Mini Interviews - Matthew Cordell

Some authors' stories read as if they were giggling quietly to themselves the entire time they were writing.  When I saw the cover of 

Trouble Gum

, the image of a giant pink bubble being blown by a small piglet, I knew I found such a book.  Matthew Cordell wrote and illustrated 

Trouble Gum.  

Matthew Cordell (from my estimation) has fun for a living.   So being the nosy person that I am, I had to include this talented author/illustrator in our Mini Interview line up...

Mini Interviews - Matthew Cordell
Mini Interviews - Matthew Cordell

Please describe your career as an author-illustrator in 5 words:

Still. Figuring. It. All. Out.

richard scarry
richard scarry

Which books, that were your favorite when you were little, have had the greatest influence on your work?

I wish I could point to some really obscure and never-heard-of illustrators as my childhood inspirations, like that would make me sound cool, maybe. However,  I think I'm not too different from most in that I can remember the "classics" being read during my own childhood. Specifically, I can remember being drawn to Maurice Sendak (WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE), Dr. Seuss (GREEN EGGS AND HAM), and Richard Scarry (WHAT DO PEOPLE DO ALL DAY?) as a child. And I still love all three of them. Maybe this still makes me sound cool?

Mini Interviews - Matthew Cordell
Mini Interviews - Matthew Cordell

Please share an instance in which you had an idea or experience that started out small, but took root and grew to become a book.

My first author-illustrator book, TROUBLE GUM, started out with this image I had in my head of a pig who blew a massive bubble gum bubble and it lifted him or her up into the air and took flight. I didn't have a story to wrap around that image, but I was very much in love with the possibility of making a book that somehow used that visual. I knew very little about writing picture books at the time, so it took me many incarnations of this bubble gum pig story, over the span of several years, before it actually, you know, took flight. But eventually one of those incarnations landed into the hands of my lovely editors at Feiwel and Friends, Liz Szabla and Rebecca Davis, and they helped me officially find its way to publication.

Mini Interviews - Matthew Cordell
Mini Interviews - Matthew Cordell

Do you ever hide little images, names or personal details in your illustrations? Please give us a peek

I do! Occasionally, when there's a place to hide some text or if there's a background character or element I could use as a tip o' the hat to someone I love, I'll take advantage. For instance, on this page from ANOTHER BROTHER, I've used these letter blocks to spell out the names of my daughter, Romy, and wife, Julie. These are always fun things to point at at school visits! Kids get into the whole secret message thing.

Mini Interviews - Matthew Cordell
Mini Interviews - Matthew Cordell
Mini Interviews - Matthew Cordell
Mini Interviews - Matthew Cordell
Mini Interviews - Matthew Cordell
Mini Interviews - Matthew Cordell

Daily routines are important for both writers and illustrators. Could you describe your typical work day, and tell us the one little thing you absolutely cannot begin your day without (besides caffeine)?

Lately I've been trying to do some work before doing the actual "work." Meaning, some kind of warm-up routine to get the creative juices pumping. I didn't want to put a huge amount of time into thinking about subject, so I decided to start doing portraits of friends, family, co-workers. It's been a great deal of fun and I love surprising folks with my interpretation of themselves on Facebook.

Mini Interviews - Matthew Cordell
Mini Interviews - Matthew Cordell

Your books are so amazingly different - do you ever talk yourself out a of good idea because it skews the mainstream industry?

There was a time that I felt like I had to be a certain way and do a certain type of book and stick to it. Like I could ONLY do funny books. Or I could ONLY do sincere books. Or I could ONLY draw this way or that. For me, it gets old fast to think that way. So I'm happy to hear that you find my books so different from one another! One of my favorite contemporary author-illustrators, David Ezra Stein, has shown me that each book can be approached completely as an individual and the means of production can flow from within. And this kind of artistic freedom and sincerity... THAT is your style. That is your moniker. Now that I've opened myself up to whatever comes, I feel so much more free and able to create without being put in a self-imposed box. I don't know if it's good or bad or whatever, but I know it makes me feel better not having to live up to just one ideal or aesthetic.

