Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas to all

This year I was given the opportunity to illustrate the Northwest Haiti Christian Mission's holiday card. This is a wonderful organization, and I hope that you will visit their site to learn more about how you can help the beautiful children of Haiti. 
Merry Christmas friends! Much love, Lauren

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Hip Hip Hooray!

WOW. Melvin and the Boy ranked #2 on 100 Scope Notes Top 20 books of 2011 list! Again, wow.. Thank you Travis Jonker (100 Scope Notes) and John Schumacher (Watch. Connect. Read.) for drawing some attention to Melvin. He appreciates it, and I certainly do, too! 

 Here's what Travis has to say:
Again, thank you so much for the support and recognition, gentlemen. 
I am honored to be a part of this fantastic list~

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Hi friends!
I hope these two little videos will help nudge you into the Christmas spirit if you’re not there already . . .


Rachel Marshall reading CHRISTMAS IS HERE

Happy Holidays to all!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

City Cat

Sorry I haven't posted in awhile! But I have a good excuse — I've been traveling around Europe! Well, uhh, drawing Europe. That's pretty fun too! I'm working on a new book that involves 8 different cities in Western Europe. So far I've wandered through Rome, London, Marseille, and Barcelona . . . Must keep moving!!
Hope everyone is enjoying the holiday season :)

Monday, November 21, 2011

An early Christmas gift

Today I received a really exciting package -- copies of the Scholastic Book Club edition of CHRISTMAS IS HERE! I found out a few months back that Scholastic had chosen Christmas Is Here to be part of their book club, and I was beyond excited.

One of my very favorite memories of elementary school was when the Scholastic Book Fair came, and I was allowed to pick out and buy a book all on my own. The first book I remember buying was Imogene's Antlers by David Small. To this day it is still one of my favorite books. And David Small is one of my illustration heroes :)

 If you're interested, you can download the "Holiday Gift Books" catalog right HERE

Thank you Scholastic for including my book in your club!!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

This Saturday I will be signing copies of my most recent books at Barnes and Noble in Bel Air, Maryland. If you live nearby, come say hello!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Winning hearts

Reviewers, kids, & even famous authors have been falling for little Spunky. And I don't blame them. Ann Cameron wrote a fantastic story about this loving dog and his family, and I'm so glad it's getting the attention it deserves. Hooray for Ann and Spunky (and our fabulous editor, Frances Foster, too)!

Here are some review clips:

“Cameron has written another top-notch entry in the Julian and Huey series, this time from the brothers’ pup’s perspective . . . Readers will be simultaneously tickled by [Spunky's] canine observations and moved by the profound connection between dog and family . . . Though the narrative doesn’t need embellishment, thickly outlined illustrations pepper the text, giving readers a visual reference for some of Spunky’s antics. A gem.--School Library Journal, Starred Review

"The beloved family of Julian and Huey Bates (The Stories Julian Tells, 1981, etc.) is back after a long hiatus. Spunky, their mixed-breed dog, hilariously reveals all about his humans and realizes his purpose in life . . . Spunky’s love of his boy, Huey, will bring a tear to the eyes of dog lovers, too. Castillo’s perfect black-and-white spot drawings capture the energy and intelligence of both animals as they begin the careful dance of new friendship . . . Readers ready for chapter books will delight in seeing the world through Spunky’s eyes and powerful nose.
--Kirkus Reviews, starred review

With a jacket showing a winsome pup only Cruella de Vil could dislike, this is a beginning chapter book that begs to be read.” --Horn Book Magazine

 “Dog fans … will delight in Spunky’s tail-wagging tale-telling, which could introduce a new generation of kids to the Bates family chronicles . . . [A] deeply touching tribute to the dog-kid bond.” --Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books (BCCB)

Spunky Tells All is a beautiful tale of human, cat, and dog finding friendship together. I loved it. It speaks with deep spirit and fine observation of small telling things in a way that young humans will understand.” --Paula Fox, author of the Newbery Award winning The Slave Dancer

“I loved going back inside Huey and Julian's world, but this time, through the eyes of the wise and loyal Spunky. A book with humor, heart, and a lovable dog. Who could ask for more?"
Barbara O’Connor, author of How to Steal a Dog

