by Jill Esbaum
Bigfoot wasn’t a Thing when I was a kid. That’s probably good, since my family did a lot of camping in remote forests in Wisconsin and Minnesota. Even during our summer, “explore-America” vacations, we always stayed overnight in National Parks, National Forests, etc. There were often bear sightings nearby, but bigfoot? Nope. The only thing I really worried about were vampirous ticks.
Now, of course, bigfoot is hot. And the idea intrigues me. I mean, what if…? Three years ago I watched a few episodes of Finding Bigfoot, and something started to bother me about reported sightings: Most people claimed to have seen “a” bigfoot. I searched the internet (who knew there were so many sites devoted to bigfoot encounters?), and found the same thing.
“…saw a manlike creature on an island in a bog. Tracks seen … deep snow conditions and temperatures no human could survive.”Hmm. If bigfoot were real, wouldn’t life be a little lonely? Once that thought entered my head, I had to write about a desperately lonely bigfoot.
“…this creature … was covered in dark brown fur and was 6-7 ft tall. It had a broad nose with little hair on its forehead or cheeks.”
“…We were scared. I had worked as a wilderness guide, and this was nothing that I had ever seen before. It walked on 2 feet and stood AT LEAST 7 feet tall.”
In ELWOOD BIGFOOT, Elwood longs to befriend his neighborhood birdies. Unfortunately, he’s so BIG and BOISTEROUS that he has trouble convincing them he’s harmless. He knocks himself out trying, though (sometimes literally). Does he learn what it takes to make friends? Eventually, yes. But easy, it ain’t. And because he’s had to work so hard to succeed, Elwood finds these new friendships all the sweeter.
My Sterling editor found the perfect illustrator in Nate Wragg. Type Nate Wragg into Google images, and you’ll see that he’s a bigfoot guy from way back. Lucky Elwood!
Nate was kind enough to answer a few questions for this post.
1. How did you get into children’s book illustration?
I actually kind of fell into it several years back when I was working on the Pixar Film Ratatouille. I was developing an artistic look of our characters from the film for marketing purposes, and they thought the artistic style might be something to consider for a book. Long story short, they decided the style I created would be great for a hard cover cooking/rhyming/counting book Disney was publishing for the film, and so I went ahead and illustrated the book. After that great experience, illustrating picture books was something I hoped to continue doing, and started to pursue.
2. As a non-illustrator, I’m always interested in how an artist goes about devising the physical layout of a story to control pacing. What was your biggest challenge in story boarding Elwood Bigfoot?
I always try to focus on how the illustrations can support the story, and tell the story without words. I really try to identify with the key ideas that are in the writing, and try to bring visuals to those first. It's always fun to play with page turns to reveal punchlines to jokes, or unexpected turns in the story, so I always try to spot those opportunities as well.
3. Do you have multiple projects going at once? Could you tell us what’s coming next?
Yeah, I have a few projects that are slated to come out soon. "Monster Trucks" written by Anika Denise; and "10 Little Ninjas" written by Miranda Paul are the ones that are coming down the line next.
Other books illustrated by Nate:
You can learn more about Nate on his blog: http://n8wragg.blogspot.com
Please check out my website (www.jillesbaum.com) for a free, downloadable (and adorable) Elwood Bigfoot Activity Kit.
And if you love picture books, please visit my group blog, Picture Book Builders (www.picturebookbuilders.com), where a group of picture book authors/illustrators blog twice weekly about our favorite topic.
Jill Esbaum is the author of many picture books. In addition to Elwood Bigfoot: Wanted: Birdie Friends!, she wrote I Am Cow, Hear Me Moo!, which won a 2015 SCBWI Crystal Kite award. Also in print are I Hatched! (Dial, 2014), Tom’s Tweet (Knopf), and Stanza (HMHarcourt). In the publishing pipeline are Teeny Tiny Toady (Sterling, 2016), and If a T Rex Crashes Your Birthday Party (Sterling, 2016). She also enjoys writing nonfiction books for National Geographic. Her latest is Animal Groups, featuring the stunning photography of Frans Lanting. Jill lives on a farm in Iowa. Jill’s recent books: