Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Super Star Children's Book Review: The Hate U Give

Welcome to the monthly children’s book review feature with a focus on diverse books here at Bird Meets Worm! My team of reviewers—Cara Chow, Denise Holmes, Joan Charles, Sharon Calle—and I are so excited to be championing books celebrating everything from gender diversity, people of color, the LGBTQ community to ethnic, cultural and religious minorities, people with disabilities and developmental challenges to controversial topics, unique family situations and anything and everything I did not include. It is to say we take a rightfully board view of diversity! We aim to shine a light on books that bring both familiar experiences to those who do not often see themselves represented in books and new experiences to those looking to expand their worldview. Here at Bird Meets Worm we believe in the power of story to build empathy and thus a better world for you and me and everyone. Look for a new review on the second Wednesday of every month.

By Angie Thomas
YA fiction (ages 14-17) • 444 pages
Published by HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray • 2017
ISBN 978-0-06-249853-3

Angie Thomas awakens her audience to see thru the eyes and feel thru the heart of 16-year old Starr Carter as she witnesses the murder of her friend, Kahlil, an unarmed, African American teenage, at the hands of a white police officer.

In the aftermath of the shooting, Starr struggles to make sense of the disparities in her own identity both as a citizen of a poor, crime-riddled, African American neighborhood and as a student of a wealthy, predominately white, private school. Starr’s journey from sadness to anger and fear to bravery is anything, but black and white. Her story serves as a powerful touchstone for cultivating compassion and sparking conversations about racism, the militarization of the police and the lingering effects of slavery in America today. Just as Starr is a light in the darkness for her family, friends and community, so can she be for the audience as well. Her story makes a powerful argument in favor of questioning the status quo and using one’s voice to create positive change.

In the tradition of The Outsiders and The Catcher in the Rye, The Hate U Give is, without a doubt, destined to become a modern classic. It is so timely, so of the moment, that it is a must read now and for generations to come.

Buy this book:

Reviewed by: Jane Smith

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Rave Reviews for Chloe Zoe

Rave reviews are in for my NEW picture book, "It's Halloween, Chloe Zoe!" I'm SO excited to share that Publisher's Weekly says:
"In this sixth book in Smith’s holiday-themed Chloe Zoe series, the returning heroine, a yellow elephant, is excited about Halloween but uncertain about trick-or-treating at the “old, creepy house on the corner"...Smith’s collages are far more festive than frightening...Chloe Zoe’s candid and enthusiastic narration makes this a good choice for Halloween newbies."

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Super Star Children's Book Review: The Case For Loving

Bird Meets Worm is excited to announce the debut of our NEW monthly children’s book review feature with a focus on diverse books!

We are defining diverse books as representing all diverse experiences and backgrounds. That means we will be championing books celebrating everything from gender diversity, people of color, the LGBTQ community to ethnic, cultural and religious minorities, people with disabilities and developmental challenges to controversial topics, unique family situations and anything and everything I did not include. It is to say we take a rightfully board view of diversity!! We aim to shine a light on books that bring both familiar experiences to those who do not often see themselves represented in books and new experiences to those looking to expand their worldview. Here at Bird Meets Worm we believe in the power of story to build empathy and thus a better world for you and me and everyone.

And the best part? It will always appear on the second Wednesday of the month, every month! And I’m thrilled to share that I will am teaming up with a group of super talented voices from the kidlit community for this venture. I’m pleased to announce that the Bird Meets Worm book review team will include:

Cara Chow is the author of Bitter Melon, a Chinese-American, coming of age, love-hate, mother-daughter story, which made the 2011 YALSA Best Fiction list. She is currently working on a picture book, which tells the story of how her 7-year old son, who is on the autism spectrum, overcame crippling anxiety with the help of his family and team to play hockey on a track 1 travel team. Cara also helps organize and run the annual book fair at her son’s school. 

Denise Holmes is the illustrator of If I Wrote A Book About You (Simply Read Books) 2012 and Phoebe Sounds It Out (OwlKids Books) 2017 as well as 5 other picture books and activity books. She has been illustrating professionally for the past 10 years and is represented by Nicole Tugeau of T2 Illustrators. Clients include Simply Read Books, Roost Books, Albert Whitman & Co., and OwlKids Books. She lives in Chicago, IL with her husband and daughter.

