It’s such an honor to be a teacher, a mentor, an editor, and an art director, which gives me the opportunity to pull back the curtain and talk with you about some of the behind-the-scenes things that go on in a picture book.
Because Saturday was Halloween, which is over in the minds and actions of adults, but not in the hearts of children, I thought I’d share Stan’s Frightful Halloween, written by Sandra Sutter and illustrated by Chantelle and Bergen Thorne. I’m excited that all three of them will be joining us in our scholarship fundraiser which ironically and magically helped Chantelle and Burgen get their start in trade children’s book publishing. We give scholarships to all sorts of people including low income, which at that time included Chantelle and Burgen because they were mostly doing work for hire educational book illustration, which does not pay much. Please click here to apply for a scholarship for our newest PIcture Book Writing course or here to check out our “pay what you can” Conference/Summit/Learning Extravaganza/Picture Book Palooza/Lovefest/Scholarships fundraiser.
But I digress. Stan’s Frightful Halloween is a delightful story full of word play and whimsy telling a touching tale about a little werewolf determined to have a happy Halloween after he breaks his foot and can no longer keep up with his friends. It’s also a story about friendship, adventure, and things not always being what they seem, finishing up with some fabulous Halloween treat recipes at the end. What’s not to love?
This is the second book that I’ve had the honor of working on with Sandra, Chantelle, and Burgen as a team and it’s always exquisite. Initially, Sandra worked with our Publisher, Callie Metler Smith on the story before moving over to me. There were not a lot of changes to be made at this stage and it was on to the illustration process. Chantelle and Burgen sent some thumbnails and they were good, but Stan was a little too scary and cartoony for me as I really wanted him to be a character that kids would fall in love with and easily emphasize with. As an editor and art director, it’s always a fine line to walk in not wanting to trample on anyone’s creativity or vision. At the same time, it’s really hard to see to see your own work, and everyone wants the same thing, to make the book as wonderful and accessible as it can be.
I also know I’ve been wrong before and am not infallible, so I called Sandra and asked her what she thought about Stan and fortunately she felt the same way that I did, that Stan wasn’t quite there. This gave me the validation to move forward with some suggestions. Luckily and gratefully, Chantelle and Burgen are totally not ego driven and know that any comments are not a reflection on them as brilliant illustrators, but a reflection on the work and how it could be even better.
So they went back to the drawing board and kept improving Stan until he became the beautiful, adorable, and endearing character that he is now - part werewolf, part kid. After the sketches were done, it was a back and forth process between us all refining the text to see what the images showed that were no longer needed in the text and so on. The images above show Stan's progression. I hope you love Stan’s Frightful Halloween like I do and will support the creators by buying a copy, spreading the word about it, and asking your local library and school library to order it. I also want to point out some of the underlying themes in this book, which include persistence in overcoming obstacles and friendship on the story level, and the things Chantelle and Burgen did to make Stan adorable, which include having his eyes wide apart and further down his face to make him younger looking, and making him an eccentric dresser with a plaid red shirt and a purple tie. He makes me laugh whenever I see him and pulls at my heart strings every time.
If you'd like to buy a copy from our bookstore, where we get a small commission, here's the link. <3
I hope something in here has been helpful for you, or in the video above, sending love, Mira
We are so excited to be mixing things up at CBA, beginning with some delicious additions to the Blogfish. Meet our awesome new bloggers!!
Here's our lineup:
1st Mondays begin with Clear Fork/Spork editor/art director, former agent and former kidlit professor Mira Reisberg PhD who is also the Director of the Children's Book Academy.
2nd Mondays will feature super smart Melissa Stoller whose career is taking off with several new books.
3rd Mondays will feature Bryan Patrick Avery, published writer, man of mystery, and professional magician among other things.
4th Mondays will feature the fabulous debut author/illustrator Maggie Brown.
And 5th Mondays will feature the wonderful Ave Maria Cross