I’m Erin Dealey, and I write books for kids. I’m a teacher, presenter, rhymer, blogger, and proud Drama Mama.

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A Valentine’s Day #BookLove bouquet of 8 Questions for NYT Bestselling Illustrator Kate Cosgrove + JUST FLOWERS

February 13, 2024

We’re sharing some special #BookLove this week. I’m excited to welcome #1 Bestselling illustrator Kate Cosgrove (A DAY WITH NO WORDS /Tiffany Hammond/ Wheat Penny Press) to talk about our upcoming release, JUST FLOWERS. (Sleeping Bear/ March15th!))


Izzy’s new neighbor is a bit of a grump–though they are both botanically inclined. When the neighbor discovers unwanted flowers–again and again–in his precious rose garden, he bids Izzy to take them away. Izzy does–and uses the blooms to brighten someone else’s day. Before long, the town is bursting with Izzy’s flowers. The grumpy neighbor doesn’t see the fuss. “They’re JUST FLOWERS!” he yells. “Just flowers” that brought joy and color to everyone in town. Can Izzy finally get that neighbor to accept the bloom of friendship?  –Sleeping Bear Press

Meet Kate Cosgrove:

Kate Cosgrove is the #1 New York Times bestselling illustrator of A Day With No Words; winner of the 2024 Dolly Gray Children’s Literature Award. 

Cosgrove’s book illustrations juried into The 41st and 43rd Original Art Annual Exhibition in NYC. Her other notable picture books include And the Bullfrogs Sing: A Life Cycle, a Bank Street Best Book of the Year, and a Maryland Blue Crab Young Reader Award Honors book. 

She’s usually hiding in her probably-haunted art studio, with pencil-smudged fingers and a smelly dog named Stanley. I am so thrilled and honored that she has illustrated our book, JUST FLOWERS.

Let’s ask some questions!

Q 1. In a previous interview, you said,  ‘I was born into a family where everyone makes something: art, music, food, clothing, noise, a mess… I found I like to make messes and art at a very early age.”  When did your interest in children’s books blossom

Kate Cosgrove: Thanks for including me on your blog, Erin.

I have always loved picture books and comic books, especially as a shy kid who liked to read and draw. But when I was in fourth grade, during the Young Author’s Program, an amazing picture book illustrator visited our class. She was so funny and cool and talented, and I was immediately in love. That’s when I first knew I wanted to make children’s books too.

Q 2. What’s your process like when you first approach a manuscript? Which came first with JUST FLOWERS? Research? Story board? Character sketches? Thumbnails? Palette choices?  Other___? 

Kate Cosgrove’s beginning sketches for JUST FLOWERS written by Erin Dealey (Sleeping Bear Press)

Kate Cosgrove: Obsessive amounts of drawing! Looser than character sketches – I’d say character doodles comes first. With JUST FLOWERS, it was Izzy first and Grumpy neighbor next. Followed by a few setting-doodles and I go from there.

Grumpy neighbor sketch by Kate Cosgrove for JUST FLOWERS written by Erin Dealey (Sleeping Bear Press)

Once I know the visual vibe of the WHO and the WHERE, I typically work through thumbnail sketches, very quick and casual thumbnail-eee storyboards. For me palette typically comes later, unless I get inspired by something earlier on in the process.

Q 3. What’s your favorite spread? Was there one that was more of a challenge than others?

Kate Cosgrove: I enjoy many of them, but my most favorite is Izzy braiding flowers into Mom’s hair. The illustration is inspired by one of the last memories I have of visiting my Grandma.

I was in a big hurry that day, but I slowed down long enough to take a quiet moment, and uncoil the curlers from her hair. A rather ordinary task, but it was also kind of sweet and intimate as well. Her beautiful face, her soft silver hair, me trying to be as careful as I could not to hurt her or spoil the curls. And I hold that in my brain, like a touchstone, when I am missing her.  

Braiding flowers into Mom’s hair ~ sketch by Kate Cosgrove for JUST FLOWERS written by Erin Dealey (Sleeping Bear Press)

ED note: No wonder there is so much LOVE in that illustration!

Q 4. I saw somewhere (Instagram?) where you posted the inspiration for Izzy’s “neighbor on the other side.” Can you tell us about that? Are there more character inspirations you can share? 

Kate Cosgrove: Yes, Instagram! I’m kind of getting into bird feeders – because I’m becoming a dreadful adult, and dreadful adults are super into staring at birds while they drink their coffee 😁… So I knew I wanted the neighbor who receives the parrot tulips to be a glamorous bird lady. And I wanted her to have wild hair and a pink ostrich feather coat.

While I don’t often “clip images” for inspiration, I decided to do some Google imaging and Pinterest-ing to help capture the exact ‘look’ I had in my mind, and help get it into the art. 


Q 5. Do you have a favorite medium? What did you use for JUST FLOWERS?

Kate Cosgrove: Simple pencil and paper is my favorite medium of all time. I start all of my books with that, and then eventually develop the final art in digital drawing programs like ProCreate.

Digital allows me to easily edit and format –  which is very important when you are illustrating. Because even though it’s fine art, it also has a job to do.

Izzy sketch by Kate Cosgrove for JUST FLOWERS written by Erin Dealey (Sleeping Bear Press)


Q 6. Were there any discoveries or surprises you encountered while working on JUST FLOWERS?

Kate Cosgrove: YES! Even though I’m a bug-girl, I never knew about, thought about, or even noticed Milkweed. Which is so very important to the monarch butterfly population. And now I notice it everywhere, on my walks, out of the car window on the highway, in fields near my daughter’s school, EVERYWHERE! And then I think about all the butterflies snacking there and laying their eggs and it’s a pretty cool thought. Especially if you’re a bug-girl. 

Illustration Advice?

Q 7. What advice would you give pre-published Kate, and young artists (or not-so-young) who might dream of a career in illustration? 

Kate Cosgrove: My experience with publishing reminds me of standing in the longest line EVER to meet Santa. There are no quick routes to take. Patience, persistence and practice (draw every day!) are everything while you stand in that tedious line.

What’s next?

Q 8. What’s next for you? Any new projects you can share? 

Kate Cosgrove: My third poetry and science book, A Tree Is a Community, with author (and one of my favorite people,) David L. Harrison, comes out in Fall 2024. 

Huge thanks to Kate for joining us on the blog today.

To learn more about Kate Cosgrove and her work,

check out her website, social media, and other resources on linktr.ee/k8cosgrove .

You can see why Feb. 14th seems like the perfect time to chat with Kate. I mean…

  1. JUST FLOWERS releases with Sleeping Bear in 1 month + 1 day (March 15th!)
  2. I absolutely LOVE Kate’s illustrations.
  3. Everyone deserves flowers on Valentine’s Day. Right?

PS You can preorder JUST FLOWERS here. (Thanks!)

Up next:

We’re celebrating Vivian Kirkfield’s Book Birthday

of Pedal, Balance, Steer. ( Illus. Alison Jay / Calkins Creek.)

No comments on this post yet.

  1. Lynne Marie says:

    Congratulations, Erin and Kate! Continue to Bloom and Grow! XO

  2. Natasha Tripplett says:

    This was a sweet interview. I love that you got to interview your own illustrator! Congratulations to both of you!