Little Elliot's Neighborhood, Uncategorized

The Countdown!!!

We are now just a MONTH away from Little Elliot, Big City’s release, and it is consuming my every waking moment. “August 26, 2014″ has been flashing in my head like a Las Vegas casino sign for months. This is just a brief little post to air out some of the excitement that has been percolating. It has been 2 YEARS since I signed with Henry Holt Books for Young Readers, and over a year since I finished the artwork for Big City. I’ve had moments where it has felt like the book will never actually be published, that it will always be in this limbo of being done but unseen. And now, finally, the big day is just weeks away. In an effort to keep my sanity, I have started a countdown via social media to get me through each slow-as-molasses day. Every image features a little sneak peek of art from the book! Here is today’s:


Man, I could really use that red velvet cupcake about now too. The good news is that there will be cupcakes at both of my release parties! Come celebrate with me on August 28th at Elliot Bay Bookstore in Seattle, or on September 5th at Books of Wonder in New York City!

Also, if you’re not following me on social media yet, please like my Facebook page and follow me on Twitter so that you can countdown with me! I will be doing a blog tour in August that you won’t want to miss, and that will be a great way to keep up!

Most importantly, check out for info on how to pre-order the book.

29 DAYS!!!!

Kidlit County, Little Elliot's Neighborhood

BEA 2014: A TOTElly Amazing Experience

Last week I attended my first Book Expo America, and it was the most exciting thing that’s happened to me in a long while. The main purpose was to meet booksellers, librarians, and reviewers to promote Little Elliot, BIG CITY at any chance I could get. Buckle up, this is a long ride…

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BEA 2014, The Jacob Javitz Center, NYC

It all started Wednesday with a studio tour put together by the American Booksellers Association. Two groups of booksellers came to our humble abode to meet me and see how I work. I was flattered that they braved traffic and came all the way to Brooklyn! I showed them some original drawings, and they got a special sneak peek at the second book in my series, Little Elliot, BIG FAMILY (Fall 2015). It was a great way to get to know each other! I got to meet representatives from Secret Garden Books (Seattle, WA), Anderson’s Bookshops (Naperville, IL), Oblong Books and Music (Millerton & Rhinebeck, NY), Octavia Books (New Orleans, LA), Redbery Books (Cable, WI), and Bethany Beach Books (Bethany Beach, DE). Yay new friends!

left to right: Suzanne Perry, Secret Garden Books; me; Katie Anderson, Anderson's Bookshops, Dick Hermans Oblong Books and Music

left to right: Suzanne Perry, Secret Garden Books; me; Katie Anderson, Anderson’s Bookshops; Dick Hermans, Oblong Books and Music

Naturally, a Little Elliot party wouldn't be complete without a beautiful arrangement of cupcakes,

Naturally, a Little Elliot party wouldn’t be complete without a beautiful arrangement of cupcakes.

Later that night Dan and I attended the 20th Annual Children’s Book Art Auction, sponsored by the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression (ABFFE) and the ABC Children’s Group at the American Booksellers Association. Proceeds benefited the Kids’ Right to Read Project and Banned Books Week. I submitted a print of one of my favorite pages from Little Elliot, BIG CITY, and was happy to see that it raised quite a few bucks. Other highlights included an author/illustrator talent show and a mashed potato martini bar (yes, that’s a thing). Then there was a big author/illustrator get-together at a nearby pub. Drinks were had. Shenanigans ensued. Blackmail-worthy photos were taken. SO, it was a good night! Also, I made friends with Joyce Wan and Molly-freaking-Idle. Boom.

Katie Anderson, (Anderson’s Bookshops), me, & Judith Lafitte (Octavia Books) at the Children’s Book Art Auction

Katie Anderson, (Anderson’s Bookshops), me, & Judith Lafitte (Octavia Books) at the Children’s Book Art Auction

