Illustrator Spotlight: Elly Mackay / by Madeleine Riley


Note: I received titles marked with an asterisk* from Tundra books in exchange for a feature on Top Shelf Text. All opinions are my own!

I have fallen head over heels for the art and process of Elly Mackay, a Canadian artist whose paper illustrations bring stories to life in a magical way.

If you haven't yet been introduced to Elly Mackay's art, I highly recommend checking out her website,, where you can read more details about the process behind her gorgeous illustrations.

Elly grew up in a converted church in the countryside. Both of her parents, Steve and Joan Irvine are artists. As a child, Elly's mother,  wrote activity books such as How to Make Pop-Ups, which introduced Elly to the world of paper art. As a teen, she took a train trip to meet members of the Movable Book Society. They gave her  an informal education in papercraft and introduced her to Victorian optical toys, paper theatre and tunnel books. Elly began selling her paper sculptures at a gallery in Toronto following the trip and has been fascinated by working with paper and light ever since. 

Elly Mackay & LM Montgomery

You know that LM Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables is the series that has most touched my heart in recent years. I didn't pick up any LM titles until I was in graduate school, when I read one on a whim and fell in love. I am enamored of the world of Lucy Maud, and Mackay's art brings that whimsy & dreaminess to life. I own every single edition of the L.M. books with cover art by Elly Mackay. The set exists in a sacred space on my bookshelves.


Emily of New Moon (available through


Mistress Pat (available through


Picture Books Written & Illustrated by Elly Mackay


Waltz of the Snowflakes 

Note: I received a copy of this text from Running Press Kids. It was my number one holiday picture book recommendation in 2017!



And because I can't get enough, I recently purchased this print from Mackay's Etsy shop. I've hung it in our dining room, and I've already caught myself daydreaming in front of it several times.


I've shared this before on social media, but many of you have asked how I've managed to get copies of the editions that are exclusive to Canada. My secret is to use They will often ship free (or for low cost) to the U.S. for Amazon Prime members!