Dana and I picked our favorite illustrations but truthfully, THE REMEMBER BALLOONS has 40 pages of my favorites. However, I do have a favorite, favorite. At first, I was hesitant to share it because then it wouldn't be a surprise. But I also want you to read the book, and if nothing has convinced you yet, then Dana’s genius will.
This spring when I visited the S&S offices and sat around a table with Dana; Art Director Lucy, Editorial Assistant Alyza, and Cheerleader Husband, I said to Lucy, “the three-panel spread is my favorite” and she said, “it’s because Dana is … an animator.”
Usually when I start working on sketches for a manuscript, I have to read it a few times before I get a sense of how I want to approach the illustrations. But this particular image popped into my head almost immediately when I got to this part in the story.
I have a background in animation and comics, so I wanted to draw this spread as if it were a storyboard or a 3-panel comic. I think when you can see how James is almost able to grab the balloon but then loses it completely, it has a lot more impact than if it were just a single image. Many times, when I visualize a story in my head, I imagine the characters in motion, so part of my process is figuring out how to simplify that into still images on the page.
Dana's history with animation has added such movement and LIFE to these pictures. In this particular illustration, she really shows her animator’s spirit with the three panels and James’ movement across the page as he chases Grandpa’s balloon. I never would have dreamt of conveying it this way! The way Dana breaks up the text and adds these natural yet dramatic pauses. The desperation of James when he can’t catch it and Grandpa, in all his sweetness, as he plods on, unaware that his balloon has flown away. It's beautiful.
This is one of my favorite spreads because the silver balloon holds a special shared memory between James and his grandpa. It reminded me of the memories I shared with my grandfather that were just between the two of us. One of the things that I loved about Jessie’s manuscript is that even though it deals with a heavy subject, there are still moments of joy and lightness that balance it out without sugar-coating the story.
In the beginning and end of the book, I drew James’ grandpa in a rocking chair on the porch, which I imagined would be his favorite spot to sit. My own grandfather would always be in his recliner whenever we came to visit. Also, I live in NYC where nice porches are a real luxury, so maybe I’m just trying to live vicariously through this character.
In my April post, you'll have read a few words about the silver balloon. There is a beautiful spread with the memory inside the silver balloon, but you'll have to wait for that! But look! James and Grandpa share this silver balloon memory. The pride in James’ face, the kindness and love in Grandpa’s, and OH MY GOSH Dana invented a dog and gave him one balloon which is so funny, I want to laugh every time I see it. Because what dog can hold onto more than one memory at a time? I really just want to cozy up on that porch with the three of them and listen to Grandpa and James. (And I totally dig the front porch, too. My grandpa had a front porch that I loved.)
Thanks for reading! We're excited to share our book with you come August!!
Dana and Jessie
THE REMEMBER BALLOONS, written by Jessie Oliveros, illustrated by Dana Wulfekotte
Coming August 28, 2018 from Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers
I have zero artistic talent. I mean, I'm not so bad at stick figures, but anything beyond that? Forget it. So the idea that an artist can create these pictures that are meaningful, beautiful, and fun blows my mind.
My favorite illustration from my series of nonfiction picture books is the first one that Hui Li did for us. I am extremely lucky that I also work as an editor for the publishing house (Nomad Press) that published my books, so I got to be a part of every single step of the process, from concept to illustrator search to editing to checking final proofs. And I'm pretty sure my absolutely favorite moment in this entire process was when the team took a look at the dozens of entries we received from our call for an illustrator.
While many of these illustrations were truly gorgeous, one stood out. It was a spread of two kids watching out a window as a woman walked by with her dog. Red cheeks, button noses, and an adorable dog, a loud radio—four of us from the design and editorial teams stood at the design studio table for half an hour to point out new elements we kept spotting. It was the kind of picture that kept drawing you in, that you could look at for a week and still discover something new. It was filled with motion and color and energy.
There was really no contest.
And Hui kept impressing us, all the way through the illustrating process.
But with all of the illustrations she did across four books (!) it's that first one that makes me smile every time. Because that's when the book was truly born.
Thanks for reading!
WAVES by Andi Diehn, illustrated by Shululu (Hui Li)
Nomad Press, March 2018
I absolutely love the artwork in my debut picture book, SCARLET’S MAGIC PAINTBRUSH. My illustrator, Sandie Sonke (http://www.sandiesonkeillustration.com) expanded on the essence of the story with her beautiful illustrations. Sandie truly understood my vision, and exceeded my expectations. I always thought that the magic of a picture book occurs when the pictures meet the words, and now I know this is true. When I first saw the illustration that became the cover, I stared with tears in my eyes. I keep a photo of the cover on my phone and peek at it quite often!
Here are two of the inside illustrations that I particularly love:
The first page spread introduces the story. Sandie shows Scarlet, with her red hair and flower wreath, holding the magic paintbrush. Scarlet’s expression is full of joy. The brush radiates its own distinct personality thanks to Sandie’s depiction. On the opposite page, Sandie shows paintings of a princess, unicorn, and fairy. The color palette Sandie chose is soft and vibrant. And Sandie’s placement of Scarlet’s pet dog here on this first spread and throughout the story is an extra visual interest that young readers will enjoy.
I am also fond of this second spread. Here, Sandie depicts the moments after Scarlet loses her magic paintbrush. Readers will notice Scarlet’s dejected expression. Even the dog is hiding under the table. I hope that kids will be able to relate to this experience of losing something important to them. Also, I was delighted to see the cat clock hanging on the wall. I had the exact same clock hanging in my room when I was a little girl. I know that whenever I open the book to this page I will smile.
As something to look forward to, the final spread is a total masterpiece!
Thanks for reading about these enchanted illustrations from my debut picture book – I’m so excited to share the entire book with everyone soon!
SCARLET’S MAGIC PAINTBRUSH
by Melissa Stoller, illustrated by Sandie Sonke
Clear Fork Publishing, August 2018
Available for pre-order at https://www.clearforkpublishing.com/store/p66/ScarletMagicPaintbrush.
With an amazing illustrator like Elizabeth Baddeley, it’s hard to choose a favorite illustration!
From sketches to proofs to F&G, the whole process was new for me. What fun to see the story go from my imagination to something much grander! The illustrations are bursting with life, humor, and historical detail. Ben and Noah are captivating, and Elizabeth’s creative surprises depicting spelling issues are delightful.
So how do I choose? Each illustration is endearing in its own way, but I have to admit to some favorites that just blew me away - because of the amazing creativity, or the energy, or the details that support the text and provide context. I don’t want to share my favorite at the end – I’d rather leave it for you to explore and discover.
But just because you took the time to read this, I’ll share one in the middle that I find totally irresistible. It’s jam-packed—full of energy and internal conflict (what’s more fun than that?) and subtle humorous details for those with a patient and keen eye. This basic scene of Noah Webster at his desk appears several times in the book, but is different each time. As much as I’d love to point out all the features of this illustration that I adore, I’ll ZIP IT and leave it to you…..
What an honor to have this amazing illustrator bring life to my text!
Thank you, Elizabeth Baddeley!
AN INCONVENIENT ALPHABET, BEN FRANKLIN & NOAH WEBSTER’S SPELLING REVOLUTION by Beth Anderson, illustrated by Elizabeth Baddeley
Paula Wiseman Books/Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, Sept. 25, 2018
Now available for preorder.