Answering a question that never goes away

I love being a picture book author. And, I love talking to other people about what I do. Family. Friends. Students. Teachers. Librarians. Aspiring writers. Bloggers. Journalists.

As I talk to these people, there is one question that I get asked in practically every conversation. It is:

“Do you get to choose the illustrator for your books?”

It’s usually followed by: “Do you at least get to tell the illustrator what to draw?”

I don’t mind that people ask. It’s a logical question, especially for folks who aren’t familiar with traditional publishing. But because it comes up so often, I made a video that answers the question, using my forthcoming picture book with illustrator Suzy Lee — SEE YOU SOMEDAY SOON (Roaring Brook Press, June 2022) — as an example of how the author/illustrator relationship works when it comes to traditional publishing.

Check it out.

Even after I explain this to people, they often still seem concerned. They ask: “But what if you don’t LIKE the art?” Or: “What if it’s an ugly book?” I have two responses to that.

First, all traditional publishing houses have art directors and designers on staff who work with the illustrator on their art. Just like I, as the author, get notes from the editor on how to make my story stronger and better, illustrators get notes from the art director on how to make their art stronger and better. So, there’s a whole team of experienced, creative, professional people dedicated to making the best possible book.

Second, that team of people is like an orchestra. As the author, you might think that you’re the first-chair violinist in that orchestra, but you’re surrounded by other talented professionals who know what they’re doing. And, you have to trust that the clarinetists and bassoonists and percussionists will all do their part professionally and beautifully to create memorable music. The author is a professional who is trusted to write a good story, and so is the illustrator.

In fact, one of my favorite parts of making a picture is seeing which illustrator my text gets matched with and watching the sketches and proofs come in. And, with 15 picture books currently on the shelves, I have not yet been disappointed.

On another note …

My two most recent picture books are WHEN I’M WITH YOU, about friendship, and IN OUR GARDEN, about seeing possibilities and blooming where you’re planted. When I have new books come out, I like to think about other picture books that pair well with them — for classrooms or story-times or read-alouds at home.

So, I made two videos recommending other books about friendship and other books about gardens. I hope they introduce you to more titles to read!

Here are my friendship book recommendations:

And, here are my garden book recommendations:

There are SO MANY great picture books out there. Feel free to share your friendship and garden recommendations in the comments.


  1. Wow – what a preview! Cannot wait to hold this gorgeous book in my hands!

  2. I LOVE “See you Someday Soon.” Great demonstration of how art directors go above and beyond a writer’s imagination. Thanks so much for sharing.

  3. Fantastic post Pat! I can’t wait to hold See you Someday Soon, so I can study and savor the flow of the text, images and die cuts. What a creative format. I love the videos too!

  4. Okay, I am officially in love with this book and just pre-ordered a copy. Thank you for this post and congrats, Pat and Suzy!

  5. Great post! Can’t wait to read both of these books! Congrats.

  6. I am often asked the same questions! “that team is like an orchestra…” Perfect! Congratulations!

  7. This is perfect! (the book and the video)

  8. Wow! What a great peek at a fabulous collaboration–can’t wait to read this book!

  9. Oh those die-cuts–how does someone have the imagination to create them??

  10. Wow! Your newest book with Suzy is brilliant. I’ve always been in love with your text. Suzy’s work is phenomenal in this book. Thanks for sharing. I normally don’t pre-order but I had too this time. Definitely a book to study. Congratulations!

  11. Sue Lowell Gallion

    Great poet, Pat! The book looks fabulous, I can’t wait to see a copy. The videos of book pairings are a great resource , too. How do you plan to use those?

  12. Great post, Pat! Love the ending to your book – so lyrical! Can’t wait to read it!

  13. Great post, Pat! Those die-cuts . . . 😍 Congratulations to both you and Suzy Lee – such a wonderful collaboration! I like your videos, too. So many great pb recommendations!!

  14. What a fun post! I love die-cuts, the way they can project one thing on one page or give a clue for the next page. So, so fun! Congratulations on SEE YOU!!!

    Great videos too. So many wonderful books!!!

  15. Thank you so much for the awesome videos about the author/illustrator relationship, friendship books and books about gardening! Congratulations on your new book – It looks amazing with your words and Suzy’s art!

  16. Wow! What a great video in answer to that question! I can’t wait to pore over the pages!

  17. Karen Henry Clark

    I’ve explained to people that creating a picture book is like directing a play or movie. An entire crew is creating sets, costumes, props, lighting, and a cast of actors moves through it with lines and gestures and expressions.

  18. I enjoyed all of your videos, Pat, and the peek into your new books! Congrats!

  19. Thank you for this great mini-lesson, and I’m looking forward to your new book. I also appreciated the YouTube video book compilations on two of my favorite subjects ~ gardens and friendship. Passing on to other teacher friends.

  20. Incredibly creative! Great story idea and of course a stellar layout (yes, it’s a pun: the constellation was my favorite page in your preview). Congrats to you, Suzy, the art director and designer and your editor. An orchestral production indeed! Thanks for sharing your story and the impressive and innovative book design.

  21. What a great idea to post recommended pairings.

  22. Thanks, Pat, for being an inspiration and sharing so many lovely books, especially yours!

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