Wednesday, October 22, 2014

With Books and Bricks NEW Review by BCCB (Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books)

BCCB (Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books)

SLADE, SUZANNE With Books and Bricks: How Booker T. Washington Built a School; illus. by Nicole Tadgell. Whitman, 2014 [32p]
ISBN 978-0-8075-0897-8 $16.99 Reviewed from galleys
R 6-9 yrs

Former slave Booker T. Washington’s childhood and single-minded quest for an education has been the subject of several picture-book biographies, but here Slade highlights a precise episode in Washington’s later life, when he arrived at Tuskegee, Alabama as an educator and discovered he had no proper building in which to teach. The leaky wooden edifice, crammed with students, needed to be replaced with a sturdy brick building, but there were no bricks and no money with which to buy them. The solution, so obvious to Washington but so trying for his students, was to make their own bricks. This required digging deep for Alabama clay, mixing it with mud and straw, molding it, and firing the bricks in a homemade kiln. The first batch of thousands of bricks were lost to a faulty kiln, as was the next batch, and the next. At this point, Washington knew a proper kiln was required, and he sold his own precious gold watch for it. The bricks were fired, the first of many build- ings was erected, and the rest is Tuskegee Institute history. Slade supplies enough background on Washington’s childhood to provide context but keeps the focus mostly on this single event, putting further information on the institute itself into closing notes. Tadgell’s watercolor illustrations are literal enough to offer viewers a sense of place and process, while a recurrent rainbow theme—most effectively used to illuminate Washington’s features as he teaches under an umbrella in a rainstorm—reminds them of the elusiveness of Washington’s dream. Quotation sources and a short bibliography are included. EB

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Wheaton College makes an appearance in Friends for Freedom!

When women were allowed to attend college (not just female seminaries and finishing schools) I of course thought showing my alma mater would be most appropriate. :)
I worked from a photo of Mary Lyon from the Wheaton archives for this illustration.

I still miss you...

Monday, September 22, 2014

New review for With Books and Bricks!

History comes alive in Suzanne Slade and Nicole Tadgell’s With Books and Bricks: How Booker T. Washington Built a School, an engaging overview of the life of the legendary educator. Washington’s dreams begin early, during his boyhood as a slave. A glimpse of sentences on a chalkboard in the white kids’ classroom sparks his desire to learn. Washington pursues his goal as slavery ends, teaching himself to read and graduating from an institution in Virginia. From there, his dreams get bigger, as he sets out to build a first-class school for blacks from scratch—literally—out of Alabama clay. With the help of students and supporters, he makes his vision a reality, establishing the world-renowned Tuskegee Institute. Tadgell’s softly realistic pencil and watercolor illustrations add special appeal to this tale of a tireless leader whose legacy can still be felt today. This article was originally published in the September 2014 issue of BookPage."

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Friends for Freedom Launches Today!

Book Birthday!
Author copies arrived in the mail just in time for the big day!
 So many months of hard work, and finally the book is arriving to the world today! I think back on the earliest drafts:
early rough sketch

Finished art
Early rough sketch

Finished art the finished art, and often things change dramatically, but the spirit of the scene stays the same. I really love how this book turned out. I feel that I've helped bring two historical figures to life for kids to learn & hopefully inspire them to read further about how both Frederick Douglass and Susan B. Anthony helped change America – in part, by simply being friends.

Saturday, September 06, 2014

Early work found!

When Mom said come get your stuff, I thought I had taken everything when I moved out already. Turns out there was some art I did that was still hanging around, and not going with her. So I took some photos & scans to remember them. Space wins over nostalgia - unless anyone wants 'em, they're going to the recycle bin!

The land of happy trees! A study done after watching Bill Alexander. Around 1980. Acrylic on canvas board.
Watercolor. This one won a ribbon in Norton Middle School contest. My teacher was Mrs. Gagnon.
Long Island Back Yard. Watercolor. About 1982. This one was painted from a photo. I remember how I felt while painting this. We had moved from LI to Norton, MA and I was homesick.
The Dirt Road, Paved. 1980-1990? Oil on canvas board.

