I was so surprised when I heard about this book today. I had a VERY similar idea in my ideas file. BUT I doubt it would have been as fun as today’s picture book!
Maddie Frost is a children’s author-illustrator from Massachusetts. She has illustrated TONS of books and is now working on her seventh author-illustrated title called, WOMBATS! An early reader graphic novel publishing in 2023. Her books focus on funny characters and are packed with heart. You can learn more about her at her website.
NOT YET, YETI is written by Bethany V. Freitas and illustrated by Maddie. It’s a story of a Yeti and his first day of school. Some things are fun for Yeti, but others are hard. Yeti gives up initially because he CAN’T do them. But his teacher and friends remind him that he just can’t do them YET. It’s a perfect story about growth mindset (and perfect for use in the classroom with young readers!). It releases TODAY June 7th and you can order it at your favorite Indie bookstore or at Amazon.
Me: What was your artistic journey? When did you start drawing or creating?
Maddie: The first real memory I have of being serious about art is when I started taking private art lessons when I was around nine years old. There was a woman in my town that was a painter and one of my friends referred me to her. She had a home studio in her basement and played classical music. She didn’t treat me like a child, she treated me like an artist. I’ll never forget Rosalie.
I watched a lot of Nickelodeon cartoons growing up and they totally sparked my love for characters and storytelling. I am 100% a product of those shows. I went to Massachusetts College of Art in Boston and focused on Animation. Then became an elementary art teacher for a few years. Then quit with a leap of faith one summer to try and get an agent and start my career in children’s literature.
Six and a half years later here I am.
Me: Wow! That’s inspiring. You have had several books published as either an illustrator of others’ work or an author illustrator now. How did you get into the work of illustrating picture books? Can you tell us a little bit about your journey to illustrating this book?
Maddie: Well I started with a small portfolio of illustration geared towards children. I was able to get an agent more quickly than I thought I would. I had never worked on a picture book before but apparently that didn’t matter. I started with smaller projects, board books, educational work books. I was such a newbie and also needed a paycheck so I said yes to literally every offer. There were multiple projects I really, really didn’t want to do, but I couldn’t afford to say no. I also didn’t have an artistic voice yet, didn’t have a style that felt authentic to me. I was sort of just seeing what other people were doing and noting what resonated. I was in sponge-mode. With every project I learned more about how I liked to work, how I didn’t like to work. Stories I liked working on. Over time it became more apparent that I was drawn to funny characters. And that’s what brought me to Yeti, I think.
Me: Your style is so fun and playful. I love it! What does your illustration process look like? Is it a blend of traditional media and digital?
Maddie: It changes. My early years (which isn’t even that early) I did a lot of scanned textures and digital cut-and-paste in Photoshop. Then I got bored, and now I work with just digital brushes in Photoshop. It feels more me. Or I guess me right now.
Me: NOT YET, YETI is both funny and helps support a growth mindset for young readers. I love how you have Yeti in fits of desperation when he can’t do something, yet show his whimsical side (unicorn backpack and lunch box!). How did you find that balance between the serious aspects of the book and your wonderful sense of humor that shines through in your illustrations?
Maddie: I think that is just the nature of my personality. I am and have always been a very sensitive person. I cried all the time in school. But I also love humor and I come from a pretty funny family. Humor was always there growing up. Even in my own stories I write there’s always some sort of a deep emotional struggle that is lightened with humor.
For me, it starts with the character. Yeti is sensitive and also very hard on himself. That’s me! Then I ask, OK, where is the humor in this? How can trying something new be completely frustrating and charming and funny at the same time? I can play with size, that’s funny. A giant creature that’s afraid to feed a tiny fish. And of course I can play with his expressions. I think I definitely channeled Cookie Monster with his character. I actually didn’t even realize that until after I finished the art.
Me: What is one thing that surprised you in illustrating this story?
Maddie: That I can draw kids. Haha. It sounds so silly but I’m way more comfortable drawing animals. Once I built up a little confidence I had a lot of fun adding little unique things to the students in the class. I was literally Yeti trying and trying again.
Me: I love that! I struggle with the same thing! Any advice for new picture book illustrators?
Maddie: The only thing that could ever stop you from getting where you want to go is you. Dream big, say yes, and work harder than you ever have before. Anything is possible if you believe it is. Pinky promise.
Me: Can you tell us about any future projects you have coming up?
Maddie: IGUANA BE A DRAGON comes out this July. Written and Illustrated by me. And then next year I’m so excited because my debut graphic novel comes out in April, 2023, called WOMBATS! (Go Camping). It’s hilarious. The cover will be released sometime in early July this year and will also available for pre-order. And then I also have more picture books coming out in 2023 and 2024 but I can’t talk about them jusssst yet. *wink*
Those sound so fun Maddie! Thank you for stopping by my blog.
But wait, dear readers! There’s more! Maddie is giving away one signed copy to one lucky reader (sadly for US residents only). Be sure to enter at the rafflecopter here!