Hello, Picture Book Builders people. I hope you’re in the mooooooood for a book that features one cow, four seasons, and lots of silliness. NOT NOW, COW is written by yours truly and illustrated by the one-and-only Troy Cummings.
Rooster and his farm friends are ready for springtime play. But not Cow, who can’t seem to dress for the weather. She’s decked out in a parka and mittens as the first flowers bloom, ski-pants and a wool hat as the summer sun beats down, and a bathing suit and flip-flops when snow starts to tumble. Readers will love shouting out the catchy refrain “Not NOW, Cow!” while learning all about the seasons!
This is what Kirkus had to say about our book in a starred review:
“Amusing illustrations in bold colors reflect each season’s attributes while the succinct and simple rhyming text details the animals’ activities. Pure fun; readers and preschoolers will applaud both the silliness and practicalities presented.”
I invited my pal Troy to join us to celebrate the release of NOT NOW, COW.
Hi, Troy! Welcome to Picture Book Builders.
Tammi! Hello from the socially-safe distance of Indiana.
What was it about the manuscript NOT NOW, COW that made you think, “I must illustrate the antics of this bovine!”?
Oh! It was your jokes. Having worked with you on CARING FOR YOUR LION, I knew I was in for a treat before I even cracked open the COW manuscript. Your animals are so funny—they make ME look funny when I illustrate ’em. (Plus you give me lots of vivid, punchy verbs; I get images in my head immediately from reading one of your manuscripts. You make it easy!)
A typical gag might be structured like this: setup, setup, setup, FUNNY BIT! But on my first pass through COW, I loved that even the “setup” parts were funny and lively. (I wanna do that more in my own writing!)
NOT NOW, COW started out as a board book, then the folks at Abrams Appleseed wanted us to extend the story for a young picture book audience. Because of this, we were able to do some back and forth on this book as well as the upcoming ONE SHEEP, TWO SHEEP. I loved getting to collaborate with you in this way! How did you feel about this process?
I loved it, too! It was so fun to actually collaborate, like, for real. Typically, the author will finish her manuscript, and then the editor will fork it over to me, fully edited and ready to go. It’s still a collaboration, but I’m doing my part at the caboose of the train.
So it was a real treat to be able to do some honest-to-goodness back and forth; to see the scope of our book expand from a board book to a picture book. I love how you were able to use our extra pages / word count to bring in the rhyming lines, and add a bit more detail/action/character-definition.
Please open up your vault and share some of the early sketches from this book. What is this stage in the process like for you?
Rough sketches are the most fun part of making a book! Everything is wide open, and you can’t really make mistakes. And my rough sketches are always so loose! I feel like I’m always trying to hold on to some of that looseness as I go from rough sketches to rough color to final art.
You added another layer to this book by incorporating a variety of palettes. Please explain what you did and how you did it in 834 words or less.
Since the book is about seasons of the year, it was kind of fun to break the book into four distinct “chapters.” We gave each season its own title card to establish that we’re heading into SPRING or SUMMER, etc. So then it made sense to reinforce each season by giving it a distinct color palette: pastels for spring, saturated yellows and blues and oranges for the summer beach, leafy colors and golden fields for fall, and then cool blues and whites for winter. Ideally you could tell which season we were in just from the colors on a given page.
NOT NOW, COW features a cast of barnyard characters: Cow, Rooster, Duck, Sheep, Chick, Horse, Goat, and Pig. Do you have a favorite? (I won’t tell the others.)
Duck is totally my favorite; I love how she’s ice-skating proudly in those sparkly leg warmers.
You have so many great qualities as an author, an illustrator, and a human being, but I am particularly bowled over by your ability to brainstorm. My brainstorming output is like a leaky garden hose whereas yours is definitely the full-blast firefighter variety. What is your secret?! Do you have any tips/suggestions/nudges for the rest of us?
Brainstorming is all about making little connections between things. I love playing brainstormy games with grade school students (and grown-up writers!). Here’s one that works every time and gets you out of your own head.
