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John Gomes
Lisa Downey Connie McLennan Christina Wald

       Author / Illustrator Interviews

Salima Alikhan


Salima Alikhan (Pieces of Another World) decided to pursue a career in children's book illustration when she realized her lifelong passion for art would never leave her alone. Salimastudied at the Corcoran Institute of Art in Washington, DC. Her favorite medium is watercolor. She begins most of her illustrations by drawing on cold-pressed watercolor paper, going over the drawing with ink, painting the picture, and then adding the final detail with watercolor pencil. To create the effect of snow, gravel, sand, stars, or coral, she often sprinkles salt on top of watercolor while it's still wet. When the paint dries, she shakes the salt off. The mineral compositions of different types of salts create different effects. Table salt leaves smaller spots, which are good for snow, gravel and stars; and sea salt or canning salt leave large circles, which are better for coral or sand. She has the good fortune of being an art teacher in a Montessori school, where she has learned lots about both art and children. She currently resides, teaches, and paints in Austin, TX. This is her first children's book. Visit Salima's Website/ School Visit Info.
Barbara Bergwerf
Barbara J. Bergwerf photo journals her nature-related volunteer involvement at the South Carolina Aquarium’s Sea Turtle Hospital, the Island Turtle Team on Isle of Palms and Sullivan’s Island, and the South Carolina Center for Birds of Prey. She’s collaborated with best-selling novelist Mary Alice Monroe to share butterfly and loggerhead sea turtle photos with children through A Butterfly Called Hope and the award-winning Turtle Summer: A Journal for my Daughter. Her incredible photos also grace the award-winning children’s book, Carolina’s Story: Sea Turtles Get Sick Too! Barbara thought that she was retiring when she and her husband moved to the South Carolina Lowcountry. Somehow retirement doesn’t seem to be in her vocabulary! Visit Barbara's website.

Shennen Bersani

Award-winning children’s book illustrator Shennen Bersani has two million copies of her illustrated books cherished and read by families throughout the world. She has been a freelance illustrator since 1989. She works primarily with colored pencils, sometimes using a mixed-media technique of colored pencils, crayon, and paint. Her art delivers a unique blend of realism, heartfelt emotion, love of nature, and life lessons for children of all ages. In addition to Sea Slime: It’s Eeuwy, Gooey and Under the SeaThe Shape Families BabiesAnimal PartnersShark BabyHome in the CaveThe Glaciers are Melting!, and Astro: The Steller Sea Lion for Arbordale, Shennen has illustrated a number of best-selling books, including, Snakes: Long, Longer, Longest; Sharks: Big, Bigger, Biggest; Ocean Counting: Odd Numbers; Icky Bug Shapes; and My Sister, Alicia May. Shennen lives with her family near Boston. For more information, visit her website.

Kirsten Carlson

Kirsten Carlson is fascinated by animals and nature. Her background in biology, scientific illustration and design has given her the tools to share stories about the natural world through illustration. She believes illustrating children’s books are a wonderful way to connect others to nature. Prior to illustrating Ocean Seasons, Kirsten illustrated The Giraffe Who Was Afraid of Heights, also published by Arbordale. Kirsten lives in Gig Harbor, Washington near the shores of Puget Sound. Visit Kirsten's website.

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Lew Clayton

Lew Clayton (Felina’s New Home) has worked as an illustrator for 20 years. He has a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree from Brigham Young University, and he is a Graphic Designer in the Media Industry. He is a member of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. His medium of choice is Prismacolor colored pencil, and his favorite subject matters are people and animals. He has two previously published books: The Adventures of Willy B and Archie's Christmas Tale. Felina’s New Home is his first picture book with Arbordale Publishing. Visit Lew's website.
Susan Detwiler

Susan Detwiler is the illustrator of several books for children including On the Move, Big Cat, Little Kitty, and the award-winning titles Pandas’ Earthquake Escape and One Wolf Howls. She is the author/illustrator of Fine Life For A Country Mouse. Susan is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators. Her illustrations have appeared in the children’s magazines Highlights for Children and Ladybug, and her artwork has also been used for puzzles, games, and greeting cards. Books have always been a source of joy in her life, and as a child she particularly loved books with beautiful illustrations. Susan was educated at the Maryland Institute College of Art and lives with her artist husband in Baltimore. Visit her website at


