5 Questions and 3 Sentence Starters with Mike Wu

Hi, Mike! Welcome to Watch. Connect. Read.! Thank you for dropping by to chat with me about your debut picture book, Ellie. I think Ellie would get along very well with Katherine Applegate’s Ivan and Ruby.

What planted the seed for Ellie

Mike Wu: Elephants have always been my favorite animal to draw as a kid and when I saw a video about real elephants that could paint in a zoo in Thailand I was intrigued. This inspired me to illustrate a painting elephant at an easel with critics surrounding her wonderful creation. I knew there was something special about this piece and before I knew it, my literary agent received numerous inquiries about this elephant and the rest is history I guess!

I love when I find a surprise under a book’s jacket. Did you have fun designing Ellie’s case?

Mike Wu: Yes very much indeed! Thank you for noticing the splashes of paint under the jacket. We wanted the book to feel very much like a part of Ellie’s world, and felt the color splashes would do just that adding a bit of fun and whimsy! As if Ellie herself painted them or they were leftover from a piece she just completed.

You worked on The Incredibles, Rataouille, Up, and Toy Story. How did your experience as an animator help (or hinder) you when you started working on Ellie?

Mike Wu: Our films production schedule can be very intense and animation work is detailed, technical and you need to follow each idea and shot through artistically to the very end. This helped give me the discipline needed to complete each page, as I did these all by hand with watercolor and touch ups in Photoshop post production. My eye has been greatly trained for fine detail work, and this also lends itself well in making sure each piece flows well into another and the color palette itself works to support and enhance the story. I use principles I learned in film and applied them to Ellie. The colors are muted and drab on the end pages and as the story progresses the world becomes filled with color. The back end pages describe the zoo after it’s gone through it’s rebirth with the trees lush with leaves and the walls painted by Ellie.

If we visited your studio, what would we see?

Mike Wu: Lots of paper with rough sketches, paints, pens and my iMac. I have a huge drafting table and it feels great just to sit and draw on paper!

OK, I have to ask. Did you name the zookeeper after one of the most famous animators and producers? 

Mike Wu: Yes, no surprise there. He’s the only Walt I know and I wanted an older name as the time period of Ellie is around the 50s. 

Click here to purchase the Ellie book and gift package. 

Please finish these sentence starters:

Picture books are doors into a child's imagination where anything can happen. 

Tiny Teru is a brand we created to capture the whimsy and fun of childhood.

Mr. Schu, you should have asked me if you’re going to see Ellie on the big screen?!

Hmmmm! :) Thank you, Mike! 

I am giving away one copy of Ellie. 

Rules for the Giveaway 

1. It will run from 5/19 to 11:59 PM on 5/20. 

2. You must be at least 13. 

3. If you win, please pay it forward. 

Borrow Ellie from your school or public library. Whenever possible, please support independent bookshops. 


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