School Visit Season

J. C. Phillipps visits Hockanum School.

J. C. Phillipps visits Hockanum School.

I love Spring.

In addition to the snow melting, the grass turning green, and the daffodils coming, I LOVE doing school visits.

Yesterday I was preparing a new school presentation on illustration and I wanted to add a mini bio to the front so that the kids had a sense of who I was.  When I went back through my life to pick the points that lead me to becoming an author/illustrator, I was reminded of a two key things:

One, I’ve always loved school.  I remember crying one time because my dad wanted to take me on a vacation and I would miss school.  I’m pretty sure he looked at me like I was a giant nerd.  Which I kinda am.

Two, I really, really enjoy kids.  Kids are so funny and honest and I am ten million times more comfortable chatting a group of first graders up than I am at a cocktail party.  When I’m with a group of kids I can say “What’s you favorite food?” and get a conversation started.  Adults would look at me like I’m a big weirdo.  Which I kinda am.

My first school visit of the season was at Hockanum School in East Hartford and it was great!  The kids seemed to enjoy the presentation and asked a bunch of awesome questions and we all had a blast making dreaming ninjas in the art room.  Thanks so much for having me!

As the season rolls on, I’ll have a bunch more of these to look forward to, and I’m sure they will each thrill and delight me as I go back to school.




It’s Almost Time for THE SIMPLES

April 8th is coming!  That’s the book birthday for my fourth picture book THE SIMPLES LOVE A PICNIC.   But this book is special because it’s my first book with HOUGHTON MIFFLIN HARCOURT and I couldn’t be happier about it!


Here’s the trailer. Enjoy!





I had the great pleasure of participating in SCBWI’s first INSIDE STORY Event at the Odyssey Bookshop in South Hadley, MA on Sunday, Nov. 3

There were ten kidlit authors and illustrators in our group, each getting four minutes to share the inside scoop about the ideas or creation of their current books.

(Above) Here I am horsing around with the lovely and talented Hazel Mitchell.

(Below) The group (minus one.)  Jason Lefebvre, me, Hazel Mitchell, Jane Kohuth, Jannie Ho, Deborah Freedman, Corinne Demas, Sandra Horning, Diane deGroat.  (Not pictured: Richard Michelson.)


It was a lovely event at a fabulous bookstore.  Not a bad way to spend a Sunday!  Not bad at all!

Picture Book 101 at the Guilford Free Library


BIG THANKS to Stephanie Johnson at the Guilford Free Library in Guildford, CT for organizing a great event last night.  We had about 80 – 100 people come out – which was an AMAZING turn-out – and they listened to me jabber on for a solid hour about children’s books, writing, critique groups, agents, conferences, and submitting their work.

GOOD LUCK to all the future writers out there!

If you missed me in Guildford, I’ll be doing the same program at the Oliver Wolcott Library in Litchfield, CT on Wednesday, Oct 2 from 7 – 8pm.

The Simples Love A Picnic

The Simples Love a Picnic, April 2014, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

The Simples Love a Picnic, April 2014, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt


I’m very excited to introduce my new picture book, THE SIMPLES LOVE A PICNIC, due out April 2014.

It’s the fun, silly story of the Simple family who want to have a nice, simple picnic.  But every thing that can go wrong, simply does!

It’s very bright, energetic, and most of all, silly.  It will appeal to kids who love humor in their books.

This is also my first book with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, so I want to give a BIG THANKS to Margaret Raymo, the editor on this project, and Rebecca Bond, the art director.  They both did such a fabulous job guiding this project and it was a pleasure to work with them both!

I can’t wait for Spring!




Today I had the great pleasure of sharing MONKEY ONO with the K – 3 grades at Whiting Lane School.  I talked about story structure and read Monkey Ono, but the best part (as it often is) is when the kids took control of the story.


After showing the kids how to draw Monkey Ono, I provided them with a worksheet so they could plan their own Monkey Ono caper.  Their instructions were to create a three-step plan in one panel, show the plan in action in a second panel, and then show the pay off in the third panel.  The kids got to decide whether their monkey’s plans were successful or not.

MonkeyONO2  (Above) This Monkey is bouncing to the beach via trampoline.  (Below) This Monkey Ono takes a rocket to outer space!  (From his expression, I think he wanted to go to the beach.)
(Below) This Monkey Ono takes a ride on Telly.

I had a ton-o-fun and LUCKY ME I get to go back on Wednesday and do it all again with the fourth and fifth grades!

BIG THANKS to Lee Gluck the media specialist who was able to squeeze me in among all the end-of-year happens and to all the kids who gave their attention and enthusiasm!

Wink Dreams of Monkey Ono


Yesterday I had the great pleasure of visiting the Louise Duffy School to talk to the second graders about Wink the Ninja, Japan, and a little about Monkey Ono.

The kids made wonderful Dreaming Ninja collages, and one of the ninjas dreamed about meeting Monkey Ono!  YAY!


Monkey Ono at O’Brien Elementary

I had a wonderful author visit at the O’Brien Elementary School. This was my first full Monkey Ono visit, with a large group power point presentation and art projects. It went really well.


The presentation was about picture book story structure. Monkey Ono is a good read for younger kids, so I wanted to make sure the presentation had something of value for the older kids as well. I talk about character, goals, and obstacles in stories. And I also ask lots of questions like What’s Cinderella’s goal? What are the obstacles in The Lorax? I try keep the kids engaged. Then when I finally get to Monkey Ono, they can either sit back and listen, or they can be analyze the story structure as I read. (I even use one of Magoo’s stories, No Gas, to show how a first grader can write using story structure.)

I took the kids through the Monkey Ono collage project and they did a fabulous job. I decided to have the kids draw Monkey Ono’s hair instead of cut it out of paper – and that turned out to be super fun. Look at all the hair-do’s!


I also had a Kindergarten group that didn’t see the big presentation, so I read to them first, then I taught them how to draw Monkey Ono. So cute!



Big Thanks to the fabulous art teacher, Brandyn Barstis, who wrote a grant to have me and other artists into her school. And thanks to the wonderful students at O’Brien Elementary for sharing your art and enthusiasm with me!


Monkey Ono at Central School


Yesterday I had a lovely visit with the first graders of Central School in Simsbury. And it was a special visit for me, because it was the very first time I did Monkey Ono collages with kids.


I can’t even tell you how many ninja projects I have done over the last four years – hundreds – I have got that down. But Monkey Ono is a little trickier than Wink because Monkey Ono has more components. And more placement. Some pieces have to be glued on top. Some pieces have to be glued on bottom. I had no doubt a fifth grader could handle it – but first graders? Well, I was a little nervous.

But they did GREAT!

If you want to see more, check out my blog.

And BIG THANKS to Central School for giving me a warm welcome and sharing your enthusiasm for my new book!  I had a great time!