“Who Wants What … and Do They Get It?”:
A Visit with Katherine Tillotson

h1 May 11th, 2021 by jules

“And Little Billy has the best.”
(Click spread to enlarge)


I’m heading back to last Fall today in order to share a picture book that was published then that I loved, the late and exceedingly talented Richard Jackson’s The Three Billy Goats Gruff: The FULL Story (Caitlyn Dlouhy Books, September 2020), illustrated by Katherine Tillotson. I reviewed this one for the Horn Book; that review is here.

Katherine visits today to talk a bit aout creating the illustrations for the book — I thank her for sharing — and as I revisit the book, I’m impressed all over again. Jackson’s writing is delicious (just look at the sentence construction alone in the second final spread below), and Tillotson’s illustrations are remarkably textured — and filled with great mischief!

Let’s get to it. …

* * *

Katherine: Jules, thank you for inviting me! I am so pleased to be here. I love seeing the illustrations you feature on the blog and learning about each artist’s creative thinking.

This book was my final collaboration with Dick Jackson, beloved editor and author. It is not only a retelling of a familiar tale, but also a celebration of story from a master of the craft.


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Beginning the illustrations for a new book can be both exciting and scary. It’s a little like taking the first step on a long bridge to the unknown.

Scribbles come first. It always takes me a while to discover the characters, setting, and sequence.


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The characters often change as the book comes into focus.


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I think Troll may have changed the most. He was green-gray until my brilliant art director, Ann Bobco, suggested red!


One of the book’s spreads (“Troll hunkers …”), pictured sans text
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The bridge was challenging to draw, and I finally built a miniature one from balsa wood in order to help me to render the perspective. (That large lump on the sofa behind the bridge would be my naughty dog, Sookie.)


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I also placed the bridge on a sheet of glass, so I could look at it from underneath.


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There follow a few more of the final spreads from the book. I hope readers will have as much fun reading this story as I did in making the pictures.


“‘Only I, Little Billy Goat, of the Brothers Gruff,’ said Little Billy, ‘on my way to see my cousins. Please let me pass.’ ‘Not before I gobble you up, you measly morsel,’ Troll booms from below. ‘Wait, wait,’ says Little Billy. ‘My bigger brother Middle Billy is following just behind. He is a mighty meal compared to miniscule me.'”
(Click spread to enlarge)


“With that, Troll swings his whole scaly self up, up, up onto the bridge. ‘I will gobble you up, I will, I will,’ Troll bellows. ‘Come on, then, bully boy!’ Big Billy roars back,
(just take a look at those two old horns; a gander at those four huge hoofs … Whoa!)
and then — here’s the famous part — BB boots Troll sky-high into the air,
where Troll has never, ever been before.”

(Click spread to enlarge)


“‘Come on,’ Big Billy says to Brother Little and Brother Middle, and all three skitter up the mountain, join their Cousins Gruff, and together share the lush grass as a family. ‘Want to hear,’ Billy Billy says to the cousins, ‘about our Troll below?’ He looks up. ‘Or our Troll above?’ ‘YES!’ the cousins say. They all stop chewing. ‘Well …,’ Billy Boy begins.
And so it happens that the story is first told — the story, like all stories, of
Who Wants What … and Do They Get It?”

(Click spread to enlarge)


* * * * * * *

THE THREE BILLY GOATS GRUFF: THE FULL STORY. Text copyright © 2020 by Richard Jackson. Illustrations © 2020 by Katherine Tillotson. Published by Caitlyn Dlouhy Books/Atheneum Books for Young Readers, New York. All images reproduced by permission of Katherine Tillotson.

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