Sep. 20—As a fashion design student in her native Italy, Valeria Wicker could never have foreseen her current vocation as an author and illustrator of children's books in Pennsylvania's coal region.
But after years of honing her craft, her detailed, vividly drawn illustrations — created in her home studio in Cressona — have made it onto the pages of popular children's books.
Wicker is the author and illustrator of "The Ugly Doodles," released in 2020, and the illustrator of "The Runaway's Diary," a graphic novel co-written by James Patterson and Emily Raymond. Her illustrations combine realistic details with a whimsical, fantastical art style.
"I do primarily illustrations," Wicker said. "I'm very versatile. I love doing all types of art."
Her books are published by JIMMY Patterson Books, a Little, Brown and Co. imprint.
Wicker, who was born and raised in Rome, has cultivated a lifelong passion for art, working in a variety of disciplines including woodcarving, sculpting, painting, pottery and digital art.
After considering careers in graphic design and fashion design, she ultimately branched out to other mediums. It wasn't until 2014, however, that she got the idea to illustrate children's books.
'The Ugly Doodles'
"My aunt said, 'You should try to do children's illustrations,' and I kind of laughed about it," Wicker said, "because I knew it was going to be very hard. What are the chances (of getting published)?"
Nevertheless, she set to work on what would become "The Ugly Doodles," a book about a young girl, Raven, who aspires to be an artist.
Though she attempts to create masterful works of art, Raven can only produce drawings that she deems "ugly doodles" and, frustrated, tries to discard them. However, over the course of the story, she comes to realize the innate value of her work and finds a way to nurture her talent.
"It's about discovering that your talents are what they are," Wicker said. "And it's inspiring to kids because it helps them appreciate what they make without thinking (about) if something doesn't turn out quite right, and that it's worth keeping, it's worth appreciating."
Wicker said the book pertains to "all aspects" of life.
"It's about perseverance," she said, "and it's about not giving up and completing what you're doing."
In 2018, Wicker began working with a literary agent who saw potential in the "spooky" and supernatural qualities of "The Ugly Doodles." They ultimately landed a two-book deal with JIMMY Patterson Books, the publisher of Patterson's best-selling children's books, and Wicker got the opportunity to illustrate Patterson and Raymond's "The Runaway's Diary," which was released in June.
Wicker's next picture book, "The Knight Snacker," will be released in the fall. The story concerns a picky eater, named Julian, who must overcome his fear of the dark to acquire the snacks he desires.
Fantasy and reality
After earning a fashion design degree at 19, Wicker decided to follow her parents to the United States, where they'd settled a year and a half earlier. Wicker lived in Montgomery and Bucks counties before moving to Cressona in 2017 with her husband, Mike.
"We didn't know anybody here, we had no family here, but we just loved it," she said. "We love the mountains, the scenery. … To us, it was perfect."
When not working on children's books or spending time with her family, Wicker spends much of her downtime on her pottery.
As she is now a full-time author and illustrator, she endeavors to continue producing books in the vein of "The Ugly Doodles" and "The Knight Snacker."
For Wicker, authoring children's books represented a wholly new venture and new challenges. For example, with "The Ugly Doodles," she found it difficult to find an art style that appealed to children.
"I love realism," she said, "and to go from being strictly realistic to being quirky and (drawing) children's characters, it was challenging. But I figured out a way to mix both together."
Wicker uses a variety of software, such as Photoshop and Autodesk SketchBook, to illustrate her creations.
For "The Ugly Doodles," Wicker deliberately offset some of the fantastical elements with more realistic details, such as the fabric of the characters' clothing and Raven's curly hair.
"To me, it's important that people can see some realism in it," she said.
Two years after its release, the book has proven popular with audiences, with reviewers praising its detailed illustrations and inspiring message.
"So far, everybody loves it," Wicker said.
On Oct. 16, Wicker will hold a book-signing and storytime event, featuring "The Ugly Doodles," at the Yuengling Mansion in Pottsville. People of all ages are invited.
To view more of her work, visit or
Contact the writer:; 570-628-6085
Some TikTokers are judging the mom for letting this happen — but others don't see the big deal.
Royal biographer Angela Levin first met the Queen Consort in 2015 and has since spent years speaking to her friends, staff and former colleagues to piece together a full picture of her life. Here, in the second exclusive extract from her forthcoming biography, she unpicks the frosty relationships between Camilla and senior royals, and how they finally thawed – plus reveals astonishing claims of a plot by Prince Andrew and Princess Diana to take the crown from Charles…
Meghan Markle and Prince Harry have a strained relationship with the royals, but there have been signs of a reconciliation since the Queen died.
A royal reporter said the Duchess of Sussex made the “formal request” in a letter amid strained family relations.
In an exclusive conversation with E! News, The Bachelorette's Rachel Recchia reveals if she sees a future with Aven Jones after his surprising appearance on the Sept. 20 finale.
Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers chose "The Mastery of Love: A Practical Guide to Relationship" by don Miguel Ruiz as his first book pick. We'll have a running list of his selections each week.
Lili Reinhart flaunted her epic abs and underboob in a green, sheer dress in "Look Both Ways" premiere photos. She exercises with a trainer and by dog walking
Princes George and Louis and Princess Charlotte, three of Queen Elizabeth II's 12 great-grandchildren, have taken on a new last name in the wake of the late monarch's death. George, 9, Charlotte, 7, and Louis, 4, are now using the last name Wales, a change from the name they've each used since birth, Cambridge. The siblings, whose parents are Prince William and Kate, now go by the titles Prince George of Wales, Princess Charlotte of Wales and Prince Louis of Wales.
People are questioning the decision to have Prince Harry and Meghan Markle sit in the second row at the Queen's funeral, calling it a "snub."
A source claims that Prince Harry's seat behind King Charles at the Queen's funeral was an "honor" not a snub—here's why.
He's won over the hearts of viewers, but did he find love?
Stock your wardrobe for the season now.
Meghan Markle has mastered the phrase “never look like what you’re going through.” At the funeral services for Queen Elizabeth II on Monday, she accompanied hubby Prince Harry and royal family members to pay respect at London’s Westminster Abbey.
Supermodel Bella Hadid wore the sportiest micro shorts and viral, chunky Ugg Boots to grab Pizza with Marc Kalman in NYC. Shop her street style look here.
"It was a time for us to take a step back and reflect on our relationship," the Bachelorette tells PEOPLE of dealing with resurfaced messages and an offensive photo from her fiancé's past
China’s alleged efforts to block Taiwan’s Miss Asia Global representative Kao Man-jung from waving the island’s flag on stage did not stop her from competing in the pageant and taking home awards. Also known as Maggie Kao, the beauty queen took to Instagram to share images of herself holding the awards for Miss Talent, Miss Online Personality and Miss Diligent. "Thank you to the government and my mother who supports me the most,” Kao said, according to Taiwan News.
"Ever since December, it's been this dark cloud looming over me… now that my son is here, I get to move on, and I get to enjoy," Khloé Kardashian said on Thursday's season 2 premiere of The Kardashians
A student at the University of Southern California (USC) has ignited a heated conversation after starting a majorette team outside of a historically Black college or university (HBC
President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Bide showed up to Queen Elizabeth II's funeral service more than a half hour after the seating call start. Here's why.
'The Bachelorette' finale started this week, and everyone wants to know if Gabby Windey sticks with her man, Erich. All the spoilers, thanks to Reality Steve.


Shop Sephari