The Children’s Book Review | October 16, 2017
Authors Amy Fellner Dominy and Nate Evans have teamed up with illustrator AG Ford to bring you the tale of a cheeky cookie and the hand that frosts him. In this interview, they got together to ask each other a plateful of scrumptious picture book questions . . .
Amy Fellner Dominy and Nate Evans Interview AG Ford
Amy Fellner Dominy and Nate Evans: When did you know you wanted to be a picture book artist?
AG Ford: I think I decided when I was a senior in art school. My palette was always bright and colorful and I liked the idea of doing a long project with multiple paintings. Storytelling has always intrigued me as well, so picture book making seemed like the right fit.
Did you have favorite picture books growing up? Favorite artists?
Interestingly enough, the main books I remember as a kid were chapter books. Maniac Magee and the Goosebumps series were my favorites.
You’re well known for a different, more realistic, style of illustration showcased in your award-winning titles such as Hello, I’m Johnny Cash, and Malcolm Little. Obviously, a talking dinosaur cookie was a departure. What drew you to the project?
You wouldn’t be able to tell from my first few books, but I love drawing animals and caricaturing people and doing many different styles of drawing. When I was 16 years old, I was a caricature artist at Six Flags. In our spare time, while I wasn’t drawing faces, the artist that I worked with would always set up different challenges for the day. Sometimes we would draw bears all day, or the challenge could be monsters, dinosaurs, etc.
Our main character, Cookiesaurus Rex, is a little cookie with a king-sized attitude. Visually, he has to be bossy and cranky looking, yet at the same time, he needs to be funny and likable. How did you decide what Cookiesaurus looked like?
Definitely trial and error. It’s just kind of a feeling out process. You try to explore and exhaust the possibilities. For example, make his eyes bigger, make them smaller, lengthen his body, shorten his body. The possibilities are endless, but I just keep drawing until I feel good about the character.
The book begins and ends with these amazing still-life paintings of baking ingredients and cooking supplies. Did you actually set up these scenes in your kitchen and then paint them?
My wife bakes often, so there was no shortage of supplies to look at!
As an illustrator, how do you make the story your own? How do you go above and beyond the author’s text?
It really depends on the story. If it is non-fiction, I try not to spin the text in any way at all. I’m more focused on details being accurate to the times, and making sure the right emotion is present. For such an animated story like Cookiesaurus Rex, I am simply trying to keep up with the energetic text. This story needs energy, it’s silly, it’s quick witted, so I try to keep the illustrations fun, fluid, and clear!
When you started the book, what did you expect would be your favorite scene? Was that still your favorite at the end of the project?
I thought it would be the King scene, but my favorite might be the scene where Cookiesaurus Rex is running off the pan and going for the supplies with his diaper coming off. Maybe I like this scene the best because I went through so many sketches to get this composition.
AG Ford Interviews Amy Fellner Dominy and Nate Evans
AG Ford: When did you know you wanted to write books for children?
Amy: Since I was a kid. I still have my first rejection letter—I was thirteen!
Nate: Dr. Seuss was always an inspiring hero for me, and I always knew I wanted to tell stories – they unfold in my brain like movies. What confused me was whether to become an illustrator or an author. I’ve ended up being both.
How is the collaborative process when writing with another author?
Amy: I wasn’t sure what to expect because I’ve never collaborated on a book before. The wonderful part was tossing an idea back and forth and watching it become more than it was…more than it would have been on my own. That was also the hard part because you have to be open to different ideas/directions. You have to be willing to say, “Let’s try it,” rather than “Are you out of your mind?”
Nate: I’ve always wanted to be in a band, but I have no musical ability. So, in that spirit, I’ve often reached out to other artists who might want to “play” collaboratively. It’s such an enlivening and inspiring way to write. The process always varies – you find that special chemistry with each partner.
When writing this book, was there at any point and time that the main character was actually something else? Like a Bear or Wolf? Or, while writing did this story ever have the possibility of going in a very different direction?
Amy & Nate: We were actually shocked when we looked back and saw just how much the story changed. It was always about a dinosaur cookie, but in earlier versions he was more of a bully. He actually ended up getting eaten in the end. Cookie went through a lot of changes until we finally found his voice and personality.
