Here today joining me for a cover reveal of her Spring 2020 title is Barbara McClintock!
Here are a few questions Barbara answered about the book….
-You broke away from your traditional illustration style for this book. Tell us about that.
Recently, I’ve been going back through old childhood drawings of mine that my mom saved. I love the sense of spontaneity and immediacy in those early drawings. A big inspiration in much of that early artwork were HannaBarbera cartoons, specifically the 1960’s character Top Cat.
When I was little, I sat in front of the tv on Saturday mornings with a big stack of paper and crayons, drawing characters from cartoons as I watched.
I began to write and draw my own comics, many about Top Cat, In fact, I became so infatuated with Top Cat that I insisted everyone call me Top Cat for a brief period of time!
I thought it would be fun going back to my earliest interests and way of drawing, and that inspired the early Barbara drawings/cartoon style I used.
The nursery rhyme ‘The Three Little Kittens’ has been illustrated many times, including a recent version by Jerry Pinkney. The energy and underlying message of the story has been covered over by the antique language of the text, which has also driven the approach illustrators have taken to portraying the kittens and their mother. The kittens are invariably wearing frilly victorian clothing, and the design approach of the page layouts is very classical. The Three Little Kittens is actually a deliciously antic story about typical toddler behavior, getting in and out of trouble, and forgiveness. Once I broke away from rigidly adhering to the early to mid-1800s version of the text, and the conventional tropes that others have taken to visually narrate the story, everything suddenly came alive and got very, very exciting. Originally, I was going to retain the original text and have it appear in a very overwrought Victorian type font, and have the kitten’s dialogue become the contemporary beat of the text. Dianne encouraged me to tweak the original text so that the text and the kitten’s comments – appearing in word balloons – flowed together. There’s still the older flavor to the language of the text, but it’s in sync with a more current sensibility.
The illustrations are quite simple, but a lot of behind-the-scenes work went into developing the visual and textual narrative. I pretended to interview each character to get their point of view of what happens in the story, and wrote out their rather long-winded responses to the questions I put to them. I really had fun getting to the heart of their personalities, motivations, excuses for lame behaviors, and ultimately, their acts of generosity. ( Spoiler alert – there’s a powerful ‘love the stranger’ message at the end )
-Where did you get the idea for this book?
My editor at Scholastic Press, Dianne Hess, has talked about my doing an illustrated version of THE THREE LITTLE KITTENS for a long time. I hesitated because I had in my mind the same old approach which would have been just a repeat of what many other illustrators have done before. Once I realized I could break out of that box and take the text and images to a new level, I really engaged with the project.
-What else would you like to tell readers?
Have fun finding new narrative approaches to each text you encounter as an illustrator and author. And as a reader, look beyond the obvious and find new meaning and playfulness in stories you may have read a bajillion times.
And now…. here it is!!!