Thursday, February 13, 2014


And LO, a hero will come, as the Prophecy has foretold. And lo, he will be strong, and beautiful.

Or she. He or she will be strong and beautiful, keeping in mind that words like these are hard to pin down.

Like maybe the hero is beautiful on the inside or something? The Prophecy doesn’t say exactly.

And yea, in the twilight of whatever year this is, the CHOSEN ONE will arise and slay the Great Dragon, and release the Sugar Zombies from their enchantment, and thwart the Lady of the Lake in her plan to tear a door in the universe. The Prophecy says all this and more.

I don’t have it with me; I can show it to you later if you want.

But LO! Lo, it is written that there shall be a handsome knight! And a time-traveling Merlin! And a stouthearted leprechaun! And a girl possessed of a FRIGHTENING GENIUS.

And a boy who once won a second-place ribbon for apple carving at the Delaware County Fair, children 5-8 division.

Though he was technically nine.

Read on, seeker of truth! READ ON!

(by which I mean please consider reading my COLD CEREAL SAGA, which is today completed with the publication of CHAMPIONS OF BREAKFAST)
An illustration from my new novel, CHAMPIONS OF BREAKFAST, and an inadvertent self portrait.

Thursday, January 16, 2014


Boov Fashion

Working on SMEK FOR PRESIDENT!, I've been wondering what my alien J.Lo would be wearing after living on Earth for a while. He only had the one Boovish uniform, after all.

Winter Weather

What Sort of Man Reads PlayBoov?
This seems right.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Filk Song!

Amazing song about THE TRUE MEANING of SMEKDAY by a teen named Rosie. Makes me so happy.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Then I started a yawn...

...that swayed up the block, crossed two policemen, rounded the square, and followed me home.

(from MOONDAY, available now)

Monday, September 2, 2013

The band on Bleecker Street...

...could only sigh into the microphone: Lullaboo/ I love you/ Shush-a-loo-la/ Lullaboo.

From MOONDAY, out tomorrow.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Thursday, August 29, 2013

I looked through my heavy lashes...

...though the window, through lean trees to see my blue moon staring back at me.


I walked over...

...and under and around to where Mom and Dad waited.

'What now?'

Another from MOONDAY–September 3rd.

Monday, August 26, 2013

The next morning...

...the moon was lower and larger.  And very nearly on the ground.

It was in our backyard.

From MOONDAY, my new picture book–available September 3rd.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013


A detail from my next picture book, Moonday.

In stores September 3rd.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Hey, Georgia.

I'm going to be at the Decatur Book Festival on September 1st, talking about my new picture book, Moonday.  Let's you and me get caught up.

Monday, July 8, 2013


I've moved into a new studio!  This is what it looks like on the inside!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Phoenix Comic Con

Hey, come see me this weekend at the Phoenix Comic Con.  Here's my table number and schedule:

where I'll be

Thursday, April 18, 2013

How I Make a Picture Book

And not the only way to make a picture book, obviously.

If it’s not my own story, then I’m starting with just a Word document or whatever of the author’s manuscript. Sometimes you can tell by the way he broke up his sections how he thinks the book ought to be paginated. But I’m free to ignore that if I like–paginating the book is the illustrator’s prerogative.

A manuscript as it appears on my computer-machine. This is actually some text from the next book I'm doing with Gaiman–couldn't find the last one.

So I print that manuscript out and start marking it up. I draw brackets around sections that I think ought to stay together on a page or a spread. This turns into a bit of a puzzle for at least a couple reasons–because you want to be deliberate about where your page-turns are falling, and because virtually all printed books have a page count that’s divisible by eight. In a novel you can just throw a bunch of blanks at the end to round out another eight pages if you have to, but with a picture book you need to be more precise. Add to this that nearly all picture books are either 32 or 40 pages long, and it gets even more restrictive. Few PBs are more than 40 pages. None are less than 32 (board books don’t count).*

I probably just lost half my readers discussing this stuff, so I’m bailing out now. But there are a lot of tricks for getting to the right page count, and not all of them are obvious. So to the guy in the comments section who is going to claim he found a PB with 35 pages I preemptively say: Nope. You didn’t. We can talk about it after class.

Once I know what’s going where I can start sketching the thing out, and I always end up doing something like this:

Actually the thumbnails to Chloe and the Lion.  Couldn't find the thumbs to Chu's Day, either. Should I have made a "panda thumbs" joke here?  Because pandas have thumbs? Maybe it's a little too on the nose.

I draw 32 or 40 or whatever little boxes on a single page of my sketchbook and start filling them in. I only have the most rudimentary notion what each page is going to look like, but this is where I usually discover the ideas that will make this my book as opposed to a book that was merely illustrated by me.

Once I have all my pandas in a row I probably sketch character designs. This is easily my favorite part of the process, when everything's still new and the book in question is still the best thing I've ever done or will do.

On this sketchbook spread you also see Merle Lynn, a character from my COLD CEREAL trilogy, and also Abraham SuperLincoln fighting an octopus on the moon.

I refine the page thumbnails into loose sketches, and the loose sketches into finished sketches.

Eventually I compile all the sketches into a dummy of the whole book.  In the old days that meant a lot of photocopying and binding together a physical mockup.  Nowadays I just assemble a pdf. This is often the first thing the publisher sees from me.

The pdf is named for its inventor, Paul Diogenes Format.

Now's when I start entertaining comments from the editor and art director, and make changes, and fight for things I don't want to change.

 I don't remember there being much disagreement over this particular book, though HarperCollins didn't care for the way I was treating the text in my pdf. They nixed the CMY bubble-things, and hired a letterer so I wouldn't have to worry about that, as I was already several months late at this point.

At this step I consider why I fail to meet deadlines, and why I'm such a constant disappointment to all who depend on me. You may want to skip this step, but I can't seem to.

Anyway, you can guess the rest. Once the editor and I agree on everything, and the author either likes it or else the editor decides the author is wrong for disliking it and therefore doesn't tell me, then I finish the illustrations.

I render the finishes a little differently on each book.  About halfway through I'm so sick of pandas I'm actually glad they're endangered.

When I turn in the art I'm worried that it's totally inadequate.  When the book arrives in stores a year later I only see mistakes.  A few months later I love it.

*Okay, almost none.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Postcards to Kids

When kids mail me actual letters, I try my best to actually mail something back (emails get emails).

Here are a handful of postcards I sent back to readers during 2012.

This girl sent me a picture of her own fantasy land, which included animals called bublis.  So I drew my own.

This kid told me he got in trouble for reading in class.

This guy told me about his own story he was writing, titled "Bug World War: Spiders Vs. Ants."  Which rules.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Kahlo and Rivera

I just got back from a trip to Mexico City, and while there my wife and I visited the studios of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera. Frida's first:

Note Kahlo's actual wheelchair (from late in life) in front of the easel.

The wall-plaque said:
In this part of the house–designed by Juan O'Gorman in 1944–the artistic essence of Frida Kahlo is distilled: her brushes, her easel (a gift from Nelson Rockefeller), the mirror she used for her self-portraits, and her books...There are also perfume flasks and varnish jars which the artist used to hold her paint.  All of the materials remain exactly as she left them.  One striking feature of the studio is the painting which depicts the evolution of the human fetus, a reminder of Frida's obsession with the maternity she was never able to achieve.
Yeah, so here's that fetus poster they mentioned:

I was also captivated by whatever this was:

Besides awesome.
Next, Diego's set-up:

Didn't even understand what these were.  Pigment manufacturer's samples?
And there are boxes of powdered pigment, I guess?  I'd love to read opinions in the comments.