Howard County author K. Michael Crawford may make a living by writing and illustrating children’s books, but she doesn’t have any kids of her own. She prefers to rent them, spoil them rotten, and then give them back. Less costly.

Which is code for there are a lot of beloved nieces, nephews and godchildren in her life.

A life-long resident of Maryland, Crawford believes that life is lived best through imagination — a personal mantra that permeates her work. Although she declared at age 12 she would be the next Dr. Seuss, she made a few career stops in business and advertising — and teaching — before settling into her own publishing company. Complete with her Happily Ever Art studio that has shrunken apple heads suspended from the ceiling. 

“I believe those experiences helped get me to where I am today,” said Crawford in a phone interview last week. “I  learned how to run a business, which was important being an artist. A lot of artists produce great work but don’t know how to get paid for it.”

So how did she end up in the world of children’s lit? Crawford believes she was simply well suited for it. “I’m a 5-year-old at heart,” she said. “I play with the best of them.”

She added that she eats her veggies with pudding. Because it helps them slide down better. {Does that sound like the five-year-old in your life?}

Play is they heart of Crawford’s work. Each of her stories is a magical journey full of clues that prompt children to use their own imagination. She wanted to provide an opportunity for children to go on literary adventures through puzzles by becoming a spy and deciphering clues, drawing their way through a mystery, or coloring life into pages. All with gorgeous, whimsical illustrations and child-sized thought-provoking text.

If there was one passion in Crawford’s life besides drawing, it would be cultivating imagination. During our chat, she spoke fervently about the need to reclaim our children’s imaginative lives. Former gifted and talented students sparked Crawford’s foray into activity-based books. She was teaching a comic book design class for 7 to 10-year-olds and many of them seemed to struggle with creative problem solving. For example, students would ask her for the ‘correct’ colors to use for a character they were creating. Crawford found herself guiding them to make their own choices through a series of decision making prompts. It puzzled her that such young minds would have difficulty coming to conclusions where the ‘one right answer’ was whatever they as the author or illustrator could imagine.

“I was so mad,” said Crawford. “I knew I had to do something.”

The titles of her books (Professor Horton Hogwash’s Museum of Ridiculous or Batty Malgooney’s Mystic Carnivale, for example) conjure up thoughts of a certain multi-billion dollar wizard, but the characters themselves have a certain Disney-esque about them. Not entirely surprising since Crawford studied with Disney artists for several years and even worked on the Pooh and Friends series.

Her most recent book, One Whimsical Zoofari, is specifically designed for ages 4-7. Fourteen different clues and activities are included in the coloring zoo-venture, due to be available to the public through her website this month for just $10.

“I believe in a magical life. And everyone can have a magical life if they use their imaginations.”

GIVEAWAY: 
Guess what? We’re kicking off a WEEK’S WORTH OF TREATS (that means giveaways) today, starting with a signed copy of One Whimsical Safari. Perfect for the preschooler in your life and will be delivered in time for holiday giving. Want to win it? Just fill out this quick form by midnight EDT on Sunday, October 30th. Check back every day for another giveaway!

ACTIVITY DOWNLOAD:
K. Michael Crawford was kind enough to send along an activity page for you to share with your child. Let’s get creative! (Download the PDF document)

(cool) tip: Want to see K. Michael Crawford in person? She will be at the Sykesville Apple Butter Festival this Sunday (October 30th) from 8 AM – 2 PM and at the November 12th Art Guild Show and Authors Day at the Carroll County Ag Center. To find out about more upcoming events, follow her on facebook.