1954 2008 I began working on a series of books written by Cynthia Rylant about a little girl and her cat called Brownie & Pearl. After drawing the pictures for Shredderman and Roscoe Riley, doing a project like this seemed like a longshot, a fluke, and a relief, frankly. I was kind of tired of the snarky grade-school boy thing and it was fun to get going on a project that could bring out the cute in me. I have a lot of cute in me by the way.
The eighth and final book in the series, Brownie & Pearl Make Good, was published on August 14 and the series has wrapped itself up. Cynthia sent me a really sweet box of cookies and a nice note, and little girls all over America can go cry in their tea cups. My editor, Andrea Welch, and I had a little commiseration when the illustrations were done. We’d been thinking of patterns and colors and cuteness for four years and with any long project, it was weird to say goodbye.
You can find Brownie & Pearl Make Good and the entire Brownie & Pearl series here:
Brownie & Pearl Make Good on Indiebound
I just got the news that I got two book into the annual Society of Illustrators’ Original Art children’s book show for 2011. Brownie & Pearl Take a Dip is one, and Everything Goes is the other. This is my first time in the SI so I’m sort of ridiculously pleased. Thanks to my editors at Beach Lane and Balzer+Bray, as well as the Society and the judges. Now time to partay.
Here’s some more information about this competition.
More than a year ago, I recorded the inking of the first page from Brownie & Pearl Take a Dip, the fourth book in that series. I set the camera up to take a picture every few seconds while I worked on the drawing. It’s been sitting on my hard drive ever since, waiting for me to add a soundtrack and make a real movie of it.
Friday evening I was at a local Salvation Army thrift store where they had quite a collection of old polka records. Someone must have given up their collection. I grabbed the best two, based on cover designs. One was a 33 LP and the other was a collection of five old 78s by “Whoopee John” Wilfahrt, a great polka name if there ever was one. The first one I put on was the “Unitas Polka” and I realized immediately that it was perfect.
The tune got recorded and twenty minutes later I had it done. There’s something about these old records that remind me of cartoon soundtracks, like Bugs Bunny and so on.
I’m working on a longer more involved version that shows how an illustration, this one specifically, is created from sketch to final. At the time I made this time-lapse I also did the same for the digital coloring part of the process. I’ll post that when I get it ready. Some day.
After completing the first book of Everything Goes in mid-February, I went on a tear and illustrated the sixth Brownie & Pearl book by the first week of March, and then immediately completed a book for Hyperion called The Boy Who Cried Alien which I’d been working on since sometime in 2007. As you might imagine, this schedule has left little time for stuff like eating, going to the bathroom, and cleaning up one’s mess. Over the weekend I took care of the eating and bathroom issues, and this week I focused on cleaning the studio. Over the winter, with the windows closed and the garage door shut, the place got musty and dank. Piles of papers and bills and sketches and books were stacked in looming piles on one of my worktables. Cables and hard drives were scattered around my computer area, coffee cups were discovered still holding coffee (and milk) from days of yore (disgusting), my filing cabinet was disorganized, and a layer of dust and grime covered nearly everything.
Monday was a lovely day with temps in the high 70s and 80s, so I was happy to open the garage door up, let the place air out, and get to work. My storage closet is still needing help, but the main part of my studio is nice and clean. The papers were filed, surfaces wiped, and I have two boxes of papers and catalogs and ephemera that will go to recycling later this week. The place is now a good place to work, and it was such a pleasure to walk in this morning and see the results.
And not a moment to soon. Sketches for book seven of Brownie & Pearl are due toute suite, and UPS delivered a big pile of research materials I ordered from Amazon, all about airplanes and airports and aircraft, for Everything Goes: Air, which I’ll begin the hard work on later this week. No rest for the weary.
I wish I’d taken ‘before’ pictures. But here are the after.
My friend from high school Jennifer posted this picture on Facebook today. Her kids have some good taste in books….
My friend Barb just sent these over from the Bala Cynwyd (PA) library. If you didn’t already know, Brownie & Pearl Step Out is out and about and available at a fine and lovely bookstore (or library) near you.
Brownie & Pearl and friend at the library
I love Amazon. Wait, I mean I hate Amazon.
A friend of mine told me that she read all the reviews of Brownie & Pearl Step Out on Amazon and that it was both good and bad. Not being someone who is good at ignoring the press, I had to do the same. I laughed, I cried. Here is a selection of quotes, gleefully taken out of context.
