Nancy's Books

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Today, I have children’s book illustrator Alison Davis Lyne back as my guest. She has illustrated 10 titles for Pelican Publishing and edits the ART TIPS column for the SCBWI (Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators) newsletter. That’s quite a resumĂ©, and I’m thrilled to have her here. 

NKA: Welcome back, Alison. You have illustrated both concept/story books and alphabet books.  What are the illustrating challenges with these two very different kinds of picture books? 

ADL: Hi Nancy. Thanks SO much for inviting me back to your lovely blog for another chat.

I've been lucky to illustrate many different kinds of books for children.   

My most recent project for Pelican Publishing is a more of a concept book, Little Things Aren't Little When You're Little by Mark Burrows.  Mark's lyrical text (he also writes songs!) tells different episodes in a child's life where things that seem little to adults are really a “big deal” to children. Mark's manuscript had, after the opening/intro stanza, 13 separate scenes, each had a child engaging in a described action, with the refrain: “Little things aren't little when you're little.” 

If your readers remember from my last visit, in our chat about spreading out text over the 32 pages of a book, they can easily see that Mark had indeed “done his homework” in how he set things up. The text starts on page 5, which leaves 13 “double page spreads” to illustrate  each stanza.  (A “double spread” is what the reader sees left to right when the book is opened, with the action being carried over both pages). With a bit-o-artistic license, I rearranged things just a teensy bit and went to work on planning the illustrations. 

For some reason, one of the middle stanzas describing a young child's first hair cut struck a cord, and I began my sketching there. I remembered an old commercial where a small boy is tearfully getting his first hair cut in an old fashioned barber chair. I got to wondering what would happen if that small boy started wiggling when the elderly barber started trimming.  And instead of “taking a little off the top” the barber got a huge swath right across the little boy's head.  In reaction the little boy might slide off the huge barber chair and put his hands over the newly bald spot.  I couldn't help but “draw” parallels between the elderly barber's, and the  grandfather's bald heads and the child's newly shorn head.  As a running joke, throughout the rest of the book, the little boy appears with his “reverse mohawk”.  Here's how the page spread came out.... 


Illustrating this kind of book is really a lot of fun....I can make up characters and settings to give my own kind of “flavor” to the lively text.   

NKA: Alison, you’ve helped us writers better understand how a picture book needs to be written to allow for the illustrations to be added to the text. We definitely need to write with the idea of action that takes place over 13-14 spreads. Thanks for your explanation and for explaining how you develop ideas for working with the text of a picture book.

Alison is returning next week to discuss her latest project. To see more about her published books, please visit 

To see more of Alison's artwork, please visit

To see more about Alison's art  and art techniques, please visit Alison's blog 

Call for Submissions for Young Writers:

Norman Mailer High School Writing Awards: Highly recommended free contest for creative nonfiction by currently enrolled high school students awards $2,500 and a trip to NYC for the award ceremony. Contest is co-sponsored by the National Council of Teachers of English and the Norman Mailer Writers Colony. Submit one or more entries, maximum 10 single-spaced pages total, through their online form. Sponsored by: National Council of Teachers of English
Deadline 4/30/2014
Submissions Guidelines at
Call for Submissions for Adult Writers:

It’s time to share your story. Waypoints is accepting poetry, fiction, art and photography submissions for our inaugural issue. We’re looking for the best from established and up-and-coming writers and artists. Submissions should include writing and artwork that embodies a sense of what the artist has encountered on her or his personal journey.  Waypoints will appear semi-annually, featuring the best work of established and emerging writers and artists. Published work is eligible for the Editor’s Choice award.

Deadline May 1.

Submission guidelines at

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