NEC Professor Ryan O’Rourke Illustrates 15th Children’s Book - New England College

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NEC Professor Ryan O’Rourke Illustrates 15th Children’s Book

Cover of children's book Let's Build a Little Train

When he is not teaching at the Institute of Art and Design at New England College, Ryan O’Rourke, Associate Professor of Illustration, is hard at work creating vivid worlds and images through his hand-lettering, map, and children’s book illustrations.

Professor Ryan O'Rourke

His 15th children’s book, Let’s Build a Little Train, released September 9. It was written by Julia Richardson and published by Sleeping Bear Press.

“Sleeping Bear Press contacted my agent, Nicole Tugeau, to see if I would be interested in the project. They had seen some of the other books I illustrated and thought I would be a good fit for the project,” O’Rourke explains.

Train engineer in children's book Let's Build a Little Train

O’Rourke begins each book project with research, collecting as many references as possible to draw from. For Let’s Build a Little Train, he found numerous videos that showed steam engines being built and driven and he curated a library of images through internet searches. “I loved learning about steam engines and how they work. Through my research, I found that there’s this whole society of people who love old trains. It was interesting to see them working on old trains, bringing them to life again.”

After the research phase, O’Rourke created his initial sketches, which went through a couple rounds of revisions. His sketches then moved into the final art stage, where they went through some additional minor revisions. “I also loved being able to experiment with a new style for this book. Working digitally, I tried using numerous brushes and textures that I hadn’t used before.”

Train welder in children's book Let's Build a Little Train

O’Rourke began working on this project in the summer of 2021 and completed the project in March 2022. He is currently working on illustrations for two more children’s books that are slated for release in 2023.

To promote Let’s Build a Little Train, O’Rourke is holding a book-signing and story time at The Bookery in Manchester, New Hampshire, on Saturday, September 17, at 11:30 a.m.

Purchase your copy of Let’s Build a Little Train through The Bookery here or by calling 603.836.6600.

See more of Ryan’s work at or purchase prints and other items at

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