Author-Illustrator Spotlight: Jeanette Bradley

© Jeanette Bradley

Dec. 22, 2017

Today we welcome author-illustrator Jeanette Bradley and her debut picture book, LOVE, MAMA (Roaring Brook Press), coming out January 2, 2018.

Be sure to enter her giveaway!

Tell us about your background and how you came to write and illustrate for children.

I have a master's degree in urban planning and used to work in that field. But my first love was always art, and when I got the chance to go back to school to study painting, I took it. After I had my first child, I started reading picture books again, and I became interested in them as an art form.  It took me quite a while to figure out how to make one myself, though - that first baby is now 13!

© Jeanette Bradley

Congrats on your debut, LOVE, MAMA! (We at kidlit411 love penguins!). Tell us about it and what inspired you.

LOVE, MAMA is a story about a toddler like penguin who misses his Mama while she is away, but learns that the love that connects him to his Mama can transcend time and space. The story is rooted in my own experience of having young children who missed their Mama.

When my youngest was in preschool, she had a really hard time with being separated from me. At morning drop off, she would cry like I was leaving for the other end of the world and she might never see me again. One of the rituals I created to try to ease her separation pangs was to put little love notes in her lunch box. 

One day, as I was rushing to get us out of the house, my daughter noticed her lunchbox was missing a note and said, “But how will I know that you love me if I don’t have something from you to hold?” And I realized that, as a pre-reader, she didn’t care what the note said. She cared that I had held that particular piece of paper, and when she opened her lunch box after the longest three hours of her life, that piece of paper still had a magical connection to my touch. 

The idea of a physical object being held by two people separated by distance, and connecting the two of them, was the spark of inspiration for LOVE, MAMA.  Also baby chinstrap penguins are irresistibly adorable. 

What comes first for you, the story or the images?

Most stories come to me as a single image first.  Something that suggests a story, and has a sense of emotion about it, but I may not know exactly what the whole story is about.  It usually takes me a few drafts to figure out what the story behind that image is.  

© Jeanette Bradley

The seed of LOVE, MAMA was a mental image of a container ship cruising across the ocean under a sky full of stars. I knew it was carrying a very small, but very important package, and that it was on an epic journey.  The interesting thing is that this image - which stayed with me for years while I figured out what this story was about - didn't make it into LOVE, MAMA.

Tell us about your illustration process.

I work digitally, but try to keep the feeling of hand-drawn mark making. I draw my initial sketches on an iPad, and then transfer them back and forth from the iPad to photoshop on my desktop as I refine the image.  

© Jeanette Bradley

I use good old paper and pencil for initial concept doodling, and then Procreate and an Apple Pencil for sketching. I leave a lot of my sketchy lines in my final color art, because I like the energy and movement they bring to my art. when my art gets too refined, it gets too tight, and loses its life. 

© Jeanette Bradley

What projects are you working on now?

I have several projects in progress, but nothing at the point that I can talk about it yet. 

What advice would you give to aspiring author-illustrators?

Read as many picture books as you can. Find ones that work really well and sketch from them. Type out the text with page breaks. Draw a storyboard. Getting inside someone else's process helps you figure out your own.

What is one thing most people don't know about you?

I was the food allergy expert for what used to be the NY Times site, and I have a specialized skill of being able to cook foods without their usual main ingredients. I make a mean egg-free, gluten-free latke. 

Where can people find you online?

Jeanette Bradley has been an urban planner, an apprentice pastry chef, and the artist-in-residence for a traveling art museum on a train. Her debut picture book LOVE, MAMA is forthcoming from Roaring Brook Press in January 2018. It contains no cities, pastries, or trains, but was made with lots of love. She currently lives in Rhode Island with her wife and kids. ​Jeanette is represented by Emily Mitchell of Wernick & Pratt.

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  1. Gorgeous illustrations! Love the concept of the book. Wishing you much success with this first picture book, and I know there will be more to come.

  2. This is so cute. It would make a great gift.

  3. I liked hearing your illustration process.

    The note story is too sweet.

    Fun tidbit about :-)

  4. Congratulations! Looks very adorable and the background of young children missing mommy is so true! Looking forward to reading this one. :)

  5. What a tender story-behind-the-story! I'll be looking for this book when it debuts next week.

  6. This book looks precious, and as a military wife, I know my daughters would enjoy it!

  7. Love Penguins and this illustration. Cannot wait to read it.

  8. Your story is so inspiring and so close to the hearts of every mom. Congratulations and best of luck with this beautiful career!

  9. What a beautiful premise. I love the idea of an object connecting those who are apart! Love learning about Jeanette's process.

  10. Wonderful story about the concept of the new book!

  11. Where did my comment go? I posted the day before yesterday:(
    Congratulations on your beautiful new book Jeanette! May 2018 bring you much more success!


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