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

Sunday, August 4, 2013

The Purple Line.

As a children's book illustrator, I am used to working size. I am currently undertaking a very LARGE project- I am bringing my books to the stage and designing and painting the sets. My play, Princess K.I.M. The Musical , is based on my Princess KIM books published by Albert Whitman & Co. As illustrators we struggle with technique, specifically THE LINE, as we decide how we will approach the illustrations to a book. In my Princess KIM books, after many trials, I decided on a purple line, and then painted the illustrations with acrylic paints. Since I wanted  my sets to "match" the book, I wondered if I could pull off the same technique on a large scale. I went for it.  I am outlining everything with a PURPLE LINE, and then painting with Latex.

Choosing the color palette is another challenge. I went about it as I do when illustrating a book. I planned out the colors for the characters and their clothing. As in a book, I wanted to offset my characters so they do not get lost in the background. I am working closely with my costume designer.
The main characters will be wearing rich magentas, royal blues, yellows, reds, pinks, emerald green etc.

The sets are coming together. My Play's Opening is only 2 months from I have a BIG deadline looming.
Below are some views of a few pieces that will be included in the sets.  I want the audience to feel as if they are walking into my children's book. I hope I can accomplish what I visualize. (Luckily I have some painting help including my talented college art student intern, Jeremy Edelblut.)

I will continue to post my progress.

I hope you can attend my play and see this all come together.
(Tickets are already on sale on the Princess K.I.M. Website.)

Okay- Back to painting!
Thanks for reading!
Here is a recent Video /Amherst Patch
"Painting the Whole Picture"

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Let It Shine! Happy Summer!

Finally- The SEASON'S Series is complete.
Let it Shine has just published and is available in stores and on the Scholastic's May Bookclub.
Now you can follow this endearing family through all four seasons...each book leads right into the next.
Enjoy! ...and Let it Shine! And enjoy your summer!

Published by Scholastic.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Recent School Visit- Amherst, NH

Thanks to all the students from Clark & Wilkin's School in Amherst, NH
It was a pleasure meeting you all.

On my recent school visit I featured my new book A Vacation for Pooch and drew a picture of POOCH.  Ms Doyle has shared a few pictures of her enthusiastic class along with some creative renditions of Pooch! Enjoy!
Ms Doyle's first grade- Wilkin's School Amherst, NH

A perfect Pooch and his belongings by Catie

Catie and her Pooch!

Pooch inspired puppets

Saturday, March 16, 2013

The Next Big Thing- Blog Tour

The Next Big Thing is a global blog tour (which started in Australia!) to bring awareness to authors & illustrators and their current work. Thank you to the wonderful Nancy Cote for tagging me! I will answer some questions about my newest book, then pass the it on to two other fantastic book artists. 
What is the working title of your next book?

Where did the idea come from for the book? The idea came from 2 areas in my life- past and present. When my kids were younger we took a February Vacation trip to Florida...leaving our little dog behind in snowy NH. And a relatively recent separation from my off to college- the other off to live on her own. Separation can be difficult!

What genre does your book fall under? My book is a picture book, for ages 4 - 8. (It is a small book...perfect to take on vacation.)

What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?  
Movie??? There is going to be a movie? Well, my Godchild's daughter Violet was the inspiration for the character...she looks just like this Violet. (We better get Violet into acting lessons...quick!)

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book? A mix up causes Violet to imagine her dog, who was left behind on vacation, is miserable.

Who is publishing your book?  Christy Ottaviano Books (Henry Holt). (The book was published on Feb 19-2013- It's out!)

How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
First drafts are quick! It's the 5Oth draft that takes forever! 

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

A Vacation for Pooch might be compared to "Knuffle Bunny"(by Mo Williams), as in both books the child is missing a loved one. It also captures emotion and an element of surprise as in the classic "Caps for Sale" (by Esphyr Slobodkina). This book has an important but subtle message, which I try to instill in all my books, including,  Princess K.I.M. And the Lie That Grew, and Princess Kim And Too Much Truth.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

My daughter Kristin, who was going off to college, was a biggest inspiration.

What else about the book might pique the reader's interest?

It is a book about missing someone and surviving without them...whether being separated  for a short time ( going to work) - or a long time ( a parent in the service) or leaving a pet behind while on vacation, this book can ease the fear and let the child know, that even when miles separate you- LOVE will keep you connected.

Thank you so much for stopping by -  I hope you enjoyed hearing about my new book.
The Next Big Thing Blog Tour continues on March 21st with the following book artists - you won't want to miss them!

Author Illustrator- John Nez
Author Illustrator-Loreen Leedy

Friday, March 15, 2013

Final Winner Announced

WINNER- Week 1- Tracy Verheyen- Rochester Hills, MI
WINNER- Week 2- Jan Herzog- Southborough, MA
WINNER- Week 3-  Karen McLoud- Plymouth , NH
WINNER- Week 4-  Cathy WIlson , Milford, MA
WINNER - Week 5-  Katie Worth, Austin TX

Thanks Everyone for entering my Autograph Book Give-away! Keep Sharing books.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Guest Blogging on Macmillan's Blog

I recently wrote a Blog Post about my new book A Vacation for Pooch on my Publisher's Blog:
Macmillan Books- GET TO THE POINT!

As an author and illustrator, my ideas for my books rarely come from one source, but rather the merging of imagination, real life events and emotions.  Two major events came together in the creation of my new book, A Vacation for Pooch.When my daughters were young, we traveled as a family, to Florida on winter vacation, leaving our cute little dog, Bianca, behind in snowy New Hampshire. Like the book character, Violet, we wondered- “How will our dog ever survive without us?”

