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Mary Jane Begin is a Rhode-Island-based award-winning Illustrator known in particular for her acclaimed and much-beloved children’s picture books. Her portfolio includes The Wind in the Willows, A Mouse Told His Mother, Little Mouse's Painting, Before I Go To Sleep, The Porcupine Mouse, and Jeremy's First Haircut. In the Fall of 2005 she released not one but two new works- her own retelling of the classic The Sorcerer’s Apprentice  for Little Brown and Company, and R is for Rhode Island Red  for Sleeping Bear Press, a paean to her home state of Rhode Island. She is currently working on her own series Willow Buds for Little Brown and Company, slated for publication in Spring 2008. 

Her illustrating career began as a student at the Rhode Island School of Design, where she has been teaching as a member of the faculty in the Illustration Department for 15 years. 

She has had one woman shows at Books of Wonder Gallery in New York and Beverly Hills as well as RisdWorks at the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence.  She has also exhibited at the RISD Faculty Biennial, RISD Museum, Society of Illustrators (NY), The DeCordova Museum (MA), Elizabeth Stone Gallery (MI),  Every Picture Tells a Story,  and Storyopolis (CA). She most recently exhibited in a two person show at the Providence Art Club, a group show at the Newport Art Museum -Legends in Illustration and a solo show at the Rhode Island State House.  She is exhibiting in the Members Gallery at the Society of Illustrators in November 2006. 

She is the recipient of many awards, including The Steven Donahos Award and multiple Certificates of Merit from the Society of Illustrators, multiple Awards of Excellence from Communications Arts, the Irma Simonton Black Award, the Critici Erba Prize at the Bologna Book Fair, Italy, and First Place, Juvenile Trade, at the New York Book Show, New York and the Providence Art Club’s Ruth W. Finley Award. Her work has been featured in Communication Arts Magazine, the Society of Illustrators Annual of American Illustration, and American Art in Review Magazine.  

Her advertising and merchandising work includes imagery for greeting cards, posters, prints, games, mugs, gifts, textbooks, magazines, and advertisements for such clients as Hasbro, Milton Bradley, Celestial Seasonings, Annie’s HomeGrown, See's Candies, Franklin Mint, Disney, Pearson Education, Harcourt Publishing, Scott Foresman and Company, Macmillan McGraw Hill and Dalmatian Press. 

She has been a panelist and participant in numerous conferences and workshops, including the Rhode Island Festival of Children's Books and Authors, the National Family Literacy Conference, the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators Conference, and the NEA Teacher's Conference.  

She has lectured at elementary schools throughout the United States, and has also provided pro bono and charity work for the American Library Association, the Rhode Island Library Association, Save the Bay, Horizons Initiative,  Gateway Healthcare,   Hasbro Children’s Hospital, All Children’s Theatre, The Providence Community Health Center, and Reach Out and Read Rhode Island.  

When not teaching or painting, she can be found reading bedtime stories to her husband and two children in Barrington, RI.  For further imagery and information, see or e-mail


Published Books

My Little Pony: Under the Sparkling Sea
by Mary Jane Begin (Artist) Age Range: 3 - 6 years Grade Level: Preschool - 1
Hardcover: 48 pages Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (April 23, 2013)
ISBN-10: 0316245593 ISBN-13: 978-0316245593 order.gif (1197 bytes) 94X32-W-LOGO.GIF (1338 bytes)

This gorgeous illustrated picture book features a brand-new My Little Pony underwater adventure, and includes an exclusive art poster!

When Twilight Sparkle receives an invitation to visit the underwater city of Aquastria, she invites all her pony friends and Spike to travel with her. The ponies are welcomed by the ruler of Aquastria, King Leo, who sits on the Cosmic Council alongside his cousin, Princess Celestia. There is a long-held rivalry between the seaponies and the mermares. The two groups compete each year in a race for the grand prize, which is a beautiful pearl. Join the ponies and Spike as they confront danger, make new friends and race to the finish in this shimmering new world!

