When Kim Campbell recommends books to kids at the South Portland Public Library she can often add, “It was written by somebody right here in Maine.”

And sometimes she can even suggest authors whom the children might have met, at a library or school event.

“It’s an incredible benefit for kids to be able to meet all these authors who live in Maine, or even in their town,” said Campbell, head of youth services at the South Portland library. “We have such amazing (children’s) authors and illustrators here in Maine, and it brings a lot of energy to the kids.”

So far in 2017, there have been about 40 children’s and young-adult books published by Maine authors and illustrators, according to the Maine Library Association. They include works by Chris Van Dusen, Anne Sibley O’Brien, Matt Tavares, Ryan T. Higgins, Kevin Hawkes and Sarah L. Thomson, among others. So now is a good time to start holiday shopping for Maine-made kids’ books.

Peaks Island children’s book illustrator and author Scott Nash, with his wife, artist Nancy Gibson Nash, are helping to organize the Maine Children’s Book Arts workshops on Peaks Island next summer for artists, authors and illustrators. Staff photo by Brianna Soukup

Maine has a strong tradition of children’s literature, with some of the 20th century’s best-known children’s authors having lived and worked here, including Robert McCloskey (“Make Way for Ducklings,” 1941), E.B. White (“Charlotte’s Web,” 1952) and Margaret Wise Brown (“Goodnight Moon,” 1947). But judging by the sheer number of authors and illustrators who call Maine their full-time home, the children’s-book scene here is more vibrant than ever.

“We certainly have a strong history of children’s authors and illustrators working in Maine, but there weren’t really that many at any one time. I think now we’re in a sort of golden age of children’s books here,” said Scott Nash of Peaks Island, whose illustrations are in the new book “I’m Afraid Your Teddy Is in Trouble Today.”


“There are so many of us who have settled here and become friends. When I talk to people in the industry they’re blown away but what we have here,” he said.

(For more on some of the new children’s books from Mainers out this year, see the separate list accompanying this story.)

Maine children’s authors and illustrators have won some of the most prized awards in children’s literature in recent years. Author and illustrator Ashley Bryan, of Little Cranberry Island, won a Newbery Honor Award in January for his children’s book “Freedom Over Me: Eleven Slaves, Their Lives and Dreams Brought to Life.” Melissa Sweet of Portland, whose illustrations appear in two new books this year, won a Caldecott Honor in 2015 for her work on “The Right Word: Roget and His Thesauraus.” Portland author Phillip Hoose won a 2009 National Book Award for young-people’s literature for “Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice.” The book also won a Newbery Honor.

At least part of the reason Maine’s children’s-book scene is so vibrant is that the state’s beauty and creative culture attracts authors and illustrators who want to live and work here, and who are welcomed and supported by others in the field.

“I feel really lucky to be around so many people who do children’s literature,” said Megan Frazer Blakemore of Kennebunk, who writes middle-grade and young-adult books. “We go to each other’s events, read each other’s manuscripts and buy each other’s books.”

Nash, who has taught courses on picture-book history and illustrated the popular “Flat Stanley” series, moved to Maine from Boston about 20 years ago with a dream of creating children’s books and living on an island. In recent years, he and his wife, artist Nancy Gibson Nash, have created a Maine-based organization called the Illustration Institute to promote illustrators and their work. Next summer, they plan to host a program on Peaks Island called Maine Children’s Book Arts, to bring authors, illustrators and artists to Maine to work on and talk about kids’ books.


Many of the Maine children’s authors and illustrators visit schools and libraries, creating a strong connection with Maine’s teachers, librarians and young readers. Nash says school visits are “one of my favorite things to do.”

Julie Falatko of South Portland, who came out this year with her most recent “Snappsy the Alligator” picture book, had a launch party for the book at the South Portland Public Library in October.

Freeport Middle School librarian Jill Hooper, who also chairs a Maine Library Association committee responsible for the group’s Maine children’s-literature awards, says visits from Maine authors have a lasting positive impact on students.

“It certainly helps that I can recommend these books and tell them it was written by somebody in Brunswick or Portland, but the writing is the main thing, and we have so many good writers here,” said Hooper. “And when the student gets a chance to sit side by side with authors they’re reading, writing stories with them in a workshop, that’s something that really sticks with them.”

Ray Routhier can be contacted at 791-6454 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: @RayRouthier

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