Maple or Sycamore tree in the yard at the house in Norton, MA. Around 1981-82 I think was acrylic, on canvas board.

Painting class at Wheaton, about 1989-91. Oil on canvas.

Painting class at Wheaton, about 1989-91. Oil on canvas.

This is a study from another artist. Does anyone know who she is? I'd love to look her up. I copied several of her works to study how she treated light. Oil on canvas board, 18x24.

1984. Another study from a magazine. Learned how to paint transparent bubbles. Oil on canvas board, 18x24.

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Starred review from Publishers Weekly!

Wonderful to hear this!

Publishers Weekly
At a time when “it wasn’t proper for women to be friends with men” and “You weren’t supposed to be friends with someone whose skin was a different color,” Anthony and Douglass sought out each other based on mutual respect and a shared commitment toward equality. Tadgell’s carefully drafted and evocative watercolors capture both the past and present obstacles Anthony and Douglass faced, from Douglass’s youth as a slave to rotten eggs hurled at the two when they appeared in public together and combative differences of opinion, as when the Fifteenth Amendment proposed to give voting rights to black men but not to women. Author and artist notes and a time line conclude a powerful testament to a friendship that spanned decades as it challenged conventions and “helped America grow up, too.” Ages 6–9. Illustrator’s agent: Christina A. Tugeau. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 09/01/2014
Release date: 09/09/2014

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Coloring Pages for Friends for Freedom!

Coloring Pages are ready! Teachers & parents, feel free to download & print for the kids.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

School Library Journal reviews With Books and Bricks!

Always nice to read a review from School Library Journal!

Slade, Suzanne. With Books and Bricks: How Booker T. Washington Built a School. illus. by Nicole Tadgell. 32p. bibliog. notes. Albert Whitman. 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780807508978. 

K-Gr 2–Booker T. Washington is a well-known historical figure, but the story of how he built the Tuskegee Institute by hand is not quite as common. This picture book brings the tale to light accessibly and engagingly. Young readers are sure to marvel at the accomplishments of Washington and his perseverance in spite of obstacles. The story is told simply, with beautiful watercolor and pencil illustrations. An endnote goes into more detail about Washington’s life and struggle to bring education to all. While this is not an all-encompassing biography, it is certainly a notable story about a lesser-known aspect of his life. Readers will enjoy this title, and it will easily tie in to school units as an enticing read-aloud. 

–Ellen Norton, White Oak Library District, Crest Hill, IL

Monday, August 18, 2014

Tardis Sneakers Update

Here's my followup of how they are getting worn:
Shoes are now getting broken in.

Color has remained very nice!

The paint is cracking a bit where the shoes flex. And they are beginning to get dirty. :)

Overall, I think they are aging nicely! If I were to do this again, I think I would only use one coat of acrylic sealer so it would be less shiny.

And I also found some old sketches of the idea process:

Friday, August 08, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Friends for Freedom!

A very nice Kirkus Review!

Two important historical figures from separate worlds come together for the common purpose of freedom.
From the first line of this work of creative nonfiction, the author makes clear the contrasts between Frederick Douglass and Susan B. Anthony: The cabin in which the slave, Frederick, was born had clay floors; the two-story house in which Susan was born had floors of polished wood. Despite differences in race, class and upbringing, Douglass and Anthony determined to be friends despite the taboos against cross-racial friendships. Both Slade’s text and Tadgell’s watercolor illustrations emphasize the passion each had for social justice as well as the lengths to which they both went to maintain their friendship. Often, characters in the background peer at them, looking disgusted or scandalized. In one illustration, enemies throw rotten eggs at them; Douglass’ angry expression and Anthony’s upraised fist speak to their determination to make their friendship an example of how America should be. The backmatter, which includes a photograph of bronze sculptures in Rochester, New York, of Douglass and Anthony having tea together, also offers useful information from the author in which she delineates the facts versus the fiction in the story.
This biographical gem places the spotlight on a friendship far ahead of its time. (Picture book/biography. 6-10)

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Newest arrival! An advance copy of Friends for Freedom arrived - with a lovely note from the folks at Charlesbridge.

