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In one month, The Carle Museum of Picture Book art will hold its annual Carle Honors, awarding four people/entities who have made significant contributions to the art form.

Also that evening, September 26th, final bids will be accepted on original artwork by picture book masters. Today, The Carle Honors are pleased to announce the artists whose work will be auctioned this year.

The auction will go live on Friday, August 30th and you can register to bid here.

For the past few years, I’ve had the opportunity to ask the Carle Honorees a question about picture books. My question this year is…

“Picture books exude a certain kind of magic. How would you describe that magic?”

Melissa Sweet
2019 Carle Honors Artist

In a picture book, the magic begins as a swift and surprising connection to the art and design of a book, and later the words.

Often I dissect a book from cover to flaps to endpapers and everything in between, in order to figure out the decisions that make it compelling.

But in thinking about magic, I also think of magicians. One thing that makes a magic trick awe-inspiring is the set-up, which takes practice, timing and repetition, and drawing in the audience.

Then a myriad of decisions so that every word, every movement, points to witnessing something extraordinary.

Creating a picture book also requires minute decisions by a cast of dozens. The words, images, and design come together to create something wholly new.

Often there’s a moment when a book seems to have a mind of its own.  And when the final book feels effortless and like something we’ve never seen before, it seems…like magic.


The National Association to Promote Library & Information Services to Latinos & the Spanish Speaking
represented by Kenny Garcia, President
2019 Carle Honors Angel

‘Picture books allow readers to imagine a world or a future that the reader exists in and thrives. It opens up new possibilities, words, and worlds full of love, hope, expressions, and emotions that affirms the reader’s life. This magical spark empowers children to imagine and create a better world for themselves and their communities. Multicultural picture books can be such a transformative experience for all of us, but for children of color, the ability to see and read picture books by illustrators of color can nurture the idea that they can also have a future career in writing and illustrating books, and continue the magic for future generations.


Chihiro Art Museum 
represented by Takeshi Matsumoto
2019 Carle Honors Bridge

statement by Yuko Takesako          
Executive Director of the Chihiro Iwasaki Memorial Foundation
Chief Curator of the Chihiro Art Museum (Tokyo & Azumino)

When children open the cover of a children’s book, a special kind of magic bubbles up. It gives a glimpse of a world yet unseen, enables the reader to experience something never done before, or brings back a memory of an event long forgotten.

The magic of picture books especially has a great impact on children of different nationalities or languages, or on babies who still cannot read, or at times on children who are not so adept at communicating with others. The visual magic cast on a young child once he or she opens a picture book is so powerful that memories of the book may suddenly come alive when the book is placed firmly in their hands—once again after a forgotten period of 10, 30, or even 50 years.

In this fashion, the yearning, understanding, and sympathy found through experiencing a different world helps to create another sort of magic which is respect and love for people of different cultures and the world they live in.

Such is the magic that exudes from picture books—something all too precious and special.


David Saylor
VP, Creative Director, Trade Publishing

Publisher, Graphix
Scholastic Inc.
2019 Carle Honors Mentor

What I love most about picture books is how the words and artwork blend to create an enhanced and perfect entity: the book itself. Their heightened interaction is the alchemy that every picture book hopes to achieve, that moment where words spark a thought and the pictures expand the narrative spaces between and around the words and sentences. For that reason, my favorite picture books are fully alive with emotion and artistry.

I’ve often wondered why picture books that were read to me as a child have stayed so vivid in my memory. I don’t think it’s simply that my young mind was eager to discover the wider world. I think it may also be that hearing my mother and father read aloud to me was my first experience of artistic communication. Those moments—the warmth of a lap, the sounds of words, the lively pictures on the page—brought to life a moment where a writer and an artist spoke directly to me, to my innermost self. I felt suddenly more alive, more aware, more full of life than I had felt just a moment before.

There’s a beautiful scene in the play Wit, by Margaret Edson. The main character is Dr. Vivian Bearing, an English professor, dying from ovarian cancer.  Her mentor, an older professor, visits and tries to comfort her by reading aloud. Then her mentor does something extraordinary: she lays next to her in bed and reads a picture book that she had intended for her grandson. The books is Margaret Wise Brown’s The Runaway Bunny, and it’s one of the most beautiful and touching moments I’ve seen in any play. In her final moments of life, when Dr. Bearing’s ebbing life has been paired down to the elemental, only a picture book could express the right feeling with such simplicity and depth.

Thank you, Honorees, and congratulations!

