While pursuing his doctorate in early modern European and world history at UC Irvine, J.H. Everett turned to art to relieve the stress of academic life. He trained with Disney watercolorist Roger Armstrong and Hanna-Barbera designer Bob Singer, and soon his hobby became a full-time vocation. Today he’s a celebrated children’s book author and illustrator who often weaves history lessons into his storytelling.

“Art has always been a part of my life, but I never imagined doing it professionally,” says Everett, illustrator of Izzy and the Candy Palace and co-author and illustrator of the upcoming middle-school series Haunted Histories. His artwork clients include Henry Holt & Company, Scholastic, the Jim Henson Company and the Los Angeles Times.

Everett, who calls himself a “visual storyteller, writer and creativity expert,” has conducted readings and presentations at venues as diverse as Irvine’s Jewish Community Center; Rancho Canada Elementary School, in Lake Forest; the Mission Viejo Library; and the Christian Dior store in Beverly Hills.

His goal as a children’s book artist goes way beyond entertaining youngsters or making money. All proceeds from Izzy and the Candy Palace, written by 9-year-old Isabel J., are donated to Second Harvest Food Bank’s Kids Cafe program, benefiting hungry children in Orange County.

And Everett is equally passionate about supporting public libraries and schools. “Our public libraries and, really, our whole public education system are under attack,” he says, citing funding and staffing cuts all over Southern California. “For a lot of people in any given urban center or rural area, the public library is the only point of contact with intellectual material and the Internet.”

Everett grew up in south Orange County and earned a bachelor’s, a master’s and in 2009 a doctorate in history from UCI. He lives in Mission Viejo with his wife, Rebecca Stanton, a professor of education at Concordia University; two sons; and a Pembroke Welsh corgi named Lucy.

Working with kids comes naturally to Everett, who admires their creativity and energy. “I believe that children are fully capable of changing the world,” he says. “And I don’t believe in talking down to them.”

Through storytelling events and talks at bookstores, museums and libraries, Everett hopes to cultivate a generation of kids who love reading and learning.

“It’s important to keep people fundamentally involved with the act of reading,” he says. “Libraries and bookstores are places where people gather as an intellectual community and come into contact with great minds.”