Part 8 – Life After Willy Nilly Was First Launched

    Marjorie started working on the The Adventures of Willy Nilly & Thumper series in 2014. The first year she spent mostly developing the characters and the design of the books, and also creating visual material for a website to market the series. At the same time the team in the USA chose the first few stories, rewriting and editing where necessary and sorting out the order in which these first stories would be published. And then Marjorie started with the illustrations and she focused on that for a number of years from 2016 onwards:

Published in 2016:

  • Book One: The Lost Treasure of Mount Methuselah
  • Book Two: The Hermit’s Last Hairs
  • Book Three: Stella Star

Published in 2017:

  • Book Four: Charlie the Cross-Eyed Crocodile
  • Book Five: The Very Hungry Ogre

After the five books in this series, The Adventures of Willy Nilly and Hopper (Thumper’s new name) continue in a new series called the Tales from Hoop ‘n’ Holler:

  • Book One: The Wizard’s Apprentice (2018)
  • Book Two: The Underground Invaders (2019)
  • Book Three: Sly Fox Stew (2020)

To date there are three books in the Tales from Hoop ‘n’ Holler series, so there are two more books in the pipeline.

The books in the series received some awards in the USA:

The Adventures of Willy Nilly & Thumper: Book Three Stella Star (2016) - Winner of the 2018 Reader Views Kids Choice Award

The Adventures of Willy Nilly & Thumper: Book Four: Charlie, the Cross-Eyed Crocodile (2017) - the 2017 Writer’s Digest Award - Honourable Mention.


Tales from Hoop ’n’ Holler: Book One - The Wizard’s Apprentice (2018) – Bronze medal winner of the 2019 Moonbeam Children's Book Awards, an award from entries all over the world.

The Wizard’s Apprentice was also the Winner of the 2019 Reader Views Kids Award for Best Children’s Book of the Year.


    Although this series of amazing American books kept Marjorie very busy during this period she did manage to illustrate at least one book for a South African publisher each year: In 2015 and 2016 she worked on the Storiemuis series (see above).  And in 2017 Marjorie illustrated Die Leeutemmer se Assistent ("The Lion Tamer's Assistant") , written by Solet Scheeres (in Afrikaans) and published by LAPA Publishers (South Africa).

Die Leeutemmer se Assistent.

    In 2018 she illustrated Peter Pan and Laurie, a sequel to Peter Pan and Wendy by J.M. Barrie, written by Marié Heese, published in the original English and in the Afrikaans translation by Protea Books in 2019.

Peter Pan and Laurie

    In 2016 and in 2017 Marjorie was, for the seventh and eighth consecu­tive years, invited to present a 5-day Children’s Book Illustration Course at the Centre for Comic, Illustrative and Book Arts (CCIBA) at the Stellenbosch University’s Department of Visual Arts (part of a series of creative workshops offered by the university during the Spring Break).

    She continued as Co-RA for the South African chapter of the SCBWI through 2016, 2017 and 2018, but because of her work load she decided that it was time to cut back on some of her additional commitments and she reluctantly decided to step down from being a Regional Advisor. So, on the 1st of December 2018 Marjorie van Heerden resigned as Co-RA of the South African chapter of the SCBWI. She received Regional Advisor Emerita status (which includes life time membership) from the SCBWI after 18 years of enthusiastic and dedicated leadership.

Kathleen Ahrens, SCBWI International Advisor Chair & Angela Cerrito, Assistant International Advisor wrote:

Thank you for 18 years of Leadership.

Many of you know Marjorie van Heerden ( who has been founder and Co-RA of SCBWI’s South Africa chapter since 2003. But I bet you didn’t know that she also started the chapter in Greece and was RA for Greece for 3 years in 2000-2003.

Marjorie began illustrating children’s books in 1983. Before joining SCBWI, she was gathering children’s book people together for talks, workshops, lectures, and university courses. So, you can imagine the result when Marjorie and SCBWI finally connected!

In her own words: When I found out about the SCBWI I felt as if I had discovered friends and family I had never known about and since becoming a member I have been encouraged and supported to follow my dream of helping the children’s book writers and illustrators of Africa to develop their craft and to follow their own dreams.

