Renowned Award Winning Illustrator, Hazel Mitchell

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On Wednesday, September 28th,
You Can Win a copy of Toby.
(How to win is below the interview.)

Drawing, reading and horses were Hazel Mitchell's big passions as a youngster. After Hazel attended art college in her home country of England, she ran away to sea and joined the Royal Navy. Now, she is doing what her always dreamed of - illustrating and writing children's books. Hazel Mitchell is the illustrator of many children’s picture books, and with the help of her two dogs, Toby and Lucy, her story “Toby” is published book from Candlewick Press. Toby, himself! is here to tell us all about Hazel Mitchell's career as an illustrator and author!

HI Toby, tell us about the book, “Toby” and how it came about?
Hi, JD! Thanks for inviting me to visit your blog! WOOF!
My book is a fictionalized story about me and a family that Hazel made up. It's story about the growing bond between a child and a new pet. But, it's still about me, a rescued poodle who is a bit scared of his new life, just like in my life with my real people. In the book a young boy and his father move from one house to another, and decide to adopt a dog from the local rescue shelter. But their chosen dog, Toby, (ME!) is having a tough time adjusting to his new life outside the shelter—howling all night, hiding fearfully from his new humans, forgetting where to go to the bathroom, and chasing a ball through the flower bed. (It's hard to know what to do in a new environment!) The boy has promises to train Toby (ME!), and he’s trying his best, but his Dad is starting to get exasperated. (I think this happens quite a lot!). Will Toby (ME!) ever feel comfortable with his new family and settle into his forever home, or will Dad decide he’s not the right dog for them after all? (This is where the story gets sad ...I don't even like to think about it!) You will have to read the story to find out what happens next. 
It came about because Hazel was looking for a new story to write and illustrate. And they say you should write about what you love ... so she wrote about me! Then Liz Bicknell, (she is a good type of person and rescues dogs and cats. And she sends me TREATS!!) who is an editor at Candlewick Press liked the story so much, she gave us a contract! OK, it says 'Hazel Mitchell' on the paperwork, but, well, you know it's all about ME, really. That was a long time ago in 2014. Now it's 2016 and my book is just coming out. THAT'S A LONG TIME IN DOG YEARS! 
Did you have to talk Hazel into doing your story?
Well, at first Hazel didn't really think anyone would be interested in yet another story about a rescue dog. She was so WRONG! When she finally realized that she just needed to put me in a new setting, so that children would have a child to relate to, she really got into the idea. In fact I think she did the first dummy (that's the initial mock up of the story, apparently), in 4 weeks. Which was pretty good and I gave her a treat for working so hard. That was when she sent it to an agent and my publisher bought it. WOOF!
Can you tell us what circumstances inspired Hazel to pursue art and become an illustrator of children's books?I believe she has always drawn. (Especially animals). I heard her say art was her favorite class in school. (Sounds boring to me. Why don't they have classes on chasing cats? I'd LIKE that). Then she went to something called 'college' (which is like going to dog training classes) and did some more art things. Then she did something called 'graphic design' for ever and ever until finally she remembered she liked children's books. She joined something called the SCBWI when she came to our country (she lived somewhere called 'England' where there is a 'QUEEN' and 'CORGIS'). Anyway, this 'SCB-whatsit' helped her learn about publishers and treats (wait, not treats, I got that wrong) and how to get book contracts. They sound like good people. They have a website (I have a website too!). Get your people to type in and take a look. You can probably do it alone because you have thumbs, right? At least I hope you do.
WAIT, I have to go into the garden .... sing a song or something while I am la la la la
OK, I'm back now. WOOF!
ME and Lucy!
How many books has she illustrated and by what authors?
mmmm ... some. I am not good at counting. Lucy? Do you know? What? OK. Lucy says about 17. Lucy is really good at counting. (Lucy is my step sister and a standard poodle. She is BIG. Much bigger than me. And eats more treats, which is not fair.) What were we saying? Oh, ok ... there is Imani's Moon by JaNay Brown Wood, One Word Pearl by Nicole Groeneweg, Animally by Lynn Parrish Sutton (I LIKE THAT ONE! It has a dog in it), 1,2,3 by the Sea by Dianne Moritz, that has another dog in it called Max who gets to go to the beach) and also 'Where Do Fairies Go When It Snows? by Liza Gardner Walsh. (She is a nice author, I have met her. But I don't know what fairies are or where they go in any weather. Can you eat them? No? Hazel says NO!) And she has done a lot of other books, but that is all I can remember. You can look at her website and find out. Because you have thumbs.  Hazel Mitchell's site:

