What do Authors and Illustrators Do?

by Eileen Christelow

BOTH BOOKS in a NEW Edition!

With additional pages about digital illustration AND some activity pages!

Clarion Books

48 pages ISBN:9780547972602

USA TODAY says ★★★★ stars. “Librarians and teachers introducing the writing process will find this title very useful.” —School Library Journal, starred review ★

What Do Authors Do?

—Clarion Books – 1995
—School Library Journal, starred review ★
—An ALA Booklist Editors’ Choice
—A School Library Journal
Best Book of the Year

What Do Illustrators Do?

—Clarion Books – 1999
—School Library Journal—starred review ★
—A Parents’ Choice Honor Book
—An ALA Notable Children’s Book

The Story:

  • Where do authors get their ideas?
  • Do author-illustrators start with the picture or the story?
  • What do authors do when they get stuck?
  • How long does it take to write a book?

A sprightly text and comic book illustrations follow two authors—and a talkative dog and cat—through the writing process step by step, from the inspiration of a story, creating the manuscript, finding a publisher to the satisfaction of sharing the book with readers.

The Idea:

When I helped put together a small exhibit of kid’s books by local authors, we quickly realized we needed to do more than show the books. So, I put together some panels of cartoon drawings that showed the process authors go through: from thinking of the idea for a book, to writing it, to getting it published. The panels were a big hit. Several teachers wanted to use them in their classrooms. Obviously I needed to write a book!


My cat Otis, gave me the idea for having a dog and cat in the book. Otis liked to hang around my studio, batting my pen with his paw as I drew, sleeping on finished drawings and nibbling on scraps of paper. He also liked to chase our dog.

My writer’s group: Look in the book for the picture of the writer’s group. I drew the members of my writer’s group in this illustration and added a few others.

The Story:

  • How can two artists find different ways to illustrate the same story?
  • What materials-paper, pens, crayons, markers-would be best for the book?
  • How can an illustrator draw a mile-high beanstalk on a ten-inch page?

The book shows how illustrators develop pictures from rough sketches to finished artwork. An orange tabby cat and his companion beagle offer a humorous overview of their two artist owners as they illustrate different versions of “Jack and the Beanstalk”. And Christelow reveals that the uniqueness of each book depends on many creative choices . . . and a lot of painstaking work.

The Idea:

When I visit schools, children often ask, “How do you do the pictures? Do you use crayons or markers? Is it hard (to be an illustrator)?”

Kids often want to draw a picture perfectly on the first try. They are surprised to find that illustrators make rough sketches, just as writers make rough drafts. So, here’s a book written to answer all those questions!

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