Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Sister Exchange- New Release

Kevin McNamee's new book, Sister Exchange has been released by Guardian Angel Publishing. A story of sibling rivalry with an unique twist. Brianna tries to exchange her younger sister for a better one, but sometimes finds it is not so easy. Check out an interior spread.
Kevin's story was so much fun to illustrate.
Check out Kevin McNamee.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Saturday, December 19, 2009

A Work in Progress

Time to put the pen down and take a Christmas break. I'm in the middle of a batch of pictures for a little book, A Necklace for Jiggsy. Lots of tightening up, and reworking to go- maybe a nice time to put it away a week or two and look again with fresh eyes.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Great Information from Upstart Crow Literary

Michael Stearns, founder of Upstart Crow Literary, and an agent specializing in children's books has posted important and much needed information. I just want to pass it on.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Drive into Your Dreams

Working on a few sketches to send to the SCBWI Magazine.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Reviews for Humberto, the Bookworm Hamster

Could not resist sharing a few reviews for Humberto, the Bookworm Hamster

"Storytelling is an important means of teaching children; they absorb what they hear and see. This in turn enables them to process subtle lessons without realizing it. Humberto, the Bookworm Hamster is a wonderful children’s picture book that utilizes this very process. Calvani cleverly weaves an engaging story that conveys two very important messages for children.

"The first message or lesson is that reading can bring a child on fantastic adventures, and it can open new and unknown worlds…it can ignite the imagination. The child can be a hero on a huge white steed, with sword in hand; he can be a space traveler soaring through the universe; he can fight a fire-breathing dragon with the aid of his magical lance; he can travel to far away places; a child can be anything and do anything through books.

"The first is that reading can bring a child on adventures, and it can open new and unknown worlds, it can ignite the imagination. The child can be a hero on a huge white steed; he can be a space traveler soaring through the universe; he can fight a fire-breathing dragon; he can travel to far away places; a child can be anything and do anything through books.

"The second message in Humberto, the Bookworm Hamster is that of friendship. Through outstanding story telling, Calvani demonstrates the importance of balance. Humberto limits his entire world to reading until he is awakened to the fact that there are other things in life as important, sometimes even more important. Choosing between saving his books during a flood, or his neighbors, Humberto chooses his neighbors. He realizes having friends fills a part of his life that books cannot. And, the best part is that he can share his books with his new friends.

"In addition to a charming story, the illustrations in Humberto, the Bookworm Hamster are amazing. They are bright, bold, and fanciful. They are sure to capture every child’s attention and imagination.

"I am an advocate of children reading for learning, inspiration, and for sparking the imagination. As a grandparent I look for books that not only tell an entertaining story, but ones that also provide an uplifting lesson or moral element. I have two young grandchildren and this is definitely a book I will be reading to them." --Karen Cioffi, Writing For Children

"HUMBERTO, THE BOOKWORM HAMSTER, for readers 4 - 8 years old, is a wonderful book with a message about priorities and friendship. Children will not only learn about the importance of reading, but will also come to see that it's much more enjoyable when books are shared with friends. Kit Grady, the illustrator, enhances this lovely book with beautiful, colorful drawings of Humberto and his friends. This is a book that children will want to read again and again." --Liliana Monteil-Doucette, LA Education Examiner

“Humberto the Bookworm Hamster explores the joys of reading and friendship. Humberto’s gift of imagination will delight children as much as his kindness towards others will inspire them.” – Cheryl C. Malandrinos, The Kids Book Connection

"Humberto the Bookworm Hamster is suggested for readers from 4 - 8. Mayra Calvani's text explores the joys of books, the fun of an active imagination, and the inspirational effect stories can have on our behavior. When Humberto chooses to help the animals who suffered from the flood, he does so in the best tradition of the storybook heros he admires... Kit Grady's illustrations are charming, positive, and full of expression. All in all, Humberto the Bookworm Hamster is a fun book with a heartwarming message delivered in a subtle way that is never preachy. This book should entertain kids through several readings." Vicky L. Smith, Amazon Reviewer

"Ms. Calvani has written a lovely story about learning what’s important in life. Ms. Grady’s illustrations capture the characters' personalities perfectly, down to the spectacles perched on Humberto’s nose. This is a great book to share with your little ones at bedtime or anytime they want to cuddle with you. Be prepared, parents, to read the story over and over again. I recommend Humberto, the Bookworm Hamster for children, parents, grandparents, animal lovers, and everyone who enjoys a fun read with a gentle message." --Beverly McClure, YA author