Blog readers, I hope you’ll visit the Carle Honors Auction, attend the Honors gala, or donate to The Carle Museum for all they do to celebrate picture books. Just visit

You can celebrate, too, if you’re the winner of Eric Carle’s THE ARTIST WHO PAINTED A BLUE HORSE. Simply share this blog post and comment that you’ve done so…and you’ll be entered into the random drawing to win a copy. A winner will be selected next week.

Good luck!

This month has been a brilliant crash course in Picture Book Ideas 101. Here it is day 27 and by now you have a myriad of ideas (or one) that you’re excited about. What’s next? How do you begin to flesh out these ideas and keep your enthusiasm up?

Taking classes and doing things like PiBoIdMo rearranges how I think about what I’m doing. A number of years ago, wanting to learn more about collage, I took a class. Adding collage to my art was fun, with the right amount of devil-may-care messiness. It felt like playing—pushing bits of torn paper, letting interesting juxtapositions happen. As the class was winding down, the students wondered how could we bring this same sense of ease back into our studio work. Being in the studio felt like I was supposed to accomplish something. Could something this easy count as “work”? Our teacher said to us, “If you’re in your studio, you’re working.” Whoa! Even when you’re sitting around drinking tea and looking at picture books? Yep. What a great concept! But was it true?

Soon after taking that class, my editor agreed on a picture book idea I had proposed to write and illustrate. My foray as an author was to rewrite Little Red Riding Hood, a story with a ready-made plot. I named my main character Carmine, after the purpley-red color.

The day came when (with a contract signed and dated), I had to begin. I sat at my desk and wrote: “Once upon a time a girl named Carmine…” Hmmm. What was Carmine going do? Who were the other characters? How would she get to Granny’s? I was stumped. A few more forgettable sentences followed. That was enough writing for one day.

Was I working? I was in my studio, so, yes. As I was doing it, it was impossible to know if each exercise would be useful, but it didn’t matter.

After playing, there was more to write about.

Months later, still moving at a glacial pace on Carmine, I made a list of 100 random words that I like: nincompoop, reckon and zillion and attempted to write the story using all 100 words–just as an exercise. It didn’t work at all, but I noticed I had the entire alphabet within that list. I plucked out those words and wrote the story as an alphabet book, (or an abecedarian–a subject told in alphabetical order).

Voila!, CARMINE: A LITTLE MORE RED came to life.

Later, when I was writing Balloons Over Broadway, I made toys and puppets to get to know Tony Sarg better.

More recently I gathered snippets of fabric to inspire the color palette of my next book making a Pinterest-esque wall, but in real time.

Pinned to that wall is this quote that gives me permission to do whatever I need to do when I begin to write or make art:

“I believe that the so-called ‘writing block’ is a product of some kind of disproportion between your standards and your performance … one should lower his standards until there is no felt threshold to go over in writing.

It’s easy to write. You just shouldn’t have standards that inhibit you from writing …I can imagine a person beginning to feel he’s not able to write up to that standard he imagines the world has set for him. But to me that’s surrealistic. The only standard I can rationally have is the standard I’m meeting right now … You should be more willing to forgive yourself. It doesn’t make any difference if you are good or bad today. The assessment of the product is something that happens after you’ve done it.”

—William Stafford, writer

What’s next for me is printing out the piboidmo posts and putting them in a notebook. I want to revisit them at my leisure far away from the black hole of my computer.

Then I’m headed to the studio where I’ll take my mom’s advice, as she told us a zillion times:

“Now, you kids go out and play!”


Melissa Sweet has illustrated many award-winning books. She wrote and illustrated CARMINE: A LITTLE MORE RED, a New York Times Best Illustrated, TUPELO RIDES THE RAILS and BALLOONS OVER BROADWAY which garnered the 2012 Sibert Medal. She illustrated A RIVER OF WORDS: The Story of William Carlos Williams, by Jen Bryant, a 2009 Caldecott Honor book. Jen and Melissa’s next book, A SPLASH OF RED: The Life and Art of Horace Pippen will be out January, 2013.

She collages up a storm in Rockport, Maine. See more at


Melissa is generously giving away a SWEET prize pack! You are eligible if you comment here *and* complete the 30-ideas-in-30-days challenge by taking the PiBo-Pledge in early December. You can win a signed copy of BALLOONS OVER BROADWAY, CARMINE: A LITTLE MORE RED, A Splash Of Red coloring pencils, plus whatever SWAG she can find. Remember, one comment per person. And good luck!

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