BookExpo: Authors and Illustrators Debut Colorful New Picture Books

Seven authors and illustrators debut their vibrant new picture books!

Book Culture Female Authors Recommendations Young Readers

Yesterday, seven authors and illustrators popped in a BookExpo Zoom conference to talk about their colorful new picture books debuting soon. Moderated by Sarah Enni, the panel featured picture books of all kinds, depicting carefree stories of confident animals to imaginative kids.The panel began with introductions, each author/illustrator saying a bit about themselves then showing a bit of their book and sharing some funny anecdotes or inspirations.



First up were Dan Santat and Jorma Taccone, who talked about their book, Little Fox and the Wild Imagination. Jorma, who wrote the book, describes it as “imagination run amuck,” chronicling the humorous perils of an imagination gone wild, and Dan’s colorful, lively illustrations bring his bright words to life. Inspiration from this book came from Jorma’s own interactions with his son, and in turn his son’s imaginative ways of expressing his love. This book certainly combines the best of the untamed imagination with tangible illustrations that offer a glimpse into the carefree demeanor of a child longing for adventure right at home.

T.L. McBeth is the author and illustrator of Randy, The Badly Drawn Horse, a darling story about Randy the horse, a little girl’s drawing that comes to life. Self-confidence is not in short supply with Randy, who thinks he’s about the most majestic horse anyone has ever seen; but, he soon finds out he may not be so majestic after all. T.L. explained that the idea for this book came after a drawing competition with his wife went somewhat awry.




 images via amazon





The Hannukkah Magic of Nate Gadol by Arthur Levine is a truly heartwarming story about finding the magic in everything, even in places you weren’t sure had magic at all. Growing up Jewish, Arthur always struggled around Christmastime. Specifically, he struggled with what he called “the Christmas adjacent stuff,” like Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer or Frosty the Snowman. Not because he didn’t like any of these things, but he just didn’t have any he could relate to. He cited Eric Kimmel’s Hershel and the Hannukkah Goblins as one of the first times he could enjoy something that was not an explanation of Hannukkah, but rather material he could wholeheartedly relate to. He notes that he hopes this book can be enjoyed right now as we all learn to love each other and respect, protect, and foster diversity.

Nina Mata is the illustrator of LeBron James’ new book, I Promise. Nina explained that she was approached with a blank canvas and she wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but after reading LeBron’s inspiring words, she was beyond excited to create for this book. She wanted to illustrate scenes that let his words flourish, representing the special kind of excitement that comes with the first day of school. She says it’s a great book for anyone starting a new school year, so check it out!


images via amazon


Matt Phelan’s book, Turtle Walk, is about a family of turtles that spend a lot of time together (sound familiar?) who one day, decide to go for a walk. This walk is very slow and long, in fact, it is so slow that they end up walking through each of the four seasons. When they finish their walk, they end up on top of a hill in the middle of winter.  Safe to say, there is some definite sledding that ensues. Inspiration for this book came from Matt’s walks around the block with his young daughter. These short walks would end up taking close to an hour, as his daughter stopped for every little bug, front stoop, and flower. Through his daughter’s eyes, Matt developed an appreciation for these long walks and every little bug that came with them.

Julián at the Wedding by Jessica Love is about a young boy who finds himself a part of a wedding. Jessica says her book is inspired by the feeling of being a “small person at a grown-up party” and everything that comes along with it. She wanted to capture the thrilling feeling of bearing witness to adults who are removed from their everyday spaces at events with significantly relaxed codes of conduct. Moreover, inspiration came from an incident in Jessica’s own childhood, when she fell into the Hudson River while being a flower girl and destroying her party dress in the process. She says that she began thinking about the expectations society throws on young girls, and how they almost always be concerned with cleanliness or prettiness. In her words, they’re “the enemy of fun and joy.”



images via amazon

The authors and illustrators spent the latter part of the panel talking about the writing process, childhood artistry, and painful messes. As we are all stuck at home, the panel naturally touched on allowing ourselves to live in our own imagination during this time. Jessica Love says that when we are children and our life circumstances aren’t a product of our own decisions just yet, picture books are often our portal into the real world; and she says it’s a great time to “flex that muscle.” Jorma Taccone is relishing in this time with his five and a half-year-old son, whose energy is “flowing out of him” at lightning speed. He is enjoying every moment and finding inspiration in his son every chance he can.

Above all, the authors and illustrators have thoroughly enjoyed this time as a chance to lean into their children’s sense of adventure, or take a step back into their own childhoods and once again find the simple beauties in every day.

If you want to watch this panel, click here!

feature image via bookexpo