Category Archives: 03 | With Lizzy Rockwell

Anne, did you ever dream you’d be collaborating with one of your own kids on picture books?

With Lizzy Rockwell

All three of Anne’s children have flourishing careers in the arts. Lizzy Rockwell is both an acclaimed artist and author-illustrator of many picture books. Do visit her website at  

Over the next few days, we will meet several of the distinguished illustrators who have illuminated Anne’s text. We are open to your comments, dear Reader! 


3.  One of your most frequent collaborators is your daughter, Lizzy Rockwell. Did you ever dream you’d be collaborating with one of your own kids on picture books? How you keep it professional? You two must have a fabulous relationship!

Anne Rockwell: You know, it just happened.  And Lizzy and I really work as separately as I do with any other illustrator.  In the beginning I gave her more input, but no longer.  We have a very good relationship, but quite different work styles, I feel.

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Lizzy Rockwell: Mom and I do have a great relationship.  Our work collaboration is quite professional. Unlike my parents, who worked side by side in the same studio, Mom and I have our own workspaces.  We might brainstorm new ideas over lunch or dinner, or on the phone, but we do all the physical work separately.  It’s great working with my mom, because there is no barrier to communication.

With all my other collaborative projects, I have never had any contact with the author till after the book was produced.  People are always so surprised to hear this, but it’s true.

The editor or art director acts as the go-between.  But with Mom’s text, if I have a question about what direction to go, or what she might have intended that wasn’t clear to me, I just ask her.

But at the same time, because she is such a great illustrator, and writes with a vision in her head, I have to be careful to really think it through for myself, and at least try to come up with the image before asking for any input.

In most cases I show the sketches to our editor at the same time I show them to Mom.

Joy Chu: You two have come up with delightful classroom featuring a cross-section of children in your holiday series of books for Harper. ST.PATRICK’S DAY is your eighth entry. Who came up with Mrs. Madoff?

"St Patrick's Day" by Anne Rockwell and Lizzy Rockwell

"St Patrick's Day" by Anne Rockwell and Lizzy Rockwell

Anne Rockwell: Lizzy had a pair of friends from college who shared the other half of a 2-family house. During this time (when we came up with the series), they got married, one becoming Mrs. Madoff. She got her masters in teaching, just as the first book SHOW AND TELL DAY was under way so we gave the teacher her name as a combination wedding and graduation present. It stuck. No relationship at all to Bernie Madoff, by the way.

Mrs. Madoff (left) from "President's Day"

Mrs. Madoff (left) from "President's Day"

Joy Chu: Do you still have any of your rough sketches from ST. PATRICK’S DAY?

Lizzy Rockwell: Here are four scans from St. Patrick’s Day. One shows one of my pages of thumbnail sketches that includes the spread (bottom of page) of Nicholas as St. Patrick driving the snakes (Sarah in snake costume) out of Ireland. These thumbnails are drawn on an 8 1/2 x 11 sheet of copier paper.

Selected thumbnails from "St. Patrick's Day"

Selected thumbnails from "St. Patrick's Day"

Next is the more resolved book dummy drawing (9″ x 18″),

A tight sketch from "St. Patrick's Day."

A tight sketch from "St. Patrick's Day."

and then the finished artwork (same size as dummy).

Finished art spread from "St Patrick's Day."

Finished art spread from "St Patrick's Day."

The last scan is the spread as printed in the book, with type in place.

Finished art from "St Patrick's Day," with type in place.

After final art is turned in to the publisher, the designer (in this case, Stephanie Bart-Horvath) positions all typography.

Joy Chu: You have raised three accomplished professionals, Anne. Your eldest daughter Hannah is affiliated with a major advertising agency in New York City. Your son Oliver is a full time photographer and web master for a New York company, working from Beijing. And there’s Lizzy! 🙂 How did you expose your own children to the world?

Lizzy Rockwell: Growing up in my family was quite an adventure.  Along with all the cultural immersion right in our home in the form of books, music and art supplies, we spent many weeks of many summers traveling around France, Italy, and England.  We were exposed to a lot of beautiful art and architecture, much of which was lost on us at the time!  But we absorbed it through osmosis and had that amazing time together as a family that I think many kids don’t get.

Lizzy's bookstore image

Of course, because we were separated from our home diversions like television and American peers for long stretches, we devised new ways to entertain ourselves: drawing, writing stories, making up intriguing  conspiracy plots about the places and people we came in contact with.  My sister Hannah was the creative director of all this imaginative play. We had a lot of fun.