Author/Illustrator: Bethesda, MD
E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Books: The Eye of the Whale (written and illustrated by Jennifer O'Connell, Tilbury House Publishers, 2013) features a dramatic well-known whale entanglement rescue and the extraordinary animal behavior that it evoked.

Harvest Party! (written by Jennifer O'Connell and illustrated by Mike Wohnoutka, Cartwheel/Scholastic Book Clubs, 2015) is a counting book about two young farmers who discover missing things all around the farm, only to discover that the farm animals have "borrowed" these items for a surprise harvest party!

It's Halloween Night! (written by Jennifer O'Connell and illustrated by Jennifer Morris, Cartwheel/Scholastic, 2012) celebrates the excitement of Halloween with a costume guessing game as five young friends get ready for trick-or-treating.

Merry Christmas: A Storybook Collection (Cartwheel/Scholastic, 2007) includes Ten Timid Ghosts on a Christmas Night, written and illustrated by Jennifer O'Connell.

Ten Timid Ghosts (written and illustrated by Jennifer O'Connell, Cartwheel/Scholastic, 2000) is a counting book about ten timid ghosts who plot to take their house back after a mean witch scares them out, one by one.

A Garden of Whales (written by Maggie Davis and illustrated by Jennifer O'Connell, Firefly Books, 1993) is the story of a boy who dreams of the endangered whales that he loves. In this fantasy, he grows whales in a secret garden and returns them back to the ocean.
Fee: $700 for one presentation and $150 for each additional presentation in the Washington DC area. For visits outside the DC area, workshops, adult groups or Skype presentations, please call or email to discuss your needs.
Availability: I frequently present to grades K-5, but am equally comfortable with and have presented to older students and adults as well as preschoolers.

I am happy to autograph books on the day of the visit. There is book ordering information and an order form on my web site under "Programs." The form can be customized with your school's information and copied for distribution to teachers and parents.

Features: I would love to visit your school to share with the students, teachers and parents my process of creating picture books. Students will learn firsthand how books are written and illustrated and will be inspired to create their own stories and books!

Creating The Eye of the Whale (All Ages)

In this interactive presentation, I share the many steps that went into writing and illustrating The Eye of the Whale. The process included exciting research, interviewing the lead diver of the rescue and motoring out to sea on the rescue boat, Superfish. With PowerPoint slides and props I show the many drafts, storyboards, sketches, dummy books and final paintings that went into the book. I stress how multiple revisions were an integral part of the process. I also discuss ways in which we all can take action to become stewards of the natural world.

Then, playing recorded music, I sketch several whales in pastel on a large piece of dark blue paper, which I leave with the group. I share fascinating facts about whales and pass around a life-size model "tooth" of a sperm whale. I unfurl and display a life-size painting of a newborn baby blue whale that is 23-feet long. I also show a 19-foot wide painting of a life-size humpback whale's tail.

A lively Q & A session follows. 45 minutes

How Ten Timid Ghosts Came to Life (all Ages)

In this spirited presentation, I discuss the creation of my picture book, Ten Timid Ghosts. Using PowerPoint slides and props, I show my sketches, dummy books, revisions and final illustrations as I share how the book came to life.

Toward the end of the presentation, the audience directs me as I draw, and together we create our own unique new character. Playing spooky music, I sketch in the setting. Next we all make up a story about our character. The drawing remains with the class and the children are often inspired to create new tales about our character!

A lively Q & A session follows. 45 minutes

Making Picture Books is Fun!

A Program and Drawing Exercise (K - Adult)


In this new program, using keynote slides, I discuss my beginnings and how I came to be an author and illustrator. I share key challenges I have experienced when creating my fiction and nonfiction picture books. Next I lead the group through a simple drawing exercise where each student creates four unique characters with four different emotions in four settings. This often flows into stories about the characters that the older children can later write down in class.

All students have had great success and fun with this activity. Smaller groups are best, but I've done this program with three classes at a time and it worked beautifully with the help of the teachers. Materials needed are a sheet of copy paper and pencil (with an eraser) for each student.

