What words?

My next book, Bee & Bird, is about to hit the shelves in May. I’ll tell you already—it’s got no words. No, it’s not half-baked, it just ended up that way. I know what you’re thinking, it must have been easy—no editor! The truth is I worked with my editor, Neal Porter, tirelessly to make this book work without words. After publishing Hank Finds Inspiration with Neal and Roaring Brook Press, we have a good working rapport that usually takes place over the phone, over coffee, or preferably over cocktails. Neal points and I sketch. He initiated this book with “how about something really bold and graphic, really different.” Following remarks were like “no, no, not that, any other ideas?”

I’ve always been fascinated with image cropping from my years as a designer. How little information does it take to tell a story? A tightly cropped image can often extend well past the edges of the page. The book can become virtually huge. So I showed Neal some initial sketches along those lines—each page revealing more information and a fresh point of view.

My initial sketches had words and we both felt an urge to eliminate written narrative. Over the next month we batted the storyline around until we felt it stood on its own. The rest of the year was spent making the final drawings which is always the best part.

The exciting opportunity I saw was to produce very graphic and geometric illustrations—reminiscent of 80’s Swiss graphics that I was schooled on. I got out my T-square and circle templates—sorry Adobe.

Without giving away the story—you already know the main characters in Bee & Bird. In short, it’s a story about companionship, separation, and reunion without words. Believe me, we really thought hard about the merits—or not—of a wordless book. We kept coming back to thing that kids and parents love, that is, to contribute your own version of the story. A book to teach reading this is not. A book to teach storytelling it is. Look for it this May or pre-order it now. Don’t worry, I’ll remind you.

6 Responses to “What words?”

  • Ned says:

    This looks fascinating; I’ll be sure to pick up a copy when it hits the shelves!

  • Karen says:

    A genuine picture book… I love the idea of the reader creating his/her own individual narrative that can vary with each reading. Brilliant. Looking forward to May already, when I can bag my copy. I may even lend it to my 3yr old nieces!

  • Alex Nabaum says:

    Already love it, just by the cover!

  • Jonny says:

    it looks lovely. discovered your site recently and am enjoying the eye candy offered therein :)

  • [...] I have learned from my years as a designer to trust the sense of scale and proportion that I work out in my thumbnails. It’s always the same, whether designing a poster or a postage stamp. I suppose that is why I sketch so small and in such small sketchbooks. [...]

  • [...] Author/Illustrator Craig Frazier (June 9, 2011) on the publication of Bee and Bird, pictured above: “[Neal Porter of Roaring Brook and I] decided very early that this book would be all about the visual surprise of turning the page and that the illustrations would be very simple — graphic and always hint to the next landscape. I happen to love super simple visuals, perhaps a throwback to my early years as a designer when Swiss design was in style. These illustrations are reduced to the fewest elements and created very graphically with straight lines and sensual radiused corners — almost architectural. Perhaps a reaction to the computer, they were all drawn with drafting tools and scanned retaining the pen’s fuzzy edge and colored with primary colors. Each spread changes the viewer’s point of view as well as scale. My hope is that the mystery of each form prompts personal storytelling by the kids (or parents), depending on what they happen to see. This also points to our decision to make it a wordless book. It is a challenge I give myself, even with written books: ‘Does this story hold up solely on the merits of the illustrations?’…I have learned from my years as a designer to trust the sense of scale and proportion that I work out in my thumbnails. It’s always the same, whether designing a poster or a postage stamp. I suppose that is why I sketch so small and in such small sketchbooks.” [...]

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