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Book-Fest Award!

6 Apr

I’m excited to announce that my latest book, Let’s Be Friends, has won Book-Fest’s first place award for
multicultural children’s books that celebrate diversity. Thank you, Book-Fest!

Let’s Be Friends Art Activity

My cousin Tom helped me film a thirty-minute Let’s Be Friends author event for Missouri’s Boone Regional Library, which includes a craft activity. The video was originally posted on the library’s website, but is now available on my YouTube channel. Click here to watch the video, or click here to download the activity. It’s free! :o)

Let’s Be Friends

Let’s Be Friends, a fun lift-the-flap book by Violet Lemay, was published by HarperFestival in December, 2021. Click here to order your copy today!

Sallie Lowenstein

16 Mar

Sallie Lowenstein recently featured Isabella’s Shoe Studio in her newsletter, Old Books, Young Readers. Click here to read the newsletter!

An early version of the spine + front cover/French flap.

Isabella’s Shoe Studio was my first author/illustrator credit. This Doodle Storybook is an interactive design primer for little artists. Huzzah!

Isabella is out of print now and can be difficult to find. Luckily, one of my favorite bookstores on earth, Page 158 in Wake Forest, NC, has copies in stock… and they deliver. (Thank you, Page 158!)

To order Isabella’s Shoe Studio from Page 158 Books, click here.

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The Boys from Ukraine

28 Feb

My husband and I relocated to Malaysia just as I was finishing the art for Let’s Be Friends. We moved into the residence hall of the boarding school where he works, and got settled in.

During this transition, my friends at HarperCollins and I were discussing front cover ideas for Let’s Be Friends. We settled on an option that featured tons of children. Luckily, inspiration was all around me. It’s like the UN around here! I drew many of my new little neighbors into the cover art.

Yarema and Oleksa, highlighted above, are from Ukraine. Here they are with their parents, Oksana and Andriy.

In light of recent events, showcasing this Oleksa, Yarema, Oksana and Andriy seems not only appropriate, but vital.

Over the weekend, this lovely family hosted a StandWithUkraine open house.

Homemade flags adorned homemade brownies, and traditional Ukrainian “cushion” cookies filled out the table.

We hugged, we listened to Ukrainian music, we wrote well wishes on yellow and blue paper hearts and stuck them on the wall.

Let’s Be Friends asks, “Can friends come from anywhere?”

Of course they can.

Ukrainian friends, we stand with you.

Want to help?

CLICK HERE to be directed to Andriy’s blog, STAYWITHUKRAINE, which includes links to trusted donation sites.

The Apartment Girl, Yurts, and “Let’s Be Friends”

9 Feb

I grew up in a little ranch house in a midwestern suburb. My classmates were similarly situated. We were all ranch house kids—except for one girl, who lived with her mom in an apartment. Let’s call her Valerie.

Valerie was a tough cookie, let me tell you. Feathered hair, oversized plastic comb, jean jacket. Fierce.

Mousey Me would have feared her even if she lived in a ranch house like the rest of us, but her apartment-dwelling mystique made her all the more terrifying.

Decades later, when gathering ideas for Let’s Be Friends, I found myself categorizing various potential barriers to friendship—and I remembered my bias against Valerie. A “dwellings” category was added. Can friends live in any kind of house? Of course they can!

Originally, I drew a yurt under the flap. I thought a yurt would be a funny surprise.

About the Yurt

For a while, right around the time that I was writing Let’s Be Friends, my husband was fantasizing about retiring in a yurt. With me. We even spent a few nights in a very lovely New Zealand yurt AirBNB, as research—both for retirement, and for the book.

The yurt in Let’s Be Friends was eventually replaced by a treehouse. And unless fate takes an absurd twist, I very much doubt that my husband and I will live out our days in a yurt.

Incidentally, the couple who own the NZ yurt AirBNB also rent out a ship that they converted into a treehouse. Please, nobody tell my husband. We live in an apartment now, and I’d really like to keep it that way! :o)

Let’s Be Friends is the perfect gift for Valentine’s Day. Order your copy today!

Quite a List!

2 Feb

Great News for Babies Around the World

Reader’s Digest recently listed Babies Around the World (which I illustrated) 4th in their list of the 100 Best Children’s Books of All Time.

Wow!

One of my favorite images from Babies Around the World.