Rebecca Dickinson

Rebecca Dickinson award-winning art and illustrations grace not only Anybody Home ?, but many other books as well, including -Wee-Sing Nursery Rhymes , Boo! A Halloween Sticker Book and Story, and The Dirty Pond.   She is the author and illustrator of The 13 Nights of Halloween & Monster Cake, and wrote Over in the Hollow.  Rebecca is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. She paints the “old fashioned way,” with acrylic and gouache, from her home studio in Seattle. WA.  Ms. Dickinson shares her Gothic Victorian home with 3 lovely children, a brilliant corgi, named Napoleon Bonaparte and Stella Fluffanella the studio muse cat. Visit her website at

Lisa Downey
Lisa Downey is a freelance artist and graphic designer. Although she has always been interested in illustrating children's books, it was not until she worked with an in-house design firm at a paperboard book manufacturer that she realized children's books should be her focus. The combination of illustration, design and 3D surfaces to tell a story encompasses everything she has learned and enjoys doing. Lisa's style ranges from cartoonish to very representational. Her favorite medium is pastels. Lisa has illustrated Blackberry Banquet, Julie the Rockhound and Happy Birthday to Whooo? for Arbordale. She lives in the SC Lowcountry, with her very supportive husband, Len, and their cats; Pom Pom and Ophelia. Visit Lisa's website
Wendy Edelson

Wendy Edelson (Saturn for my Birthday) illustrated the first of many books, “Whose Garden” at the age of 18. Since then she has divided her time between illustrating children’s books and “grown-up” books, and working on advertising and editorial projects. All of Wendy’s illustrations begin with very detailed pencils drawings and are then painted mostly with watercolor with the addition of occasional bits of colored pencil and pastel…the painting is definitely her favorite part! Wendy, her husband, and 4 cats currently live on an island in the Pacific Northwest. A corgi puppy will hopefully be joining the family soon! Visit Wendy's website.

Kathryn Freeman
Kathryn Freeman (Loon Chase) spent many summers on Conway Lake in the White Mountains region in New Hampshire where she learned to use pastels from her uncle, the landscape artist Robert Jordan. He and Kathryn often took a canoe out at dawn to check on nesting loons. Kathryn is known foremost as a painter. Her works have been exhibited nationally and internationally and are held in numerous private and public collections. She has also done a number of large public commissions, including three story murals for the new public library in Jacksonville, Florida. While this is her first children’s book, it will likely not be her last! Her life-like pastels are superb. Visit Kathryn's website.   

Andrea Gabriel

Award-winning artist Andrea Gabriel has worked as a professional illustrator for the past fifteen years. In addition to Little Gray’s Great Migration, other children’s books illustrated by Andrea include Where Do I Sleep? and Eaglet’s World. She is also the author and illustrator of My Favorite Bear. Andrea lives in Bellingham, Washington with her family of two- and four-legged creatures. Visit her website at

John Gomes

John Gomes’ (Kali's Story) passion for photography is evident through his nature and Alaskan-focused images. A self-taught photographer going back to the “manual” camera days, John’s photos capture Alaskan life including mushing (sled-dog racing) and rodeos. John has been the Alaska Zoo’s official volunteer photographer for over ten years and has spent countless hours capturing magnificent images of baby and adult animals, including bears, goats, coyotes, foxes, and porcupines. To see more of John’s photos, visit his website at
John Himmelman
John Himmelman (Tudley Didn't Know) has written and/or illustrated over 60 children's books since 1981. His award-winning book "Pipaluk and the Whales" (published by National Geographic) is based on the true story of how far people will go to save their wild neighbors. John's "Nature Upclose" series of 13 different books (published by Children's Press, a division of Scholastic) includes such titles as: A Monarch Butterfly's Life, A Pillbug's Life, A Luna Moth's Life, and A Woodfrog's, Life. He based his Animal Rescue Club (Harper Collins) beginning reader book on a group of real children who rescued orphaned and injured wildlife. John's first book for adults, Discovering Moths, was recently published by Downeast Books. Most of John's book stem from his obvious passion for animals and nature. When John isn't busy writing or illustrating his books, he is involved with the CT Butterfly Association, the Killingworth Land Conservation Trust, leads nature walks and gives natural history lectures throughout the country. He works with schools by offering special science observation programs, and teaches courses on children's book writing. As if he isn't busy enough, John has two children (one in college and one in high school) and a working wife (high school art teacher) with a busy life of her own. John says he has never lost his love of reading and ends each day curled up in bed with a good book!
Visit John's website / School Visit Info.
Ben Hodson

