Happy Holidays! Steve & Daryl are Coming to Town!

On Saturday KWiL had its first opportunity to get out into the community and meet young readers. Of course Steve and Daryl, the stars of Sheri Roloff’s Hide & Go Seek-A-Saurus, came with us…


…and they were warmly welcomed by all of the kids who stopped by KWiL’s booth at MKE Moms Blog Cookies with Santa event.

“I love dinosaurs!” “Look Mom, a T-Rex!” And, “Can I hold one?” were just some of the things we overheard kids saying when they set eyes on Steve and Daryl. Could they hold one?

Sure thing:

AND, we invited them to color their very own Christmas with Steve and Daryl, an 11x 17 foldable version of a Christmas-themed story starring Sheri’s delightful dinos.

Kids hard at work coloring; Sheri helping them  fold; smiles all around. 

Here’s a close up of the book:

If you have a young reader who’d love to color Christmas with Steve and Daryl, stomp on over to our KWiL Club page, where you can download several different sizes of the book.

Why did kids love Steve and Daryl, and their Christmas coloring book? For all of the same reasons we think they will fall in love with Hide & Go Seek-A-Saurus, which releases this Spring.

Hide & Go Seek-A-Saurus is about not just one, but three things kids love: 1) dinosaurs, 2) pizza, and 3) playing hide and go seek. The plot is giggle-out-loud funny, the comic-style design engaging, and there are three interactive spreads where readers get to actually play hide and go seek with Steve and Daryl.

We hope you have as much fun with Christmas with Steve and Daryl as the kids did at Cookies with Santa, and that you stop back this Spring to catch them in their full-length picture book debut!

Happy coloring! Happy Christmas!


Madison-Based Illustrator Leah Danz DiPasquale Signs with KWiL


As expected, my inbox was crowded with an overwhelming number of Cyber Monday deals this morning. “Delete, delete, delete,” I clicked. But then I arrived at one from the Children’s Book Review. The subject advertised a new, interactive series from Scholastic and an opportunity to win a $100 gift card from Amazon, but it was one of the articles listed in the digest inside that caught my attention.

“20 Best Kids Christmas Books”

Click. KWiL has not one, but two, holiday titles on our list, and here was market research being delivered directly to my inbox.

And also, oh what fun to look at Christmas book covers! If the tree-topped cars, carols on the radio, and grocery shelves stocked with candy canes and egg nog weren’t clue enough, bookstore displays (which I’d visited weekly since they went up just after Halloween) were heavily laden with Christmas titles ranging from classic, to contemporary, to commercial, and e-mails like the one I had just received from the Children’s book Review, confirmed: even in the kid lit world, the holiday season had officially begun.

Although KWiL isn’t quite ready to make any major cyber Monday sales offers this year, what we can share today is really the next best thing: TWO announcements about our forthcoming Christmas books.

In this post, I am thrilled to announce that we have signed with Leah Danz DiPasquale to illustrate Rochelle Groskreutz’s Easter Elf Vs. Christmas Elf.

Leah’s journey to creating picture books is as magical as the season. When Leah was in tenth grade she was given a questionnaire in a literature class that asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Leah claims that she hadn’t a clue, but nevertheless decided to write down, “I’d want to make children’s books.”

Her answer wasn’t completely random. Leah grew up in Stevens Point surrounded by picture books. Leah’s mom took Leah and her brother to the library every week, where they would get “…a bunch of books, and sometimes donuts from a nearby bakery.”

Leah studied graphic design in college, and she currently works as a Senior Graphic Designer in Madison, WI. She has illustrated three other children’s books, Patsy Bea (Ashley Lokey, Harrington & Harrington Press, 2017), Even Lions Wear Pajamas (Natalie Malafronte, Zamponi Press, 2017) and Who’s Who at the Bearaboo Zoo, Thomas Webber, still in production). She has also had art published in Cricket Media’s BabyBug Magazine.

Leah describes her artistic style as cheerful and colorful. She grew up loving cartoons and animation, newspaper comic strips, and picture books, all of which heavily influence her style today.

Leah’s preferred medium is digital, but she begins her process with a pencil, paper, and clipboard. She prefers to keep this part of her process “unplugged.” In the summer, when the weather is nice, she sits outside in the evenings with her cat and sketches while he watches birds and eats grass.

Once she has her sketches created, she takes photos of them, scans them, and then adds color and dimension digitally.


