Elanor reads to Owly that “Burgers are Yummy, Boogers are Yucky“
You can only imagine then how excited I am to be one of the hosts of Leslie’s virtual book tour this week! Her book The Patterson Puppies and the Rainy Day will be coming out next Tuesday and Higher Higher will be released as a board book (it’s currently out in hardcover) in February. My questions to Leslie are in bold and I hope you enjoy reading her answers as much as I did!
Where do you get your ideas? My almost one year old loves your stories (she can point to a page and say NONO with me) and I love your sly humor (burgers are yummy, boogers are yucky). I also love that you aren’t part of the rhyming crowd.
Ha ha! Well, that’s funny because one of the books that I will be publishing in the next few years is a rhyming book! It’s called ‘Be Quiet, Mike!’ (though the title could change). It’s about a monkey who is a born drummer. I got the idea from my husband, a drummer, who’s parents were not too excited about the prospect of him playing the drums. Now, my son, Beck, is a born drummer. He was doing a beat with his binky when he was two! (Check it out!). When he was a toddler, I loved the noise of the drums, because I always knew what he was up to. Monkey Mike’s parents, however, do not like it so much!
Rhyming was what I aspired to do in children’s books from the get go. The first book I submitted to publishers in 1999, called ‘The Nut’, was a rhyming book. But the common response that I got from editors was, “can you re-write the story without the rhyming?”. I was told that the rhyming was driving the story, rather than the story driving the rhyme, which was very insightful, because it was absolutely true. So, at that point, I dropped rhyming. I think that the reason that publishers say they don’t want rhyming books is: 1.) Most of the rhyming isn’t good enough (Dr. Suess was, after all, a genius!); 2.) The rhyming isn’t necessary to the story, 3.) Rhyming doesn’t translate well into foreign languages. I still love rhyming, though, and a story about drumming lends itself to rhyme! Incidentally, when I first wrote the book (which has changed quite a bit since then), I wanted to include a CD with it. My husband and our friend, Chris Ballew (lead singer of the Presidents of the United States of America) turned my text into a song. My husband then, did a video for the song, using a stuffed animal we had on hand, to use in his music classes. (Check out the video!) I plan to include a link to an MP3 of the (revised) song that will accompany the published book.
Anyway, back to your question! I get my ideas from my inspiring children, my own childhood (which I remember in great detail), and from thin air. Sometimes ideas just pop into my head, usually when I am doing something else. I thought of the Patterson Puppies when I was walking down the street; I swear that they just appeared in front of me on the sidewalk – a fully formed dog family, personalities and all. The Birthday Box popped into my head while I was doing the dishes. I like to think of ideas like little butterflies constantly flitting around my head. When I pay attention and I see a pretty one and my job is to catch it. My butterfly net, of course, is my sketch book!
What inspires your artwork? My daughter particularly loves the artwork in Yummy! Yucky!
My drawing as a kid was first inspired by Mad Magazine. My favorite artists were Don Martin and Jack Davis. I used to copy their styles. I also was awed over Maurice Sendak’s illustrations, especially from ‘Where the Wild Things Are’. I love detailed pen and ink drawings. When I first started creating illustrations, pen and ink was my medium. But, my style was complicated and I needed to learn how to simplify it. I tried all sorts of styles over a number of years: watercolor, pencil, crayon, egg tempera, etchings colored with ink, oils, acrylics and pastels. I have also been drawing on the computer since I got my first Mac SE back in 1985, and have tried out many digital styles, as well. Then, after I had my first baby, I started reading toddler books. I loved the Maisy books, Todd Parr and Nina Laden’s board books. These inspired my current style. I ultimately achieved a style I liked using acrylics. I chose acrylics to paint with because they are bright, opaque, and dry fast . Now, I use a combination of techniques to create my books. First I sketch my drawings on paper, usually in ink, but sometimes pencil. When I get drawings that I like, I scan them into Adobe Photoshop and use my Wacom monitor (a monitor that I can draw on directly with a digital pen) to refine my sketches. Next, I use Adobe Illustrator to pick all the colors for my final art. Finally, I print these out and copy them onto canvas paper with acrylic paint. I do my final illustrations with medium body acrylics on canvas paper, prepped with gesso and a brown background.
My daughter, Tia, dictated three of the seven words in the book to me from the swing set when she was about 18 months old (Swing!, Higher!, Again!). I made up the rest (Hi!, High Five!, Bye!). When she was swinging, we started pretending that she was going higher and higher with each swing, all the way to outer space. I don’t know how much she understood of that game, but I was having a fun time playing! I knew, as I pushed her higher and higher that I was conjuring up another book idea.
I am working on finishing up two new board books, starring Baby: ‘Tubby’ and ‘Potty’. (In fact, I’m going to paint right now — I have a deadline!) I also have a line up of other books that I plan to do with Candlewick, including my rhyming book (sorry!) and a middle grade novel, which is a whole new direction for me and I’m very excited about.