In this third post about the process of illustration, we’ll take a look at books that feature diverse cultures.
Written by Geneva Cobb Iijima and illustrated by Paige Billin-Frye, The Way We Do it in Japan is about a boy whose family moves from San Francisco to Japan and discovers the many differences between the two countries. He is surprised that he has to remove his shoes and wear slippers inside homes, sit on pillows at the table, take a shower before entering the bath, and other puzzling requirements.
Paige consulted several people who had lived in Japan and became invaluable resources in the quest for visual accuracy. For example, one friend lent her some yen and demonstrated how a typical lunch was packed and eaten. A museum with a timely exhibition of a Japanese house and school room allowed the artist to photograph her son sitting at the low table, eating with chopsticks, standing by the tub, and other scenes.
Soap, Soap, Soap: Jabón, Jabón, Jabón, written and illustrated by Elizabeth O. Dulemba, tells the story of Hugo. He keeps forgetting what he is supposed to buy at the store, but mishaps along the way keep reminding him. Set in a small rural town, the story is told primarily in English with some Spanish words in rojo.
Elizabeth says about making sketches, “I prefer the wonky interpretation my brain comes up with and find that if I use too much photo reference, it takes the life out of my drawings. So, I wait to look at photos until later, just to make sure I get the details right.“ The illustrations were digitally painted during seven months of very long hours. A trailer for the book plus several activities are available on her site.
The Best Eid Ever was written by Asma Mobin-Uddin and illustrated by Laura Jacobsen. It tells the story of a girl who spends the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha with her grandmother.
Laura explains that she had to do a great deal of research in addition to the input from the author, who provided photographs of her daughter posing in various outfits and of her mosque. There were several pages of revisions after the first sketch phase to correct details such as not showing feet (which is considered insulting.) For more information about the book, see this page on Laura’s site.
In Grandmother, Have the Angels Come?, written by Denise Vega and illustrated by Erin Eitter Kono, the grandmother gently reassures her granddaughter about the aging process.
Erin researched the traditional dress of the Purhépechas peoples in Mexico for the characters’ clothing. Inspired by a line in the story, she incorporated Monarch butterflies which are seen as symbolizing the souls of departed loved ones, and also because of their famous migration through Mexico. She collected reference photos of the textiles, pottery, folk art, and glassware of the Michoacan region to add to her illustrations.
This is the final post (for now, anyway) about how illustrators go about creating the art for their books. Thanks again to my colleagues of the Picture Book Artists Association for sharing a little bit about their process. (Apologies for not having any books with an Irish theme today... please don’t pinch me!)