Tag Archive for A Pirate’s Guide to Recess

A Favorite Illustration

Greg Ruth created a lot of great illustrations for our upcoming book, A Pirate’s Guide to Recess, but I have to say that the one above has a special place in my heart. Not because it’s the “best,” but that it captures what for me is the essence of this book, and really a big part of childhood itself.

The boy off and running, trailed by whomever or whatever he might conjure in his waking dreams. In this case, pirates. In another, dinosaurs. Or ballerinas. Or baseball players.

It’s all imaginative play. You can sit down in the dirt with any five-year-old kid and he’ll tell you: “Okay, these rocks are the fort and those sticks are the warriors coming up to capture the king.”

You point to something and ask, “What’s this?”

He says, “That’s my cookie and if you eat it I’ll kill you.”

That sort of thing.

The thing is, you go along with it. You don’t step back and ask, “Oh, I see. Are we playing pretend now?”

No, you just jump into it . . . and play.

Which is how Molly deals with Red out on the playground. They become real friends through their imaginative worlds.

Starred Review, A PIRATES GUIDE TO RECESS (Coming Soon!)

It’s been a good week for reviews. Publishers Weekly just gave my new picture book — illustrated by Greg Ruth — a starred review. Eager readers can meet Greg at the Eric Carle Museum on June 8th. In the meantime, I’ll be at BEA in NYC to sign pretty much anything that’s put in front of me. (Except for feet. I will not sign feet.)

Using the same blustery pirate slang and vintage-style artwork that propelled A Pirate’s Guide to First Grade, Preller and Ruth transform a school playground into a swashbuckling adventure featuring two rival captains—Red (from the previous book) and fearsome Molly. Their respective pirate crews are again rendered in pencil, creating a ghostly effect, and their surly theatrics will pull readers through this nautical fantasy. “Don’t scowl so, sweet Red!” Molly tells Red after his crew mutinies. “We’re just having a little yo ho ho.” Preller and Ruth put kids at the helm as they communicate the joy of escaping into a world of pretend. Ages 3–6. Author’s agent: Rosemary Stimola, Stimola Literary Studio. (June)


Let’s roll . . .

Illustration by Greg Ruth, a piece of spot art that was originally intended for A Pirate’s Guide to First Grade but didn’t serve the story, so failed to make the cut. Greg brought it back as spot art on the title page for the sequel, A Pirate’s Guide to Recess. It glad it will see the light of day.

File this under: You can’t keep a good idea down.

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

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.

Sneak Peak #1: A Pirate’s Guide to Recess

Avast, ye scallywags! Greg Ruth is currently illustrating the sequel to A Pirate’s Guide to First Grade, in which we take it out to the playground and introduce fierce Captain Molly.

Look for A Pirate’s Guide to Recess (Macmillan) in the summer of 2013.