Mélanie Watt - Author/Illustrator

Mélanie Watt

It was in a design class taught by Michèle Lemieux at the University of Quebec in Montreal that author and illustrator Mélanie Watt created her first picture book, Leon the Chameleon, which was later published by Kids Can Press. Watt went on to create several more books, including the Learning with Animals collection and Augustine, which was named an ALA Notable Children's Book. Watt has also illustrated Where Does a Tiger-Heron Spend the Night? and Bearcub and Mama, which won the 2006 IRA Teachers' Choices Project.

Mélanie's best known book Scaredy Squirrel, has won many awards including the Ruth and Sylvia Schwartz Children's Book Award for Children's Picture Book and the Amelia Frances Howard-Gibbon Illustrator's Award. The release of Scaredy Squirrel Makes a Friend, was met with enthusiastic reviews and incredible sales, confirming the arrival of kid lit's newest superstar.

Chester,Chester's Back! and Chester's Masterpiece are about a megalomaniac cat who is every bit the antithesis to Scaredy. Chester has already become a bestseller and shows the breadth and creativity of Mélanie Watt.

Scaredy returns to take a few more tentative steps out of his comfort zone in Scaredy Squirrel at the Beach and Scaredy Squirrel at Night. Mélanie has often noted how the Scaredy Squirrel books helped her work out her own insecurities and fears, as the success of these titles has required her to venture out into the unknown, and like Scaredy she has found the experience truly uplifting.

Mélanie currently resides near Montreal, Quebec.

Where were you born?
Trois-Rivieres, Quebec.

What's your birthday?
August 20th.

Where do you live now?
In a little town, one hour away from Montreal in St. Stanislas de Kostka.

Do you have any pets?
Yes, I have a green parrot named Kiwi.

What are your hobbies?
Piano, guitar and decorating.

How did you get involved with children's books?
Through Michèle Lemieux, my illustration teacher in university. One of our assignments was to create a book about color. I decided to write a story about a chameleon to help explain complementary colors to children. I later sent my book project, Leon the Chameleon, to Kids Can Press.

What was your training or schooling?
I have a college degree in graphic design and a Bachelors of Arts in Graphic Design from the the University of Quebec in Montreal.

Do you have any tips for young creators?
If you find something that you enjoy and are passionate about, don't hesitate to follow that path. It's amazing what you can accomplish by focusing on things you love doing! I was in administration for two years before I realized that it wasn't for me and that I wasn't motivated. When you're in an environment where you don't fit in, you start to think that you are the one with the problem. It can be very discouraging! When you're in an environment where you feel comfortable and where you can contribute something, that's when you feel good about yourself!

What is your favorite book?
At the moment, Mo Willems' books.

What is your favorite movie?
I love 3D animated movies.

What is the thing you like the most about creating children's books?
The opportunity to both write and illustrate my ideas. It allows me to create stories and settings precisely as I see them in my mind.

Where do you work?
I work at home, in my studio.

How do you research or create your stories?
I get inspired by things around me and experiences I've had as a child. Sometimes it starts with an idea and sometimes it starts with an image or character.

Where do you get your ideas?
As I said, everywhere! Sometimes I have a basic idea and I find more ideas much later. People, animals and places trigger story ideas!

You both write and illustrate your books. How does that differ from being just an author, or just an illustrator?
The opportunity to create with words and images is wonderful. It allows me to communicate my ideas in a very precise way.

What's your favorite childhood memory?
Singing with my parents around the campfire. My father would play the guitar and my sister and I would sing along. I also remember playing with my sister and dressing up, making up stories and setting up puppet shows.

When you were little what did you want to be when you grew up?
I remember wanting to become a veterinarian. I had a wonderful cat named Duchesse. She was there for the first 17 years of my life. I guess she's the reason I wanted to help animals. The only problem was that I couldn't stand the sight of blood!

Do you have any special secrets or insights about one of your books or characters?
I must admit that there's a little bit of my personality in each of my characters: The timid side of Leon the Chameleon, the insecurities of Scaredy Squirrel for example. But the character that resembles me the most is probably Augustine. Augustine is based on my moving experiences as a child.

Augustine

2007 - Marilyn Baillie Picture Book Award, Canadian Children's Book Centre, Short-listed
2007 - Shining Willow Award, Saskatchewan Young Readers' Choice, Short-listed
2007 - Amelia Frances Howard-Gibbon Illustrator's Award, Short-listed

Bearcub and Mama

2006 - Amelia Frances Howard-Gibbon Award, Short-listed
2006 - Marilyn Baillie Picture Book Award, Canadian Children's Book Centre, Short-listed
2006 - Teacher's Choices Project, International Reading Association, Winner
2005 - Book of the Year, ForeWord Magazine, Winner

Chester

2011 - Virginia Readers' Choice Award, Virginia State Readers's Association, Winner
2010 - Nevada Young Reader's Award, Nevada Library Association, Winner
2010 - Pennsylvania Young Reader's Choice Awards, Pennsylvania School Librarians Association, Winner
2010 - Grand Canyon Reader Award, Arizona Library & Reading Associations, Winner
2009 - Time To Read Award, British Columbia Achievement Foundation, Winner
2009 - Blue Spruce Award, Ontario Library Association, Winner
2008 - Amelia Frances Howard-Gibbon Illustrator's Award, Short-listed
2008 - Golden Archer Award, WEMTA, Winner
2008 - Notable Children's Books in Language Arts, NCTE, Short-listed
2008 - Childrens' Choices, International Reading Association, Short-listed
2008 - Best Books for Kids and Teens, Canadian Children's Book Centre, Winner
2007 - Best Bets Picture Book, Ontario Library Association, Winner
2007 - Book of the Year, ForeWord Magazine, Short-listed

Chester's Back!