Children's Literature - Miranda McClain
. . .
fans of My Little Pony will ... find enjoyment in hearing about how their favorite characters made new friends under the sea. That is where this story takes place, as a group of ponies' journey to watch the annual Aquastria Race with their friends the seaponies. After a freak accident, their new friend Arrow is unable to race so Rainbow Dash decides to enter in his place to help his team. When a super fast mermare who passes her becomes trapped by a falling rock, Rainbow Dash makes the courageous decision to rescue the fallen competitor; Nar Wally helps. What ensues is the first-ever Aquastria Race tie. Everyone celebrates and Rainbow Dash and Nar Wally are both recognized for their bravery. The bright rainbow-hued illustrations liven up . . . .

Willow Buds #2: When Toady Met Ratty

by Mary Jane Begin (Author) Reading level: Ages 4-8 Hardcover: 40 pages Publisher: Little, Brown Young Readers (October 1, 2008)

ISBN-10: 0316013536 ISBN-13: 978-0316013536 order.gif (1197 bytes) 94X32-W-LOGO.GIF (1338 bytes)

Inspired by the perennial classic The Wind and the Willows, this picture book series features Toady, Badger, Ratty, and Mole as young buds discovering the true meaning of friendship.

In this story about the challenges of sharing a friend, Badger introduces Toady to his
other friend, Ratty. Pampered Toady and nature-lover Ratty don't exactly hit it off, and both are jealous of the other's friendship with Badger. But after a trip to the carnival where Badger needs help from both pals, they can see that three doesn't always have to be a crowd!


Willow Buds #1: The Tale of Toad and Badger (Willow Buds) Reading level: Ages 4-8 Hardcover: 40 pages Publisher: Little, Brown Young Readers (April 1, 2008)

ISBN-10: 0316013528 ISBN-13: 978-0316013529 order.gif (1197 bytes) 94X32-W-LOGO.GIF (1338 bytes)

Discover the world before The Wind in the Willows, the beloved classic by Kenneth Grahame--when the childhood adventures of best buds Ratty, Toady, Badger and Mole were just beginning! In this first tale, Archibald Toad the Third is used to having everything he wants to himself. So he's in for an unpleasant surprise when the new nanny brings her gentle son, Badger, to share in all that Toad Hall has to offer. Though Toady and Badger get off to a rocky start, they soon learn that having a true friend is worth a whole lot more than having all the toys in the world.



Socerer.jpg (52522 bytes)The Sorcerer's Apprentice by Mary Jane Begin Reading level: Ages 4-8 Hardcover: 32 pages Publisher: Little, Brown Young Readers (November 2, 2005)
ISBN: 0316736112
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Wander hither across the floor
Go up the stairs and out the door
fetch some water from the well
fill the cauldron.  heed my spell!
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The sorcerer’s apprentice can’t help but wonder why she must spend her days cleaning and sweeping instead of practicing magic. Will she ever learn how to cast a spell? But the sorcerer had taught her that there are some things we must do for ourselves. And so the apprentice, taking matters into her own hands, beckons a broom to come to life and do her chores—until the broom’s power is more than the girl can handle.

From its origins in ancient Greece to its popular incarnation in Disney’s Fantasia, this stunning new version of the tale shows that passion and hard work, tempered by patience and discipline, can help make dreams come true. With her own unique touch of artistic wizardry, Mary Jane Begin magically portrays a valuable lesson for all times.

