Miss Brooks Story Nook, where tales are told and ogres are welcome





Miss Brooks Story Nook (written by the incomparable Barbara Bottner, published by Knopf/Random House, USA Edited by Nancy Siscoe.) is a sequel of sorts, for Miss Brooks Loves Books, and I don’t.

It is a rollicking tale, like the last one, about a strong minded main character named Missy, and a new character, Billy, the kid nextdoor who terrorizes her each day she passes his house. He taints her and steals her hat. And this is a big deal when you’re Missy. She is a hat girl, 24/7. Her look is based on the daughter of the owners of the Reading Reptile children’s bookshop in Kansas City. When she was little she never took off her striped woolie hat – even to sleep. Miss B rooks is based on a mix of two people: one is the mom of the Missy character and another is a good friend of mine, a book editor in New York City.


Crazy Billy



My jacket design.

This is not the final jacket image for this book. (left) I disagreed with the designers and sales staff at the publishing house.  It happens. More often than you think. It’s part of the job. Intelligent minds agree and disagree. Is there a science to it? No. Is there a right and wrong? No. And to be fair the author/illustrator’s opinion is taken into account , but ultimately the publisher, and more importantly the sales staff, must have the cover art they think, in their best guess, will sell the most books. It’s what I would do in their place. The image choices and design here are my ideas.

The final is similar, but the colors, and for one thing, the image of the crazed boy, Billy, has been replaced by a “friendlier” Billy. (You can see what they chose for the cover below.) More about the jacket design here.

Why? I’m told buyers don’t want angry children on the cover of books. This little guy looks crazy to me, not angry,  but I guess the theory is : no angry, no crazy, or no buy book. The Billy illustration below, also a suggestion of mine, did not get accepted either.BillyHe does look angry, but, well,  he’s an angry character…

This book was difficult to get just right. It always is when elements of fantasy and reality are present in the same story. It can be quite straightforward to write of such flights of imagination in the characters mind, quite another if you have to draw it, and the other characters this character are meant to react to it. This means they have to “see” it in some way. So I designed a complicated series of comic devises to get this across and not disturb theogre spaceshipwriter’s tone and meaning.

I think it came out well, and in hind sight, I actually like a lot of the art. I’m hard on myself so it’s typical I’m not able to see the the book objectively for months if not years after I finish the art.  I love the characters Barbara has invented, and I have come to love the way I have brought them to life. I always like Missy and Miss Brooks, but I really like Billy. He is complicated and miserable and I hope we/I get a chance to bring him back and explore his world a bit more.

A word about the final production. I always felt a top quality uncoated, (“non-shiny”) paper, of a decent thickness would really show Missy off to her best.  So, after lots of shameless begging the designer and editor, I got my wish. I think the paper they chose makes Miss Brook Story Nook look and feels like a quality book, and I thank them for using it.



School Library Journal

K-Gr 2— “Emberley’s cartoons detail imaginary reptiles and fearful children with equal panache”. —Gay Lynn Van Vleck, Henrico County Library, Glen Allen, VA

missy 2 jacket finalb

Final publisher’s design.


“Energetic, book-loving Miss Brooks is back, as is Missy, the grumpy, stumpy, hat-wearing reluctant reader–turned-bookworm who is her biggest fan (Miss Brooks Loves Books (and I don’t), 2010).  This time around, though, there’s a new wrinkle: a boy named Billy who likes to torment Missy and steal her precious hats.  …  Missy finds herself unexpectedly brainstorming a solution to her problem while concocting a semi-scary story about a neighborhood ogre named Graciela and her very large boa constrictor. Over-the-top silliness in Emberley’s appealing illustrations contrasts with Bottner’s deadpan delivery to amplify the humor, while clever details in the pictures reward close examination. Characters come alive with distinct voices and appearances, and the twin plots flow smoothly, if purposively, to the requisite “happy ending.”

While sequels can sometimes be disappointing, readers and listeners who enjoyed Miss Brooks’ first appearance will likely be very happy to find out what happens next—and they just might be inspired to create some tall tales of their own. (Picture book. 4-8)

 Publisher’s Weekly

“Bottner and Emberley shift focus from reading to storytelling in this wickedly funny companion to Miss Brooks Loves Books (and I Don’t). …  these collaborators demonstrate in no uncertain terms just how much real-life power stories can have.” Ages 5–9. (Aug.)Missy Billy on her back


More on this book:

The digital version of the book.

A blog entry about the jacket design:

Miss Brooks Story Nook – The  jacket

A multi part blog on creating the illustrations and design:

– Miss Brooks Story Nook – The Art (part 1) – the sketches.

– Miss Brooks Story Nook – The Art  (part 2) – refined sketches.

– Miss Brooks Story Nook – The Art  (part 3)- rejected ideas

Miss Brooks Story Nook – the art (Part 4) -the color – coming soon


[…] Miss Brooks Story Nook, where tales are told and ogres are welcome […]

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