Bianca posing with a picture of Kristin, both instrumental to developing the concept for A Vacation for Pooch!
And like Violet, we imagined the worse. We were sure that our dog would starve, get lost, and be lonely without us. But of course, Bianca did survive, and so did we. A few phone calls always made us feel a bit better. (Side note: You might be wondering, why I didn’t use Bianca as my model for Pooch in my book. It just wasn’t possible-a white dog in snow is very hard to paint! Hence, Pooch became a cute brown dog- with the spirit of Bianca! )
But years later…it was the thought of separating from my daughters that brought the story together. My oldest daughter, Janine, was preparing to live on her own and my youngest, Kristin, was getting ready to go away to college. Can anyone say- empty nest? Those same questions nagged at me, will my daughters survive without me? Will they starve, get lost or be lonely?
My daughters will be the first to tell you that MY imagination is much more vivid than my alter ego, Violet! I was sure they would starve; could Janine really learn to cook decent meal? I was sure they would get lost; when Kristin was studying abroad and I didn’t hear from her for 5 days-I was sure she fell off a mountain. Okay- I worry. (I had to read my own, yet to be published, story many times to assure myself that my daughters were safe and having the time of their lives…just like Pooch.)
Whether pet or loved one, separation can be difficult for a child (and for a mom!) Missing someone can be hard…imagining that they are miserable, is harder. But like Violet discovered, our loved ones do survive without us. Not only do they survive, they thrive! And in turn, we learn to relax and enjoy the time apart, knowing that when you are together again, the love will be stronger than ever.  But you still miss them!
I’m getting use to not having my daughters home and I have learned to visualize them eating healthy foods, studying hard and getting a lot of sleep in a room which is neat as a pin.   (mmm… I DO have a good imagination.)
PS. Kristin and Janine- Call your mother.

Week 4 WINNER!- One more book to give away-

WINNER- Week 1- Tracy Verheyen- Rochester Hills, MI
WINNER- Week 2- Jan Herzog- Southborough, MA
WINNER- Week 3-  Karen McLoud- Plymouth , NH
WINNER- Week 4-  Cathy WIlson , Milford, MA

1 more week of Book Give-Aways! Please enter!
February Vacation is upon us- and so is the release of my new book,          A Vacation for Pooch, (release date: Feb19, 2013).  Violet is going on vacation to sunny Florida and leaving her dog, Pooch, behind on Grandpa's snowy farm! Violet packs two bags, one for her and one for Pooch. They are all packed and ready to leave! What could go wrong?

How can YOU win a book?
Help me spread the word about my book, by sharing it on facebook, writing about it in a blog, Tweeting about it, sharing this blog, or sharing my website  Then:
1.  Email your Name and Address to: 
2.  Subject Line: POOCH BOOK GIVE-AWAY

I will draw one winner every Friday beginning on FEB 15, for 5 weeks.  Winner's names will be posted on this blog and notified by email.

Here's what reviewers are saying:
Kirkus STARRED Review:
"Cocca-Leffler knows children inside and out. Pitch-perfect, well-paced and with a conclusion that will leave children deeply satisfied, this is a book to be shared before any kind of separation and just for fun." 

 "A cleverly conceived, charming little story for kids with beloved pooches of their own."

Reading level: Ages 4 and up
Hardcover: 32 pages/ with jacket
Publisher: A Christy Ottaviano Book, Henry Holt and Co.  

Thank you so much for your support! AND Happy February Vacation!

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Two Great Reviews For A VACATION FOR POOCH


In this small-enough-to-pack storybook, Violet and her dog, Pooch, take separate vacations: Violet to the beach, Pooch to Grandpa’s farm.
In a scene children will recognize, they each prepare a bag. Violet packs her doll Molly and crayons; Pooch, his stuffed Fluffy Cat and red ball. Violet worries that Pooch will miss her, although when she arrives at the beach, bright gouache-and–fabric-collage illustrations show that she’s happily distracted, playing, walking and dining. With a turn of the page, the action comes to a halt. In a full-page spread, readers see Violet in bed pulling Fluffy Cat instead of Molly from her bag. The guilt sets in. Violet’s crisis is well-placed, and what follows is her rapid, emotional recap of her activities contrasted with what she imagines Pooch must have suffered, bored and lonely, concluding with, “While I was having FUN, Pooch was MISERABLE!” Mom suggests a phone call to Grandpa. At first nonplussed when Grandpa tells her that Pooch has had a busy day, too, she is reassured when she learns that Pooch is sleeping with Molly—and remembers that she has Fluffy Cat—making their connection tangible and secure. Cocca-Leffler knows children inside and out.
Pitch-perfect, well-paced and with a conclusion that will leave children deeply satisfied, this is a book to be shared before any kind of separation and just for fun. (Picture book. 4-8)

A Vacation for Pooch

This book has a teensy-weensy trim size, which is fitting given the sweetness nestled inside. Violet is packing for vacation in Florida—adding her doll, crayons, and books to a bag—and also readying her dog, Pooch, for his stay at Grandpa’s farm. His identical green bag contains a leash, dog food, a red ball, and a stuffed toy, Fluffy Cat. Once Violet gets to Florida, she has a blast, until she goes to get her doll for bed and pulls out . . . a stuffed cat! With the wrong bag, she imagines the worst: a hungry, lonely, lost Pooch. Each of these pitiful visions appears as a vignette on a white background on one half of the page; on the
other half, in colorful full-bleed art, we see Violet now realizing she (selfishly) enjoyed herself while Pooch suffered. This setup cleverly switches when Violet calls her grandpa to check on Pooch—now she is the one sad and vignetted. It’s clear Pooch is living it up, full-bleed style. A cleverly conceived, charming little story for kids with beloved pooches of their own.
— Ann Kelley