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!


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...


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.


Kids! I'm blog touring for the next two weeks! What's blog touring? I lay in bed eating popcorn and drawing hedgehogs, while you lay in bed eating popcorn and visiting sites to learn about my work and maybe even get free stuff. It's a win-win! Here's the schedule:

Monday, Jan 13: Susan Heim on Parenting
Tuesday, Jan 14: The Children's Book Review
Wednesday, Jan 15: Once Upon a Story
Thursday, Jan 16: Kidlit Frenzy
Friday, Jan 17: Momma Drama
Saturday, Jan 18: Booking Mama
Monday, Jan 20: 5 Minutes for Books
Tuesday, Jan 21: Just A Little Creativity
Wednesday, Jan 22: Satisfaction For Insatiable Readers
Thursday, Jan 23: Geo Librarian
Friday, Jan 24: As They Grow Up
Saturday, Jan 25: Obsessive Mommy

I recently visited two great blogs that aren't on the official tour  -- check those out, too! The Little Crooked Cottage (where Mama Penguin speaks publicly about her experience for the first time) and Annie's Doodlebugz!



People, BABY PENGUINS LOVE THEIR MAMA has arrived! Please consider getting a copy, because we have...a lot of them.

And The Penguion is going on tour. If I'm in your area, won't you come down? I promise big fun!!

Jan 5 WORD Brooklyn
Jan 11 Greenlight Brooklyn
Jan 12 powerHouse on 8th Brooklyn
  Books Of Wonder NYC
Jan 18 The Red Balloon Baltimore, MD
Jan 25 The Blue Bunny Dedham, MA
Feb 1 [words] Maplewood, NJ
  Town Book Store Westfield, NJ
Feb 8 Boulevard Books & Cafe Brooklyn
Feb 13 Clinton Book Shop Clinton, NJ
Feb 22 The Children's Bookstore Baltimore, MD
Feb 28 Hooray For Books Alexandria, VA
Mar 1 Winchester Book Gallery Winchester, VA
Mar 8 Bernards Township Library Basking Ridge, NJ
Mar 15-29 California! TBD
Apr 26 Farley's Bookshop New Hope, PA
May 8 RJ Julia Booksellers Madison, CT

I'm always adding to the calendar, so check back if your area isn't listed. You can even propose an event on Togather!

If you're still reading, maybe you want to check out my first-ever podcast interview with lovely Matthew Winner, too. Someone actually talked to me for an hour.

Wishing you a very happy 2014!

x, Melissa


Nelson Mandela and I shared a birthday, so I always felt a special, superstitious connection to him.  (I also share a birthday with Vin Diesel but I have no superstition about that.)

While I hold Mandela in my heart, and am sad about his death yesterday, I don't want to let today go by without observing that it was exactly one year ago that BABY PENGUINS EVERYWHERE! came out, and I became a published author/illustrator. Such an incredible year!

So with respect to my birthday brother: Happy Author-versary to me. And to celebrate, here's a video from the painting of my new book. Share it with the little artists in your life!

x, M.



CALLING ALL READERS! Baby Penguins Everywhere has joined the awesome literacy program We Give Books.

How it works: Every time your child/grandkid/student/Uncle Bob reads a book in We Give Books' online collection, We Give Books gives a book to a child in need.

You can even get your community or school involved here. Read! And spread the word!


Some quick updates from The Penguion™:

The BABY PENGUINS EVERYWHERE! board book (those heavy-duty ones for babies) is available for pre-order!

Children's Book Week is almost here! I've got a bunch of events:

May 15, 6:30pm -- Glen Ridge Library, Glen Ridge, NJ

May 16, 4pm -- Darien Library, Darien, CT

May 18, 11am -- Illustrator Battle @ Greenlight Bookstore (w/Sophie Blackall, Melissa Iwai, Sergio Ruzzier, Selina Alko, George O’Connor, Betsy Lewin & Paul O. Zelinsky)

May 18, 2-4pm -- Queens Museum of Art (w/Sergio Ruzzier)

And finally...my second book will be coming out in January 2014! Stay tuned...

Hope you had a great WORLD PENGUIN DAY!

-- Melissa


Dear readers,

If you're enjoying Baby Penguins Everywhere!, will you consider posting a positive review on Amazon, Barnes & Noble or Powell's?

The book is getting good press but there aren't many reader comments yet. Probably because 3-year olds aren't following the Amazon guidelines.

If you didn't like the book, you can of course post a negative review, I'm not going to put a hit out on you like Maurice Sendak did to Salman Rushdie.



Jumproping penguins




Not allowed to reprint the whole article, so if you like complete sentences, check out this weekend's Sunday New York Times roundup of penguin books.

From The New York Times, Dec. 14, 2012 © 2012 The New York Times All rights reserved. Used by permission and protected by the Copyright Laws of the United States. The printing, copying, redistribution, or retransmission of the Material without express written permission is prohibited.




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