I am simply thrilled that illustrator, and now author, Jon Klassen, has visited My Little Bookcase today.
Not only did I find Jon’s newest book fascinating (read our review), but I was also intrigued by his desire to take to writing his own book after years of illustrating for other authors. My questions for him revolve around inspiration, story stimulus, influence, artwork and intended audience and purpose for the book.
It can be great for children to contact their favourite authors but it can also be beneficial as parents to see what goes on behind the scenes of a book’s creation. Our questions are broken in to the questions I had for Jon as a parent and the questions my daughter had for him.
Questions from the parents:
You’ve successfully authored your first book. How does that feel?
It feels very nice, thank you! It’s a cool thing to have something on the shelf with a cover and a spine and everything, just like real books do.
You’ve illustrated many books. Can you explain the desire you had to write one?
The more you illustrate other people’s texts, the more you start to value pieces of a story that tell you how things should look, rules in the text that tell you where to start with the illustrations. I like drawing simple things, so I wanted to try and give myself those rules that said it had to look simple. I would’ve felt kind of bad doing such simple pictures for somebody else’s book, but I knew I’d be okay with it if it was just mine.
What was the stimulus for the story-line of I want My Hat Back?
The main idea came from the cover with the title written over a picture of somebody who wasn’t wearing a hat. A bear seemed to push the joke a little further because you don’t expect him to be wearing one in the first place. The idea of the rabbit’s part in the story came in the writing, and I was glad to see it, because otherwise it would’ve been a pretty boring book.
I Want My Hat Back has quite a simple story-line, but layers of meaning can be drawn from it. Was this an intention for you or an aftereffect?
I think I’m most happy that it makes sense as a story on its own. I wanted to keep what happens at the end a little layered, just because that was the only way I could see having what happens happen without being gross or morbid about it. The bear gets his hat back, and younger kids might be happy and stop there, but for older kids who are reading it a little more carefully, there’s an extra bit of closure. At least, that’s the theory. A lot of younger kids I’ve seen that read it roll right through any careful plans I had for them and get what happens right away.
Who was your intended audience for the picture book, adults or children? And which particular features do you think will appeal to them?
It’s meant for children for sure, but I’m not sure I would’ve changed anything if they’d told me it was just going to be shown to adults. When I was a kid, I always liked pictures that I could sort of see doing myself, so not making things too complicated visually has been a priority when the work is aimed for younger kids. Story wise, I’d like to think they’ll respond to the way the rabbit is. Not wanting to be like him or anything, but recognizing him. I think kids have to deal with people like him all the time.
What or who has influenced the style of this book? (and/or your work in general?)
Since it was all in dialogue, I thought of plays a little bit, kind of like “Waiting for Godot”, where there’s nothing else to do but repeat these weird sentences to each other. Also, I wanted it to feel like a young reader book, so Arnold Lobel’s “Frog and Toad” books, P.D Eastman’s books, “Go Dog Go”, in particular. Books where the language is very deliberate and you read it in kind of a chopped up way. Illustration-wise, I always liked how clean the Eric Carle and Leo Lionni books are. I like Inuit art a lot too, I think that made it into the shapes a little bit.
How did you create the illustrations for this book?
All the elements were done with black ink and then scanned and put together digitally. All the color was added digitally, and a lot of the faces and smaller features on the animals were added that way too.
Questions from the kids
What was your favourite picture book as a child?
“Sam and the Firefly” by PD Eastman.
What is your favourite book to read to children?
I don’t get to read to children very often, but I’d like to read the “Frog and Toad” books to them, maybe.
Why did you choose a bear as the main character?
Because bears are big and if a big character is upset about something, you kind of want to watch what happens. Also I just like drawing bears.
Who is your favourite character in the book?
I like the turtle best.
This interview was published as part of Jon Klassen’s Global Blog Tour. You can find out more about Jon by following any of the following link to other websites that took part in the tour: Playing by The Book, Kids’ Book Capers, Not Just for Kids, Bringing up Charlie, My Book Corner, Wahm-Bam!, Pickle Me This, There’s a Book, Chris Rettstatt