Jane Smith is an illustrator and designer, who creates artwork for a wide variety of publishing and art licensing clients. She is the author/illustrator of the Chloe Zoe picture book series, published by Albert Whitman & Co. and is represented by Nicole Tugeau of T2 Children’s Illustrators. Her background includes art directing and designing novelty children’s books as an Art Director at Intervisual Books. Jane lives with her husband and daughter in Wilmington, NC.

Joan Charles is an artist, illustrator, and life-long reader. In addition to illustrating the award-winning Lexicon novels for middle grade readers, Joan has created art for children's books and magazines, galleries, exhibitions, and for private collectors. She believes that the power in our stories can change the world.

Sharon Calle is an artist and K-12 certified art educator. She has taught in public schools for nearly a decade and now teaches art through her small business, ARTSi Studio. Sharon loves sharing picture books with young artists to inspire creative projects. She’s always looking for books that reflect the rich cultural backgrounds of her students. She lives in woodsy Randolph, NJ with her chef husband and a growing collection of picture books.

So are you excited yet?! Here we go—


The Case for Loving: The Fight for Interracial Marriage
By Selina Alko • Illustrated By Sean Qualls & Selina Alko
Non-fiction picture book (ages 4-8) • 32 pages
Published by Scholastic/Arthur A. Levine Books • 2015
ISBN 978-0-545-47853-3

This biographical story begins as many stories do: “First comes love. Then comes marriage.” But for Richard and Mildred Loving, what came next was not so simple.

Husband and wife team, Sean Qualls and Selina Alko, blend their artistic voices to tell the history of the Loving’s marriage that lead to the landmark Supreme court case that made interracial marriage legal in 1967. Their illustrations are light, flowing and whimsical, incorporating classic iconography of “love,” like hearts, stars, birds and flowers, at every turn. In this way, the love of Richard and Mildred is truly visual and serves as a tangible thread as Alko gently, but firmly leads us first across states lines for the Loving’s legal marriage, back to their home state of Virgina, where their marriage was not recognized by the state, to their shocking arrest for “unlawful cohabitation,” and to their necessary move across state lines to preserve their marriage and their freedom. The injustice is plain to see and children will feel it in their guts. And they will celebrate, too, as the Supreme court honors the Loving’s marriage and they are finally able to return home. This is a powerful introduction to civil rights activism, because it brings the Loving’s journey right to the audience’s heart with its strong sense of love, family, and what it means to be home.

Informative and detailed back matter provides further reading and shines a beautiful light on Alko and Qualls’ unique collaboration as an interracial couple, who created this book from a place of deep & sincere gratitude.

Buy this book:

Reviewed by: Jane Smith

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Super Star Interview: Nivea Ortiz

Welcome to my monthly interview feature! I’m so excited to be interviewing all the fabulous artists, illustrators and designers I’ve meet over the years (both personally and virtually!) and sharing their artwork and experiences here on Bird Meets Worm. Look for a new interview on the first Tuesday of every month. (BTW Happy Summer to ya’ll! Just a quick note to let you know we’ll be taking a mini break from our artist interview feature in July, but will be back in August!)

This month I’m thrilled to be catching up with the gorgeous Illustrator, Nivea Ortiz! I am a huge admirer of her beautiful, energetic artwork! Nivea is a native of San Juan, Puerto Rico. She earned her BFA in Illustration at the Pratt Institute in NYC and began her career in her home country at the leading newspaper El Nuevo Dia. She has a thriving illustration career creating editorial and fashion illustrations as well as illustrating children’s books. You can view more of her artwork here!

How fabulous is she?! I'd totally love to gossip with her over tea & cake!

Q: I absolutely ADORE the bold colors, graphic shapes and gestural, flowing lines in your artwork!! Dish with us about your creative process: ideas, sketches, mediums, technique, finished art style—you know, all the good stuff!!

A: Thanks! I enjoy painting with water mediums like watercolor, gouache and ink. Painting with ink is great because it is spontaneous, fast and immediate. You have almost no control and the results are amazing. I feel very comfortable with the medium, particularly for personal work. I enjoy doodling, exploring and playing with different pens and brushes. The bamboo pen is my favorite, because I get interesting gestural lines, and for that very reason, I use it more in my personal pieces.

