The Children’s Book Review | March 19, 2014
It’s rare that an author and illustrator get to work closely together while creating a picture book—this makes it very fun to get a peek into a conversation between a picture book duo that have been paired together by an editor and live in two different countries. In the case of the adorable Here Comes the Easter Cat, bestselling author Deborah Underwood wanted to know how award-winning illustrator Claudia Rueda managed to capture both Cat’s crankiness and his sweetness; and Rueda wanted to know if her illustrations resemble Underwoods mental image of the character she created. It’s a delightful conversation!
Deborah Underwood Interviews Claudia Rueda!
DEBORAH: First of all, I adore everything about your illustrations–I feel so lucky that we got to do this project together! I especially love that you managed to capture Cat’s crankiness but also his sweetness. Did you try out a lot of different versions of the character, or did this one come to you quickly? And I know you work with many kinds of media–how did you decide on colored pencil for Cat?
CLAUDIA: Thanks, Deborah. It’s been a privilege for me to have the chance to picture your words! I did try many different versions for Cat. Actually, I have a full sketchbook! I tried tall skinny cats, chubby cats, hairy cats, hundreds of cats. When I found the cat sketch that I liked I drew it in many different poses. It was important for me to learn how to draw the character without using any reference. I wanted the lines to look spontaneous and free in accordance to the spirit of the text. For the same reason I went for ink and colored pencil. It’s the media where I feel more at ease.
DEBORAH: This project was a unique one, because as I was writing the book, I drew sketches too. Writers are always told NEVER to submit illustrations, but it seemed like the easiest way to get the idea of the book across. I imagine it must have been odd for you as an illustrator to get a manuscript with (very rough!) illustrations. What was it like for you to work in this way?
CLAUDIA: On the contrary: it was a pleasant surprise for me to find your sketches on the manuscript. I’m an extremely visual person, so I felt we were speaking the same language. Since Cat’s reply to the narrator’s voice is always a face expression or a drawing on a signpost (not words) it was fundamental to have the sketch. I think it made it much easier for me to translate your ideas into pictures.
DEBORAH: It’s great that even though we live in different countries, we can do a book together! What’s the children’s writing world of Colombia like?
CLAUDIA: Yes! that’s one of the beautiful thing about globalization. I’m very lucky to publish my books in the US and in more than 15 countries and to see that children around the world can enjoy stories and pictures coming from a great variety of places. The Colombian children’s writing world has been growing a lot in the last decade. There are many local authors publishing and parents, schools and libraries are much more interested in picture books.
Claudia Rueda Interviews Deborah Underwood!
CLAUDIA: When I read THE EASTER CAT manuscript the first time I loved the fact that Cat talks to the narrator using a drawing on a signboard. How did you come out with such a great idea? What prompted you to use that particular way of telling the story?
DEBORAH: Thank you! A few weeks before I started writing, a friend mentioned a need for a certain type of Easter book, so Easter was in the back of my mind. Then one day I couldn’t figure out what to write, and my cat Bella was sprawled in front of me, so I drew a cat. The cat looked grumpy. I asked him what was wrong, and he held up a sign with the Easter Bunny on it. I asked “What about the the Easter Bunny?” and he held up another sign. It really felt like I was just having a conversation with him. I hadn’t planned in advance to tell the story that way; it just happened (a nice change from the way I sometimes struggle with writing!).
CLAUDIA: I understand you have a cat. Is your character inspired in your own cat’s personality? or in a particular anecdote?
DEBORAH: Having Bella in front of me definitely prompted the story. Bella is like Cat in some ways—she’s very sweet but has a grumpy side (it comes out if I’m away from home for too long, or if I try to move her off my stovetop so I can cook…). But she doesn’t scheme as much as Cat does. I hope.
CLAUDIA: I imagine that as a writer you build a mental image of your characters as you’re creating them. Was it in any way similar to the sketches of the Easter Cat I made?
DEBORAH: I know some writers do, but I don’t really tend to. Unlike you, I’m not very visual, so my idea of Cat was limited to the simple sketches I’d drawn. Although my drawings were rough, I tried hard to capture Cat’s expressions, since they were key. I was thrilled when I saw that you’d not only developed his expressions perfectly, but also created a Cat character who could be both grumpy and lovable—just like a kid.
About Deborah Underwood
Deborah Underwood’s books include Here Comes the Easter Cat; Bad Bye, Good Bye; A Balloon for Isabel; Pirate Mom; and the New York Times bestsellers The Quiet Book and The Loud Book! She co-wrote the Sugar Plum Ballerina chapter book series, and she has written over 25 nonfiction books on topics ranging from smallpox to ballroom dancing. Her magazine credits include National Geographic Kids, Ladybug, Spider, and Highlights. Please visit her online at DeborahUnderwoodBooks.com.
About Claudia Reuda
Claudia Rueda’s picture books have been published in the United States, Spain and Mexico, and have been translated into more than ten different languages. After attending law school and art school in her native Colombia, Claudia moved to San Francisco, CA where she continued her art studies and began her career in picture book writing and illustration. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Lesley University in Cambridge MA and lives now in Bogota, Colombia. Her work has been selected twice for the NYC Society of Illustrators’ Original Art Show and one of her books received an Oppenheim Platinum Award, among others. Visit: ClaudiaRueda.com
About Here Comes the Easter Cat
Why should the Easter Bunny get all the love? That’s what Cat would like to know. So he decides to take over: He dons his sparkly suit, jumps on his Harley, and roars off into the night. But it turns out delivering Easter eggs is hard work. And it doesn’t leave much time for naps (of which Cat has taken five–no, seven). So when a pooped-out Easter Bunny shows up, and with a treat for Cat, what will Cat do? His surprise solution will be stylish, smart, and even–yes–kind.
An homage to classic comic strips from the author of The Quiet Book and The Loud Book, this Easter treat has a bit of bite, a sweet center, and a satisfying finish—sure to inspire second helpings.
Add this book to your collection: Here Comes the Easter Cat, story by Deborah underwood and illustrations by Claudia Reuda.