From Woody Woodpecker to Up Where the Stars Are: The Journey of Children’s Book Illustrator Michelle Hazelwood Hyde
Today Michelle Hazelwood Hyde, illustrator of our upcoming book Up Where the Stars Are, talks with us about how she became a children’s book illustrator.
My illustration journey began in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, when I was 8 years old. My grandpa gave me the most amazing, life-changing gift—a book called How to Draw Woody Woodpecker and Friends. I was hooked!
Over the years I received sketchbooks and more how-to-draw books as birthday presents. So, in between roller-skating and watching TV, I filled the pages. I was very fortunate to take art in high school, and I could not imagine doing anything else. However, until my art teacher encouraged me to go to school for illustration, I didn’t even know that was an option. Thank you, Mr. Goldstein!
After graduating from Ringling College of Arts & Design, I landed a job in the newspaper industry, making editorial illustrations and graphics for several newspapers and magazines over the next 10 years. Although I knew I was contributing something positive to our community during that time, I longed for something else.
When I was expecting my first child, it was time to move on.
I always loved children’s books and often dreamed I would become a children’s book illustrator. After several failed attempts to get published, my friend Laurel and I decided we would self-publish our concept for a local book. We created Night Night Birmingham. It felt great to put something out into the world. Birmingham truly embraced it, and we ended up selling hundreds of copies. It was amazing! I was so happy to have made a book I could read to my little girl.
Shortly after we launched Night Night Birmingham, I met an art director at one of my book signings. That led to a nine-book series with The National Center for Youth Issues. I have also illustrated several books for Schiffer Kids and Alabama Media, and I often do editorial work for children’s magazines.
I have been extremely fortunate to get all of my book projects through word of mouth, including Up Where the Stars Are. Thank you, friend, for recommending me!
When I was approached to illustrate Up Where the Stars Are, I was a little nervous to take it on. Although, at the time, I was volunteering at The Bell Center (an early-intervention center for at-risk children, ages 0-3), I had never heard of Angelman syndrome. Children with special needs are dear to my heart, and I wanted to be respectful in bringing our main character to life. Once Ryan Jacobson (the author) and I began to discuss his vision, I was in. I loved creating Andrew. Sharing Andrew and his diagnosis—as well as the collection of constellations—with readers has been a gift. It is our responsibility to inform children of diverse family situations and to be inclusive. Children these days are very receptive and caring. I appreciate publishers like AdventureKEEN that embrace a mission to educate children and adults on various levels. And I learned a ton about the Andromeda constellation!
Thank you, Ryan—and the team at AdventureKEEN—for allowing me to take this adventure with you.
About the illustrator: Michelle Hazelwood Hyde is a freelance children’s book illustrator from Philadelphia. She graduated from Ringling College of Art & Design and began her career working for The New York Times Company in Florence, Alabama. Michelle has illustrated nine books for The National Center for Youth Issues, four books with It’s a Southern Thing, and two with Schiffer Kids—including A Poem Is a Firefly, which received a Purple Dragonfly Picture Book Award. She lives in Alabama with her husband, two kids, and two very fuzzy dogs.
About the series: Andrew’s Adventures in Nature is a picture book series for children ages 4–8. Each full-color book, written by Ryan Jacobson and illustrated by Michelle Hazelwood Hyde, tells an outdoors-themed story about Andrew and includes educational pages relevant to the subject matter. The books are created with the assistance and support of the Angelman Syndrome Foundation.
If you enjoyed Michelle’s journey, check out The Story Behind Up Where the Stars Are by author Ryan Jacobson.