Ruby the Red Worm's Dirty Job Make-A-School Project. Pictured here are the student illustrators standing in the shape of a worm and the message, "We love worms.".
Retouching illustrations before and after. An example of how I clean up the lines.
The drawings can require a lot of cleanup. This one isn't too bad, but you'll notice the drawing overlaps the words. That is the sentence that I asked the student to illustrate. They did a great job, and I love it when they ad-lib. In this case, I decided to set the words in type. I'll add those later. The blue lines are my guides. I have to get everything to fit inside these.

Retouching the illustrations

Retouching, collaging and composing the drawings.

After sorting through my foot-tall stack of drawings, I begin selecting and editing my favorites. I also like to make collages to include as many students as possible.

Pictured above, I begin retouching the drawings. The first picture shows the original scan. You can see the line from the story on the top of the page and the students’ marker illustration of that concept, which shows a field of flowers toasting Ruby the Red Worm with a cup of tea.

The second drawing is a closeup depicting how I must delete the words from the illustration. I’ve also spent dozens of hours erasing pencil lines! Some drawings require an hour of retouching, particularly if I combine two or three illustrations. In this case, I removed the words and added additional cups of tea in all the flower’s hands.

Only 100 more to go!


Retouching illustrations before and after. An example of how I change the composition and size of the drawings.
To get the illustrations to fit in the book, I have to change the aspect ratio from the original 8.5 x 11″ drawing to the 6 x 9″ book. If I would have put the original drawing in the book, it wouldn’t fit. I would have had to crop off one or two kids. So, I artfully reconstruct a lot of the drawings.

Before and after an artful reconstruction. For some illustrations, I have to deconstruct character by character and reconstruct it into the proper shape that better illustrates the concept of the story. In this case, either the original 8.5 x 11″ drawing would have gotten too small for the 6 x 9″ final, or I would have had to crop off one or two kids. This drawing was done by Aldana Mediamolle, a student at the Kennedy Elementary School in Argentina.

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More stories about the making of this book

How I make the aerial view photos look real, including using satellite views and chalking the drawing out square by square.
The ice cream social and book signing celebration for "Ruby the Red Worm" drew over a 1000 people. It was one of the most overwhelming, amazing and fulfilling moments of my life to see the dreams of so many students coming to life.
The new book, Ruby the Red Worm, is finally here! Perhaps no one is more surprised how beautiful it is then me, especially the cover!
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