The Make-A-Book Project and author-in-residence program school photographs. Pictured here are all four of the aerial-view school photos. Kids standing in the shape of a bicycle, worm, butterfly and cupcake.
Retouching illustrations before and after. An example of how I clean up the lines.
The drawings can require a lot of clean up. 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, and sometimes 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. Some illustrations I have to deconstruct character by character and reconstruct 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

Illustration ideas by subject

Thinking outside the words

I continue to learn how to work with the various ways kids learn and create. Some students prefer to illustrate an actual sentence from the book, which requires a more literal interpretation; while other students prefer a more conceptual approach.

Colorful Gummi worm cupcakes being served on a silver platter.

Gummi Worm Cupcakes

Here’s a very strange coincidence. Guess what!? “Dirt cupcakes” with grass and a gummi worm on top. Bizarre!

In the studio with Larry Meiller of Wisconsin Public Radio.

Wisconsin Public Radio Interviews #1 & 2

I had another great interview on WPR’s Larry Meiller program. We talked a little about my trip around the world on a bicycle, and a lot about working on the new school book project.

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