Thursday started with a signing at the MacMillan booth. We were giving away hardcover copies of Little Elliot, BIG CITY, and Little Elliot tote bags (especially made for BEA). It was a surreal experience. Sitting, smiling, signing. And the people kept coming until we ran out of everything! Rosemary Stimola actually waited in line for my book! I must mention that these bags caused something of a sensation. Even Jane Yolen and Heidi Stemple came to get a bag (but they were smart and came early!). I was asked at every turn where one could get an Elliot tote during THE ENTIRE CONFERENCE. It was…weird. But good weird. Boz_7M8IYAAABvh After the signing, I headed over to see my friends at Merry Makers Inc. Their president, Clair Frederick, was the person who ended up winning my print at the auction! I’ve been keeping a BIG secret for a few months, and Clair gave me the thumbs up to finally announce: there’s going to be a Little Elliot plush doll!!! I immediately sent word to the Twitterverse. I’m really impressed with the care that Merry Makers has taken to get it right. The next prototype is being created right now, and I can’t wait to meet him! I don’t have a specific release date, but he will probably hit the shelves next Spring. Here’s a pic of the first prototype: LittleElliot_plush After that, I was whisked away to a MacMillan lunch where I had the pleasure of meeting more book sellers and a few more authors/illustrators, including Jack Gantos. I was seated at the same table as Sophie Blackall, which I think made me more nervous than meeting the booksellers!! I got a peek at her upcoming book, And Two Boys Booed, written by Judith Viorst. I don’t need to tell you how lovely it is, because you obviously already know (on sale 9/2). 9780374303020_p0_v4_s260x420

view from above: this is about 1/3 of the main floor

view from above: this is about 1/3 of the main floor

On Friday, I loaded up my Little Elliot tote with a LOT of books from home. I was determined to get some autographs! I got my copy of Blackout signed by John Rocco, Stinky Cheese Man and It’s a Book signed by Lane Smith, George Washington’s Birthday: A Mostly True Tale signed by Margaret McNamara, Edwin Speaks Up and Missed Connections by Sophie Blackall, and Flora and the Flamingo and Camp Rex signed by my new friend Molly-freaking-Idle. I had yet another signing, but this time in the main autographing area, which is WAY more overwhelming than the in-booth session. But it was still super fun, and I had my posse with me for moral support: Laura Godwin (my editor), Brenda Bowen (my agent), and Ksenia Winnicki (my publicist).

Brenda Bowen (Literary Agent, Greenburger), me, Laura Godwin (VP & Publisher, Henry Holt Books for Young Readers)

Brenda Bowen (Literary Agent, Greenburger), me, Laura Godwin (VP & Publisher, Henry Holt Books for Young Readers)

the autographing area, AKA "the corral"

the autographing area, AKA “the corral”

Aaaand we ran out of books...even though MacMillan brought double the recommended amount.

Aaaand we ran out of books…even though MacMillan brought double the recommended amount.

After that Ksenia and I made our way to a “Speed Dating Lunch” hosted by ABC/CBC. We got there a little early so that we could eat lunch and ended up bonding over our common love of Xena, Warrior Princess. Channeling Xena, I shined my chakram and howled my battle cry…or rather, I gripped my book and practiced my spiel. The setting: 18 authors with new books coming out and 17 tables with several booksellers at each. The mission: each author had four minutes to pitch their book and dazzle each bookseller. Minus a few brain farts here and there, I think I did well. That concluded all of my BEA responsibilities, so I totally earned my “I’m a new author and I survived my first BEA blitz” tee shirt. Also at speed dating was my friend Kelly Light, whose beautiful book Louise Loves Art comes out Sept 9, and Scott Campbell, whose cuuute book Hug Machine comes out Aug 26. They have both illustrated other authors’ books, but these will be their debut books as authors as well, and I’m so happy for them!

me holding the IT bag of the season (photo credit: Tim Federle)

me holding the IT bag of the season (photo credit: Tim Federle)

On Saturday, I returned for Book Con. The plan was to meet up with my friends Ruth Chan and Misa Saburi (two illustrators that you should look out for in the future!) to attend a panel entitled “The World Agrees: #WeNeedDiverseBooks”. Unfortunately, the space was too small, and we couldn’t get in (you can read about this panel here). Meanwhile, there was a second panel at the same time called “Where are the people of color in children’s books?”, which mostly focused on African Americans in children’s literature. It was in a section of the conference that was apparently NOT open to the rest of Book Con, and it was really frustrating that this panel was not accessible to everyone attending that day. It was encouraging though to see that industry professionals filled most of the seats. The panel included Patrik Henry Bass, author & book editor for Essence Magazine; author Tonya Bolden; Regina Brooks, author and literary agent at Serendipity Literary Agency; Bernette Ford, author and CEO of Color-Bridge Books; Wade Hudson, President of Just Us Books; Harlyn Pacheco, CEO of QloviVanesse Lloyd-Sgambati from The African American Children’s Book Project; and moderated by Troy Johnson, Founder of The African American Literature Book Club