Love, Love, Love!

Q: You live in Puerto Rico and studied art in New York. How have both of these very distinctive places influenced and inspired your artwork?

A: I loved studying in NY. It is a unique place where you see everything and are exposed to a thousand different things and styles. There is inspiration everywhere. I studied fashion design in my first year of college. Then I changed my concentration to illustration, but fashion design is still present in my work.

My first job in PR was as an editorial illustrator in the main newspaper of the island. It was great training. I illustrated all kinds of different subjects like Travel, Health, Fashion, Culture and everything was rush. I think that's why I'm good at drawing fast and capturing the essence of things.

The island has a strong influence on my work. It is an eternal summer. You can see its influence on the colors that I like to use. They are warm, happy and as intense as the Caribbean people. The vivid colors of nature, the incredible blue sky, the turquoise sea, the afternoon light manifests in my palette.

Calling all dance lovers—this books is so totally for you!

 Q: I’m so excited about your new picture book, Sebi and the Land of Cha Cha Cha, which is set to release this fall from Penguin Random House! Give us the full scoop on Sebi and the Land of Cha Cha Cha: how you came to be the illustrator on the project to your experiences working with the art director to creating the artwork itself.

A: Roselyn Sanchez and Eric Winter had this idea some time ago and told me about it. I really liked it, and finally, it came to be at the perfect time. Working with the art director and the whole team was great and enjoyable. Everything went smooth and well. Creating the characters and the design took time and many sketches, but once it was all approved and Sebi’s world was created, it was easy and fun. Collaborating with Penguin Random House is a dream come true for me.

Sweet, fun, friendly and absolutely smile-worthy!!!

 Q: Tell us all about your MOST favorite illustrator project: one from the past and one from the present.

A: One of my favorite past projects is The Mall of San Juan mural. I had to create an illustration for a digital mural to be displayed in the mall. The theme was Mi San Juan, “What San Juan means to me”.  It measures 30 feet x 14 feet. I liked it, because it was the first time I saw my art on such a large scale. Every time I go shopping and walk by it, I smile.

From the present, I’ll say my recent children’s book La Maravillosa Visita del Calzad√≠simo Extranjero / University of Puerto Rico Press, because the communication with the editor and the author was excellent. They respected my style and gave me total visual freedom. I had a blast illustrating the story!

Who loves you? Mama does! XO

 Q: What is a typical workday like for you? Set the scene (workspace, materials, accessories) and describe your responsibilities (art making, business stuff) and creative juju (rituals, inspiration, process).

A: I’m a morning person, so I wake up early to draw. A cup of strong coffee is a must! Usually I go outside to feed the wild birds. It fills me with joy. Then the drawing starts. My workspace is usually messy. Gouache, ink and papers are everywhere on my drawing table. I always have music on, and I just go with the flow.

If it’s a project for a client, I will do some research about the subject, but not too much, because I like to keep the images fresh and want to capture the essence of things. Aiming to translate reality into my particular creative language, I like to start with some loose sketches, pick the more effective ones and then work over them in Photoshop. If it’s personal work, everything is more relaxed—a fun journey of exploration.

Looking at other artist’s work enriches and inspires me, too. It makes me want to work harder and see what else can I create. Often times I surprise myself! It’s happening now that I’m exploring abstract painting.

Colorful kings are "celebration" personified!

 Q: Describe your most perfect Sunday.

A: Starts early in the morning, kayaking at La Laguna del Condado / The Condado Lagoon. I really enjoy it. Being in the water relaxes me and nourishes my creativity. I love to observe nature, calmly strolling along in a kayak makes you feel closer to it. The best part is spotting manatees, turtles and rays swimming by your side. The Caribbean is a treasure.

Thank you very much for inviting me!

Thank YOU, Nivea, for chatting it up with us here at Bird Meets Worm! We love your artwork!

(Psst! Bonus news: Bird Meets Worm is debuting a NEW diverse children’s book review feature later this month!! Look for it on Wednesday, June 14th!)