1. Take a Pictionary card.
2. Select two words on that card.
3. Make up a quick story concept (or draw an illustration) that connects those two words.
4. Repeat! Do it quickly. Go through four or five cards, and see what you’ve got. I almost always rattle out some funny gag or setting or character I can use somewhere, if not a whole story concept!
5. EXTRA BONUS BOSS-LEVEL: Make up a story that uses every single word on the Pictionary card.
I think mini-prompts like this are a quick way to practice generating ideas; it feels less like writing and more like solving a puzzle.
Scoop time! What’s next for you?
I’ve illustrated a book by Melissa Martin called THOSE ARE NOT MY UNDERPANTS (May 11, Random House), and I’m working on the third book featuring Arfy, the letter-writing pooch from CAN I BE YOUR DOG? (Arfy gets a job as a helper dog in a school library, where he tries to solve the mystery of a missing classroom pet.)
I’m also teaming up with the inimitable Tammi Sauer on our third collaboration! ONE SHEEP, TWO SHEEP! (October 19, Abrams Appleseed).
Oh, I can’t wait for our barnyard cast to return! I’m so glad the world will get more of Rooster and his Eugene Levy eyebrows.
Thanks so much for visiting us at Picture Book Builders!
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As a kid, New York Times bestselling author Troy Cummings spent all his time writing stories, drawing pictures, and keeping an eye out for monsters. As a grown-up, he pretty much does the same thing. Except now his bed time is 9:15.
Troy has written and illustrated more than fifty children’s books, including THE NOTEBOOK OF DOOM series, CAN I BE YOUR DOG?, and THE EENSY WEENSY SPIDER FREAKS OUT (BIG-TIME!). He has also illustrated books by other authors, including CARING FOR YOUR LION (by Tammi Sauer), LITTLE RED GLIDING HOOD (by Tara Lazar), MIGHTY TRUCK (by Chris Barton), and VROOM VROOM GARBAGE TRUCK (by Asia Citro).
His illustrations have appeared in newspapers, magazines, greeting cards, board games, jigsaw puzzles, a French opera, and on the back of a box of fish sticks.
Troy Cummings lives in Indiana, where he steals jokes from his kids, cats, and hamsters.
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For a chance to win a copy of NOT NOW, COW, please leave a comment. You can get an extra chance at winning by sharing the post on Twitter. Be sure to tag Tammi @SauerTammi and Troy @troycummings.
This looks hilarious! Can’t wait to read it!
Hello from Columbus, Indiana!
Thank you, Tammi Sauer and Troy Cummings for this fun peek inside the collaboration between an author and illustrator power team.
I’m so looking forward to reading your amoooosing book!
My mind is udderly blown by your talents. 🙂 Seriously, it is.
My grandkids are going to love NOT NOW, COW.
Oh my, Tammi, you’ve done it again. Kids are going to love this. They’ll know when to chime in. And, Troy, I love colors, bright bold, happy colors, so yours seem the perfect match-up for this lively book! There are no little kids in my life at this moment but I buy books for babies so this will surely be one of them. Of course I’d love to win it!
Looks fun and the illustrations are adorable!
This book looks like SO MUCH FUN!
I want to read Not Now, Cow, NOW! Looks very fun and engaging. Congrats!
Thanks for sharing, Troy and Tammi! It was super cool to see the process for this book! Sounds hilarious;)
Tammi and Troy, CONGRATULATIONS!!! I’m constantly amazed at how you capture the funny for kids. Love the concept and execution!
Always ready for silliness!
This looks great. I just tweeted about it-my grandkids would love it!!
You two are such an amazing duo! I can’t wait to share this with my students!
What a terrific book! Love your color palette, Troy. Congratulations to you and Tammi!
Congratulations!!! I can hardly wait to read this. And thanks for the brainstorming tips!
This is freakin’ adorable on all fronts (and backs)! And gosh, I miss hanging out with Troy. Congrats on this fun new collaboration!
Looks like a great collaboration! Can’t wait to check it out! Love the tips for brainstorming as well! Thanks!
I love humorous picture books and am a huge fan of this author and illustrator. Thank you for the post and chance to win a copy too. I shared on Twitter to spread the word.
Eugene Levy eyebrows indeed!
