East student illustrates children’s book

by Nikitha Kamath

Kathleen Mancuso, a teacher aide in the Williamsville Central School District, recently published her fourth children’s book, The Great (Grate) Book of Homophones, which was illustrated by Williamsville East Senior Isabella Krawczyk. Looking for a new illustrator for her latest book, Mancuso decided to hold a contest for art students in the district with the best submission being given the opportunity to collaborate with her. Among all the entrants for the illustration contest, Bella’s artwork stood out the most to Mancuso, as she shared, “[The entries] were all really good, but I just loved Bella’s so much. I saw it and said, ‘Oh my gosh, that’s what I want, exactly.’ I wanted whimsical looking artwork, and I love the expressions she has on people’s faces … It’s just amazing.” 

Bella enjoys working with digital art and has taught herself the ways of Procreate, a digital art application for iOS and iPadOS. Although the beginnings of her journey in art consisted mainly of drawing characters from her favorite books and TV shows, Bella has since branched out and applies her skills to create original artwork. “Bella has always had a sketchbook and pencil in her hand for as long as Ie known her, so it’s really wonderful to see all of the hard work she’s put in through the years to pan out for her,” said her friend and fellow Senior Puja Shah when she heard about the publication of the book. 

The Great (Grate) Book of Homophones is Bella’s first published work, and she shared that this project took up a major part of her summer. This book was written to teach children about homophones, and accordingly, plays on words in amusing ways to deliver this complex idea to young readers. For instance, “I went to the sea, and what did I see? A big old catfish, waving at me,” the first page reads. The Great (Grate) Book of Homophones and Mancuso’s other works are available for purchase on Amazon as well as at local bookstores such as Dog Ears Bookstore in South Buffalo, Monkey See Monkey Do Children’s Bookstore in Clarence, and The Bookworm in East Aurora. Additionally, Mancuso has expressed that she would love for this talented senior to collaborate on several of her future publications. 

In order to learn more about Bella’s thoughts, we sat down with her for a couple questions about the project: 

1. What were your first thoughts upon hearing that you won the contest? 

When I first heard that I won the contest, I was both incredibly excited and also surprised, I didn’t think she would choose me.

2. Working on art as a hobby is understandably different from participating in a professional project. What are some of your takeaways from the experience? 

Collaborating with someone definitely made me more aware of what I was drawing, since the art wasn’t just for me this time, it was for her and everyone else that would read the book. It was kind of intimidating.

3. How does it feel to see your work being published? 

Seeing my work in an actual published book makes me feel really accomplished. It makes me feel like I’m finally starting to go somewhere.

4. Although it may be hard to choose, what is your favorite part of the project and what did you find the most challenging?

My favorite part was the drawing, of course. It was also the most challenging.

7. How did you become interested in art and what are some of your favorite things to draw?

My interest in art bloomed after some friends and I had the temporary idea to make a comic together back in middle school. I was appointed the artist despite not being very good, so I bought an art book to help me. I fell in love with it, and even though the comic never happened, I kept drawing.

8. Looking ahead, what are your plans for after graduation and do they include art?

I definitely want to go to college for art, it’s something I could see myself doing for the rest of my life. 

I believe I speak for everyone at East when I say that we are proud of Bella’s achievement and wish her the very best in her future endeavors!

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