Back in 2015, I challenged myself to come up with a story that would invite a lot of audience participation. I also wanted to tell a story in a way that I hadn’t seen done before.
The happy result?
KNOCK KNOCK is my new book with oh-so-awesome Illustrator Guy Francis. It releases on July 31 from Scholastic Press.
This is what Kirkus had to say about the book:
“An amusing and lively read that celebrates a venerable literary form.”
And this is what School Library Journal had to say:
“Saturated colors, animated characters, and silly jokes will ensure repeated readers. An appealing read-aloud choice on hibernation and friendship.”
KNOCK KNOCK is about a bear named Harry who is all set to hunker down to hibernate, but his woodland friends have other ideas.
I have three favorite things about this book.
One favorite thing? While the text for this book is almost entirely done in knock knock jokes, KNOCK KNOCK is a real deal story with characters, conflict, and commotion.
My second favorite thing? This book makes readers FEEL something. I’ve shared this book at lots of school visits already, and it always inspires a big AWWWWWW from the crowd at just the right spot. (Read the book to discover this moment for yourself.)
My third favorite thing? Guy Francis brought a ton of fun, energy, and humor to the story through his art. There are so many great and funny details. Guy’s art truly KNOCK KNOCK-ed my socks off.
Lucky for us, Guy stopped by Picture Book Builders.
Welcome, Guy! I am a huge fan of your books including the Clark the Shark series by Bruce Hale and Mrs. McBloom, Clean Up Your Classroom! by Kelly DiPucchio. What drew you to illustrate KNOCK KNOCK?
When I was first shown your manuscript I got pretty excited. It had so much of what I love in a book. First, it is funny! Funny seems to fit my art and personality. Plus it has heart, an added bonus. Second, it has animals—so much more fun to draw animals than people. Especially if they can wear pants. That is a great combination in my book… our book… whatever.
This book contains a wide variety of animals. Do you have a favorite?
Harry is my favorite by far. It was so much fun pulling his personality out of my scribbles. Besides him I guess I’d go with the bunnies because bunnies. Amiright?
YES! You are right!
Tell us a little about your process.
It might seem weird, but I envision most of the book in its finished state as I read the manuscript the first time. I often tell students that this is when my imagination turns on. Like full blast. I picture the characters, where they live, what they do, their friends, the smells, and textures. The whole story unfolds in my mind. Then the tricky part begins: getting the pictures out of my head and onto paper so that everyone else can see the craziness that is going on in there. During my initial read I also scribble out thumbnail sketches, figuring out the story and trying to capture some of those early ideas. Hey, I’m getting old, gotta those ideas on paper before I forget. Next I work up some rough sketches. I work out the pacing, timing, compositions, and the whole flow of the book. At the same time, I develop the characters and they evolve from sketches to more concrete ideas. Once my rough sketches are approved by the publisher, I move on to my final sketches, making revisions and polishing everything up. Again I get approval from the publisher, and then it is off to painting. All of my sketches and development up to this point are mostly done digitally, and now I print my sketches onto a nice watercolor paper and pull out the paint. I use acrylics. After that I scan the final paintings and send them to the publisher, where their little book making elves put it all together. Its magic.
Oh, and somewhere during that process I’m also going through the same steps on the cover design. So fun!
Can you give us a peek into your studio?
Yes. It’s just a big kid playroom. My family calls it Sub-Level2. I’m basically a basement dweller. My wife even lets me out on occasion to check the mailbox.
If you had one piece of advice for illustrators, what would it be?
I’ve been asked this question a lot and I’ve given longer answers but it all boils down to this: If you want to get better, draw a lot! The more mileage you put on your pencil, the better you will become.
Scoop time! What’s next for you?
My goal and dream for a long time has been to write and illustrate my own book. I have a handful of ideas I’m working on in various stages and I’m ready to buckle down and get one of them ready to go. Unless, of course, a brilliant story comes my way that is funny, has heart, and animals with pants.
Thank you so much for joining us at Picture Book Builders!
Thanks for inviting me to spend some time with you!
In grade school, Guy Francis’ friends would exchange part of their lunch for drawings. His teachers would often let him stay in at recess or skip the school play practice to work on special art projects. And at home he always had some crazy project in the works. He knew then that art would be a part of his life.
Find Guy online at guyfrancis.com.
For a chance to have someone KNOCK KNOCK on YOUR door with a first edition copy of KNOCK KNOCK, please leave a comment. Winner will be notified in my next post.
Congratulations, Marcia Berneger! You reeled in a copy of GO FISH! Marcia, please contact me at tammi at tammisauer dot com and pass along your address.