Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Animal Cards for the Holidays on Etsy

Animal Cards at
It’s time to think of Holiday cards, and what could be more perfect than scenes of animals in winter!  If you go to my Etsy shop, CarolineArnoldArt, you can find cards with polar bears, penguins, pandas, and other animals that love the snow. Send them to your friends for the holidays! Cards are blank on the inside so you can write your own message.  Sets of cards also make perfect gifts for the animal lovers in your life.  Making the art is the first step in creating my cards. Each piece of art is a cut paper collage which I then scan to make my cards.  Each card is then printed and packaged by hand in my studio.  I use a thick 100% cotton rag paper to make gallery quality prints. If you can’t bear to send the cards, they are beautiful framed.  Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Blog Anniversary and Illustrator's Day

Three years ago today, I launched my Art and Books blog, inspired by a talk by Mary Peterson at the SCBWI LA Illustrator’s Day, demonstrating how easy it was to set up your own blog and use it as a way to promote your work.  Despite my initial enthusiasm, it was more than a year before I put up my second post!  My original intention was to use my blog just for my art, but I have since broadened it to include my writing as well.  Now, I try to post once a week, usually on Wednesdays. Now that the blog is three years old, I'd love to hear what you think!

Last Saturday I attended Illustrator’s Day 2011, and was inspired anew to try new approaches in my art and update my portfolio.  Speakers on Saturday included art directors Scott Magoon (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), Susan Sherman (Charlesbridge), editor Andrea Welch (Beach Lane Books) and illustrator Giselle Potter.  It was a pleasure to see Susan Sherman again, who I had worked with when illustrating my two folding board books Who Is Bigger? Who is Smaller? and Who Has More?  Who Has Fewer?, my first ventures back into the world of illustrating since 1983!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


What is my favorite book, animal, food, color, place to visit?  I often get asked these questions when I do school visits.
Of the books I have written, it is really difficult to pick just one, but among my favorites is The Terrible Hodag and the Animal Catchers. The Hodag is a creature with the head of an ox, feet of a bear, back of a dinosaur and tail of an alligator. It roams the north woods where lumberjacks cut down trees. I first learned about the Hodag when I was a child and went to camp in northern Wisconsin. My story is an original tall tale.
I love learning about animals because each one is different.  However, if I have to pick one as a favorite, it would be cats.  I have always had a pet cat. I especially liked writing about members of the cat family in my books about lions, cheetahs, and bobcats.
My favorite food is bread.  I like sweet breads, whole grain breads, quick breads like muffins and pancakes, bread sticks, flat breads, and just about any way that flour can be made into bread.  I like to eat bread and I like to make it too.
My favorite color is green.
Picking a favorite place to visit is really hard.  I have traveled all over the world and have been to every continent except Antarctica.  Every place is fascinating.  But, one of the places I have visited numerous times is Australia, so I think that would go on the top of my list.
What are your favorites?

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

CLC Award: The Best Written and Illustrated Suite of Nonfiction for Children

Caroline and Marjorie Arnett at the CLC Gala
    Attending the annual author luncheon of the CLC (Council on Literature for Children in Southern California), is a fall ritual for me.  I think I have been to most of them over the years and I always look forward to it.  This year was the gala celebration of the organization’s 50th anniversary, held at the historic Romanesque Room in Pasadena.  I was so pleased to have my books A Polar Bear’s World, A Walrus’ World, A Moose’s World and A Bald Eagle’s World honored as The Best Written and Illustrated Suite of Nonfiction for Children and happy that so many of my friends were there to help celebrate at this special event.  Here are my remarks upon receiving the award: 

  I am truly honored.  It is especially nice to be here at the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the organization that I still think of as SCCLCYP.  Remembering what all the letters stood for, ...Southern California Council on Literature for Children and Young People... was a little like learning to spell Mississippi when I was in first grade–once you start, you just go as fast as you can until you get to the end.  I was not there at the beginning of SCCLCYP, but I do remember my first Author Luncheon 31 years ago in 1980.  It was held at the Biltmore Hotel in downtown Los Angeles and I remember being awed both by the elegant surroundings (there was a string quartet playing in the lobby) and the fact that this was my first professional event as a new author. I had just published my very first book, an easy read story about birds, and I was feeling totally intimidated by the roomful of other much more established authors.  I never imagined that one day I would be standing in front receiving an award.
The books that are being honored today are the last four in a series of twelve books published by Picture Window Books.  The first four in the series were about black and white animals, the next four about Australian animals, and these focus on animals that live in Alaska or the Arctic. 