…the book is well made with great drawings.
The print and illustrations are vivid with girl-like colors.
Judging a book by it’s cover I would say this book has a lot of potential. The illustrations are fun and colorful.
Nice cartoons, simple phrases.
…few, simple words and some beautiful fun illustrations.
Too much for the eye.
The pictures are cute…
…a really fun book that’s well-illustrated. It is visually appealing, with vibrant illustrations.
…the big, bright illustrations by Brian Biggs are digital images that, fortunately, don’t look digital…
The illustrations by Brian Biggs are the best part of this book. Brightly colored with attention to detail, including a flower on Pearl’s head and a hat on the bird in the tree, they will capture the attention of young children. I wonder how many kids will comment on Brownie mismatched socks, which are very chic.
The pictures are fun for small kids to look at, though.
The illustrations by Biggs are bright, cartoon, and friendly.
Brownie’s huge head conveys expressions that will entertain young children.
It does not have a lot of words which is perfect to me who has to read books over and over to my daughter. Illustrations are cute.
The illustrations, by Brian Biggs, have me torn. They’re cute and have some fun details (Brownie’s mis-matched socks, for example), but there’s a certain lack of colorfulness in half of them, with mint green, pink and brown the primary colors. It’s not bad, it’s just not a color set that appeals to me outside of ice cream.
The story contains bold and vibrant imaginative images of illustrator Brian Biggs, the art work is superbly done to ignite the imaginations of all.
Girls will like the colors and the kitty.
Nice, big, semi interesting illustrations.
The bold, solid colors in the illustrations are able to grab children’s attention.
the sentences are so simple and the pictures are bright and colorful–very girly in a very fun way!
And here’s the best one:
This is without a doubt a little girl’s book, a book dominated by cuteness an by the color pink. The book’s spine is trimmed in a flowery pink design. Brownie and Pearl wear pink flowers on their heads and Brownie carries a present wrapped in pink. On the book’s pages you’ll see pink tulips in a window box, pink balloons, pink straws, pink curtains, Brownie’s pink collar, pink hair bands, pink sweaters, and even lots of pink ice cream. It’s all very reminiscent of a Strawberry Shortcake story.
I guess he noticed the pink. This one continues:
The digital graphics done by Brian Biggs are a mix of realistic and cartoonish. Pearl looks more like a stuffed animal than a real cat, but maybe it’s the vague approximation of a cat that adds to the cuteness and charm of the character. Contrasting with the elementary drawings is the picture of the brownstone bedecked with balloons that’s notable for its detail.
“Vague approximation of a cat?” I just love that. I’ll never look at Charlie “vague approximation of a boy” Brown or Mickey “vague approximation of a mouse” Mouse the same way again.
Publisher’s Weekly posted a review today of the first book in the Brownie & Pearl series, written by Cynthia Rylant. It’s a very good review and happily makes a point of mentioning Brownie’s stockings. It’s the fourth review down on this page. In case you’re wondering, Brownie & Pearl Step Out will be published in very early January.
Here is the text:
Brownie & Pearl Step Out Cynthia Rylant, illus. by Brian Biggs. S&S/Beach Lane, $12.99 (24p) ISBN 978-1-4169-8632-4\
A birthday party (“Cats are invited”) is the outing spotlighted in Newbery Medalist Rylant’s sweet snippet of a story, first in a planned series, which introduces a happy if a bit timid girl (Brownie) and her similarly sanguine cat (Pearl). As they arrive at their destination, a front stoop festooned with balloons, Brownie has second thoughts: “Uh-oh. Brownie feels shy. Maybe she’ll go home.” But Pearl leaps through the cat door, forcing the issue (“Now Brownie has to knock”). She’s warmly welcomed and enjoys games, cake, and ice cream. Short, snappy sentences (“Look! Pearl went in the kitty door!”), a bold font, and spot-on themes for this age level—birthday party, spunky pet, and the rewards of overcoming shyness—tailor this for girls just beginning to read on their own. Bubblegum pink and lime green pop from Biggs’s (the Roscoe Riley Rules series) digitally rendered cartoon art, which features such endearing flourishes as Brownie’s mismatched striped socks and floral dress, as well as the pink flowers she and Pearl wear in hair and fur. Cheerful from start to finish. Ages 3–5. (Dec.)
Look what UPS brought today from my editor at Simon & Schuster!
January 5 is the release date…
Update: Wilson wanted to read it before he started his homework.