Jacki Kellum and Her Picture Books – Mrs. Cow Is Her Selfie

“She has bells that jing-a-ling, to wear on Christmas Day.” –
This was my Christmas card for 2022

One of the most special things that I do is that I write and illustrate picture books.  You might be thinking: “Jacki Kellum, you spread yourself too thin.” And you are correct. But by the grace of God, my debut picture book 3ill be released by Doubleday for Young Readers this fall. Honestly, I haven’t dedicated nearly enough time to my picture book writing, and the very talented Sydney Hanson is illustrating my debut picture book, A Donkey’s Song, Believe me, Hanson’s illustrations are fabulous. They are not at all like my wacky illustrations. Thank goodness for that. My debut picture book is about the birth of Baby Jesus, from the Donkey’s point of view. My illustration style is totally inappropriate for that book.

My illustrations are funny. They are almost irreverently funny, and my favorite character, Mrs. Cow, is my own self-portrait.

Your immediate reaction might be that in saying that I am like a cow, I am being unkind to myself, but that is not at all the truth. I love to laugh, and Mrs. Cow is how I perceive some of the eccentric and funny sides of myself. Fortunately,  I have matured enough that I am able to enjoy a good laugh at myself.

“It takes more than just awareness for us to change. It takes courage and humility and the willingness to occasionally feel like fools and laugh at ourselves.”
― Bud Harris, Sacred Selfishness: A Guide to Living a Life of Substance

Allow me to tell you how Mrs. Cow and I are alike:

Mrs. Cow Down on the Farm

Mrs. Cow is a rural being, and I myself grew up in a very rural community in the cotton-growing Delta near the Mississippi River.

I created most of my illustrations of Mrs. Cow for my picture book manuscript Lots of Socks.

Following are some of the rough first sketches for that book.

“Mrs. Cow is very thrilled. A box came in the mail It’s from the place she ordered Lots of Socks that were on sale.”

“Socks with big, bright polka dots” – Jacki Kellum Illustration Sketch
[Hear me! I love polka dots, and some of the most entertaining moments of my childhood were spent at circuses. Other than that, my entire life has been that of tiptoeing across a tightrope.]

“Socks with stripes” – Jacki Kellum Illustration Sketch
I grew up in the middle of a cotton patch–far, far away from the ocean. But my dad built a travel trailer on a pickup truck axle. Because of that, my family made several trips to Florida, when I was a child. For the past 18 years, I lived on the Jersey Shore. Perhaps Socks with Stripes is me on the Jersey Shore.

“And flowers” – Jacki Kellum Illustration Sketch
Everyone who knows me knows that I am an avid gardener. 

Mrs. Cow in another of Jacki Kellum’s Picture Books – Waking Up the Sun
“The Cow must be milked. The Chicks must be fed.”

Mrs. Cow’s Calf

“Bavarian Cow” – Jacki Kellum Acrylic Painting
The Bavarian Cow is not an illustration for my book. It is more about the fact that I have a German heritage. In m opinion, nothing could be better than an opportunity to dance the polka on the Rhine.

Again, I love to laugh. I love to dance, and my Mrs. Cow is a tribute to that laughing, dancing, [sometimes foolishly] side of myself.