Guess what? We’ve got a very special guest visiting today. Author/illustrator Suzanne Kaufman is here to chat about her latest book, Take Your Pet to School Day — which, I’m happy to say, also happens to be my latest book. (For a chance to win one of two giveaway copies, leave a comment below.)
In a recent round-up of back-to-school books, The New York Times summed it up like this:
“Ashman’s vivacious rhymes and Kaufman’s lovingly detailed illustrations bring a far-fetched dream to life in this larky story. One school’s students are told to bring their pets on Friday, and they do, not just dogs but a snake, a horse and an ant farm, pulled in a red wagon. Chaos reigns, and the teachers freak out. Turns out the pets themselves have engineered a scam — a highly entertaining one that proves school stories don’t have to be serious.”
I agree about Suzanne’s lovingly detailed illustrations. Take a look at what happens when the pets go to art class:
You might recognize Suzanne’s work from the New York Times bestselling book All Are Welcome, written by Alexandra Penfold.
But let’s get on with the questions, shall we? Here’s Suzanne . . .
In your recent books, you’ve had a bazillion students, pets and bugs to illustrate. How do you begin? And how do you keep everyone straight? Any sketches you can share?
SMK: It is crazy. I feel like I am the gang of kids, animals, and bugs illustrator now, but I love it. I keep it straight by trying to be authentic and not generic with my design. All of my kids and pets are based on real people and critters. So, as I begin a story, I create character sheets thinking of their personality as part of the design and pose choice in an illustration. I work rough and as I go to final art, I ask what this character would do because of their personality. I based costume designs on this.
I love that you asked me for photos of my dogs and included them in the book. Thank you for that! Here are Sammy and Stella at home, and in close-up on the final page of the book:
How many other characters in the book are based on real people (and animals)?
SMK: Embarrassingly too many to mention but here are few for the kids, adults and my own dog Pippi.
How does your background in animation help you in illustrating picture books?
SMK: It lets me work very loose in the dummy and sketch phase knowing I can keep my character consistent while executing the final art. Also, animation is all about the feeling, so I am always intuitively asking how my characters feel throughout the book.
We love looking at creative people’s working spaces. Can you share a picture or two of your studio?
SMK: I have a home studio, but I am so busy with my family and life I pretty much work anywhere—at school, in the car, at my desk…
What keeps you inspired creatively?
SMK: School visits are my biggest inspiration right now. I love connecting with kids and inspiring them to write and draw their own stories. I love how they can find themselves in my books and have a story for everything.
So great to have you here, Suzanne. Thanks for stopping by!
Two more things . . .
(1) Suzanne created these fabulous printable bookmarks, which are available to download right here on her website.
(2) For more about the writing of the story (and the value of hanging on to old drafts), you can read my post over here.
To win one of two signed (by me) copies of the book, leave a comment below by September 10th. I’ll announce the randomly-selected winner in my next post.
Thanks for reading, everyone. And here’s to a happy school year for all!