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Kevin Hawkes’s Favorite Maine Place

The children’s-book illustrator finds inspiration at Grafton Notch State Park.

Grafton Notch State Park
Photo by Benjamin Williamson
By Sarah Stebbins
From our March 2024 issue

Growing up the son of an Air Force comptroller, children’s-book illustrator Kevin Hawkes lived all over the world. But it was a stint in Châteauroux, France, that made an outsize impression. “Those were years when my mom was reading Grimms’ Fairy Tales by firelight in a bone-cold house in a place with castles you could actually go to,” he says. “I attribute my interest in children’s books to living in that mysterious, magical place.”

Kevin Hawkes
Photo by Ren Hawkes

Today, Hawkes lives in Gorham and is the illustrator of more than 50 picture books, including Weslandia, by Newbery Medal winner Paul Fleischman, and the New York Times bestseller Library Lion, by Michelle Knudsen. Hawkes’s second book with Knudsen, Luigi: The Spider Who Wanted to Be a Kitten (Candlewick; hardcover; $18.99), rendered in his signature evocative style in pencil and acrylic wash, comes out this month. “It was a huge challenge to make a spider look not scary because spiders creep me out,” Hawkes says.

On hikes, that hasn’t stopped him from crawling around where arachnids lurk. Natural light and shadow have long informed his illustrations, and he recently became fascinated with the microworld at his feet. This August, his acrylic close-ups of tide and river pools will be on view at South Portland’s Ocean House Gallery. Among his favorite spots to find inspiration is western Maine’s Grafton Notch State Park. “I love the mountains there,” he says, “but lately I’ve been going to see what’s happening in the rivers and streams.”

April 2024, Down East Magazine

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