Toni Yuly’s children’s book career almost never happened.

When her son was born and she started paying more attention to children’s books, she said, “Whoa, this is amazing — and I want to do it.” Yuly, who earned a Bachelor of Fine Art degree in painting from the University of Washington and for more than 30 years worked as a librarian in the King County Library System, tried for about seven years to break into the industry without success.

A few years later, however, she tried again, this time with a greater focus on getting an agent as the first step on the road to getting published. Her perseverance paid off: She snagged an agent and the rest, as they say, is history.

Portrait of Toni Yuly
Toni Yuly (Photo courtesy of Toni Yuly)

“It’s kind of like a second career for me after I retired from my library work,” said Yuly, who is approaching a dozen published books.

Her long career as a librarian helped set the stage for her children’s literary career, she said. “I was not a children’s librarian, but I did work with the children’s librarians from time to time,” she said. “It was a big influence.”

Another influence, particularly in terms of her art, was time spent overseas. Yuly grew up in the Seattle area and after high school she lived in Japan for a year.  She said the experience blew her mind: “I have never forgotten the sensibilities of the art and the aesthetic over there.”

Jacob Lawrence
Jacob Lawrence

When she came back to the U.S., Yuly studied painting at the University of Washington, including under the tutelage of famed painter Jacob Lawrence.  In addition to taking classes from Lawrence, in her final year of school she did independent studies with him.

“If you’ve seen Jacob Lawrence’s work … it’s pretty bold, simple graphics and my work tends to be that way,” she said. “And so we were just a really good match. It was great getting to know him a little bit.”

After becoming a children’s author and illustrator, the best part is seeing kids’ reactions to the books, she said.

“I don’t really write just for a certain age. I’m hoping all ages can really enjoy my books,” she said. “When you read your new book to kids for the first time, even the millionth time, it’s just super exciting to see that they are getting it, or what their reaction is, or maybe they see stuff that I didn’t see.”

When she lived in Seattle, Yuly said she was a renter and by the time she started thinking about buying a house, she couldn’t afford it. She started looking at the Bremerton area because it was more affordable. Although she didn’t know much about the area at the time, she’s glad she made the move.

“I really like it here,” she said. “It’s beautiful and I’m happy living over here.” 

The book cover for "The Pelican Can!," featuring a proud-looking pelican standing on a rock.

Yuly said she’s looking forward to the book signing event at the Bremerton Community Farmers Market, which she’s doing in conjunction with downtown Bremerton bookstore Ballast Book Co. Yuly said she did a similar event with the bookstore last year.

“It was really fun, really successful, and this year we decided to do it again,” she said.

Copies of her newest book, “The Pelican Can!,” will be available for purchase, along with many of her other titles. She’s also planned a craft activity for kids as well.

Toni Yuly book signings at Bremerton Community Farmers Market

Meet Bremerton author-illustrator Toni Yuly at the Bremerton Community Farmers Market, 4 – 7 pm, May 16. The farmers market is located at 1400 Park Ave, Bremerton. Storytimes with Yuly will be every hour, or as needed/able. Books by the author will be available for purchase.

Learn more about Yuly at her website.