The mail-bot at the postal office done good today. One of the best days is the day where a real live copy of the book you’ve been going crazy working on (a year or six months ago) finally appears, and it’s bound and real and has a bar code and an ISBN and the ink smells funny and the colors look correct and they spelled your name right. That’s what this is all about.*
I came in to work this nice Monday morning and was fairly immediately greeted by the UPS truck outside. He gave me a package that I’ve been anxiously awaiting for several years now.
Everything Goes is now a book. Bound, with a cover and endpapers and a UPC symbol and an ISBN number and it’s got my name on it. I’m pretty glad to see this. Of course my plan today was to work hard on book two, but that got preempted since I had to take pictures…
Workman just published a new activity kit called Potato Chip Science, for which I drew the cover illustration. If you’re looking at the picture thinking “well Brian, your going insane, for that is not a book. It’s a bag of potato chips!” I couldn’t blame you. The packaging is meant to resemble a bag of chips, and in fact the bag is filled with plastic chips (something like those packing peanuts you get in shipping boxes). There is also a book of fun projects one can make with potatoes, as well as some of the materials you would need to do the projects.
Originally I was up for illustrating the entire book, but in the end they asked me to do the cover. Go out and get yourself this kit and spend the weekend making stuff out of potatoes!
Well it’s out, and now I can safely say that when I retire as an illustrator and spend my days on the golf links in Boca Raton, I will have illustrated a Little Golden Book. I’ve loved Little Golden Books ever since I can remember. My grandmother’s house had a stack of them that belonged to my aunts and uncles back in the 50’s and 60’s, and I liked the goofy stories and wonderful illustrations. At the time, I knew nothing of the legacy of these illustrators like Richard Scarry, Tibor Gergely, Leonard Weisgard, and Alice and Martin Provensen. As I grew up and went to college and became a designer, I forgot about much of the Golden Books.
It was only much later, while I was working on a poster for The Kids in the Hall in 2002, that I rediscovered these works. Mary Blair’s I Can Fly, Garth Williams’ Mister Dog, the Provenson’s Color Kittens, and especially Scarry’s Rabbit & His Friends were the inspiration for this poster.
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Last year I discovered a book called Golden Legacy by Leonard Marcus. It’s a history of Little Golden Books, and I was about halfway through it when I got a call from out of the blue, that the editors of Little Golden Books would like me to illustrate a new book called I’m a T.Rex, written by Dennis Shealy. Needless to say I fell over and was stunned.
I love drawing dinosaurs but I hadn’t had a chance to draw dinosaurs for a book before. Sketches commenced. The T. Rex had to be fierce and angry but I wanted him to be kinda cute and funny as well.
The work went smoothly and just this last week, on May 11, it was officially “published” and released into stores. I got my copy on Thursday. And like I wrote, I’m pretty happy to be able to be part of the “story” of Golden Books now. I sure won’t put my book up there in the same echelon as the Scarry, Gergely, and Prevensen books. But at least it’s now sitting on the same shelf…
My sister found these books today at a yard sale. She says she got them because she thought maybe I could use the help. Maybe she’s right. In any case I love these books. The best of all, of course, is Ed Emberley’s Drawing Books. They actually did me a lot of good when I was just starting out (when I was like seven). The best one here is the Hoofed Animals one. For those times when you need to draw mountain goats, giraffes and zebras.
I have several more pictures up on Flickr here.
Back in February I was in the middle of reading Leonard Marcus’ book Golden Legacy, How Golden Books Won Children’s Hearts, Changed Publishing Forever, and Became An American Icon Along the Way when I was asked to actually illustrate a Golden Book. I jumped at the chance. This one is to be called I’m a T. Rex and it’s written by Dennis Shealy. The book is about a baby Tyrannosaurus Rex and everybody knows that I like to draw baby Tyrannosaurus Rexeses. I was giddy when I read in the contract, surrounded by all kinds of goofy legal language, this:
“The Work shall be about a cute baby dinosaur who talks about himself and his Cretaceous life.”
The sketches were completed a couple of weeks ago and I’ll be starting on the final art soon, working on it over the summer. Here is the sketch for the cover and a couple of the interior illustrations. Stay tuned for more.
A mysterious box from my childrens book agent arrived yesterday, filled with copies of One Beastly Beast, the book I illustrated in 2006, written by Garth Nix. The odd thing was that this is the Japanese edition. I didn’t know there was going to be a Japanese edition.
I’ve spent a lot of time and probably more money at Kinokuniya, the fantastic book store in Manhattan, and I’ve always loved the way Japanese design and books look. The vertical text, the use of color and surface, and even the paper stock. This edition nailed all of the above. I just love it.
It will likely be difficult to find the Japanese version around these parts, but you can still get the USA version pretty easily. Enjoy.
Today is the official release date for Beastly Rhymes, a book I illustrated last year. It’s written by Judy Sierra and is all creepy monster poems about giant squids, haunted zoos, carnivorous leopards, and angry insects. The coolest thing, see, is that the book is furry. Really.
Read more about the book here.
Available at Amazon, of course, as well as fine local independent book stores all over.
This Saturday and Sunday is the Philadelphia Book Festival at the Main Library. I’ll apparently be an “event” at the festival itself on Saturday and I hope you can make it over to see whatever it is I’m doing. I’ll be on the “Target Children’s Stage” at 3:00pm.
Rumor has it that there will be a Q & A session. So come up with the question that you’ve always wanted to know the answer to. (My favorite color is “rainbow” so don’t ask that one.) And then I’ll be signing books. They’ve ordered lots and lots of early copies of the new Roscoe Riley books that will be in stores later this month, as well as all the other stuff.
In addition, sometime on Sunday, not sure when, I’ll be signing Shredderman books with Wendelin Van Draanen. This is our very first signing together and I’m pretty excited. We will be at the Children’s Book World booth, so check in there and find out what time it’s to take place. Then, if you happen to see me, let me know too.
This is all good news, yes. But the other shoe has to drop, right? Well yes indeed. At the same exact moment that I’ll be acting all famous and whatever on Saturday, the slightly more talented and much better looking Adam Rex will be doing the same in the Children’s Story Hour Room, also at 3pm. So you must decide between us, and we’re both taking names…