ALLEANNA HARRIS: Will Write/Illustrate for Cookies PLUS Original Art Giveaway



Plate of Cookies







What an honor this is for me! Today I’m hosting the illustrator for one of my upcoming picture books…and I couldn’t be more thrilled with how she has brought the characters of Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe to life. Every page turn sings…Alleanna has definitely made their voices be heard!

Alleanna Harris is a illustrator who has been drawing for as long as she can remember. As a little kid, she would draw on every page of her mom’s legal pads, doodle on her notebooks at school and on the programs at church.

She graduated from the University of Arts with a BFA in Animation with Honors, and it was during this time she realized her love for illustration.

She has illustrated several children’s books, including The Journey of York: The Unsung Hero of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, The Day Abuelo Got Lost, Making Their Voices Heard, and Patricia’s Vision.

Alleanna finds inspiration in the beauty in everyday things. Everything inspires her. In her work, she seeks to create images that are immersive, rich in color and have a sense of warmth. She lives in New Jersey.

Thank you so much, Alleanna! I really appreciate you stopping by to answer some questions. I know my readers are excited to find out more about you – and I just want to let them know that the giveaway today – thanks to your talent and generosity – is an original sketch…oh my goodness! One lucky person is going to win a piece of original art created by you! So, dear friends, make sure  you leave a comment below. But please don’t rush through the post to get to the comment section, because you are going to want to read Alleanna’s amazing Q&A.

ME: Who were your favorite authors/illustrators when you were a child?

ALLEANNA: I loved Wendelin Van Draanen. I read every single book of her Sammy Keyes series. In terms of illustrators:

Garth Williams, who did the illustrations for Charlotte’s Web and the Little House books.

Eric Carle, because I loved the colored collage and cutouts.

Bill Watterson because I have a ton of Calvin and Hobbes books.

Pat Brady, because I used to love the comic Rose Is Rose in the Sunday newspaper.

cover 2

ME:What do you know now that you wish you knew when you first started illustrating?

ALLEANNA: A schedule is key! Time management is everything. Deciding which illustrations to do, on which day, and which time of day according to how I work really makes my job easier.

ME: Where do you like to create – inside, outside, special room, laptop, pen and paper?

ALLEANNA: I have two main places: my room and the kitchen. In my room, I use a drawing desk that my mom got for me before college. It’s next to my bed and I can look out my window to the street. In the kitchen, I sit at the table where I can see out the kitchen window to my front yard and where I can see out the back door to the sun porch and backyard. I like being able to look out the window to daydream every once in a while.

alleanna workspace

For my rough illustrations, I like to use my iPad. I enjoy the ease of use, and it’s almost like pen and paper but it’s digital and portable. For my final illustrations, I use my laptop and Wacom drawing tablet.

ME: When do you create – early morning, late in the day, middle of the night, on schedule, as the muse strikes?

ALLEANNA: On weekdays during the school year, I wake up really early and I work until late afternoon with short breaks in between. Then I take a long break and I might work for a few hours at night. In the summer, I work anytime, but mostly at night.

ME: Why do you illustrate for children?

ALLEANNA: I illustrate for children because I love it. I want to help kids experience new stories and new people, and illustrating is my way of going about it. I want to help spark their imaginations and looking at illustrations offer a fast track to their imagination.

patricias vision


ME: Also, if you have any thoughts or advice for aspiring writers and/or illustrators, please share. 

ALLEANNA: For writers and illustrators: I’m not sure exactly where I heard this from, but make your things first, and then judge your things later. If you overthink too much, you won’t ever make anything. With than being said, I need to take my own advice!

york journey cover

ME: And this awesome sweetness is not over yet…here’s a special recipe from Alleanna.

ALLEANNA: Here’s a recipe that’s very close to a recipe that my grandma, Me-Me used to fix for a treat. It’s really simple and really tasty.


Mom’s Fried Apples

Total Time
Prep: 15 min.

Cook: 30 min.

