penguin teen meet the illustrator


Today we welcome Jill Weber to our new feature, Penguin Teen Meet The Illustrator! We loved THE CHRISTMAS TREE, and Jill brought her talents back to the Big Apple in CAT IN THE CITY, where she beautifully illustrates a glamorous cat’s big city life! The warm story about a vain cat who realizes the value of friendship really touched our hearts, and the illustrations gave us a bit of nostalgia for the lovely city we call home. Read on to find out what (and who) inspires Jill!

Name: Jill Weber


Date Available: September 4, 2014

What media and materials do you use to create your illustrations?

I primarily used gouache, but then I added everything but the kitchen sink. I love the discolored pages of old books which can be found every so often at our town dump. So I painted and collaged with them. I mixed the gouache with gesso and it provided a wonderful base for backgrounds. For texture, sometimes I ran over the paper with a printmaker’s brayer. Finally for detail, I used pencil and maybe even a little crayon.

What’s your favorite color and why?

Okay the short answer is I have two favorite colors, green and orange. I think I love green because I am a gardener and there are as many shades of green as there are plants. My favorite green is the color of the trees in the early spring—green with lots of yellow as if the sun had something to do with that. And I love pistachios! Orange is my favorite accent color and it happens to look great next to green!

Who’s your favorite artist or illustrator, living or dead and why?

This is definitely the most difficult question. I can’t pick just one so here’s a short list of old and new illustrators. No longer with us is the amazing team of Alice and Martin Provensen whose style was unique to each story they illustrated. I am crazy about everything Maira Kalman does. I love her color, her freedom and her point of view. And right now I am very taken with Isabelle Arsenault, Carson Ellis and Laura Carlin. Each brings an original approach without the boundaries of tradition.

Where do you do your work? 

If I leave my bedroom and take a left, I am in my studio. It is a lovely little room, small enough to navigate by rolling around in my chair and crammed from floor to ceiling with all the things I love—art supplies, art and books. I have northern light from skylights which also means I can always see the sky. Outside my window right now is a garden full of sunflowers. My walls are like giant scrapbooks with my art, my family’s art and things I have the need to look at everyday. Best part is I get to work in my pajamas.

Aside from the text of Cat in the City, where did you find inspiration for your illustrations?

First, there were our pets. Sadie was the model for Roxie and Maggie, Julie’s dog, really is Maggie! But the heart of my inspiration came from New York. When I first moved to the city, I lived below Washington Square Park and every day I passed through the arch to go to and from work. And for all the wonderful years I have lived on my small farm, I still come back to New York to get refueled. I do love New York.  


Thank you, Jill! We look forward to more cat adventures in the big city.

Visit Jill's website and tumblr to keep up with her work.

Order CAT IN THE CITY today!


Welcome to one of our favorite new features: Penguin Teen Meet the Illustrator! Today we’re sitting down with the lovely Terry Border, whose new picture book, PEANUT BUTTER & CUPCAKE, is about to hit shelves. Does his name sound familiar? It should! Terry is the mastermind behind Bent Objects, and he’s here to tell us how he’s just like his favorite color, the many different places he makes his photographs, and why if you find yourself thinking of Robin Williams when reading Peanut Butter & Cupcake, there’s a good reason for it.

Name: Terry Border

Book: Peanut Butter & Cupcake

Date Available: July 29, 2014

What media and materials do you use to create your illustrations Food, wire, and numerous other materials, which I combine, pose, and then photograph.

What’s your favorite color and why? Orange, because it is bold and yet beautiful, like me.

Who’s your favorite artist or illustrator, living or dead and why Alexander Calder is my favorite artist. He was incredibly inventive, and refused to take art too seriously. He also worked a lot with wire, which I started to work with several years ago because of his works.

Where do you do your work? I build things at our kitchen table and in our loft, and then I compose the images and photograph them in a small bedroom that I use as a studio.

Aside from the text of Peanut Butter & Cupcake, where did you find inspiration for your illustrations? I watched the movie “Toys” with Robin Williams before starting the pictures, because I remembered seeing it years ago and being impressed with the art direction.  In the end there isn’t a lot of in-your-face evidence of that inspiration on the books pages, but the mood of the film is there for me personally.


Thanks, Terry! You AND your picture book are definitely “bold and beautiful.”

You can find Terry on Twitter and his website.


PS – if you haven’t already, don’t forget to check out Bent Objects!


Today we’d like to welcome David Soman to Penguin Teen Meet the Illustrator! His latest book, Three Bears in a Boat, is one of our absolute favorites this summer. Whether or not you’re on the beach, you’ll feel like you are after looking at David’s gorgeous blue (Cerulean! Prussian! Ultramarine!) illustrations. David, the illustrator of Ladybug Girl, is a total master of color, and we’re excited for you to find out more about his life as an artist, illustrator, and art historian!

