Staff Book Picks: November

POSP 3D-book

Written by Irina Gonikberg Dolinskiy and Illustrations by Mark Wayne Adams
Hardbound ISBN:  978-1-59616-017-0
Pages: 32
Retail Price: $14.95

The parts of speech come magically alive as they participate in a colorful New York City Parade! Each presents and defines itself as it marches down the street and through a child’s imagination.


Written by Linda Smigaj and Illustrated by Mark Wayne Adams
ISBN:  978-1-59616-034-7

Paperback Retail Price: $9.99

History with a Twist Makes Learning Fun!

Welcome to the world of Linda Smigaj’s books. Educator and juvenile fiction author Linda Smigaj, aka Professor Fuddy-Duddy, captures the imagination of readers, ages 7–10, through stories of historically accurate events told from a unique perspective. Come travel through early American history with these adventurous flies.


Written by Crystal White and Illustrations by Mark Wayne Adams
ISBN: 978-159616-028-6
Pages: 32
Paperback Retail Price: $9.99

Franny Finds a Home! is a beautiful children’s book complete with vibrant illustrations and educational resources for both parents and teachers, not to mention an exciting and heartfelt story.

Franny is a former stray who was relieved to be saved from the streets. But her rescuer, Trishalou, simply can’t keep her. Franny encounters nice workers at the rescue shelter, but she misses her friends. Shy, and not the cutest critter in the place, will Franny ever be chosen for a forever home?

At the end of the story the author (a 20-year reading teacher) has included resources for teaching or review of text features. These activities can be used with any text.


“Do you make money for public appearances?”—Anna Faktorovich, PhD Interview

Faktorovich: You were drawing for visitors to your booth at the ALA. I believe you also do these types of drawings during your art presentations at schools. Do you do these public art projects because of your desire to perform your art before a live audience? Do you ever make money on these appearances? Do you use them for research or to market your illustrations to kids? At ALA, were you giving any of the resulting drawings away? You had tossed a few of them onto the carpet in front of you at ALA, and you toss them on the floor of auditoriums etc. in your school presentations. Do you toss them down for symbolic reasons or to illicit sympathy, or because you want to display them and you don’t have board to clip them onto? Were you drawing what visitors asked for, or whatever came to mind? Do you doodle and free-draw to come up with ideas for your illustrations? If not, what do you do to research ideas or to come up with initial character sketches?

AdamsDrawing Is My Super Power! That would be my t-shirt slogan. I find an audience, whether drawing on a pad, a napkin, or in a Best Sketchbook. I drew for free when I was younger. Some people appreciated the gesture, other discarded my effort. In the 3rd grade, I began to charge for my time and the appreciation level increase. This remains true today.

My first professional illustration contracts came from tossing drawings on the floor at Book Expo America in Los Angeles, California. I did this both for symbolic and sympathetic purposes, depending on the audience.

Publishing (writing, illustration, and marketing) is about inspiring an emotion. I can’t keep every drawing, so I give them to conference audiences who feel sympathy when they step on a “pretty picture.” I also joke, “This drawing is worthless until I sign it!” Publishing audiences find my personality a plus in the working relationship.

IMG_6356I’ve meet over 1 million students through paid elementary school visits. I walk on “pretty pictures” to show students and teachers sheets of paper have less value than the pages within a book. This reinforces the need to journal in hardbound books.

Do I give away drawings for free? Yes, I’ve given away over 45,000 drawings in eight years like the ones you mentioned at ALA. My gift makes others happy and in return makes me happy. I do have two rules. Children are the recipients of most drawings unless it’s for a teacher’s classroom or at a conference. Also, I only draw one picture per person, per day. This rule stemmed from my own children asking me to draw instead of doing it themselves. My children get one picture, just like anyone else’s child.

