Illustrator Spotlight: Priscilla Burris

© Priscilla Burris

April 10, 2020

Today we are pleased to feature illustrator Priscilla Burris and her recent picture book, ACCORDIONLY: ABUELO AND OPA MAKE MUSIC, by Michael Genhart (Magination Press, April 21, 2020). Enter to win a copy!

Check out the trailer for the book:

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

My childhood involved having our local city public library built right across our neighborhood street in East Los Angeles, CA where my devotion and love for children’s books began. It was my second home, especially during the summer months. The librarians knew myself and my siblings well, as we were regulars! The impact and impression this had on my life showed up most clearly when, during a college course I learned that our final project was to write and illustrate a children’s book. A definite Aha moment for me.

© Priscilla Burris

From a very early age, I was always drawing, sketching and doodling. My father would bring home stacks of discontinued and discarded paper from his workplace for me to use for drawing. I remember turning papers over to use the backside, an empty canvas for my artwork.

I am grateful to be an alum of The Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising (FIDM), where I enjoyed courses involving illustration and creative design.  From there, I went on to find my way to joining the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI*) in learning how to become a children’s book illustrator. Thankful to have been illustrating children’s books for over 30 years, and both writing and illustrating for about 17 years. 

Congrats on your forthcoming picture book, ACCORDIONLY: ABUELO AND OPA MAKE MUSIC by Michael Genhart. Tell us about the story and how you approached the illustrations.

Thank you! Michael Genhart’s ACCORDIONLY immediately touched my heart with his sharing of the two diverse cultures in his family and how warmth and love and fun were interwoven throughout his story. Being a fourth generation Mexican-American myself, this story brought many wonderful memories to mind.  Memories of my own father playing the accordion just for our family, just for fun, was both a comfort and a joy to keep in mind while I illustrated this book. Another sweet ingredient for me personally was that my husband and I have raised our three children in our own diverse-culture at home, him being of Scottish-German-Irish-English descent. Our children being biracial, grew up deeply enjoying the rich diversity both sides of the family provided.

© Priscilla Burris

I must say that I really enjoyed the research involved in learning as much as I could about Polka Bands and Mariachi Bands, and listening to both as I illustrated was a true highlight through it all! Hard to sit still when listening to either of these.

While I had first-hand knowledge and awareness of foods and such, mentioned in Accordionly that pertained to Abuelo’s side of the family, I had to do quite a bit of research in learning about all of this on Opa’s side of the family. Lebkuchen was one mention that I was unfamiliar with, so not only did I do extensive research, but bought some to enjoy as a treat – I mean, an illustrator must fully complete their research, a taste-test, if you will - don’t you agree? It was delicious and a fun part of my job, I’ll admit.

© Priscilla Burris

You have published several books. Was your road to publication long and winding, short and sweet, or something in between?

Long and winding would be the best description.  I’ve always felt it’s good to have an end goal, but to enjoy the journey, the process, in reaching your goal.  Much learning along the path is to be treasured. Both the highs and the lows make for a great education
(Note: see Louis L’Amour quote far below)

© Priscilla Burris

What projects are you working on?

I have two chapter book series that I am grateful to be continuing to work on – the Heidi Heckelbeck (currently working on the 30th book) and Henry Heckelbeck (working on the 4th book) series, published by Little Simon/Simon & Schuster. 

© Priscilla Burris

Excited to begin a wonderful new Ready-To-Read series, as the author and illustrator!  Main character is Sabrina Sue, a chicken who lives on the farm, but loves the sea – and many other places she will discover in this series to be published by Simon & Schuster.

What advice would you give to aspiring illustrators?

Study picture books; what illustration styles are you drawn to the most, and why? Find and watch the pacings and flows of stories and page layouts. Have fun with all this researching!

Keep sketching, drawing and doodling as you are inspired.

© Priscilla Burris

I would definitely recommend to consider joining SCBWI*, because this will give them the best and most professional start up in both learning all about publishing in the children’s book market as well as becoming a part of a community of wonderful writers and illustrators.

There are SCBWI Regional chapters all around the world, and once becoming a member you will be made aware of all events in your own local region, where you can find mentors and peers alike.

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

I prefer strong, steaming hot coffee (so hot that coffee cup is still steaming when empty) and am an avid Louis L’Amour fan, and have read just about all of his westerns. I mention coffee because in his books, his characters often want this:  “Coffee so strong you could float a horseshoe in it.”

© Priscilla Burris

Where can people find you online?

Flickr Portfolio:
Facebook: Priscilla Burris
Instagram: PriscillaDesignBlog:

One more Louis L’Amour quote, if you don’t mind:

The trail is the thing, not the end of the trail. Travel too fast, and you miss all you are traveling for.

Priscilla Burris is an author/illustrator and serves the SCBWI as the U.S. Illustrator Coordinator & Advisor, and Portfolio Showcase Director for the International Conferences, winter and summer. She is on the Board of Advisors for the SCBWI. Priscilla is the illustrator for the Heidi Heckelbeck, Henry Heckelbeck, and the Humphrey’s Tiny Tales series. Recent books include Accordionly: Abuelo and Opa Make Music by Michael Genhart, 1-2-3 My Feelings and Me by Goldie Millar and Lisa Berger, Natsumi! by Susan Lendroth, and Hello School!, which she wrote and illustrated. Sabrina Sue will be her first book in a new Ready-to-Read series for beginning readers, coming in Summer 2021.  Gratefully represented by The CAT Agency, Inc.

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  1. People love such type of post to improve the creative skills of their children, most of the children from all over the world like the comics and now it is being included in the childcare diploma assignments and the value and importance of these should be learned and get.

  2. I love your illustrations. Thank you for sharing.

  3. Love the children in your artwork! And so eager to read not only this book, but the others you've worked on as well. A wonderful interview.

  4. Thanks for the great interview! Love the examples you've shared. Best wishes!

  5. I love your illustrations! Thanks for sharing.

  6. Love your illustrations!


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