Friday, August 22, 2014

Author-illustrator Toni Yuly

Happy Friday! I'm celebrating the last day of the first week of the 2014-2015 school year with author-illustrator Toni Yuly. We chatted about Early Bird, her studio, painter Jacob Lawrence, libraries, and picture books. I wrote the words in red, and she wrote the words in black. Thank you, Toni! 

Early Bird is my first picture book!  She is little, red and full of energy. Early Bird is for 1-3 year olds but it is also a nice book for anyone learning to read as the text is very simple and big!  I see Early Birds outside my window every morning because I am an early bird too!

I created the illustrations for Early Bird with pencil and pen and my computer (Photoshop.)

If you visited my studio I would most likely be in my pajamas, sitting with a big cup of black, decaf coffee and some dark chocolate near by.  It is a small, happy, quiet, bright room.  There is a window that looks out to a mostly neglected, wild yard. My studio is messy and there are a lot of odds and ends around that “speak” to me... thrift store finds... bits of the beach...and a LOT of books!

Picture books are magical things! They can make a huge impression on kids. Any book is cool, but who doesn't like a book with pictures! Picture books like all books have the power to be our friends. They sit in our heads and hearts and speak to us in a million ways you can't explain, but just happens...

Jacob Lawrence taught me so many things!  His “office” was actually a tiny studio space where he worked.  He had a collection of tools and stuff he loved plus some of his work up on the was a very cool “office.”   He was a multi-talented artist working in many areas including, painting, illustration, printmaking, mural design, etc.  This was very different from all of the other painting professors I had at the time, and I remember being really impressed and I started thinking, hey this guy is a painter, but he also does all of this other stuff too!  Besides many classes, I took 2 independent studies with Jacob Lawrence and during that time I built cardboard wall constructions, experimented with collage and drew and painted some of my most exciting work.

I am grateful to Jacob Lawrence for telling me something that really helped me and stuck with me.  He said, “You don’t have to have a big, fancy studio space. You can work anywhere,”  and I did.  For years I lived in tiny apartments and painted in the corner of my bedroom.  It wasn’t always perfect, but I never stopped working.

Libraries are my heart and soul!  I have worked in libraries for about 35 years and I just love them and the people who work in them.  Libraries are our last, great public sanctuaries, free to all people. I cherish libraries.  Check out all of the amazing things that libraries offer and give your local librarian a hug today!

Reading is something I struggled with when I was a kid.  I was a dreamer and always looking out the window so I wasn’t very good at school until I hit college. I think the best kind of reading is the kind you enjoy!  That could include blogs (like this one!)  comic books, cookbooks, etc.  I hope that people will never lose their love of does take some time and effort to sit and read something, but reading has the power to change your life in so many ways.

Mr. Schu, you should have asked me what my next book is all about!  It is a companion to Early Bird and it is called, Night Owl!  It will be released in January 2015 and I can not wait to share it with the world.  As with Early Bird, Night Owl is for very young kids. The themes are nighttime, sounds, listening, fear and bravery.  I had so much fun creating Night Owl!  Plus a board book edition of Early Bird is coming out at the same time.

I am giving away one copy of Early Bird

Rules for the Giveaway 

1. It will run from 8/22 to 11:59 p.m. on 8/24. 

2. You must be at least 13. 

3. If you win, please pay it forward. 

Borrow Early Bird from your school or public library. Whenever possible, please support independent bookshops. 


  1. I am a huge library fan too! In fact, my kids and I call it our second-home (not just because they have air-conditioning). Looking forward to Toni's next books!

  2. I am a huge fan of libraries, librarians, AND TONI. She is an awesome talent and and amazing person. Hooray for Early Bird and Night Owl and all that follows! Thank you for featuring Toni and her work, Mr. Schu :)

  3. These books look very cute. I love to hear the birds outside my window in the mornings - though I am not myself and early bird!