IMG_3952I have over 100 journals (23,000 pages of drawing and writing). These journals are 20 years of research and inspiration. Illustration clients are asked to provide me a list of 5 of their favorite children’s books, 5 new books they discovered at the library or bookstore, and 5 things they’d do for free. Their favorite children’s books tell me who they were. The new books tell me what they expect based on paper types, finishes, and dimensions. Lastly, incorporating something they love in the illustrations will boost discussion topics with readers.
Read the complete interview with Mark Adams, Award-Winning IllustratorAdams-Author Bio with Anna Faktorovich, PhD

“Do you currently have a great studio?”—Anna Faktorovich, PhD Interview

Faktorovich: In the OUTBACK, one of your characters, Marq, seems to reflect some of your thoughts when he tells Driew, “‘I think I-4’s been under construction since they started. It’s like a house or this studio – a perpetual work in progress. Seventeen years of seeking a studio when what I wanted was out back all along.’” Then Driew proposes visiting a Kentucky State Park, and Marq agrees, and then he says he admires Marq’s drawings, and asks if they are for a new book, but Marq explains: “‘Actually, they’re not for new books. They’re from thoughts – past and present. I figured getting them on paper would free me to focus on the money makers…’” (148). Have you had any difficulties building an art studio in terms of constructing it, gathering funds for it and the like? Do you currently have a great studio? Is it open to the public? Do you think a modern artist needs a studio, and if so why?

AdamsI-4 (Interstate 4) is the highway that extends from the East Coast to West Coast of Central Florida. Informational text is included throughout OUTBACK and the series to educate both U.S. and international readers who may visit the places in the books. The continuous construction of I-4 and of a home is to show how environment shapes family life. The Family Tree Novel Series will have two editions: a novel and an illustrated novel version.

As an illustrator no one asks me, “Which character are you?” As an author, that’s the first question readers ask. My answer: I’m every character, action, and moment. In OUTBACK, Marq, Driew Qweepie’s father, is a freelance illustrator who never became a professional. I won’t cause a spoiler, but Marq’s back story is reveled throughout the series. His character is a compilation of numerous illustrator friends and the challenges we all face. Marq voices his concerns, like a parent, to help Driew and readers understand an illustrator’s career. Rarely do illustrators have a studio bigger than a table in a remote corner of their house. And when we get a studio, it’s years in the making.

Mark Wayne Adams and Elaine Goldberg.

I do think some artists need a studio, not a hideout. Every book I illustrate is created remotely: kitchen table, poolside, gymnastics practice, airport, or a Costa Rican rooftop deck. I’m an illustrator dad. While my children finish homework at the kitchen table, I work. During gymnastics practice, I work. Even while the family sleeps in on vacation, I work. Author/Illustrator is a family friendly career. Managing and committing to a work schedule is the greatest challenge.

I have three main “studios”: an outdoor patio table by my screened pool, the Kentucky book warehouse, and a Panera Bread. My best work is created in public. While illustrating Parts of Speech Parade: New York City, written by Irina Dolinskiy, I painted in various Orlando, Florida Panera Bread locations. Patrons compelled to comment would say, “I’ve been to New York City before!” Instant feedback and a new fan eager to purchase a prerelease copy of the book!

Ciao Rolling Carry On BagHonestly my art studio is a rolling bag, stocked with several pads of watercolor paper, Prismacolor pens, five favorite brush sizes, and a Grumbacher watercolor set (24 colors). One $40.00 watercolor set creates illustrations for approximately fifteen children’s books. The watercolor paper investment in each 32 page book is about 3 pads of 12 sheets (roughly $30.00). Gathering funds to start an illustration business is easy. For under $100, anyone can start an illustration business!