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Super Star Interview: Barb Zuckerman Chotiner

Welcome to my monthly interview feature! I’m so excited to be interviewing all the fabulous artists, illustrators and designers I’ve meet over the years (both personally and virtually!) and sharing their artwork and experiences here on Bird Meets Worm. Look for a new interview on the first Tuesday of every month. (Psst! Bonus news: Bird Meets Worm is debuting a NEW diverse children’s book review feature next month!! Look for it on the second Wednesday in June!)

This month I’m pleased as punch to be chatting it up with the fabulous Designer/Illustrator, Barb Zuckerman Chotiner! I’ve been a fan of her gorgeous artwork for a longtime and was so excited to finally meet her in person this past February at the SCBWI NY conference! Barb studied graphic design & illustration at Syracuse University and later received her MFA from the University of the Arts in book arts + printmaking. Through analog and digital methods, Barb combines textures, color, shapes and abstract forms. Inspired by the fusion of rules & repetition (math) and fluidity & freedom (English), she spends her days drawing, making monoprints, scanning and taking out excessive amounts of children’s books from the library. (Only a few of which are actually for her two medium sized children!) You can view more of her artwork here!

So super cute!! Let's totally go on a story adventure together!

 Q: Your artwork presents as stunningly layered, textured, collaged gorgeousness!! Dish with us about your rich art style and how you create such beautiful color, depth and texture in your final art.

A: Oh gosh. Thanks! I have a background in graphic design and illustration, as well as printmaking and book arts. My art kind of combines all these areas that I am passionate about. What I truly love about graphic design is its problem solving nature. When I’m creating new work, I usually try out a bunch of different mediums and then see which one is working for the project. I love cutting shapes and making monoprints. My favorite art materials are caran d’ache crayons - though oddly these don’t typically end up in my finals. (I feel like I now need to figure out why that is!) I always do some pencil drawings and sometimes use gouache or whatever paint is near my desk. Then I take all these random pieces that I’ve created and scan them into the computer. Then the fun starts—figuring out the composition. I really enjoy getting lost in the process of making and not necessary knowing where something is going to end up. (Though it can be a bit nerve-wrecking at times if it doesn't seem to be working.) Sometimes I feel like I’m a conductor and all my scans, and prints and drawings are my little orchestra and I have to make things loud and soft and big and little to make the piece work. In a sense, I design my art. It’s a lot of trial-and-error and happy accidents. I have many files with painted textures that I like to try out. I am trying to be more mindful of starting with a set color story otherwise I can to go a bit overboard with colors and have to tone it back. But yes, I do love to mess with color!

What a wonderful under-the-sea dreamscape!!

Q: You are an art licensing super star! Give us the scoop on your most favorite art licensing project: one from the past and one from the present. (And don’t leave anything out: we want to know everything from how the client connected with you to how you created it to where the finished product ended up!!)

A: My first (and therefore a favorite) licensed art was this whale art. Initially, I had it posted in an online forum and I got great direct feedback from a creative director I admire and respect. She had commented “this is what the world needs” or maybe she actually said “this is what the market needs” but in my heart I heard “world” and it inspired me to send it out to companies. It immediately got licensed to Oopsy Daisy as wall art and it seems to be something that people really like. This piece was actually 1 in a series of 6. Some of the pieces are on Oopsy Daisy and the others are licensed to DENY designs.
For the present, I am so excited to announce that this month I will have 2 pieces of wall art debuting at TJ Maxx/Marshals/Home Goods. I reached out to a frame company that works with retailers and luckily they presented and liked my work. I am drawn to birds and wanted to create a bunch of prints based upon bird silhouettes. (You can see I enjoy working with silhouettes and layering.) Only 2 of my 3 pieces made the final cut, but I’m glad two of the “siblings” will remain together. I call the series Fly Away. The piece on the left is a homage to a place I used to visit called “the Marine Nature Study Area.” It’s a large nature preserve in the town I grew up in on Long Island. I like using memories as a base for ideas.

Can you say GORGEOUS?!

This is how the magic happens!! Fabulous!

 Q: Now it’s time for one of my most favorite questions: In what ways do you balance your work as a professional artist with your role as a mama of two active kiddos?

