On May 29, while hundreds of booksellers participated in the ABA Day of Education that kicked off this year’s BookExpo America, 65 other booksellers seized an opportunity to pursue another kind of professional development. Organized by the Children’s Book Council and the ABA/ABC Children’s Group, these booksellers were allowed a behind-the-scenes peek into the lives of 23 book illustrators in their natural habitats: their art studios. This is the second time the ABA has organized this kind of an outing during BEA.

There were, of course, some challenges as 17 small groups of booksellers from all over the U.S. used various modes of public transportation on a steamy day to make their way from Javits to up to three different studios – a few in Manhattan, but most of them in Brooklyn. This reporter was unfortunately was able to only visit two, due to time constraints and logistical issues with transportation.

Despite transportation woes, all the participants PW spoke with praised the tour for being – like the best children’s books – both educational and entertaining. And the glasses of chilled Prosecco that were poured and kept filled for booksellers at one Brooklyn studio made the venture feel even more celebratory.

Studio spaces varied widely, from tiny rooms in illustrators’ apartments or houses, to a large and airy space on the third floor of an industrial-style building that is shared by five illustrators. Artists participating in the tour included some of the most celebrated children’s book illustrators working on their craft today, such as Brett Helquist, Tad Hills, Betsy and Ted Lewin, Anita Lobel, and Chris Raschka.

All photos by Claire Kirch.