Melissa Sweet (born January 1, 1956) is an American illustrator and writer of children's books. She has won several awards for her illustrations, most notably a Caldecott Honor in 2009 for A River of Words and in 2015 for The Right Word, both by Jen Bryant.[1] Sweet is represented by Rebecca Sherman at Writers House. [2]

Personal life

Sweet was born in Wyckoff, New Jersey and studied at Kansas City Art Institute.[3] She lives with her husband and dog, Ruby, in Rockport, Maine.[4]


Sweet began her career in book illustration with James Howe’s Pinky and Rex series.[5] She has since illustrated nearly 100 books;[6] several of these she authored and for many more she collaborated with other writers. She illustrated three books for author Jen Bryant including, A River of Words, A Splash of Red, and The Right Word.[7]

Sweet conducts extensive research on the subjects of her biographies for children, which she illustrates with watercolor, mixed media, and collage.[8] In her books she said in an interview that she "likes to use every color on the color wheel..." and also that she's "...very big on complementary colors.". In the same interview she says that she took a color theory class, and she did not know how to mix colors, and as a result, used colors "...straight from the tube..." and in response, she said her teacher "...threw out 90 percent of my art supplies. He gave me this limited palette and showed me how to mix colors". Later in this same interview she revealed that watercolor is her favorite medium to illustrate with. She also said in this same interview that she was inspired to start writing and illustrating children's book by Maurice Sendak's Little Bear series, which she said gave her the confidence to believe that she could illustrate children's books.[9]

In Balloons over Broadway Sweet describes her work process as "To create the art for the book, I began by making toys and puppets. I played with all sorts of materials, not knowing exactly what the outcomes would be.In addition to the watercolor illustrations, my collages are, in part, a mix of paper from old books to make papermache puppets, found objects, and fabrics, all painted or altered to illustrate what it may have felt like to be in Sarg’s world. Some of the toys in my illustrations are based on ones from Tony’s vast collection, but the actual toys in this book are the ones I made. On a few of the pages I even used Tony’s illustrations from The Tony Sarg Marionette Book. I tried to keep in mind that in everything Sarg did,he conveyed the sense that he was having fun His legacy reminds me that “play” may be the most important element in making art!" [10]

Some Writer! The Story of E. B. White is a 176 page long biographical picture book that Sweet wrote and illustrated using watercolor and collage art. It includes excerpts from White's personal life, early drafts of his novels, family pictures, and other previously unpublished information on the writer. She received permission to use White's words from his grand-daughter and the chief executor of his will, Martha White. White not only gave Sweet her permission, she even offered to help by allowing her to have access to the family's personal records, memorabilia, and photo albums of E.B white. [11]

Selected works

Author and illustrator



  1. ^ Keyes, Bob (4 February 2015). "Maine author Melissa Sweet wins Caldecott Honor for 'The Right Word'". Portland Press Herald. Retrieved 7 April 2017.
  2. ^ "About-Melissa Sweet." Melissa 2018. Accessed March 29, 2018.
  3. ^ "Melissa Sweet". Mazza Museum. Retrieved 7 April 2017.
  4. ^ Morris, Alison (6 September 2007). "Visiting Melissa Sweet (Maine Post #3)". Publishers Weekly.
  5. ^ "Balloons over Broadway: The Author". University of Minnesota Libraries. Retrieved 14 April 2017.
  6. ^ "National Book Festival: Melissa Sweet". Library of Congress. Retrieved 8 April 2017.
  7. ^ Bryant, Jen (May–June 2016). "Jen Bryant & Melissa Sweet". The Horn Book Magazine. 92 (3): 20–21.
  8. ^ Keyes, Bob (25 October 2014). "Illustrator Melissa Sweet on learning her subjects". Portland Press Herald. Retrieved 7 April 2017.
  9. ^ Hillenbrand, Will. "Playing with Pieces." Artist's Magazine 31, no. 1, 56. Accessed March 29, 2018.
  10. ^ Melissa Sweet, Balloons over Broadway: The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy’s Parade (New York, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company 2011), p. 34
  11. ^ Corbett, Sue. "Illuminating the life of E.B. White: using watercolors, collages, letters, and photos, Melissa Sweet portrays a titan of children's literature." Publishers Weekly, July 18, 2016, 28+. Biography in Context (accessed March 20, 2018).
  12. ^ "Charlotte Zolotow Award Books". Cooperative Children's Book Center. University of Wisconsin-Madison. Retrieved 28 September 2018.
  13. ^ Routhier, Ray. "Nothing Small about Festival of Maine Literature for Small Fry." (Portland Press Herald), May 6, 2004. Accessed March 29, 2018.
  14. ^ Rylant, Cynthia. "Moonlight - Cynthia Rylant - Hardcover." HarperCollins US. Accessed March 29, 2018.
  15. ^ "Interview: Jacqueline Davies Talks 'The Boy Who Drew Birds' Book." Newstex, January 31, 2015. Accessed March 29, 2018.
  16. ^ "The Sleepy Little Alphabet: A BEDTIME STORY FROM ALPHABET TOWN." Melissa 2018. Accessed March 29, 2018.
  17. ^ "Spike, the Mixed-up Monster." Simon & Schuster. Accessed March 29, 2018.
  18. ^ "Schneider Family Book Award | Awards & Grants". Retrieved 2018-12-22.
  19. ^ "2014 Finalists: young readers' literature". Kirkus Reviews. Retrieved 8 April 2017.
  20. ^ Sweet, Melissa. "Little Red Writing". Melissa Retrieved 29 March 2018.
  21. ^ Sweet, Melissa. "Brave Girl: Clara and the Shirtwaist Makers Strike of 1909". Melissa Retrieved March 29, 2018.
  22. ^ "Day Is Done." Melissa 2018. Accessed March 29, 2018.
  23. ^ "Firefly July: A Year of Very Short Poems." Melissa 2018. Accessed March 29, 2018.
  24. ^ "You Nest Here With Me." Melissa 2018. Accessed March 29, 2018.
  25. ^ "Listen to Our World." Melissa 2018. Accessed March 29, 2018.
  26. ^ "How To Read A Book." Melissa 2019. Accessed June 22, 2019.