2009 - Best Books for Kids and Teens, Canadian Children's Book Centre, Winner
2009 - Amelia Frances Howard-Gibbon Award, Short-listed
2009 - Ruth & Sylvia Schwartz Children's Book Award, Winner

Chester's Masterpiece

2011 - Golden Archer Award, Wisconsin Educational Media and Technology Association, Winner
2011 - Ruth and Sylvia Schwartz Children's Book Award, Ontario Arts Council, Winner

Have I Got a Book for You!

2011 - Blue Spruce Award, Ontario Library Association, Short-listed
2010 - Best Books for Kids & Teens, Starred Selection, Canadian Children's Book Centre, Winner
2010 - Amelia Frances Howard-Gibbon Illustrator's Award, Canadian Library Association, Short-listed

Leon the Chameleon

2002 - Our Choice, Canadian Children's Book Centre, Winner
2002 - Young Adults' Choices, International Reading Association, Short-listed
2002 - Book of the Year Award, ForeWord Magazine, Short-listed
2001 - International Book Award, The Society of School Librarians International, Runner-up

Scaredy Squirrel

2010 - Illinois Monarch Award, Illinois School Library Media Association, Winner
2009 - Pennsylvania Young Reader's Choice Awards, Pennsylvania School Librarians Association, Winner
2008 - Libris Award - Children's Author of the Year, Canadian Booksellers Association, Winner
2008 - Children's Choice Picture Book Award, Washington Library Media, Short-listed
2008 - Libris Award - Children's Illustrator of the Year, Canadian Booksellers Association, Winner
2008 - North Carolina Children's Book Award, Winner
2008 - Shining Willow Award, Saskatchewan Young Readers' Choice, Winner
2008 - Black-Eyed Susan Award, Maryland Educational Media, Winner
2007 - Notable Children's Books in Language Arts, NCTE, Winner
2007 - Best Read Aloud Book Award, Read Boston, Short-listed
2007 - Childrens' Choices, International Reading Association, Short-listed
2007 - Ruth and Sylvia Schwartz Children's Book Award, Winner
2007 - Notable Children's Books, ALA, Winner
2007 - Great Book of the Year, Canadian Toy Testing Council, Winner
2007 - Blue Spruce Award, Ontario Library Association, Winner
2007 - Marilyn Baillie Picture Book Award, Canadian Children's Book Centre, Short-listed
2007 - Independent Publisher Book Awards - Bronze Medal, Winner
2007 - Amelia Frances Howard-Gibbon Illustrator's Award, Winner
2006 - Best Read Aloud Book Award, ReadBoston, Runner-up
2006 - Cybils - Children's and YA Bloggers' Literacy Awards, Winner
2006 - Le Prix de la Librarie Millepage (in Vincennes, France), Winner
2006 - Book of the Year Award, ForeWord Magazine, Short-listed
2005 - Summer Pick, Children's Book Sense, Commended

Scaredy Squirrel at Night

2010 - Comics for Kids Award, Joe Shuster Awards, Short-listed
2010 - Best Books for Kids & Teens, Canadian Children's Book Centre, Winner
2010 - Shining Willow Award, Saskatchewan Young Readers' Choice Award, Winner
2010 - Ruth & Sylvia Schwartz Children's Book Award, Short-listed

Scaredy Squirrel at the Beach

2009 - Best Books for Kids & Teens, Canadian Children's Book Centre, Winner
2009 - Best Bet for Children and Teens, Ontario Library Association, Winner

Scaredy Squirrel Goes Camping

2013 - Best Books for Kids & Teens, Canadian Children's Book Centre, Winner

Scaredy Squirrel Has a Birthday Party

2012 - Best Books for Kids & Teens, Starred Selection, Canadian Children's Book Centre, Winner

Scaredy Squirrel Makes a Friend

2009 - Libris Award - Children's Author of the Year, Canadian Booksellers Association, Winner
2009 - Libris Award - Children's Illustrator of the Year, Canadian Booksellers Association, Winner
2008 - Blue Spruce Award, Ontario Library Association, Winner
2008 - Ruth and Sylvia Schwartz Children's Book Award, Commended
2008 - Amelia Frances Howard-Gibbon Illustrator's Award, Short-listed
2008 - Red Clover Children's Choice Picture Book, Mother Goose Programs, Short-listed
2007 - Best Bets Picture Book, Ontario Library Association, Winner

Scaredy Squirrel Prepares for Christmas

2013 - Best Books for Kids & Teens, Starred Selection, Canadian Children's Book Centre, Winner

You're Finally Here!

2012 - Best Books for Kids & Teens, Starred Selection, Canadian Children's Book Centre, Winner