A Chat with Brooke Boynton Hughes (and a Book Giveaway!)

BrookeBoyntonHughes_headshotThree years ago, when Random House editor Maria Modugno was considering illustrators for my manuscript Henry Wants More!, she shared a sample of Brooke Boynton Hughes’s work.  Well, I was smitten. And I’m hardly alone in my admiration. Brooke has won SCBWI’s Mentorship Award and two Portfolio Honor Awards in recent years, and has had a steady stream of projects since. She’s the illustrator of Kate Hannigan’s Cupcake Cousins series, and Angela DiTerlizzi’s Baby Love, and has several more books in the works. I’m betting she’ll continue to be very busy in the years ahead.

Before we chat with Brooke, here’s a quick synopsis of the book: Like many toddlers, Henry’s two favorite words are “More!” and “Again!” Exhausting, right?  But he’s so adorable, Mom can’t resist going back for “More!” once the day is over and Henry’s  tucked in tight. (Click to enlarge images.)

 

Henry Wants More cover

I’m happy to say that Henry has gotten starred reviews from Booklist and School Library Journal, which called it “A wonderful illustration of the exhaustion and joy that is life with a toddler.”

Henry Wants More lifting

We’ll be giving away a copy of the book—details (and other important announcements) at the end. But, first, here’s Brooke!

Can you walk us through your process—in general and for Henry in particular? 

Sometimes I start a project with the characters and sometimes I start with a rough thumbnail layout. With this book I did a few rough sketches of Henry and then decided to dive into the layout, before I had a clear sense of what each of the characters would look like. In this case, I think having a better sense of the visual narrative helped me to figure out each character (sometimes it’s the other way around). I usually do at least a few different versions of a layout before sending the one I like to the editor/art director. Then I receive notes from the editor or art director, I make revisions based on those notes, and we go from there. It’s a very collaborative process, which I love.

 

BrookeBoyntonHughes_HenryDigitalColorStudy

 

As you know, I’m very fond of the cutaway spread. Can you tell us how that came about? 

I’m so glad you like the cutaway spread! It was one of my favorites to draw. My first sketch of those pages was a series of spot illustrations showing Henry interacting with each of his family members.

BrookeBoyntonHughes_HenryRoughLayoutP16

After seeing the initial drawings, Maria Modugno suggested the idea of showing a cutaway view of the house with each of the interactions happening throughout, which I thought was such a wonderful idea. As a kid, I LOVED illustrations that featured cutaway views of houses and I was so excited to have the chance to do one.

BrookeBoyntonHughes_HenryP16_17

Henry Wants More Cutaway

 

How did you choose what to include in the rooms? (I love that Mom has a painting studio.)

I based the rooms and details I included in the house on who I imagined Henry’s family to be, and I suppose I also included things that I would like to have in my own house, like lots of plants and an art studio. Also, Maria and the art director, Nicole De Las Heras, made sure I included a bathroom, to help it feel like an actual, functional, home.

Was there anything especially challenging about illustrating this book? 

I think one of the most challenging aspects of working on this book didn’t have anything to do with the project itself, but with the fact that while I was working on Henry my husband and I were in the midst of moving out of our house and into an RV. Between the time that we rented out our house and had the RV ready to live in full time, we lived with my parents for a few weeks and then with my in-laws for about a month. I did most of the drawings for Henry either sitting on the couch in my parents’ family room or sitting at my in-laws dining table. It was difficult not having a dedicated workspace during that time.

BrookeBoyntonHughes_WorkingAtZion

I painted Henry while we were on the road, living in our RV. Traveling around the country for a year was wonderful in a lot of ways, but the logistics of working at a tiny desk, not always having electricity or the internet, and figuring out how to store big sheets of watercolor paper and finished illustrations was definitely a challenge.

BrookeBoyntonHughes_RVworkspace

Are there particular illustrators who you’ve studied in developing your style?

The books and illustrators that I loved as a kid have played a huge role in how I create illustrations as an adult. Some of the most influential were Gyo Fujikawa, Irene Haas, Hilary Knight, Tomie DePaola, Richard Scarry, and Maurice Sendak. Now, when I look through Come Follow Me, by Gyo Fujikawa, I remember just how it felt to be 5 years old, laying on my bedroom floor, and totally lost in the magic of those beautiful illustrations. That feeling is something that I think about a lot when I’m drawing and painting.

These days I’m a huge fan of Carson Ellis, Isabelle Arsenault, Marla Frazee, and Holly Hobbie and am endlessly inspired by their work. I’m also a big fan of my friend Corinna Luyken’s work and can’t wait for her first book, The Book of Mistakes, to come out next year.