Editorial Reviews
From School Library Journal... The retelling is .... smooth, and the attractive acrylic paintings add drama and bits of fun. Single-page illustrations face text pages that are occasionally adorned with smaller vignettes and surrounded with rich blue borders decorated with objects of the sorcerers trade. The girl appears as a young adolescent, while the sorcerer is blonde and blue-eyed; both are beautifully costumed, she in Elizabethan-style dress and he in a fur-trimmed aqua robe and deep blue cape and hat. Begin's.... handsome rendering will be welcome in most libraries.–Margaret Bush, Simmons College, Boston Copyright Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist  There are surprisingly few picture-book retellings of the classic story of the sorcerer's apprentice, perhaps because the imagery from Disney's Fantasia casts such a long shadow. Begin follows the story line closely--complete with anthropomorphic broomsticks, a chaotic flood, and a lesson learned--diverging only in the replacement of Mickey Mouse with a human girl. ...Her velvety acrylic paintings are appealingly cluttered with archetypal magician's-workshop details, and her characters... wear ornate, flowing medieval costumes. ... many kids appreciate a picture book that allows them to experience a favorite movie in a new (but still recognizable) way, and the connections between "sorcerers"and "wizards"will not be overlooked by youngsters who have caught the fantasy bug from their elders. Jennifer Mattson Copyright American Library Association. All rights reserved

RisForRhodeIsland.jpg (43629 bytes)R is for Rhode Island Red: A Rhode Island Alphabet Edition 1. (Discover America State By State. Alphabet Series) (Board book) by Mark R. Allio (author) , Mary Jane Begin (Illustrator) Reading level: Ages 4-8 Board book: 40 pages Publisher: Sleeping Bear Press; 1 edition (October 7, 2005)
ISBN: 1585361496
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Our alphabet journey takes us next to the charming state of Rhode Island in R is for Rhode Island Red: A Rhode Island Alphabet. It may be our smallest state but its presence is unmistakable -- rich in history, breathtaking beauty, and famous for its neighborhoods filled with character.
With every turned page readers will be treated to Rhode Island's incredible scenery and have their many questions answered about our thirteenth state. Rhode Island has how many miles of coastline? The breathtaking beauty of Block Island is one of the state's how many islands? Readers will also learn how Rhode Island native Samuel Slater started the American Industrial Revolution, and what the quahog is.

Rhode Island Red is Mark R. Allio's first children's book. He lives in Barrington, Rhode Island Award winning illustrator Mary Jane Begin has illustrated many children's books. She lives in Barrington, Rhode Island with her husband Mark Allio.

Cover-TheWindintheWillowswebsite.jpg (679663 bytes)The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame, Mary Jane Begin (Illustrator) 208 pages Reading level: All Ages Edition: Hardcover Publisher: SeaStar; a division of North-South

ISBN: 1587172046; (October 2002)
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For nearly a century, steadfast friends Mole, Rat, Badger, and Toad have enchanted and entertained readers around the world with their adventures-rowing on the river, delving into the sinister Wild Wood, and exploring the open road. Now Kenneth Grahame's time-honored work comes to life as never before in 30 of Mary Jane Begin's inspired full-color paintings. From the friends' first picnic on River Bank to their final rousing defense of Toad Hall, Begin's cheerful, sparkling art captures all the magic and merriment of this enduring classic. Here is a 208-page deluxe edition that belongs on every child's bookshelf.

Editorial Reviews
From Publishers Weekly Mary Jane Begin illustrates the classic story of Mole, Badger, Rat and Toad, The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame. Each chapter opens with a vignette and includes a full-page painting of a dramatic moment in the proceedings. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

amousetoldhismother.jpg (148213 bytes)A Mouse Told His Mother by Bethany. Roberts, Mary Jane Begin (Illustrator) 32 pages Reading level: Ages 4-8 Publisher: Little Brown & Co (Juvenile Trade);
Hardcover ASIN: 0316749826; (April 1997)
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Paperback ISBN: 0316749583 Reprint (Sept.1999)
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Library Binding  Econo-Clad Books ISBN 0613220390 (Sept.1999)
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At bedtime, a mouse announces to his mother that he is going on a journey, and with the help of his imagination, taking a bath, brushing his teeth, and putting on pajamas are transformed into a treasure dive, a mountain climb, and a round-the-world flight.