IMG_3796My business model is unique in that I license the digital illustrations to the publisher. All physical artwork remains property of MWA, Inc. The words “digital illustrations” in my contracts helped my business make choices. MWA, Inc. owns illustrations from over 40 children’s books (approximately 1,200 original illustrations). My CPA says the art is valued at the cost of the paper, $1,200.00. When sold as art, the value ranges from $500–$1,000 each. Most fine artists don’t consider illustration as art, but I beg to differ. This children’s book illustration collection could cover a football field; fill multiple art galleries at once; and continues to generate an annual income through reproductions. The reproductions generate more money than the original is worth. I’ve only sold a few originals to serious collectors.
Read the complete interview with Mark Adams, Award-Winning IllustratorAdams-Author Bio with Anna Faktorovich, PhD

“Were you faced with challenges running your company?”: Anna Faktorovich, PhD Interview

Faktorovich: You have done a lot of illustration, but the OUTBACK seems to be your first self-written children’s book. Why didn’t you attempt to publish one of your authored books with your own publishing company or with other previously? Did you try to sell this book to other publishers before releasing it with your own press? I am writing a book on author-publishers (Dickens, Twain, Woolf, Scott, Poe, etc.) and as part of this research I am curious why authors, artists and others are frequently driven to found their own publishing companies when they encounter problems with other publishers as they attempt to create traditional careers. It seems that you have had great success finding well-paying employment as an illustrator, animator, and the like, so I am curious where you faced challenges that made you realize that the independence that comes with running your own company was necessary. I believe you also wrote some of your picture books, including: King for a Day, the Story of StoriesBest Sketchbook, and Good Night Mare.

Adams: Well-paying employment is called a JOB. “Don’t work hard—work smart,” my dad once said. I’d been working hard since I was about thirteen. This phrase inspired me to graduate college and work for several major companies, where I managed or lead others. I never felt fulfilled. So, I began illustrating books again in 2007, while working as an Art Director.

steven_rileySteve Riley, fellow illustrator of the Little Ty Cooney National Wonder Series and college friend, gave me great advice! “Two incomes are better than one. Don’t quit your day job until your employer asks you to leave.” I paid attention while building my illustration business 2 hours a night, 5 days a week. Every four weeks I finished another children’s book in only 40 hours. When I finally left my day job, I was an award-winning illustrator of children’s books and a national public speaker.

I sold thousands of books annually for my publishers making about a 10–20% royalty. Authors who were illustrators made double royalties. I had a college degree, so I decided, I’ll write a children’s book and illustrate it too! My publishers said my books would never sell; there was no audience for my writing. I visited 45 plus schools a year, selling thousands of books to my audience.

Jilli thats Silly-3D-bookPeople say, “No!” for control. I had illustrated and created layouts for numerous published books. I had been an Art Director and Printing Manager in control of large production budgets. Taking control of my publishing journey wasn’t a difficult decision. Adams Illustration & Design, my illustration and graphic design business, became Mark Wayne Adams, Inc., mine and my wife Angela’s publishing company. MWA, Inc. purchased a block of 1,000 ISBNs and published award-winning books like: King for a Day, the Story of StoriesNicholas, That’s Ridiculous!Jilli, That’s Silly!and Teddy TalesThese four books combined won 14 children’s book awards.

If you’re passionate about writing and drawing make them a second JOB until they become the bread winner. Once the second job makes a small income, the day JOB becomes more bearable. Treat writing and illustration like a business and you’ll be in business.

Read the complete interview with Mark Adams, Award-Winning IllustratorAdams-Author Bio with Anna Faktorovich, PhD

“Is there pressure to mimic popular books?”—Anna Faktorovich, PhD Interview

Faktorovich: Most illustrated books today look very similar to each other in style and technique. Why do you think this is the case? Is there pressure to mimic popular books in any genre because failure to conform to genre norms is seen as a mistake by reviewers, award organizers and others in the publishing industry? In other words, the styles of classical painters such as Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo are sharply different, but if an art historian attempted to tell two popular illustrated children’s illustrators’ work apart, they would be stomped as to how to tell them apart. For example, paint types, brushstroke style, and various other elements differ in the best canonical painters, but modern digital illustrations lack most of these characteristics, and frequently top illustrators mimic techniques others utilize to conform their art to the industry standard. If an illustrator attempts radically different art, the work is typically either ignored by reviewers or negatively criticized as a mistake. Have you made any attempts to break with these formulaic requirements, and if so, what was the result of this experiment?

