A Peek at the Desk of Vanessa Brantley-Newton

h1 July 17th, 2013 by jules

Last week at Kirkus, I chatted with author/illustrator Vanessa Brantley-Newton. That link is here. Today, I share some of her sketches and final art from both Amy Novesky’s Mister and Lady Day: Billie Holiday and the Dog Who Loved Her (Harcourt, June 2013)—the above sketch is from that one—as well as Marie Harris’s The Girl Who Heard Colors (to be released by Nancy Paulsen Books in September).

I also include here the response to one question that didn’t quite fit in last week’s Q&A.


Cover sketch for Marie Harris’s The Girl Who Heard Colors

“Jillian loved the world with all her five senses. She loved the tickling touch
of her bunny’s whiskers on her cheek.”

“She loved the taste of warm maple syrup on waffles.”

Early sketch: “‘Whatever could be wrong with Jillian?’ everyone wondered.
Jillian whispered softly to herself: ‘I am as sad as a cloud.'”

“Her teacher was worried, so she told Jillian’s parents. Jillian’s parents were worried, so they took her to the doctor. The doctor examined her eyes and ears.
There was nothing wrong with them. …”

“Except Jillian. She covered her ears and squeezed her eyes shut.
‘What’s the matter?’ asked the children. ‘What’s the matter?’ asked her teacher. ‘What’s the matter?’ asked the musician.”


* * *


“…and a star she became—the great Lady Day. But sometimes stars don’t feel like shining. They need someone to listen. That’s what friends are for.
Lady Day’s dogs were her best friends of all.”

Early sketch: “There were lots of dogs in Lady Day’s life…”

“And then there was a boxer named Mister. Mister and Lady Day were rarely apart. She knit him sweaters and cloaked him in a mink coat. She cooked for him and
took him on midnight walks.”

“She sang to him. Mister was Lady’s favorite. Someday, she’d have a house in the country filled with dogs. Life would be good.
Mister would be there. He always was.”

“Then, just when her career was at the top, Lady got into trouble. She had to leave home for a year and a day. And Mister couldn’t come. Lady knew what it was like to be left, and it made her heartsick. She promised Mister she’d be home soon. But when she looked into his sad eyes, she wasn’t sure she’d ever see him again.”

Early sketch: “On the night of the big show, the concert hall glowed. At midnight, the houselights dimmed and a spotlight as full as the moon appeared. Slowly, Lady walked to center stage—the hall so quiet you could hear her heels click. Lady trembled. Where was Mister? Was he waiting in the wings? As the band’s notes began, Lady lifted her chin. And when the great Billie Holiday sang…”

“…everyone and a dog held their breath and listened.”

As for the question I didn’t have room for in my Q&A last week: I asked Vanessa what is next on her plate. Her response?

“My desk is always full. I am currently working on a book for Scholastic, called A Cake for George Washington, and my ‘first’ Golden Book, called Molly Can Do It. I am also working on a line of greeting cards for multicultural/bi-racial families, called LoveMix. I feel that bi-racial families rarely get to see themselves represented through greetings and special occasion cards. It is my desire to create greetings that reflect a rainbow of people.”

* * * * * * *

All artwork is © 2013 by Vanessa Brantley-Newton and used with her permission.

11 comments to “A Peek at the Desk of Vanessa Brantley-Newton”

  1. Love this artwork! Our first dog was a boxer so I am especially fond of the picture of Lady in her fur coat 🙂

  2. A Cake for George Washington?!!!


  3. Vanessa is one of my favorite illustrators! Not only are her illustrations full of joyful and diverse characters, colors, and patterns, but Vanessa herself is one of the most delightful people I’ve had the honor meet online. She’s so encouraging and lovely, and even called me after I had my first baby a few years ago to make sure I was ok. What a lady! Thanks so much for featuring her wonderful artwork, Julie!

  4. I’m with Jama. Her artwork makes me sigh. I need the Billie Holiday book ASAP. Thanks for showing us this artwork.

  5. Vanessa seems to be one of a handful of gifted artists who manages to increase the energy from her sketches to her final work! Terrific!

  6. It’s wonderful to see this follow up that reflects the amazingly creative & lively Vanessa. She is not only very talented, but a very kind soul and so generous with her time. You can really see her joy of life through her work 🙂

  7. I have always loved Vanessa’s work so I was delighted to see you do a post on her. Many thanks!

  8. Such fabulous work by a fabulous person. Loved this 🙂

  9. Vanessa is one of the greatest illustrators I know. His work has a definite personality and that puts it in the top of the top.

  10. Hi from Barcelona (Spain)

    The book about Billie and her boxer is a joy. Thanks for sharing, I will publish in my blog

  11. […] Had a Little Glam, illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton (Sterling), is my first rhymer. It was an incredible challenge. I recently saw Vanessa’s sketches […]

Leave a Comment

Should you have trouble posting, please contact sevenimp_blaine@blaine.org. Thanks.