Gondra’s Treasure! Interview with Linda Sue Park (and me) and a GIVEAWAY!

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!

“Tapestries” from Gondra’s Treasure depicting Western and Eastern dragons.

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?

Trying different layouts with sidebar, I liked this approach, but it was “too busy” and too much information in one spread.
Very early and rough sketch attempt to find a device to separate the dialogue.


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.

‘Meet the family’ spread from Gondra’s Treasure, written by Linda Sue Park.

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. 

WIP on my board—- I used metallic gold watercolors.

Final spread from Gondra’s Treasure describing the treasure of Western dragons.

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!

Detail/Closeup of spread.

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.

Gondra’s chop.


Linda Sue, You must have a real love for dragons. Is there a history to your passion?

Linda Sue’s dragon pin.

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!

Jennifer Black Reinhardt

Jennifer Black Reinhardt

Jennifer is the illustrator of several acclaimed picture books. Most recently is Gondra's Treasure, written by Newbery award winner Linda Sue Park. Another recent release is Sometimes You Fly, by Newbery medalist, Katherine Applegate. Jennifer is the author illustrator of Blue Ethel and has illustrated Yaks Yak, Animal Word Pairs by Linda Sue Park, The Inventor's Secret, What Thomas Edison Told Henry Ford, by Suzanne Slade, Rabbi Benjamin's Buttons, by Alice B. McGinty, and The Adventures of a South Pole Pig, by Chris Kurtz.

87 Comments:

  1. Avatar
    Kim Pfennigwerth

    I am so eager to read this book – the text of where you come from and who you are blended with the rich illustrations of dragons – what could be better than that?! So happy to read this interview today! Congratulations on the new book!

  2. I love the story behind the story. I love that this has a blending of cultures. So many of my students are from two cultures. And I LOVE Gondra’s chop. We have them all over Korea for everything.

  3. Very cool illustrations! I agree “Gondra” was a good choice for a name!

  4. Congratulations Jennifer and Linda Sue! This book looks and sounds terrific. I love the chop and hearing about how Gondra’s name evolved.

  5. Congratulations to you both. This book is bold and beautiful. Absolutely LOVE it. Can’t wait to get my hands on a copy!

  6. What a lovely thing to say, Lynne, “bold and beautiful”. I hope you like the book when you see it! Thank you!

  7. This book is absolutely beautiful! I loved hearing how you created the images and brought the story to life! Looking forward to getting my copy.

  8. What beautiful illustrations! And interesting dragon information! Thanks for posting.

  9. This looks adorable. Can’t wait to read it.

  10. Avatar
    Karen Henry Clark

    Our daughter is Chinese so we definitely understand the issues of a mixed race family. This story and artwork make the experience wonderfully magical. My sincere appreciation to both of you.

  11. Wow – double dragon delight! Can’t wait to read this!

  12. I clearly have a lot to learn about dragons! What a wonderful interview. I can’t wait to read the book. Congrats to you and Linda Sue, Jennifer! And I love the chop–it’s beautiful! 🙂

  13. Looking forward to reading this book. Love the thought process and the product coming to life

  14. If I win the giveaway I’ll donate the book to my Little Free Library Walnut!

  15. Wow does this look cool!! thanks for sharing your process, too. I cannot wait to see this. Plis, DRAGONS!!!

  16. Thank you for this interesting dialogue. How wonderful to find a book that is both needed and fun.

  17. Can’t wait to read this one. Two creative geniuses at work. 🙂

  18. Gondra is adorable! Love the idea and the story and the illustrations! Perfect! Congratulations!

  19. Thanks for sharing the backstory on this book!

  20. Avatar
    Danielle Hammelef

    Dragons are my favorite! Thank you for sharing about this fun book with “dragon diversity” as it will be exciting for me to read and share.

  21. I am a dragon lover and have never seen this book. Thanks for writing about it! I am excited to locate a copy for my classroom.