Adams: Fine artists and illustrators are educated using not only paint mediums, brushstrokes, and art history, but also computers. My college drawing professor, Dale Leys, refused to let me draw cartoons during my four year degree program. He believed a fine artist could become a great cartoonist, but not the reverse. Talented illustrators rely on art techniques that apply in a variety of medium using any tool.

Many of my clients are independent authors or publishers who take liberty in pushing the bounds of traditional publishing. Reviewers, award organizers, and publishing purists stubbornly hold to publishing tradition and labels.

Nicholas,That's Ridiculous!-Carpenter-www.mwa.companyWith Nicholas, That’s Ridiculous! I learned even “mistakes” add value. I had flooded an illustration with water and dropped magenta paint onto the page of a story about being a boy. Rather than discard the illustration, I submitted it for author approval. Author Christa Carpenter loved the liberty I took. Many clients request my bold color choices for their books.

When I was younger, my librarian mother never allowed me to fold pages, write in margins, or cut my books. I experimented doing this in my Best Sketchbooks. In the illustrated edition of OUTBACK: Bothers & Sinisters, readers are allowed to cut or fold the over 100 illustrations. Each illustration is an experiment from the first sketch to the final cut illustration.
Read the complete interview with Mark Adams, Award-Winning IllustratorAdams-Author Bio with Anna Faktorovich, PhD

“You’ll make a lot of money in this business…”—Anna Faktorovich, PhD Interview


Faktorovich: What kind of work did you do at Disney? You mentioned during our chat at ALA that you started in illustration when a friend told you that because you are such a quick animator, you could make a lot of money in illustration. Can you give an example of the timeline for one of the projects you did for Disney or another company you animated for, with details on how long each image, or set of images took? What are the daily tasks you had to complete as a professional animator? How are they different for an illustrator?

98-Ronnie Mesa-Mark AdamsAdams: I participated in the WDW College Program Internship, MGM Studios Food Service, Professional Lifeguard for both waterparks and resorts, which ranged from lifeguard, health club, to caricature artist. In every WDW position, I continued to submit portfolios to the Disney Animation Studios in Lake Buena Vista, Florida until the studio closed. At that point, I gave up my animation dream for the reality of a house and family in Florida. I drew ridiculously fast and was referred by a coworker, Ronnie Mesa, to a publisher in Tavares, Florida. I illustrated two children’s books within 45 days. The publisher said, “You’ll make a lot of money in this business, if you keep illustrating at this speed.” A second of animation is composed of 12-24 drawings. Most animators create hundreds of drawings a day. The standard children’s book has 32 full page illustrations, which is less than a day’s work for an animator. The $500 the publisher paid me in 1997 wasn’t going to help me quit my day job.

Read the complete interview with Mark Adams, Award-Winning IllustratorAdams-Author Bio with Anna Faktorovich, PhD

“The Mayflower from a different point of view..”—JJ Phillips, Readers’ Favorite

Mayflower-Fly on the Wall Series-3D-book
Reviewed by JJ Phillips for Readers’ Favorite

Mayflower (Fly on the Wall Series) by Linda Smigaj is an educational children’s story about the adventure of the Mayflower. But this isn’t just any history lesson. This story is narrated by Anna, a cheese fly, who has stowed away aboard the Mayflower. Because of this unique and fresh approach, children can read the story of the pilgrims and the Mayflower from a different point of view in the hopes that they are encouraged to learn about the story. The story starts on board the Speedwell, a ship that turned out to need too many repairs. After switching to the Mayflower, the story follows the adventure across the ocean, documenting everything that happened along the way until the day the Mayflower reached the New World. Although this may be a familiar story to some, this new and educational perspective makes it a fun and interesting way to revisit a familiar story.

I really liked the idea of using a fly to narrate a story about the Mayflower. I think any book or story that can make learning fun deserves the proper credit for trying to educate our young people. Keeping young students interested in history is not an easy task, but
Linda Smigaj does a nice job in Mayflower with an interesting narrator character and fun, colorful drawings and depictions that are both appealing and informative. Overall, this is a very educational piece that is as fun as it is informative and I think kids will absolutely love it!