Patience is a virtue, and blab bla bla. But this week I got to see the full color art for my new picture book PHOEBE AND DIGGER and it’s about killing me that it won’t pub till a year from now. Aargh, as pirates, the un-dead, and impatient writers say. My editor at Candlewick has gently reminded me that a picture book is a unique, hand-made object, and as such takes time. Gobs and gobs of time. Now, just say Candlewick to a children’s librarian, and I guarantee he/she will close eyes, purse lips, and murmur Aaah as if you’ve just offered dark chocolate, a glass of really good red wine, and a seat by the fire. Candlewick’s picture books are always sublime. And now I know why.
The illustrator is Jeff Newman, whose best known books so far are Hippo! No, Rhino and The Boys, which uber-blogger-librarian Betsy Bird called, and I quote, “Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant.” Jeff (I call him by his first name even though, as is the time-honored if somewhat insane tradition with writers and illustrators, he and I have never met or spoken) works mostly in gouache and ink, and he’s got a retro line and pallet that are utterly distinctive. This is a witty fellow, and what he’s seen in my 600 words is amazing.
Digger becomes a cross between Mike Mulligan’s Mary Ann and a Mo Willem’s pigeon. In other words, equally hilarious and soul-ful. Phoebe exhibits a verve (not to mention fashion sense) I totally envy. The book has an urban setting, and Jeff has created a wonderful, diverse cast of minor characters and a great city park. Take me to that playground, pronto. I want me one of those red-white-and-blue rocket pops!
Witnessing someone else’s interpretation of your work is scary. Except when it’s not. Like, when a reader or reviewer makes you look smarter and more profound than you really are. Or when a brilliant illustrator decides to show the big bad bully from little Phoebe’s perspective, so you guffaw and quake at the same time.
Patience. It can go chase itself.