Blog Tour with Author Guest Post: “Creating Words and Pictures: How Authors and Illustrators Work Together” by Alison Donald and Ariel Landy, Creators of The Spacesuit: How a Seamstress Helped Put Man on the Moon


“Creating Words and Pictures for The Spacesuit – How Authors and Illustrators Work Together”

Alison Donald: Just like the Apollo program, a book is a product of a collaboration of a team.  I’ve always wished I could draw.  I can see parts of my story unfold vividly in my head.  But I don’t have the necessary skills or talent to actually draw what I want to the quality that I want.

Thank goodness for illustrators.  Illustrators can read a text and bring it to life.  I was lucky to have Ariel Landy illustrate my latest book:  ‘The Spacesuit – How a Seamstress Helped put Man on the moon”.  But, do we actually work together?  The answer is yes, but indirectly though illustration notes.

Illustration notes:

When I submitted ‘Spacesuit’ to my publisher Maverick Arts, I included a few illustration notes.  I really wanted a 1960’s feel to book.  I also wanted it to be fashionable.  Afterall, it’s about seamstresses who were fashioning one of the most important garments in world history!

I identified when sewing machines and spacesuits needed to be in the text and I asked for the seamstresses to be crowded around the tv watching Neil Armstrong on the moon (spoiler alert! Sorry!).

I researched the A7L spacesuit and provided diagrams.  I also provided photographs of the actual seamstresses at the factory of Playtex / ILC dover for reference.

Then, I sat back while Kim, my fabulous editor / designer found an illustrator.

It’s an exciting day when a sample spread arrives in my inbox.  Here was Ariel’s sample spread for the Spacesuit:

Just perfect!

The editor:

Editors / designers have a much better sense of layout, how much text should be on a page, and they know more about colour palettes than I do.  Kim worked with Ariel and then shared Ariel’s sketches with me.

I acted as another pair of eyes to make sure the pictures were factually correct.

It’s a just right fit when authors can weigh in on visual details that are relevant to the story (thanks Kim!).

Otherwise, it’s nice to leave it to the illustrator to create her own magic.

And as you can see, Ariel certainly did!

Ariel Landy: Happily, for me, by the time I got the story so much research for The Spacesuit had already been done, both by Alison and the editing team at Maverick. When I read the story for the first time, I had a briefing from our editors complete with photographs of Ellie and the talented ladies who actually worked on the spacesuit in various stages. I relied heavily on these primary sources to draw many elements of the story such as the pink factory coat that Ellie wears while working on a small sewing machine, and ‘Sweet Sue’ and ‘Big Moe’, the giant sewing machines brought in to help the seamstresses sew the many, many layers of the spacesuit! Also, fortunately for me, I had fact-checkers at Maverick to catch some of my anachronisms, such as coloring in the TV screen that shows the moon landing, when it likely would have been in black and white.

Of course, the internet is the ultimate research tool! There were so many accessible photos of the spacesuit at my fingertips, both on its own and adorning the astronauts. I was also fortunate to see the documentary Apollo 11, which happened to have a limited run in New York City just as I was working on the coloring stage of the illustrations. The film is all real color footage from the launching of the rocket that brought the brave astronauts to the moon. It was chock full of real spectators sporting the most wonderful 60s clothing and hairstyles. After seeing it I couldn’t wait to go back and tweak my characters!

I feel really lucky to have had such a great writing and editing team collaborating at different stages to make such a special book! Thanks team!

The Spacesuit: How a Seamstress Helped Put Man on the Moon
Author: Alison Donald
Illustrator: Ariel Landy
Published June 18th, 2019 by Maverick Arts

About the Book:There is a competition to make the spacesuit for the first moon landing! Ellie, an ordinary woman, is asked to lead a team of other talented seamstresses. No one believes they can win, but they are determined to try.

Based on the incredible true story behind the spacesuit that astronauts wore on the first moon walk and the team of women who sewed it together.

Don’t miss the other Blog Tour stops! 

Monday, July 15th: Publisher Spotlight Blog

Tuesday, July 16th: YA Books Central

Wednesday, July 17th: Randomly Reading

Thank you so much for this guest post about this incredible true story!

I Am Gandhi: A Graphic Biography of a Hero by Brad Meltzer


I Am Gandhi
Author: Brad Meltzer
Illustrator: 25 Acclaimed Artists
Published May 8th, 2018 by Dial Books

Summary: Twenty-five exceptional comic book creators join forces to share the heroic story of Gandhi in this inspiring graphic novel biography.

