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Jennifer O'Connell “Your book must take me there!”

--This is what a literary agent friend said to me years ago when we were discussing a potential book project. That statement has always stayed with me and its truth is why I have been drawn to picture books since I was a child.

I grew up in Darien, Connecticut, outside New York City. My Dad was a gifted and imaginative storyteller. He often arrived home from work with a new puppet, bought from a shop at Grand Central Station. He would kneel behind our cardboard puppet theater in the playroom and perform the next act of the ongoing show featuring the ‘surprise’ character. My brother, sister and I sat transfixed - he took us there!

One of my favorite books my Dad read to us was The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins, by Dr. Seuss, (celebrating its 75th anniversary this year.) We were transported from our living room couch to the dank castle dungeon alongside Bartholomew, facing the executioner and his sharp axe. We were there!

Later, my senior illustration class at Philadelphia College of Art (now known as The University of the Arts) attended a slide lecture given by Maurice Sendak. The talk discussed the conceptual thinking behind Sendak’s picture book Where The Wild Things Are. I was spellbound -- it all made sense to me, inspired me, excited me as he explained how he strategically designed the illustrations to bring the reader along on Max’s journey. I was hooked and began to collect and study picture books. Now, I create them as well.

I love to conjure images and words that in synergy with the reader’s imagination, become a whole new world within the book.

I live in Bethesda, Maryland, near Washington, DC, with my husband, Kevin. I enjoy painting, going out with friends, swimming, reading, movies, galleries and of course, browsing in the children’s sections of book stores and libraries!

My Books

The Eye of the Whale

The Eye of the Whale - A Rescue Story

Written and illustrated by Jennifer O’Connell
2013 - Hardcover - Tilbury House Publishers - 978-0-88448-335-9

On a cool December morning off the coast of San Francisco a local fisherman radioed a distress call to shore. He had discovered a humpback whale tangled in hundreds of yards of crab-trap lines, struggling to stay at the surface to breathe. A team of volunteers answered the call, and four divers risked their lives to rescue the enormous animal. What followed was a rare and remarkable demonstration of animal behavior.

This celebrated story will make you wonder about animal emotions and the unique connections we can have with animals - even whales.

“This true story of courage and compassion is brought to life by stunning illustrations.  You will be awed and humbled by the deep connections possible between humans and animals.  And you will be inspired to do all you can to help protect whales.” 
Jane Goodall, Founder - the Jane Goodall Institute & UN Messenger of Peace

“...The drawings and the story are simply enchanting. I don't believe it is possible to read this without tears, but good tears for a change!...” 
Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson, New York Times bestselling author of When Elephants Weep

It's Halloween Night

It’s Halloween Night!


Written by Jennifer O’Connell
Illustrated by Jennifer Morris
2012 - Paperback - Scholastic/Cartwheel Books - 13: 978-0-55-40283-5 $16.95


Before Halloween night begins, a creative group of trick-or-treaters get their costumes ready and play a guessing game with the reader. Then they run to the first house, ring the bell and yell, “trick-or-treat!”

“Looking for a Halloween read-aloud that will keep young children engaged and thinking? If your answer is "yes," then It's Halloween Night! will be a sure win.

In addition to a fun first-read, the rhyming and predictable text pattern makes the book a good choice for beginning readers. Teachers may also want to chart the text for choral reading and word family work. It's Halloween Night is a versatile picture book and a positive addition to any primary grade classroom.”
-- Maria Lamattina, EdD. (Children’s Literature)

“Simple rhyming sentences and colorful, uncluttered illustrations give clues to the costume, but the answer isn't revealed until the page is turned. Children can find stars, spiders, bats, and pumpkins hidden in the backgrounds of each colorful spread. This not-so-scary Halloween book is filled with smiles and treats.”
-- Tanya Boudreau, Cold Lake Public Library, AB, Canada (School Library Journal)

Ten Timid Ghosts on a Christmas Night
Merry Christmas: A Storybook Collection
Featuring: Ten Timid Ghosts on a Christmas Night
Written and illustrated by Jennifer O’Connell
2007 - Hardcover - Scholastic/Cartwheel Books - 0-545-01341-0 $7.99

It’s Christmas Eve day and the ten timid ghosts discover Christmas decorations up in the attic. They find a tree, decorate it, and put up lights outside. Will Christmas come? Join the ghosts as they hear, see, smell and feel strange things in the air that night. Is someone coming? Is that a sleigh in the sky? Count from one to ten with the ghosts as they experience the magical spirit of Christmas!

Ten Timid Ghosts
Ten Timid Ghosts

Written and illustrated by Jennifer O’Connell
2000 - Paperback - Scholastic/Cartwheel Books - 0-439-31741-x $3.99

New York Times, Publishers Weekly, USA Today Bestseller

It’s Halloween, and ten timid ghosts in a haunted house have a problem: a mean witch has moved into their house and plots to scare them out, one by one! Young trick-or-treaters learn to count down from ten to one as each ghost flies away from the witch’s silly costumes and homemade props. When the homeless ghosts gather in the woods, their fear turns to determination and they plot their return. Will the ghosts frighten the witch in time for Halloween night?

“I chose this book to use in a math workshop for kindergarten and first grade teachers. Teachers enjoyed the book and were excited about using it in their classrooms. It is a great resource to use during the month of October to help students recognize numbers and work with number combinations. Not only did the teachers love the book, but my four-year old son also loved the book. Despite the fact that Halloween is long over, he still insists on reading it all the time. He loves the illustrations and the story line. It is a wonderful book with clever and predictable word patterns that also encourages young children to practice recognizing their numbers.”

“For young kids who crave just a little scare, this book will be a good choice and great fun for Halloween.”
--Marilyn Courtot, Children’s Literature

In Spanish -
Diez fantasmitas timidos - 0-439-31741-x $3.25

A Garden of Whales
A Garden of WhalesWritten by Maggie Davis
Illustrated by Jennifer O’Connell
1993 - Paperback - Firefly Books - 0-944475-35-3 - $6.95

“The story unfolds thorugh the eyes of a young boy who dreams of the whales and of the dangers that surround them. When he is unable to warn them, he enlists the help of his friends and, with the tears of whales present and past, creates a magical whale garden to repopulate the sea with these majestic creatures...The book gently delivers to children the important message that this magnificent and endangered species must be protected and preserved before it's too late.”
-Hugh Bowden, Ellsworth American

“O’Connell fully enters Davis’s dream and strikingly echoes the fluent reverie. This is a bedtime read-aloud that will set heads nodding.”
-Publishers Weekly

Awards - Highlights

  • Ten Timid Ghosts is a New York Times, Publishers Weekly and USA Today bestseller and has sold more than 650,000 copies.
  • Promise Not To Tell received The Christopher Medal. (by Caroline Polese, 1985)
  • Imagine That! - Exploring Make-Believe received The Christopher Medal. (by Joyce Strauss, 1984)

  • A Garden of Whales received The Vermont Publishers Association Special Merit Award and is now in its fifth printing. (by Maggie Davis, 1993)


To learn about Jennifer O’Connell’s presentations, see our Speakers Bureau.

To learn more about Jennifer, her art and her books, please visit: www.JenniferOConnellArt.Com and



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