Little Elliot's Neighborhood

iREAD 2017

I’m happy to announce that Little Elliot is featured in the 2017 iREAD summer reading program! iREAD is part of the Illinois Library Association, and they’ve been promoting literacy since 1981! Here is the poster I designed for them.


Their mission is to provide high quality, low-cost resources and products that enable local library staff to motivate children, young adults, and adults to read. You can purchase this, along with a bunch of other Little Elliot reading incentives (like t-shirts, plush dolls, puzzles, bags, and more) via the iREAD program. All proceeds help to promote and assist the great work of libraries! To learn more, please visit

¡Y tambien en español!

¡Y tambien en español!

Kidlit County, Little Elliot's Neighborhood

Little Elliot is Board!

Many have asked, and Macmillan has heard! Little Elliot, Big City is now available as a board book! It’s a great gift for our littlest friends who enjoy some light reading and heavy snacking! You can order it from your local indie bookstore, or any online book retailer.


For more info about Little Elliot, Big City, or to download a free activity kit, check out my website!

Little Elliot's Neighborhood


Little Elliot and I are hitting the road next week for the Little Elliot, BIG FUN Tour! I’ll be traveling in September and November, mostly doing school visits, but here are some public events that all* are welcome to attend!

*The Reading Bug event is for librarians and educators only.

Visit my events page for more details! Want Little Elliot and me to visit your school? Book a private school visit for 2017!

To purchase copies or for more information about Little Elliot, BIG FUN, visit my website. Thanks, and see you soon!

Illustration Station, Little Elliot's Neighborhood

Little Elliot, BIG FUN is here!

I’ve never been a thrill seeker, at least when it comes to amusement parks. While I’ve slightly expanded my joyride repertoire, I still prefer my feet on the ground, and an ice cream cone in my hand.

"Keep that ground where I can see it!"

“Keep that ground where I can see it!”

One time, when I was very little (…ok, I was 14), a group of friends convinced dragged me onto a ride at an amusement park. It was a big platform that was connected to a giant sun by a very long arm, which would rotate around the sun to a height of (by my estimation) ten thousand feet. Apparently, my face looked something like a mood ring before I fainted on my friend, woke up, and nearly threw up Exorcist style. But my buddy Jim squeezed me tight with one arm and cupped his other hand over my mouth and screamed bloody murder until the technician stopped the ride early. I almost died. I mean, I thought I was going to. But I didn’t. My friend was there for me, and after we got off the devil’s slingshot, we had a really good time.


In Little Elliot, BIG FUN, Elliot and his friend Mouse go to Coney Island to see the sights and ride the rides. Mouse wants to go on the wet rides, the dizzy rides, and the fast rides! Poor Elliot is not up to it. Even when he tries to take it easy, the chaos of Coney Island sends Elliot on a pandemonious misadventure and Mouse on a wild goose chase.  

funhouseLife presents us with many rides. Some are more inviting than others. Sometimes we have to get on rides that we don’t want to get on. While it’s great to have friends around to have fun, it’s these scary times when we really need friends close by. In this book, Little Elliot and Mouse continue to show us what friendship is all about, but this time they also show us great courage. Elliot musters the courage to face his fears, while Mouse has the courage and patience to be there for him.

beachLike Elliot, I have been afraid of lots of rides, both at the park and in my life. I’ve been very blessed to have many friends who double as heroes. I hope that I have been able to return the favor from time to time. It’s important to know that you’re not riding this roller coaster alone. We need to be good friends and hold each other’s hands…and maybe also a vomit bag.

Why Coney Island?

Luna Park at night c.1937

Luna Park at night c.1937

While I was doing research for Little Elliot, Big City and Little Elliot, Big Family, I looked at many photos and films ofNew York City during late 1930s and early 1940s. Eventually, I stumbled upon Ken Burn’s documentary, Coney Island. After watching it, I knew exactly where Little Elliot and Mouse should go next. The old film clips are totally mesmerizing. Nothing quite says “summer in New York City” like Coney Island. I love living vicariously through Elliot, who gets to see an enchanting world that is lost to us.

Coney Island was once a skyline of towers, turrets, and minarets. At its brightest, it was the product of visionaries that transported its visitors to a world of dreams and possibilities. It was, in its way, a wonder of the world that showcased the very heights of humanity’s imagination and innovation. At its darkest moments, Coney Island was scandalous, financially ruinous, and even morally reprehensible. It’s eventual downfall reminded us that joy is fleeting. Little Elliot, Big Fun walks the tightrope of hope and fear, and Coney Island is the perfect backdrop.

So much research!

It was a lot of FUN making this book, and also a lot of WORK! I did more research for this book than Big City and Big Family combined! What made it extra challenging is that not much of the Coney Island of that time still exists. The boardwalk was plagued by fires, while other parts of it were demolished by a certain opportunistic developer. In the early 20th century, Coney Island consisted of three large amusement parks: Luna Park, Steeplechase, and Dreamland, plus many small independent rides and stands. Most of what you see in BIG FUN is based on Luna and Steeplechase, while Dreamland burned down in 1911 (a real shame because it was truly enchanting and I would have loved to have drawn it in the book). It was challenging deciphering blurry vintage black and white photographs, and then trying to envision what a scene might look like from a different perspective.

Some iconic rides still stand, like the Parachute Jump (which is just decorative now), the Cyclone, and of course the Wonder Wheel, which is at the very height and heart of our story.


I went to Coney Island several times to take photos and enjoy the sights, sounds, and smells of the boardwalk.


Dan and Katrina on the pier with the modern day boardwalk behind them.


Ruth wolfs down a “Coney Island Red Hot”

Katrina and I ride the Wonder Wheel!