"Wonderful drawings in vibrant colors enhance the storyline. Parents and teachers can use this delightful picture book as a starting place to discuss important issues with children. Is Humberto doing too much reading? Is he ignoring "real life" for the fantasy life of books? What is the proper response when disaster hits? This is a book children will want to hear over and over." --Lila Guzman, Ph.D., children's author

"This is an adorable tale of friendship sure to delight young readers. I loved the story and also the cute illustrations. A fun read aloud. My eight-year-old also loved reading about Humberto and his love of books. A must add to any children's collection." Kim Bacciella, YABooksCentral
Posted by Mayra Calvani at 6:15 AM

Monday, November 16, 2009

Interview with Mayra Calvani

Humberto, the Bookworm Hamster has just been released. I am thrilled to have, author Mayra Calvani answer a few questions about how she works.

A little bit of introduction:
Multi-genre author, reviewer and animal advocate, Mayra Calvani, enjoys writing for children and adults. A regular contributor to BLOGCRITICS MAGAZINE and AMERICAN CHRONICLE, she's a member of SCBWI, CWCC and Broad Universe. She keeps two blogs, Mayra's Secret Bookcase and The Dark Phantom Review.
Additionally, she's the co-author of the ForeWord Best of the Year Award winner, THE SLIPPERY ART OF BOOK REVIEWING.
Visit her newest, fun blog, Pets and Their Authors, where her golden retriever interviews authors' pets.
Mayra does Spanish translations of children's picture books, is co-editor of Voice in the Dark newsletter, and the National Latino Books Examiner for
Check out her children's books at Mayra's Secret Bookcase.

When working on a story, what steps or process do you use?For a picture book, what usually happens is I get an idea and then let it simmer in my mind for weeks, sometimes even months or years. Then one day I just feel the need to write it down and the whole thing pours out of me in a sitting. When this happens, I stay working on the story a whole morning or a whole day. I then take a break from it for maybe a day or two before going back and polishing it. Then I send it to my critique group for feedback. This is very helpful. I may or may not take on their suggestions, but their advice is always good. I save each version of the story, so if I edit the story 5 times, I’ll save those 5 files of each version under a folder named after the book’s title.
What sparks your ideas for stories?Real life, newspaper articles, TV shows, family stories, memories, photos, beautiful scenery. Everything around me may spark an idea in me. The Muse is a very curious thing.
What is your strongest personal trait that make you a better writer?I would say persistence. I never give up, no matter how many rejection letters I get or the competitive state of the children’s book market.
Where did your last story idea come from? Where were you when you began working on it? For a long time I wanted to write a picture book story about a little mouse or hamster who loved books so much, he didn’t have time for friends. That’s how Humberto the Bookworm Hamster came about. As usual, I let the idea simmer for some time, then, one morning, I got up from bed and had to sit down and write it. So that’s what I did, and the story poured out of me in one sitting.
Humberto loves books so much, he reads at all times of the day; even while he sleeps he reads—audio books. The other animals want to become his friends, but he doesn’t have time for them. He’s too busy reading! Then one day a flood comes and he must decide whether to salvage the rest of his books before they sink in the rising water or helping the animals. Humberto’s story is a tale about books and the true meaning of friendship: how good are books really if you can’t share them with people who care about?
I can sympathize with my character because many times I see myself in him. As a writer and reviewer, I’m so involved with books I tend to become a hermit. Socializing is important too. 
What advice would you give a new writer?My first advice would be, of course, to read a lot. If you want to write picture books, read dozen of picture books a month. Especially read award winners and when you read these books, study them and what made them so successful. If you’re new to the craft of picture book writing, read nonfiction books on the subject, take a course or a workshop. Join a good critique group, one that focuses on picture books. A writer who’s not familiar with this genre won’t be able to help you, no matter how good they are at writing, let’s say, chick-lit novels. Last but not least, WRITE. I try to write one picture book story a week, or at least two a month. You get better the more you write and, most importantly, the writing will come easier.
Peek inside Humberto, the Bookworm Hamster at Guardian Angel Publishing.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Rainbow Nights

I'm excited about this new picture book. This was my first "really" child's bedtime book. I worked to create illustrations to compliment the magical verses by Sally Harris. After studying several bedtime books from illustrators such as Jan Brett and others, I hoped to capture a sleepy time feel while using flowing rainbows on each page.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009


Humberto has no idea Fall is here and Winter is soon to follow. He is reading about himself "living the life" in warm sunny Paris. Books can do that.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Humberto, the Bookworm Hamster Released

I"m pleased to announce that, Humberto, the Bookworm Hamster is out. Mayra Calvani has a written a wonderful story. I feel so fortunate to have illustrated her third picture book by Guardian Angel Publishing. Want to see more?

