Category Archives: Children’s book

Three, Two, One…Three!

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My children’s book finally hit the shelves after several years filled with a lot of work and a lot more waiting – picture books take a looooong time to print! It’s the story of the Number Three having a bit of an identity crisis, and to see the published version is satisfying. It’s my first book, and it’s the first time I’ve worked in color on any substantial project. And I love how it came out.

The main hurdle in getting the book was to get the permission of Number Three himself. He knows that he’s kind of a big deal, and he put us through the ringer during contract talks (as you can see, we had to hire John Kerry himself, just to negotiate the foreign rights). Once that was over, though, I was able to start roughing out the book, which I wrote about previously on this site.

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The book was actually adapted from an unpublished graphic novel that I wrote: similar concept, and Number Three was still the main character, but this thing spiraled out in all kinds of directions, both philosophical and humorous. For the kids’ book I had to scrap 99% of the story, pretty much, and write it from scratch. As is often the case, less was definitely more. This was the proposed cover for the scrapped version:

cover

We had to change the title to It’s Not Easy Being Three, so that it didn’t look like we (we, meaning me) were copying The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt, which, contrary to this theory posed by a GoodReads reviewer, I had not even known about by the time I had already written this story. And then we had to add the word Number Three in the title so that three-year olds – those pompous threenagers! – wouldn’t think the book was only about them.

The process of doing finished art for the book was pretty new to me, but it still was based on the same way I do drawings now: carved ink on scratchboard. I refined my rough sketches until they were ready for ink, and then I did my black & white drawings. In some cases, several of them were layered on top of each other and color added to the layers. So this sketch from my proposal:

entry

eventually became this spread from the book:

page 20-21

And this:

entry3

eventually became this:

page 26-27

And so on.

entry4

page 14-15

More about this book in a day or two.

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Incidental Post

If you’ve never visited Incidental Comics, the blog from cartoonist Grant Snider (who is frequently featured in the NY Times Book Review), you should. His short-form narrative comics are among the most satisfying I’ve ever read. They are frequently very meta: comics about comics, or about the process of writing, or drawing, or creativity in general. His drawings are effectively simple and I love his use of color, which is artful and often symbolic. And the comics themselves are playful, insightful, and read like poetry. Since I’m working on a picture book of my own, I thought it would be a good time to repost one of my favorites from his site here. Point taken, Grant! TheVeryBadPictureBook

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Work in Progress

Orange-PylonThis pylon is going to be here for a long time, because I’ve only just started working on my first children’s book. Did you know that? I suppose I should have made some formal kind of announcement.

ANNOUNCEMENT: I’ve written a children’s book that’s going to be published by Christy Ottaviano Books, an imprint of Henry Holt, some time in 2015.

So yeah, that’s out of the way. I’m illustrating it, too, and I couldn’t be more excited to be doing it. It’s been fun working with Christy so far, even though we’re still in the early stages of nailing down the final product (Christy said “cartoonists are usually good with deadlines,” but I’m wondering if that’s an observation that’s not shared by all in the industry). It doesn’t sound like a huge step up – it’s a 32-page picture book – but it’s definitely a major transition from small black-and-white spot drawings to full pages in color. And at the end of the book the reader can’t say “I don’t get it,” like some people do when they read my cartoons… come on, nobody does that, do they?

I don’t want to say what the book is about, but I wanted to show a teaser of the first part of the process: writing, editing, sketching, rough layouts. There’s also a fair amount of coffee built into each step, but you already know what that looks like.

photo 1Even within the framework of a standard picture book, there are different layout options that are available, depending on what you want to do with the story. You can’t just add or subtract a few pages at the end. So that’s the first step. click here to see more pics

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