In order to create a children’s book, illustrator Lauren Eldridge says, it helps to have the mindset of a filmmaker.

“People geek out about movies,” said the Madison artist, “and it’s the same sort of deal with kids books, just in 32 to 40 pages. If you had to make a movie in just a few images, what would you do? It’s a really fun challenge.”

Eldridge, 35, tackles that challenge in the basement of her Madison home, where most recently she’s created the images for “Sleep Train,” written by Jonathan London and available from Viking Books for Young Readers. The bedtime book takes readers on a journey through a sleepy landscape as a young boy counts the train cars, one by one.

The illustrations in “Sleep Train” are photographs of 3D models that Eldridge has sculpted and painted in her basement. The train cars each measure about 9 inches long, and the train itself is about 12 feet long. She says the train, if hooked up to an engine, could run on a model track. Eldridge also created the environments for the train cars and then took pictures of everything, eventually making composite images set in low light to convey a dreamy vibe.

Eldridge, a former early childhood teacher, now dedicates her time to raising her two daughters and creating illustrations for books in her home studio.

“If I talk to adults about what I do, they ask more of the ‘How did you do that?’ questions,” Eldridge said. “But kids get so involved in the story, and that’s the coolest thing. They don’t pay attention to what you’re doing behind the curtain.”

Eldridge, a Fargo native who studied landscape architecture, is hoping to try her hand at writing the words as well as illustrating her next children’s book.

“People often say to me, ‘I think I could write a children’s book,’ but it’s super hard,” Eldridge said. “Trying to get a story into 32 pages is tricky.”

To see images of Eldridge’s process with her first book, “Claymates,” written by Devorah Petty, visit

Behrens is back with Earhart adventure

Madison native Rebecca Behrens brings her spirit for historical discovery to her third book for middle-grade readers, “The Last Grand Adventure.” She cites an appreciation for Amelia Earhart’s charisma as her inspiration.

“Since childhood, I’ve been fascinated with Earhart’s disappearance, so I’d always wanted to write a book that explores her fate in some way,” Behrens wrote in an email. “But as I researched her life, I was reminded that she became famous long before she disappeared, and for good reason: She broke a slew of speed and altitude records and accomplished many aviation firsts.”

Not only that, Behrens writes, but Earhart worked to encourage other women to pursue careers in aviation at a time when few women thought STEM fields were available to them. She was also an editor, author, and poet, and a businesswoman — she even had her own clothing line, Earhart Designs, at one point.

“The mystery of her final flight gets the most attention, but it shouldn’t overshadow her accomplishments. Her advice to young women was to ‘dare to live,’ and she surely did, fearlessly.”

“The Last Grand Adventure,” an engrossing story set in the summer of 1967 about a young woman and her grandmother racing across the country in hopes of reuniting with Earhart, is available in hardcover from Aladdin/Simon & Schuster. Behrens, who lives in New York City, provides downloadable resources for educators and readers at her website,

Signing on Monroe Street

Author Lisl Detlefsen debuts “If You Had a Jetpack,” a book for ages 4 to 8 illustrated by Linzie Hunter. The Wisconsin Rapids author takes young readers on an aerial journey as a rabbit and his brother build their own jetpacks and set off on an adventure.

Detlefsen’s first book, “Time for Cranberries,” takes a look at how food travels from American farms to tables. The 2015 book illustrated by Jed Henry was inspired by harvest time at the author’s cranberry marsh.

Detlefsen will talk about “If You Had a Jetpack” (Knopf) at 2 p.m. on Saturday at Mystery to Me Books at 1863 Monroe St. in Madison. To read more about her books and her family’s cranberry marsh, visit