Thursday, October 15, 2009


Sometimes, you get this feeling things are all coming at you at the same time. But,
then again, these things can be Great Things.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Malaprops, an Asheville Bookstore

Loving this neat city of Asheville, N.C. Why did I wait so long to come.
Excited about joining a new writers and illustrators group from the SCBWI next week at a wonderful bookstore, Melaprops.
But I must stay focused, get back to my wacom tablet and finish this project. A delightful book, Bradybug, by Donna Sheperd.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Monday, September 21, 2009


I'm in the middle of laying out and working on sketches for a book by Donna Shepherd called, Bradybug. She has so many fun creatures in this story. I'm having too much fun. Opps, I better get back to work.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Main Street Books and Hamster Holidays

I like to keep up with my author, Cynthia Reeg as she makes her rounds at various bookstores in St. Charles, Missouri. Our book, I call it ours since I was honored with doing the fun illustrations, Hamster Holiday Hamsters, has received great reviews. Check out her version of the Main Street Book visit.

Monday, September 7, 2009

I Found an Agent, Isn't that Good

Yes, as a artist or writer you may be so excited that this new agent as decided you have the right stuff. But beware. Do not be so flattered and thrilled that you do not approach with caution. I found a great article from artist, Kathleen Rietz in the SCBWI- Illinois Chapter Newsletter, The Prairie Wind, telling about such an experience. So always be careful.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


I'm posting a finished illustration for a picture book, Rainbow Nights, by Sally Harris, due out in a few months. I am taking a few days off from drawing as I unpack my things in my new home. The move has been long and piece by piece which has made me a bit spaced. As I regroup, I'm already planning work on a new project. Just let me get this next box unpacked.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

New Review of Hamster Holidays

So pleased with the review from Armchair Interviews:

Hamster Holidays: Noun and Adjective Adventures
by Cynthia Reeg; Illustrated by Kit Grady
Published by Guardian Angel Publishing

Reviewed by Laura V. Hilton

Has your child been struggling with learning about nouns and adjectives and what their jobs are in a sentence? Then this cute little book about hamsters and holidays will be just the right thing to help your child identify these important parts of a sentence.

With fun and wacky holidays that may or may not be real (I didn’t take the time to look them up), hamsters gear up to celebrate days such as: Book Pal Day, Puddle Jumping Day, Monster Madness Day, Toy Parade Day, and others, the author will teach children the definition of nouns and adjectives.

Using sentences like “Sleepy Babe rides the rocking horse float,” the author highlights the adjectives in red, and the nouns in blue, making them easily visible to children. Colorful pictures further illustrate the sentences and help draw the children’s attention.

The back of the book includes a study guide, a short story for the child to read and identify the nouns and adjectives, a place where the child can identify nouns as person/place/or thing by putting them in the correct column, and other fun activities.

This book would be ideal for any child struggling with the basic parts of sentences, whether public, private, or home schooled. Suggested ages: 5 to 12.

Armchair Interviews says: This book will help grammar become fun.

From our armchair to yours...

Tuesday, July 28, 2009


Louie V, from The Secret Adventures of Louie V, has returned. This furry fun feline is ready to celebrate something great. I guess you and Louie will have to wait to find out what is going on. But my illustrations are done and on the way for Tracey Delio's newest Book, Louie V. Takes the Cake. So much fun to sketch and paint this lively cat through his point of view. Take a peek at Louie's Life and you will agree, Louie is a Love.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Hamsters Gone Wild

more inside pictures from Hamster Holidays

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Hamster Holiday Coming Soon

Cynthia Reeg has released her new noun and adventure book, Hamster Holiday.
This is another educational book in the Pet Grammar Parade Series.
Illustrating her six hamsters and their crazy antics was an adventure all its own.
Inside sneak peek

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators Carolinas Caption Contest

