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Children's Book Illustrator Cathy Morrison Shares Her Passion for Nature and Science

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Cathy Morrison heralds from small-town Texas, where she spent summers on a family farm surrounded by big flowers and indigenous plants. So moving from Denver to Livermore – “Northwest of Fort Collins, sort of in the middle of nowhere, with a lot of environmentalists around us,” Morrison says – wasn’t much of a stretch for a woman who could never get enough of the natural world. 

Before she got serious about illustrating that world for children's books, Morrison was an animator and graphic designer specializing in editorial and advertising illustration. “When I moved here,” Morrison says, “I had my own business in Denver — a small design and illustration firm, and I did a lot of work for cable companies, restaurants and hospitals.”

But when Morrison’s second child was incubating, the doctor put the artist on bed rest, and that’s when she scaled back her graphic design business and got really interested in children’s books. “When my kids were little, looking at and reading children’s books — it was a no-brainer,” Morrison says. “This is what I wanted to do.”

Morrison’s third book with Dawn Publications – her eighth children’s book  – will come out this fall. If You Love Honey, written by Martha Sullivan, is an adorable, timely and well-told tale about a few of nature’s lesser-known connections. Kids will love If You Love Honey for its vibrant pictures and non-judgmental message. “The author isn’t heavy-handed; she has a fun way of delivering a powerful message,” Morrison says.

But the tale also bolsters the notion that if an adult wants to learn about a new subject, the best place to start is with a children’s book. If You Love Honey delivers a straightforward account of the interconnectedness between humans and the natural world — from honeybees to ladybugs and earthworms, commonplace dandelions to goldenrods to mushrooms.

With a double major in education and fine arts and a teaching certificate for K-12, Morrison was certainly well positioned to work on educational books for kids. But children’s books aren’t so easy to break into. “It took forever,” Morrison recalls. In fact, she'd been sending Dawn Publications samples of her work for about a decade, and the company didn't give her the time of day until an author for whom Morrison had previously illustrated offered up a glowing recommendation. “It’s a really hard, competitive business,” she notes. 

Once you’re in, though, it gets easier. Morrison has several titles coming out with Dawn Publications over the next year, and says she has enjoyed working with like-minded authors like Sullivan, with whom she did Pitter and Patter last spring. “I just love how she writes for children, taking a very complex topic and breaking it down,” Morrison says.

The Prairie that Nature Built came out last fall with an accompanying app, and the National Science Teachers Association has recommended Dino Tracks, with a sequel titled Dino Treasures.

Morrison works digitally, illustrating on a Wacom Cintiq, using Painter and Photoshop. “I’ve been doing this for eight or nine years; there’s not a huge learning curve," she notes. "And I can live in the middle of nowhere and do the artwork.” 

And we all get to enjoy it. For more information on Morrison and her work, visit her website

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