A Visit with Jason Carter Eaton with
Art from John Rocco to Boot

h1 June 6th, 2013 by jules


“So you want a pet train? Well, of course you do! Trains make awesome pets — they’re fun, playful, and extremely useful. Lucky for you, this handy guidebook contains everything you need to know to choose, track, and train your very own pet train. Ready? Then let’s head out and find some trains!”
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It’s early, and power isn’t going to surge through me till I get some coffee, but before I do so, I’m here to share some art and one very possible visit from Jason Carter Eaton before breakfast.

Last week, here at Kirkus, I chatted with author/illustrator John Rocco about his most recent picture book, Super Hair-o & the Barber of Doom (Disney/Hyperion, May 2013), as well as Jason Carter Eaton’s How to Train a Train, to be released this September from Candlewick. So, I have some art from each book today.

And, as noted, BONUS: Jason is here to say a bit about his book, which is so good, you all, that I’m eager for you to see it, come Fall. I was so super busy with work this week that I gave Jason some general guidance but asked him, as you’ll see below, to generally submit an in-his-own-words piece about this book.

Let’s get right to it. Jason and some Train art are first, followed by some art from Super Hair-o (as well as a childhood photo of John, other than this one, that inspired the book).

I thank Jason for visiting — and especially for his in-his-own-words entry, even if he had to thieve to do it.

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Jason (pictured here at BEA 2013): First of all, I need to disclose that even though I was asked to give an “in my own words” type of essay, the truth is I borrowed each and every word in this from other people. In fact, the words I’m using right now are from an elderly woman who lives two doors down from me. She needs them back next week to compose a letter of complaint to the parks department about the dreadful state of the park across the street, so please put them back once you’re done reading them.

My relationship to trains is actually quite deep-rooted and complicated. When I was a kid, I had a pet train, named Trophy, who ran away. (My parents told me he was on a train yard upstate, but I know the truth!) Ever since then, I’ve been obsessed with the responsibilities of train ownership. I wrote How to Train a Train as a way of helping kids be the best and most responsible train owners they can be.

Frankly, a lot of people out there don’t understand just how much work having a pet train really is. Sure, they’re cute when they’re small. But inevitably they get bigger and longer and need more and more coal, and a lot of people end up in over their heads. So, look, even though this book teaches kids how to find and track a train out in the wild, I also really encourage you to consider adopting one from your local pound.



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I’ve had many other pets over the years—dogs, cats, birds, hermit crabs, even a caterpillar—but none of them compare to the loving mechanical loyalty of a pet train. There’s something really magical about the relationship between a kid and his or her train. No one will ever love you as unconditionally as your train. No one will always be there to cheer you up like your train. And certainly no one will whisk you around town at breakneck speeds quite like your pet train.

This was a very easy book for me to write. I put the whole thing down in one sitting and then did a series of revisions to get the voice right. Originally it was much dryer—the first draft was basically a straight “How to” manual. I really liked the absurdity of it, but it felt a bit cold and heartless. The second draft was told from a child narrator’s perspective (a self-proclaimed expert train-trainer), as we watched him track his own train. Warmer, but too singular an experience. Finally my editor, Mary Lee Donovan, had the idea of keeping the narrator as a guide of sorts, but watching a host of kids go through the process. That way, no matter what, any child reading it can relate to at least one of them.


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Then John Rocco got involved. And the rest is beautifully-drawn history. We were all huge fans of John’s work already, so to see his vision of my words was not only an honor but a real thrill. He also made it easy for me to slip my kids into the book. I like to do that. Little-known fact: The panic-stricken opening of Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs is based on my wife being 9 months pregnant with our son, Milo. Fun times!

Back to John, though: That man knows how to bring anything to life in the warmest and most striking way possible. His is exactly the right style for this story—whimsically realistic and larger-than-life—and I’m impressed with Candlewick for bringing it to him, because I think the natural inclination of most houses would be to skew the art toward a younger audience with a goofy Chuggington or Thomas look. And that is why I absolutely adore Candlewick—they’re willing to take chances for the sake of a better work of art at the end.

That and they let me bring my pet train to the office!

[These are] two photos of my son, Milo, at Train Town years ago. These two shots were what inspired the book for me. Look at how happy and awestruck this kid is!



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The hair that inspired it all: Rocco as a child

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HOW TO TRAIN A TRAIN. Text copyright © 2013 by Jason Carter Eaton. Illustrations copyright © 2013 by John Rocco. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.

SUPER HAIR-O AND THE BARBER OF DOOM. Copyright © 2013 by John Rocco. Published by Disney/Hyperion, New York. Art reproduced by permission of John Rocco.

Last photo used with permission of John Rocco.

All other photos used with permission of Jason Carter Eaton.

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3 comments to “A Visit with Jason Carter Eaton with
Art from John Rocco to Boot”

  1. We’re doing a Super Hero program this summer. Wish Rocco’s book was out now. How awesome!


  2. Super Hair-o is out now, Dianna!


  3. […] by Jason Carter Eaton    facebook    twitter    a message  the inspiration A  B […]


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