LIVINGSTON, NJ — Livingston’s own Mike Malbrough, a celebrated children’s writer and illustrator, has announced the release of his new book, “Marigold Finds the Magic Words,” published by Penguin as a follow-up to his first children’s book, “Marigold Bakes a Cake,” published in 2016.

Malbrough’s protagonist, Marigold, is a chubby orange feline that he describes as a “fussy cat with a comically short fuse.” In the new installment, Marigold is upset because his birthday party is invaded by party-crashing birds—and hilarity ensues.

From a very young age, Malbrough said that he “enjoyed drawing, storytelling and populating his world with creatures and tales from his imagination.” He recalled joining a local puppet theater, where he “learned to walk on stilts, dance like a hound dog and portray a very believable Tooth Fairy.”

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His art education transpired at Open Space Arts in Baltimore, a community nonprofit art center, where he sculpted and created pieces for the organization’s theatrical productions—first as an intern and then as staff member for nine years.

Malbrough left the nonprofit sector for a job at Raw Blue Apparel, but continued to draw in his free time and self-published a graphic novel called “Fire Proves Iron” with his poetry-writing wife, Page. He later had an epiphany that it was time to start writing children’s stories again, like he did as a youngster.

“In 2014, after a long career in the arts as a teacher, illustrator and graphic designer I wanted to really find a home for my work; a direction that I could sink my teeth into,” he said. “I read a book by Pamela Slim called ‘Body of Work,’ [which] was geared toward helping readers find the threads that connected, abilities, interests and career history.

“With the help of that book and my young children, I realized that books for kids was my passion. So I went ahead full steam, learned everything I could and eventually got an agent.”

According to Malbrough, the idea for Marigold came from a character sketch he did for his agent, Lori.

“Once she saw the fluffy fur ball, she commented that he was the perfect personality for a book,” said Malbrough, who began working on his concept and eventually took it to a workshop in Upstate New York for aspiring children’s book authors and illustrators. “A friend was driving while I was actually gluing the book together. At the workshop, an art director saw Marigold and loved it. She took it back to the publisher at Philomel Books and the rest was magical. It was very much an emotional roller coaster fairytale.”

Malbrough’s career has been diversified. He has designed book covers and has created children’s book illustrations. He also offers private art lessons as well as workshops on creating a picture-book dummy, workshops on writing manuscripts, workshops on perfecting portfolios and a private mentorship program.

He currently teaches a free watercolor painting class at Trinity Convenant Church in Livingston on Monday nights at 7:00 p.m. and a teen watercolor class on Tuesday nights at 5:30 p.m. Noting that these classes are meant to be fun and an opportunity to meet new people, Malbrough stressed that no talent is required and everyone is welcome.

In addition, Malbrough is also available for school visits for anyone looking to arrange an appointment with him.

“Having the opportunity to share stories and art with children and families is such a joy to me,” he said of his career. “Perhaps now more than ever, it seems that we need to come together to laugh, imagine, listen and learn. I was given a gift that helps me make some of that happen, and I cherish that responsibility.

“And, to be honest, it never feels like a burden because I’m drawing robots, wizards and persnickety cats most of the time. What could be better than that?”

Malbrough is hosting two local readings of “Marigold Found the Magic Words” at [words] Bookstore in Maplewood on March 30 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and at the 2019 MAPSO (Maplewood-South Orange) Book Festival at The Woodland on Friday, June 7 at 11 a.m. and Saturday, June 8 at 4 p.m.

Contact studio@mikemalbrough.com to speak with Malbrough directly, or contact the church at trinitycovenantchurch@gmail.com or 973-992-4044 to sign up for one of his free classes.

For more information, visit Malbrough’s website at www.mikemalbrough.com.