Henry Cole

Henry Cole: Award-winning Artist and Author Embarks on High-Flying Chapter Book Adventure

Having helped to create well over 100 books, you would think Henry Cole has been illustrating and authoring books his entire working career. That would be false. Known for books such as Unspoken: A Story from the Underground Railroad (Scholastic Press, 2012), A Nest for Celeste (Katherine Tegen Books, 2010), and Spot, the Cat (Little Simon, 2016), Cole has built an impressive body of work in just over a 20-year time span.

Somewhat-True-Adv_Henry-Cole    Henry Cole Manuscript Page
“I was 40, I believe, when my first book Jack’s Garden (Greenwillow Books, 1995) was published simultaneously with another book I illustrated, Zipping, Zapping, Zooming Bats (HarperCollins, 1995). I was really lucky! I had been teaching elementary science and math for about 15 years when Jean George came to our school as a visiting author, and I asked her for the name of an editor. And she gave me one! What a generous person Jean was … and how lucky for me that she wrote Katherine Tegen’s name on a Langley School napkin that day.”

Though he grew up on a dairy farm, studied forestry in college, and spent his young adult years as an educator, it was practically inevitable that he would end up in the literary arts. “I have drawn and sketched since very early childhood. My mother was a fashion illustrator in New York City, then a dairy farm wife/mother, then an elementary librarian. So books and art have been in my life for a long time.”

henry-cole1    henry-cole3
Concerned about the logistics of his retirement plan and health care insurance as well as his ability to stay on task, Cole continued to teach for two years after his first book projects debuted in 1995. “Turns out that I am very disciplined! I’ve helped create about 120 or 130 books. And the health insurance thing was just a small hurdle. I am an early riser (dairy farm upbringing!), and I get to work early. If I’m super involved in a book project, then you can’t pry me away. I spend all my free time working/thinking of book projects … airplane time, time in the car going to school visits … even vacation time!”


“I miss the classroom … some of my best friends are ex-colleagues or ex-parents of kids I taught. It’s one of those fields that you don’t ‘get it’ unless you ‘do it.’ There is nothing like working with kids.”

“If you are waiting for my signature style to emerge, don’t hold your breath. I see books by the same illustrator that ALWAYS LOOK THE SAME … no matter the content! Crazy! I call that being in a rut. I like changing things up, making things interesting.”

Sammy is a perfect length with great character and situational development, and LOTS of illustrations … just exactly right for kids beginning to pick up longer chapter books and diving in.”

“I think kids get enough dumbing down all the time. I see so many books that could have been written by … dummies! And how will that ever lead to an increase in a kid’s vocabulary? I remember the word ‘stalwart’ in a Walt Disney comic (in the early ’60s). How often do you get words like that these days? I was 8!”

One of Cole’s most recent projects to be published is The Somewhat True Adventures of Sammy Shine (Peachtree Publishers, Ltd., 2016) about a mouse that goes on an airplane adventure. It was inspired by his own childhood experiences and pet mouse.“There is lots of autobiography in Sammy. I am Hank (I have one great friend who calls me Hank), and Jimmy is my brother Jimmy who built a model plane painted dark green in his cellar ‘laboratory.’ As a kid I had a pet mouse named Sammy Shine … such a great mouse, makes such a great character. You can imagine mice ‘doing’ things [like] weaving baskets, at the control of an airplane, sipping a tiny cup of tea. It’s easy to picture their little paws manipulating, building, doing human things. Plus their size is good. Other animals … not so much. They can fit places. Imagine a deer at the controls of an airplane. Disaster! That plane is coming down!”

NestForCeleste    spot-the-cat    Jacks-Garden
Positive reviews have already begun pouring in, and readers are already asking if there will be more adventures for Sammy. Fortunately, Cole finds that idea very favorable. “I would so love to continue Sammy’s adventures. When I wrote the story, I wasn’t thinking that way … I just wanted Sammy to be happy.”

Though readers may see Sammy Shine again, for now Cole continues to work on other new projects that he is keeping under wraps. “No details … A very wise person told me years and years ago: The more you talk about a project, the more you’re letting your creative steam out of the bag. I focus my energy and thought into thinking and working on a project rather than talking about it.”

Unspoken   Three-Hens   Prairie-Chicken-Little   Lady-Lupin

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