I grew up loving picture books.
I can still hear my grandmother's voice over the sound of the pages turning, the old wind-up Westclox alarm clock ticking away and the sound of traffic rolling down Howard Street. I remember the smell of books mingling with the smell of freshly laundered sheets.
Virginia Lee Burton's The Little House was my favorite, and I obsessed over the whimsically sweet illustrations of that little pink house happily sitting upon a hill covered in daisies.
Inspired, I wanted to be an artist. I also wanted to be a poet, an art teacher, and a journalist. The ping-pong ball of art vs. words ended with a career as a graphic designer. It was a perfect fit: I took pictures and words and put them together in a pretty way.
I met an artist, a photographer. He also had grown up with Virginia Burton: Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel. It was a sign. So I married him. We had two boys and two good excuses for buying dozens (and dozens) of picture books.
Inspired by my youngest son's tireless (literally!) obsession with trucks, I wrote Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site in stolen moments during the workday and late at night, after the boys were tucked in. And with the words emerged a vision (dare I say "obsession") for how the book and my trucks would look.I could see it so clearly: realistic illustrations of trucks superimposed with facial expressions to convey the mood and create the characters. Strong, yet simple graphic elements to create the setting. A bit of realism. A bit of collage. A bit of a grunge to compliment the dirty work of the trucks. I included the concept illustration with my manuscript and sent it, unsolicited, to Chronicle Books.
When my editor contacted me, three months after I'd sent the manuscript, she was friendly, but also to-the-point: They loved the manuscript (!), and hated (though she used a nicer word) the illustration concept.
One of the reasons that Chronicle was the first (and ultimately only) publisher on my list was that I LOVE their picture books. I appreciate their beauty and high production values. So, I had a choice here: trust, or walk away. I chose trust--with a big dash of fear.
My editor asked if I had any ideas for illustrators. I sent her a dozen names and online portfolios. I'm pretty certain she ignored me. And, they chose Tom Lichtenheld. (Who?)
When I told my editor that I'd never heard of Tom, she quickly emailed a few examples. The first was from Tom's NYT best-selling book, Duck! Rabbit! I was stunned to see bold, simple shapes and thickly-outlined illustrations. I stared blankly at the screen, feeling my heart sink.
Could this guy even draw a truck?
I spent the next couple of months intently focused on the process of editing and developing the final manuscript. But it was always there, in the back of my mind: What would the book look like? What had I given up?
One evening I received an excited email from my editor with Tom's first pencil sketch attached.
I wrote back: "I’m scared. I'll pour a glass of wine and then look at it."
I held my breath and double-clicked. And there it was: classic, timeless and tender, with just a touch of whimsy. My crane truck, a distant, younger cousin to Mike Mulligan, perhaps? My heart melted. I was won over.
So there it was: nothing like I imagined. But it was better. I've come to learn that some of the best things in life--like marriage and motherhood--are like that.
And I could almost feel Mrs. Burton smiling down.
| || || |
| || |
My son got this as a Christmas gift when he was about 20 months old. He LOVES the book. We read it almost every night and it's been over 4 months. Read morePublished 12 hours ago by LittleJMommy
Our little guy loves this story of the construction equipment. Cool drawings.Published 13 hours ago by Rofox
Gave this to an expectant architect daughter and she loved it. Having a Boy so this should be perfect although we both agree this is not a sex based book and would have been given... Read morePublished 16 hours ago by Senior Swede
Our son's favorite night time story. He has memorized almost every single word by age 2.5. What a wonderful story!Published 1 day ago by The Notorious A.G.A.
Favorite bed time book for our 2 year old daughter! Get it, you won't regret it!!!Published 1 day ago by Amber
Very nicely written - and with fantastic illustrations. You'll love the characters.Published 3 days ago by Danica Harden
Great book for boys or girls. We own the book for our daughter and bought it for a boy for his birthday. One of the top books illustration and story line wise-in our collection!Published 4 days ago by Amanda L. Sloan