Illustrator Spotlight: Sarah Kurpiel

© Sarah Kurpiel

 August 13, 2021

We are excited to feature illustrator Sarah Kurpiel and the picture book that she both wrote and illustrated, ORIGINAL CAT, COPY CAT, (Greenwillow Books (August 3, 2021))

Enter to win a copy!

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

Thank you for having me! I’m a librarian and self-taught author/illustrator from the Midwest inspired by animals, nature, and everyday life. I’ve been drawing for as long as I can remember. Drawing has always been very relaxing for me, which is probably why I’ve never stopped. In college, one of my English professors included graphic narratives in his course. Those books had a profound effect on me. For the first time, I started thinking seriously about drawing stories. 

Flash forward a few years to my first job as a librarian, when some incredible picture books crossed my desk and reminded me how much I loved picture books growing up. I knew these were the kind of stories I wanted to make. Once I was settled into my librarian career, I taught myself how to draw digitally, read lots of contemporary picture books, and started posting my drawings online, which led me to my agents and my first book deal. Making picture books seemed like an impossible dream until, one day, it wasn’t. I feel so lucky that I have an opportunity to create books for kids. 


Congrats on your new picture book, Original Cat, Copy Cat! Tell us about the book and what inspired you. 

© Sarah Kurpiel

Thank you! Original Cat, Copy Cat is about a cat named Pineapple whose life turns upside-down when new kitten Kiwi comes to stay. Everything Pineapple does, Kiwi does too—usually with a twist that brings out Pineapple’s prickly side. It’s a classic new sibling story—but make it cats! With fruit names! (Speaking of fruit, I hope kids have fun spotting fruit patterns throughout the book.) I had a lot of fun drawing Pineapple and Kiwi, who were inspired by my family’s cats, Comet and Cad. Their personalities couldn’t have been more different. I drew upon their funny, everyday cat antics as I developed the story. I think fellow cat lovers will relate! Original Cat, Copy Cat was published by Greenwillow/HarperCollins on August 3. 


© Sarah Kurpiel

Was your road to publication long and winding, short and sweet, or something in between? 

Fairly short and sweet—thanks to some good fortune. I started posting my drawings on Instagram in 2016. About a year later, I started researching the basics: how to make a dummy, how to find an agent, etc. I wasn’t ready to start querying yet, but as luck would have it, in 2018, an illustration account with a big following on Instagram shared one of my drawings. Allie Levick from Writers House saw it and reached out to me, and over the next few months, I worked with her and Rebecca Sherman to build a portfolio and revise my dummy. Later that year, they signed me as a client, sent my story out on submission, and secured my first book deal. 

I’m so grateful to have such great agents on my side. In other ways, my road to publication has been long and winding. I knew much earlier in my life that I wanted to make picture books or graphic narratives or character designs or comic strips or something along those lines, but for various reasons, those weren’t things I thought I could do, so I wasn’t actively working toward them. 


© Sarah Kurpiel

What projects are you working on now? 

I’m working on final revisions for my third picture book, Elephant’s Big Solo, about a music-loving, French horn-playing elephant with stage fright who finds her own way to shine. It’s my first book with anthropomorphized animal characters—including a snake in a sweater vest. The book will be published by Greenwillow/HarperCollins in 2022. 

© Sarah Kurpiel


What advice would you give to your younger self? Is this the same you'd give to aspiring author-illustrators? 

Try not to compare yourself to others. I have to remind myself of this from time to time and probably always will.  


© Sarah Kurpiel

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

I love Star Trek—old and new. Star Trek: The Next Generation is my go-to comfort show. I started getting into Star Trek only a few years ago, but I’ve always gravitated toward sci-fi stories and art. 


Where can people find you online? 

You can visit my website at or connect with me on Instagram @sarah.kurpiel and Twitter @SarahKurpiel



Sarah Kurpiel is a librarian by day and self-taught picture book author/illustrator by night and weekend. Her stories are inspired by animals, nature, and everyday life. Sarah hopes her work brings a bit of happiness into the world—and a bit of disability representation too. She uses a power wheelchair and considers her disability an important part of her identity. Sarah's debut picture book, Lone Wolf (Greenwillow/HarperCollins, 2020) received a starred review from the School Library Journal and was a Summer Kids' Indie Next Pick. Her next picture book, Original Cat, Copy Cat, published by Greenwillow on August 3, 2021, was a Junior Library Guild Gold Standard Selection. 


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  1. This book looks so cute! Well done, and congrats 👏

  2. The story reminds me of my youngest right now doing everything his big brother is doing 😊.

  3. Sarah, This is another beautiful book! Congratulations! Annette

  4. I've been looking forward to reading this since I first heard about it. It's such a great idea for a book.

  5. This will be perfect for my 2 youngest granddaughters. This describes their relationship perfectly.

  6. Your art is so much fun! I can't wait to study it in person.

  7. Your art is so intriguing. Look forward to reading this book.


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