Children's & Fantasy/Sci-Fi Books


Hand-Made Wooden Robots

Inspired by some wooden robot photos posted online by author/illustrator Steve Light, I decided to make my own. They will serve as the basis for a future picture book manuscript.

I built five. I used neodymium magnets for rotating junctures, like necks, wrists, and instrumentation panels. The first one is the least humanoid. Perhaps a robot pet.

For subsequent robots, I added Lego Bionicle ball and socket parts to articulate shoulder, elbow, hip, and knee joints.

I gave the third robot wheels, big eyes, and small ears. I think it may look better with the small bumps serving as eyes and the larger bumps serving as ears.

I think this one is my favorite. Perhaps because it has big ears and “earrings”.

Last, but not least, a squat robot with long arms. I can’t wait to put robots like these into a story for kids!

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Pre-World War II Giant Robot Landscape Paintings

I never thought I’d ever say “Pre-World War II Giant Robot Landscape Paintings”. Hats off to the skill and imagination of artist Jakub Rozalski in mashing up these two on Design You Trust.


“The Polish artist Jakub Rozalski, who goes by the sobriquet “Mr. Werewolf,” has produced an amusing series of steampunk-ish canvases in which serene and idyllic rustic landscapes of what seem to be Eastern Europe (Rozalski’s very back yard, you might say) in the early decades of the 20th century feature the prominent and inexplicable existence of completely fictitious giant mecha robots.”


Various iconographies are jammed together, the imagery of peasant life in the early years of collectivization, the imagery of science fiction, the imagery of modern warfare…. add it all up and you might find yourself calling to mind, ohhh, the first few scenes of The Empire Strikes Back, set on the icy terrain of Hoth, perhaps?


Rozalski’s intent is “to commemorate this sad and tragic period in history, in my own way, to light on this parts of history that usually remain in the shadows of other events… remember and honor the history, but live in the present.” He adds, “I like to mix historical facts and situations with my own motives, ideas and visions. … I attach great importance to the details, the equipment, the costumes, because it allows you to embed painting within a specified period of time.”


The World of Scythe is a beautiful 105-page art book showcasing the work of Jakub Rozalski for the board game Scythe, one of the most successful games ever funded on Kickstarter. The book was only made available to backers during the Kickstarter campaign, and is now only available on ArtStation Shop.

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Lonely Robots Experiencing The Quiet Wonder Of The World

Robot artwork by Matt Dixon, courtesy of Bored Panda. Robots are people too.

I don’t recall where the idea to paint these robots came from but since the first that I painted, back in 2006, I’ve been fascinated by them and the world they inhabit.

My name is Matt Dixon. I’m a busy freelance illustrator working in the games industry. When I’m not painting angry goblins or weird alien slugs, you might think that I’d like to get away from the computer but no. When it’s time to relax, nothing soothes my mind and calms my nerves like retreating into the world of my robots.

There’s something very restful about losing myself in these paintings. They’re rarely planned. When I’m in the mood, I just sit down and they just seem to happen. That’s partly why I named my first book collecting this artwork ‘Transmissions’ as the images ometimes feel as if they’ve been transmitted into my brain from somewhere else!

More rewarding than the painting process itself is experiencing the reaction that these paintings attract. Some of them conjure the most wonderful responses and emotions, often quite unlike that which I had planned. People often describe them as sad. I don’t really see them that way. Melancholy perhaps. Maybe they’re lost, but I see them trying to make sense of the quiet wonder around them. I think that’s something we can all relate to. A  campaign for a second collection of robot art is underway.

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Interview with picture book JUNKYARD author/illustrator Mike Austin

Mike Austin is an award-winning illustrator and author. Originally from Pennsylvania, Mike now lives in Hawaii with his wife, illustrator Jing Jing Tsong, their two kids and a dog named Prudence.


For what age audience do you write?

I write and illustrate picture books for young readers age four to 100.

Henry: It’s good to know I’ll be able to enjoy your books for many years to come.

Tell us about your latest book.

JUNKYARD is about two Munching Machines who work together to clean up a rusting, stinky junkyard and turn it into a beautiful park for everyone to enjoy.

Henry: Sort of a mashup of Transformers and BAG IN THE WIND.

What do you hope readers will get from reading that book? 

I hope that readers will take a moment to think about the positive changes they can make in their own community then roll up their sleeves and make it happen! Start by planting a tree!

Henry: My easy reader, TWIGNIBBLE, shares this theme of being good stewards of the earth.

What aspect of writing do you find most challenging?

Getting the idea from my brain to the paper. It always seems to get stuck in my elbow! Also expressing my ideas in both a visual and verbal sense. I illustrate my own stories, and that gives me a lot of freedom, but sometimes it can get overwhelming. Thankfully I have great editors who keep me from going off the deep end.

Henry: That’s a great mental image of an idea traffic jam at your elbows.

What has been a memorable experience that you never would have had if you had not been a writer?

What a thrill it was to walk into the local library and see a little kid sitting on his dad’s lap reading my book! That was very inspiring.

Henry: Nice. “Excuse me sir, would you like that book autographed?” “Umm, it’s a library book…”

Do you have any favorite quotes?

“Just do it!” You could spend your whole life talking about your great ideas, but if you never go for it then what’s the point?

Henry: Very true. I also like the related quotes:
“Perfect is the enemy of good enough.”
“A good plan, violently executed now, is better than a perfect plan next week.”

Do you have any strange rituals that you observe when you write?

I have to clean my studio and get everything organized before I begin any new project. It’s too hard to concentrate if I have other jobs piled around my desk and floor.

Henry: Then it’s fortunate you don’t work in my home office.

If you could have one superpower, what would it be, and why?

The ability to fly! And time travel! Wait, that’s two… how about to fly through time and space! YA BABY!

Henry: You travelled back in time to change your superpower wish. Well played, sir.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

Surf! There is a surf break just down the road that my wife and I try to go to every day. It’s the best place to organize my thoughts. I bring a crayon with me to scribble notes on my board if I think of something brilliant while bobbing around in the ocean. 

Henry: Scribbling notes on your surfboard!!? Love it!

Where can readers find your work?


This interview is also posted on the San Diego Children’s Books Examiner.

Click to Tweet: Interview with picture book JUNKYARD author/illustrator Mike Austin at http://wp.me/p31Xf4-JM via @Nimpentoad