Tuesday, May 14, 2013

An Interview with Author-Illustrator Dan Krall

I hope this blog post finds you having a perfect Children's Book Week.  My students and I are busy  discussing and celebrating children's literature with schools around the country. Two classes are going to to tell their virtual friends about Dan Krall's The Great Lollipop Caper. In honor of its recent book birthday and Children's Book Week, I invited Dan on Watch. Connect. Read. to answer a handful of questions. Thanks, Dan, for answering my questions. 

Mr. Schu: I played the book trailer for The Great Lollipop Caper for all of my students. Many classes asked me to play it a second time. Were you involved in the planning and production of the book trailer? If yes, please share the process of creating an effective book trailer.
Dan Krall: That’s great! Yes I was very involved in the making of the trailer and it was great fun. I got to draw out the storyboard, help build some of the puppets, watch the building of the sets and setting up the lights, and edit it to music and sound effects. I have a detailed account with lots of photos of the “behind the scenes” posted on my blog at dankrall.blogspot.com

I’m happy to hear your students wanted to watch it twice because one of my theories of making an effective trailer is that it’s better to make something short that people will want to watch twice than to make something too long that people will get bored with. (I learned that from Evan Spiridellis who is the co-owner of the Jib Jab Animation Company who specializes in short and funny webcartoons.) My other theories on making an effective trailer is to try to make something unique and to try not to make it an exact reiteration of what’s in the book, but to use it as an opportunity to deliver some new material and expand on the world of the book.

Mr. Schu: I totally agree with Caldecott Medalist Jon Klassen’s blurb on the The Great Lollipop Caper’s dust jacket: “Any book that takes a pun as far as this book does is absolutely essential.” What planted the seed for this “punny” picture book? 

Dan Krall: Like most stories I work on it started by joking around with friends. We were trying to think up an idea for a TV cartoon about a little girl detective who solves silly childhood crimes, so I came up with a crime for her to solve called “The Case of the Great Lollipop Caper” there was no story at the time, just the title. We ended up not making the TV show but I always liked the idea of the title and wrote the story later based on that. I love Jay Ward cartoons (“Rocky & Bullwinkle”, “George of the Jungle” and my favorite “Super Chicken”) because he has a formula for funny stories: a silly villain, perpetrating a silly crime, solved by a silly hero in a silly way. Writing this story was my homage to Jay Ward, I like to think it would have made a good Super Chicken episode.

Mr. Schu: I found the most interesting package waiting for me on my front porch. 

Dan Krall: I wanted to come up with a goody to give away at book readings and I thought it would be funny to be able to taste the awful concoction that Mr. Caper invents in the book, the infamous “caper flavored lollipop”. I found someone on Etsy named Erin who has a company called Twinkebean, she makes custom flavored lollipops, although I think ordinarily she tries to make lollipops that taste good and that people enjoy. When I ran the idea by her she was very enthusiastic and up for anything so she made a couple of test batches and mailed them to me. We worked together a bit until the recipe was perfected, in the end she made them by grinding up whole jars of capers and adding the puree to the lollipop batter so I think it tastes exactly like it would in the book. She said it made her kitchen and whole house reek of capers. Caper flavored lollipops are known for inducing appalling behavior so I thought if I give them out to children it would only be socially responsible of me to hand out regular lollipops as an antidote.
Download this wallpaper. 
Mr. Schu: If you invited us to tour your studio, what would we see? 

Dan Krall: If you came at 4:00 in the morning you would see me working there, making books surrounded by mugs of coffee. I have a day job making cartoons and a 3 year old daughter who gets up at 7:00 so if I want to get anything done I have to start early before she wakes up. Once she’s awake it’s no more working and play time. My home studio is actually really tiny, it’s a corner of a desk that has stacks of unfiled paperwork on it just about the size of a computer keyboard and a Cintiq with a little room nudged next to it for mugs of coffee, my office at work is the same way. Some people have big rambling offices with views of the mountains or a city, and big walls to post their artwork or inspirations on, not me. Even if I had that I would probably just use a tiny corner of it.

I feel like when I’m working my entire attention span lives within the a little box of a tv or movie panel or the page of a book, I have no idea what’s going on outside around me when I’m working.

Please complete these sentence starters: 

Picture books are something you never forget and that you take into your adulthood, which is kind of crazy considering that your childhood is the blink of an eye in the span of your life.

I still remember all of my favorite books when I was a kid, a lot of them developed my taste and sense of humor and made me who I am today. That’s why I think they’re so special and love making them.

Reading is a really cool kind of collaboration between the author and the reader with almost infinite possibilities. No two people will read the same book and picture the characters or settings or hear the dialog in their minds in exactly the same way, that’s not really true of movies or other forms of visual entertainment. It makes for a really engaging and stimulating experience and feels like it actually grows your brain instead of just keeping in entertained for a while. 

Mr. Schu, you should have asked me about...
Since I work on animated TV cartoons and Movies a lot of people ask me what it’s like to work on those, how they’re different from books and what I like better.  Although it’s definitely fun working on TV shows and Movies and you can do big amazing things in them, there’s a lot of money involved in those and companies need to make a big returns on their investment so they aren’t always the most experimental places to try to tell stories. I really love publishing because it operates on a much smaller scale and people are a lot more willing to takes risks with the kinds of stories they tell, it’s really the playground for ideas. 

I am giving away a copy of Dan Krall's The Great Lollipop Caper.

Rules for the Giveaway 

1. It will run from 5/14 to 11:59 P.M. on 5/16. 

2. You must be at least 13. 

3. Please pay it forward. 

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