Welcome, Rabbi Benjamin’s Buttons!
I just got to celebrate a book birthday. Rabbi Benjamin’s Buttons, written by Alice B. McGinty, published by Charlesbridge Publishing, launched just a month ago.
Books take so darn long to make ( I was offered the manuscript on my own birthday, in October, 2011), holding the finished product in your hands is such a happy day!
Rabbi Benjamin loves his congregation, he adores the beautiful vest that they made for him, and he thoroughly enjoys all the fabulous food that comes with each holiday celebration! So much so, that as he goes through the year his sunshine-colored vest gets tighter, and tighter… until… pop!
Alice McGinty’s story is overflowing with a sense of caring and community. It also has some terrific recipes in the back (her family recipes disguised as those of the characters in the book).
I thought I’d take you on a little trip down Rabbi B’s illustrative path…
This is my very first doodle for Rabbi B.
He needed to start thin, and then get fat. He needed a beard, but what color? (Dark ones made him look like a villain) And how to keep him from looking like Santa Claus when he plumped up? (I think it was in the shape of the beard and having him wear a hat whenever possible)
Closer and closer… then I found him!
(His hat changed in the end.)
Now that I had Rabbi Benjamin, what about the other 17 characters? (YES, 17 characters!) They needed to be grouped as families and look as though they belonged together. So, just like a writer has a backstory for their characters as they write, the illustrator creates backstories to help them with visual continuity.
There was a Mrs. Bergman, her boys, and no Mr. Bergman. I imagined that she would wear an apron and sneakers, trying to keep up with her sons and keep them fed. The Muchnick’s have wispy hair and the Goldwassers all love bows ( the author didn’t mention any of this, I got to make it up— which is one of about 3,246 reasons why being an illustrator is so fun). Here are a few of the early character sketches…
And after lots of sketching,
and lots of painting,
and lots of time,
this is what my picture book looked like… until a month ago.
That is why getting to have a book birthday is such a happy time. RABBI BENJAMIN’S BUTTONS has just received a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly— a pretty terrific birthday present!
I would love to send a copy (signed if you’d like) of the book to a random winner. Please leave a comment telling me that you’d like to be entered— something like, “Oy Vey, of course I want this fabulous picture book!” I will randomly pick a commenter and announce that winner in my next post in a few weeks.
Again, thanks for visiting our blog, and for celebrating with me!
Congratulations and happy book birthday. Your art adds warmth to the story. I wanted to jump in the scenes. Please enter my name in the drawing. Thank you very much. Linda Andersen
Well, spank my tukus and call me lucky! I have the perfect family to gift this to! Love those drawings! RaChelle Lisiecki
Congrats, Jennifer! I love seeing the process you illustrators go through as you visualize a book.
Just LOVE learning about the process! Great stuff – was raised Jewish and I would be a meshuggenah not to want this one 🙂
Thank you for your kind words, everyone!
Joanne, you spelled “meshuggenah”— you must be Jewish! I’m not, the art director, Whitney Leader Picone is Jewish and was an ENORMOUS help to me. But I had to look up words all the time when emailing her to get the spelling correct!
Hey, Jennifer — so great to get a glimpse of your process here. I love it! Happy book birthday — it looks fabulous!
I just found your blog recently and love your style! I’m always on the lookout for excellent picture books to add to my niece read-aloud stash, and this looks like a perfect addition.
Thank you so much, Amanda! I think you’ll find that Alice has done a beautiful job of writing a story that just happens to be based on the Jewish holidays, but is really about any community’s sense of family and cooperation. And, the recipes sound delicious!
Wonderful post Jennifer! I love seeing your process and how you developed each characters. Congratulations. I’d love to be entered into the drawing.
Fantabulous! I would love to have your book as a member of my library!
In fact, I’m planning on ordering for my grandson regardless!
Great artwork!! Thank you!
Happy Book Birthday, Jennifer! And congrats to Alice, too! So fun to hear the backstory of your illustrating process. And I love that at the end of your post, the rabbi is celebrating his own arrival. 🙂
Patricia, that’s a great observation— love it! xo
Jennifer – The illustrations are great fun and your process interesting! Of course I’d love a copy of the book, but will make sure I read it to the grandchildren (once I’ve finished it!) regardless. Congratulations!
