top of page

The Picture Book Buzz

The Picture Book Buzz - Interview w/ Nicole Castrovinci, Madelon Koelinga, Review of the The Butterfly Effect

Nicole Castrovinci is an author who has been thinking up stories in her head ever since she was very little.

Author photo of Nicole Castrovinci.

Now that she’s slightly bigger, she writes them down. Nicole lives with her family in the suburbs of New Jersey, where she enjoys watching wildlife pass through her backyard - especially the butterflies! When not outside,

she can be found with a book in her hand and a cat curled up on her lap.

This is Nicole’s debut picture book.

Madelon Koelinga has been crazy about drawing ever since she was young.

Photo of Madelon Koelinga.

She and her sister could spend hours doing crafts and drawing at the kitchen table. Madelon graduated from the Willem de Kooning Academy in 2013. Illustrating for children's books had not necessarily been her ambition from the start: she noticed during her studies that her drawing style and the stories she enjoyed illustrating fit this genre very well and she fell into it naturally.

Because freelance life can sometimes be a bit lonely (Madelon works from home), she also works as a graphic designer for a marketing agency. To her, this now feels like the best of both: she can express her passion in illustrating and has nice colleagues and graphic work (which she also enjoys doing) in her office job.

Madelon’s the author/illustrator of Dear Lazy Loewie (2021), A Really Fun Party (2020), Winter! (2019), The Tastiest Cake (2018), and The Shoe Princess (2014). And the illustrator of 10 books, including The Other Side by Emy Geyskens and Rob Geukens (2024), The Christmas Light That Wasn't Burning by Susan Wallenburg (2023), It Started With The Butterfly by Nicole Castrovinci (2023), King Bicycle by Emy Geyskens and Rob Geukens (2022), and Get Rid Of The Teacher, written by Nadja van Sever (2018).

Madelon’s newest and Nicole’s debut picture book, The Butterfly Effect, releases on May 21st.


Welcome Nicole and Madelon,


Tell us a little about yourselves. (Where/when do you write or illustrate? How long have you been writing or illustrating? What is your favorite type of book to write or illustrate? )


NICOLE - I have been writing for as long as I can remember - I had my first poem published in the Christian Science Monitor when I was 13 years old (back in the olden days). I’ve always loved poetry, both reading and writing it. I guess that’s why I write my picture book stories in rhyme.


MADELON - For as long as I know I’ve been drawing and making up stories. I’ve always loved (picture) books and fairytales, and when I started my education at the art school in Rotterdam I quickly discovered I wanted to illustrate stories for children. Right now, I illustrate whenever there’s time which is sometimes a little bit hard because I have a 2-year-old daughter and a second baby on the way! So, I tend to illustrate in the evening, when she’s sleeping, or whenever my husband is at home to take care of her.


Thank you for sharing a little bit about yourselves with us. What is one of the most fun or unusual places where you’ve written or illustrated a manuscript?


NICOLE – I have confirmation from other authors that this is a thing – I come up with my best ideas in the shower. I don’t know what it is, but it works! I just need to get a little waterproof pad so I can write things down. Take it from me, if you’re stuck in your writing, take a nice long hot shower. Bonus – you’re clean! [😆]


MADELON - Most of my assignments I do from home, so that’s a bit boring. ;-) But I have illustrated books while I was on holiday, which maybe sounds like a bad thing, but I love to draw when I’m on a holiday and we have the space to bring my art supplies. I feel more relaxed then. Even with The Butterfly Effect, I’ve made illustrations for it at home, in France, and Belgium (both on holiday).


Fun! Nicole, what was your inspiration or spark of interest for The Butterfly Effect?

Book cover - butterfly flying over a cow, chickens, and barn.

NICOLE - Jeff Goldblum! I give full credit to Dr. Ian Malcolm in the OG Jurassic Park movie – he introduced me to chaos theory and the butterfly effect. The idea that our actions can have a ripple effect just stuck with me and I knew I had to write about it. I also happen to love butterflies, so there’s that.


Well, that's a new one! Definitely made me chuckle. Madelon, what about The Butterfly Effect manuscript appealed to you as an illustrator?