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist A young mouse is on his way to bed--but you wouldn't know it from the way he talks. He is going on a trip, he is off to catch a crocodile, he is climbing up snowcapped mountains. Wise Mama Mouse gives him practical advice to temper his flights of fancy: he is going to bed; he should wash well and put on his warm pajamas. Roberts cleverly matches each of the little mouse's pronouncements with the more grounded recommendations from his mother. Begin, who appears to have specialized in drawing mouse worlds such as that in Pryor's Porcupine Mouse (1988), provides wonderful glossy artwork that fills the pages. She cleverly creates both the wide world of the little mouse's imagination and the cozier bedroom closer to home in this delightful nighttime lark. Ilene Cooper

From Kirkus Reviews A mouse child, at bedtime, tells his mother that he's going on a trip--to the moon, to dive for pirate treasure, to fly an airplane around the world, to explore a spooky cave, etc. Each exploit is suggested by something he sees around him--the boat in his bathtub, a toy plane, the dark ``cave'' under his bed. Without contradicting him, his mother gently brings him back to earth--and nearer bed--each time by reminding him to take his toothbrush, pack and extra blanket, and ``lights out now.'' In the delightful point- counterpoint between parent and child, Roberts (with Patricia Hubbell, Camel Caravan, 1996) follows the model of Margaret Wise Brown's Runaway Bunny; the parent wins this one, too, when the tired mouse drifts off to sleep with a smile on his face. Children will have fun matching the mouse's adventures with the everyday objects that inspire them. Begin has imagined the domestic details of a mouse's world with winsome humor: twig furniture, an acorn-cap washbasin, a bathtub made from an empty catfood tin; the pictures not only enhance the story, but really make it work. (Picture book. 3-7) -- Copyright 1997, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

From Horn Book 'The well-executed paintings contain tantalizing images of a mouse-sized world. -- Copyright 1997 The Horn Book, Inc. All rights reserved.

1587171252.01.LZZZZZZZ (48490 bytes)Little Mouse's Painting by Diane Wolkstein, Mary Jane Begin (Illustrator), 32 pages Reading level: Ages 4-8 Publisher: SeaStar a division of North-South
Hardcover ISBN: 1587171244 (March 2002)
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Paperback ISBN 1587171252; Reprint (March 2002)
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Little Mouse decides to make a painting. But when she shows the painting to her friends, they all have their own ideas about what's in the picture-and no one will listen to what Little Mouse has to say about it!
Diane Wolkstein's many-layered story celebrates the surprises of friendship and the joy of creativity-and Little Mouse's circle of friends is brought irresistibly to life in Mary Jane Begins' exquisite, jewel-like illustrations. First published in 1992 to great praise and attention, this beloved story is now available in paperback for the first time.

Editorial Reviews
From Publishers Weekly . . . Begin's color-saturated acrylics are masterfully exacted.  Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From Kirkus *Starred Review*. . . . carefully crafted story . . .  is brought to enchanting life in meticulous paintings. -- Copyright 1992, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

From Booklist *Starred Review* Wolkstein offers a unique story with depth and nuance that is matched by Begin's attention-grabbing art ..."

0688124240.01.LZZZZZZZ (47805 bytes)Before I Go to Sleep by Thomas Hood, Mary Jane Begin (Illustrator), Reading level: Ages 4-8 32 pages Publisher: Morrow Junior;

Library Binding:  ISBN: 0688124240; (April 1999)
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Paperback Pub: Sandcastle; ASIN: 0399224408; Reprint (April 1993)
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On a summer evening, when it's just too hot to sleep, a child amuses himself by imagining all the delightfully funny animals he would like to be. There's a tap-dancing giraffe, a musical chimpanzee, a mountain goat in silly socks ... the fun goes on and on until the boy - and young listeners - are finally ready for sleep. But before they drift off, children will enjoy looking for a special character who appears in each of the illustrations. Mary Jane Begin's lustrous, brilliantly detailed illustrations illuminate the imaginative night-dreams in Thomas Hood's classic nineteenth-century poem.

