A Perfect Day by Sarah S. Brannen

Hello, Sarah S. Brannen ! I know this it is going to be a PERFECT day because you have returned to Watch. Connect. Read. to celebrate your forthcoming picture book, A Perfect Day. What do you want everyone to know about this perfect read-aloud?

Sarah S. Brannen: For most of my life, my mother and I played a silly game, particularly when we were on the ocean in Maine. On any beautiful summer day, with the warm sun and soft breezes and the water sparkling around the pink granite islands, one or the other of us couldn’t help saying, “It’s a perfect day!”

“Well,” the other one of us would say, “I don’t know. There is a small cloud.” Or, “That boat is kind of dirty.” 

Neither my mother nor I could remember exactly why the day could never be perfect. I finally asked her and she said that, if it was perfect, it could never be better and it would all be downhill from there. 

I wrote A Perfect Day in the winter of 2015-2016 and drew sketches for a dummy book. In the book, a happy seagull thinks that everything is perfect, but a grouchy crab keeps finding something to complain about. I did some sample art and I thought it was ready to send to publishers.

And then my mother got cancer. I didn’t work for the next year, while I cared for her in her illness, and, after she died, while I cared for my father. Eventually, with my father moved in with us and life returning to some kind of normal, I started to think about sending a new book to my agent. I opened a drawer in my studio, and there was A Perfect Day, which I had forgotten about completely, all finished and ready to go. 

The book is dedicated to the memory of my mother, Barbara Brannen. 

Thank you for sharing how a game between you and your mother inspired A Perfect Day. It is a beautiful gift in honor of her. 

Please take us through the process of creating one of the illustrations for A Perfect Day

Sarah S. Brannen: I started in Maine, drawing tiny watercolors in a sketchbook I take with me everywhere. I was on vacation with my parents, and from the deck of our rental house I could see some seagulls sitting on a rock. The rock got bigger when the tide went out, and smaller as the tide came in, and I wondered what the seagulls thought about it. 

“Gee, the rock seems rather small today!” 

Back home, I worked on the story and illustrations simultaneously, starting with small thumbnails and moving to a half-size dummy. Once the book was under contract, I re-did all the drawings in pencil on tracing paper, at full-size. 

From there, I always trace a print-out of the pencil drawing onto watercolor paper and re-draw it in complete detail with a hard pencil. Then I tape the paper to board and do the watercolors, starting with background washes of sky and water and finishing with the line-work, which is all done with a brush in this book.

Illustration Credit: Sarah S. Brannen
What was the most fun part of working on A Perfect Day?

Sarah S. Brannen: While I was in Maine, I did a lot of color studies of the ocean in different lights and times of day. I wanted the water to have that wonderful brilliance you see on a clear day, and I bought a lot of blue and green pigments I hadn’t used before, and tried mixing them in all sorts of ways, to find just the right palette for the water. A few of the scenes in the book are underwater – there is a dramatic development in the story two-thirds of the way through – and to check on the color, yes, I dove into the 50-degree Maine ocean and looked. After you’ve stayed in long enough you go completely numb and it feels wonderful. 

Please finish the following sentence starters: 

Talia Benamy, Ellice Lee, and Jennifer Chung, my Philomel team, were such a pleasure to work with. They call themselves my Phamily and that’s how I feel about them. Jennifer has since moved on to a new opportunity but I’m lucky enough still to be working with Talia and Ellice. The aforementioned dramatic development in the story was Talia’s idea. She is brilliant! 

I hope A Perfect Day makes people happy. It would be the perfect way to remember my mother if the book made children smile. 

Mr. Schu, you should have asked me whether it would be appropriate to make sound effects during the dramatic, wordless section of the book. Why yes. Yes it would. SPLOOSH! Blub, blub, blub… “Ouch! Let go!” 

Look for A Perfect Day on July 7, 2020. 

Philomel's Description: 

A seagull and a crab find friendship and compromise in this sweet and humorous story about the meaning of perfection.

The sky is blue, the sun is warm, the breeze is cool–it’s a perfect day for Seagull, perched on a rock in the sea. That is, until crabby Crab comes along and points out all of the day’s flaws! There’s a cloud in the sky, a smelly boat in the distance, and the rock that they’re sitting on is covered in barnacles.

In this sweet and funny story about finding happiness amidst flaws, Seagull and Crab learn that nothing is more perfect than spending time with friends.


Popular Posts