We’re excited to feature our Believe in Books interview this month with Melanie Greenberg. Melanie has published illustrations with UNICEF, the Children’s Defense Fund, Southern Poverty Law Center, NAEYC, as well as hundreds of images in magazines, on greeting cards, and gift items. She has illustrated sixteen published picture books, six of which she wrote. Her books have won awards and are on notable, honor, and library reading lists. “Mermaids on Parade” has been called a “classic” by New York City’s official marketing and tourism website. “Down the Subway” was selected as a New York Times Great Children’s Read. Melanie was Artist-in-Residence for the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art’s first National Endowment for the Arts Grant.
She has exhibited her picture book illustrations in solo and group shows at top galleries, and as an artist for TLA Conference’s Disaster Relief Fund Raffle. She presents author- illustrator workshops for elementary students, as well as hopeful and published picture book writers and artists, at schools, libraries, conferences, museums, and for the SCBWI National and Regional Chapters.
We were thrilled when she agreed to be part of our interview series. Here’s what she had to say:
Which books are among your childhood favorites?
“Little Witch” by Anna Elizabeth Bennett. I read it over and over and the pictures are beautiful. I liked how the little witch refused to be mean and she helped others. The little witch also made magical concoctions mixing different colored powders together. It reminds me of how I mix my paints today. I buy tubes or jars of paint called gouache. They are thick paints and they glow and vibrate when certain colors lie side by side. That’s magical!
What are your favorite titles of today?
I mostly read grownup books. I will always say Patti Smith’s “Just Kids” as one of my very favorites. It’s about a time in music and art history that I lived through. I can relate to the book as a fan, as a budding artist, and as someone who lived in Greenwich Village at that time.
What’s your favorite childhood? reading memory — whether of reading to yourself, or of someone who read to you, or something you imagine
I remember being taught to to read by my older sisters before entering kindergarten. I really believe this gave me a head start to learning. I also loved to visit my local Clason Point Branch library in the Bronx. I’d comb through the colorful books and was able to borrow them to read at home.
What was your biggest idea or inspiration that came from reading?
Too many inspirations to mention. In general, books open many worlds, and inner worlds, and characters, and philosophies and outlooks to life that I could never imagine on my own. I get to learn about various cultures, countries, landscapes that I may never visit. I meet villains, heroes, the poor, the rich, different races, even aliens from other planets and galaxies in the comfort of my home. Each aspect of a book has something new to offer that is not part of my everyday life.
What is your favorite word?
I have to say Hope. It’s not only my middle name but a fine word to cling to during the ups and downs of being part of the publishing world that is full of rejections, fickleness, and hi / goodbye.
If you were going to be anything other than a writer, what would you be?
I am primarily an illustrator. Being called an author always feels alien to me because my most fluent language is color. I write with paint. Each spread inside my books are mini-symphonies of composition, color balance, vibrations, and informed messages which drive the story on from beginning to end.