Name: David Soman 

Book: Three Bears in a Boat

Date Available: Now available in stores!

What media and materials do you use to create your illustrations?

For Three Bears in a Boat, I used watercolors, colored inks, and colored pencils, but it all began with just a pencil!

What’s your favorite color and why?

Well, this is a hard question! I can’t really say I have a favorite color (the other colors might get jealous!). I guess it changes depending on my mood. For this book, I really liked playing with the color blue. It’s amazing how many kinds of blue the sea and the sky can be. Sometimes the blue is warm and soft (a color called Cerulean blue), sometimes it’s a little greenish (a color called Prussian blue), and sometimes it’s just really rich (a color aptly named Ultramarine blue).

Who’s your favorite artist or illustrator, living or dead and why?

Oh buoy (excuse the boating pun), this is another hard one. I actually am a bit of an art history buff, and in my studio I have a huge bookshelf filled with art books. But for this book, I looked at the paintings of Winslow Homer and Joaquim Sorrolla for the seascapes, and Richard Scarry’s and Maurice Sendak’s picture books for the bears. And Elizabeth Zwerger, always Elizabeth Zwerger.

Where do you do your work?

I work in a studio up the hill from my house. It’s close enough to go to work in my pajamas, but far enough so that I can’t keep going to the refrigerator to eat more cake (phew!)

Aside from the text of Three Bears in a Boat, where did you find inspiration for your illustrations?

Some of my favorite childhood memories are the times I spent at the beach on Fire Island; long open days of wind and sun and the sound of the waves. And sometimes (but not enough!) we would go out in little sunfish boats, skipping across the water in the bay.

Also, I grew up across the street from the Museum of Natural History, and spent a lot of time looking up at the Alaskan Brown Bear in the North American wing.


Thanks, David!

Order Three Bears in a Boat.

Check out David’s artwork from the Ladybug Girl series here.


Today we welcome Molly Idle to Penguin Teen Meet the Illustrator! Author and illustrator of the wonderfully whimsical Tea Rex and new Camp Rex, Molly captures the pure joy of childhood in vivid color and bumbling dinosaurs (a favorite combination of ours). Read more to find out where Molly works and the retro sources of inspiration for Camp Rex!

Name: Molly Idle

Book: Camp Rex

Date Available: April 22, 2014

What media and materials do you use to create your illustrations? Pencil and Paper.  I like to keep things simple, and it doesn’t get much more simple than that!  But to be more specific, all of my illustrations are created using Prismacolor pencils on vellum finish Bristol. 

What’s your favorite color and why? My favorite color changes almost constantly depending upon the project I’m working on… At the moment, I’m infatuated with a 1940s, retro looking, sea-foam green. Gorgeous!

Who’s your favorite artist or illustrator, living or dead and why? That’s a toughie… so I’m going to pick two.  I’d say two of my favorite artists are Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston. They were both animators, two of Walt Disney’s “Nine Old Men”. They often worked on characters that worked together in their films (Bambi and Thumper, The Three Good Fairies in Sleeping Beauty, Captain Hook and Mr. Smee…)  Their line-work looks effortless, and their drawings breathed life into the characters they created on the screen!

Where do you do your work? I work in a workshop/studio space built in our backyard- I’ve got all the necessities: lighting, layout space, pencils, paper, rubber erasers, rubber chicken…

Aside from the text of Camp Rex, where did you find inspiration for your illustrations? I looked into camping and wilderness guides created around the turn of the 20th century. There weren’t many references to recreational camping prior to that. I mean, roughing it wasn’t a vacation then, it was a way of life.  Only when most everyone had modern day conveniences, like electricity and indoor plumbing, did trying to do without them seem like “fun”!


Thanks, Molly! We hope there are more dinosaur adventures to come!

You can find Molly on her website and Twitter.

Order Camp Rex from your favorite retailer here, and Tea Rex here.


Today we welcome Chris Eliopoulos, illustrator of Brad Meltzer’s Ordianary People Change the World series, to Penguin Teen Meet the Illustrator! Chris illustrates each book with whimsical comic book flair, bringing some of our very favorite people from history to life as children. He most recently illustrated Rosa Parks in the newest book in the series, and is hard at work on I Am Jackie Robinson, which is coming up next!

Name: Chris Eliopoulos

Book: I am Rosa Parks

Date Available: 6/17/2014

What media and materials do you use to create your illustrations? I actually draw directly on my computer. I have a monitor that I can draw directly on. It’s called a Cintiq. It’s really kinda cool - I draw in a program called Manga Studio and I color the art in another program called Photoshop.

