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This week we're excited to feature children's book author, and illustrator, Jon Klassen. Jon has won both the American Caldecott Medal and the British Kate Greenaway Medal for children's book illustration, recognizing the 2012 picture book This is Not My Hat, which he also wrote. We took an afternoon to visit him at his LA studio to get a behind the scenes look at his illustration process, and talk about some new things on the horizon, including his newest book release, Triangle, with Mac Barnett. We're also looking forward to our in-store book reading with Jon on Thursday, April 20th... find out more info here.
Do you have any favorite memories with books from when you were growing up?
JK: My grandparents' house where my dad grew up still had his bedroom pretty much the same as when he was a kid and one whole side of the room was bookshelves. They kept all the house's books in there, so there were a lot of novels and Reader's Digests and stuff, but there was a whole shelf of picture books from the 60s too, and I remember taking whole piles of them down onto the bed before going to sleep. I think that shelf is why I like making books now.
What surprises you most about working with children?
JK: They almost never laugh at what you think they're going to laugh at. You can set up what you think is a pretty funny joke in a book, and they'll always laugh at the page before it lands, or 2 pages later. It's nice when they laugh though.
How do you like to spend day off in LA?
JK: A bike ride up the river and into the park is pretty perfect, especially now that the park looks like a Heidi backdrop from all the rain.
If you could bring one fictional character to life, who would it be and why?
JK: Maybe Al Swearengen from Deadwood. He's not the most pleasant guy but I always thought he was really funny and charismatic and he knew how to get stuff done and his meetings involved eating canned fruit.
What's your favorite medium to work with for illustrating?
JK: I try to switch it up from book to book a little bit, just to try new things out, but given a choice I usually revert back to graphite. I don't draw with just lines very often, I like to use blocks of value, and a nice soft 9B pencil is really fun for that.
What do you hope kids take away from your books?
JK: I never have any luck when I try to write with some kind of a lesson or a moral in mind. I think if you work on the story enough to make it satisfying in a dramatic way, it seems to find that stuff on its own. Because a lot of my books involve information in the pictures that isn't in the text, I hope they learn a little bit about reading critically. Understanding that the whole story isn't always what's being directly told to you seems like a pretty useful lesson these days.
Anything new and exciting on the horizon for you?
JK: Work-wise Mac Barnett and I have a new book being released in the fall called "The Wolf, The Duck & The Mouse" about a mouse and a duck that get eaten by a wolf and decide to live inside of him. Life-wise we have a little boy who is looking to be released in next few weeks.
What or who inspires the characters of your books?
JK: I was never that into characters of my own making until I started doing books, and every time I start a new book it seems like it takes a few false starts with guys that aren't really breathing on their own until finally one of them walks out and just kind of shows you where he wants to go and I don't know if I'll ever know where that comes from. It's very mysterious and I don't think I would've believed in it until I started working on these stories, but now I know you don't really have a book until that happens.
Which hat out of all that hats you've drawn, was your favorite hat?
JK: My favorite of the hat books is probably the last one about the turtles, but in terms of which hat on its own, I have to say the first one, from the bear book, because it's just a red triangle.
Photos by Marielle Chua