From farm animals to princesses, to sleepy planets to mechanics, Doug Cenko’s books are made with a love for creative play and have fueled creativity in all of us! Get to know blue manatee press’s beloved author and illustrator!
Who is Doug Cenko?
Doug lives in Chicago, Illinois, and went to Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana, majoring in film with a minor in fine art. He was an intern for StarToons, the animation company behind shows like The Animaniacs and Tiny Toons!
He then went on to a company called Strictly FX, which has become one of the largest special effects companies that has added lasers, flames, confetti, and more to big-time television specials, like The Super Bowl and the Academy Awards!
Trying His Hand At Illustrating!
“When my daughter was born, I started reading to her when she was very little,” says Doug. “Finding the books from my childhood, like The Giving Tree and The Monster at the End of This Book really sparked my interest in creating children’s books of my own. What really cinched it was when I found some modern authors and illustrators that pushed the genre in completely different ways.”
With blue manatee press, Cenko has illustrated Zzzookeeper, Sleepy Solar System, and the dialogic reading books from our DR. Books series, Dogs! and Cats!, written by Dr. John Hutton, and has written and illustrated My Papa is a Princess! Papa’s sequel, My Mama is a Mechanic, comes out this spring, as well as the next dialogic reading book, Cows!, written by Dr. John Hutton!
My Papa is a Princess!
“My Papa came about from the fun that I have playing with my daughter,” says Doug. He says when she pretends to do something, she’s in it 100 percent! “If she says that there’s hot lava on the floor, she means it. If we have cardboard boxes on our heads like we’re astronauts, at that moment, she’s really in space, not our living room.”
“I came up with the original concept back in 2016 and feel that the book is even more relevant today,” he says. After My Papa is a Princess came out, Doug says he received letters from people letting him know how much they enjoyed the book—and he’s also seen a lot of people putting their own spin on the covers! “It turns out that My Papa and [the upcoming sequel] My Mama are very book-faceable, which is always great to see photos of people holding the books in front of their faces.”
Below is an example of My Papa is a Princess getting that faceable treatment!
My Mama is a Mechanic!
We’re so excited for the follow-up to My Papa is a Princess this spring—My Mama is a Mechanic! “My Mama was a lot of fun to create because we already had the formula figured out after making My Papa,” says Doug! “It just came down to making a book that was as fun as possible.
“No matter how long you work at it, you never want to stop learning. If I’m not writing or drawing, I’m taking classes or attending conferences. Sometimes, I draw at the same time I’m watching online tutorials. No matter how much you think you know, there’s always more to learn.”
The title for My Mama is a Mechanic came from blue manatee’s own Amy Dean! “I was still working on My Papa and we discussed maybe doing a follow-up book. She just threw the name out there as an example, and it stuck.”
Below is a faceable of My Mama is a Mechanic!
Inspiration Under His Roof!
Doug’s daughter is a huge influence on him and his creativity! “Anybody looking to seriously work on children’s books needs to spend some time with a five or six year old,” he says. “It seems like every day my daughter says some random thing that will make a great concept for a children’s book.”