When and how did this idea come about?
Nate: I literally had a dream about a dinosaur cookie that came to life and started rampaging through a Lego village. In the dream, a child’s hand reached down and grabbed up the crummy monster as a voice boomed out, “There’s my cookie!” This was the fragment of idea that I tossed to Amy. She tossed it back, adding her own spin to the concept, and the story blossomed from there. Amy is a master of dialogue and it was due in large part to her creative voice that Cookiesaurus emerged as the charming and humorous character that he is.
What ended up being your favorite spread in the book?
Amy: I can’t remember how we stumbled on the idea of chocolate chips as poop, but I do remember both of us laughing so hard that I had tears in my eyes. AG, I couldn’t wait to see what you would do with the illustration and you didn’t disappoint! I can’t help but smile every time I see that page.
Nate: The illustration where Cookiesaurus decorates himself as a king is an artistic tour de force. A friend of mine caught a glimpse of that scene over my shoulder and his mouth literally dropped open. “Look at that detail! Look at that juicy color! It’s incredible!” I’d say that pretty much sums it up.
How long did it take you to write Cookiesaurus Rex?
Amy: It took us six months to write 330 words!
Metaphorically, if we think about why we create, it’s because of something within us all. How do you think the story of Cookiesaurus Rex applies to your own life?
Amy: Cookie wants to be special—to stand out in his world and be the very best. And that need really resonates with me. And maybe for others, as well. I don’t know if we ever outgrow that desire to be special…we’re just less demanding about it than Cookie.
Nate: I tend to struggle with being timid and full of anxiety. I would love a heaping helping of Cookiesaurus’s self-confidence. Cookie takes this to humorous extreme, of course, but an equal measure of belief in yourself and humility is just the right recipe for being an artist.
Written by Amy Fellner Dominy and Nate Evans
Illustrated by AG Ford
Publisher’s Synopsis: As soon as Cookiesaurus Rex comes out of the oven, he declares that he is King of All Cookies. He should be frosted before all of the standard-shaped cookies, in a nice bright green. But the other cookies are getting sprinkles, or shiny stars, or even gumdrops . . . WAIT ONE STINKIN’ STOMPIN’ MINUTE! Cookiesaurus wants a do-over. Problem is, he might not end up with the kind of “do” he wants. Readers will love the funny back-and-forth between this cheeky cookie and the hand that frosts him. See who gets his licks in at the end!
Ages 3-6 | Publisher: Disney-Hyperion | 2017 | ISBN-13: 978-1484767443
About the Authors
Amy Fellner Dominy (amydominy.com) is an author of teen and tween novels, including DIE FOR YOU, A MATTER OF HEART, AUDITION & SUBTRACTION, and OyMG, a Sydney Taylor Notable Book for Teens. Amy is a former advertising copywriter and earned an MFA in playwriting. Her plays for adults and children have been staged across the country. Amy lives with her family in Phoenix, Arizona.
Nate Evans (nateevans.com) is the author or author-illustrator of more than forty children’s books, including PONYELLA with Laura Numeroff. His most recent picture book is BANG! BOOM ROAR! A Busy Crew of Dinosaurs. Before turning to his true love–children’s books–he was a greeting card artist. Nate is also a seventh grade English teacher and loves to share his passion for books with students. He lives in Gilbert, Arizona.
About the Illustrator
AG Ford (agfordillustration.com) is a New York Times best-selling illustrator and the recipient of two NAACP Image Awards. He has published more than fifteen children’s books, with such authors as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Sharon Robinson, Ilyasah Shabazz, Martin Luther King III, Nick Cannon, Jonah Winter, and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. He lives in Frisco, Texas, with his wife, Brandy, and their son, Maddox.
This interview—A Cookiesaurus Rex Discussion with Amy Fellner Dominy, Nate Evans, and AG Ford—was conducted by Amy Fellner Dominy, Nate Evans, and AG Ford. For similar books and articles, follow along with our content tagged with Cooking, Dinosaurs, Food, and Picture Books.