WHEN I GROW UP * How the book grew up. * Artist sketches & commentary.
What struck me first about Julie Chen's story was the tender bond between mother and child. I knew right away that tie would be the underpinning of the story and so I included mom in every vision of the future. Look carefully and you'll find her hidden in a cloud, as a satellite hovering nearby in space, or on a packet of seeds. Thank you, Julie, for this lovely story!
THE WONDERFUL THING ABOUT PICTURE BOOK MANUSCRIPTS IS THAT THEY DON'T COME WITH INSTRUCTIONS!
I wanted something to visually tie the series of "questions" posed by the little boy. I settled on a sequence of images in which Mom puts her son to bed while he asks her about his future. I hid Mom in every fantasy of his future and midway through the book added a little dog.
It's crucial to have a great editor for a picture book and in Paula Wiseman, we had just that!
THERE NO ONE WAY TO ILLUSTRATE A STORY. YOU MAKE CHOICES.
One of my first approaches was to have the story take place in a park, the child sees things and events (a bird builds a nest, the architec and a squirrel climbing a tree, a mountain climber) which provoke the questions he asks his mom about his future. The subsequent bedtime link allowed for a much simpler unfolding of the story.
SEEING THE WORLD THROUGH A CHILD'S EYES.
I included Mom and dog in the little boys dreams of the future. Why? Because they are his world now!
IF IT'S NOT WORKING FOR THE STORY, GIVE IT UP.
This gardener scene gave me the most trouble, I don't know why, I had so many variations and finally settled on the one that would be best understood by children.
YOU CAN ALWAYS DO BETTER. IT'S NEVER DONE UNTIL IT GOES TO THE PRINTER.
It takes me a year to illustrate a book, I'm always in the process of improving on it and I don't stop until it goes to the printer. While I can't be perfect I can do my best.
By the time the book interior was set, I really had only one idea for the cover. A few twists, and the concept was there, fresh and clean, very simple and straight forward. My wonderful designer, Jess Handleman is brilliant with design and put together the final typography.