A Family Affair

Written by Puck and published by duopress in 2017, Babies Around the World is special to me.

When kicking off the process of illustrating this charming book, I made some style samples. The publisher liked them all and told me to choose, so I called Graham into my studio and asked him to look over my shoulder. “Which one?” I asked. He pointed, and the rest is history. Since that day, I’ve illustrated several books in this fun, splashy style. But that’s not the only way that Graham helped!

My son also contributed a handful of architectural drawings, which I incorporated into the art for Babies Around the World. This was not our only collaboration, but alas, it’s our most recent. The little bugger grew up and into other interests. Color me gobsmacked. I used to say, “Hey kiddo, draw the Petronas Towers for me.” Ten minutes later, a freshly inked masterpiece would appear. IMHO the young man is a remarkable artist. He’s following his own path now though, studying law. (Again. Gobsmacked.)

I treasure every building my baby ever drew, including those featured in Babies Around the World. (He drew the lamp posts in the London illustration, above.) How incredible that Reader’s Digest included Babies Around the World in their auspicious list? And coming in at number four? Talk about gobsmacked!

Click here to peruse Reader’s Digest’s complete list, written by Molly Pennington, PhD. It’s a wonderful resource for anyone curating a home library for little ones.

To read more about how the art for Babies Around the World was made and see some of Graham’s drawings, click here.

And click here to order your copy of Babies Around the World. Make sure to read the reviews, they are great!

Let’s Be Friends

14 Dec

“We are the same, and different.”

Roxane Gay, on the role of literature.

The Backstory

I was living in Auckland during New Zealand’s only mass shooting, which happened at a mosque in Christchurch. Idyllic, peaceful, beautiful New Zealand was shattered by an act of hate.

In the aftermath, I couldn’t stop wondering why our differences matter. Aren’t we all ultimately the same? Does it really matter that people look different, come from different places, worship differently? (And, by the way, isn’t religion supposed to be about love?)

This swirl of questions became the inspiration for a proposed lift-the-flap book, What Matters?. Every spread showed people with different opinions, different life styes, physical differences, etc, and asked the question, “Does it matter?”. Under the flap, the answer was always some form of “No!”.

My original storyboard for What Matters?

My agent pitched the idea to HarperCollins, where an amazing editor took an interest. She shared the proposal in a meeting, and the project sparked conversation. Apparently, a person’s ethnicity, color, and religion do matter. Of course! All of that stuff shapes each person’s worldview.

The concept of material wealth didn’t make it into the final book.

The editor asked me to pivot and send a revision.

The original color sketch and final illustration. Religion made it in—yay!

After a month of thinking and hand-wringing, I rewrote and redrew the book. I was visiting my cousin Tom at the time, who tossed ideas around with me and generally kept me sane.

Can cousins be BFFS? Of course!

I’d been asking the wrong question. “Does it matter?” became “Can they be friends?”. The answer under the flap was always some version of YES, and adds even more positivity to what I hope is a loving, joyful message. 

HarperCollins bought the book, which was a giant relief and an enormous cause for celebration.

Let’s Be Friends is available everywhere as of Dec 14, 2021. Click here to order your copy today!

Getting Social

26 May

On May 18th, I had the pleasure of joining the amazing Laura Backes Bard, the founder of Children’s Book Insider, for a live Zoom chat focusing on board books.

Click here to watch the replay on CBI’s YouTube channel. Considering that this was my first live interview, I think it went pretty well. Whew!

An Unexpected Cover Reveal

While prepping the day before the interview, I discovered that HarperCollins had revealed the cover of my latest board book, Let’s Be Friends, several weeks earlier than I was expecting. How perfect! I was able to share the cover during the interview.

Board Books

If given a do over, I would spend a few minutes gushing over little ones and their caregivers, all of whom have my heart. Board books, after all, are at the center of the sacred ritual of reading to babies and toddlers. When I was a young mother, I took every opportunity to snuggle with my baby and a book. Libraries and bookstores were our regular haunts. At night, when my son begged me to keep reading past his bedtime, I usually indulged him. Childhood is fleeting, after all. In hindsight, I know I made the right choice, despite the brain cells that I certainly lost to lack of sleep. :o)

Human babies are only tiny for an instant—their growing up is as swift as the beat of a hummingbird’s wing.

