Saturday, April 5, 2014

My Thanksgiving book- RE-ISSUED!

GOOD NEWS! After nearly 25 years in print and 10 years out of print (and many twists and turns), HarperCollins has decided to bring my version of THANKSGIVING AT THE TAPPLETONS' back in print for Fall 2015!

I am thrilled that my illustrated version of Eileen Spinelli's classic book will soon be available again! (I posted about my Thanksgiving at the Tappletons' publishing saga in Nov. 2013. Scroll to read.)  Thank you readers for contacting HarperCollins or writing your thoughts online, asking that they "bring back the people". I'll be illustrating a brand new cover, but other than that, it will be the book you remember. (For those who don't know this book…please look for it in the Fall of 2015…It will soon become your favorite Thanksgiving book too!)

Thanksgiving has come early for me. Thank you to the parents, grandparents and teachers who have continued to love my Tappleton family. A special thanks to  Eileen Spinelli for writing a timeless story, and to HarperCollins for bringing my version back in print!

(But let's not rush the seasons…Happy Spring!)
With a grateful heart-

Friday, March 14, 2014

Reconnecting with David McPhail

I recently reconnected with Author-Illustrator, David McPhail at a recent book event and exhibit for New Hampshire Illustrators at the Amherst, NH Library. I finally got the chance to thank him.

Nearly 30 years ago David generously donated his time to share his wisdom about the children’s book industry and the craft of illustration to a young group of new and aspiring authors and illustrators. I was among that SCBWI critique group who, in the mid eighties, met monthly in a private home in Cambridge, MA. David was not much older than us, but he was already established in children’s book publishing. At the time, I was a “newbie”. I had only published a few books as the illustrator, and had not yet sold anything as an Author-Illustrator (but I was trying!)

David didn’t remember coming to our meeting that morning, nor did he remember me…(and I didn’t expect him to.)  But I did remembered him and after all these years I finally got the chance to thank him for his inspiration, wisdom and encouragement in the very early days of my career.

Even back then, I was a big fan of David's work, especially his pen and ink drawings. During the  Library event, we reminisced about publishing and illustrating children’s books in the 1980’s. Things were different.  The tenuous process of pre-separating art by hand was still commonplace. (Thankfully, soon after, the industry moved into illustrating in full color.) 
'Bumper Tubbs' by David McPhail. HM 1980, pre-separated art

At the time, there were many independent publishers. Books deals were made with an editor over a cup of coffee. There were fewer committees, less hoops to jump through, and quicker decisions. The industry might have changed, but good illustration is timeless. After over 200 children’s books published, David continues to illustrate and write beautiful books.
'Mole Music" By David McPhail, Square Fish/Macmillan 2001

"The Family Tree" By David McPhail, Henry Holt 2012

Not often do we get the opportunity to thank someone who inspired our career. Thanks David. In turn- I hope that I will somehow inspire others.

Is there anyone who inspired your career or art? Maybe it is time to thank them.
(All illustrations posted by permission - Copyright David McPhail, All Rights Reserved)

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

SKYPE Classroom Visits

I recently had a SKYPE School Visit with Johnston Elementary School in Highland, IN. (My very First Skype Visit!) The Second Grade students were reading my book, Mr. Tanen's Tie Trouble, which is included in the 2nd Grade HMH Journeys Common Core Reader. Mr. Ashman wrote me with some questions from their class, and I suggested I "visit" the students via Skype.
Published by Albert Whitman & Co.

Mr. Ashman and Mrs. Johnson's 2nd grade students joined together to asked their questions in "person". I told the class about the inspiration behind the book and showed them the process. They got to see my NH studio (and even met my dog Bianca!) I do many "in-person" school visits, but SKYPE a great way for the students to connect with the Author of a book they are reading and for the Author to connect with schools many, many miles away.
Me in my studio in New Hampshire talking to 2nd Graders in Indiana

The students where prepared with questions. Great Job 2nd Graders!
I am NOW offering Skype Classroom visits. If your school is interested in a SKYPE visit, (or an in-person visit!) please check out the VISITS link on my website. 
Wherever you are- Keep Reading!
PS- BIG Shout out to Johnston School 2nd Graders! Great to meet you!

Monday, January 6, 2014


Happy 2014!

The New Year always takes me out of my studio and on the road to visit schools. I am excited and ready to meet my readers! The most rewarding visits, for both the students and myself, are those where the students are READY for me!  Before I arrive the teachers and librarians prepare the students by reading many of my books and doing related activities. (Free downloadable activities sheets are on my website.)

