Reading With Mel

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Friends, you are in for a treat. Today, we have Mel Schuit with us answering our questions on children's books from the perspective of an illustrator and author. Mel also has a wonderfully informative blog, Let's Talk Picture Books, where she discusses picture books within themes, e.g., unicorns, or underwater adventures, types of illustrations, and specific authors and illustrators. One of the things that we most appreciate about Mel's blog is the insight it provides into the process of creating illustrations. Picture books are, by definition, stories told using text and pictures.  Gaining a better understanding of how the pictures are made, why they work with the story, and walking through individual picture books has enhanced our reading experience.  Thank you, Mel!
Name: Mel Schuit
Where do you live? Boston, MA
What did you study in college? I have a BA in Studio Art and MA/MFA in Children's Literature/Writing for Children

Who are your top 5 favorite illustrators of all time?

1. Emily Gravett
2. Albertine
3. William Bee
4. Cybele Young
5. Shaun Tan
(Jon Klassen and Isol just missed the list!)

When writing and illustrating have you found that the illustrations dictate the story or vice versa?

Good question! My process really involves writing and illustrating at the same time, using one to fill in the gaps of the other. It's really hard to say which dictates which, but often I'll sketch out the text of a new book with as few words as possible and then sketch out the illustrations to fill in the visual gaps: what can the illustrations say that the text doesn't and vice versa? And then I move forward from there. They're both so important, I'd like to think they dictate each other!

Can we see a sneak peak of the pineapple in the story you are querying?

Sure! Her name is Penelope and she loves shopping for purple bows, dressing up like a pirate, and playing games with her friends!

If you were hosting a tea which 5 children's book authors/illustrators (dead or alive) would you most like at your table, and why?

1. Tomi Ungerer
2. Serge Bloch
3. Albertine
4. Edward Gorey
5. Shaun Tan

All of these writers/illustrators tackle very touch subjects (war, industrialization, immigration) in such a delicate and relatable way. It's not easy to express such large ideas in 32 pages, but each of these author/illustrators manage to do just that, which I think is beautiful.

Which children's books are you most excited about for 2016?
It's so hard to narrow down!! The top 10 (some of which I've seen, some I haven't) are:

1. Flora and the Peackocks by Molly Idle
2. Return by Aaron Beacker
3. Poor Little Guy by Elanna Allen
4. A Beginner's Guide to Bear Spotting by Michelle Robinson and David Roberts
5. Miss Moon: Wise Words from a Dog Governess by Janet Hill
6. Paris: Up, Up, and Away! by Helene Druvert
7. Snappsy the Alligator (Did Not Ask to be in This Book) by Julie Falatko and Tim Miller
8. The Bear and the Piano by David Litchfield
9. We Found a Hat by Jon Klassen
10. Little Red by Bethan Woollvin

What were your 10 favorite children's books from 2015?

Float by Daniel Miyares (still can't believe it didn't win a Caldecott Honor!!)
The Princess and the Pony by Kate Beaton
A Tower of Giraffes: Animals in Groups by Anna Wright
Beyond the Pond by Joseph Kuefler
Home by Carson Ellis
Tricky Vic: The Impossibly True Story of the Man Who Sold the Eiffel Tower by Greg Pizzoli
This is Sadie by Sara O'Leary and Julie Morstad
The Fox and the Star by Coralie Bickford-Smith
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Yelena Bryksenk
and veering away from picture books, Ransom Rigg's Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children series

Which 5 books would you save in a fire?

I would just burn in the fire with them! No…
1. The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster and Jules Feiffer (I've had my copy for almost 20 years!)
2. Paris: Up, Up, and Away! by Helene Druvert
3. Codex Seraphiniaus by Luigi Serafini
4. A Forest by Marc Martin
5. Sky High by Germano Zullo and Albertine

Where is your favorite place to read?

Anywhere my cats can sit on top of me! So usually at home :)

How did your parents/family foster a love of reading in your home?

For as far back as I can remember my parents read to me and my sister, and our long car rides were filled with audiobooks. It was always books over television, though I distinctly remember always being more drawn to books anyway: my family moved often and books always provided a new world to become engrossed in. The first book I remember reading is William Steig's Brave Irene, which I used to read with my mom. My dad and I were really into Sherlock Holmes so that was also a nighttime favorite.

What are you currently reading?

Everything I can get my hands on! I'm actually just finishing up the third book in the Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children series--one of the best series I've read in a long time!!


  1. Sometimes the delight that can be found inside a book, translates perfectly to the delight that can be found visiting a place. Helene Druvert’s stunning Paris Up, Up and Away effortlessly transports you to the City of Light. The intricate cut-outs showcase a whimsical side of the city, with balloons, merry-go-rounds, stars and shops that make it ideal for children.



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