My name is Jacki Kellum, and my editor Frances Gilbert, who is Editor in Chief at Doubleday for Young Readers– which is an imprint of Penguin/Random House, has just told me that my debut picture book will be ready for pre-order next week [the first week of February in 2022]. I thought that I’d take a few minutes to tell you about myself before I announce my new book.
Jacki Kellum’s Garden
I am an avid gardener, and I like to paint the flowers in my garden.
The Last Rose of Summer – Jacki Kellum WatercolorPainting
I also like to stitch images inspired by my garden.
Autumn Rose – Jacki Kellum Textile Art
But one of the most special things that I do is that I write picture books. You might be thinking: “Jacki Kellum, you spread yourself too thin.” And you are correct. But fortunately, my debut picture book, The Donkey’s Song, will be released by Doubleday for Young Readers this fall. It will be ready for pre-order during the week of February 1, 2022. I am delighted to add that the very talented Sydney Hanson is illustrating my debut picture book, Believe me, Hanson’s illustrations are fabulous. They are not at all like my wacky illustrations. Thank goodness for that. My debut picture book is about the birth of Baby Jesus, told from the point of view of the Donkey who carried the expecting Mary to Bethlehem. My illustration style is totally inappropriate for that book.
My illustrations are funny. They are almost irreverently funny, and my favorite character, Mrs. Cow, is my own self-portrait.
Your immediate reaction might be that in saying that I am like a cow, I am being unkind to myself, but that is not at all the truth. I love to laugh, and Mrs. Cow is how I perceive some of the eccentric and funny sides of myself. Fortunately, I have matured enough that I am able to enjoy a good laugh at myself.
Allow me to tell you how Mrs. Cow and I are alike:
Mrs. Cow Down on the Farm – Jacki Kellum Watercolor Painting
Mrs. Cow is a rural being, and I myself grew up in a very rural community in the cotton-growing Delta near the Mississippi River.
I created most of my illustrations of Mrs. Cow for my picture book manuscript Lots of Socks.
Following are some of the rough first sketches for that book.
“Mrs. Cow is very thrilled. A box came in the mail It’s from the place she ordered Lots of Socks that were on sale.”
“Socks with big, bright polka dots” – Jacki Kellum Illustration Sketch
[Hear me! I love polka dots, and they decorate my house in every room.]
“Socks with stripes” – Jacki Kellum Illustration Sketch
I grew up in the middle of a cotton patch–far, far away from the ocean. But when I was a child, my dad built a travel trailer on a pickup truck axle. Because of that, my family was able to make several trips to Florida, where I loved to splash around and play on the beach. During the 18 years, before I moved to the Ozarks 2 years ago, I lived on the New Jersey Shore. Perhaps Socks with Stripes is me on the Jersey Shore or perhaps it is me, in Florida, when I was a child.
“And flowers” – Jacki Kellum Illustration Sketch
Again, everyone who knows me knows that I am an avid gardener.
Mrs. Cow is also the star in another of my picture books – Waking Up the Sun
“The Cow must be milked. The Chicks must be fed.”
Mrs. Cow’s Calf
Again, I love to laugh. I love to dance, and my Mrs. Cow is a tribute to that laughing, dancing side of myself.
But there is a soft and hushed side of myself, too, and I am pleased to say that Sydney Hanson has been chosen to illustrate that side of myself in The Donkey’s Song. Sydney is a master illustrator, and no one could have done a better job than she did of illustrating my debut picture book. I love to say that The Donkey’s Song is a group project created by Sydney Hanson, Frances Gilbert, and myself. It has been a delightful project.