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

First Peas to the Table - Reviews

"History, science and a guidance lesson all rolled into one, this could surely be the spark for many a school garden." Kirkus Reviews

"This beautifully illustrated story has a mixture of both fiction and facts about the life cycle of peas....Teachers will find a multitude of ways to use this book and this team's In the Garden with Dr. Carver." School Library Journal

"The first-person narrative relates events and Maya's changing perspective in a believably childlike voice, while the pencil-and-watercolor illustrations capture the story's tone as well as the characters' emotions." Booklist

 "This picture book seamlessly meshes together a little science, a little history, and a strong storyline." Library Media Connection

And the wonderful Jama Rattigan gave space on her blog for this review.

Saturday, June 01, 2013

Our Borders: Brandy and Boomer

Brandy came to us as a 10 week old puppy, February 19, 1995. She came from Kilduff, bred by Maribeth McMahon out in Sturbridge, MA. Her sire was Kilduff's Brass Boomerang, her dam was called Betsy.



Boomer we got at 11 months old in 1997, also from Kilduff. He and Brandy share the same father, Kilduff's Brass Boomerang. He had been returned to the breeder because one testicle didn't descend, which meant he couldn't be a showdog. He grew up with Rottweilers, and was originally named Ozzie. We thought his sire's name suited him better, so he became Boomer to us.

One for me, one for you.

Brandy, half stripped

Boomer's done, Brandy's half-done.

Add caption

My what big teeth you have!

Boomer's favorite rug


Sleepy toothy

Always wanted to be together... no matter how hot or crowded.

Who's painting this thing?
Freshly stripped
Might be the last time he was allowed on that rug...his sister liked to pee on it.

Brandy in the sunshine...

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

NESCBWI Conference 2013

What a great conference! I have never been so busy in three days. I taught a workshop Friday, attended other workshops, dinner, portfolio showcase. Saturday up and out early, to hear lovely keynote speakers, more awesome workshops, and an afternoon teaching with the fabulous Ruth Sanderson. Sunday was the concluding workshop with Ruth, and more fun with fellow artists, students, and creators.

It is wonderful to spend time with fellow New England authors and Illustrators, and it's been awhile since I've been to a conference. Boy was I tired! Looking forward to the next one, for sure. Did anyone else feel like there wasn't enough time between events? I felt like I was late all the time!

Special thanks to the conference organizers, volunteers, and many more folks who made this event such a success.

And where is my friend Craig? I can't believe I left without his email address! Craig if you're out there reading this, contact me, I'd love to keep in touch!

Finally...want the recipe for that broccoli/bacon/raisin salad! It was delicious!

Tuesday, February 05, 2013


Nicole Tadgell is an award-winning african american illustrator for children. Her luminous, expressive illustrations warmly portray childhood life for children of all races. Nicole's work has been featured in The Encyclopedia of Writing and Illustrating Children's Books. Original watercolor paintings have been exhibited at Quinsigamond Community College, ArtsWorcester, and in group showings at the Eric Carle Museum of Picturebook Art, Huntington House Museum and the Society of Illustrators.

Nicole spends her days with Davis Advertising in Worcester, MA, as Assistant Art Director.

Born in Detroit, Michigan, Nicole has lived in Texas, New York, and Massachusetts, where she now resides.



First Peas to the Table by Susan Grigsby

Lie Detector by Matt Bridger**

The Present by Matt Bridger**

Saturday Plans by Matt Bridger**

The Trebuchet by Matt Bridger**

Smack Dab in the Middle of God's Love by Brennan Manning and John Blase

In the Garden with Dr. Carver by Susan Grigsby

Lucky Beans by Becky Birtha

No Mush Today by Sally Derby

Grandaddy's Season* by Gwen Lavert

Five Loaves and Two Fishes by Julie Stiegemeyer

Waterworks* by Gwen Lavert

Jammin', Rockin', Toe Stompin' on the Rooftop* Gwen Lavert

A Day with Daddy by Nikki Grimes

Lights Out! by Angela Shelf Medearis

Josias, Hold the Book by Jennifer Riesmeyer Elvgren (Americas Award)

Moving Day Surprise by Tina Stohlberg

I'll Fly My Own Plane by Jean Alicia Elster

I'll Do the Right Thing by Jean Alicia Elster

I Have a Dream, Too by Jean Alicia Elster

Just Call Me Joe Joe by Jean Alicia Elster

Fatuma's New Cloth by Leslie Bulion (Children's Africana Book Award -
book is out of print)

*not published in the U.S.
**publication in 2013.



Bank Street College's 2013 Best Children's Books of the Year list - First Peas to the Table

2013 Learning Magazine’s Teachers Choice Award - First Peas to the Table

Selected by the Nebraska Farm Bureau's as the 2012 Children's Agricultural Book of the year for grades K-3 - First Peas to the Table

2011 Growing Good Kids Award - In the Garden with Dr. Carver

2006 Américas Award - Josias, Hold the Book

2006 Growing Good Kids Award - Josias, Hold the Book

2003 Children’s Africana Book Award - Fatuma’s New Cloth

1999 Mary T. Holland Awards - Merit Award for Illustration

Client List:

Albert Whitman and Co.
Bebop Books
Judson Press
Lee and Low
Macmillian McGraw
Moon Mountain Publishing
Pearson Learning
Thomas Nelson

Friday, January 11, 2013


2016 American Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture - Book of the Year

First Peas to the Table is one of 40 books chosen as part of Reading is Fundamental's 2013-14 Macy's Multicultural Collection of Children's Literature!

WFBF's (Wisconsin Farm Bureau) Book of the Year 2013.

2013 Growing Good Kids - Excellence in Children's Literature Award

Bank Street College's 2013 Best Children's Books of the Year list.

2013 Learning Magazine’s Teachers Choice Award

Selected by the Nebraska Farm Bureau's as the 2012 Children's Agricultural Book of the year for grades K-3

In the Garden with Dr. Carver:

2011 Growing Good Kids - Excellence in Children's Literature Award

2012-2013 Children's Crown Gallery Nominee

A 2011 Notable Social Studies Trade Book for Young People

Lucky Beans:

Named one of the CCBC Choices 2011, the annual best-of-the-year list of the Cooperative Children's Book Center (CCBC)

Named one of the Smithsonian Magazine's 2010 Notable Books for Children list

Named one of the New York Public Library's Best 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing, 2010

2010 BookLinks Lasting Connection

2012-2013 Show Me Readers Award Nominee List (Missouri)

2013 Arkansas Diamond Primary Book Award

No Mush Today:

Best Children's Books of the Year, Bank Street College of Education 2008

Josias, Hold the Book:

2006 Américas Award

2006 Bank Street College of Education

Eastern Washington University Excellent Choice

2006 Growing Good Kids Award

Maine’s A Capital Read

Rutgers University - Top 5 for 2006

2003 Children’s Africana Award