Many of you know me as a writer specializing in books about animals and the environment.  For many years, I worked with photographers, including my husband, Art, who is here today.  With all of those books, I needed stories that lent themselves to photography.  That meant, no nocturnal animals, no underwater animals, no remote locations.  So many times I said to myself, “It would be so much easier if I could just do the art myself!”  Then I wouldn’t have to worry about backgrounds, I could set my stories in any location, and I could make the animals behave as I wanted. With the Picture Window Books animal series I finally had the chance. 

The books in this series are intended for children in the primary grades.  (They are also perfect in preschool)  The main story of each book is short and told from the point of view of a baby animal growing up in the wild.  Factual information not essential to the flow of the story is put in sidebars and in front and back matter.
For the illustrations in these books, I chose a cut-paper collage technique.  I wanted a poster-like look with bold colors that would make the images easy to see, even by a child in the back of the room when a teacher or librarian is reading the book aloud.  The essential parts of each illustration are the outlines.  Basically, as I do the art, I am drawing with scissors. I do, in fact, draw each image in pencil first, but the final result comes from cutting it out with my best sewing scissors. I typically cut out the animals first and then position them on a background.  I use flat colors, overlapping the paper in layers.  When the art is scanned for the book, a slight shadow around the edges of the paper creates a subtle 3-D effect.

I rely on photographs and personal observations of the animals as references for my drawings.  When possible, I like to observe animals in their natural habitats. I have been to Alaska and have seen both moose and bald eagles in the wild.  To learn about polar bears and walruses, I went to Sea World and the San Diego Zoo.  The wonderful thing about zoos is that you can see huge animals like these just inches away on the other side of the glass.   Basically, I discovered, walruses are huge lumps.  They are a bit like your living room sofa with tusks.  And yet, they are surprisingly agile in the water.  I also find nature films and video helpful in my research.  While I was working on the eagle book, I kept my second computer screen open to a live webcam at an eagle nest on Catalina island.  It was amazing.  In real time, I could watch the young chicks toddling around the nest waiting for their parents to bring them food, and then suddenly the adult eagle would arrive, swooping in with a fish in its talons. 

I never get tired of watching animals and learning about them.  I know from my school and library visits that kids love to learn about animals too.  I want to thank all the teachers and librarians and parents who put books like mine into the hands of children.  And I want to express my gratitude to the CLC for choosing my books for this very special honor today.  Thank you, Marjorie Arnett, for your great introduction.  And thanks to Barbara Metzenbaum and all the people on the award committee for choosing me to receive this award.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Bobcats: The Writing Process, Learning from Real Life

I love getting letters from readers.  They often tell me about their own experiences with animals.  They also want to know how I learn about animals for my books.
Recently I got a letter from a fifth grade student in Arizona.  She wrote:  I read your story Bobcats. I simply love it! I want to know how you got your ideas. Do you know all that information or did someone tell you? Did you ever see bobcat in real life? My dad is a mailman, he saw a bobcat in real life. He said it was amazing. That bobcat didn’t even move!

Here’s my reply:
I'm glad you enjoyed reading my book about bobcats. I learned about bobcats at the Living Desert Reserve in Palm Desert, California. The bobcats live in a large natural enclosure with good views where people can watch them. Even though the bobcats are in a zoo, they behave much as they would in the wild. I also got information for the book by doing research in my library and by talking to experts. I once saw a bobcat in the wild. It was sitting very quietly on a rock watching a deer. I was surprised to see how big it was.  One of the things I like best about writing books about animals is that part of my job is observing animals in real life.

Bobcats is an Earlybird Nature Book published by Lerner in 1998.  It is out of print but you can look for it in your library.