Fathers and Mothers

April 30, 2018
Hi everyone. I'm still here! Are you?
As some of you know, my dad passed away last year. My sister and I put everything on hold to care for him during the final year of his life, a decision we will never regret. Thank you to everyone who was so supportive during this time -- we felt every ounce of love you were sending us.
I've recently returned to my own work, and I'm happy to announce that my next picture book, a biography of neuroscientiest Rita Levi-Montalcini, will be available from Philomel in Spring 2020. It's the biggest project I've ever undertaken, and I'm excited to tackle it.
Through everything, my baby penguin books have kept chugging along, for which I am very grateful. In their honor, I'm sponsoring a giveaway. Follow the link to enter, just in time for Mother's Day!

New Work for Sale

February 11, 2016

Check out these beauties, which are part of the current Red Envelope show at Brooklyn's Grumpy Bert.

Fifty-nine artists were invited to decorate red envelopes in honor of Lunar New Year. The show is incredibly fun and runs through February 28.

The artists enclosed mystery gifts, in keeping with tradition. I wish I could tell you what's in mine, but I can't. It's beautiful, though! It's actually one of my favorite things I've made recently.

The pieces are $50 each. The gallery has a simple buy button set up to purchase #1 or #2 if you want to give one a good home.

xo Melissa


It's a board book!

October 20, 2015

Guys, my magnum opus BABY PENGUINS LOVE THEIR MAMA is now a board book! It's available for preorder at Amazon & B&N -- and plunks down with a satisfying thud on the shelves of your favorite indie bookseller November 17th. I'll be sponsoring giveaways on Twitter / FB during the next few weeks, so follow me there for super penguin swag.

ALSO -- Thursday at 11am, I'm reading and drawing for visitors at Children's Museum Of Manhattan. This is your last chance to see me do my thing in NYC for some time, so come! The next year will be all about buckling down on new books...


The 2015 Guion Fellowship

September 17, 2015

I'm pleased to announce that Dasha Tolstikova has been awarded the 2015 Guion Fellowship!

Reached for comment, past Fellow Hallie Bateman said, "I am proud to pass the torch-colored crayon!"

For more information about the Guion Fellowship, click here.

(Foxie illustration © 2015 Dasha Tolstikova, used with permission)


Meet Eli

January 30, 2015

You guys! I'm thrilled to bring you my second interview with a real, live kid who reads!

Meet Eli. Eli with an E as in BABY PENGUINS EVERYWHERE IS NOW A BOARD BOOK ($6.99).

Just kidding. That's Eli with an E as in EXCELLENT.

Eli happens to be the son of author Julie Falatko. Such a wacky coincidence! He lives in Maine, which makes me very jealous. Eli was nice enough to answer my questions last year but I didn't get to post his answers. The good news is that he gave me fresh answers this year, and now we get to see how Eli and his reading life have changed, which is really cool.

Here was Eli in 2014:

The Ingalls family resorting to cannibalism would have been an excellent plot twist in THE LONG WINTER. I wonder if Eli has been influenced by DONNER DINNER PARTY?

Here is one of Eli's castles.

NOW, on to present-day Eli: a young man of few words and strong opinions.

How old are you, Eli?


What's your favorite book? Your favorite picture book? Why do you like it?

THE WESTING GAME. It's my level. PIRATES LOVE UNDERPANTS. It's a funny adventure.

Do you have a favorite author or artist?

Gordon Korman. Kazu Kibuishi.

Is there anything else you'd like to tell me about yourself or your family?

We like the Pats, snow, and our dog Cosmo.

Let's talk audiobooks. Is THE TRUE MEANING OF SMEKDAY still your favorite?

No. The Monty Python Instant Record Collection is my favorite.

Great choice. (Sorry, Adam.) 

I hear you read STONE FOX in school this year. What are your thoughts about the book?  **SPOILER ALERT**

It sucks. 

No action, the dog dies.


A book in which a dog dies sounds terrible to me, too. Thanks for being so candid, Eli, and for taking the time to talk to me. Have fun in the snow, keep reading, and I hope Super Bowl XLIX goes your way!


Say it with Candy 2014

December 3, 2014

It's the holiday season, and the virtual candygram is back!

Between now and December 20, I will draw any candy message you want, and send you the artwork as a digital file ready for emailing to friends & family, blogging, or whatever suits your fancy. Fun! Eco-friendly! Choose your candy colors and click to pay ($20). The first person to order gets the original drawing of their holiday message, for keeps! Happy Holidays!

candy colors
your holiday message



The MUGuion

December 1, 2014

As you do your holiday shopping, won't you consider a MUGuion? Available -- along with other delightful drinkware for adults and kids -- from The Guion Zone.

xo, Melissa

Texas Book Festival

October 17, 2014

Hey guys! I'm making my first appearance at the Texas Book Festival next weekend!

This is kind of a big deal for me. I'd appreciate it if you would fly to Austin to attend, if at all possible. If you already live there, stay put.

THE SKINNY: Festival organizers are throwing a "penguin party" Sunday morning, Oct 26, in the Read-Me-A-Story Tent.

Caldecott Honoree Molly Idle will be reading from FLORA & THE PENGUIN at 11:30am, and I'll be sharing BABY PENGUINS LOVE THEIR MAMA! at noon.

Don't miss it!


I'm Bob Shea Today

June 30, 2014

This is a little unusual.  I invited Bob Shea to take part in the #mywritingprocess blog tour and he couldn't do it by himself, even though he's all grown up.  So I helped him, because that's what good friends do.  They help.  

