Reading Rocket's exclusive interview with author and illustrator Henry Cole — creator of Celeste, The Worrywarts, Katy Duck, and many other beloved characters — talks about his early career as a science teacher (who always drew for his students!), why it takes patience to draw what you really see, how he gets those comical animal faces to look just right, and why he loved using a plain Number 2 pencil to create the evocative illustrations for his book A Nest for Celeste.
You can watch the interview below, view the interview transcript, read a short biography on Henry Cole, or see a selected list of his children's books. (This video is also available on YouTube and iTunes.) And check out this shorter 2002 interview with Cole, filmed in his studio.
In 1995, Pamela Duncan Edwards and Henry Cole made the leap from elementary school to the printed page. After working together for more than a decade as science teacher and school librarian, this author/illustrator duo has collaborated to publish 18 books in the last eight years. Edwards' clever imagination and Cole's enchanting art have made their books popular with children, parents, teachers, and publishers alike. Whether introducing the letter "W" through The Worrywarts or spicing up the Boston Tea Party with rhyme, Cole and Edwards know how to amuse readers, teach without preaching, and have lots of fun along the way.
Having fun along the way
It's a partnership that most children's book authors and illustrators can only dream of. When Pamela Duncan Edwards found a small, brown mouse in her mailbox, she immediately called her good friend, Henry Cole. When Cole arrived on the scene, he and Edwards joked that this unassuming rodent was full of character. And so it was that Livingstone Mouse, now a beloved children's book protagonist, came into being.
But there is more to the Edwards/Cole story than just a mouse in a mailbox. The two worked together for 14 years at Langley Elementary School in Virginia, where Edwards was a school librarian and Cole a science teacher. Whenever Edwards was in need of illustrations in the library, she called on Cole's artistic talents. Over the years, the two became good friends. After attending a children's literature conference in 1993, they decided to pursue their dream of getting a book published together.
Surely a sign from the literary gods, three publishers instantly accepted their first book proposal for Some Smug Slug. Shortly thereafter Edwards wrote Four Famished Foxes and Fosdyke, which also received national attention. Since then, Cole and Edwards have worked their interests, insights, and charm into successful careers in children's literature. Although they also collaborate regularly with other authors and illustrators, the bulk of their work has been together. In addition to their 18 published books, Cole and Edwards have nine more contracts signed and a handful of projects on the horizon. Disney recently remade their 1998 book, Honk! The Story of a Prima Swanerina, into an animated video.
Cole's love for nature, fascination with science, and sense of humor permeate his vivid, colorful illustrations. Beneath Edwards' witty writing lies her background in education, which often allows teachers to incorporate her stories into lesson plans. So whether it's a small, brown mouse in the mailbox or another daily event, Cole and Edwards continue to glean playful and educational material from their life experiences. Now they spend their days creating books, giving school presentations, and attending speaking engagements.