Makes 8 servings


  • 1/2 cup butter, cubed
  • 6 medium unpeeled tart red apples, sliced
  • 3/4 cup sugar, divided
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon


  • Melt butter in a large cast-iron or other ovenproof skillet. Add apples and 1/2 cup sugar; stir to mix well. Cover and cook over low heat for 20 minutes or until apples are tender, stirring frequently.
    Add cinnamon and remaining sugar. Cook and stir over medium-high heat 5-10 minutes longer.

ME: What a perfect time for an apple recipe, Alleanna! I may have to go apple picking this weekend so that I will have fresh apples to try this yummy looking recipe.

Dear friends, I know we are all applauding for Alleanna – she is a illustrator rockstar – do you know that she has TWO picture books launching in January? YES! She is the illustrator for PATRICIA’S VISION: The Doctor Who Saved Sight by Michelle Lord (Sterling Books, January 7, 2020) and of course, MAKING THEIR VOICES HEARD: The Inspiring Friendship of Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe (Little Bee, January 14, 2020)

Folks…this is pretty spectacular! Two books in one month…and she is the ILLUSTRATOR, for goodness sake. This is one busy woman who knows how to prioritize her time. I’m so thrilled to be on her team. And one lucky winner will be thrilled with an original sketch by Alleanna because she is graciously offering that as our giveaway. So PLEASE, leave a comment below to be entered for a chance. And PLEASE, show her how much you love her work by buying her books, reviewing her books, telling friends about her books, and asking local libraries to purchase her books for their collections. And, to learn about Alleanna and her work, please visit her website:

By the way, did you know she has two books that JUST launched last week?  Again…two books that she illustrated in one month! This woman is amazing!!!! THE DAY ABUELO GOT LOST: Memory Loss of a Loved Grandfather by Diane de Anda (Albert Whitman, September 1, 2019).

abuelo cover

And the second book that launched last week is THE EXTRAORDINARY LIFE OF MARY SEACOLE (Puffin, September 5, 2019)

Seacole cover

Critique Winners, Book News, and a VERY SPECIAL GIVEAWAY

I don’t have a regularly scheduled blog post until the weekend of the 19th, but I missed you!

Plus, I have several critique giveaways thanks to several generous authors. And I also wanted to share some great book prices as well as some photos from the Tough Mudder competition last month AND news of a special giveaway that I am doing for my upcoming Ella Fitzgerald/Marilyn Monroe book.

The lovely Lydia Lukidis, author of NO BEARS ALLOWED, is giving away a PB manuscript critique.

no bears allowed cover

And the winner is: MARY NOON

The delightful Pj McIlvaine, author of LITTLE LENA AND THE BIG TABLE, is giving away two PB manuscript critiques.


And the winners are: DIANE TULLOCH and CORINE TIMMER

The wonderful Gayle Krause, author of ONCE UPON A TWISTED TALE, is giving away either a copy of her awesome book OR a pb manuscript critique.

book cover

And the winner is: DAVID MCMULLIN

Congratulations to all of the winners…and a huge thank you to the generous authors!

Please remember that the best gift we can give our favorite authors is to: buy their books, review their books, tell our friends about their books, and ask our local library to purchase copies for their collection.

Many of you may enjoy purchasing your picture books at local indie stores…I know I do. But sometimes, Amazon has a really great deal and it makes it hard to resist. Or sometimes, my local store doesn’t have a book in stock and I really want it quickly…that happened this weekend when I wanted to grab a copy of Anna Redding’s ELON MUSK: A MISSION TO SAVE THE WORLD because I wanted to read it with my grandson who was staying over for a couple of nights. And sure enough, it arrived Saturday morning…and we have already started reading it. The introduction talks about how actor Robert Downey, Jr. was going to be portraying Iron Man and wanted to get into the character of a real live billionaire entrepreneur so he met with Elon Musk. And my grandson, a fan of the Marvel Comic movie adventures, was able to rattle off the words from the movie that describe Tony Stark, the alter-ego of Iron Man – genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist – before I even read them!