  22. Avatar
    Rebecca Gardyn Levington

    This looks amazing! Thank you for sharing your story!

  23. Happy book-birthday! I love this! And esp. the story behind the story and how it’s all come together, down to the family seal. Congratulations!!!

  24. This book looks amazing. I especially like the red and white striped PJ’s! And the dragons are so unique. Can’t wait to read this one.

  25. Congratulations! This looks like an awesome book with the kind of illustrations that leave you noticing new things on the twentieth time through.

  26. I want this book! What a great way to work diversity into a picture book! And, Jennifer, your illustrations are breathtaking!

  27. Avatar
    Chery MartĂ­nez

    The story and illustrations already have us champing at the bit to buy copies for our grandkids!

  28. Wow! A great interview. A great behind-the-scenes story. An enticing book that I can’t wait to read. Thank you both for sharing the magic you both created. Many, many congratulations!

  29. Jennifer, you and Linda Sue Park are so talented and creative. A match made in heaven!

  30. I cannot wait to read/see it! Congrats on a beautiful creation, you two!

  31. So much to learn about dragons! Congratulations on a beautiful book. I look forward to reading it!

  32. this was so heartwarming!

  33. We have several books about dragons in our home and have discussed the differences. Excited to add this one.

  34. I loved Yaks Yak and I’m so excited for your second collaboration! This book look absolutely fantastic – can’t wait to read it. Congratulations!

  35. Linda Sue Park is my author hero! 🙂 Your illustrations are amazing and I need to get this book for our library.

  36. Can not wait to read this book! Looking forward to hearing Jennifer give a book talk, too!

  37. This book sounds fabulous! Looking forward to hearing Jennifer give a book talk soon, too!

  38. This book sounds fabulous!

  39. Thanks to Jennifer and LInda Sue for such intriguing backstory info! I can’t wait to learn more about dragon differences when I read the book. And how enchanting to now have a “dragon take” on navigating mixed family issues! Jennifer’s illustrations are colorful, wonderfully detailed, and endearing.

  40. You’ve sparked an interest in dragons for me. I cannot wait to get a hold of the book.
    Thank you.

  41. Avatar
    Jennifer Lynn Dieleman

    What a fun and creative story. My class will love hearing this one as a read-aloud. I love the illustration with the titles of real stories. I have read all those books and enjoyed them! Thank you for sharing your interview with us.

  42. As a person who can barely draw a stick figure, I so appreciate your talents! I love the collaboration between author and illustrator. The way it all comes together is a beautiful story in itself. Congrats on another wonderful book that I’ll be sharing with my classroom and colleagues!!

  43. Hi! I’m a grown-up (sort of!) Who loves beautifully illustrated story books. I’m also a dragon fan, born in the Year of the Dragon. This is one of those books. Love the name Gondra & happy to read the background info. Looks like a best seller to me!

  44. Congratulations on this beautiful book! My library students are into dragons in a big way right now – i can’t wait to share this with them. Thank you for sharing about so many details too – it will be fun to share them.

  45. Would love to read this with my grandchildren! Thank you!

  46. Fascinating back story & awesome interview! I look forward to reading this soon.

  47. Love the illustrations and look forward to reading the book. We love dragons.

  48. What a great addition to a classroom library! Linda Sue Park is a great storyteller and Jennifer Black Reinhardt’s illustrations are magical. Really looking forward to reading and sharing Gondra’s Treasure.

  49. I love everything about your new PB – concept, art, MC name, Asian stamp . . . Everything!

  50. Love reading about the background to the story! Thanks!

  51. I didn’t write enough! I think the concept of the book is fabulous! Love what inspired it & love the art too! I also love Gondra’s chop! And that his name is an anagram. Look forward to reading your book! Great collaboration!

  52. So many interesting tidbits with this book. I love the differences between eastern and western dragons, the chop, how the dialogue had to change, and that Gondra’s name is an anagram. Looking forward to reading this!

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