Meet Anne Rockwell

The Got Story Countdown welcomes Anne Rockwell. She’s here to address ten questions about her work. Her career spans over three decades. She’s produced a terrific body of work as artist, author/illustrator, and writer. Her experience gives a wide perspective of the ever-changing landscape of the children’s book field. 

One new question will be posted each morning (excluding weekends). Question 1 begins today, November 4th. We’ll wrap up when we complete addressing all ten questions — probably by November 18th.

Everyone is welcome to post comments or queries, 24/7, as long as it pertains directly to the corresponding topic. Leave a comment, and check back for feedback throughout the day.

Learn more about Anne at her website:


Sullivan Wong Rockwell studies his favorite book.

1. What made you decide to focus on informative works for children?

Anne Rockwell: I’m not sure it was ever a conscious decision. Most of my books are for very young children — 5 and under, and I’ve never heard a child that age say they prefer non-fiction to fiction, or vice-versa.

If something interests me and holds my interest for a long time, I figure there’s a child out there with the same curiosity as mine. Children want and need to know about this world they’re newcomers to, so all sorts of books can guide them on their journey.

Unfortunately, I sense there’s a stigma to non-fiction. It seems as though the adults who introduce books to children think there are certain things children should be made to know, lessons as it were, and then, if they’re good, and learn how bulldozers work, or how to milk a cow, or whatever, then they’ve earned the right to have some fun and can read about witches and goblins, magicians, Martians, king and queens, or the like. This strikes me as ridiculous and completely insensitive to how a child’s mind works.

The real world, the here and now, has not yet become stale for them, and when I write for this audience, I try to return to the real world with the eyes I had as a child.

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8 responses to “Meet Anne Rockwell

  1. The Walker trade edition is identical to the Dutton one, but we had to do some rearranging to make it a board book.

    It was Christy Ottaviano’s (Holt, Christy Ottaviano Books) idea to re issue SUPERMARKET. But the original artwork had been done in 3 colors, which gave it minimal eye appeal (although that didn’t seem to bother the kids who liked it over the years).

    And the trouble with realistic books is that clothes, hairstyles, etc. can look awfully dated. And the text needed some updating, too. So–voila! Whole new book.

    It couldn’t have come at a worse time for me since I had very bad damage from arthritis in my right thumb (I’m right-handed, too) which had to be surgically reconstructed. I tried to salvage as much of the original art as I could, and fortunately all those rows of shelves could have the line art pulled out, and traced onto certain pages.

    The line was lightly traced onto watercolor paper, then the art was painted in acrylic gouache. For some of the detailed work my granddaughter, Julianna, who is an illustration and graphic design major at Maryland College Institute of Art in Baltimore was able to help me, and was a godsend.

    Somehow the book got done, but was it fun???? No, I wouldn’t say so. But I hear it’s doing well, which doesn’t surprise me, for a trip to the supermarket is something young kids love to help their parents with.

  2. I love that photo of your youngest grandson Sullivan, perusing your BIG WHEELS book. That was a book you originally did for Dutton. After it went out-of-print (OP), Walker picked it up and re-issued it as both a trade book and a board book. They are identical, the Dutton original and the Walker re-issue, yes?

    On the other hand, IN THE SUPERMARKET is a title that came from a pioneering classic you did with your late husband, Harlow Rockwell, on The Supermarket. The art was entirely re-done and text was updated. Would you fill us in a little on the making of the new title? And how the artwork was done? Whose idea was it to bring it out again?

  3. Actually an early picture book can take longer than anything. The art, pacing, and language have to be seamless–like a poem, and that isn’t easy.

    On the other hand, a Let’s Read and Find Out requires a lot of research, and then a sorting through what I’ve learned and making the decision of what’s within the understanding of a child the age the book is intended for.

    For instance, on my newest one CLOUDS, illustrated by Frané Lessac, I struggled and struggled with using the Latin scientific names for the clouds, and decided that even for young children, there was no way around it. I solved it by taking the Latin parts of each name and explaining what that meant. For example “stratus” means “layer” in latin and “alto” means “high”. So a flat, layered cloud high in the sky is called an “altostratus”. I hear from parents that very little children enjoy learning these hard words! And I believe it. I loved interesting words when I was small–still do.

    When I write history of biography for somewhat older children the problem is compounded by how little history background children are likely to have.

    It was impossible to tell the story of Toussaint L’Ouverture, the liberator of Haiti in OPEN THE DOOR TO LIBERTY, illustrated by Gregory Christie, without giving some background in the French Revolution. Yet I had to lead the readers into why his story is important to American children because of the role he played in The Louisiana Purchase, which changed the United States and the world. But you’ll have to read the book to find out what that role was!

    None of this answers the question of time, because there really isn’t an answer. Some books fall together faster than I would have dreamed. Others seem to take forever. You just have to trust your intuition I think, which tells you when a book is taking on life.

  4. Perhaps I should narrow it down. Let’s say from early picture books to the ones for the older groups — like a Let’s Read and Find Out (Harper series).

  5. I think you select fascinating subject matter, Anne. Such a far reaching scope, targeted to different age groups. How long does it typically take you to complete a manuscript, from idea to final version?

  6. Good morning and thank you Melanie. I hope you’re right. Sometimes I suspect my ideas on books for children are out of sync!

  7. Melanie Hope Greenberg

    Thanks for doing the Countdown, Anne. Your honesty is refreshing!

  8. Awwww…Sullivan is so cute!

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