A: I’m not sure I have this answer. As far as balanced...some days are in better alignment than others, but I can say there is never a dull moment! I have a lot of “Jewish guilt.” I feel guilty if I’m not constantly working or creating, and I feel guilty when I’m not downstairs hanging out with my kids and husband. It’s a no-win situation—yet on the flip side I feel so blessed that I have 2 amazing kids and a supportive husband and that I am a creative person with a need to make things. I knew I wanted to be an artist since I was a little girl and am so thankful I get to live this life.

Things are getting easier now, as the kids are a little bit older (6 & 8). They can entertain themselves, but I am now finding myself driving to a lot of places for activities and they are still at the age where I usually still have to stay with them. I try to be productive with that time. Sketching...Pinterest research on my phone. I’m planning to get an iPad pro next month (when the new ones hopefully come out!) and am looking forward to being able to sketch and play digitally when I’m waiting at gymnastics & soccer & baseball & juijitsu... To balance the sports, sometimes after school I will draw or collage with them. I love watching what they come up with. They don't think. They just do. They just create. And THAT is inspiring!

I also try to keep in mind that they are only this little once. My husband recites the quote “the days are long, but the years are short.” I know I will have many hours to draw in the future when they are grown, so I remind myself to be in the present and enjoy their funny conversations and not feel guilty for that. They really are such amazing, funny little human beings.

Adorable with great design details! What more could you ask for?!

 Q: What is a typical workday like for you? Set the scene (workspace, materials, accessories) and describe your responsibilities (art making, business stuff) and creative juju (rituals, inspiration, process).

A: It ALWAYS starts with coffee. Then I turn on WHYY (the local NPR station) & make breakfast and pack lunch for the littles. Once their bus pulls away at 8:35, I tidy up and make my way upstairs. Occasionally, I go for a run, but it doesn't happen as often as I’d like. My workspace is the 4th bedroom at the top of our house. It’s convenient, but I do hope to one day again have a studio outside of my home. I used to share a studio space with an amazingly talented illustrator, Brian Biggs (, but once I became pregnant the space (though artsy and cool) was not very conducive to having small infants. (It was also across the street from a gun range.) I soon moved out to the “burbs”.

It’s hard working in solitude all the time. However, now I talk pretty much every day with my “virtual” studio mate, Terri Kasuba. ( We met at an art event in NYC, but actually only live 10 minutes from each other. It’s so great having someone nearby to chat with about art, illustration, licensing as well as work/life balance and being an artist while being a parent of 2 kids. We try to meet up once a week to talk shop, give and get feedback, or sometimes go on inspirational field trips to places like amazing gift stores (, Anthropologie, and Longwood Gardens.

I work from 9-3 till the kids come home. I check my weekly and daily to do list and figure out my day. Usually it is some combination of design and illustration jobs. At 4, depending on my workload, I either stop or keep going. I try to do something that is not on the computer every day—if even only for 10 minutes. At least one of my kids usually has some sort of activity, so I go there and try to be productive either in my sketchbook or by bringing trend research or books. I also do a daily project online, so I have to make sure I fit that in at some point. Right now as part of the 100 day project, I’m doing 100 days of happy. That was inspired by my ever smiling 6 year old and her need to draw smiley faces on everything!

I used to be a night owl, but not so much anymore. (Unless I need to for a work deadline.) I try to go to bed by 11. I usually fall asleep to a podcast. (I like listening to Rachel Maddow and 99% Invisible in the evening and Creative Peptalk, All the Wonders, and The Jealous Curator while I work.)

Oh, yeah, baby!!

 Q: What do you know now that when you first began your design & illustration career you wish you’d known about: illustration? art licensing? business? self-promotion?