Ben Hodson is an award-winning illustrator of nearly twenty books. He loves creating art and he also loves a good adventure, like hiking the Rocky Mountains with a team of rescued wild burros, living in a mountain village in Nepal, or drawing comics with youth in South Africa. Ben created the artwork for How the Moon Regained Her Shape using acrylic paints, handmade papers, old wallpaper, pencil crayons, gesso, and ink on watercolor paper. He illustrates full time from his home in Ottawa, Canada. Visit Ben's website.

Erin Hunter

As both a children’s book and scientific illustrator, Erin Hunter specializes in entomological and botanical illustrations. She illustrated A Day in the Deep, The Great Divide, Multiply on the Fly, and A Day on the Mountain for Arbordale, and she has taught botanical illustration and field sketching at University of California at Santa Cruz. Erin’s portfolio includes print and online design projects for clients ranging from marketing firms to culinary groups to educational organizations—and she’s drawn insects under a microscope for the Smithsonian’s Museum of Natural History. Erin lives with her husband on California’s Monterey Peninsula. When she’s not sketching and painting, she tends to flowers, fruit trees, and vegetables in her backyard garden. Visit Erin's website/ School Visit Info.

Laura Jacques
Award-winning illustrator Laura Jacques is passionate about illustrating children's books that focus on natural history, wildlife, and environmental awareness for children. In addition to illustrating The Most Dangerous, Baby Owl’s Rescue and Whistling Wings for Arbordale, she has also illustrated For the Birds; The Life of Roger Tory Peterson, Squirrel Assist, At Home in the Rain Forest, and Wildlife Refuge; A Classroom Adventure. Her books have won several honors and awards, including "NSTA-CBC Outstanding Science Trade Books for Children" sponsored by the Children's Book Council and the "KIND Children's Book Award" sponsored by the Association for Humane and Environmental Education, a division of the Humane Society of the United States. For more information, visit Laura’s website:
Laurie Allen Klein

Laurie Allen Klein has been a freelance artist for nearly 25 years. Over the lastseveral years, she has worked as the on-staff artist for a marine park, where she does everything from painting life-size sea animal murals, to illustrating children's activity books. As evident by the extras included in the art, she has combined her love and fascination with outer space (and science fiction) with children’s illustration in both Solar System Forecast and Meet the Planets. Laurie also illustrated Fur and Feathers, Where Should Turtle Be?, Little Skink's Tail, and If a Dolphin Were a Fish for Arbordale. Laurie lives in Florida. See more of her artwork at

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Karen Lee
Karen Lee has quite a humorous imagination, and it shows in her illustrations for One Odd Day, My Even Day and My Half Day. These books are full of odd (and even) hidden items that children will love to find. Karen has also written and illustrated ABC Safari. Each of her illustrations begins with thoughtful design and drawing. The paintings are finished with watercolor on illustration board. Karen majored in illustration at the Columbus (OH) College of Art and Design. She began her career as a storyboard artist and editorial illustrator but it wasn't until she had children of her own that she discovered her true artistic passion: children’s illustration. Karen's ABC Safari was the runner up for the 2005 SCBWI Don Freeman Grant. She is also the recipient of the 2004 SCBWI Magazine Merit Award for Illustration for her wok in Highlights For Children. She and her husband, also an illustrator, are raising their family outside of Raleigh, NC. Karen’s children join her on many research trips to museums, zoos and aquariums–a tough job, but someone has to do it! Visit Karen's Website.
Connie McLennan

Award-winning illustrator Connie McLennan has been a freelance artist for over 25 years, since attending Academy of Art College in San Francisco. In addition to illustrating Ready, Set...Wait! (Fall 2010), she has also illustrated Mother Osprey: Nursery Rhymes for Buoys & Gulls, The Rainforest Grew All Around, River Beds: Sleeping in the World's Rivers, Water Beds: Sleeping in the Ocean, and Octavia and her Purple Ink Cloud for Arbordale Publishing. Her studio is at her home in California, where she lives with her husband, teenage son, and one big, black cat. Visit Connie's website.