As a young man in India, Gandhi saw firsthand how people were treated unfairly. Refusing to accept injustice, he came up with a brilliant way to fight back through quiet, peaceful protest. He used his methods in South Africa and India, where he led a nonviolent revolution that freed his country from British rule. Through his calm, steady heroism, Gandhi changed the lives of millions and inspired civil rights movements all over the world, proving that the smallest of us can be the most powerful.

Galvanized by Gandhi’s example of gentle, peaceful activism, New York Times bestselling author Brad Meltzer asked his friends in the comic book world to help him make a difference by creating this philanthropic graphic novel. Twenty-four illustrators–including many of the most acclaimed artists in comics today–enthusiastically joined the project, agreeing to donate their work so that their royalties can go to Seeds of Peace, a non-profit organization that inspires and cultivates new generations of global leaders. This extraordinary biography is a glorious team effort that truly exemplifies Gandhi’s selflessness and love for humanity.

The illustrators included are: Art Adams, John Cassaday, Jim Cheung, Amanda Connor, Carlos D’Anda, Michael Gaydos, Gene Ha, Stephanie Hans, Bryan Hitch, Phil Jimenez, Siddharth Kotian, David LaFuente, David Mack, Alex Maleev, Francis Manapul, David Marquez, Steve McNiven, Rags Morales, Saumin Patel, Nate Powell, Stephane Roux, Marco Rudy, Kamome Shirahama, Bill Sienkiewicz, and Abhishek Singh.

Kellee’s ReviewI’ll be honest–when I first read on the cover that 25 different artists illustrated this graphic biography, I was worried that the stagnation of illustration styles would hinder the narrative of Gandhi’s life, but I was so wrong. Instead, by allowing each illustrator to give us their interpretation of Gandhi, his spirit instead flowed through the pages as it was obvious that his story had touched each and every artist, and the author, taking part in this graphic biography.

While reading, it was clear to me that Meltzer wanted Gandhi’s message of equality, peace, and kindness to scream at the reader, and this was confirmed when I read the Washington Post article about Meltzer’s inspiration. I believe Meltzer did a beautiful job not only telling Gandhi’s story but also showing that peace is possible in a time of tumultuous relationships but that the only way to truly achieve it is through similar activism as Gandhi.

Ricki’s Review: I read this graphic novel twice to myself and twice with my son. Further, I’ve read portions of it to my students. I can’t stop sharing it! I was blown away by the amalgamation of the 25 graphic novelists—it made for an absolutely stunning text. I appreciate the historical perspective that extends throughout the graphic novel, and I loved that the illustrations really make Ghandi’s story come alive. This is a book that I will share often and widely. If you haven’t read it, I recommend it highly—even if you already know a lot about Ghandi’s life.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Have students connect Gandhi’s philosophies to those who influenced him and those he influenced. For example, in one of my literature classes, one person picked an author who was influenced by another (for example, Woody Guthrie was influenced by Walt Whitman) then the next student built on that (for example, Bob Dylan was influenced by Woody Guthrie OR Ralph Waldo Emerson influenced Walt Whitman) until a complete chain of influences were made. Then each student wrote an analysis paper showing how they were influenced then presented their findings (in order of influences) to the class. This same idea could be done here: Henry David Thoreau influenced Gandhi who influenced Martin Luther King, Jr. who influenced Barack Obama who influenced Cory Booker, etc. This idea could also be used just to look at the idea of peaceful protests that have changed the course of history: Gandhi, MLK, Black Lives Matter, Never Again, etc.

Discussion Questions: 

  • What is the theme of Meltzer’s story of Gandhi?
  • How did Gandhi change the course of history for Indians in South Africa and India?
  • How did the 25 different artists illustrating the graphic novel affect the reading of the biography?
  • How did Thoreau influence Gandhi? Can you infer how Gandhi influence Martin Luther King, Jr.?
  • What was the importance of Gandhi’s march to the sea to hold salt?
  • Why do you believe Meltzer chose the specific quotes he included in the back matter of the book?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: The Ordinary People Change the World series (ex. I am Lucille Ball, I am Jackie Robinson), Nonfiction graphic novels such as Drowned City by Don Brown

Recommended For: 

classroomlibrarybuttonsmall closereadinganalysisbuttonsmall


Author Interview with Diane Gonzales Bertrand by Wendy Martin, Illustrator of The Story Circle


Author Interview with Diane Gonzales Bertrand by Wendy Martin, Illustrator of The Story Circle

As an illustrator, I rarely if ever get to meet or interact with the authors of the books I illustrate. Sometimes, as is the case with this book, the publisher will introduce the writer and the artist after the book is finished. When I first was invited to illustrate “The Story Circle” I googled Diane. Unlike many of the other authors I know, she doesn’t have a large web presence, so she remained a bit of a mystery to me. After the book was published I was filled with curiosity about Diane’s experience as an educator and her school visits with our book. Below are her answers to my questions.


