Tom Leonard, Children's Book Illustrator and Author and College Illustration Teacher

I illustrate (and sometimes write) books about animals, nature, endangered environments, and music.

Tom Leonard has taught Illustration and History of Illustration at UArts in Philadelphia for many years. His editorial work has appeared in Readers Digest, Psychology Today, Science Digest, to name a few. He has illustrated many children’s book for a wide variety of publishers, including Hyperion, Harper-Collins, Golden, Creative Editions, and Sleeping Bear Press. Most of those books have had a view toward nature. His recent book, Becoming Bach (Roaring Brook Press), is the first he wrote and illustrated. In it, he explores his favorite subject, the art of music and the music of art. He has also illustrated two new books coming out this year: The Crab Alphabet Book and The Sea Mammal Book (Charlesbridge). He lives in South Philadelphia with his wife, Rose, and loves jazz music and magic realism.

The most important thing the author wants readers to gain from his books:

In my nature books, I want the reader to appreciate the exquisite beauty of nature and animals. I also want them to understand the importance of keeping the environment safe for people and animals. The connectedness of life. In my book, Becoming Bach, I want the reader to be able to view art, music, and nature as one complete whole. The interconnection of all three.

Why the author is an authority on the subject of her book:

For Becoming Bach, I researched everything known about the composer. I searched for the things that inspired and influenced him. I spent three years on the project. I attempted to create art that correlated with his music. For my nature books, I meticulously research the look and behavior of all the animals and environments that I'm illustrating.


Here is the Coral Reef—Named an Outstanding Science Trade Book for Children 1999 by the National Science Teacher's Association / Children's Book Council

Here is the African Savanna—Named an Outstanding Science Trade Book for Children 2000 by the National Science Teacher's Association / Children's Book Council

One Small Place in a Tree—Named an Outstanding Science Trade Book for Children 2004 by the National Science Teacher's Association / Children's Book Council Best In Show, Phillustration Show 7, Sketch Club, Philadelphia, 2015 First Place, Book category, Phillustration Show 8, Sketch Club, Philadelphia, 2016 Cynthia Iliff Koehler Distinguished Teaching Award (2016), Teaching award from University of the Arts, Phila. Pa.

Becoming Bach—Book of the Month, Amazon Books, February 2017


Social Media:


Speaking Engagements and School Presentations:

My presentations vary depending on the age of the students. For very young students, I use a large sketchpad and draw funny things. For example, I'll take a students initials and make it into a funny face. Or, I'll draw portraits of some of the students. I'll also read the books to them, with parts where they read along. For older students, I'll show my entire process from my rough sketches to my final paintings. I may demonstrate painting techniques, but all with good humor, and always emphasizing the subject of the book I'm talking about. With Becoming Bach, I might play a piece of Bach's music and show how I tried to create an image based on the music. I talk about the colors and the pictures of music.

Presentation Audience:


Grades K-3

Grades 4-6


Less than 5 appearances



Willing to travel within 100 miles of Philadelphia.

Book Type:

Picture book

Children's Non-Fiction