End papers - daffodils, bee, and a butterfly.

Image © Madelon Koelinga, 2024.

MADELON - I instantly fell in love with the story when I first read the manuscript. It’s so whimsically written, and I love how the story rhymes. The story is just super cute. Honestly, it’s one of the best written picture books I’ve ever illustrated and making the illustrations for it brought me a lot of joy.


Wow that is high praise. What was the hardest or most challenging thing for you about writing or illustrating The Butterfly Effect?


NICOLE - Usually I struggle with writing endings; I never know how a story is going to end. But because The Butterfly Effect is a circular story, coming up with the characters and the chain of events was most challenging.


MADELON - Not so much something about the story or the illustrations themselves, but like I mentioned earlier finding enough time to work on it because of my little girl. I love taking care of her, so I don’t mind having less time to illustrate, but sometimes it does give a little bit of stress.


So, how many revisions did The Butterfly Effect take for the text or illustrations - from first draft to publication?


NICOLE - I revise constantly as I write, so I don’t keep track of the number of revisions but there are always a lot before I submit it to publishers. Working with Clavis was unique in that their main office is in Belgium and their books are first released in Dutch. So, after working with the editor at Clavis to complete the edits in English, it was translated into Dutch and then the Dutch version had to be edited. Lots of Google translate!


MADELON - For me, the process always goes like this: the publisher sends me the manuscript, I read it, make sketches, and send them back for approval. If they’re approved, I start making the finished illustrations. A lot of times I start with the cover, which I always find the hardest part because you want to communicate a lot in one image, but you also want to create a nice image which is not too crammed with elements. Our publisher Clavis always has a lot of faith in me and they’re really easy to work with.


I did make a bunch of butterfly sketches, because the butterflies are really important in the story so they needed to be just right.


Sounds fun to work with Clavis. Madelon, many illustrators leave treasures or weave their own story (or elements) throughout the illustrations. Did you do this in The Butterfly Effect? If so, could you share one or more with us?


MADELON - I sometimes do this (my daughter’s name is Merel, which is Dutch for Blackbird, so for example I like to draw a blackbird somewhere in the story), but not really in The Butterfly Effect. My own favorite color is purple, so I did want to use purple in the butterfly.


I love that you got to incorporate your favorite color. Nicole, when you first saw Madelon’s illustrations in The Butterfly Effect, did anything surprise, amaze, or delight you? Which is your favorite spread? 

Internal spread - farmer looking up into a swarm of hundreds of butterflies.

Text © Nicole Castrovinci, 2024. Image © Madelon Koelinga, 2024.

NICOLE - Madelon did an amazing job of bringing the story to life. I think all writers picture the characters in their head while they are writing so it’s always a surprise to see how the artist sees them. The last page spread covered in butterflies is particularly impactful and just blew me away!

This spread is so gorgeous! Madelon, is there a spread that you were especially excited about or proud of? Or perhaps one which is your favorite spread?

Internal spread - three cows charging across the farm startling pigs, who knock over the hen house.

Text © Nicole Castrovinci, 2024. Image © Madelon Koelinga, 2024.

MADELON - The spread with the cows, pigs, and chickens where the pigs knock down the chicken coop took me the longest to draw and I really like how that one turned out. It looks like the mess I was hoping for! 😊 I also love the last spread.


It turned out amazingly! What's something you want your readers to know about The Butterfly Effect?


NICOLE - I’m not a scientist or mathematician so my knowledge of chaos theory and the butterfly effect is very basic; but I think the message that we are all connected and therefore our actions and decisions have the potential to make a greater impact down the line is important in increasing mindfulness.


MADELON - How whimsical and cute the story is! That’s why I fell in love with it.


It's a story that is both whimsical and important. Are there any new projects you are working on now that you can share a tidbit with us?


NICOLE - I have a second book coming out with Familius titled Snowballed that I’m really excited about. It’s a winter book so I’m making my way through the seasons.


MADELON - I’m currently on maternity leave so I try not to work too much, but I am working on illustrations for a reading book for kids the age of 8 to 10 years. It’s a book about monsters and it’s also very fun to work on.