Wendy:  How long have you been a teacher?

Diane: I have been an educator since 1980.  I taught middle school, high school, and began teaching college in 1992.  I have also taught writing workshops in libraries, schools, and community centers since my first book was published.  Currently I am Writer-in-Residence for the English-Communications Studies Dept. at St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, Texas. I teach composition and creative writing to the next generation of readers and writers.


Wendy: How do you incorporate the books you write into the classroom?

Diane: Because my children’s books are written in two languages, teachers use the books in dual language classrooms and traditional classrooms to build vocabulary for emerging readers and to discuss literary elements for older children. For example The Empanadas that Abuela Made and The Party for Papa Luis are told in a sequence of repeating words.  Not only do children learn vocabulary, they gain confidence in reading.  My storybooks like Adelita and the Veggie Cousins or A Bean and Cheese Taco Birthday share positive messages about making friends and learning from someone who has a different opinion.  They are useful in class discussions about ways to relate to others, but they also encourage children to write about their own experiences making new friends or celebrating their birthdays.   When I come into a classroom, I rarely read my books; instead I show children ways to understand the writing process and explain how a book is created through my own revision process and through a collaborative effort with a talented illustrator.  I encourage the children to become authors of their own stories.  I also show them sketches and finished illustrations to encourage the young artists in the audience.


Wendy: How can teachers use the theme and idea behind The Story Circle in the class lesson plans?

Diane: When I have visited schools, children always ask me, “Where do you find ideas for stories?”  I wanted to create a storybook for children to be given a sentence to start their story, then let their imagination take over.  Some children have vivid imaginations and know how to grab an idea and start writing.  Many more need a little help to start writing.

Teachers might introduce the book with “What If” scenarios.  What if you knew how to fly?  What if the science class had a field trip to the ocean?  What if there was too much rain?  Questions with no specific answers help children see possibilities. Writing isn’t a math equation with only one right answer, but a string of words that can change meaning and direction that is fun to explore.  I love it best when writing goes in a direction I never expected. I want children to know this feeling as a positive thing, and not to worry about mistakes or writing something different than everyone else.


Wendy: You’ve mentioned that you utilize “story starters” during reading events. What are these and how do you use them?

Diane: ‘The Story Circle’ begins with damages after a terrible storm. The children return to school to discover flooding ruined their classroom, including the books on the bookshelves.  The teacher uses the routine of their daily story circle to comfort the children, and after she tells them a story, each child decides to tell a story as well.  I purposely present only the first sentence in each child’s story with the intention of providing “story starters” for children in the classroom to finish.  I always encourage writing when I meet children; this book is a tangible way to keep children writing stories from their imaginations.  Wendy Martin’s illustrations also provide wonderful details to complete the story and give an extra “starter” to the children with little confidence in their own ideas.  Because technology distracts children from creating from their minds, I hope my words and Wendy’s pictures will brighten up a classroom with imaginative play.


Wendy: Would you care to share some of the reactions you’ve gotten during your recent book readings of The Story Circle?

Diane: I read The Story Circle in Houston, Texas, while the city was recovering from terrible flooding; so the children and their teachers could relate to the story well.  As we reached each “story starter” sentence, I paused and asked children for ideas about what happened next.  The children spoke about turning invisible if eating “magic candies” or that neighbors might peek through windows when Mrs. Martinez used goats instead of a lawnmower.  One boy said an armadillo can roll into a ball, so it would win a race against the roadrunner, and another girl said a shark might come up to a glass-bottom boat, but the children begin yelling and scare it away.   After my reading, when I was signing books for the school library, the teacher asked each child to come up to the front of the room and finish their favorite sentence/story from the book.  I was reminded public speaking should also be encouraged in children, so this book supports that skill too.


Wendy: Before you saw my art for your story, did you have something in mind? How did my art differ from your imagination? Do you incorporate the book’s illustrations in your lesson plans?