My illustration was selected for the SCBWI caption contest for the Pen and Palett. All Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators Carolinas can nab a $10. gift certificate by submitting their caption for this picture. So what do you think it should be? Submit suggested text to
Please use subject line " Summer 2009 P&P Caption Contest " Lets see what you got
You must be a SCBWI Carolinas member to enter.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Such a Wondrous Busy Summer

Don't be so busy, you miss the important things. So easy to do.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

SISTER EXCHANGE soon to be released

The cover is out for Kevin McNamee's new book. SISTER EXCHANGE was a delight to illustrate. In Kevin's story, Brianna, the older sister tries to replace her younger sister with a new one. As they say, Be careful what you wish for. Soon to be released by Guardian Angel Publishing.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

2009 San Francisco Book Festival Winner

I just found out, The Secret Adventures of Louie V, by Tracey Delio, has won honorable mention in the 2009 San Francisco Book Festival. I'm thrilled to have worked on the illustrations for Louie V.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

What Is Magic Fairy Dust Made Of?

What is Magic Fairy Dust made of? I found an interesting blog by Christy Evers, member of a wonderful writers and illustrators group in North Carolina called The Goalies
She shares her thoughts on making your characters real.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Making Some Progress

My sketch from Sister Exchange is coming together. It takes a little while to connect to my new main character and feel like I know her. Such with Brianna here. She is a feisty child with a pesty sister. (I see my spell check said Pesty was not a word)but you know what I mean.

Get to know your characters.
Once you are friends with your characters, it gets so much easier to draw or write about them.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Keep Working

So hard to be in the process of moving and keeping all work on schedule.
Right now as I'm living out of suitcase and moving completely in two months, things are so spacey. My hubby, Danny, starts his new job next week, but I need stay awhile to close down the house and get my son, Joey off to college. So when do I get the time to finish my last few projects? You tell me. I'm finishing up a great story by Kevin McNamee, titled Sister Exchange. Here is how one of the sketches started.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Big Change Coming

The moving truck arrives this week. Boxes up to the ceiling. I'm moving to the wonderful city of Asheville, N.C. I've heard it is filled with creative people and artists. Hope so......
As I pack up my art supplies, I hope I will remember which box they are in when I get there.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Getting Back to Basic Information from Harold Underdown

Sometimes you need to review and get back to basic information. Things change and often you just forget how things happen in the world of writing and illustration.
Harold's site is so great for many things and always worth another look.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Apple's iKids Play Venture with Guardian Angel Publishing

Guardian Angel Publishing has just released a new book for Apple's new iKids Play. Maybe We Are Flamingos, by author Safari Sue Thurman and artist Kevin Collier will be the first book to be transformed into this new technology and with many other books waiting in the wings. What an adventure this holds for this fast moving company.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Louie V Planning New Book

Tracey Delio sent me a new manuscript for a new book of our favorite feline Louie V. The Secret Adventures of Louie V has been a school visit favorite for Tracey and some of the proceeds have gone to VH1, Save the Music and Autism Speaks.

I plan to start the Layouts for the new, Louie V. Takes the Cake , later this summer.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Picture Bookies Showcase

I'm so excited to be able to participate on the Picture-Bookies Showcase. What an honor to be surrounded with these wonderful illustrators.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Friday, April 3, 2009


My school visit was great fun last week. After using the overhead to project the story for all to see, I pulled out the flannel board for the next book with the smaller class next in line. As the story was read, I could place a character on the board keeping every ones attention. And keeping attention is key with the younger ones.
For this example I used a book by Cinthia Reeg, DOGGIE DAY CAMP, I illustrated.
After purchasing a large tri-fold poster board, I glued a bright color felt for a background.
My next step was taking the book to a copy shop and enlarging several important characters in the story. I had them laminate the large pieces and trim them. Later I used a velcro type sticker on back of each so they could be placed on the felt and also moved around. Using the characters, I could ask questions and involve my audience even more.
It was very easy and cheap to make and really proved to improve the visit.
I would love to hear how others make their school visits successful.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

School Visit Time

I was invited to Pope John Paul Catholic School last week to celebrate St. Patrick's Day and tell about the books I've written and show some of the books I have illustrated. What a wonderful group of children. I used an overhead. By making an acetate copy of each page, I could read as it was displayed above for all to see. This works so well with large groups. I also brought along that wonderful feltboard which I will show you next week.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators New Issue Has Arrived

My new Bulletin for March/April has arrived from the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. It is filled with lots of great news, stories and tips galore. I find the Caldecott Medal winner "The House in the Night" illustrated by Beth Krommes and written by Susan Marie Swanson, from Houghton Mifflin Company. So I need to go check that out. And wait, remember my last post about Uri Shulevitz and how talented he is, well... he was awarded one of the Caldecott Honor Books. I need to take a peek at "How I Learned Geography" too. So much to do and so little time. See ya....

