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Top tips for illustrators, four books I love and what you can learn from them.

Sometimes life is pretty magical. Did you know that I filmed our course, Illustrating Children’s Books, in Brighton, England with someone I admire. Zoe Tucker,  respected children’s book art director and mischief-maker, was my co-conspirator in the course.


Me and Zoe Tucker in Brighton, getting ready for filming

When you film tons of videos with someone over many days, you really get to know them. And with someone like Zoe, you get to experience the vast depth of their knowledge.

Lilla: Zoe, can I ask you anything on camera about books, or is there anything you don’t want me to ask? Will I be putting you on the spot? Would you rather know in advance?

Zoe: No. Ask me anything on camera.

And so I did. And she knows A TON.

We filmed the core content of the course but we sprinkled in some free-form banter. There was plenty of impromptu Q&A between Agent and Art Director. I think you’ll love getting that inside look. Want to know what we will be teaching?


Here we are, on the monitor. After four years of doing e-courses, I’m finally not nervous on camera. In fact, my focus is now on imparting even more information and guidance to my students in a way that will be useful to them.

I’ve agented probably over a hundred book gigs to my artists over the years, so I know a little something about illustrating books, but I delighted in learning a ton from Zoe. You will, too, and I know you’ll adore her as much as I do.


Zoe Tucker, my co-teacher for Illustrating Children’s Books for Make Art That Sells

I’ve selected four children’s books I love that illustrate four key points I want you to know if you want to be a busy, top children’s book illustrator.

1. Last Stop on Market Street, illustrated by Christian Robinson

market streetforweb

Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Peña, illustrated by Christian Robinson

TIP: Do your research.

I am insanely crazy about this book. I’m not alone; it’s both a 2016 Caldecott Award and Newbury Award winner. The story is wonderful—I encourage you to read it—but today I want to point out the variety of characters illustrated in this charming retro style by Christian Robinson. I can’t take how much I love the lady with her jar of butterflies and the bald dude with his green tattoos and phone. These characters are probably not the first things that come into your head. Go out, sketch people on the bus. Do your research. That’s how you’ll come up with those unexpected details.

market st last stop on market street interior1forweb

2. The Wonderful Fluffy Little Squishy, illustrated by Beatrice Alemagna


The Wonderful Fluffy Little Squishy by Beatrice Alemagna

TIP: Illustrate loads of thing for the child to discover upon multiple readings

While you’re reading a book to a child, realize that they are spending many moments studying the image. Is there plenty to look at? This double page spread (below) is so delightful and well researched. The shops are each so charming, with varied architecture and colors. Notice, too, how the main character, wearing a pink jacket, is shown in multiple places in the scene, looking for the pink squishy.

squishy spread

3. Emmanuel’s Dream, illustrated by Sean Qualls


Emmanuel’s Dream, illustrated by Sean Qualls

TIP: Show emotion in your characters.

The mother’s gentle love and the sweet innocence of this child are brilliantly depicted. Also notice how the pose of the mother and the upturned head of the child communicate an intimate moment. By the way, I also love the skin color; it’s got richness and unexpected hues in a gorgeous, painterly style.

Emmanuel's Dreamforweb


4. Home, written and illustrated by Carson Ellis

carson ellisforweb

Home, written and illustrated by Carson Ellis


TIP: Come up with the unexpected. Push boundaries.

When the art director of this book, Kristen Nobles, came to visit us at the Studio, she told us how Carson decided to write a book where the houses are the ‘main character’ of the book. What a brilliant idea. This gives Carson an opportunity to draw a ton of varied domiciles.

carson ellis HOME.jpegforweb

Hope you enjoyed the tour. How about you take a photo of one of your favorite children’s books & upload it to Instagram with #matskidbooks #makeartthatsells. I’d love to see your favorites!




I’d be delighted to have you in our course. It’s crammed full of tons of information and inspiration for you. We are going to make some amazing art together.

Do you dream of illustrating a children’s book? Would you love to create a magical world with characters that you’ve designed?

Do you love the magic of children’s books and feel that you have something to offer?

Then this course is for you.




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