Post from Danielle Carnito, Sr. Art Director, Trade
Who are the illustrators of Lerner?
A talented group, that’s who!
A large part of my job is matching and hiring many different illustrators throughout the year to our book projects. With all of the Lerner Publishing Group imprints combined, we* can work with somewhere in the range of 40-65 different artists—the number varies based on the types of books in the list. Since we have a new & different mix of books in each season, we have great opportunities to collaborate with a wide variety of artists.
Some artists we have worked with before, some are new to us. We hire artists who have been in the industry for years, or who are brand new to book illustration. Artists who love their niche, or those who are looking to explore new things. Illustrators who specialize in rendering prehistoric life in a cool contemporary way, who can make up fantastic worlds, or who have a heartfelt connection to a specific river restoration.
Matching illustrators to books happens in a variety of ways as well: by pure lucky happenstance sometimes (such as a email from an agent in the exact hour of the exact day I was about to crumble from not finding the right person yet… Regina Brooks & Gordon C. James), from holding on to a postcard sample that struck me years ago and finally had a project to fit (Greer Stothers, for example), or even through conversations with an illustrator on an earlier project while looking for the next thing to collaborate on (looking at you, Natasha Donovan).
My aim is to bring important viewpoints, life experiences, knowledge, and a variety of style to each season’s visuals when matching art to story. The representation of artists in our list will vary per season as well, driven in part by the narratives in the books we’re publishing. I focus on finding the right illustrator voice to center and compliment the author’s, bringing a deeper knowledge base to the story. Respecting the perspectives of each creator makes a stronger book.
Our upcoming Fall season of Millbrook & Carolrhoda picture books** is one I’m so very excited to have out in the world SOON—the illustrators in this list have truly done amazing work with these stories.*** Let’s take a look at art from their upcoming books, shall we?:
Be A Bridge illustrated by Nabila Adani
Upbeat rhyming verse and colorful illustrations of a diverse group of students help readers take action to foster inclusivity, respect, and connection.
Big Bear and Little Fish, illustrated by Il Sung Na
At the carnival, Bear wants a teddy bear. And not just any teddy bear—she wants the biggest one of all. But instead she gets a fish. A very small fish. Bear is so very big and Fish is so very small that Bear worries they have nothing in common. Can they possibly be friends? Gentle, accessible prose by Sandra Nickel is paired with richly textured illustrations by Il Sung Na in this sweet story of unexpected friendship.
A River’s Gifts: The Mighty Elwha River Reborn illustrated by Natasha Donovan
There’s more to a river than meets the eye. The story of the Elwha River in Washington State is one of both environmental harm and restoration involving advocacy, persistence, cooperation, and hope.
Ice Cycle: Poems about the Life of Ice illustrated by Jieting Chen
Pancake ice, floebergs, glaciers, icicles . . . cold temperatures create an astonishing variety of ice forms! Welcome winter with a poetic exploration of ice on land and at sea in this evocative and atmospheric picture book.
Where We Come From, illustrated by Dion MBD
In this unique collaboration, four authors lyrically explore where they each come from—literally and metaphorically. Richly layered illustrations connect past and present in this accessible and visually striking look at history, family, and identity.
This appealingly icky poetry collection presents animals that suck—quite literally! From the mosquito and elephant to the lamprey and pigeon, discover how and why these animals sip, slurp, and suck.
Dino-Valentine’s Day illustrated by Barry Gott
How do dinosaurs celebrate Valentine’s Day? With chocolate, cards, flowers, crafts, a dance, and more! Dino-holidays fans will love this sweet peek at the softer side of these brawny beasts.
Not Done Yet: Shirley Chisholm’s Fight for Change illustrated by Nina Crews
Stirring free-verse poetry chronicles Shirley Chisholm’s fight for fairness and change on her journey to becoming the first Black woman ever elected to Congress—and, in 1972, the first woman to seriously run for president.
* It’s not just me! there are two other art directors and four designers that work with all the art.
** I had to narrow it from to these two imprints from the entire LPG list for the purpose of this post, otherwise I’d be here for much to long, and no one wants that.
*** In case you’re wondering if I’m playing favorites here, and this current season is my favorite season . . . well, yes. Also the rest of the seasons and artists are too. Last season was my favorite. And next season is my favorite. And the next…
Want to see more of what goes on behind the scenes at Lerner? Click here to read on!