Touring In: Prince Edward Island

Craft: Author & Illustrator

Genre: Picture Books, Junior Fiction (covers and inside pages)

Ideal Audience Size: 50-75 (two to three classes)

Maximum Audience Size: 90 (four classes)

Grades: Grades 1-4

Special Equipment: A table to set up miniature theatre; smart board or data projector to hook up to iPad, and an outlet to plug in lights.



Winner of the 2017 South Asian Book Award
Shortlisted for the 2016 Silver Birch Award

Presentation Information

Elly’s presentations are a lot of fun and very hands-on. She has a Bachelor of Education and loves teaching all ages.

With presentations for K – Grade 5, Elly will design her presentation to suit the size and age of the group. Her storytelling and her unique way of creating illustrations will inspire students. Elly has written and illustrated several books, such as If You Hold A Seed and Butterfly Park and has illustrated several others. In a starred review of Waltz of the Snowflakes, Kirkus wrote, “This wordless tale, told entirely in expressive, graphic format, is a fresh and wonderful addition to the crowded Nutcracker shelves. In MacKay’s trademark cut-paper dioramas children can imagine themselves seated in the theater and dancing on the stage.”

Elly makes her illustrations by setting up layers of paper, lighting the scenes and photographing them. Each group will have an opportunity to see her miniature theatre and build a scene together.

In this presentation, Elly will help children build their visual literacy skills, sequencing and narration through exploring her wordless picture book, Waltz of the Snowflakes. In connection with her other new release, Red Sky at Night, children will be introduced to weather lore. They will also create a collaborative piece of art. With larger groups, materials are left for teachers for an extension activity. A beautiful print of the group illustration is later sent to the school or library as a keepsake.

Elly requires a small table, outlet, laptop and projector.

Book List

The Tallest Treehouse
(Running Press, 2018)

Red Sky at Night
(Tundra Books, May, 2018)

Waltz of the Snowflakes
(Running Press, 2017)

A Most Magical Girl
Written by Karen Foxlee
Illustrated by Elly MacKay
(Penguin Random House, 2016)

Written by Mahak Jain
Illustrated by Elly MacKay
(Owlkids Books, 2016)

Beach Baby
Written by Laurie Elmquist
Illustrated by Elly MacKay
(Orca Book Publishers, 2016)

Butterfly Park
(Running Press, 2015)

Fall Leaves
Written by Loretta Holland
Illustrated by Elly MacKay
(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014)

Shadow Chasers
Running Press, 2014)

If You Hold A Seed
Running Press, 2013


Growing up in the country with artist parents, in an old converted church, it is unsurprising that Elly MacKay spent her childhood making fairy houses in the woods, building time machines out of cardboard boxes, and wishing the tv got more than one channel. Her time spent roaming the bog, watching for frogs, beavers and herons has imparted her with a great love of the natural world. She hopes to share this wonder with children through her books.

Elly has written and illustrated several picture books for children. Her most recent books are Waltz of the Snowflakes and Red Sky at Night. Waltz of the Snowflakes is a wordless picture book that celebrates theatre and ballet in expressive, graphic panels. Her other book, Red Sky at Night tells the tale of a grandfather and his grandchildren on a camping adventure. The whole journey is told through old weather sayings. Elly hopes that through her book, children will be inspired to look up more often and become weather-wise by looking at signs in nature, as people have done for centuries.

Elly has also illustrated books and covers for novels. The book Maya, written by Mahak Jain won the 2017 South Asian Book Award. Elly’s art has also been used in an installation by Amri Studio at the Boston Children’s Hospital, where it won the Gold Nightingale Award.

The technique Elly uses to create her illustrations involves quite a bit of play. Elly inks her characters and the backgrounds on Yupo paper. She then cuts out the layers and sets them up in her miniature theatre. She lights the scenes and takes multiple photographs, altering the lenses, light, and filters to create atmosphere. Elly takes her inspiration from Victorian Paper Theatre and Tunnel Books.

When Elly was 15, she took a train trip with her mother through the United States to meet members of the Movable Book Society. It was an education in paper arts. Elly soon began selling her dioramas at a gallery in Toronto. Elly later attended the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, where she met her husband, Simon. She focused on printmaking, illustration and drawing. After the birth of their daughter, Elly began creating dioramas once again. Simon surprised Elly with a miniature theatre that Christmas. Elly has been using it every day since, constantly finding inspiration in the daily happenings of raising her daughter and son. Her picture books too, evolve from bedtime requests for stories.

When Elly isn’t in her studio, you might find her hiking with her family or trying to keep up with her dog, Griffin along The Bruce Trail.



  • Winner of the 2017 South Asian Book Award

Butterfly Park

  • Shortlisted for the 2016 Silver Birch Award
  • Shortlisted for the Gelett Burgess Award

If You Hold a Seed

  • Shortlisted for the 2014 Silver Birch Award


“I was so impressed with Elly’s presentations that I booked her for a Professional Development Day for the Library Technicians who staff the ~165 elementary schools in the Toronto Catholic District School Board, and I bought all of her books for my libraries, and so did many of the seventy Library Technicians in attendance.  Once again, her presentation was a resounding success and she has become oft requested to speak at other schools in the TCDSB.

Elly’s work is visually stunning and how she creates it is a marvel.  Over the course of my career as a Library Technician, since 2001, I have booked many different authors to speak at my schools and Elly is at the top of my list.  I believe her future is one of renown: that she will become one of Canada’s foremost illustrators.

I highly recommend Elly MacKay as a speaker, and it gives me great pleasure to do so.  The magic of her work needs to be shared.”

—Bonnie Moore

“Elly is very talented and highly involved in her programming. She teaches the students the importance and meaning in her books and artwork. The staff and students were thrilled about learning the unique method in which Elly creates her illustrations. Each student had the opportunity to design their own artwork, photograph it and display it using the miniature theatre Elly brings with her.”

—Danielle, Big Canoe Snake

“Elly spent a full day at our school doing 3 presentations for our elementary students and teachers.   In the time she spent with us, she engaged all of our students with her dynamic and very interactive multi-media presentation.   She was very comfortable and was able to connect with them in a short amount of time.   Our students created a beautiful collective piece of art that is now hanging in our library.  She also communicated her passion for her art to our teachers and inspired them to integrate art into their daily teaching.  Our staff left her presentation invigorated and very enthusiastic.”

—Karine Williams