Kelly Barnhill, The Girl Who Drank the Moon

Board books give authors and illustrators opportunities to share in all of that good stuff. What a gift.

This CBI interview made me realize that board books are a sweet spot for me. I absolutely adore babies, and two-thirds of my writing credits are board books, but before this interview, I had never considered that I had a specialty. As I learn to write for older kids, it’s comforting to think of board books as home.

My friend Michelle and her daughter Sophia, enjoying “Healthy, Healthy, Love, Love, Love.”

Dreaming of Writing for Children?

Laura Backes and her husband Jon Bard have spent decades collecting helpful information for children’s book writers. If you want to get into the business of children’s books, explore Write4Kids.org and Children’s Book Insider.

CBI’s YouTube channel is a great place to start! There are tons of topics from which to choose. I’ve listened to every interview, and have learned from all of them.

Write4Kids.org is chock full of helpful info, too. While you’re there, sign up for the CBI newsletter, which is amazing! Priceless content, for the price of a cup of coffee.

If you’re looking for a class, CBI has got you covered. Their Writing Blueprints are revolutionary self-paced online courses tailored to various genres, at a very reasonable rate. I’m about to begin my own journey with one of these blueprints, and will keep you posted!

Meanwhile, if you have any questions about board books, give a shout!

Here are my two most recent board books. :o)

Click here to order Healthy, Healthy, Love, Love, Love

Click here to pre-order Let’s Be Friends (available everywhere on Dec 1, and in stores on Dec 14)

Library Babies

16 Apr

girl with LB_square

Welcome to the world, Library Babies! I am pleased to announce the release of this adorable new book, written by Puck, illustrated by Yours Truly.

LB_library_Rev 1

When I was making art for Library Babies last summer, I never dreamed that its release would coincide with a pandemic—especially not a pandemic that originated in China!

Our Family’s China Story

In the summer of 2019, my husband began year-long job in Ningbo, China, 2 hours south of Shanghai. He lived there for several months while I stayed back in New Zealand with our son, who was finishing high school. Several visits were planned and as a result, much of the art for Library Babies was created in airports.

IMG-3091

My husband joined us for our son’s high school graduation, and to help us close up shop and move to China.

china pic for blog

Six weeks after getting settled in Ningbo, we had to flee because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Like many of you, we are currently locked down in home quarantine.

Thankfully…

Despite the current world health crisis, Library Babies—a follow up to duopress’s 2019 Bookstore Babies—launched on March 31.

LB_circulation desk

Hopefully the bright and cheery art of Library Babies will spread a little joy. :o)

LB_kids section_blog

Free Activity Kits

Additionally, here are two free downloadable activity kits inspired by Library Babies. If you’re in isolation with your kiddos, these library-themed activities can help.

1. Play Library!

LB_My Home Library_coverHelp your kids convert their collection of books into their very own lending library! This fun family activity aims to nurture a love of books and reading, develop sharing skills, and celebrate libraries and librarians.

LB_MHL blog images

This kit includes includes: a customizable library sign, book plates, library cards, librarian I.D. badges, a library book sign-out sheet, a reading drive ledger and award certificate, a reading chart, suggested library organizing systems, and a “Staff Picks” form—so that your little librarians can recommend books to their borrowers.

Click here to download the My Home Library activity kit.

2. Library Fun!

LB_general activity kit_cover

This library-themed kit is a celebration of your family’s favorite books and local library.

LB_general kit blog images

Activities include a maze, a seek-and-find word puzzle, book and library themed drawing activities, a customizable thank you card for your child’s favorite local librarian, and a printable Library Babies poster.

Click here to download this adorable Library Babies Activity Kit.

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Share the Activities :o)

To share these activity kits and others with friends and family, copy/paste this link:

https://violetlemay.com/pdfs.html

Share Your Photos (o:

I would absolutely love to see photos of you and your kiddos having fun with these activities! If you post on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter, please tag me @violetlemay.

Add Library Babies to your home library!!

Click here to order Library Babies (written by Puck, Illustrated by Violet Lemay).
If you prefer the digital version, click here.

Really Happy, Baby!

9 Oct

With the help of a group of enthusiastic little readers, Parents Magazine has chosen TummyTime™: Happy Baby as #4 in their list of the 30 Best Books of 2019. How awesome is that?

duopress rolled out their new TummyTime™ concept to the world only a few weeks ago by way of two books: Animal Parade (illustrated by Jannie Ho) and Happy Baby (illustrated by Violet Lemay), and the books are already getting noticed. Hooray!

