s an earlier BOOK BIRTHDAY interivew about her book, ABLAZE WITH COLOR.

You can also visit her website:

and follow her on Twitter: @JeanneWHarvey

Pinterest: JeanneWalkerHarvey.

Happy Reading!