KWiL’s VP of Art and Design, Sheri Roloff, introduced me to Leah last September at SCBWI-WI’s fall conference. Leah was one of the winners of the art contest, and Sheri, who had already been following Leah’s work, could not speak any more highly about Leah and her illustration style. We left the conference knowing that Leah’s talent and passion for kid lit were unique, and that we wanted to work with her.

When we signed Easter Elf Vs. Christmas Elf, we immediately thought of Leah. Her art would bring the liveliness, varied perspectives, bright colors, and overall holiday cheer the manuscript called for. When Leah’s sample art for the book arrived in our inbox, we felt like, you guessed it, kids on Christmas morning.

We heartily welcome Leah to the KWiL team, and hope that this is just the beginning of many projects we will create together. With Leah on board, it won’t be long before Easter Elf Vs. Christmas Elf finds its way onto the Children’s Book Review’s, or any other list, of best Christmas Books.


Leah, her husband, and aforementioned cat live in Madison, WI. To learn more about Leah, please visit her WEBSITE. Leah has given KWiL permission to share some of her art, below. Enjoy! All images are copyrighted.







Finally, stay tuned for a second Cyber Monday Christmas announcement coming later this afternoon!

Duluth-Based Illustrator Emily Krueger Signs with KWiL


Until we upgrade to actual scheduling software (soon!), KWiL’s “Master Production Schedule” is a spreadsheet with different color-filled cells blocked out to show how long a project will be in each phase: editorial, character study, mapping, sketching, color, proofing, printing, distribution, launch, etc. The columns are labeled by years and months, and stretching down the rows are the titles of our books, also color-coded.  If we have signed both an author and an illustrator for a project (or if we are working with an author/illustrator and she/he has signed), then the title cell is green. If we think we will likely get a deal but have not yet signed, we enter the title on the spreadsheet but fill its cell red. If we have signed an author, but not yet an illustrator, the title cell is (you guessed it) yellow.

For as long as there is a yellow title on the spreadsheet, the priority is turning it green.

For almost a month after signing with Janet Halfmann, the production schedule greeted me each day with a bright yellow warning: You have still not signed an illustrator for Caterpillar’s Surprise.

We knew what we wanted: detailed botanical work, vibrant colors, a touch of whimsy. Janet’s story is set deep in the forest and follows not just caterpillar’s, but also tadpole’s, complete metamorphosis. It closes with a magnificent woodland masquerade ball. The manuscript’s words had already painted a vivid picture in my head, and I knew there had to be an illustrator out there who’d see the same thing and more.

With my mind set so narrowly on what I wanted for this book, the search for an illustrator became even harder. It had now been five weeks since signing Janet, and Caterpillar’s cell was still yellow.

My thoughts wandered. We were heading to Duluth the next weekend for my niece’s birthday, and I still needed to make part of her present…a fleece knot blanket.

“Hmmmm…,” I thought, now drifting back to work. “Duluth…Duluth…the north shore…art…nature…illustrators?”

Now in a rush, I clicked on Safari, and, I kid you not, typed in “Illustrators in Duluth.”

Listed second on my results page was “Emily Krueger illustration.” I clicked on the link





No way.

No way.


“But YES! That’s it! That. Is. It. The turtle, the mushroom, the birchbark, the pine needles…the CATERPILLAR!” It was as if I was already looking at a page of Caterpillar’s Surprise.

I e-mailed Emily; we met for coffee; we e-mailed some more, and I am thrilled today to announce that Caterpillar’s cell on the spreadsheet has officially changed from yellow…to GREEN. KWiL has signed with Emily Krueger to illustrate Janet Halfmann’s fall 2019 release, Caterpillar’s Surprise.


Emily is a self-described graphic designer by trade and illustrator by heart. She studied design and fine arts at Bemidji State University. Her illustrations start with a hand-rendered pencil drawing that is soft, detailed, and realistic. Then, she brings the drawing onto the computer where she adds color digitally. Occasionally she adds painted backgrounds or elements. Emily illustrated the children’s book Goodnight Server Room, by T.D. Smith (2017). She also created the 2017 Quilt Minnesota Fabric Design, of which roughly 68,000 yards were sold throughout Minnesota during the 2017 Quilt Minnesota Shop Hop. She has been the recipient of multiple scholarships and has had her art published in multiple magazines.