A: Perhaps that things come full circle and things happen for a reason. After college, I was a graphic designer, for many years. (Though I always kept a sketchbook as an outlet) I lived in NYC, then Boston and back to NYC. I began to have an interest in greeting card design and licensing. I signed up for a class at the School of Visual Arts in NYC and the following morning, after the very first class, was 9/11. My life changed course. I left NYC for what I thought would be a temporary move to Philadelphia, but then a few years later I found a newfound interest in and love for print-making and making books and went back to school for it. While finishing my MFA I also met my husband. Fast forward a few years, and after a few art classes I was able to find my voice and finally combine my graphic design, with my illustration, with my printmaking and begin to earn income from making/creating/designing art. Last year I was fortunate to illustrate a few picture books. I feel very fortunate I can make art that brings a smile to peoples faces as well as be able to “create” for a living and get paid for it. From my early days of being a junior art director at an direct mail ad agency in NYC, never would I have imagined being where I am today, but I wouldn't trade it for anything. (Though I do miss living in NYC!)

Q: Describe your most perfect day.

A: I wake up. It’s sunny. Drink delicious coffee. Go running. Have a great run. Come back to find my children playing together having sweet, innocent, and hilarious conversations amongst their Lego figures, Shopkins and magna tiles. The NY Times has been delivered and I can lounge on the screened in patio for a bit. An over-medium egg and fresh avocado toast appear on my table. We all go someplace as a family and everyone agrees on where we should go for lunch. Its 81 degrees and I can wear a t-shirt, jeans and flip flops. At some point, I make a drawing (or 12) and they all turns out amazing! The kids go to bed without too much drama and I get to watch a show on Netflix with my husband before going to bed. I also snack on pretzels. I love pretzels!

Thank you so much, Barb, for catching up with us here at Bird Meets Worm!! You rock!

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Super Star Interview: Martin Bruckner

Welcome to my monthly interview feature! I’m so excited to be interviewing all the fabulous artists, illustrators and designers I’ve meet over the years (both personally and virtually!) and sharing their artwork and experiences here on Bird Meets Worm. Look for a new interview on the first Tuesday of every month.

This month I’m happy to be chatting it up with Artist Marty Bruckner! I simply can’t enough of his super fun illustrations of children’s sayings! Marty first started creating these for his Spaghetti Toes Facebook page in 2014 after a funny dinner conversation with his wife and daughter. He has been drawing custom prints for his family and for parents all over the world ever since. His first book I Love You with All my Butt comes out on April 4th, 2017 (That’s today!! Hooray! Congrats, Marty! Buy it here now!) Marty lives in Omaha with his wife Michelle, his five-year-old daughter Harper, and their three dogs. You can view more of his artwork here!


Q: You have a fabulous new book out, I Love You with All my Butt, that is a hilarious collection of illustrated children’s sayings that you have been creating and sharing for many years. Dish with us about how it came to be from inspiration thru creation, all the way to discovery & publication.

A: A few years ago, when my daughter was two, we were having a spaghetti dinner. My daughter, Harper, was goofing around and had begun to play with her noodles. Eventually those noodles had made their way down to her toes and my wife was not having any of that. She playfully, but sternly, said, “Please don't put spaghetti between your toes!” and an idea that would change our lives was catapulted into my brain. I decided to take all of the silly, gross, funny, adorable things that were being said in my home and bring them to life through my artwork. After a few months of me putting all of these illustrated musings onto a Facebook page, people started to take notice. I was soon being contacted by the Huffington Post, CNN, the Today Show, Buzzfeed and many, many more. It was around that time that I started talking to a literary agent and he put my book out there for potential publishers to see. The amazing people at Workman Publishing would soon change our lives once again. We teamed up to create the book and it has been a true joyful experience from beginning to end. 

So sweet! I love the little tools!!

Q: The artwork in your book represents a range of different art styles and looks. Give us the scoop on how your day job as a creative director/freelance designer influences your diverse approach to illustration and typography.

A: I've been a creative director for about 15 years now and started out mainly as an illustrator. I was mainly a pencil artist for the first half of my career but slowly started to acquire different styles. They are all based on the same idea—fun, loose, whimsical almost child-like drawings but I have about five to ten slightly different interpretations that come out to be visually distinct. As far as the typography, I just scribble out my letters right in Photoshop with the brush tool. Some of the "fonts" are super quick and easy and others take me quite a bit of time depending on how I want them to look. 

Q: Art, design and inspiration is a family affair in your house. In what ways do your wife and daughter both inspire and challenge you?

