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.