What I’m Doing at Kirkus This Week, Plus What I Did Last Week, Featuring Chris Appelhans and Steve Light

h1 January 6th, 2017 by jules

— From Steve Light’s Lucky Lazlo


“A greyhound, a groundhog,
a found little
— From Emily Jenkins’s
A Greyhound, a Groundhog
(Click to enlarge)


This morning over at Kirkus, I write about Patricia McKissack’s superb new book. That is here.

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Last week, I wrote here about Emily Jenkins’s A Greyhound, a Groundhog (Schwartz & Wade, January 2017), illustrated by Chris Appelhans, as well as Steve Light’s Lucky Lazlo (Candlewick, December 2016).

I’m following up with some art from each book today, and Steve also shares some thoughts on Lazlo, as well as some early sketches and such. I thank him for sharing.


From Emily Jenkins’s
A Greyhound, a Groundhog,
illustrated by Chris Appelhans


“A groundhog.”
(Click to enlarge)


(Click to enlarge the cover)


Preliminary Images and
Some Thoughts on Steve Light’s Lucky Lazlo


Steve: I did not start out to write a love story. Lucky Lazlo was originally called Bobby Burton, and it was supposed to be a story about the backstage goings-on of the theatre. Bobby … er, Lazlo was originally a pizza delivery boy, who gets caught up behind stage and pulls the curtain to end the show — ugh. That was not working. There was no heart! Lazlo had to be in love!

As I researched theaters and stage production, I kept stumbling on theatre superstitions. So Lazlo became Lucky Lazlo, who was in love with the girl in the Alice in Wonderland play. I tried other plays, like Jack and the Beanstalk and The Wizard of Oz, but once Alice was in my brain. I could not let it go.

So a cat was added to steal the flower, and we were off on a fun lark through the magic that happens backstage at a theater. I started adding all the superstitions I had researched in the illustrations along with all the Alice in Wonderland characters. I like to think children will re-read my books a few times to find all the things I have hidden in my illustrations.

And now the sketches to further illuminate the process of making a story. …

Here [below] I was just starting and thinking of the magic that one feels being backstage at a theater. I used to sneak out of class in high school and hide backstage of the auditorium and draw. It was such an escape and a quiet spot away from the craziness of high school. Then I drew the harp player and horn player in a new style for me, and it started to click in my head that this could be a great story.


(Click each to enlarge)


Below are sketches of Lazlo as a pizza delivery boy, and the play is Jack and the beanstalk. I had the whole beanstalk set engineered in my mind. I may still build it. I had a a whole theater built out of paper and cardboard, but it got crushed in a studio avalanche. I had plans to build it out of wood, but life and deadlines stopped me from even getting started.


(Click each to enlarge)


Below we have some drawings of the main characters fleshed out in full color. Some characters did not make the final story, sadly. I have such backstories in my mind for each of them. Some of them were secretly in love with each other; others were from a traveling show looking for a home.


(Click each to enlarge)


Below are sketches that show what the final story became. Some plot lines did not make the final version. The cat was supposed to fall in love with the person in the Cheshire Cat costume. There were just not enough pages!


(Click each to enlarge)


These are actual finishes that did not make it into the final book. After I had the whole book illustrated, it occurred to me, my editor, and art director that the story really needed to concentrate on the love story and the theatre superstitions with a little less focus on the backstage workings. So I have these beautiful illustrations to hang somewhere someday.


(Click each to enlarge)


This is the pen I used to illustrate Lucky Lazlo. It was made by the great Richard Binder and is called a Hane Fude nib. It gives me a thick, scraggly line and a very fine line. It really enhanced the “folk toy” theater look that I wanted for Lucky Lazlo.



Final Art from
Lucky Lazlo


“Then Lazlo ran into a bit of bad luck. …”
(Click to enlarge)


“He scampered through the orchestra as the music began. …”
(Click to enlarge)



* * * * * * *

A GREYHOUND, A GROUNDHOG. Copyright © 2017 by Emily Jenkins. Illustrations copyright © 2017 by Chris Appelhans. Illustrations reproduced by permission of the publisher, Schwartz & Wade, New YOrk.

LUCKY LAZLO. Copyright © 2016 by Steve Light. Final spreads reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA. All other preliminary images reproduced by permission of Steve Light.

2 comments to “What I’m Doing at Kirkus This Week, Plus What I Did Last Week, Featuring Chris Appelhans and Steve Light”

  1. What a wonderful story and process! Thank you for your story of how the book came to be, Steve Light! I have done a lot of work for Circus, dance, and performance art– and I love the back stage scenes! It looks like a terrific book.

  2. how intriguing, love all the background info of what it takes to shape a book !

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