07 May Jody Wheeler
Why did you become a children’s illustrator?
I became a children’s book illustrator in most part because my Great Aunt Opal Wheeler, a prolific author, would gift us with the whole list of Dutton’s Books for Young Readers each Christmas. I always liked to write and to draw since Kindergarten. I then saw it was possible to do what I already loved doing for a living when I grew up. As time went on I saw I wasn’t very good at much else, so I pursued an illustration career in earnest.
What project are you most proud of? What do children learn or understand from it? Why is that important?
This is a tough call. In light of today’s times, I think I’m most proud of the picture books I did for Harper Collins under the direction of Renee Graef, that brought The Little House on the Prairie stories to younger readers. I illustrated three books about Almanzo Wilder, the future husband of Laura Ingalls Wilder, as he grew up in upstate New York. These books tell stories of life in the 1800s when the Wilder family was close, at home and self-reliant. These qualities will resonate today.
What are you itching to draw or illustrate next?
After finishing the books I’ve got on my plate, I’ve been quite intrigued by mermaids and hope to work on a story I have in mind. Also, I love the classic licensed characters I continue to have the privilege of keeping on bookshelves. Maybe more beloved characters will be on my drawing board in the future.
Tell us about your latest project. Where can it be purchased?
My latest project is a series of Corduroy the Bear board books about his adventures at Christmas, Easter, Halloween and school. Merry Christmas Corduroy will be in bookstores and online this fall. There also is a new Nate the Great book, Nate the Great and The Earth Day Robot, where Nate and the gang will solve a mystery at school. That will be out in 2021. Stay tuned!
Jody Wheeler is a freelance illustrator, with over 40 years of experience. After graduating college, she moved to New York and took courses in children’s book illustration, and worked in publishing before establishing her own freelance business.
Images © Jody Wheeler. Used with permission.