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Debbie Ridpath Ohi joins us today for the cover reveal of her new picture book, written by Linda Sue Park , Gurple and Preen: A Broken Crayon Cosmic Adventure! Click and watch the video below, then keep reading to learn more about the inspiration behind the story.
Can you tell us a little bit about the inspiration for this cover?
Debbie: I love Laurent Linn’s cover design, don’t you? To answer this question, I thought it best to ask Laurent. Here’s what he said:
Laurent: When I approach concepts for a book’s cover design I consider many things: who is the key audience, what other books are out there that may be similar in theme or story (to be sure ours is unique and not derivative), and especially what is the essence of the story and its meaning. For GURPLE AND PREEN, the themes of drawing and imagination and, of course, crayons, are all important. But far more than that, the two extremely unique and important aspects of this book are Debbie’s brilliant “broken crayon” inventions and our two main characters themselves.
Gurple and Preen carry the story and are quite special in their design, so boldly and playfully featuring them as the “stars” on the cover was clear to me right away. But how to show that objects come from broken crayons without cluttering the cover? I always want the type design to feel organic and a part of the art, so having some of the type come from the broken crayons was the perfect solution. It shows us enough of what’s in store for a reader but also leaves a lot to mystery, which hopefully will make someone want to open the book and find out more!
Do you have a favorite spread and why?
Debbie: My favorite spread is the last one in the book. I don’t want to give away too much about the ending because I’d really like readers to encounter it in the context of the story, but it was the most fun to draw and also ties everything together. When I first read the ending in Linda Sue Park’s original manuscript, I was deeply moved.
Here are two other spreads I love:
This is near the beginning, where we first get introduced to Preen, and also get to see that Preen’s polkadot bow can SPIN, letting her fly around! We also get to see Gurple freaking out; she is very anxious. Both of these characters were a ton of fun to draw.
The crayons are all cargo in the robots’ rocket ship.
And of course I love all the spreads where characters are breaking crayons! In Linda Sue’s wonderful story, the crayons all got jumbled in the crash, and the two robots need to break them open to get the supplies they need to repair the rocket ship. Gurple keeps dismissing the objects in each broken crayon as useless and just gets more and more anxious. Preen, meanwhile, just goes about the business of using all the objects to fix the ship.
What is one of your favorite things to come out of a box of crayons?
Debbie: The child astronauts! Those spreads were a lot of fun to draw.
Outside of GURPLE AND PREEN, I’ve been thrilled to see the response from educators and librarians to my broken crayon art, and how they are using broken crayons with young people to help inspire art and writing. I’ve collected some of their tips and examples at DebbieOhi.com/broken-crayon as well as free, print-ready templates….thank you to all who contributed! You never know what will come out of a broken crayon.
Is there anything you’d like to share with young readers about how teamwork has played a role in your own career?
Debbie: Teamwork played and still plays an essential part of my career.
I’m grateful for all the encouragement and advice I received early on, especially when I was starting to get discouraged. When you feel down about your work, it almost always helps to talk about it with someone you trust. Surround yourself with friends who inspire and encourage you, and try to do the same for them when you can.
I’ve learned that creative collaboration is fun and productive! Yes, a book creator needs to be able to work independently and be comfortable with a lot of time in focused isolation, but part of the experience I enjoy the most is working with others to help make the book the very best it can be. At Simon & Schuster Children’s for my picture books, I worked directly with Laurent Linn (my art director) and Justin Chanda (my editor) during the creative process of writing and/or illustrating.
Then there are the people behind the scenes who help proofread and check over everything, help with the production of the physical book, help get the word out there about the book, help organize events, and much more. Most of these people are at Simon & Schuster in NYC but Simon & Schuster Canada also helps with publicity and marketing of my books on the Canadian side, as well as organizing my events here. My agent, Ginger Knowlton, and the rest of the team at Curtis Brown Ltd also help guide and advise me, plus their foreign rights department are always looking for ways to get my books into the hands of young readers in other countries as well.
My biggest takeaway: There are many, many people who are working hard behind-the-scenes of every children’s book! I’m grateful for them all.
Debbie Ridpath Ohi is the author and illustrator of Where Are My Books? and Sam & Eva (both with Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers). Her writing and/or illustrations have appeared in nearly 25 books for young people, including titles by Judy Blume, Michael Ian Black and Linda Sue Park. Her books have been a Junior Library Guild Selection, New York Times Notable Children’s Book, Missouri Building Block Picture Book Award winner, National Post Best Books For Kids, Indie Kids’ Next choice, shortlisted for the CCBC Marilyn Baillie Picture Book Award, among others, and have also been featured on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert, Late Night With Seth Meyers and NBC’s Today Show. Debbie posts about reading, writing and illustrating children’s books at Inkygirl.com. You can find out more about Debbie and her work at DebbieOhi.com as well as on Twitter at @inkyelbows and Instagram at @inkygirl.
Linda Sue Park is the author of several novels and picture books, including A Single Shard, the 2002 Newbery Medal winner, and the New York Times bestseller A Long Walk to Water. Her most recent titles include the Wing & Claw trilogy and picture books Gondra’s Treasure and Gurple and Preen. She is honored to serve on the Board of Advisors for SCBWI. and WNDB. Linda Sue knows very well that she will never be able to read every great book ever written, but she keeps trying anyway. Visit her website at LSPark.com and follow her on Twitter at @LindaSuePark.