Congratulations on all the book wonderfulness in the works!
My twins would love this book! Looks like fun! Shared on twitter too!
How fun! I always love your books, Tammi 🙂
I love all Tammi-books, and this one looks especially adorable! I can’t wait to read it, and I want to read it NOW, COW!!
Omg this looks and sounds amazing! I love how the editors wanted even more and this is what it became, thank you all for sharing!
This looks like the perfect team to create a great book! I can’t wait to read it!
I feel like Cow in reverse. There’s three feet of snow outside my window, but I’m ready for spring. Congratulations on Not Now, Cow — it looks like a delightfully silly story!
This one looks like so much fun–putting it on my TBR list!
I can’t wait to read this book! Thanks for sharing your humor and talent with us.
I’ve been waiting for this little darling! Any book by Tammi and Troy is bound to be a winner!
Thank you for sharing your insight on the process. My 7-year-old will still walk out with inappropriate clothes for the weather. I’ll have to share this book with him ?. Congratulations!
Wow, wow, wow, for Not Now, Cow!!!
I was already hooked just from the title, so I loved all of these bonus bits. I can’t wait to read it! Congratulations to both of you!
Love to hear the story behind it all – thank for a peek into the process! It’s definitely on my TO READ list!
Thanks Tammi! The books sounds like such fun and I love the Pictionary prompt.
Congratulations, Tammi and Troy!! I can’t wait to read NOT NOW, COW!! And, I LOVE the Pictionary brainstorming idea! Brilliant!
This looks hilarious! What colorful and funny illustrations with a humorous text! Congratulations to you both!
This looks like tons of fun, Tammi!
This book looks so fun! I love the illustrations.
This looks wonderful. Congratulations to you both.
What a fun story! You make it look so easy Tammi:) Congrats to you and Troy!!
How fun! Thanks for sharing!
We are fans of Arfy and Mighty Truck over here…. i hadn’t pieced together that Troy had illustrated both of them!
Congratulations! Looks hilarious! And so neat to hear how this began as a board book.
A Tammi and Troy book = fun, fun fun! Can’t wait to read this! Congratulations!
Oh my, you had me at Tammi and Troy! You two create such fun read-alouds! Can’t wait to read this gorgeous book!
This looks great! I can’t wait to read it. Also, thank you Troy for the great brainstorming tip!
That looks like a super fun book! I can’t wait to read it. Also, thanks for the great brainstorming idea, Troy. I’ll be digging my Pictionary cards out now.
I love this idea, and the execution looks like it was a lot of fun.
This sneak peek of NOT NOW, COW makes me chuckle. All the best Tammi and Troy.
This looks like so much fun both for reader and child. The anticipation of the cow’s next costume gaff and the words “Not Now Cow!” that go with it will be rollicking fun.
OMG! HILL-arious!! What a team you two make!! I really want this book!
Troy had me at “extra bonus boss-level” ?. I can’t wait to read this! We love us some Tammi Sauer.
I’m ready for this one and have lots of little friends to share it with. Congratulations on this fun collaboration!
What a fun story!!! I’m excited to read it. It’s very interesting to see author and illustrator’s perspective through the process of creating a picture book. Thank you for sharing this interview, I learned so much!!
What a great story! Love your collaboration and can’t wait to read it!
Congratulations, Tammi and Troy, on another wonderful collaboration! Looking forward it reading both Not Now, Cow and One Sheep, Two Sheep!!
Looks like a winner!
This looks very fun, Tammi & Troy. I already know how I’d use it in my kindergarten classroom!
Can’t wait to look at this one! Great fun. Not now, Cow! Thanks for the teaser. I’ll look for it.
So fun you two. We all need a good laugh! You nailed it.
So clever, yet so simple! Perfect! It sounds and looks like so much fun. Illustrations are fabulous!
Well, that was fascinating! I enjoyed reading this interview and look forward to reading your book.
So cheeky and fun! Thanks for sharing.
Great interview and always so much fun to hear about the behind the scenes. (Eugene Levy eyebrows ?lol!!)
Your humor always hits the mark perfectly!! Can’t wait to read it!
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