Like Caterpillar, Emily lives in the woods with her husband and their “Little Oak,” Otto. They love family hikes, animals, and visiting the state park just a mile from their home. Emily grew up in the countryside in an animal-loving family and draws much of the inspiration for her art from her experiences in nature then and now.

We have Emily’s permission to share a few samples of her incredible work (below), and please check back often for updates on her illustrations for Caterpillar’s Surprise.

You can learn even more about Emily by visiting her website.


copyright Emily Krueger 




copyright Emily Krueger 



copyright Emily Krueger 

Canadian Artist Rachel Ball Signs with KWiL & A Visit to Kagawong


We announced KWiL’s first chapter book, Tamia of the Forest, HERE in September. Today, we are thrilled to introduce Tamia’s illustrator, Canadian artist Rachel Ball. Rachel is an accomplished multi-media artist who has published an adult coloring book, Colour Me Wild, and created a wide variety of merchandise featuring her brand, Wild Creations, and other Manitoulin Island-inspired art. Rachel is a graphic designer and editor for Toro Publishing. She graduated from Cambrian College where she studied Art and Design Fundamentals. Rachel’s love of wildlife and nature inspire her creativity.


Rachel Ball 


Rachel lives in Kagawong, Ontario; and for half of the year, so does Tamia’s author, Jim Nies. Jim is an avid writer and sailor, a naturalist and Great Lakes conservationist, and grandfather to a growing gaggle of grandkids. Originally from Illinois, where he co-owned and operated his family’s bookstore before going into education, Jim and his wife spend half the year in Wisconsin and half the year in Kagawong, a small town on Manitoulin Island that they first visited on a seven-month sailing cruise 1976. They’ve returned every summer since.


Jim Nies


A few weeks ago, while corresponding with Rachel by e-mail about the book, she wrote, “I have a friendly young Red Squirrel who plays and collects seeds on our porch who makes for a great model.”

I wondered. “Could it be Tamia?”

Unlikely. But, the particular Red Squirrel that had planted the seed of a story in Jim’s head does live in Kagawong.


“Kagawong” by Jim Nies

Kagawong, nicknamed Ontario’s prettiest village, lies at the bottom of a steep hill near where the Kagawong River, after its plunge over the famous Bridal Veil Falls, flows into Mudge Bay.

This lower village (there are also some businesses on the upper part along the highway) is home to the old mill (now city hall), one of the nicest sand beaches on Manitoulin Island, a coffee/chocolate shop, and a small marina operating out of the venerable government dock.

Mudge Bay itself is a wide expanse of drinkably clear water connected to Lake Huron’s North Channel—a twenty-five-mile wide and one-hundred-mile long strait that separates Manitoulin from the Ontario mainland. Wrapping around the bay, cradling it in its arms, is a steep limestone bluff, actually a part of the Niagara escarpment.

While this bluff is steep, it flares out at the bottom, providing a somewhat level and reasonably wide terrace before a series of swales and swells, actually ancient ice-age beaches, drop up and down and finally into the water. Cottages have been built along this shore, mostly nestled into the woods and not really visible from the open water of the bay.

The bluff, from crest to shore, is mixed forest—cedar, spruce, balsam fir, white pine— along with some hardwood—poplar, maple, red oak, ironwood.

The topography and the flora make for excellent habitat, both for people and other forms of wildlife. Prominent among the clade of mammals, is the frisky, industrious, obstreperous, and very cute Tamiasciurus hudsonicus, otherwise known as the red or pine squirrel.

I’ve been watching these little squirrels for many years now, and to my mind at least, we have become friends. They scold me a lot, they tease my dog, and they wake me up in the morning by dropping cones on my metal roof, but I’m still glad they’re here.

I never tire of listening to their indignation when some interloper trespasses on “their” territory. I never tire of watching their quickness and agility as they move through the trees. I’m always impressed by their tireless energy and willingness to work from dawn to dusk.

I find it great fun to share the woods with Tamia. So, it only seemed right to help her write a little autobiography.


And it certainly only seemed right to have Rachel illustrate it. For more information about Rachel, please visit Wild Creations’ Facebook Page, and follow along here and through KWiL’s other social media channels as we share sneak peeks of Rachel’s work on Tamia.

Like this:


Rachel mid-sketch. 


Tamia. Photo by Jim Nies.





Fold and Color “Christmas with Steve & Daryl”: Registration for MKE Moms Blog Cookies with Santa is TOMORROW

KWiL Cookies with Santa Activity

Registration for MKE Moms Blog Cookies with Santa (Dec. 2nd at State Fair Park) is TOMORROW (Nov. 6th) at 9:00 a.m.