One last question: My friend’s daughter, Phoebe, is quite taken with the garden gnome in the shrubs—a little detail I hadn’t noticed until she pointed it out. Is there a story behind it?

I’m so glad Phoebe found the tiny gnome! I did the drawing for that spread while I was at my parents’ house. My parents have a fairy/gnome garden in their back yard and the topic of said garden comes up surprisingly often in the Boynton household. I don’t quite remember how the conversation went, but I was trying to decide what details to include in front of Henry’s house and I think it was my mom that suggested I add a garden gnome. It’s sort of a little shout-out to my parents.

Henry Wants More Garden Gnome

Can you find the garden gnome? (Hint: look to the right of the red wagon.)

 

Thank you so much for visiting, Brooke! For more about Brooke, visit her website and read Julie Danielson’s terrific interview at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast.

AND NOW, SOME QUICK ANNOUNCEMENTS . . .

  1. To win a signed (by me) copy of Henry Wants More!, leave a comment below by March 10th. The randomly-selected winner will be announced in my next post (March 22).
  2. The winner of last month’s Rock-a-Bye Romp giveaway is Maria Gianferrari!
  3. One of the best ways to learn to write picture books is to read lots of them, right? That’s what ReFoReMo (Reading for Research Month) is all about. Carrie Charley Brown and Kirsti Call have lots of inspiring posts (and prizes!) lined up. Registration ends March 1st—be sure to sign up!
  4. Our friend Anika Denise is helping to organize the Kidlit Auction for John and Betsy MacLeod to help with expenses related to John’s recent ALS diagnosis. The auction will open March 17th, with fantastic opportunities to bid on manuscript critiques, original artwork, signed books, workshops and more (I’m donating a collection of signed books and The Nuts & Bolts Guide). Be sure to “like” the page on Facebook to stay up-to-date. And if you’d like to donate something for the auction, send an email to kidlit4macleod@gmail.com.

Thanks for hanging in to the end, y’all!

 

Linda Ashman

Linda Ashman is the author of more than 35 picture books, as well as The Nuts and Bolts Guide to Writing Picture Books, a “how to” e-book for picture book writers.

73 Comments:

  1. Looks like another great one! Can’t wait to check out all the details in the illustrations. Thanks so much for sharing!

  2. I love the detail in the illustrations!

  3. Looks fabulous, and I loved reading about the process. Thanks!

  4. Wow! She created all these beautiful ages while living in several temporary spaces – impressive!

  5. I love a book where there’s as much to read in the pictures as there is to read in the text. It makes that shared experience between kid and adult that much richer.

  6. HENRY WANTS MORE! looks like it’s destined to become a classic! Simply lovely 🙂

  7. Smitten indeed! And what dedication to create art despite the challenges of space and travel. A perfect marriage of sweet text and charming illustration.

    I’m curious whether Brooke’s Boynton surname has any connection to Sandra or is a delightful coincidence?

  8. Very impressive doing all that work while on the road! It looks like a great book, both text and art! Congrats.

  9. So interesting to hear how Brooke illustrated this book while living on the road. Very cool!

  10. The cut-away is fantastic fun! Like a doll house in a book. Thanks for sharing your story.

  11. How lovely…thanks for sharing! Now I want to set up an office in an RV!

  12. Oh, hooray for Brooke and all her successes! All of us in RMC-SCBWI are so proud of her!!

  13. Love the story of the book process. The thought of living in a RV and illustrating a book is “award winning” in itself. Thanks for putting this book on my radar and my list.

  14. This looks wonderful, Linda! I’ll look forward to reading it. I love those illustrations, and all of the details in the house. Can’t wait to take a closer look. And thanks for introducing me to Brooke’s work!

  15. Stacy Digianantonio

    I can’t wait to read this one!

  16. Nice going, Brooke!! And from an RV??? Mere mortals would need a studio!

  17. Loved the interview. I’m such a Brooke fan.

  18. I had this book last week from our library! Nice combination of text and pictures.

  19. This is an amazing interview! I love peeking behind the scenes and into Brooke’s process. What a challenge it must have been to transition to the road! Thanks for the shout out to ReFoReMo, Linda!

  20. Thanks for a terrific interview. I can’t wait to read this one. It looks positively enchanting. Thanks for a chance to win a copy!

