A Brief Visit with Margaret Chodos-Irvine
(Or: Thunder is the Sound You Hear
If Jules Doesn’t Get Her Coffee in the Mornings)

h1 April 5th, 2012 by jules



Early sketch and final spread:
“The thunder CLATTERS and BANGS. Brannon hides again.”

(Click to enlarge spread)

I’ve got some spreads and early sketches/images this morning from Caldecott Honor winner Margaret Chodos-Irvine (pictured left is one early sketch), whose printmaking work has graced many a picture book. I’m always eager to see her new illustrated titles. This one, Dinosaur Thunder (Scholastic), written by Newbery Honor author Marion Dane Bauer, will be out in May, but I saw an early copy and fell for it.

And Margaret’s here today to share some images from the book as a work-in-progress — as well as some final spreads. (I am hoping some time in the near future, she’ll also stop by for a breakfast interview. I wave my hypno-spiral anyway in an attempt to talk her into it.)

Dinosaur Thunder is the story of Brannon and his imaginative reactions to thunder. “When lightning flares in the faraway sky and clouds growl like lions waking…” Well, this young boy’s big brother Chad does a happy jig in the middle of the room—thunder just does that to some people—but Brannon is scared and looks for a place to hide. He gets various responses from the adults in the house about what thunder really is, and as adults are wont to do sometimes, they confuse him. “Don’t be scared … That thunder is only a big cat purring,” says his father. But, you see, the neighbor’s cat once tried to scratch Brannon, and his imagination runs wild.


(Click to enlarge)

Or could the thunder be angels bowling in heaven? Or clouds bumping together? (“What if a cloud bumped into him? Would he make a noise like thunder, too?”) Or, says Chad, thunder is just dinosaurs stomping around.

Each suggestion for what thunder could be is given a sprawling, dynamic spread from Chodos-Irvine, whose artwork shimmers with color and has an almost palpable energy to it. Publishers Weekly writes that she “contributes her best and most elaborate collages to date, alternating scenes of cozy domesticity with Wagnerian visions of what’s happening in the heavens above.”


(Click to enlarge)

Margaret’s here to share a few process shots.

“I am a printmaker—I use a variety of printmaking techniques to illustrate my books,” she told me, “but mostly I do relief printing from mixed media. The template tells me where each piece I cut and ink needs to go in relation to every other piece. I also use the template to register the paper I print onto so I can get it in the same position each time I print successive layers of color. It’s complicated, I know….”

(By the way, here’s a great post on printmaking from Margaret over at Books Around the Table, the wonderful blog to which she is contributing. I’ve run my mouth about this blog a lot already; it’s well worth your time!)


“…A shot of my inking table, while I was working on Dinosaur Thunder.”


“…The thundermen spread template on my press…”


(Click to enlarge)

Leave it to mama in the end to tell the boys the truth (and fold them into her arms): It’s only thunder. And all’s well that ends well, but I won’t give away the entire story here.

It’s a well-crafted book all-around. Here are some early sketches and character studies from Margaret, and I thank her for sharing.




* * * * * * *

Illustrations copyright © 2012 by Margaret Chodos-Irvine from DINOSAUR THUNDER by Marion Dane Bauer.

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6 comments to “A Brief Visit with Margaret Chodos-Irvine
(Or: Thunder is the Sound You Hear
If Jules Doesn’t Get Her Coffee in the Mornings)

  1. OH! I LOVE that print of angels bowling! What an adorable book. LOVE that artwork.

    Thunder makes me jig as long as it’s a ways off. When it’s so close the house shakes, then… I rethink my dancing and sort of hover near a window, eying the lightning…


  2. I have ALWAYS wondered about her printmaking process, thanks for the peek Margaret and Jules!


  3. I like seeing how the line drawings are transformed in the prints – they lose a lot of the detail but keep the energy. The images get concentrated and the simplicity makes them stronger.


  4. I love Chodos-Irvine’s art. Ella Sarah Gets Dressed and Best, Best Friends are, in particular, two of my very favorite storytime books. This one looks like it will be great, too.


  5. Love her work. Thanks for sharing these sketches and a glimpse of Margaret’s studio. What a treat!


  6. […] artwork and process were also featured on the must-see blog Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast. If you’ve ever wondered how picture book art happens, this is a good spot to start your […]


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