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left to right: Wade Hudson, Bernette Ford, Tonya Bolden, Regina Brooks, Vanesse Lloyd-Sgambati, Patrik Henry Bass, Harlyn Pacheco

I think Tanya Bolden put it best when she said “All the children need all the books!” In other words, not only do children of color need to see themselves reflected in books, white children also need to see different kinds of children in books as well. By the lack of children of color represented in books, we are telling our children that people of color are not important enough to be in books and that white people are, reinforcing the culture of racism in our country. Some children give up on reading altogether because they don’t see themselves represented in books. Ms. Bolden also referenced an article by Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop entitled “Mirrors, Windows, and Sliding Glass Doors“, published in 1990. While its message is still relevant today, I find it unfortunate that we have not come much further in over 20 years. EVERYONE can do their part to solve this. Publishers can showcase more multi-ethnic books and hire more diverse authors; writers and illustrators can create more diverse characters; parents and educators can select diverse books for their children, no matter what their ethnic origins are. Perhaps most importantly, consumers must demand these books from booksellers, because the reality of our capitalist system is that money talks. If the consumer demands it, the seller will provide it.

Afterwards, I waited in line to meet Bob Staake and get a signed print promoting his new book, My Pet Book. The print features many characters in the city, all different colors: a green girl, a pink cat, a blue grown up. Coming from the diversity panel, it made me smile a little wider.

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I wrapped up the day in the most apropos way. When I swung by the MacMillan booth to say goodbye, a woman came by with her son to ask for book recommendations for kids his age. We all started talking about Elliot, and suddenly I was sitting on the carpet, holding the book open for him to read. It was perfect.

Well, that’s the end of my BEA adventure, but my Little Elliot adventure continues! I’m officially in the depths of promoting this little book, so be prepared to hear about it ALL THE TIME. In case I haven’t mentioned it enough, Little Elliot, BIG CITY comes out August 26th, and is available for preorder on several sites. Visit the book’s landing page for buying options. I will also be going on tour in September, and will post my itinerary as soon as I know where I’m going! Heeeeere we goooo!!!…

Illustration Station, Kidlit County, Little Elliot's Neighborhood

The Writing Process – Author Blog Tour – Mike Curato

Hi! I’m Mike Curato, and I am so excited to be a part of this author blog tour!

Me & my work.

Me & my work.

First off, thanks to Fred Koehler for passing the baton to me. I met Fred an an SCBWI Winter Conference several years ago. We enjoyed some yummy Chinese food together and we’ve been Facebook author-illustrator compadres ever since. If you haven’t already picked up a copy of his debut book, How to Cheer Up Dad, then you’re in luck because it will make a great Father’s Day gift!


What am I currently working on?

LittleElliot_coverWell, I am busy promoting my upcoming debut title, Little Elliot Big City, and in the process of finishing up my second book in the series, Little Elliot, Big Family. The first book comes out on August 26th, and I can hardly wait! I just received my first hardcover copy, and it’s so magical having it in my hands. I keep knocking on the cover to make sure it’s real!

Little Elliot is a polka-dotted elephant living in NYC circa 1940. It’s hard being a little guy in such a big place, and I think that makes him really relatable for kids. A new friend comes along though, and life gets a lot happier, and maybe a little easier. Little Elliot will be printed in English, German, Hebrew, Mandarin, and Korean! Elliot has been a character that I’ve been developing for many years, and I’m so excited to be able to share him with the world.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Well, that’s a difficult question, especially if we’re talking about children’s books as a whole genre! Perhaps I’ll limit that vast category down to contemporary works. There are many new character picture books, and there are many historical non-fiction picture books, and I think Little Elliot is rare in that it combines a new fictional character in a historical setting. Also, while I’m sure people can see my influences, like Edward Hopper and Chris Van Allsburg, I would like to think that my style is unique.