While noodling around Amazon, I also noticed that PIPPA’S PASSOVER PLATE is only $8.02…oh my gosh. And SWEET DREAMS, SARAH is only $12.77. Plus FOUR OTTERS TOBOGGAN: AN ANIMAL COUNTING BOOK is reduced to $14.74. Honestly, I know it doesn’t seem possible, but even though we are in the dog days of summer here in New England – today was in the 90’s – it will be gift-giving time before you know it.

I’m also so excited about starting the new year with another picture book, MAKING THEIR VOICES HEARD: THE INSPIRING FRIENDSHIP OF ELLA FITZGERALD AND MARILYN MONROE (Little Bee Books, January 14, 2020) illustrated by Alleanna Harris. I did a cover reveal the other day – but here’s an inside spread, just to whet your appetite to see more!

inside spread 1

I’m going to be asking the incredibly talented Alleanna Harris if she’d like to stop by to chat here on Picture Books Help Kids Soar.  If you have any questions you’d specifically like to ask her, please put them in the comments and I will include them in the interview. PLUS, one lucky person will win a copy of this brand new book…as soon as I get my author copies, which might not be until close to the end of the year.

Last weekend, I accompanied my son and son-in-law and grandson to cheer them on for their Tough Mudder competition which took place in Chelton, Massachusetts. It was a beautiful day…until it wasn’t. What a torrential downpour! They had to stop the event for about an hour to wait out the thunder and lightning storm. But we all had a great time.

The rest of my summer will be kind of quiet, I think. Except for a trip to Colorado in late August, that is. I’m hoping to connect with some of you who live in and around the Denver area. And I’m also working on an R&R for an editor…fingers crossed that I revise in a way that makes her unable to resist.

What are your plans for the rest of the summer? Traveling? Or perhaps you are working and trying to squeeze in time to read or write.

Please don’t forget to leave a comment to enter the giveaway of a copy of MAKING THEIR VOICES HEARD: THE INSPIRING FRIENDSHIP OF ELLA FITZGERALD AND MARILYN MONROE. And if you have a question for illustrator Alleanna, please include that in your comment.

I hope you all have a beautiful week ahead of you!

Cover Reveal: Making Their Voices Heard: The Inspiring Friendship of Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe

OH MY GOSH! A couple of days ago, I found out that my Ella Fitzgerald/Marilyn Monroe book had a definite launch date: January 14, 2020. So, I started thinking about who I should ask to do a cover reveal…I thought perhaps I should ask the editor if the cover image I had was the final one. And then, this morning, guess what I discovered?

MAKING THEIR VOICES HEARD: THE INSPIRING FRIENDSHIP OF ELLA FITZGERALD AND MARILYN MONROE is available for preorder on Amazon. With the most glorious cover image I’ve ever seen!!!

cover 2

This was a manuscript that was very close to my heart. I’m a long-time admirer of the velvety tones of Ella Fitzgerald…and I always believed Marilyn Monroe was so much more than she was given credit for. But it wasn’t until I came across a picture of them at a nightclub that the idea for this story came to me back in 2014.

ella and marilyn in nightclub


And the more I researched, the more I came to admire both of these women…trailblazers in the fight for equality! Did you know that Marilyn Monroe was the first movie star to own her own production company? Or that in 1956, Ella Fitzgerald won a lawsuit against Pan Am for racial discrimination?

A few years ago, Bonnie Greer wrote a play about the nightclub incident and it was performed in London.


I’m so grateful to Essie White, my incredible agent, who had faith in me and in this story. And to Little Bee editor, the fabulous Courtney Fahy, who fell in love with the manuscript and believed it should be a book. And to the talented Alleanna Harris whose illustrations have brought the story to life!

I am over the moon excited and just had to share with all of you, my dear friends! And to all my critique buddies whose feedback on dozens and dozens of revisions resulted in this stellar story – I thank you!!!