What I’m Doing at Kirkus This Week,
Plus What I Did Last Week, Featuring K-Fai Steele

h1 June 7th, 2019 by jules

“‘Maybe it’s weird for you, but not for me. …'”


Over at Kirkus today, it’s moths and natural selection and adaptation and gorgeous art.

That is here.

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Last week, I wrote here about K-Fai Steele’s first book as both author and illustrator — A Normal Pig (Balzer + Bray, June 2019). Today, K-Fai talks a bit about the book, shares some early sketches (and a couple of deleted scenes), and shares some final art from the book. I thank her for visiting.


Preliminary Images:






Above: Early sketches
(Click each to enlarge)


(Click to enlarge)


K-Fai: These are two pieces that were edited out of the book. I wanted to show how institutions can fail to protect students who need the most support; Pip is being bullied, and in this spread ends up reaching her breaking point. Only Pip’s “bad behavior” is seen by the teacher, and Pip ends up getting punished as a result. I was reading about how racism manifests in the classroom, and how studies have shown that students of color tend to get disproportionately punished for behavioral issues. At some point I’d be interested in going back and thinking about a story that probes at the relationship between teachers and students.

Looking back, this was an important plot point in developing this book. Who can Pip look to for support if her teachers aren’t there for her? It’s a kind of cruelty that’s very real.


(Click to enlarge)


(Click to enlarge)


This [below] was Pip’s original retort to the bully after coming back from the trip with her family. It’s so punchy and strong. I love this language. But I agree that it needed to be softened, and I’m happy with how the final text turned out. I think A Normal Pig is under 250 words? I had to examine, rearrange, and consider Every. Single. Word. with my editor at Balzer + Bray to get the story just right.


(Click to enlarge)


(Click to enlarge)


As I was developing this book, I spent time at the Kerlan looking at James Marshall’s preliminary art and his sketchbooks. Seeeing his process helped validate my own feelings about my process: It’s messy and happens over years; it’s not linear; and you let things emerge through drawing characters and letting their personalities guide the narrative.


Some Final Art:



(Click either image to see spread in its entirety)


“The new pig was in Pip’s art class, too.”
(Click to enlarge)


“Pip hadn’t changed, but she started to feel different. …”
(Click to enlarge)


“Pip heard so many different languages. …”
(Click to enlarge)



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A NORMAL PIG. Copyright © 2019 by K-Fai Steele. Published by Balzer + Bray, an imprint of HarperCollins, New York. All images above used by permission of the publisher and K-Fai Steele.

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