“I fell in love with Spunky who, in his own words, is a considerate Dog and only tries to do what is best for his human family. His tale, both charming and hilarious, will make readers laugh out loud—and pay much closer attention to what their own dogs are really saying.”
Ann M. Martin, author of Everything for a Dog

“I loved it all the way to the end.” 
--Ivan, Beaverton, Oregon, age 12
“I liked your book so much that I want to buy it and read it to my sister before she goes to bed.”
--Connor, Beaverton, Oregon, age 11

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Original Art 2011

I'm honored that two of my books are included in this years Original Art Show at the Society of Illustrators! Many thanks to the jury for selecting CHRISTMAS IS HERE and MELVIN AND THE BOY. I look forward to seeing lots of lovely book folks at the opening reception next Thursday evening, October 27th. Here are the details if you'd like to join. Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Spunky leaps in to libraries and bookstores today!

So excited to announce the release of SPUNKY TELLS ALL, written by the wonderful Ann Cameron. You can read this lovable dog's story in either hardcover OR Ebook. 
Go on and grab your copy today! How could you resist such a dog? : )

Monday, October 3, 2011

more blogger love

There's been some more love for Melvin in the blogosphere the last few months!
I wanted to take the time to thank these kind bloggers for the nice things they have said about the book:
 “Melvin and the Boy” is a lovely little book. Both text and illustration work in concert with each other to create a fun, cohesive whole. The text is simple and straightforward with playful artwork filling in the holes. Children will love the images of other pets and parents will appreciate the book’s message. And a two-page section at the end featuring turtle facts is a fun and somewhat unexpected addition.  ~ Cracking The Cover
The Boy of the story is delightfully sweet and appealing, his words expressed simply and honestly. Castillo's text and illustrative style are equally praiseworthy.  ~ Storied Cities
Melvin and the Boy revisits the familiar theme of the child who wants a pet, but successfully finds the sweet and sentimental tone missing from most picture books on that topic.  The illustrations are beautiful and have a timeless feeling about them.  At the end of the story there is a series of facts about turtles to share with the young readers. Melvin and the Boy will remind you of the classics.  ~ A Picture Book A Day
 Every picture is beautiful and charming, with fabulous contrast between bright and subdued colors. There is so much to look at on every page that the squirmiest toddler is sure to focus, and yet Castillo manages not to go too far in the other direction and make the illustrations too busy, they are just wonderfully nuanced. ~ Devourer of Books
 In my opinion [Lauren] hit a home-run with Melvin and the Boy.  The illustrations do a beautiful job of walking with the text though the story.  Nothing about this book is flashy.  It has the look and feel of a classic.    ~ Sharpread
 Thank you again. The amount of praise Melvin has received is truly overwhelming.

Friday, September 23, 2011

A MELVIN reading

Special thanks to the precious (4 yr old) Rachel Marshall for sharing her wonderful reading of Melvin and the Boy. You did an A+ job, Rachel! Keep up the great work :) xoxo

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Turtle Facts poster!

Parents! Teachers! Turtle lovers! There is now a fun and informative 11 x 17" MELVIN poster available for free on the Macmillan website. Just head right HERE where you can click on the link to download and print a copy for your classroom or homework room.

Did you know that turtles were here on Earth before dinosaurs?!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

A very snowy desktop

My computer's desktop has become snowier by the day, as I hustle to finish up final art for my newest book, THE READER, by the great Amy Hest. Placing myself in this blustery snowscape helped me to survive the string of heatwaves we had in NYC this summer. Perfect timing I say :) 

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

International Society for Animal Rights

ISAR Online

 Last month I had the pleasure of donating a signed copy of my book Melvin and the Boy as part of a raffle to help raise money for ISAR's (International Society for Animal Rights) International Homeless Animals' Day
Here's a bit about this annual event:                                                                          "In 1992, ISAR introduced International Homeless Animals’ Day as an innovative educational vehicle with a purpose of informing society of the global tragedy that overwhelms animal shelters each year – pet overpopulation. Since the conception of International Homeless Animals’ Day, ISAR has reserved the third Saturday of August, commemorating the Day annually, to promote new campaigns, programs, and ideas on the solution to the pet overpopulation epidemic: spay/neuter."

