Hot off the presses, this is the cover of the first of a new chapter book series from Random House. Sensitively written by Steve Cotler, it's a "book within a book", wherein the main character, a young boy who lives in Gloucester Massachusetts, tells tales of his daily life interspersed with his own imaginative digressions in his own "book".
As the story focuses on Ronald "Cheesie" Mack's fifth grade graduation, from the start I imagined the cover to riff off of those horribly awkward class photos we've all lived through. It seemed the perfect way to introduce the various characters, real and imagined, while setting up the narrative in a specific environment. Luckily, the awesome art director Ellice Lee battled out the forces and got my idea through.
This is Cheesie's sister. Here, she is imagined by Cheesie as a hideous mongoloid zombie.
In this chapter, Cheesie and his buddy Georgie have become enslaved by a hideous beast. Actually, Cheesie is simply writing the scenario on his computer in his room.
This house, which Cheesie calls the Haunted Toad, is a central part of the story. It was a fun bit of a challenge to make a New England "gingerbread" house look like a creepy toad.
Frog vs. Toad.
These bw images are a few of the many interiors to the book.
When it was all finished, Ellice asked me if I could draw myself and the author from fifth grade to match the theme from the cover for the flap. My father emailed me this photo, which I sent to Ellice along with the illustration of myself from that time. They ended up deciding to run the photos instead of the illustrations!
I would've never have thought this embarrassing photo would be reproduced in a book. Wearing my sister's shirt, no less, circa 1975.
Anyway, I recently learned the cover of Cheesie Mac will be included in the Society of Illustrator's 53rd Book & Editorial show. I look forward to seeing many of you at the opening on Friday! With a storm pending Wednesday, looks like it's going to be a long travel day getting to NY. Maybe we'll get lucky and our luggage wheel will have one of theose Brodner advertisements on it....