What’s not to love? TummyTime™ books fold out, accordian-style, into play mats. The fronts are covered with full color art; flip them over for high-contrast patterns, ideal for baby’s developing eyesight. Both sides have a reflective surface to make tummy time even more fun.

Thanks to Parents, the little readers (and their parents!), and author Karen Cicero for selecting us as #4 in their list of the 30 best children’s books of 2019.

Click here to see more samples from TummyTime™: Happy Baby on my website.

Click here to order your copy of TummyTime™: Happy Baby today!

The Story Behind “The Obamas: A Lift-the-Flap Book”

9 Oct

obama cover w white dress

Finding the Format

The Essential Backstory

100 Pablo Picassos.

In 2014 I had the pleasure of illustrating 100 Pablo Picassos. Author Mauricio Velázquez de León cooked up the delicious idea for this interactive biography which invites kids to find one hundred instances of Picasso peppered throughout a fanciful 32-page book, resplendent with Picasso-inspired art.

cubism spread

Since then I have moved to New Zealand, voted for Hillary (from abroad! yes!), and have illustrated many other books, but One Hundred Pablo Picassos has always stayed with me. It helps that it’s been translated into several languages and was included in an exhibit at Korea’s Museum of Kids’ Books and Art.

The Lightning Bolt Moment

One quiet morning in April 2018, after listening to month after month of depressing political shenanigans from the US, I was remembering the hope and pride I used to feel when watching the news during the Obama years.

President Obama was a role model, admired and respected globally. The current holder of the office? Not so much. Nostalgia washed over me and I thought, we should make a book. We should make 100 Barack Obamas.

Mauricio loved the idea of an Obama book for kids, but didn’t think the “100” concept would work. We had included self-portraits in 100 Pablo Picassos‘ overall count, which was very clever and added spice to the “find this guy one hundred times” concept.

100pp_self portraits

The self-portraits were an essential ingredient that could only be included for a visual artist. Mauricio also pointed out that Picasso’s entire life was perhaps a bit more colorful than that that of anyone who gives speeches for a living.

Yep. Fair enough.

More importantly, we wanted to include Michelle as an equal partner, and the girls.

tiny ObamasWe considered the title 100 Obamas (instead of 100 Barack Obamas) but I was the only one who could visualize the resulting book. In my imagination it looked incredible, but sketching the whole thing in an attempt to sell the idea would have been such a giant time commitment that I wimped out immediately. Time to switch gears.

After researching popular kidlit biographies and the Obamas, I wrote three or four manuscripts (okay, six) of varying lengths, targeting different audiences with different types of books. Don’t be fooled: this took some quality time.

first Obama sketch

one of the first sketches made for The Obamas: A Lift-the-Flap Book

Ultimately we settled on the most concise manuscript, which utilized the device of flaps to make the book interactive.

Finding the Look

The Technique

Next decision: How should the art look?

After getting a concept approved for The Obamas: A Lift-the-Flap Book, I tried out several techniques and presented them to the publisher. Simple flat color? Or my usual use of textures and patterns with minimal rendering? Or… how about adding paint texture? Using, like, real paint?

paints

We liked all of the choices but—of course—settled on the paint option, which was by far the most challenging. And time-consuming.

In case you’re wondering, writing and illustrating a book about Barack and Michelle Obama was, for me, incredibly intimidating. My artistic desires for this book outweighed my abilities. Thankfully, art director Tyler Garrison was there. Tyler’s guidance was invaluable. Never underestimate the value of good art direction. Can I get an Amen?

The Design

Speaking of trying out options, I also submitted a buffet of flap designs for every single spread. So. Many. Sketches. I will be forever grateful to duopress for their patience with my monkey brain.

early Obamas sketch_HOPE

one of the unused layout options for “The Obamas: A Lift-the-Flap Book”

Finding the Book!

9781947458826_3D

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.The Obamas: A Lift-the-Flap Book was released on Oct. 1, 2019 by duopress and is available everywhere books are sold, thanks to distribution by Workman Publishing.

Click here to see more samples from The Obamas: A Lift-the-Flap Book on my website.

LEARN_marketing

Click here to order your copy today!