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

How to Make a Storyboard by Uri Shulevitz

One of my very very favorite instructors, Uri Shulevitz, continues to be the authority on the writing and illustrating children's picture books.
How to Make a Storyboard by Uri proves my point with simple yet valuable instruction for the beginner and seasoned illustrator or writer.
This lesson is from the book,
How to Write and Illustrate Children's Books and will always be on top of my must have books.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Sweet Dreams

No time to chat. Busy sketching...........

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Story Time Fun

A couple weeks ago I made a visit to our local book store, The Country Bookshop.
Since it was during the day, several classes were invited. As I read the story, I used a large felt board with my movable characters which kept all young eyes focused.
It was a grand success, so I plan to use the felt board along with my overhead presentation for my coming school and bookstore visits. I'll hope to share with you how I made my felt board and characters next time.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

So, What does an illustrator do on their day off?

So What does an illustrator do on their day off? Fellow Flapjacket artist, Kim Sponaugle's blog ask this question.
I can't resist a pencil and bit of paper myself.
So I ask my illustrators, What do you Do?"

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Great Blog for Illustrators on Jacketflap

I found the best blog as I searched around on Jacketflap yesterday. Maybe you have seen it too, but just in case check out, The Drawing Board for Illustrators. I found great resources and useful information like, marketing ideas, what to put in your portfolio, important network links and so much more. I had to add it to my blog reader and I bet you will too.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Illustrations for a New Children's Picture Book for Guardian Angel Publishing

Finished up a project of 13 illustrations for Guardian Angel Publishing and sent them in to editor Lynda Burch. Such a nice feeling when those final pictures have been received and the editor says they all arrived safely. This one was Holiday Hamsters by Cynthia Reeg. I'll fill you in on the details closer to the release date. Just for now, here is a teaser...

Monday, January 19, 2009

The State of the Union ( I mean Book) Address

Writers and Illustrators often struggle even in good times. As I searched for information about how this scary economy will effect the book publishing industry, I came upon, The Purple Crayon Blog by Harold Underdown. I do not know if it made me feel better or worse but was very informative and I would like to share it with you.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Photoshop's Too Cool Tool

This was a study from page 1 for new book for Kicks Club Publications by author Kim Robinson. The book, Have You Ever, is due out early this year. This lion started as sketch on drawing pad, and later scanned into photoshop to complete. This two stage process allows the great feel of pencil on paper, going through many sheets of paper and using that wonderful eraser. But photoshop still allows for layout movement, color choices, size changes and the history tool that I dearly love.
A great tool that I'm playing with these days is the warp tool. To use it; select part of an image you know you need to change yet not sure what is bothering you about it, go to edit, then to transform and find warp. Sometimes just a slight change in an angle or curve can be just what you need. Play around and see what is possible. I would love to hear you thoughts about this too cool tool. Have fun....

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Time for Coloring Fun

Don't you find the kid in you seeing that color page on the restuarant placemat and wanting to just grab that crayon out of that cutesy kid's hands.
I do, Yep coloring is fun.
As I was working on the many bunnies, mice and other creatures for Flutter Bunnies by Mel McIntyre, I found myself really getting into the color pages for the book. They were fun and I could always use them on school and bookstore visits to pass out.
Yes, I did color a few!
So I wanted to share this one page with you.
You can find more on Mel's page too. And Guardian Angel Publishing has a great selection of pages from many of their books.

Print them out for the kids and maybe for you.

Friday, January 2, 2009

2009 New Year's Goals

After reading several blogs on making 2009 a more productive year, I came upon a Blog by Jessica Kennedy, A Writing Playground. I was so impressed with her "Making it, Goals and Plan of Action," that I would like to share it with you.
Whether an author of picture books, young adults or adults- everyone can take something away to use in their planning of 2009.
So Happy New Year and Happy Goals-