News, Notes & Inside Info from a Children’s Book Author

PIRATE’S GUIDE Sequel, In Which Red Meets His Match

September 17th, 2012 Posted in A Pirates Guide (Series), the writing process

Here’s a touch of art from Greg Ruth, the amazing artist behind A Pirate’s Guide to First Grade and the upcoming sequel, A Pirate’s Guide to Recess.

I had an interesting experience writing this one, because it was the first time that I wrote a picture book knowing who the illustrator would be.

Note that the industry standard, in the absence of an individual who both writes and draws, is to begin with a manuscript and match it with an illustrator. Words first; art an afterthought. Think about that. Consider the advantages when one individual is both author and illustrator. As the great Bernard Waber long ago told me in an interview:

“When I am writing, I think of myself as a writer. But when I am illustrating, I think of myself as an illustrator. I think, though, that I try to create situations with my writing that will be fun to illustrate. The writer in me tries to please the illustrator.”

I shared that same feelling with Waber, that I was also writing to please the illustrator. I wanted to give Greg something. An offering. And that I was also writing to please myself (always), the reader, the art-lover; I wanted to see Greg get a pirate ship out on the water, watch as the confines of the actual world — in this case, the school playground — washes away. I wanted this story to fully enter the true, pure, imaginal world shared by Red and Molly. I thought it would be fun, sure. But more importantly, that’s how kids play. By agreement. “This piece of glass is the castle, and these rocks are the army, and this stick . . .”

I hope these books celebrate that playfulness. Intellectually, I wanted to see the next book extend the premise of the first book, not merely repeat the same joke.

Imagine this as a stunning double-page spread, printed with attention and care. The only words on the pages:

“Arrrrr,” Red muttered. “Rapscallions all.”

Anyway, writing with an artist in mind was completely new to me. Greg Ruth, specifically, was going to draw this thing that was in my head, transform it in his own way. Knowing that, I tried to create visual opportunities that would bring out the best in Greg.

It’s like, I don’t know, you’re having a party and there’s Fred Astaire sitting on the couch, chatting with Ginger Rogers. You put on a record because you want to see them dance. You don’t say, “Come on, everybody. Let’s play charades!”

Oh, about the book: It won’t be out until next summer, July 2013. Published by Feiwel & Friends/Macmillan. More details on that another day.

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