Diane: After publishing a dozen books, I trust an illustrator as a talented artist who deserves respect for his or her own vision.  When I saw sketches for The Story Circle, I was happy they were filled with details children might use to build a story of their own.  Children who are talented in drawing (and I was not one of those children) can learn from studying the pictures to improve their own work.   When I saw the first color illustrations, I felt pleased and couldn’t wait to share the book with readers.  I didn’t have any preconceived images, but always hope for a good outcome.  In the case of this book, it outshined my expectations.


About Wendy Martin: A transplanted New Yorker now living in Missouri, Wendy Martin has been working as an illustrator for 25+ years. Her love affair with art and illustration began at an early age. She never wanted to do anything else. So, she followed my heart and earned a degree in Fashion Design from the Fashion Institute of Technology, then continued my art education at the School of Visual Arts, earning a B.F.A. in Graphic Design. These disciplines can still be seen in her work as a children’s book illustrator and fantasy artist in the strong lines, textures and detailed patterns.

See additional art and find out more about her at


About Diane Gonzales Bertrand: Diane Gonzales Bertrand’s novels include ALICIA’S TREASURE (1995), TRINO’S CHOICE (1999), and TRINO’S TIME (2001) Her bilingual picture books include SIP, SLURP, SOUP, SOUP/CALDO, CALDO, CALDO (1997), FAMILY, FAMILIA (1999), THE LAST DOLL (2001), and UNCLE CHENTE’S PICNIC (2001). Her books are published by Arte Publico.


About The Story CircleIn this charming bilingual picture book, a group of young children revel in the joys of imagination to tell and illustrate stories.

Thank you to Wendy and Diane for your insightful interview about The Story Circle!

Kellee Signature andRickiSig

Don’t miss out on other stops on The Story Circle blog tour: 


Blog Tour, Review, Giveaway, and Author & Illustrator Interview!: My Dog is the Best by Laurie Ann Thompson, Illustrated by Paul Schmid



My Dog is the Best
Author: Laurie Ann Thompson
Illustrator: Paul Schmid
Published: June 9, 2015 by Farrar, Straus, and Giroux

Goodreads Summary: What do you get when you combine one energetic, enthusiastic little boy with his sleepy but tolerant dog? Unconditional love. Using simple words and spare illustrations, My Dog Is the Best celebrates the special bond that exists between a young child and a beloved family pet. It’s the heartwarming story of two best friends. . . told by a boy with a very active imagination.

Ricki’s Review and Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This charming tale will surely win the hearts of many children. It made me feel a bit guilty that I don’t have a dog for my son! I can imagine teachers reading this story aloud to captivated audiences. Teachers might ask students to compare this story with others in their classrooms. The way the illustrator and text focuses on the two subjects makes their friendship shine. You can find an example of the text’s playfulness in the flagged page below. It made me smile! After reading this story, I would encourage my students to write their own stories about friendships that they have.

Kellee’s Review and Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This book makes me want a dog (and like Ricki said, I feel a bit guilty for not having a dog for Trent!). I loved this sweet story of a sleepy dog and a rambunctious child who is going to have fun with his dog no matter what the dog thinks about it. The play between the words and illustrations is what really made this book special and made the quiet humor really ring through. I also think that kids are really going to like the end of the book. Like Ricki, I think that this text could be a great mentor text for writing about times of imagination and friendship. What other ways could the boy have played with the dog? How do you play with your pet/toy? I also think that it is a great story to use to talk about humor and irony. Why was the ending funny?

Discussion Questions: What kinds of games do you play with your best friend/pet/toy?; Do you have a pet? How is your relationship with your pet similar or dissimilar with this story?; In what ways is it obvious that the author and illustrator worked together to create this book? How do the drawings enhance the story?; Why is the ending ironic?

We Flagged:

My Dog is the Best spread
Image from:

Read This if You Loved: Look! by Jeff Mack; The Poky Little Puppy by Janette Sebring Lowrey; May the Best Dog Win by Kelly Hashway; Bark, George by Jules Feiffer; Emmanuel’s Dream by Laurie Ann Thompson

Recommended For: 

readaloudbuttonsmall classroomlibrarybuttonsmall

Interview with the Laurie Ann Thompson and Paul Schmid!

