I created this piece of art for one of my picture book ideas. The book was to be entitled Penguins Count and was actually a counting book for young children. It’s kind of weird to look at the art and remember when I did this. At the time my son was pretty young, under 4, and I was working at home as a freelance writer/editor for various educational publishing companies that were in Silcon Valley (e.g. Addison Wesley Publications, Creative Publications etc). Most nights I would put my son to bed 7:30 or 8 pm and then I would sit at my computer and do my work until 11 or 12pm. Some nights, or afternoons, (when I had a baby sitter), I would work on my own stories. I even belonged to a “Kiddie Writer’s” group and would share my work with fellow children’s book writers and illustrators.
I thought it would be fun, at least for me, to post here the text [and art direction] I wrote for Penguins Count. I am looking at the original manuscript right now. It has the black and white thumbnails I drew for each spread (i.e. two facing pages). The words in the brackets describe the art that goes with the text. And this color penguin illustration is for the first spread. So, here goes.
A. [2 page art of 10 squawking penguins walking toward the edge of an ice floe]
10 Hurried penguins talk and walk.
B. [left page—art of 9 adult penguins sliding on their bellies on the ice, right page—art of 8 penguins swimming underwater]
9 Graceful penguins slide
8 and glide.
C. [left page—art of 7 preening adult penguins, right page—art of 6 penguins swimming in the surf]
7 Fussy penguins preen
6 and clean.
D. [left page—art of 5 penguin chicks huddled together to keep warm, right page—art of 4 penguins (2 adults, each feeding a chick, total of 4 penguins)]
5 Growing penguins bunch
4 and lunch.
E. [2 page art of three baby chicks with eyes closed (sitting on the adult’s feet), 2 of them peeping and one with closed beak]
3 Snoozing penguins sleep
2 and peep.
F. [2 page art of one adult penguin on the left, only the number 0 on the right page.]
1 Does a penguin try to fly?
G. [2 page art of huge colony of penguins]
Or is the ice a place that’s nice?
I sent this manuscript and art off to many children’s book publishers at the time, but received rejections from each one. No one was interested. Maybe I just needed to wait until now to share the story. And maybe I’ll create more penguin art when I have the time. I think I still have some of that paper…
Note about the art materials: The idea for the cut paper penguin illustrations came from a favorite 1968 children’s picture book called Frederick, by Leo Lionni. Lionni, used simple cut paper shapes to create an amazing story about mice. It even won the Caldecott medal honor for 1968. (Every year, since 1937, Caldecott medals have been awarded to distinguished American picture book illustrators.) Not always sure if such awards mean anything to children. I remember reading a Caldecott winner to a kid. I was very excited and kept pointing to the colorful animals that had been drawn. The kid I was reading to could have cared less and looked relieved when I finished the book. He never asked me to read it again. However, Frederick is different. Every child I have read that book to has been engaged and interested with each turn of the page. Look up Leo Lionni. He has written and illustrated some wonderful books.