I am celebrating Wazdot?'s book birthday with Michael Slack. We chatted about Wazdot?'s book trailer, his mom, Tammi Sauer, school libraries, picture books, and reading. I wrote the words in red, and he wrote the words in black. Many thanks, Michael!
The book trailer for WAZDOT? is like a mini cartoon. The wonderful thing about creating a trailer is that it is an opportunity to bring your character to life and add another level of depth to your book. It is also an opportunity for people to connect with your character in a different way. When we see a character move and emote we relate to them in a more personal way. I'm continually surprised by my reaction when I see one of my characters moving for the first time. A big smile stretches across my face and my heart fills with joy. This sounds goofy I know but it is a similar felling to watching your kid running, playing and having a really good time. My animation skills are very limited so I like working with character animators on my book trailers. They are able to add the extra touches that really bring a character to life. The WAZDOT? trailer was animated by Julianna Chen. I feel very lucky that she worked with me on it. Her films are amazing.
I created the illustrations for Wazdot? by digitally painting in photoshop. I'm a texture nut so I use lots of custom brushes and scanned textures.
Download the guide here.
Did you know that my Mom was a kindergarten teacher for 30 years? Reading, crafting, and learning were the three biggest activities in our house when I was growing up. Before she would read to us she would have us identify the different parts of the book. The spine, the gutters, the end papers, etc. I was well aware of book anatomy before I could read a single word. She passed her passion for children's books to me. It makes me happy to know that my books end up in the hands of teachers and hopefully the stories in them will inspire kids to draw pictures, create characters, or write stories.
Tammi Sauer and I have never gone bareback seahorse riding but we have created a funny book about friendship called Nugget and Fang. Tammi is one of my favorite authors. Her stories are clever, loaded with spirit, and are downright hilarious! Me Want Pet is the only picture book that has made me laugh out load. Sure, there have been chuckles but this was, squirting coffee out the nose, wife coming into the room asking what is so funny, funny. When her Nugget and Fang manuscript landed in my in-box there were no hesitations just, lots of Yeses.
*Picture books are powerful. These are the first images and stories that fill a child's head. They are gateways to learning, creative thinking, and emotional development. At their best they create worlds that children can live in for a brief moment. Where The Wild Things Are seemed real to me. I wanted to go there, ride monsters, stomp around and roar. I would have traded our dog for pajamas like Max's. (and I loved that dog!) They were that cool. Even now when I read that book I re-experience that same feeling of wonder and excitement.
School libraries are the Grand Central Station for the imagination. Once you step inside the destinations are limitless. You just have to get on board.
Reading is most fun when done with a kid. It is our job to read picture books with enthusiasm, make them come alive and stick in the imagination. Creating books that are good for reading aloud is an important aspect of the books I write. My goal is to create books that allow young kids to be an active participant in the storytelling. I want to get them excited, and when the story is over shout, READ IT AGAIN!
*Mr. Schu, you should have asked me how becoming a Dad has effected my writing and illustrating. Being a parent forces you to think from the child's perspective. What are they experiencing? How are they responding to the world around them? You start remembering things about your own childhood. I mean… you basically get to relive being a child except now you get to see it through a creative filter. Also, it is like having a little idea generator running around the house. WAZDOT? was inspired by my daughter Lily. Her first three words were DaDa, MaMa, and wa-dot? (what's that?) She was just starting to make associations between objects and words. What a wonderful point in time. To her everything was new and strange and each day was filled with discovery. Sort of like an alien landing on our planet for the first time. She went down for her nap and by the time she woke up the first thumbnails of the book were done. I wanted to do something fun with object identification. In the book there are three different views of each of the objects that Blip discovers. An obscured view, a silhouette of the object, and a full view of the object on the page turn.
Michael Slack is giving away a painting of Blip and a copy of Wazdot?
Borrow Wazdot? from your school or public library. Whenever possible, please support independent bookshops.