from Imani's Moon
by JaNay Brown Wood
Have you been around when Hazel talks with authors about illustrating their books, and does the author tell her what illustrations they want, or does Hazel pick the scenes from the author's manuscript herself that she thinks will work the best for that story?
I don't think she talks to the authors about the illustrations. I think that's her job to decide what to do. She talks to someone called an 'Art Director'. They are like the head of the pack. Kind of. Apart from the 'Editor'. And maybe the 'Publisher'. My Art Director at Candlewick Press is called Ann Stott and she is very nice and good at art things. WOOF! Anyway, I think the author gets to see the sketches and the very last pieces of art before they send the book SOMEWHERE to be made. I know Hazel likes working out the illustrations and what they will be. She hums a lot when she is working it out. Lucy and I like to hear her humming. It sends us to sleep.
What was her original goal as an artist, and do you know if she has reached it?
Is that like the best treat she could think of? In which case my goal is a pepperoni cake with chicken flavored frosting and bacon sprinkles. But I think Hazel's goal was to make art that people liked. I think they like her illustrations. She has letters from children saying they do. I hope I get letters from children saying they like my book! That would be fun! WOOF!
written by Dianne Moritz
Do you help Hazel with her illustrations and what mediums does she worked in?Excuse me ... HEY! I think I just saw the cat ... I have to ... sorry .... HEY! HEY! HEY! HEY!!!!OK, BACK. That's that sorted out. That cat needs watching, I'll tell you. But he is gone up on the bookshelf now, so we are safe.
I help Hazel A LOT. I lie in the studio on the futon and snore gently. This noise helps her concentrate and lulls her into a sense of serenity until it is time to give me treats. Sometimes I leap up and chase the cat and run downstairs, which is helpful because it startles her into alertness in case she has drifted into a stupor and forgotten about the treats.
She likes to work in 'pencil' first, which is a pointy stick that leaves a trail. A bit like a snail. I watched her do this on my book. She did all the drawing bit with a pencil and it took her AGES and AGES. I thought we would STARVE some days. But then my other people came home and it was ok and we all ate. Artists can be very forgetful sometimes, which is the hard part of having one belong to you. Then she puts a brown 'watercolour' wash (that's PAINT) on them for something called SHADING and TEXTURE. (I got paint on my paws once and that wasn't so good. Someone had to clean it up. Oops.) After that she puts it on a flat thing with lights that goes WHIRR for a bit and then the picture appears on the 'television screen' and she colours it in with another thing that is like a paintbrush, but with no paint. Which is good, because it is not messy. And then she sends it into the 'interweb' and then a book comes back, finally. It's pretty neat, when you think about it. You people are clever for such dumb animals.
Has she told you what artists and illustrators inspired her most?
Written by Lisa Gardner Walsh
She likes a lot of artists. There are a lot of books on her shelf. I think she likes someone called Edward Ardizzone. And Arthur Rackham. And Charles Schultz. And David Small. And Melissa Sweet. And Eric Rohmann. And Ashley Bryan. That's a lot. Maybe that is more than there are in the world. I might have got mixed up. This is a lot of questions for a small dog.
The book, “Toby,” is Hazel first story about you. Toby, do you have more stories Hazel can share with her readers?I have LOTS of stories. I tell them to her all the time. Sometimes she writes them down. Because she has thumbs. Thumbs are very useful, it seems. I would love to be in another book! And have thubs!
What is Hazel's next project?
Feeding me and Lucy. Oh, wait! You mean like a book? I think she has a new book out with that nice author Liza Gardner Walsh, called 'Do Fairies Bring The Spring?' (remember, don't eat fairies). That will be in spring 2017. Which is a LONG TIME IN DOG TIME.
Is it nap time yet, all this chatter has made me tired ... yawn ... zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz
While Toby Naps, let's ask his sister, Lucy next three questions.
Lucy, what is Toby really like?
Hi. He is VERY noisy! Sometimes I am trying to sleep and he just goes off yapping and yapping! YAP, YAP, YAP! He does talk a lot. He is quite bossy and won't let me go upstairs first. And now he has a book he is turning into a DIVA. Sigh. But really, he is a little bit scared of things, because he didn't have a happy childhood and I help him. But he is getting better now. Sometimes we cuddle under a blanket when the sky is flashing and banging. Or I hide in the bath. Everyone has issues with their brothers and sisters! WOOF!
Do you, Lucy, also help Hazel with her art projects?Not as much as Toby. But sometimes I sneak upstairs and curl up under her desk and lick her feet. Which she doesn't like very much. Maybe that doesn't help. But I always get a pat.
And will there be stories with you in them as well?I do hope so ... I would love to be in a story and on the cover of the book. And I would like to be a diva, too! And ALSO I can go on SCHOOL VISITS! WOOF!

Thank you so much Toby, and Lucy for doing this interview. Hazel is very lucky that you can help her by representing her here and with her illustration projects. Please tell Hazel I said hello.
Thank you both, and WOOF! love to you both, Toby and Lucy. xox ~JD

Links for Toby:

Bio: Hazel Mitchell has always loved drawing and still cannot be reliably left alone with a pencil. She has illustrated many books for children including Imani’s Moon, One Word Pearl, Animally and Where Do Fairies Go When It Snows? ‘Toby’ is her author-illustrator debut from Candlewick Press. Her work has received several awards and been recognized by Bank Street Books, Learning Magazine, Reading is Fundamental, Foreword Reviews, NYCReads365, Society of Illustrators of Los Angeles Charlotte/Mecklenburg , Chicago and Maine State libraries among others. Originally from England, where she attended art-college and served in the Royal Navy, she now lives in Maine with her poodles Toby and Lucy and a cat called Sleep. She still misses British fish and chips, but is learning to love lobster. Find out more about her at and is represented by Ginger Knowlton, Curtis Brown Ltd., NYC.

AND MORE about Hazel MitchellLooking Back In Candor!
Permission Statement:
TOBY. Copyright © 2016 by Hazel Mitchell. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.


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On Wednesday, September 28th, we will be giving away one copy of Toby.

All you have to do is post a photo of your favorite dog to be considered for the book AND POST IT ON FACEBOOK AT:

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