Remember, this is going to be Bob talking.  If you don't like it, you might want to think about whether he's the one at fault.  If you do like it, you might want to consider whether you're actually responding to my awesome blogging.

BOB SHEA: Hello.

Melissa was kind enough to invite me to join this blog tour. Then she was like, “You have a blog, right?” and I was like, “Pffft, what kind of idiot do you take me for?”

I don’t have a blog.

I used to have a blog. Now I just mumble in Starbucks. I’ve increased my reach significantly.

Anyway, I tricked Melissa into thinking a bulb was out on my blog and maybe could she post my thing to hers. She fell for it. I doubt she’ll read this before she does, so keep your mouth shut one-person-that’s-reading-this.

So here we go. Just to warn you, it’s 3 a.m. as I write this. Maybe you could wait until then to read it. It’s probably better. And take off your glasses. And have a small window in the corner of your screen streaming Netflix.

What am I currently working on?

I just recently tricked someone into thinking I have a blog. It took most of the week. Tricking people is hard. Sometimes they are listening and not just nodding.

I am also working on an early reader series called BALLET CAT. It’s about a Cat who, get this — loves ballet. It’s all she thinks about. Ballet, ballet, ballet. It’s my first attempt at an early reader so I am pretty excited about it. That should pass though.

Also, I am finishing up a book written by a very funny author named Jory John. It’s very bold and graphic. The excitement for that one is not going away anytime soon.

There’s always a bunch of other things going on which sound great but are just things. A lot of my time is spent working on pitches or treatments or dummies which never go anywhere. It sounds impressive though and I always have something to say when my Dad calls.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Depends. Are you talking about the people I rip off? My work looks like they did it, but they had the flu really bad.

Other people, not sure.
My artwork is pretty graphic and bold. I try anyway. My writing is usually pretty absurd because that’s the type of thing I like.
Why do I write what I write?
Mostly to keep myself amused. That helps me judge if a story is working or not. I have a pretty strong sense of what’s funny and what’s forced in my own writing.
How does my individual writing/illustrating process work?
I get up pretty early, not usually this early, but early, and work on something new. That’s always fun. I’ll sit and work out an idea in my head and write notes on not very special paper with a not very special pen.
Then I put that away and work on current projects during the day, always thinking about the other shiny, new thing I am excited about.
Then I get coffee and wonder why my studio is a mess.
I’ll usually overwrite. Too many jokes or long bits. I cull it down as I sketch the layouts. I used to write television promos. Those thirty second commercials that promote shows on a network. It really taught me to make points concisely.
Then I put it all together and make my next runaway smash hit book.
Thanks Melissa (as if she read this far) this was fun.

My Writing Process - a Blog Tour

June 9, 2014

Many thanks to author-illustrator Joyce Wan for inviting me to be part of this cool project!  

Joyce and I met at a kidlit hangout in Brooklyn last year.  She shared stickers from her adorable picture book YOU ARE MY CUPCAKE and Holly and I became instant fans of her sweet, yummy style.  If you can think of it, Joyce has designed it -- wooden cards, stationery, apps, refrigerator magnets, even plushies.  So talented!


Now on to the questions...

What am I currently working on?

I'm finishing a private commission this week.  It's an unusual project that involved drawing things I don't usually draw.  Things no one usually draws, in fact.  It has been really fun.

After this, I'm diving into a picture book about a baby hedgehog for Philomel.  A dangerously cute baby hedgehog.  That's all I can really share about it right now.

I'm also in the early stages of writing a biography of Nobel Prize-winning scientist Rita Levy Montalcini, which I plan to illustrate and then sell to some wonderful editor who really loves science...and women...and hair!

And I recently told my agent I'm interested in illustrating someone else's manuscript for a change, so I'm waiting for the offers to start pouring in.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I've been told my work has a certain balance of gentleness and fun.  It also has my name on it.

Why do I write what I write?

That depends on the project.  I wrote BABY PENGUINS EVERYWHERE and BABY PENGUINS LOVE THEIR MAMA to capture my experiences as a new mom before they got away from me.  I also love drawing baby penguins and the books gave me someplace to put them.

My hedgehog book is an attempt to get my sense of humor into a picture book, something I haven't succeeded at so far.  My sense of humor mostly comes out when I'm defacing Skymall catalogues.

How does my individual writing/illustrating process work?

I go through the same steps as other picture book author-illustrators.  I write a story.  I make rough thumbnails.  I develop my characters visually in my sketchbook, where no one can laugh at me, and work on my color palette at the same time, sticking big blotches of color on the studio wall.  It sounds very active and methodical, but the truth is I spend a lot of time at the beginning just thinking.  It's like the log flume ride at Six Flags Great Adventure.  Once I go into the chute, things happen quickly, but it takes me a really long time to get into the chute.

That's me!

Next up on the blog tour...

Jen Corace lives much too far away from me, in Rhode Island.  She has illustrated lots of beautiful picture books including my niece's favorite, LITTLE PEA.  Jen's next project is TELEPHONE, by Mac Barnett. It comes out in September and I'm really excited to see it!

Bob Shea has no trouble making his books funny.  He wrote a book Holly loves called UNICORN THINKS HE'S PRETTY GREAT.  His next book is a collaboration with Lane Smith called KID SHERIFF AND THE TERRIBLE TOADS.  I'm super excited to see that, too.

If you want to see other stops on the tour so far, check out process posts by Mike Curato, Samantha Berger, Carin Berger, Elizabeth Rose StantonBen Clanton, and Jennifer K. Mann, or search for the #mywritingprocess hashtag on Twitter.