What’s better than ice cream on a hot summer day? A cool new picture book to go with it, of course! I was delighted to have a chance to interview Stacy Innerst, the illustrator of THE SWEETEST SCOOP: BEN & JERRY’S ICE CREAM REVOLUTION, written by Lisa Robinson.
Chunky Monkey. Cherry Garcia. Truffle Kerfuffle.
Legendary ice cream makers Ben & Jerry are behind some of the wackiest, tastiest flavors we know and love. It all began when two groovy guys, Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, met when they were twelve years old. Ben liked art, Jerry liked science, and they both loved food . . . especially ice cream! Chock-full of facts and humor, this entertaining biography about two hardworking partners living their Americone Dream gives readers plenty to chew on. Through their inventiveness, passion, and activism, Ben & Jerry dreamed of making the world a better, more delicious place—one scoop at a time.
Andrea: Hi Stacy! I’m so excited to have you on the Picture Book Builders blog! Congratulations on the release of your latest delicious book, The Sweetest Scoop: Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream Revolution!
Your artwork is just as groovy as Ben and Jerry. 😁 What was your approach to the illustrations and how/why did you decide to use watercolor instead of another medium?
Stacy: Thank you so much for hosting me on the wonderful PBB blog!
The art for The Sweetest Scoop was a bit of a departure for me, especially in the choice of palette. I started out by painting tie dye patterns (a Ben and Jerry staple) to get into the 60s vibe of their youth. The bright color and wet-on-wet look of tie dye was a big factor in deciding to use watercolor as the medium for this book. I also like watercolor because it forces me to stay loose and to be somewhat gestural with the illustrations. I wanted the artwork in this book to feel fun and spontaneous.
Andrea: It is so fun! Even the cow looks like she’s wearing tie-dye. I’m always fascinated by the research that goes into a picture book – both the text and the illustrations. Could you tell us about the research you did for The Sweetest Scoop? I hope it involved eating a lot of ice cream!
Stacy: This is the only book I’ve illustrated that required eating ice cream as part of the creative process. I could get used to that!
I actually love to do the research for books. When I illustrated a book about the Beatles I got to listen to Beatles records for months—same process for a book about George Gershwin writing Rhapsody in Blue.
Fortunately, the historical reference material for Ben and Jerry was easy to find on the internet. I had to use my imagination to portray them as kids but their rise to fame was pretty well-documented online. I found early photos of the two of them, their first truck, their first shop in Burlington, VT and loads of pictures of the ice cream itself.
And I might have listened to a little Grateful Dead, too.
Andrea: Music seems like a great way to get into the characters’ mindset. This is a story not just about ice cream, but about social and environmental justice. Ben and Jerry are well-known for their activism. How did you incorporate those themes into the art?
Stacy: Well, Lisa’s writing described events so well that my work was easy. The illustrations could be mostly whimsical and imagination-driven. With that freedom, I could depict the ice cream factory as a kind of greenhouse with smokestacks that belched out flowers rather than smoke, and I turned cows into members of their foundation, discussing how they could contribute to various causes.
Andrea: Tell me about the cows! Was it your brilliant idea to have them play such a large part in the illustrations, as well as be the joke-tellers?
Stacy: Well, I personally think that every picture book is better if you can throw an animal or two in there!
Ben and Jerry incorporated dairy cows into their marketing imagery so I was inspired by that, too. It was kind of natural that cows would be the comic relief and feature so prominently as characters because, after all, ice cream wouldn’t exist without them. We owe the cows a lot!
Andrea: I can’t live without butter, so I totally agree with you about how much we owe cows! Was there anything that you wanted to include in the illustrations but couldn’t? I guess I’m wondering specifically about the Pillsbury Doughboy, who was a part of Ben and Jerry’s slogan to try and end the ice cream blockade by Pillsbury. Anything else that didn’t make it into the final art?
Stacy: You’re right, I avoided the Pillsbury Doughboy like the plague because of the adversarial relationship they had with Pillsbury. I’ve depicted the Doughboy once before in an illustration I did of the Betty Crocker/Pillsbury corporate “marriage” (see below) and I really wanted to paint him for the book but I knew from past experience that there might be a trademark minefield there.
The only other thing that I recall leaving out was a picture of a dog eating an ice cream cone. An astute editor pointed out that dogs have a hard time digesting dairy so I nixed that illustration. That’s a good example of the kind of attention to detail that goes into making a picture book!
Andrea: Yes, there’s a ton of stuff to pay attention to in thirty-two short pages, especially nonfiction! You have illustrated quite a few picture book biographies aside from The Sweetest Scoop. Was this by choice, and if so, what is it about biographies that appeals to you?
Stacy: Oh yes, definitely by choice! I’ve always loved history and studying the lives of real people. I majored in history and art in college so I was unknowingly preparing myself for my future job. I think that any human being’s life is interesting enough to be the subject of a book—It just requires a talented author to tell the story. I’ve been fortunate enough to illustrate books about all kinds of people from presidents to musicians, but the best part is the deep dive I get to do into their lives when I’m researching. It’s just so gratifying.
Andrea: It is fascinating — I love figuring out what makes people tick and why they chose to do what they did. What are you working on now — any more biographies?
Stacy: I have several picture books in the pipeline, two of which are fictional works that I’m writing and illustrating. I’m also very excited about the illustration projects that I have lined up. Two are unconventional biographies of artists and one is a creative 180° from what I’ve been doing for the last several years. That’s all I can say for now, but they should be announced soon!
Andrea: Congratulations! That all sounds super exciting! Thanks again for chatting with me today. Where can readers find you on the web?
Stacy: Thank you so much!
You can find me at https://www.stacyinnerst.com/
Stacy Innerst has illustrated many celebrated books for children in a variety of flavors, including The Book Rescuer by Sue Macy, winner of the Sydney Taylor Book Award; Ruth Bader Ginsburg by Jonah Winter, a New York Times Best Illustrated Children’s Book; and The Music in George’s Head by Suzanne Slide. His favorite Ben & Jerry’s flavor is Cherry Garcia. For more about Stacy, visit www.stacyinnerst.com or find him on Twitter and IG at @StacyInnerst.
Stacy is generously offering a giveaway of a copy of The Sweetest Scoop to one lucky winner! Please comment below by July 31st to enter. Domestic U.S. addresses only.
Congrats to Kathy Cannon Wiechman, winner of Being a Dog: A Tail of Mindfulness, by Maria Gianferrari! Check your inbox for a message from me. 😀