  21. The book looks adorable! I remember the days of my child wanting “more.” Exhausting then, but great memories now!

  22. Great interview, Linda! It’s always fun and educational to get an insight on the magic of text and pictures coming to life together and the process behind it. Can’t wait to explore this book up close.

  23. Thanks Linda and Brooke, the story of how this book was illustrated is incredible. You must be a very chill, go-with-the-flow kind of gal! Look forward to reading and sharing this book with my nephew.

  24. Great interview, Linda! I loved reading about Brooke’s process and am hoping she and I will get to work on a project together someday ;-). And I can’t wait to read HENRY WANTS MORE!

  25. This is a great interview – I’m looking forward to reading Henry Wants More! and seeing more of his beautiful family.

  26. Great post – and delightful illustrations. And living in an RV for a year! I am thinking about that….

  27. What a great interview! Love your illustrations, Brooke! Very cool to see your process!

  28. I’m having flashbacks of cutaway house drawings- especially NEED A HOUSE? CALL MISS MOUSE! the peek into the creative process is always a delight! Thanks for sharing!

  29. Looking forward to reading this gem. The garden gnome is a fun find. =)

  30. I’m looking forward to reading Henry Wants More. I have a fur companion who has the same idea-LOL Your work shines and I admire your taking it on the road with you and hubby. Creativity to the max! Thank you Brooke and Carrie 🙂

  31. Love the art and the delightful rhyme in this book!

  32. Thanks Linda and Brooke! Awesome information!

  33. “More” and “again” say it all! Sounds great. The auction sounds great too.

  34. I’m excited to comment on this, with fingers crossed in hopes I win. Nothing makes me happier than when a story in verse inspires art at this level, and starred reviews to boot! Kids adore rhyming text, and the adage that it is NOT sought is wrong. Poorly-done rhyming text is the bane of editors, but quality like this sings its way to the front of the pile: slush or TBR or “Read it again” pile! Brava!

  35. I am a fan of both you and Brooke AND rhyming books! Can’t wait to read this book!

  36. Where is that garden gnome? I looked and looked. My eyes must be too elderly! How fun! congratulations on such a fun book.

  37. Lovely! Can’t believe this book was made in an RV…
    Thanks for sharing the details.

  38. Love the cutaway! It reminds me of playing in with my friend’s dollhouse. I love the details.

    My dream is to spend time RVing when my husband retires. Good to know it’s being done and what the challenges are.

  39. I can hardly believe these illustrations were achieved while living and traveling in an RV. Now that’s really living the dream.

  40. I really enjoyed this interview. Loved hearing about creating art on the road. Looking forward to reading the book..

  41. This sounds like a great read-aloud for Kindergarten and first graders! Can’t wait to read it!

  42. I can’t wait to read HENRY WANTS MORE. The artwork is subprime (especially doing it under the conditions Brooke worked on it). Great interview. Thanks.

  43. I love the detail in this artwork. Just lovely!

  44. I love cutout spreads as a kid and adult. Now I know the correct term for that type of illustration.
    If I should win the book giveaway, please write a message to “Little Free Library Walnut” inside the book. I’ll read it and gift the book to my library in my front yard. Thanks!

  45. The book looks lovely, and I want to know more about the year on the road!

  46. What challenges you must have had living on the road! There’s a story there somewhere!

  47. Great interview, Brooke! Interesting to see your process. Love the detail and tenderness!

  48. Nice work Brooke! I loved the cutaway scene when I first read the book. It was a pleasant surprise. I like your list of influences too. I see touches of Scarry in your work, and Isabelle Arsenault is one of my favorites as well. The best to you in the future. Thank you for sharing!

  49. I especially loved the fact that the family is interracial — more and more true of our society as whole, but not as often seen in picture books and such a wonderful change.

  50. What an interesting post! I’m in love with Henry!

  51. Great post! I love reading about the process different illustrators and authors go through to reach a final product.

  52. I enjoyed the interview and the illustrations. Looks like a really fun book.

  53. I love Brooke’s work and had the pleasure of hanging out with her at an illustrator’s weekend a couple of years go. Congrats on all her success!

  54. Huge congrats to you on the book, Linda, and to Brooke on her beautiful work! I love that I know you both and it looks like such a perfect pairing. (Always a fan of the cutaways, too!)

  55. Love your illustrations!

  56. Loooove!

    This book practically begs kids to join in while the book is being read aloud. Bravo!

  57. I love getting to see the inner workings of a picture book coming together (and how illustrators do their part of the process). Thank you for sharing!

  58. Huge fans of Brooke in this house! Loved all the details of this article!!

  59. I want more too — Truly enjoyed this!

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