Today on Kid Lit Frenzy, I have the pleasure of interviewing Melissa Guion, the author and illustrator of BABY PENGUINS LOVE THEIR MAMA.
I have noticed that many books for toddlers and preschoolers/kinders often show a mama penguin and baby penguins. Why do you think young children seem to connect so well with penguins? Was there a reason for creating the story - Baby Penguins Love Their Mama - using penguins rather than other animals?
I honestly went with penguins because I like to draw them. But you’re right, kids love them, probably for the same reasons I do. They’re cute! They’re silly! They’re always slipping and falling down, and waving their useless, comical wings. Then they jump in the water and transform like Clark Kent into Superman, rocketing around with amazing speed and skill. It’s fantastic. Also, penguins spend a lot of time with their parents, which children get. I remember thinking as a child how sad it would be to be a salmon. Never even meeting your parents. And then there’s Happy Feet. Everyone loves Happy Feet. That’s a lot of reasons.
When you are working on a picture book, what comes first - pictures or text? Do you create an outline?
My books are so short that I don’t outline. I just write. When I have a text I start making thumbnail sketches to figure out the basic pacing across the 32 pages I have to work with. Then I make a dummy. Eventually the art picks up momentum, and what’s going on there can dictate changes in the text. It’s a fluid process.
What is your creative process in drawing your illustrations?
The world of this book was already established in BABY PENGUINS EVERYWHERE, so I was able to dive into the art pretty fast once I had my story. I made the artwork on 300lb watercolor paper with a graphite bar and watercolors. (I filmed a little of the process and posted it on YouTube. See below.) I make a few rudimentary marks on the paper from a sketch, using a lightbox, so I know generally where things are supposed to be on the page. But I don’t flesh it out much because I want a feeling of live drawing in the final art. With the toothy paper and dark graphite I use, it’s hard to make changes, so I work with whatever happens. If it’s truly horrible I start over.
Who most influenced your art and writing?
I’ve looked a lot at William Steig and Alexander Calder. I love Steig’s line quality and his soulfulness. I admire Calder’s playfulness and the variety of his work. And I’ve said this before, I really admire the way James Marshall wrote. His stories are tight and funny and full of feeling. He made it seem so simple: George did this. Martha said that. The End. But it’s so, so funny. His artwork always filled in the blanks. The spread in GEORGE AND MARTHA where George is sitting in the balloon basket is one of the funniest pages of any book anywhere.
What is the one book that you read over and over again as a child? What book did you never return to the library because you loved it so much and couldn’t let it go?
I pored over Richard Scarry’s books. I only had one. When I went to a friend’s house who had the others I would grab them and go in a corner and obsess over every page. As far as real reading, I don’t think I was a huge re-reader. I remember re-reading THE LION, THE WITCH, AND THE WARDROBE a few times. There were other books I loved very much that you can’t really re-read, like TUCK EVERLASTING. Once you read it, you’re done. It has happened to you.
What question do you wish I had asked?
These were terrific questions. I don’t know, how about what’s that great yellow you used for the penguins’ beaks? It’s called Gamboge. I do love yellow.
|Photo Credit John Trotter|
About the author/illustrator:
Melissa Guion's first picture book, Baby Penguins Everywhere!, was selected for The Original Art 2012, an exhibition of the year's best illustrated children's books. Melissa swears she could draw baby penguins all day, but she may take a hiatus to do a book about her daughter's guinea pigs. She lives with her family in Brooklyn, New York. For more information, visit her website: http://www.melissaguion.com/
Be sure to follow the adorable mama and baby penguins on Melissa Guion’s blog tour!
Monday, Jan 13
Susan Heim on Parenting
Tues, Jan 14
The Children's Book Review
Wed, Jan 15
Once Upon a Story
Thurs, Jan 16
Kid Lit Frenzy
Fri, Jan 17
Sat, Jan 18
Mon, Jan 20
5 Minutes for Books
Tues, Jan 21
Just a Little Creativity
Wed, Jan 22
Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers
Thurs, Jan 23
Fri, Jan 24
As They Grow Up
Sat, Jan 25
And don't forget to check out this awesome giveaway! One lucky winner will receive a deliciously-scented mama and baby penguin goat's milk soap (for preening practice, of course!) and a signed copy of BABY PENGUINS LOVE THEIR MAMA.
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