A visit with Author/Illustrator Henry Cole

During his visit to the Holy Trinity Episcopal Academy Lower School in Melbourne, Florida, children’s book author/illustrator Henry Cole entertained group after group of students with his engaging story-telling and impressive skill on the drawing pad.

(Answers paraphrased below)

How many children’s books has Henry illustrated?
Almost 100!

How did Henry Cole know he wanted to be an illustrator?

From the early age of around 4, Henry had always loved to draw. Three days before his birthday, he saw his mom hiding a present in the closet and couldn’t wait to open it. He tried over and over to sneak into that closet until he was finally successful. When he got his hands on that beautifully wrapped gift, he found his very first drawing pad and set of pencils! He immediately began drawing his favorite thing at the time, the Statue of Liberty. His mom hung it up on the kitchen wall and he was so proud that he drew it 36 more times, each one better than the last!

As a student, he continued to be inspired by teachers and drawing projects in school, which eventually led him to his career. In third grade, his teacher handed out big sheets of paper and gave specific drawing assignments, such as to illustrate a certain chapter in a book or draw a self-portrait, etc. In fourth grade, his teacher encouraged her students to enter a state-wide poster drawing contest with the theme “Keep Virginia Green.” This meant he got to draw his favorite subjects–animals! He drew three posters, all of which his teacher entered in the contest, and one of his posters won!

Mr. Cole was in fifth grade when he discovered the author/illustrator John James Audubon, who lived in the 1800’s and spent years traveling North America to research and illustrate all known species of birds. Audubon’s major work, The Birds of America, became one of Henry’s favorite books and later the source of his inspiration for A Nest for Celeste. Celeste’s character is a mouse living in the Oakley Plantation, a house where Audubon and his apprentice once lived.

Which of all the books he has illustrated and/or authored is Mr. Cole’s favorite?

A Nest for Celeste is close to his heart because he both wrote and illustrated it. It also embodied all of his favorite things: art, animals, and home. The book was a considerable endeavor and took four years to complete. After writing the first revision, he sent it to his editor with much excitement, only to receive it back with many suggestions for changes. In fact, the book went through 14 revisions before the final version of the story was ready and he could begin the illustration process. Similar to the story revisions, the scenes and characters went through multiple sketch variations before final versions were reached. The cover alone was sketched over 60 times! When Henry received the completed copy in the mail, it was like opening the ultimate gift!

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