A: They inspire every single thing I do, and more than inspiration, they do half of the work for me either with their words or their ideas. I get stuck a lot and my wife, Michelle, always comes to my rescue. Sometimes I fight her on it, but she's always right. (Don't tell her that I said that!) Harper, my daughter, is now giving her ideas as well and I love it. She'll hear me and my wife talking about what to do and she'll say, “Why didn't anyone ask me what I thought?” It's so sweet and innocent and then she'll go into a five minute rabbit hole of brilliant five-year-old thoughts. 

I will! And I'll play it over and over and over in my brain for forever!!

Q: Last year the world lost a great number of cultural icons and you began creating a series of stunning illustrations of them. Tell us all about how/why you were moved to create them and if/how you see the series continuing.

A: This project really started as me doing something for my wife just like Spaghetti Toes did. When Gene Wilder died it crushed my wife. She has loved him forever and was so sad so I did a little drawing of all of his characters for her. She cried when she saw it, but it moved her. After Carrie Fisher died late last year, I did a drawing of her and put it on my Facebook page and people loved it and thanked me for doing it. It was then that I realized how many amazing people we had lost and I wanted to do a piece for all of them. I got a handful done and reached out to some people I have been in connection with out in the world of social media and Buzzfeed agreed to run all of my pieces. It was such an amazing project to work on and it's something that I would love to do every single year. Movie stars and athletes and musicians and all sorts of public figures mean so much to us and help shape our childhoods and adulthoods and I was just trying to pay tribute to them the only way I know how.

Q: There is a bit of lovely serendipity paired with your own motivation to share and create that resulted in Spaghetti Toes becoming an Internet sensation and now a fabulous book. Talk with us a bit about what advice you would give fellow creatives about daily work habits, inspiration, creating community and success.

A: Just be yourself. If you are good at something and have passion behind it, it will eventually turn into something that can become a huge part of your life. I never really thought that Spaghetti Toes would turn into what it has, but in the back of my head I knew there was something there. The best part of it for me, is that it's 100% a family idea. It would not exist without my wife, my daughter and then me. It has become something that I hope will last the rest of my life and I know it can because I will always have my family with me forever. 

It is, isn't it?! Vanilla with vanilla frosting for me, please!

 Daily work habits is a tricky one for me. I work all day long and then I come home. I play with Harper and our dogs. I help with dinner when I can. I play with Harper some more and help put her to bed and then it's back to work to do Spaghetti Toes. The weekends are tough as well because it's normally two-full-days of work to catch up. Being a dad and a husband, it's really hard to give up so much of that time. I'm lucky in that I work in my basement and while I work, Harper is right there dancing to her music, the dogs are playing and my wife is always there helping me with Spaghetti toes or working on her Etsy shop. . .so I'm never alone and I'm never neglecting anyone. It's hard, especially after a long day of work and play, to sit back down at my computer at 9 p.m. at night, but it's necessary. There are many nights I will sit down with my wife to watch t.v. and relax and before the opening credits even run I get up and walk over to the computer and tell her, “Watch what you want tonight, I can't relax until I finish this project.”

The community that has followed me through all of this is nothing short of amazing and inspiring. I have gotten daily messages for three years now of people telling me funny (and sad) memories from their lives. A lot of people just want to tell me something gross or silly that happened to them earlier that morning. I have parents who have lost children and children that have lost parents come to me to help them capture memories. I sometimes post pictures of Harper or tell a little story about something she's done and the comments that I get are so amazing. 

Ooo! I wonder if the bellybutton fairy grants wishes, too!

 Q: Describe your most perfect day.

A: A few years ago I took the day off from my day job. I woke up, took Harper to school, went and got a coffee and came home to work on Spaghetti Toes. Harper gets out of school at 11am so I went and picked her up, and she, my wife and I all went out to lunch. We came home, walked the dogs, went to the park and returned home where Harper relaxed and played and I went back to work. Now, while I still love my day job, that was a perfect day to me. The perfect mixture of "work" and play, because in the end, Spaghetti Toes is far from work to me. It's a visual history of my family. It's memories, both good and bad. It's a chronological list of my daughter's first years and it's something that we will all look at for the rest of our lives and laugh, cry and relish.

Thank you so much, Marty, for chatting it up with us here at Bird Meets Worm!! We hope your new book is a smashing success!!