E Train

Why do I write what I write?

The Little Elliot series is very quiet and sweet. I love stories that tug at the heart strings. I really appreciate when a story can elicit empathy in people, and in the end, delivers a gentle and real reminder that everything will be ok. It’s so hard being little, and I am not just talking about children. It’s a great big world, and sometimes we can be overwhelmed by it, but somehow a little bit of love and the tiniest act of caring can pull us from the depths.


How does my individual writing/illustrating process work?

My process has been a dance of images and text. I usually start with some images and a feeling that I want to evoke. The text develops when I look at the images and ask why? Why is Elliot feeling this way? What happened? Who can he turn to? How is this going to resolve itself? Etcetera, etcetera. Once I am able to answer those questions, I go back to drawing and figuring out how to bridge the gaps visually. I’m very spare with my text in the end, but I usually start with more text than I need, then pare it down if/when the illustration is already communicating what the text is saying.


Next up on the blog tour: 

Samantha Berger

is the author of numerous children’s books, including Martha Doesn’t Say Sorry! and Martha Doesn’t Share!. Her recent book Crankenstein, illustrated by Dan Santat, will make even the crankiest of readers smile. Crankenstein also won the SCBWI Crystal Kite Award for the New York area! I’m hoping she’ll tell us about her current book in the making, Witch Spa, illustrated by my buddy Isabel Roxas! Samantha is a class act, and you should go buy all of her books immediately!


photo by Leo Moreton

Elizabeth Rose Stanton

is a friend from my Seattle days, and author/illustrator of a dear new book named Henny, about a chicken who was born with arms instead of wings. It has been described as both “endearing” and “creepy-cute.” What else do you need to know to want to read this!? Also, I have a signed copy, so you should be jealous.


Illustration Station, Kidlit County

Processed Magic: the Vague Art of Picture-Book Making

processMy friends and family must wonder what I do all day. Sometimes I worry that they’re sick and tired of my only update being “I’m working on the book. The deadline is end of April.” I’m sure some of them have mental images of me waking up in the morning to a big yawn, hopping into my bunny slippers, eating a muffin (aka breakfast cupcake), brushing my teeth, then sitting at my drafting table and whistling while I work all the live long day. How cute! I wish my life could be like this. I know that I am blessed to have a career doing what I love and working from home, but I wouldn’t say it’s been that easy.

Last night, when I was on the edge of tears after a disastrous affair involving perspective, ice skaters, and historic costumes, I shrank away from my studio and sat across from my husband, Dan, for some much needed consolation. He’s very good about listening to all my whimpers and moans. “Maybe you should leave it and work on another piece for now?” I mumbled and nodded. “I mean…I don’t really know what your process is.”

“Ha!” I exclaim, “I’ll let you know when I figure that out!”

Everyone knows that Artists have a process. We revel in learning about how the greats set about creating their masterful and prolific bodies of work. I have personally OOOHed and AAAHed in many a lecture while feverishly taking notes about different artists’ almighty process. After all this time in the creative field, I don’t think I have a process. I feel somewhat like a hack, especially now that I’m “legit” with a three-book deal. While I do have a style and form of executing a drawing, I don’t think this has anything to do with process. I think process happens more in thinking and concept than in execution.

Maybe instead of a creative process, I have a creative struggle. Now, I’m not trying to be dramatic, and I certainly do not want anyone’s sympathy. I am trying to use the word “struggle” in the most humble sense, as in it’s hard. It’s really hard!! Sometimes I sit at my desk and I look at all of my reference and my sketches, and it’s not enough. I’ll stare at the desk or the wall or out the window and think, think, think. Sometimes I can draw and draw, and it’s just not right. It’s tricky. One can be very accurate in their rendering of something: everything looks like how it should look, the perspective is spot on, the composition is ideal. And yet, it doesn’t work because it’s lacking magic. That’s what I’m up against every day. How do I create that magic?

There are some pieces I’ve made that do carry magic, and I’m so grateful for that. I know without question when I look at them that they are special. But, I can’t tell you where that comes from. It’s not something that I can pull out of a hat, it just happens. Meanwhile, I have deadlines, and whole books that I’m supposed to fill with said magic. Last night I felt like I was waving a plastic stick in the air and chanting abracadabra, waiting for someone to throw a tomato at me.