Editorial Reviews
From Horn Book Unable to sleep, a boy fantasizes about animals he'd like to be. From a mountain goat in ''pink and purple socks'' to a schoolmaster frog, he lets his imagination run wild in the humorous poem originally written more than 150 years ago. . . . whimsical, detailed illustrations . . . Copyright 1999 The Horn Book, Inc. All rights reserved.

1587171864.01.LZZZZZZZ (51390 bytes)The Porcupine Mouse by Bonnie Pryor, Mary Jane Begin (Illustrator) 32 pages  Reading level: Ages 4-8 Publisher: SeaStar, a division of North-South     Revised edition (August 2002) 
Hardcover  ISBN: 1587171856order.gif (1197 bytes) 94X32-W-LOGO.GIF (1338 bytes)
Paperback ISBN: 1587171864order.gif (1197 bytes) 94X32-W-LOGO.GIF (1338 bytes)

When Louie and Dan leave home, each wants to handle things his own way. Can these two little mice figure out how to get along-and survive the dangers of the forest? First published in 1988, a new generation of readers will fall in love with this delightfully lighthearted mouse adventure, featuring Mary Jane Begin's irresistible illustrations.

Bank Street College Children's Book Award 1989

Editorial Reviews
From Booklist *Starred Review* Pryor's story is warm and winning, fully matched by Begin's pictures, so alive that the cat and mouse brothers seem ready to spring off the pages.

Cover-Jeremy'sFirstHaircut.jpg (469092 bytes)Jeremy's First Haircut by Linda Walvoord Girard, Mary Jane Begin-Callanan (Illustrator) School & Library Binding: 24 pages Publisher: Albert Whitman & Co; ASIN:

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Editorial Reviews
From School Library Journal  2 Two-year-old Jeremy is in need of his first trim. After a little explaining and much coaxing, mom gets Jeremy into the chair where she tries, unsuccessfully, to administer the haircut. Jeremy scrambles away, and the attempt at barbering continues in the sandbox. By the time dad arrives home, the boy's hair is in a state of disarray. Finally, mom and dad alternate between cutting Jeremy's hair and distracting him until the task is eventually accomplished. Girard presents a light-hearted story to which most children will relate. Begin's full-page color drawings capture the mood nicely as Jeremy's appearance turns from ragamuffin to well-groomed little boy.. . .  Tom Hurlburt, Minneapolis Public Library


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Make a Picture, Tell a Story


My presentation consists of: 

  • An introduction that explains how I got started (the early illustrations at age six), where I went to school and was taught and inspired by Chris Van Allsburg, and how I came to be a teacher and artist, mother and wife.

  • An exploration of the process of making a picture book from rough "scribble" drawings, to research, final drafts and then paintings. This includes special art "secrets" and how to's through a slide presentation and lecture.

  • A question and answer session that allows for curious and inquiring minds wanting to know what it's like to work in fuzzy slippers, paint fur, make a mouse smile.

  • The presentation ends with an illustration game. A volunteer provides a "scribble" on a large pad or overhead projector and we look at the scribble from all angles: up, down and sideways. The audience offers ideas on what the scribble looks like, and then I offer what I see. I start to draw, allowing the audience to see an image emerge, than ask for details that will tell a story. If it's a character or creature, where does it live? What does it eat? Is it happy or sad? Why? What is it doing? What is its name? The audience provides the answer and I draw.

  • I provide sketches, thumbnail dummies, original art and samples of other types of illustration to augment the presentation.

  • I've done many lectures for schools in the area and throughout the U.S. for grades K - Undergraduate Studies, as well presentations for numerous conferences and workshops, including the Rhode Island Festival of Children's Books and Authors, the National Family Literary Conference, the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators Conference, and the NEA Teacher's Conference the National Education Association.


Mary Jane Begin prefers to do no more than 3 sessions per day and to include a book signing. The professional fee is $300 per session plus travel expenses if applicable.


Mary Jane Begin
30 Bay Road
Barrington, RI 02806

Phone/fax- 401-247-7978
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