Thankful by Elaine Vickers and Samantha Cotterill

Hello, Elaine Vickers! Hello, Samantha Cotterill! Welcome back to Watch. Connect. Read.! I wish you could have heard me oohing and aahing as I read Thankful’s text and experienced the art. The art!!!!!!!! I’m going to borrow an expression from Kate DiCamillo’s Flora and Ulysses--HOLY BAGUMBA! HOLY BAGUMBA!!!!!!! (I’m sorry for all the exclamation points!)

Elaine Vickers: No apologies necessary! That is the appropriate number of exclamation points for Sam’s incredible art! HOLY BAGUMBA indeed!!!!!! And thank you so much for having us!

Sam Cotterill: Wow....we get a HOLY BAGUMBA? What an absolute honor, and the abundance of exclamation points makes all those extra hours fixing or starting over well worth it!!!!!! Thank you so much John for having us, and boy am I excited to share this number with the world next Fall.


Elaine, please tell everyone what Thankful is about.

Elaine Vickers: If Thankful were a song, it would be “What a Wonderful World.” The story is a lyrical narrative about gratitude based on a tradition from my own family. When winter comes, we each write down the things we’re thankful for on strips of paper, then read a link of the chain each day as the new year approaches. At its core, Thankful is celebration of family, the beauty of the natural world—and what a wonderful thing it is to be part of it all.



Samantha, please take us through the process of creating and photographing the three-dimensional sets for Thankful.

Samantha Cotterill: Oh you know, just a little draw, paint, cut, glue, arrange, photograph, accidentally knock over something you don’t see until after editing photograph, re-shoot, cry, start over, edit, get excited, repeat.

It’s funny, while the steps are *slightly* more involved than my 2d illustrations, I definitely find it comes more naturally to me. I enjoy the back and forth, and quite like the constant shifting of processes throughout. After the initial sketches are approved, I dive in with the build. Each set is usually about 3-4 feet wide, and I start by setting my camera to get a gauge for how big things need to be in order to fit the frame of the camera. It’s important that everything in the spread is hand-built in a way that feels approachable to kids, and the majority of the construction consists of cardboard, hot glue and acrylics/house paint/whatever I have on hand. Due to my rheumatoid arthritis I cannot cut things as small or detailed as I’d like, so a lot of time is spent playing with ways to still create imagery without killing my hands đŸ˜‰ . It’s that whole idea of working with what you’ve got, and in a way, this limitation actually keeps things more lively and creative.

The figures are then all drawn in nib pen/brush pen on watercolor paper and set in place. After setting up a bunch of lights and figuring out the aesthetic that’s needed, I take a bunch of photographs and bring them into photoshop for any final edits/cleanups that may be needed.


Elaine, please finish the following sentence starters:

Samantha Cotterill’s art is, to put it simply, picture book perfection. The best way I can describe it is that I feel like I wrote a simple melody and Sam turned it into a breathtaking symphony. She’s truly created a whole world that will be perfect for libraries and classrooms and read-alouds, but perhaps most of all, for cozy readings curled up with those you love, again and again. I’m still finding new details and surprises. My nine-year-old summed it up well: “I think I just want to crawl into this book and live there.”

I hope Thankful finds its way into readers’ hands and hearts and reminds them of all the beauty and goodness in the world. Of all there is to be thankful for.

Picture books are poems and portals and absolutely priceless. And they are so tricky to write! This is my debut picture book (after ten years of writing them!), and I can’t even express how grateful I am for Sam and Sylvie (our editor) and how beautifully the whole thing has come together. I feel like the luckiest author in the world. “Thankful” is indeed the word for all of it.

Thankful is dedicated to...

In a line that echoes one from the book, the text of Thankful is dedicated “To Mom and Dad: Whatever tomorrow brings, I love you.” My parents tucked me in each night with the words “good night, sweet dreams, see you in the morning, I love you,” which inspired the tucking-in poem in the book. And they created for me a childhood filled with light and love and things to be thankful for. This one is definitely for them.


Samantha, please finish the following sentence starters:

Elaine Vickers’ manuscript for Thankful sings beautifully and has a classic feel like none other. Her words pushed me to work harder and experiment more. The structure of the story allowed for so many different settings to explore in lighting, color, and texture...indoor and out, sun and cold, morning and night...it really was an absolute dream to work on.

Lizzy Bromley and Sylvie Frank are my side arms in this 3D picture book adventure. We have done a few books together now, and have figured out a fluid routine that works perfectly amongst the three of us . They know my quirks, and instinctively understand when to either push or sit back during the book making process. Lizzy’s graphic eye for layout is insanely brilliant, and I try to construct spreads for her to play with when figuring out the book design. Sylvie’s ability to take my ideas and help connect what works with the text is an invaluable tool....especially since I can sometimes over-think things. (Sometimes meaning always)

Thankful is dedicated to you. And you. And you. And you. Oh, and you over there...you too. Thankful is for everyone who picks up the book. I cannot make books without the reader/viewer in mind, and it’s about time I properly thanked them for it :).


Elaine/E.B. Vickers is an award-winning author of picture books, middle grade, and young adult novels that aim to help readers of all ages find connection and belonging. She grew up in a small town in the Utah desert, where she spent her time reading, playing basketball, and exploring. Several years and one PhD later, she found her way back to her hometown, where she now spends her time writing, teaching college chemistry, and exploring with her husband and three kids.


Samantha Cotterill has written and illustrated many popular books for children, including the Little Senses series. The Wall Street Journal praised her “fabulously fun artwork” in Jinx and the Doom Fight Crime! by Lisa Mantchev and called it an “exuberant picture book.” She also illustrated Just Add Glitter by Angela DiTerlizzi, which The New York Times called “a sparkle of genius.” Samantha lives with her family in upstate New York. 


Look for Thankful in fall 2021. 

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