Below are some Spring 2013 photos from Ohio and New Hampshire. One popular pre-visit book activity is from MR. TANEN TIES. After reading the Mr. Tanen Tie books, the entire school gets involved in creating ties for their own Principals and staff. Life size photos help inspire the kids. Many times the school sponsors a "Tie Contest", having the students parade their creative and imaginative ties, sometimes resulting in a "Best Tie Awards.
Milan, Ohio

Meredith, NH

Drawing Pooch for the kindergarteners.

One of my Spring Selections.
Activity sheets for my book JACK'S TALENT
For those schools who expect me- I'll see you soon! For those schools interested in a school visit this Spring, please contact me at
Get Ready and READ!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Holiday Wishes

Tis The Season to be JOLLY....

Warm Holiday Wishes from
Maryann Cocca-Leffler

(inspiration for illustration- my daughter, Janine as a kid!)

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Thanksgiving at the Tappleton's- the Sad Saga.

Thanksgiving is upon us, and as always I am grateful to my readers and thankful that I am able create and share my books with you.

But as happens every year at this time, I receive emails and phone calls from teachers and parents looking for my 1992 illustrated version of  Thanksgiving at the Tappleton's (written by Eileen Spinelli). Thank you all for contacting me.  It is one of my favorite books as well, but no longer available with my illustrations.  Here are recent emails:

Why did someone change the illustrations for Thanksgiving at the Tappletons?  Illustrations with people, rather than wolves, are much more effective.

"This morning I began my search on the internet to purchase a copy of "Thanksgiving at the Tappleton's" as gifts for my family members. The effort was locating a copy of the book with the illustrations of people seated at the dinner table on the front of instead of the current copy which has a group of foxes(?). I think the book has lost some of it's impact and "wow" with the non human illustration."

Amazon review: This is a wonderful Thanksgiving story for children and families--a true classic. However, it was ever so much more effective when the illustrations were of people, not wolves! If you can find an older version with the people illustrations, buy that one instead.

Here is the Sad Saga:  I first illustrated this book in 1980 (fresh out of college- my first job!) Back in the 80's it was very expensive to print in full color, so I illustrated the book with 'pre-separated' 2-color interior art, and a full color cover.(Thankfully that technique is not needed anymore!) Here is the 1982 cover:

Ten years later, I was asked by HarperCollins to re-illustrate this book. In 1992 my full color version was published:

Eileen Spinelli wrote a wonderful, timeless story. I still share this book with my family each year. Thanksgiving at the Tappleton's was available for 23 years. Then in 2002 I made a phone call to HarperCollins and offered to re-illustrate the cover for it's upcoming 25th Anniversary. Unfortunately, I was shocked to receive the news from a young editor that the story was being re-illustrated by another illustrator with the Tappleton family becoming a family of wolves....Yes- WOLVES!

After I got over the initial shock that my version was going out-of-print, I asked, "WHY?" The publisher explained that they felt that "animals" will give the story a non-discript multicultural advantage. I was floored. (I sometimes do not understand publishers!) In my view- this was a classic story with a human family. I do believe that readers of any color can relate to this family story. Should we change all classic story characters because we don't like the color of their skin? Readers are smart. HarperCollins did not need to change a human into a wolf to appeal to all people.

Every year readers contact me searching for my version, and every year I ask HarperCollins to bring my classic version back. (My offer still stands to illustrate a new cover.) I will forever feel that HarperCollins made a big mistake. To all those people who are looking for my book- I am sorry.

If you are interested in giving your view, please drop HarperCollins a line at:

Or email me at

Let's hope someday they'll bring the people back!
Happy Thanksgiving Everyone.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

My NEW book! Theo's Mood

 It's "Mood Monday" a day when the class shares their MOOD NEWS. Miss Cady asks Theo, "Are you in a good mood or a bad mood?"  Theo doesn't know what to say because he has a new baby sister and is not sure how he is feeling. His classmates chime in and talk about their moods...Happy, Proud, Sad, Mad, Jealous...Theo finally realizes that he has a lot of feelings.

"Maybe you feel Jealous like me."

"My sister won another trophy."

SOME REVIEWS: "Cocca-Leffler's friendly mixed-media illustrations telegraph each child's emotions clearly, and her story underscores the idea that good and bad moods aren't mutually exclusive." Publishers Weekly

 . . . Cocca-Leffler once again demonstrates her understanding of small children and the complexities of their emotions." Kirkus Reviews 


Character Inspiration- My Dad- THEO- Back Flap
I hope you enjoy my new book. (Published by Albert Whitman & Co.) It was a fun book to illustrate...using collage (fabric & printed papers) along with gouache paints.  All the best- from a "HAPPY"- Maryann