Cathy Morrison

Cathy Morrison may have started her art career in animation but she soon fell in love with illustrating children’s books and has been doing so for 20 years. Cathy has illustrated DaisylocksNature Recycles: How About You?Three Little BeaversAnimalogy: Animal AnalogiesDino Tracks, and Dino Treasures for Arbordale. Other titles Cathy has illustrated include Ignacio’s Chair, and the Young Patriots Seriesincluding Alexander Hamilton, Young Statesman; Frederick Douglass, Young Defender of Human Rights; and Juliette Low, Girl Scout Founder. Cathy works from her home overlooking a beautiful view of the Mummy Range, on the northern side of Rocky Mountain National Park. Check out Cathy’s blog at

Sherry Neidgh
Sherry Neidigh, a graduate of Ringling School of Art and Design, has been freelance illustrating since 1987. Sherry’s love of animals and nature comes through in her bright, colorful art. In addition to illustrating Deep in the Desert, Count Down to Fall, and The Best Nest for Arbordale, Sherry has illustrated several trade and education titles including Who Needs That Nose?,  If I Had a Tail, and Black and White. She has been a freelance Sherry lives in upstate South Carolina. For more information about Sherry, visit her website at

Laurie OKeefe

Laurie O’Keefe’s undergraduate degree in zoology and her graduate degree in human anatomy have helped with her scientific illustrations in the medical and scientific fields. Her client list reads like a “Who’s Who” in scientific illustrations from text books and magazines to zoos and museums. Gopher to the Rescue! A Volcano Recovery Story is her first picture book. Laurie lives and works from her home studio, located on Orcas Island, WA. To see more of Laurie's artwork visit
Gary Phillips
Gary R. Phillips (Animals are Sleeping, and Ocean Hide and Seek) has been a freelance illustrator for 25 years. He has illustrated for numerous clients in both the editorial and children’s illustration markets receiving “Verse Page Illustrator of the Year” from Highlights magazine in 2003 as well as five other awards from Highlights. Gary has several books to his credit, including 86 Years: The Legend of the Red Sox, New Old Shoes, The Naptime Book, and Santa’s Little Sleigh.  He has also taught illustration and creative thinking as an adjunct professor. Gary lives in a rural corner of Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, with his wife, two daughters, and two Siamese cats. He loves camping, tennis, painting out in nature, and drawing wherever he goes. Visit Gary's website.
Consie Powell
Consie Powell is an author, illustrator and a visual storyteller. Because she loves the outdoors, much of her work centers on nature and the environment. In addition to illustrating A Day in the Salt Marsh, Consie has also written and illustrated the award-winning Leave Only Ripples: A Canoe Country Sketchbook ( which won the Sigurd Olson Nature Writing Award), The First Day of Winter, Amazing Apples, Old Dog Cora and the Christmas Tree, A Bold Carnivore: An Alphabet of Predators and has illustrated Baby Bear Isn’t Hungry and Who Lives in the Snow? She also edits, designs, illustrates and occasionally writes for the North Carolina WILD Notebook (the young readers’ feature in the monthly Wildlife in North Carolina magazine), and has created artwork for the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences and the North Carolina Zoo. Consie and her husband spend the academic year in North Carolina and the summer in the isolated lake country of northern Minnesota where she loves to paddle her wooden canoe and explore marshes and bogs. And, of course, she always has her sketchbook handy. Visit Consie's website.
Kathleen Reitz

A lifelong artist and lover of nature, Kathleen Rietz was drawing and painting before she learned to write her name. Originally from Peoria, IL, Kathleen received her formal training from the American Academy of Art in Chicago, IL. In addition to illustrating Desert Baths, The Tree That Bear Climbed, Prairie Storms, and Champ’s Story: Dogs Get Cancer Too! for Arbordale, Kathleen’s other books include Conce Tu Parque, Little Black Ant on Park Street, The ABC’s of Yoga for Kids, and Prayers for Children. She taught art to children and adults at the Community School of the Arts at historic Wheaton College in Wheaton, IL, and through a local home school program in her community. For more information about Kathleen, visit her website:

Sherry Rogers

Sherry Rogers spent twelve years as a corporate graphic designer and artist before “leaving it all behind” for the freelance world of illustrating children’s books. Through illustrating The First Fire, Sherry remembers her own ancestor, Na Ni, a Cherokee woman from the mountains of North Carolina. Some of Sherry’s other Arbordale titles include The Penguin LadyTen for MeHey Diddle DiddleNewton and MeMoose and MagpiePaws, Claws, Hands & Feet, and The Deductive Detective; as well as her award-winning titles: Sort It Out!Kersplatypus,Burro’s Tortillas, and If You Were a Parrot. Sherry lives in Northern California with her family and their pets. Visit her website at

Phyllis Saroff

Since childhood, Phyllis Saroff has brought together her loves of science and art. Phyllis has illustrated nonfiction books about the natural world such as Teeth and Mary Anning: Fossil Hunter. She also illustrates for children’s magazines, wayside signs and other educational material. Phyllis works digitally and with oil paint. Phyllis lives in Maryland with her husband, two sons, and two dogs. Visit her website at

Emanuel Schongut Emanuel (Manny) Schongut (Christmas Eve Blizzard and Turtles in my Sandbox) is a prolific, multi-faceted freelance illustrator who works in children's books, book covers, textbook illustration, editorial art, posters, and advertising art – essentially he does it all!. Some of his numerous clients include Masterpiece and Mystery Theater, Public Television, New York Magazine, and New York Times Sunday Magazine. His cover art and/or illustrations grace books from a wide variety of book publishers including Harper & Row, MacMillan, Doubleday, Morrow, Green Willow Books, and now Arbordale. In addition to his own artwork, Manny taught reportorial art and figure drawing at Pratt Institute in New York for several years. He now illustrates and teaches in the San Francisco Bay area. Visit Manny's Website.
Joan Waites
Joan Waites (What’s the Difference?, Spring 2010, and What's New at the Zoo?) has been a freelance illustrator for the past 18 years. She received a Bachelor of Science degree from DeSales University in 1982. Employment followed for 15 years as a neo-natal intensive care nurse in Philadelphia and Washington DC, while she simultaneously returned to college to study illustration and launch her freelance career. In addition to What’s the Difference? and What's New at the Zoo?, Joan has illustrated nearly 40 books for the educational and trade marketplace. She is also an adjunt
faculty member of The Corcoran Museum School of Art and Design in Washington, DC, where she teaches various children's classes for the college's "Aspiring Artists" program. Visit Joan's
Christina Wald

In addition to illustrating A Cool Summer TailA Warm Winter Tai,  Habitat SpyLittle Red Bat, and Henry the Impatient Heron for Arbordale,Christina Wald has illustrated for a wide variety of toys, games, books, and magazines. From a book that featured hundreds of animals on each page (Look, Find, and Learn: Animals of the World) to games including the Star Wars role playing game series, every assignment covers something new and exciting. In recent years, she has illustrated tons of different animals for books and other publications. Christina enjoys the research aspect of such projects, saying that each new book is a fascinating new learning experience. She often integrates travel to research for her illustrations. She lives in Ohio with her husband and three cats. Visit Christina's website.

Katherine Zecca

Katherine Zecca was a scientific illustrator and graphic artist for NOAA, where she created illustrations of seals, whales, dolphins, crabs and fish for marine biologists. Celebrating the 125th Anniversary of NOAA Fisheries, Katherine was presented a National Award for her illustration of an historical poster. She continues to illustrate for the Smithsonian's National Zoo and created a logo for the National Museum of American Art. In addition to In My Backyard, Katherine has written and illustrated a book about the Atlantic Puffin for Down East Books. Katherine teaches nature journaling/sketching, from as far a field as the Pribilof Islands, Alaska, to New Brunswick, and Maine. lives in Aiken, South Carolina with her 4 dogs and two cats. Visit Katherine's website.

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