Mini Interviews - Matthew Cordell
Mini Interviews - Matthew Cordell
Mini Interviews 2013
Mini Interviews 2013

Matthew Cordell is the illustrator and author of many acclaimed books for young readers. Though he spent most of his life in small town South Carolina, at the turn of the century he migrated midwest to set up shop in Chicago. It was there that he met his soon-to-be bride, his passion for children’s books, and deep dish pizza.  Matthew is the illustrator of many books including the Justin Case series by Rachel Vail, 

Forgive Me, I Meant to Do It

 by Gail Carson Levine, and 

Toby and the Snowflakes

 by Julie Halpern. He is the illustrator and author of 

hello! hello!, Another Brother, 


 Trouble Gum

.  Matthew now lives in the suburbs of Chicago with his talented wife, author Julie Halpern, and their two children.

Be on the look out in 2014 for ROOTING FOR YOUa picture book by Susan Hood with illustrations by Matthew. He is currently working on his third author-illustrator book, WISH, and illustrations for a picture book by Philip C. Stead titled SPECIAL DELIVERY.

Stay connected with Matthew through...






Mini-Interviews 2012

I think I'm kind of freaking out.

Do you ever compose a dialogue in your mind with a famous person while washing the dishes?  Maybe I'm completely alone in this practice, but I regularly interview people I admire while scrapping away at my panini press.  What is amazing (other than a Garlic Chicken Goat Cheese Panini) is that these interviews are coming true.  So I'm a bit excited.  A LOT a bit.

Since November is National Picture Book Month my fellow illustration buddies Juana Martinez Neal, Molly Idle, Laura Jacobsen and I will be hosting a series of Mini Interviews.  We will be relentlessly grilling those we admire, respect and secretly seethe with jealously over their abundance of talent.

Check out who we'll be featuring throughout the month this's pretty incredible...

Kevan Atteberry

Lynne Avril

Alexandra Ball

Alexandra Boiger

David Christiana

Kent Culotta

Adam Gustavson

Jeremy Holmes

Brian Karas

Kelly Light

John Parra

Greg Pizzoli

Amanda Shepherd

Mary Sullivan

Constanze Von Kitzing

Wendy Watson So stay posted!  You don't want to miss this exposition of talent coming straight at you!  And yes, sandwiches will be served.

Marc Simont

StrayDog-742613Oh Marc Simont, you've stolen my heart!

How this all began...

My 4 year old daughter Lily has been diagnosed (by me) to have an obsessive compulsive disorder regarding dogs. So needless to say, when we venture into the library, she makes a bee-line for the toys with the understanding that I am left to check out every dog themed picture book ever published. Let me be clear- I love my daughter but I do not love dogs. I am not a dog person. I'm a people person. People are funny and fun to draw. Dogs smell and shed excessive amounts of oily hair. So you can understand my lack of enthusiasm when searching through the stacks for yet another Rover, Bozo, Spot, Pancake whatever - dog book. But it seems my luck had changed when I came across The Stray Dog by Marc Simont. It, I think, is as close to a perfect picture book as you can get. It's a great blend of cute dogginess and amazingly observed people. Simont is great at capturing those moments that seem so often overlooked. simont-dogAnd how could you not love a dog digging in the trash.

Use Twitter for good, not evil.

Ya' know, I had my reservations about Twitter when the hubby suggested it, meaning he signed me up and started following a dozen or so people without my knowledge.  But now that I've jumped on to the networking bandwagon, I've come to the conclusion that you can only do good or evil with this - thing.  I guess what I'm trying to say is there is a lot of, not even politics, but just flat out third grade bragging on this public micro blog.  The best thing about it though, is finding people that don't have 1000+  followers and have AMAZING work.  Here's two, just to start... cateris

Sarah Caterisano I'm such a sucker for beautifully rendered people and watercolor washes!

Tea and NPR

Tina Sweep Wonderful still life and anyone that listens to NPR is a friend of mine.

 So, in conclusion, go to your local Twitter and check out other great artists - and be good!

Ora Eitan

 cowboy_bunnies1 Upon my weekly visit to the library with my girls, I came upon one of Ora Eitan's books Cowboy Bunnies and I had one of those "Oh yeah!  I forgot about her!"  moments - like rediscovering my favorite chapstick lost in the abyss of my purse.  My fav book of hers is Sun is Falling, Night is Calling.  Her painterly style is just so fresh, innocent and effortless.  You look at it and immediately start craving gouache - and plywood.  "Plywood, plywood!  I need it!  I've been inspired!"  The poopy thing is she doesn't have a website so this link will have to suffice...