I asked Dan, “What was I like last year when I was working on book 1?”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean, was I a mess like this? Was it coming together easily but just took a long time? I can’t remember! Why can’t I remember!? It was my first book, one of the most defining moments of my life, and it’s all a blur!”
“Umm…I just remember you were in the studio drawing…a lot.”

(Lesson #928357: I need to keep a journal.)

Dan was right though. I was drawing a LOT. While I can’t remember much from creating book one, I do picture a fuzzy image of my desk and a pencil moving. There is a lot of magic in book 1, and there have been magical moments making book 2. All I can do is keep creating opportunities for the magic to happen by continuing to draw, and allow mistakes, and redraw, and complain to Dan. Perhaps that is my “process.”

In any event, it’s time to draw.


For more information on my book, Little Elliot, Big City, please visit

Kidlit County

New Author Success Story: Mike Curato, Little Elliot


Check out an interview I gave to The Business of Books!

Originally posted on :

MikeCurato headshotOne of the issues we continually address in our Business of Books classes is the importance of understanding that publishing is a business. We encourage our students and clients to get to know as much about the industry and their particular genre as possible. We also drive home the value of persistence. You will most likely have your project rejected (repeatedly) and it’s important to be armed with great material as well as a belief in your work when you seek a book deal or self-publish your project.

Illustrator and writer Mike Curato has savvy, sticktoitiveness and a whole lot of talent, a winning combination that led to a three-book deal  (with Henry Holt Books for Young Readers) for his stories of a polka-dotted elephant named Little Elliot. Mike talks to us about how he put himself in a position to make his longtime dream a reality, shares what…

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Illustration Station, Kidlit County, Little Elliot's Neighborhood

Little Elliot, Big City Cover & Release Date!

Hello Readers!

Some of you may have already heard that Little Elliot, Big City has been slated for release on August 26, 2014 with Henry Holt Books for Young Readers (Macmillan). I just received news that I can finally share the cover with you!!!

LittleElliot_coverFor all of you typophiles out there, I did indeed do all of the lettering myself. For the New York history nerds, the building on the top right is the once famous Hotel Astor, which was torn down in the sixties. People may also recognize a certain bakery on Prince street in the lower right, which has made an appearance in my work before.

I just reviewed the second round of proofs last week. Cross fingers that the next round will be the last, and then–TO PRINT! Though the book is still months away from being sold in stores, just sharing this image with you is a huge milestone for me. Things are happening!!!


Seattle: What I Learned

Today, after ten years of living in Seattle, I am moving to New York City.

Part of my preparation for the move has been to spend time with the people who have made my years here so worth-while. Recently I was at dinner with friends, and one of them asked me “So, what did you learn from living in Seattle?” It was a good question. I did not have an immediate answer, but I promised them that I would think on it.

After a few weeks of stewing, here’s what I have to share.



merrierFierce2 TheForce TrueLove

community walk



fancy italian sex&city



bees behind-the-scenes chicks dudes



wondertwins gunnarold NWbeauty oliverolemodelssquirtweirdosfamily

I feel so blessed and grateful and happy and sad. I have no way of fully expressing how much my friends and this place mean to me, but this love is real. xoxo



In Search for a New Home

So, the date is BOOKED! Dan and I are leaving Seattle on November 12 on a one-way flight to NYC. If any of you dear readers are currently living in New York, or know someone who is, please let me know if you hear about any great apartment deals! We are aiming for Brooklyn, but also open to Astoria and parts of Manhattan.

I’m super excited to begin a new adventure!


Tudors in tha House

I am a history nerd. I am obsessed with royal bloodlines, especially that of Great Britain. The story of how the line evolved over centuries is better than any daytime soap plot I’ve seen. One of my current reads is The Six Wives of Henry VIII by Alison Weir. I love reading all the family trees in the appendix, but they can be quite cumbersome and hard to follow.


In this (Re)Design project, I revamped the Tudor family tree to read more clearly. Icons were used to display gender and kingship, and color was used to illustrate the actual royal bloodline. I also edited some of the content to what I thought was more relevant. Click to enlarge!




The title logo is a stylized version of the Tudor rose.





Here’s a detail of the tree…