Workshop - Let's Create a Picture Book! (Grades 2 - Adult)

After reading one of my picture books to the group, I briefly discuss how I created the story and key aspects to consider when creating a picture book. With the participation of the class, I demonstrate how to use six grab-bag 'idea boxes' to create a picture book with provided paper, pencils and markers. Then everyone picks ideas from the boxes and soon there are exciting new characters, stories and pictures coming alive in the room. No one is required to use any of the grab-bag ideas for their story, but they are great fun and tend to spark everyone's creativity and imagination! Each participant puts his/her own picture book together using bristol paper for the cover, hole punched white paper for the pages and decorative fasteners.  45 - 60 minutes (can be longer)

Testimonials: "Jennifer O'Connell's presentations to our students were magnificent! She was able to speak to each group at their level and keep their interest throughout the hour. Students sat up, incredulous, when they saw the size of a baby whale in Ms. O'Connell's mural! Then they sat back, calmed by the gentle music, as Ms. O'Connell painted a whale parade just for us! Her love for art, story-telling and children was apparent in every aspect of her visit, especially the extra care and time she put into making it special for our students."—Jennifer Stacey, NBCT, Library Media Specialist, Patrick Henry Elementary School, Arlington, VA


"... Jennifer O'Connell's unique and passionate presentation was an inspiration to us all! It was quite moving to watch her draw the most beautiful life-like whales before our very eyes while listening to the same soothing music that she used for inspiration..."-Mary Lisa Geppert, Head, The Primary Day School, Bethesda, MD

"...The children loved your presentation. ...You have a special gift with an audience."
-Eleanor Fall, Librarian, Loudon Country Day School

"I believe that I want to be an artist when I grow up, so I was greatly influenced by what you had to say. You taught us to never give up trying."—Sarah, student, Bradley Hills Elementary School, MD


"Jennifer O'Connell gave a wonderful program based on her new children's book, "The Eye of the Whale - A Rescue Story." Not only did Jennifer read the book to the youngsters, but she explained to them and their parents how she had reconstructed the rescuers' journey into the Pacific beyond the Golden Gate Bridge, and how she used photographs from that boat trip to inspire her fascinating painted illustrations for the book. An enormous painting of a humpback whale's tail provided an awesome backdrop to Jennifer's presentation. I highly recommend her program and, of course, the book!"  —Tim Troy, Children's Librarian, Children's Center, San Francisco Public Library, CA

"...The students loved you and are still fighting over who can check out your books."
—Roslyn Beitler, Library Media Specialist, Kate Waller Barrett Elementary School,   Arlington, VA

"Mrs. O'Connell's enthusiasm for the subject matter was notable at every turn of her intriguing presentation. Weaving her own childhood narrative and photos as a little girl together with her eventual career as an illustrator, captured the children's attention right away. They listened attentively and at times, with mouths gaping wide. …Mrs. O'Connell managed to add fascinating new pieces of information to build on (the children's) existing  body of knowledge. Just the model tooth of a sperm whale alone, the size of a medium size water bottle, elicited gasps of wonder." -Ingrid Wrausmann, Elementary School English Chair, The German School of Washington, DC

"Jennifer captivated our 900+ 7th and 8th graders with two presentations about the process of writing her book, The Eye of the Whale. She gave students a window into her world as she described how she brought this amazing true rescue story to light for all ages. She spoke passionately and honestly about the journey from researching to writing (and re-writing).…Teachers and students alike raved about Jennifer's visit. She is knowledgeable, sincere, approachable and so very talented. I highly recommend her program." —Janice Killian, Reading Specialist, Herndon Middle School, Fairfax County, VA

"You were a huge hit at the preschool. Everyone especially loved your music and drawing. I've never heard a room full of preschoolers so quiet!"—Caroline Hickey, Chevy Chase - Bethesda Community Children's Center, Washington, DC

Awards and highlights:


  • The Eye of the Whale
    • Green Earth Book Award
    • Moonbeam Gold Award
    • Maryland Blue Crab Award, Honor Book
    • Macy's Multicultural Collection of Children's Literature
    • The Society of School Librarians International, Honor Book
    • Maine Literary Awards Finalist
  • Ten Timid Ghosts is a New York Times, Publishers Weekly and USA Today bestseller and has sold more than 800,000 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 (by Maggie Davis, 1993)




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