Marjorie led SCBWI South Africa with a Co-RA by her side (first Paddy Bouma and since 2008 Elaine Ridge) and Jenny Hatton as ARA. Marjorie’s also had a team of dedicated committee members helping to make the magic happen. This team has organized an event at least every other month and several large international conferences hosting superstars like Ken Brown, Harriett Barton, Tony Ross, Katherine Patterson, Steve Mooser, and many others. The conferences and special events are too many to mention here, so I’ll mention only one. Marjorie initiated the first children’s book conference in South Africa. Towards Understanding hosted 550 delegates with keynote speaker Joseph H. Schwarcz, author of Ways of the Illustrator: Visual Communication in Children’s Literature and The Picture Book Comes of Age: Looking at Childhood Through the Art of Illustration.

Marjorie, we can’t thank you enough for all that you have done for SCBWI and for the world of children’s literature!

Marjorie’s last day as Co-RA was 1 December. She now joins the ranks of RAE. To congratulate her off list please write to

Kathleen Ahrens, International Advisor Chair & Angela Cerrito, Assistant International Advisor


To continue:

    From the beginning of 2020 Marjorie first finished the illustrations for Book Three: Sly Fox Stew of the Tales from Hoop ‘n’ Holler series. It was published in May 2020.

Tales from Hoop 'n' Holler, Book 3 (2020)

   After that she first did the roughs, then the final colour artwork for Jump the Moon, another American children’s book. It was written by Kathy Simmers and was published in the USA later in the year 2020.

A selection of the rough spreads for Jump the Moon:

Rough spreads for Jump the Moon.

    Fortunately, before the Covid 19 lockdown in South Africa, Marjorie managed to get together enough art materials in her studio to finish the next four books that are lined up. That means she will be able to continue working, so Marjorie spends most of her time safely in her studio, during this terrifying Covid 19 Pandemic. Although, on request, she did help SA illustrators via zoom, with their work, with advice, critiquing and art direction.

    In the second half of 2020 she completed the final illustrations of Jump the Moon.

Jump the Moon, written by Kathy Simmers.

Jump the Moon has received quite a few awards to date: 

  • The Golden Medal award winner - 2021 Mom’s Choice Awards® category: Children's Picture Books - an award from entries all over the world.

The Book also received three 2020 Story Monsters Approved winners awards (in these categories):

  • First-Time Author (all ages) winner.
  • Picture books (Ages 3-8) Fiction winner.
  • Illustrations/Photography/Artwork winner.

    Marjorie immediately went on to work on the roughs of next Willy Nilly book, Tales from Hoop ‘n’ Holler Book Four: The Rabbit Princess and then the finals. This book was published in the first half of 2021.

Tales from Hoop 'n' Holler, Book 4 (2021)

    She then continued with doing the roughs and then the final artwork for the last book in the series Tales from Hoop ‘n’ Holler, Book Five: The Time Machine, which she finished in September. The book is scheduled to be in print by December 2021. Personal note: “I feel sad to have finished the series which I and a wonderful team worked on. These 5 years we have become close friends. I will miss working with you all!”

Text quoted from the last page:

 The Hoop ’n’ Holler Team

This is the last book in the Hoop ’n’ Holler series.
We would like to thank Jim Henry for trusting us with his stories.
It’s been a pleasure and a privilege.

Janet, Jimmy, Marjorie, Simone, and Stephanie

The Willy Nilly stories were told by Jim Henry, transcribed by Michele Canis, and written by Jimmy Patterson. This book was illustrated by Marjorie van Heerden and designed by
Stephanie Bart-Horvath. The nonfiction notes were written by Lara Dotlich Anderson.
Administrative support was provided by DiAnn Barker. Janet Frick copy-edited the manuscript.
The project director and editor was Simone Kaplan.


    And now Marjorie had another book lined up to do next. This book was extremely different from the Willy Nilly books and also quite a challenge - but it was the perfect project to get one’s teeth stuck into. It is titled Die Wandelende Geraamte en Ander Spookstories van C.J. Langenhoven (The Wandering Skeleton and Other Ghost Stories of C.J. Langenhoven) and it is to be published in Afrikaans. The stories were collected and adapted by Wendy Maartens and Marjorie did all the illustrations. It took Marjorie the rest of 2021 to illustrate this book – she really enjoyed it, and worked late into the nights, but she did own up to, that very late at night she started to feel really scared and kept looking over her shoulder when the old house they lived in creaked. That scary feeling you can see reflected in her drawings. 

Die Wandelende Geraamte en Ander Spookstories van C.J. Langenhoven (2022)


* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *