A Conversation Between Lisa Graff and Lauren Castillo

You are in for a BIG treat today! Lisa Graff and Lauren Castillo dropped by Watch. Connect. Read. to discuss the cover for their forthcoming picture book, It Is Not Time For Sleeping. I cannot wait to celebrate this beautiful picture book on November 1. Thank you, Lisa and Lauren! :) 

Lisa Graff: So! Lauren! Tell me about this gorgeous cover! How did it come about? Did you know right away generally how you wanted it to look? Or was it more of a process?

Lauren Castillo: Ohhh, I am so relieved to know that you are pleased with the cover! I have to say, I was pretty nervous to work on the art for our book. This is the first time that I have illustrated a picture book by an author who happens to also be a good friend. With every book I illustrate my hope is that the author will be happy with the art, of course, but I really REALLY wanted you to be happy.

So, about the cover:

I did have some specific thoughts very early on about how I wanted it to look.

A few years ago, around the same time you shared the manuscript for IT IS NOT TIME FOR SLEEPING with me, I found an old gem from my childhood collection called KINDNESS IS A LOT OF THINGS, written by Edith Eckblad and illustrated by Bonnie and Ruth Rutherford. That jacket image and design stayed with me, and I imagined a similar looking cover for our book. 

When I was close to finishing up the interior art last fall, I did some quick scribbles and sent them along to Jen (Greene) and Christine (Kettner) with a note that said something like, “ Lisas story is so classic, and I think the cover should feel like a bit of a throw back.”

They agreed — YAY.

But the road to winning over everyone at Team Clarion/HMH was just a little bit longer. . . :)

The original idea of a vignette on the cover stuck, but we probably put together a dozen+ different versions before landing on the right one.

Here is a sampling.

So, what I've been wondering is: Did you have an image in your head of what the cover of this book would/should look like? Im always curious how it is for a picture book author to hand over their story to the illustrator. I imagine it being some combination of thrilling and terrifying.

Lisa Graff: Oh, wow, I love seeing all those sketches! You know, what strikes me seeing the different versions you were working on is how perfect the one you landed on is--this fabulous balance between the defiance of the title and the fact that you want parents to know that in the end, the boy actually WILL go to sleep. :)

To answer your question, I really didn't have an image in my head of what the cover would be. To be honest I'm not a terribly visual person--I always have a sense of what I think the tone should be of a book, and maybe the color scheme, but in terms of the illustrations themselves I don't have much in my head. So it's really been a delightful surprise to see what you come up with. Every time, I've thought, "Of course! That's PRECISELY what it should look like!"

This has been a really fascinating experience for me, being the first picture book that I wrote. I worked on several picture books as an editor at FSG (some with you!), and so that gave me a taste of what it was like to start with a text and then see the art develop, but it's different when it's a book you've written. I think it really works in my favor that I'm not able to conceptualize art for the book before an artist is attached, because that way I'm able to look at the art more objectively as it fits the book, instead of comparing it to whatever idea I had in my head. One of the things that I loved so much that you did with this book was how you made the palette on each page get progressively darker and darker as the story goes on and bedtime gets closer. That probably seemed like a no-brainer move for you, an artist, but for me, I thought, "Oh, that's GENIUS!" Because it really sets the stage in a subconscious way for bedtime.

Was there anything you tried with this cover, or with the interiors, that you thought at first would work but that you had to change in the end?

Lauren Castillo: As far as interior art goes, this was one of those rare times where I could visualize just about every spread on first read of the story. Looking back at my original thumbnail sketches, they are pretty darn close to what youll see in the final art. 
I think the cover image was the trickiest piece of this picture book puzzle. I showed you a bunch of the earlier cover comps we came up with, but there were others. After my first few attempts at trying to get the vignette image right, I had abandoned the idea. Tried a couple other totally different cover options, but they werent feeling right either. I was a bit stuck, but fortunately we have a great editor and art director. Jen and Christine stepped in with some wonderful thoughts and suggestions. We revisited my initial idea, and eventually found a way to make all the pieces fit together nicely. HOORAY. Oh! And we even snuck a surprise on to the case cover. I love it when that gets to happen.

Btw, Im happy that you noticed how the palette slowly darkens with the passing of time in the story. It was something I thought of when I was playing around with color samples early on. Because the book takes place in a very limited space (basically only three rooms), the challenge was keeping that space interesting. I thought that showing the progression of time by using a darkening & increasingly limited color palette worked well both visually and conceptually.

I'm very glad to hear that your first picture book making experience has seemed to be a happy one. Does this mean you will plan to write more? Because I would LOVE to illustrate another Lisa Graff book. Just sayin'.

Lisa Graff: That awesome wallpaper makes me want to redecorate ALL my rooms! :)

I would absolutely love to do another Lauren Castillo picture book in the near future! All I need now is a good idea....

Look for It Is Not Time for Sleeping on November 1.


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