Tickets are expected to sell out quickly.

Steve and Daryl, the stars of KWiL’s Spring 2018 debut book, have a brand new Christmas book, but they need YOUR help!

Stop by KWiL’s booth to fold and color your own copy of “Christmas with Steve & Daryl.”

While you’re working you can chat with Steve and Daryl’s creator, Sheri Roloff, learn more about how KWiL makes picture books, and snap a photo with our Steve and Daryl cut outs.

For registration information visit MKE Moms Blog for more info click HERE.

Hope to see you there!

Illustrator Cortney Benvenuto Signs with KWiL: The Making of Picture Book Magic

Glee_400b“Glee” © 2017 Cortney Benvenuto

We are thrilled to announce that author-illustrator Cortney Benvenuto has signed with KWiL to illustrate Jim Nies’s Spring 2019 picture book Come On, Fish!

Cortney hails from the Pacific Northwest and continues to call Portland home, where she lives with her husband, two young children, and cat, Mayberry. Cortney graduated from Oregon State University with a BFA. She taught elementary school for six years and is an active member of SCBWI.


Cortney Benvenuto


One of the great unknowns about picture book making is that unless a publisher is working with an author-illustrator, authors and illustrators work separately on their respective contributions to the book.

The process typically goes something like this:

  • Publisher acquires a manuscript and works for weeks, months, sometimes even a year, with the author on revisions.
  • However, from the first time the publisher reads the manuscript, a vision for the illustrations (and potential artists who could achieve this vision) begins to form.
  • When the contract with the author is signed and the manuscript is ready to share, the search for an illustrator begins in earnest, often starting from within the cadre of illustrators a publishing company loosely calls “its own.” Or, the publisher might search for new talent—either by attending conferences, scouting social media, or looking through portfolio submissions.
  • When the publisher finds the illustrator she thinks will be the best fit for the book, another round of contract negotiations begins; and if the publisher is unfamiliar with the artist’s work, the illustrator is often asked to provide a sample sketch specific to the project.
  • By the time the illustrator has signed, the manuscript is essentially “finished.” (Although very little is ever truly “finished” in picture book making until there is a book in hand.)
  • Now the publisher and the illustrator take the lead, working through a character study and mapping out each page of the book.
  • With a shared vision articulated, the illustrator works through sketches, final line work, and color. This process takes a year to a year and a half.
  • I have heard many people express surprise, and even doubt (Could that really work? Shouldn’t the author have more of a say?), when they first learn that authors and illustrators don’t work hand-in-hand.

But it is this unique process of blending two artists’ work that creates picture book magic.

What makes a picture book a picture book is that the illustrations do more than provide a literal, visual interpretation of the text. Rather, they play a part equal to the words in telling the story.

Leaving space for an illustrator in a project is why one of the most common pieces of advice editors offer picture book writers is, “Pull back.” Writers must leave room for the illustrator to bring her own vision to the story, often a vison that the author (and sometimes even the publisher) hadn’t anticipated.

Having Cortney illustrate Come On, Fish! is a perfect example of this kind of picture book magic. KWiL’s Creative Director, Sheri, had been following Cortney on Twitter, and so I began following her, too. On Fridays, when my feed filled with #colour_collective posts, Cortney’s work always caught my eye first.

Over the next few months Cortney and I started talking; and in September when I opened my inbox to see the sketches she had created for Fish, I knew that her work would take the book to a previously unimagined (and awesome) place. It was picture book magic. We already had a manuscript we loved, and now Cortney was enhancing it with perspectives unexplored, unique character portrayals, and a setting (enhanced by her use of a limited color palette) that was whimsical and nostalgic.

Although Cortney and Jim won’t be working side-by-side, their shared passion for water and the natural world will be palpable on each page through the combination of their words and art.

We hope you’ll check back often between now and the Come on, Fish! release in March of 2019. We will be sharing more about what this fish story is all about, and you will be able to follow Cortney’s process as she brings the book to life.

To learn more about Cortney, please visit her website.

Benvenuto_Deep“Deep” © 2017 Cortney Benvenuto

Wild_Cortney_Benvenuto“Wild” © 2017 Cortney Benvenuto

SPLASH_Benvenuto“Splash” © 2017 Cortney Benvenuto