Today’s post comes from Author/Illustrator Patricia Keeler who just released her debut picture book LIZZIE AND LOU SEAL. I had the pleasure of reading this delightful book. Here is my review:
“LIZZIE AND LOU SEAL by Author/Illustrator Patricia Keeler is a delightful PB about a busy girl named Lizzie who loves her flip flops and her inflatable companion Lou Seal. Lizzie also loves exploring the beach and sets out with Lou Seal for a day of sand, surf and fun. Until…Lizzie loses her flip flops and something strange happens to Lou Seal. Can Lizzie fix things so they can both go back to the beach?
A perfect beach book for ages 3-6. Makes you want to put on your flip flops and head to the surf with a “swimmy friend” of your own”.
How did LIZZIE AND LOU SEAL come about?
In the original story, Lizzie walked barefoot on the hot sand at the beach. “Ooch, ouch, ouch!” Lizzie spotted some older kids wearing flip-flops. She had that Aha moment. “I need flip-flops!”
Lizzie tried out her new flip-flops
on the living room rug shroop shroop shroop
on the kitchen tiles slap smack slap smack
on the wooden stairs clap clap clap clap
even in the bathtub splish splash splosh splush
I love onomatopoeia, just like Lizzie loved all her flip-flop sounds. Kids, young kids especially, love to hear the sounds things make read aloud.
In an earlier version, an older Lizzie wanted to wear her flip-flops to school . . . to ride her bike . . . to the ballet performance. At every turn, she was told, “not in those you don’t.” “Urghh!” flip stomp flip stomp flip stomp “So where can I wear them?” Fortunately for Lizzie it rained the next day, and she rushed to the enticing mud puddles outside.
At last,” she said, “my flip-flops are just right for here.”
FLIP SPLISH, FLOP SPLASH, FLIP SPLISH, SLOP SPLASH
Until . . . SHHLUK!
“Oh, no! I’m stuck.”
She pulled on her foot. SHLOOP! It pulled free. But, uh oh, the flip-flop stayed in the mud. Lizzie reached down to get it. “Yuck!”
I worked on this version the second half of 2013. I made sketches and work-shopped the story with my writer and illustrator groups. I shared it with agents and editors at the Fall NJSCBWI conference. I received wonderful encouragement and constructive criticism.
Back to the drawing board, this time with a working title FLIP FLOP STOMP. Then came more rewrites, more sounds, more sketches, more work shopping with my groups. And again I received good comments for my FLIP FLOP STOMP dummy at the spring 2014 NJSCBWI conference.
Home again, I revised my manuscript. I started the story at the beach, in a small retro trailer. I scrapped Lizzie’s parents and gave her a pal, a blow-up seal, named Lou Seal. I began to illustrate the dummy. As I sketched, Lizzie got younger and Lou Seal got bigger. A lot bigger!
So what was Lou Seal doing while Lizzie was fussing with her flip-flops? Going along with Lizzie, of course, as she made her way out of the trailer and out to the beach. It occurred to me that Lou Seal could be having his own difficulties. Ones Lizzie doesn’t see, but the reader does! Even the youngest readers/viewers like catching onto the story before the main character does.
With this new dummy, I pursued Liza Fleissig from Liza Royce Agency for my agent, and Julie Matysik from Sky Pony Press for my editor—and won both! By Spring 2015, I had a two-book contract with Sky Pony Press—and a May 2016 deadline to complete LIZZIE AND LOU SEAL. “YAY!”
What was your path to illustrating Lizzie and Lou Seal?
Here are some sketches from the early FLIP FLOP STOMP dummy.
My favorite part of my color work on LIZZIE AND LOU SEAL was my discovery and experimentation of the encaustic wax process. I used it to show Lou Seal as plastic, and for the ocean waves. Here’s a You Tube video of me creating the waves in LIZZIE AND LOU SEAL.
What comes first for you, illustrations or story?
In the case of LIZZIE AND LOU SEAL, the character came first. I’ve always loved feisty, “I want to do it my way!” little girls. This key aspect of the feminine personality has often gotten little play in picture books. Visually, I had in mind several solid, tough, little girls I knew.
The illustrations, the sounds, and the story came up together. Sometimes, I’d write something, and then in drawing that scene, I’d see that I could cut or change my words significantly. Sometimes, after tossing and turning in my sleep, I’d awake with a totally new scene in mind. I’d sketch it up, and then all I’d need to complement the art would be one bold, dramatic sound. “Whoa!”
My general rule-of-thumb, once I’ve sketched up the story for the first time, is to reduce my text as much as possible. Young listeners delight in figuring out what’s happening in the story as much from the illustrations as from the words being read to them.
What does your favorite pair of flip-flops look like?
Of course, I had to give Lizzie the bigger polka dots that she so loves!
What other projects are you working on?
I’m currently finishing up a second book for Sky Pony Press. It’s entitled SCOOP THE ICE CREAM TRUCK. I can’t begin to express how much I love this book and the joy I’ve had in creating it. SCOOP should be out in Spring 2018. The inside scoop on this story is that besides the retro ice cream truck, the other main character is a spunky little girl. She may well be younger and more demonstrative than Lizzie!
Patricia is thrilled to set a book and necklace aside for one lucky winner. To enter the give-away, comment below for one entry. Tweet and/or share on FB for a second entry and reblog this post for a third entry. The winner will be announced on this blog on WEDNESDAY, 5-17-17.
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