Check out the Facebook page I made for this book!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Lee and Low's New Visions Award!

Lee and Low's New Visions contest is open to writers of color who are residents of the United States and who have not previously had a middle grade or young adult novel published.
Manuscripts will be accepted now through October 31, 2014. The winner of the New Visions Award will receive a grant of $1000 and our standard publication contract. An Honor Award winner will receive a cash grant of $500. For further details, including full eligibility and submission guidelines, please visit the New Visions Award page.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

CBC Diversity Event

I was honored to be asked to be a part of the CBC "Speed Dating" Diversity event at Simmons on May 14th. Met a lot of good people and many good discussions began. We can only move forward!

There is a new blossom of diversity awareness recently – appearing on tumblr, and on twitter, and Grace Lin, Walter Dean Myers, Zetta Elliot and interviews here. Controversy over lack of representation at BEA, and most recently, a new article on 10 YA books adults must read only consisted of white characters.

Friday, May 02, 2014

School Visits

I love to visit schools! Unfortunately, because I work full-time, I don't get to do many of them. My favorite thing to do is visit just one or two classrooms and let kids get up close & personal with original artwork. We'll draw together, and I do a painting demonstration.
For older kids, larger groups and/or college students, I can also do a powerpoint presentation. Your school would need to have a computer, projector, and a microphone for large groups.
Feel free to email me for this fall semester to schedule your visit: ntadgell at gmail dot com.

Happy drawing!

Friday, April 18, 2014

Friends for Freedom

Friends for Freedom: The Story of Susan B. Anthony & Frederick Douglass by Suzanne Slade.
Available September 9, 2014 from Charlesbridge.
Click here for coloring pages!

New this Fall!

With Books and Bricks: How Booker T. Washington Built a School by Suzanne Slade
Forthcoming this fall from Albert Whitman & Co. 2014.

Saturday, April 05, 2014


Books Illustrated by Nicole Tadgell


Friends for Freedom by Suzanne Slade
Albert Whitman & Co., 2014. ISBN 978-1580895682

With Books and Bricks by Suzanne Slade
Albert Whitman & Co., 2014. ISBN  978-0807508978

In the Garden with Dr. Carver by Susan Grigsby
Albert Whitman & Company, 2010. ISBN 978-0807536308

First Peas to the Table by Susan Grigsby
Albert Whitman & Company, 2012. ISBN  978-1400317134

Lie Detector by Matt Bridger
Heinemann, 2013. ISBN 978-0-325-03527-7

The Present by Matt Bridger
Heinemann, 2013. ISBN978-0-325-03466-9

Saturday Plans by Matt Bridger
Heinemann, 2013. ISBN 978-0-325-03418-8

The Trebuchet by Matt Bridger
Heinemann, 2013. ISBN 978-0-325-03465-2

Smack Dab in the Middle of God's Love by Brennan Manning and John Blase
Thomas Nelson, 2011. ISBN 978-1400317134

In the Garden with Dr. Carver  by Susan Grigsby
Albert Whitman & Company, 2010. ISBN 978-0807536308

Lucky Beans by Becky Birtha
Albert Whitman & Company, 2010. ISBN 978-0807547823

No Mush Today by Sally Derby
Lee and Low Books, 2008. ISBN 978-1600602382

Grandaddy's Season* by Gwen Lavert
Wendy Pye Publishing, 2008. ISBN 978-160385417-7

Five Loaves and Two Fishes by Julie Stiegemeyer
Zondervan, 2006. ISBN 978-1601433916

Waterworks* by Elizabeth Pulford
Wendy Pye Publishing, 2008. ISBN 978-1-60385-457-3

Jammin', Rockin', Toe Stompin' on the Rooftop* by Gwen Lavert
 Sunshine Books, 2008. ISBN 978-1-60385-315-6

A Day with Daddy by Nikki Grimes
Scholastic/Color-Bridge Books, 2004. ISBN 0-439-56850-1

Lights Out! by Angela Shelf Medearis (OOP)
Scholastic/Color-Bridge Books, 2004. ISBN 0-439-56868-4