We will have to keep our eyes open for these books. Last question, what is your favorite National Park or Forest, regional park, or city park (anywhere in the world)? Or the one you’re longing to visit. Why?

Photo of Adirondack State Park.

NICOLE - Adirondack State Park in upstate New York is my happy place. It’s so beautiful and pristine and the hiking is amazing. I also hate the heat so the farther north, the better for me! On my wish list is to visit Acadia National Park in Maine and I would love to visit the Redwood Forest on the west coast. I need to hug one of those trees!

Photo of Paparoa National Park, New Zealand.

MADELON - Me and my husband visited New Zealand in 2018 and it was the most amazing trip, with beautiful national parks like Tongariro and Paparoa. If it would be closer to The Netherlands (the flight is around 20 hours long) we would definitely want to go back there someday!


Thank you Nicole & Madelon for sharing with us a bit about yourselves and your new picture book.

To find out more about Nicole Castrovinci, or to contact her:


To find out more about Madelon Koelinga, or to contact her:

Review of The Butterfly Effect

This is a beautiful and fun book exploring the effects of everyday choices and the unintentional rippling effects they have on others and the world.

Book cover - butterfly flying over a cow, chickens, and barn.

The Butterfly Effect

Author: Nicole Castrovinci

Illustrator: Madelon Koelinga

Publisher: Clavis Publishing 2024

Ages: 5-10



Rhyming, ripple effect, butterfly, farm animals, and cooperation.


A whimsical rhyming story about how everything is connected and the power of our choices. For children ages 5 years and up.

Butterfly bumps into Bumblebee and continues on her merry way . . . unaware that she has set off a chain reaction that turns the once-friendly farmyard into complete chaos. Bumblebee stings Squirrel, who startles Cow, who starts a stampede! What a mess! How can Farmer Farley and the animals restore the farm to the peaceful place it once was?

Opening Lines:

Butterfly is flying high.

Bumblebee comes buzzing by.

They bump, surprised, and spin around,

tipping, tumbling to the ground.

“I’m sorry, friend, are you okay?”

But Butterfly just flies away.

What I LOVED about this book:

The cover creates such a peaceful tranquil image of the farm. But. . . a chance collision between a butterfly and a bee quickly results in total chaos as the sour bee stings chipmunk, who chucks a stone at the cow's nose, who charges toward the gate.

Internal spread - stratled cow charging toward barn gate as three other cows look up in surprise.

Text © Nicole Castrovinci, 2024. Image © Madelon Koelinga, 2024.

causing a madcap amount of mayhem. I love the lively, colorful illustrations and the animal's whimsical personalities.

Internal spread - three cows charging across the farm startling pigs, who knock over the hen house.

Text © Nicole Castrovinci, 2024. Image © Madelon Koelinga, 2024.

The startled herd, with lightning speed,

follows in a wild stampede.

They rumble through the muddy sty.

They crash the coop; the chickens fly.

The rhyme is fast paced and fun to read aloud and kids will love following the cascade of crazy events which result in total chaos on the farm and lots of grumpy animals., especially after the rooster dislodges a beehive.

Although the butterfly unknowingly started the chaotic chain reaction at the beginning, she purposefully creates a reverse cascade of events by asking the horse to help save the hive. A small act of kindness which restores friendships and snowballs into that glorious, joyful ending. This sweet chain of events tale inspires readers to think about how their everyday interactions have the potential to cause either a chain of chaos or a rippling of kindnesses.


Photo collage of of 6 colorful butterfly crafts.
Photo of a butterfly perched on a flower. © Helen Anderson

© Helen Anderson

  • plant flowers in your yard or in pots for passing butterflies.

  • think about actions and reactions in your day. How can a moment of kindness to one person have made a difference. What can you do to be that difference every day?

  • air this with Nobody Hugs a Cactus by Carter Goodrich and The Starkeeper by Faith Pray.


Maria Marshall

 Photograph © A. Marshall

Follow Me

  • Facebook Social Icon
  • Twitter Basic Square
  • Instagram Social Icon
  • 1473394675_goodreads
  • Pinterest



bottom of page