If you're interested in learning more about ISAR, or would like to help, please head over to their website for more information.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

MELVIN Activities!

Parents and teachers! Looking for some rainy [or not rainy] day activities for the kiddies? A fun MELVIN AND THE BOY activity guide is now available to download off the Macmillan website. The guide includes a turtle word search, coloring page, connect the dots, and drawing sheet. Head over and print out your copies today! (scroll down to the pdf labeled "Activity Guide" to download)

Also, COMING SOON!  A "Turtle Facts" poster will be available to print for your classroom or home. . . will keep you informed!

Monday, August 15, 2011

[official] review city

Over the last couple months, MELVIN has collected some really nice reviews that I've neglected to share here. So, here they are, better late than never:
"Castillo, whose winning artwork has appeared in numerous picture books, including Emily Jenkins’ What Happens on Wednesdays (2007), makes her writing debut in this sensitive title. “I ask Mom for a dog like that, but she says, ‘Too big,’” says a young boy as he walks with his mother down a street in their city neighborhood. At the zoo, a monkey catches the boy’s eye, but Dad says, “Too much work.” Then, at the park, the boy spots a turtle, names him Melvin, and convinces his parents to bring him home only to realize, after Melvin mostly hides in his shell, that the turtle would be much happier back in the park. With pared-down, rhythmic words and mixed-media illustrations filled with spot-on body language and details from an urban child’s world, Castillo elevates the familiar theme of a child’s unrequited yearning for a pet, adding a welcome twist when the boy, not the parents, is the first to recognize that Melvin belongs in the wild. A spread of turtle facts closes this well-crafted, gentle offering, which should find wide appeal."

"Castillo’s illustrations, rendered in acetone transfer with watercolor and markers, have a soft visual texture, nicely aligning with the story’s quiet nature. Subtle humor punctuates the narrative as the boy diligently tries to play with his pet, whom he calls Melvin (“because Melvin is a good name for a turtle”). But the turtle “is hiding…[dis]likes pretzels…is shy…doesn’t even want to meet the other pets…[and] tries to sneak away.” Melvin finally emerges from his shell when the boy gives him a bath before bedtime, making him think that perhaps the turtle wants to return to the pond. The next day, the family returns Melvin to the pond, and the boy watches him swim toward two sunbathing turtles. Castillo deftly captures the child’s conflicted feelings with a tender expression of sorrow, his brow furrowed and his hand held to his mouth. The final image of three turtles together, facing a silhouetted, distant picture of the boy walking away with his parents, lends a comforting symmetry to the story as the boy says, “I can’t wait to visit him tomorrow!” Emotionally true and therefore highly satisfying." (Picture book. 3-6)

"Castillo’s expressive artwork gently sets the boy in the center of a friendly, bustling cityscape and deftly conveys his longing for an animal friend, the joy at finally achieving that goal, and the ultimate realization that perhaps a wild animal belongs in the park, not leashed or cooped up in an apartment."

"In her authorial debut, about a boy whose experiment in turtle ownership doesn't quite work out, illustrator Castillo's (Alfie Runs Away) gently outlined drawings help to soften a potentially disappointing situation. Melvin fulfills the boy narrator's parents' conditions for pets--he's not too big, and he doesn't demand too much work. But he's withdrawn ("When I take Melvin outside to meet my friends, he is shy," says the boy as his friends surround a firmly shutup shell), and he's not very active, either. "I have to carry him all the way home," says the boy, his red leash fastened to Melvin's shell, which sits stolidly on the sidewalk. The boy's parents offer surprising support, allowing their son to bring Melvin home from the park, but the decision to return Melvin is the boy's own: "[W]hen I set Melvin free, he goes right into the pond where two other turtles are sunbathing.... ‘We should let him stay here,' I say." It's an honest account of a small, manageable failure, with a lemonade-from-lemons moment at the end: "I can't wait to visit him tomorrow!" Ages 4–8. (July)  

"An unnamed boy longs for a pet. At the park he finds a turtle that, unlike other proposed pets, is not too big, not too much work, and not too noisy. His parents allow him to bring Melvin home, but he stays in his shell and shows no interest in playing or taking a walk, although he does seem to enjoy swimming in the bathtub. The child concludes, “I don’t think Melvin likes it here. I wonder if he misses his friends….” Next morning, the family members return Melvin to the park and make plans to visit him there. The story demonstrates the incompatibility of a wild animal with a human household and encourages readers to enjoy these creatures in their natural habitats. Acetone transfer with markers and watercolor are used to create opaque, thick-lined sketches with a charming old-fashioned feel. The narrator lives in an urban multicultural neighborhood that has a timeless look to it. The simplicity of the illustrations effectively conveys the straightforward story. This is a realistic and useful look at human/animal interactions. " (PreS-Gr 2)

Thanks to Booklist, Kirkus, Horn Book, PW, and SLJ for such lovely write-ups!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Gary Klinsky Children's Center school visit!

On Tuesday I traveled out to PS 292 in East New York to visit and share my new book MELVIN AND THE BOY with the adorable kids at the Gary Klinsky Children's Center. GKCC is an absolutely fantastic program, funded by Brooklyn Community Services (BCS) non-profit organization, that provides learning opportunities to children from low-income families who attend some of New York City's lowest performing schools (For more information, please check out their website).  The children are currently studying marine biology and ecology, so it was the perfect time to introduce them to Melvin and his friends~

We had a great time, and those little guys even made me a welcome banner with paper plate glitter turtles! Best greeting EVER!

Winning 6 yr old question/comment of the day:
"You live in Brooklyn too?? Ohh, I thought you lived in a museum."

Thursday, July 21, 2011

MELVIN out in the world

MELVIN has officially published!!! He hit bookshelves while I was out of town in early July. I have been illustrating books for about 6 years now, but this is the first I have written. Way back in the summer of 2007 I drew this in my sketchbook, which immediately sparked the story of MELVIN AND THE BOY.

Now, a whole 4 years later, it's an actual printed book! It's a scary thing to be 100% responsible for the outcome of a book — illustrations AND text — but hearing and reading the kind reviews and responses to MELVIN has been wonderful encouragement to write more stories of my own.

Here are a few reviewers that have shed some light on little Melvin:

Shelf Awareness (click below image to enlarge/read)

—An article in The New York Times, titled "For Children Who Want Pets and Parents Who Don't"

—A Kirkus Reviews article by Julie Danielson, titled "Seven Impossible Things: Illustrators on Their Own"

—And, today Jules included Melvin on her Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast blog. If you'd like to see a handful of interiors from the book, head over there to take a look.

Thanks so much to these reviewers for their interest in MELVIN AND THE BOY!  xoxo~Lauren

Monday, June 27, 2011

bloggers like Melvin!

Melvin and The Boy will soon be appearing in bookstores!!! And a couple great bloggers have some exceptionally nice things to say about this turtle. Hooray! Many thanks to Travis Jonker over at 100 Scope Notes for writing what is probably the most complimentary book review I have ever received. You can head over to his blog to read the whole review if you'd like. Here's a clip that made me smile from ear to ear:
"The text is a strong point, as Castillo does wonders with an extremely small word count. Succinct, yet crystal clear, this is a book that will work with very young children.

The illustrations put Melvin and the Boy squarely into Caldecott territory. Castillo uses a unique acetone transfer with markers and watercolor, and the results are gorgeous. The composition of each illustration is masterful, and the spreads are especially memorable, bursting with subtle skill."

And thanks to another outstanding blogger, Tasha Saecker over at Waking Brain Cells, for her oh-so-kind review of Melvin! Wander over to her blog for the entire review. Here's a little snippet:
"This is the first book that Castillo has both written and illustrated.  Her writing is pitch perfect here, offering just enough detail and with the right phrasing and tone.  It really feels as if a child was speaking in first person without becoming distracting. "

Thank you both so much for recognizing little Melvin and the boy! xo~Lauren

Friday, June 17, 2011

Character sketches!