Josias, Hold the Book by Jennifer Riesmeyer Elvgren
Boyds Mills Press, March 2006. ISBN 1-59078-318-2

Moving Day Surprise by Tina Stohlberg
Bebop Books, 2003. ISBN 1-58430

I'll Fly My Own Plane by Jean Alicia Elster
Judson Press, 2002. ISBN 978-0817014070

I'll Do the Right Thing by Jean Alicia Elster
Judson Press, 2003. ISBN 978-0817014087

I Have a Dream, Too by Jean Alicia Elster
Judson Press, 2002. ISBN 978-0817013974

Just Call Me Joe Joe by Jean Alicia Elster
Judson Press, 2001. ISBN 0-8170-1398-9

Fatuma's New Cloth by Leslie Bulion (OOP)
Moon Mountain Publishing, 2002. ISBN 0-9677929-7-5

*not published in the U.S.

Thursday, November 21, 2013


Today is the day to share this wonderful news! Lucky Beans by Becky Birtha has been chosen as the 2012-2013 Arkensas Diamond Primary Book Award winner!

The Arkansas Diamond Primary Book Award was established by the Arkansas Elementary School Council in 1998 to encourage reading for students in Grades K-3.  The name of the award was chosen because Arkansas is the only diamond producing state.  Like the Charlie May Simon Award, the Arkansas Diamond Award is selected by an annual vote. Children in Grades K-3 must have read at least three of the titles from the annual reading list and may vote for one title. Student voting is done in April each year.  If you have questions about the awards or reading lists, please contact Cathy Howser at the Arkansas State Library, , 501-682-2860.

I'm honored to be the illustrator of this book, Lucky Beans, the 2013 Arkansas Diamond Primary Book Award winner.

I'd like to extend my deepest thanks to the Arkansas Department of Education, the Arkansas State Library and the Arkansas Reading Association and all other organizations that support this award. Most especially, I'd like to thank the Arkansas school kids who voted for this book. Having my book loved by children is the greatest reward for all the effort, passion and dedication that goes into creating illustrations.

I'd also like to thank the staff at Albert Whitman & Co., and the author, Becky Birtha, without who this book would be impossible.

Although this book takes place during the depression, I didn't want it to be depressing. Kids are remarkabley resilient, and so I chose brighter colors to reflect an attitude of hope.

Using models is something I often do in picture books. I'd like to thank especially my father-in-law H. Allen Tadgell for playing the part of Mr. Kaplan, as well as describing what may be typical way of life during hard times. 

The house itself is based on memories of my great-gradnmother's bungalow in Detroit.  Special thanks to the folks at the Worcester Historical Museum, who helped with store interior and street scenes of the time.

Readers may find this interview with behind-the-scenes images of interest: 

Thank you all again!

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Skunk Surprise

My agent, Chris Tugeau, asked her artists to come up with ideas for the theme "Back to School Surprise".

 The Trayvon Martin case was in the news as I sketched for it. Today, Christopher Myers wrote this article that appeared on the Horn Book's website. So beautifully written, my thoughts pretty much mirror his. And I think perhaps my picture dreams along with Christopher's.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Growing Good Kids Honors First Peas to the Table!

Wonderful news!

First Peas to the Table by Susan Grigsby, published by Albert Whitman & Co.m was selected as one of the 2013 Growing Good Kids - Excellence in Children's Literature Award Winners!

This book awards program was established to recognize and build awareness of picture books that effectively promote an understanding of and appreciation for gardening/plants and the environment. Through engaging story, illustration and design, First Peas to the Table was designated by our book awards committee as exemplifying excellence in this aim.

Thanks, Growing Good Kids!

The Making of - First Peas to the Table

Here's a sneak peek behind-the-scenes of the making of this book:
Mrs. Barhoff's 4th grade class graciously modeled for me! Here, I asked them to pretend I wasn't there.

Rough sketch of the cover

Rough sketch of my favorite page

My first pea seedling!
More seedlings, planted on different days.
Here's where I fell in love with bright pink and yellow