What’s your favorite color and why? I really love blue. It’s the color of my eyes, the color of R2-D2 and Donald Duck’s clothes–two of my favorite characters.

Who’s your favorite artist or illustrator, living or dead and why? I love Charles Schulz. He wrote and drew the Peanuts comic strip for 50 years. When I was little, I got all these Peanuts collections and I would read them day and night. I loved how with a few simple lines he made me feel the emotions of Charlie Brown or Linus or Snoopy. I wanted to be him when I grew up and I think you can see his influence in my work.

Where do you do your work? I work in a studio office in my home. I love it because I can be home when my boys get home from school and still be able to draw.

Aside from the text of the Ordinary People Change the World books, where do you find inspiration for your illustrations? I do a lot of research online. I really want the people, clothing and other things to be accurate to the time period. I also have tons of books. Art books, history books, you name it. I also listen to music a lot while I work. I like movie soundtracks. They get my blood pumping. John Williams is my favorite composer.


Thanks, Chris!

You can find Chris on Twitter and his website.

Find the entire Ordinary People Change the World series here.

Order I Am Rosa Parks!


Welcome to the very first installment of our new original feature, Penguin Teen Meet the Illustrator! Books are made up of more than just words, so in this series we’ll introduce you to the talented artists who illustrate (and sometimes write!) our picture books. We’ll also be sure to give you a sneak peek of the gorgeous art from their books!

First up, we have the incredible author/illustrator Gianna Marino. Her newest book, Following Papa’s Song, renders ocean life in vivid color and texture, using a unique process. Check out Gianna’s amazing answers to our questions below to find out more about her life as an artist, illustrator, and author!

Illustrator (and author!): Gianna Marino

Book: Following Papa’s Song

Date Available: Now!

What media and materials do you use to create your illustrations? To create the illustrations for Following Papa’s Song, I used a technique which I discovered when I painted Meet Me at the Moon (2012). I layered rice and mulberry papers over a heavy weight watercolor paper. Using acrylic medium, I created a paste and adhered the textured papers to the watercolor paper. This gave the “canvas” a wonderful texture, similar to the skin of elephants and whales! Once this dried, I used light washes of gouache, in many layers, to create the depth of the water, the whales, etc. I sealed everything with a gum arabic to really bring out the brilliance of the colors.

What’s your favorite color and why? I have to chuckle at this question. I sometimes think blue is my favorite color, because it is the color of the sky, of the sea and it seems like the deepest color to me! But one of my favorite things to do is use my LEAST favorite color until I love it too. Pink has been that color. I used to design toys for children, mostly in the girls department. Sadly, we had to make almost everything pink. It has taken me years to get over that, but I did manage to make some of my favorite pages in Following Papa’s Song pink, so I have come a long way since my years with toys!

Who’s your favorite artist or illustrator, living or dead and why? I have been influenced by so many illustrators and artists over the years and all of them inspire me for different reasons. Some for their talent in craft, some in their page turns, others in their magic. Most recently I am loving the work of Aaron Becker in his book Journey. I love how his mind works, leading the reader from simple illustrations (and thoughts) into a world unimaginable, then back again to simplicity. I have also been hugely inspired by Yuyi Morales and the magic and richness of her work. She was in my writer’s group, so I was able to see the beginnings of ideas, the first tiny thumbnail sketches, to the tighter drawings and finally the (original) illustrations. I call her a witch, but only in the best way! I love art that I have no idea how it was created. I love work that is completely different from my own.

Where do you do your work?I have a studio in my home in Northern California. The skylight and many windows let in natural light (and allow for procrastination while watching deer run across the hills). I have a huge art table and many different types of brushes, paints and inks, in order to keep my self experimenting. One of the walls is blank so I can tack up an entire picture book and can see it all at once. I listen to music, National Public Radio, podcasts and even watch movies when I am painting. When I write, it has to be silent.

Aside from the text of Following Papa’s Song, where did you find inspiration for your illustrations? Having always lived near the ocean, I have spent many hours above and below it. My favorite memories are snorkeling around the reefs and watching the bright fish move through the water like birds swarming in the sky. My earliest memories of this were with my father when I was a child. He loved the ocean and the crashing waves and was the instigator for our long swims away from shore where I saw light trying to reach down into the depths of the sea. I have also been lucky to have seen humpback whales, breaching insanely high in the air, splashing their tails for the joy of it, or moving their giant fins as if waving. These great creatures care and communicate with each other and in reading about their ways, their long migrations, and their gentleness, I wanted to capture their emotions. I tried to depict their wisdom in the eyes and in the interaction with each other in each illustration.


Thanks, Gianna! We loved finding out how you create such complex illustrations and your personal love for the ocean.

You can find Gianna on her website.

Purchase Following Papa’s Song from your preferred store.