Here's some character sketches I did for a new project I'm working on titled THE READER (written by Amy Hest). A boy, a dog, and snow—what could be better?

Sunday, June 12, 2011



Melvin and the Boy have finally arrived!!! 

My first book as author comes out in less than a month, and I'm pretty excited. Will share much more very soon!
(It is available for pre-order here if you're interested)

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

American Booksellers Association Silent Auction

I donated this study from MELVIN AND THE BOY to this year's ABA Silent Auction (benefiting the ABFFE Fund for Free Speech in Children's Books) which is part of Book Expo America.
 There's going to be tons of great art to bid on at the event ~ hope to see you there next Wednesday evening, May 25th! You can browse through all the art right HERE! And, details for the auction are HERE.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

come join the party!

This Friday evening there is going to be a celebration of all that is good. You should come! There will be tons of artwork filling the walls of the party space, including this piece of mine. (click to enlarge—you'll see Melvin the turtle made it in to the scene!) Details are here. Don't miss it!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

MELVIN cover

Here's a bit of the cover progression for Melvin. Veronique Sweet over at Henry Holt did an excellent job designing the jacket...and there's even going to be a surprise case cover! I can't wait to receive my first printed copy. The book isn't out till July, but you can already pre-order here!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Thursday, March 31, 2011

spring snow drawing

Sooo, now that it's spring, I get to work on a book about snow...
Geesh, I can't get away from winter over here. It's a good thing I love love LOVE drawing snowy landscapes!! This story, titled THE READER, is written by the wonderful Amy Hest. I'm a big fan of Amy's books, and couldn't be more psyched to illustrate this sweet story of hers. Here are a couple sketches from the dummy I just finished putting together:Happy spring everyone! : )

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Soccer out the door

Last week I wrapped up my project with Candlewick, Happy Like Soccer. The story is written by Maribeth Boelts, talented author of many books including Those Shoes and Before You Were Mine (which is adorable!). Here's a summary of our book, courtesy of Maribeth:
A young girl from the inner city, Sierra, is chosen for an elite soccer team that plays its games at a complex far from her apartment. Sierra longs to have a game in her own neighborhood so people who know and love her, like her auntie she lives with, can attend more easily. Sierra gets courageous enough to try to make that happen.
Happy Like Soccer won't be out till next year, but I will post more as we get closer to the books' birthday. . .

Now off to begin a new project that involves a boy, a dog, snow, and reading. I'm excited! Just too bad I wasn't working on this one during the winter of one-thousand blizzards!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

CCBC Choices 2011!

The Cooperative Children's Book Center has just released their CCBC Choices 2011 annual best-of-the-year list, and both ALFIE RUNS AWAY and CHRISTMAS IS HERE are on it -- Hooray! The Cooperative Children’s Book Center (CCBC) is a unique examination, study and research library of the School of Education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The complete CCBC Choices 2011 publication will be available after March 5th, and will include annotations and recommended ages for all of the books included, as well as an author/title/subject index, and a commentary on the publishing year. Many thanks to this years panel of jurors, Kathleen T. Horning, Carling Febry, Merri V. Lindgren and Megan Schliesman!
You can check out the complete list of titles right * here *

Monday, January 17, 2011


It's been busy over here in the Castillo studio. I recently finished interior art for an awesome chapter book by Ann Cameron, titled SPUNKY TELLS ALL. Here is the synopsis, courtesy of the author:
Spunky is a middle-aged, serious dog, --a thinking dog, a dog with some troubles. His humans-- Ralph and Michelle, and their sons Julian and Huey — don’t speak his language. Even worse, they don’t realize that smells are the center of life’s meaning. Worst of all, they think that Spunky wants a new companion — a cat!

Thus arrives in Spunky’s life the aristocratic Balinese Fiona-- snobbish, supremely sure of herself and absolutely incompetent — who, to his astonishment, gives him a life purpose and a new way of looking at his world.

I loved working on this book, as it was the first time I've had the opportunity to illustrate a non-picture book. Creating black and white art was a really nice change of pace. PLUS, I got to draw a lot of dogs and cats! Always a fun thing.Look for Spunky on shelves this Fall!