Katrina and I ride the Wonder Wheel!

Speedy (1928)

Aside from the documentary I mentioned earlier, I also watched many films featuring Coney Island, including Speedy, The Devil and Miss JonesEnemies: A Love Story, and for some added levity, The Warriors.


photo by Morris Engle, 1938

I looked at many photographs, and my favorites were by Morris Engle, which I certainly reference in some illustrations in the book.

Pip and Flip, Reginald Marsh, 1932

Pip and Flip, Reginald Marsh, 1932

I also looked at many artists, including Reginald Marsh, Paul Cadmus, Harry Roseland, Benton Murdoch Spruance, plus many other nameless illustrators who created posters and other advertisements for Coney Island.

artist unkown

artist unkown

Easter Eggs!

I’ve hidden away a few surprises in the book as a thank you to some of my friends who have been there for me when I’ve been afraid.Berger'sBurgersThis Berger’s Burgers billboard is in honor of my friend and queen of wordplay, Samantha Berger, who I am making a book with soon!

Flora&HenryThis lovely couple is actually Flora and Henry from Martha Brockenbrough’s The Game of Love and Death.

GodwinaThere is a portrait of my magical editor, Laura Godwin, in the endpapers…

RuthRuth Chan is serving ice cream and 1930s realness on page 16.

stuffiesPage 19 features cameos galore, including Georgie & Feta from Where’s the Party?; my favorite childhood stuffed animal, Ricky Raccoon; my husband’s childhood teddy bear, Willy; my friend Sarah Jane Lapp‘s bunny, aptly named Bunny; the awesome bird friend from Boo-La-La Witch Spa illustrated by Isabel Roxas; and Snuggleford Cuddlebun from Samantha Berger’s Snoozefest!

ElephantColossusDon’t miss the double gatefold towards the end of the book! On the right side page, you’ll notice an elephant standing amongst the buildings. Well, that is also a building! In fact, it is the Elephantine Colossus, which was at one point or another a hotel, concert hall, and amusement bazaar. Elephantine_Colossus_Side_ViewIt stood on Surf Avenue from 1885 to 1896, when it burned down in one of Coney Island’s many fires. Though technically it wouldn’t have been around for Elliot to see in the late 1930s, I couldn’t resist paying tribute to our lost pachyderm palace.

SuzieThe “Suzie” is named after my mom.

Have Fun!

You can purchase a copy of Little Elliot, BIG FUN at your local bookstore or any major online retailer. Signed copies are also available from Books of Wonder. You can also visit my website for more information, links, and to check out my other books!

Kidlit County, Little Elliot's Neighborhood

Little Elliot, BIG FUN Trailer!

I am in countdown mode for the release of Little Elliot’s next big adventure! Elliot and Mouse are back on August 30th! The good folks over at premiered the trailer for Little Elliot, BIG FUN today. Read the post I wrote for them about the book and growing up as a scaredy-cat.

Join me at Books of Wonder on Sunday, August 28th for a book release party! If you can’t make it, but would like a signed book, you can preorder from Books of Wonder before August 28th, I’ll sign at the party, and they will ship it to you after!

Until then, enjoy the show!

Kidlit County

Worm Loves Worm Giveaway Winners!

Last month, in honor of Pride month, and in memory of the victims of Pulse nightclub in Orlando, I teamed up with Balzer + Bray to donate 20 copies of Worm Loves Worm to schools around the country. I am happy to announce the winners of the giveaway! Each winner has agreed to donate the book to a local school to help create a community of acceptance and understanding. We’ll be sending books and lots of love to…

Worm cover 2Karyn Lewis
Aliza Werner
Jodi Moore
Mel Schuit
Michael Karg
Erin McKenna Nowak
Jaclyn Krusie
Jessica Lifshitz
Melanie Patterson
Kellie Cruz
Joseph Eyres
Crissy Claiborne
Beth Parmer
Nicole Bathcer
Dee Gambardella
Jana Eschner
Pernille Ripp
Denise M Cassano
Nicole Castrovinci
Terry Peerson

Congrats and Thank You!

Kidlit County

Worm Loves Worm PRIDE Giveaway

Usually, when I think of Pride month, I think of celebration and acceptance. But this year, I think about loss. In the wake of the Orlando massacre, I feel emotionally exhausted. I also feel a need to do something.

I am a member of the LGBTQA community and the children’s book community. Since there aren’t too many of us who belong to both, I thought this might be an area where I can help bring about change. That was the reason why I illustrated J.J. Austrian’s beautiful book, Worm Loves Worm.

Worm cover 2

It is so important that children see lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and ally characters in books. My wish for them is to live in a world of acceptance where people are trying to understand and appreciate each other’s differences. Our visibility is crucial. LGBTQ people need to be seen as real three-dimensional human beings. The inability for some to see us as human beings with real hearts and minds makes it easier for them to fear and hate us. We can help our kids be good friends and allies. We can help “different” kids love themselves. Books like this one for the youngest readers are a great way to start.

In honor of Pride month, and in memory of the victims of Pulse nightclub in Orlando, I’m donating 20 copies of Worm Loves Worm to schools around the country, courtesy of Balzer + Bray. Enter to win a copy for your school! Just tweet this this post on Twitter and include the hashtag #wormloveswormpride. On June 30th, we’ll select 20 random schools and mail you a copy!

Happy Pride month everyone!


Some resources:

Worm Loves Worm also appeared on this awesome list that the Advocate published: 21 LGBT Picture Books Every Kid Should Read. Another great resource for middle grade and young adult queer titles is Lee Wind’s blog, I’m Here, I’m Queer, What the Hell do I Read?