I am a lucky illustrator. Not only is this the second book that I was asked to work on with Linda Sue Park (we did Yaks Yak, Animal Word Pairs), but I got to draw dragons!
Gondra’s Birthday was on April 2 and I asked Linda Sue to help me celebrate here by sharing how Gondra came into the world.
Happy Birthday, Gondra!
When I first read the manuscript I said out loud, “Oh my gosh, it’s dragon diversity!” Gondra is a little mixed race dragon. Mom is from the West, and Dad is from the East. The entire book is loving banter describing the differences of their cultures and ethnicity. What a brilliant concept, where did the idea come from, Linda Sue?
LS: I first got the idea in Australia. 🙂 I was in Brisbane, at a book festival, listening to a talk by the Australian author Carole Wilkinson. She writes books about Eastern dragons, and spoke about how they’re not as well known as the Western/European type. I thought, hmmm…that’s interesting… And sure enough, I found the differences between the two fascinating.
GONDRA’S TREASURE is also a small act of redemption. In a novel I wrote several years ago, there is a brief mention of a dragon that breathes fire. That’s a mistake, because it’s supposed to be an Eastern dragon. Thankfully, the dragon is not part of the plot–it just comes up in conversation. I had known that Eastern dragons don’t breathe fire, but for unknown reasons, that fact totally left my head while I was writing that book. So in GONDRA, I get to set the record straight!
How did you come up with Gondra’s name?
LS: I knew that I wanted it to be an anagram of the word ‘dragon’–one of those little extra things for readers to discover. I tried many variations: Dorgan, Ordang, Gandor… Some were downright goofy: Angrod, Nodgar, Ondrag. ‘Gondra’ sounded the most like a real name to me.
When I first received the manuscript it was in written in dialogue. Like a play without “Mom said,” “Dad said,”. I believe that you envisioned voice bubbles, but I felt that it made the tone of the book feel ‘cartoony’. I finally came up with shapes that suited each dragon. Mom had a Renaissance-y scroll bubble and Dad had a calligraphic Asian inspired shape. But they took up so much real estate on the page and the ‘voice bubbles’ themselves became too important and distracting. Plus— when your characters are dragons, they need a lot of room! Linda Sue, You were asked to re-write the story in a more traditional narrative (thank you, btw) How did you feel about being asked to do that?
LS: I’m not an illustrator, I do have pictures in my head when I write a story. Initially, I imagined it ‘comic-book’ or ‘graphic-novel’ style–with panels and speech bubbles. So that’s how I wrote it.
But once the manuscript is turned over to the illustrator, I do my best to let go of the initial vision, because I want the illustrator to be totally free to do whatever they think best serves the story. So when the editor said that a more traditional narrative might better suit what *you* were doing, I was happy to give it a try.
Gondra’s Treasure has many layers. It is a book about a mixed family that happens to be dragons. You have done a beautiful job of imbuing enough human traits in the characters that readers will be able to identify with Gondra and see themselves. You then fill in with such interesting dragon history, pointing out the similarities, and mostly differences, between Eastern and Western dragons. How did you research these facts?
LS: Fortunately for me, there are millions of dragon fanatics in the world, and they’ve written thousands of books and created countless websites and made movies and art and you name it. I spent several weeks immersed and absorbed in the universe of dragon history and trivia.
Is there a hidden secret in Gondra’s Treasure that you would like to share?
LS: That stack of books that Gondra is carrying–they’re all real books, including my favorite dragon stories.
I have one— Mine is that Dad’s magic orb is the garden ornament!
LS: AHHHHH!!! I NEVER NOTICED THIS–going to grab the book RIGHT NOW!!!
Here’s a little illustrator note. A chop is an Asian stamp that is an individual’s logo printed in red. It’s used to sign artwork and documents. I asked Linda Sue if she had a family one that we could use in the book and she did not. Intrigued by this symbol of unique ancestry, I wanted to create one for Gondra. I used the image of the Ginko leaf (Eastern), and the oak leaf (Western), and made them into a “G”. I had a stone stamp made in Hong Kong and used this graphic in the book.
Linda Sue, You must have a real love for dragons. Is there a history to your passion?
LS: The photo is of my dragon pin, a gift from my dad. The pen point, included for scale, is pointing at the pearl ball, which is carnelian, I think, or maybe garnet. This pin appears in yet another book of mine, WHEN MY NAME IS KEOKO.
There’s also a dragon kite in THE KITE FIGHTERS. So I have dragons in several of my books. But there’s no doubt about which one is my favorite: Gondra, as brought to life by Jennifer Black Reinhardt. 🙂
Linda Sue and I hope you enjoy Gondra’s Treasure. I’ll send a book (which I would be happy to sign) and a Gondra sticker (of the above image) to two lucky winners!
There are a few ways to enter:
One way is to comment below.
Or, to be entered more times in the giveaway you can also do the following on social media:
Follow me and post about Gondra’s Treasure. Make sure to tag me on Instagram (JenniferBlackReinhardt), and/or twitter (@JBReinhardt) I will enter your name in the drawing and announce the winners on my Picture Book Builders post next month.
Thank you for celebrating with us! Happy Birthday, Gondra!