Writers Workshop at Webster Hill

Webster Hill Writing Workshop
I enjoyed a fun, FULL day at Webster Hill Elementary School today (the first of a three-day Artist-in-Residence Program.)  I talked to the whole school about developing a story idea from the very basics to a full outline with a main character, goal, and obstacle – and a beginning, middle, and end.  Then I got to put those techniques into practice with three fourth grade classes.  In between, I worked in reading-time with the pre-kindergartners (who were SO SWEET) and a drawing lesson with one of the first grade classes.  They drew AMAZING Monkey Ono’s!  I can’t wait to go back and have more fun tomorrow!  Thanks so much to the PTO at Webster Hill who raises money for my visit!  You guys rock!

Monkey Ono Portrait

Simple Fun at Whiting Lane

I kicked off the week with a two-day visit to Whiting Lane School where I had big fun doing my new presentation, ALL ABOUT ILLUSTRATION, with the kids.  I read my new book THE SIMPLES LOVE A PICNIC and talked about how I illustrate a book from choosing a style, to character consistency, to planning a layout, to composing a scene.  (Below) Some student illustrators help me compose a nice picnic spread with The Simples.

Then I retired to the library where the fabulous Lee Gluck let me take over and do fun, crazy ant collages with the students.  I find the best art projects have a little bit of me teaching a technique and a little bit of the kids taking over and making their own choices.  Here we have ants carrying an orange, a carrot, a slice of watermelon, and a donut.  I love it!

Thanks so much to Lee Gluck and the fabulous teachers and student at Whiting Lane for making me feel so welcome!  I love you guys!

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!