The Magic of Sketches

Posted by on Aug 7, 2014 in Book: Quick Little Monkey, Illustration, PIcture Books | 0 comments

LIta Judge brings such personality (monkey-nality?) to LIttle Monkey, the heroine of Sarah L. Thomson's new picture book, Quick, Little Monkey!

LIta Judge brings such personality (monkey-nality?) to LIttle Monkey, the heroine of Sarah L. Thomson’s new picture book, Quick, Little Monkey!

There is no moment of the picture book process that I love more than the first glimpse of the illustrator’s sketches. This is the moment in time, for me, that a story or a manuscript–a bunch of words on a page–turns into a real live book.

A picture book is always a melding of art and text, and a good one takes art and text to a new level–each expanding the other, bringing something to the combination that neither had alone. So when you see the words and the pictures together for the first time, well, nothing quite compares.

Picture book writing is an odd craft. I’m thinking visually the whole time, from the moment the idea floats into my head. I’m thinking of page count (the magic number is 32; that’s the number of pages in a picture book), I’m thinking of how the text will spread out over those 32 pages (or actually the 23 that I really get to write on), I’m thinking of the balance between text and art on a page, and of course I’m thinking of the art. How will it look? Have I given the illustrator something to draw here? I haven’t stuck her with landscape for three spreads in a row, have I? Or created a dialog that he’ll only be able to illustrate with two talking heads?

And yet I don’t know what the art will look like. I don’t know how the illustrator will seize my ideas and run with them; I don’t even know who the illustrator will be, most of the time, when I’m working on a picture book text. So there’s this big empty space in my head that will eventually be filled up with glorious, imaginative, energetic full-color artwork. And then the sketches arrive in my e-mail in-box–and BOOM. What was once an idea, and then a sequence of words on a page, has suddenly become an genuine book, something readers will pore over and take delight in.

It’s amazing. Not even the delivery of a full-color bound book can compare with the exhilaration packed into a set of black-and-white rough sketches.

Yesterday I got my first look at Lita Judge’s sketches for QUICK, LITTLE MONKEY. And…wow. I mean…wow. I mean…gosh. There’s Little Monkey herself, in all her glee and courage and pluck and daring, and there’s the ocelot (oh, that ocelot!) who stalks her through the undergrowth, and there’s…well. I’m sorry you all don’t get to see Lita’s brillance until the book is actually out. But here’s one tiny sketch to give you a taste.

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