Children's and Young Adult Literature

Category: Arts + Events Articles


Karin Snelson introduces several acclaimed Seattle writers and illustrators for the younger—much younger—set, and offers a few tips for aspiring children’s book authors. Take heed and you might be next to be featured in our pages!


Palette Pleaser: Julie Paschkis brings color and life to children’s books

All Julie Paschkis wants to do is paint. A steep, narrow staircase leads to her “place of painting”: a treetop-nestled studio with small-paned windows that, on a clear day, offer a peek at the Olympics. Bottles of dye labeled “strongest red,” “grasse green” (long story) and “lemon yellow” sit in cardboard boxes. Gorgeous folk-art-style paintings on silk dupioni hang about, waiting to make their appearance at Seattle’s Grover/Thurston Gallery. Paschkis has just sent off a big batch of artwork for Rachel Rodríguez’s new biography for young people, Building on Nature: The Life of Antoni Gaudí (Holt, 2009).

Paschkis says her distinctive folk art style comes partly from a high school year spent studying crafts in Norway and also from childhood trips to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, where she gravitated toward the wooden birds and folk art toys. She loves the decorative arts, especially utilitarian objects such as blankets and dishes. Even the colorful pantry shelves look like art in her cottage-like, storybook home in Maple Leaf, shared with artist husband Joe Max Emminger.

“Everything in your life goes into your painting, even if you don’t know it at the time,” says Paschkis. “Recently, it was only when I was framing a painting that I realized it was about turning 50. The place where you live [shows up], too—we have tons of squirrels and birds...and they come out of the yard and into my paintings.”

While Paschkis has submitted several books to publishers with a writer as a team, it is more common for the book’s editor to choose the artist for the project: “As the illustrator, I figure out how the book will look, what images/ideas should be illustrated, what medium to use, how the pages will be divided up and where the text will go on the page,” Paschkis explains. Each story she illustrates comes with a unique set of artistic challenges.

When she received Rachel Rodríguez’s manuscript for a picture-book biography of Georgia O’Keeffe, Through Georgia’s Eyes, she wondered how she would avoid merely casting a dim reflection of the artist’s bold, original style. “I started crying in the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe. I think people thought I was weeping at the altar of my queen, but I was just panicking.” Fortunately, she had an epiphany looking at Polish cut-paper art at a nearby folk art museum—she would use cut-paper collages to create a more modern, less detailed style to bring the artist and her legacy to life.

When Paschkis moved to Seattle in 1982, she liked its welcoming feel—and still does. She also enjoys the warm, supportive children’s book community. (“It’s not the bunny-eat-bunny world people think it is,” she jokes.