Questions to Laurie:


  1. What inspired you to write this book?

I first wrote the text as an assignment for a course I was taking, Anastasia Suen’s Easy Reader/Chapter Book Workshop. I’ve always loved dogs, and it’s a great word for beginning readers, so I started there. I noticed that most of the time when I said, “Good dog!” to my poor old dog, Sara, she was either curling up and getting ready to go to sleep or already sleeping. She would give me this confused look that said, “What? I’m not doing anything!” She’d been a hyperactive, crazy dog in her younger years, so it was a huge relief when she finally started slowing down a little. I appreciated the humor in those interactions. At the same time, I had an awfully busy little boy at home, so both the tension between their very different energy levels and their special “best friends” relationship were natural ingredients for the story.


  1. Did you have a specific dog when you were growing up that you were thinking of as you wrote this book? 

It’s really a collection of all of them. My dogs were my best friends, and they put up with so much of my probably unwanted attention. I had one special dog named Sammy that I used to dress up in doll clothes, push in a baby swing, and take for rides in my bicycle basket. (He loved those last two activities, but I’m pretty sure he merely tolerated the first!) He was the best. When I was bit older, my dog Ripper used to wait at the end of our driveway—every single day—for the school bus to bring me home. He listened to all of my tales of teenage angst and always let me dry my tears on his fur. He was devoted and dependable. He was the best. Then, as an adult, there was Sara. She was the best, too. I think whatever dog we make room for in our lives becomes “the best,” just by virtue of us loving them.

dressing up Sammy1999-03 36_34 Laurie and Ripper2011-07-02 083038 Connor and Sara

  1. You write both YA and children’s books. How is your writing process different for each?

It’s very different! For my YA books, I’m a rather obsessive planner. I research and outline, then research some more and revise the outline and so on, for a long time, before I’m finally ready to start writing. For my picture books, I like to just play. I just start writing and see what happens. As a result, I typically spend less time revising the YA books than the picture books, even though the picture books are much, much shorter! It usually takes a lot of revision to make a picture book work just right.


  1. What was it like to work with an illustrator? 

With my YA books, like Be a Changemaker, there is no illustrator, so the final product is the result of the collaboration between my editors and me—and we’re all primarily word people. As a picture book author, though, it’s always exciting to see what another person with a very different way of working and of seeing the world will bring to my original vision. Authors don’t usually get much say in the illustrations (and rightly so, as I surely am no art expert!). With my second book (and first picture book), Emmanuel’s Dream, I had never met the illustrator, Sean Qualls, and I didn’t see any of his stunning artwork until it was almost all finished. I was on pins and needles, but what a pleasant surprise! For My Dog Is the Best the experience was a bit unusual but every bit as special. It just happened that Paul Schmid and I live not far apart and had known each other for years. When he took on the manuscript, I was ecstatic! We kept in touch throughout the process, and I even got to spend a day collaborating with him in his studio—one of my all-time favorite writing days ever! We both ended up influencing both the art and the text, and we ended up with something we’re both really proud of.


Questions to Paul:

  1. How did you decide what the characters would look like?

Initially, I form a clear picture of the characters personalities. Are they active? Sedentary? Outgoing or shy? The design of a character should provide solid clues to who they are. Our dog in the book just wants to nap, and I imagined an old, tolerant, comfortable Basset Hound of established habits. The boy is much more active, but young and naive. He is also sweet and loving, as the book is itself. So I felt the boy needed a kind, gullible, gentle look that was at the same time visually sympathetic to his dog, in order to form an emotional connection between the two for the reader. As a result, they both ended up round and gentle looking.


  1. What does the artistic process look like?

Many many sketches. Then many more. Then a few more. Eventually I have to start the final art. I don’t think I ever really feel like I’m done improving things, but a deadline shows up and helps me stop.

Early sketch of the dog

early dog

Dog Poses

dog poses

Dog sketch and boy sketch

dog sketch boy sketch

Early design

early design

Early cover design

early cover

Another early cover design


Second stage spread

2nd stage spread


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Follow My Dog is the Best on Tour!:

6/6/2015     Booking Mama

6/8/2015     Jean Reidy

6/9/2015     Watch. Connect. Read.

6/10/2015    5 Minutes for Books

6/11/2015     KidLit Frenzy

6/12/2015     Unleashing Readers

6/16/2015     Anastasia Suen: Booktalk

6/19/2015     Kirby’s Lane

7/1/2015        Library Lions

Thank you to Laurie and Paul for taking part in the interview and for having us as part of the blog tour!