Huzzah-huzzah! I’d love a copy!
Great post, Jennifer, and even BETTER art! You are AMAZING!!! Thanks for sharing your early sketches. That is a treat! 🙂
Congratulations! Please enter my name into the drawing.
Congratulations on a wonderful book! I would love to add it to my library. Wishing you continued success!
Happy Book Birthday! I loved seeing the early sketches and thoughts that went into your characters, especially Rabbi Benjamin. I would love a copy for my library. Congratulations!
This looks delightful!!! Thanks so much for sharing the process!
The work of an artist breathes life into the words of a writer! Love this post, Jennifer!
Lovely, Debbie! And that’s the true beauty of the picture book. Thank you!
This looks great, Jennifer! And I love to see how other illustrators work. their processes. Especially in character development. These are really beautiful illustrations. Can’t wait to see the book.
Jennifer, I loved reading about your process and how your work evolved. Not to make too big a tsimmes, but bubbeleh, you should be kvelling over your illustrations! And I’d be verklempt to own a copy.
Thank you very muchnik.
Ahahahaha! Leslie, you made me laugh out loud. Oh what wonderful words— Love!!!! Thank you!
My pleasure! :0)
Entering with pleasure. The book is a-mechayeh. (Yiddish for full of life) – adorable, spirited, with just the right neshameh! (Yiddish for soul)
Mirka, thank you for the beautiful words! I do carry some with me from my beloved Jewish roommate and friend. Tchotchke ( I believe it’s bauble or knick-knack?) is one that I use all the time because I have way too many of them!
I looked up some Yiddish words, but thought I would offend somebody by misusing them. So, the book looks wonderful. Your art is beautiful. And, I would love a copy!
Patti, your effort is greatly appreciated as is your thoughtful compliment!
WoW, this is a giveaway I would looooooooooooooooove to win!! Love all on your book, 🙂
This book looks adorable. Please include me in the chance to win a copy.
Congrats on the birthday celebration.
Mazel Tov! I fell in love with you characters. I want to squeeze their shaynim punims and feed them 7 layer cake–a Detroit favorite : )
Ha, Ha, I’m very happy to learn that shaynim punims is a beautiful face! Truly, thank you for your very kind words!
My website is in the works. This is a fabulous book, and I am thrilled that it says WALNUT STREET because I live in WALNUT, CA and I am the “library stewart” for the Little Free Library Walnut in my front yard (just opened in this July).
If by some crazy chance I am the lucky winner, please write in the book: To the Little Free Library WALNUT, and I will put it in my little box of books for everyone to enjoy, knowing it will find it’s way into many hearts as it is passed from person to person.
Oh Nicole, that’s wonderful that you’re the caretaker of the little Walnut Library! The first line of the book is “Rabbi Benjamin loved his synagogue on Walnut Street”. Thank you!
I would love to show this to all the librarians I work with here in Texas (hundreds of them!) and also for my “Nana Library” !
Mazel tov! Truly captivating illustrations! I appreciate your sharing them.
it’s like butta, of course i want to win one
CONGRATS 🙂 and thanks for sharing your story
A huuuuuuuuuge thank you to all of you for all your kind words and witty responses! THANK YOU! I might just have to give away more than one book?
I won’t draw a winner until right before my next post which will be in a few weeks. Thanks!
What a gorgeous, gorgeous book! So excited about it’s starred review in Publishers Weekly. Of course, I’d love to have my very own copy as part of my new Reinhardt Art Collection!
Hi Suzanne!!!!! Can’t wait until we get to announce our own book birthday! Thank you so much for finding our blog and for your kind words.
So fun reading about your process., Jennifer. There’s nothing quite like bringing a book into the world. Happy belated!
Jennifer, Thank you for your creativity and fun with these illustrations. As a “pre-published” writer, I could only hope for an illustrator like you when I get a manuscript accepted. You rock!
Is it too late to chime in? This would be a great book to donate to my grandchildren’s Montessori school.
No, Kate, not too late. I’ll pick name in a few weeks right before my next post.
Mazel tov! What a great story and the illustrations are fantastic. I love seeing your sketches and process of creating.
So beautiful! Can’t wait to read it…and would love to win a copy of course 🙂