Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Children's Author and Illustrator Interview: El Perro Con Sombrero, Written by Derek Taylor Kent, Illustrated by Jed Henry

Storyline: 5.0 Stars
Illustrations: 5.0 Stars
Cover: 5.0 
Total: 5.0 Stars
Summary: Pepe is a lonely dog whose life changes drastically when a sombrero lands on his head. But what he really wants is a family. Would he trade his sombrero wealth for a real family?

Storyline: This story is adorable and speaks to the heart. A rags to riches story, however the story ends emphasizing the importance of a loving family over the kind of life wealth alone can bring. Just what a parent wants to read to their children! Plus, it's written in both English and Spanish! 5 stars

Illustrations: The illustrations are bright and as peppy as Pepe. They add a lot to the story and are very enjoyable. Read all the way to the end for more details on Jed Henry, the talented illustrator. 5 stars

Author Interview with Derek Taylor Kent, followed by an Illustrator interview with Jed Henry:
Author Derek Taylor Kent
Illustrator Jed Henry

Author Interview:

Valerie Harmon: Why did you choose to write a bilingual book?

Derek Taylor Kent: In my travels around California promoting my middle-grade series Scary School, I found that there are many schools out there that are becoming officially dual immersion in both English and Spanish, and a huge portion of my Scary School audience were Latino kids, yet they had very little representation in the children's book market. With that in mind, I happened to be dating a Nicaraguan girl named Gabriela a few years back who also had a wonderful dog, and somehow the phrase "El Perro con Sombrero" popped into my head and it became a running joke with us. Well, we broke up, but afterward I got my own dog whose hilarious antics had me laughing all day. Inspired by my new pup, I turned the El Perro con Sombrero idea into a reality and Gabriela was kind enough to translate it into Spanish. Plus I finally had a book that I felt was very badly needed in the Spanish-speaking community so prevalent in California and elsewhere.

VH: What are three of your favorite children's books?

DTK: Among picture Books: If I Ran the Circus by Dr. Suess, Animal House by Candace Ryan,   and The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein.

As for Chapter Books: The Harry Potter series, Sideways Stories from Wayside School by Louis Sachar, and Shark Wars by EJ Altbacker.

VH: How did you connect with your illustrator?

DTK: I didn't have to! The publisher hires the illustrator and works with their art director in creating the illustrations. Luckily, they did a fantastic job!

VH: What are three of your favorite books over all?

DTKHarry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, and Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut.

What advice do you have for people who want to write children's books?

Do tons and tons of research. Read all the reference guides on not only how to write for children but how to pitch it to agent and publishers and eventually how to market them. If possible, try to have an original concept and make it funny!

VH: How did you get published with Holt/MacMillan?

DTK: I have a great agent named Eric Myers, who discovered me back from my first middle-grade novels and got those rolling, but we had been unable to sell my first few picture books. I sent him El Perro con Sombrero and it just seemed to connect right away. There were offers from several publishers, all of whom had different ideas on how they would create and market it. Holt seemed like the best fit. I've also been a fan of everything Holt has done and my author friends have had great experiences with them, so I was thrilled to be able to work with them.

VH: What do you do to market your books?

DTK: I do a crazy amount of marketing, which seems to astonish all the other authors out there.

When my first book came out I hired a book publicist. That was VERY expensive, but I learned what they did and realized if I was willing to put in the time and effort, I could do most of what they did myself.

I contacted all the best online book bloggers, all the local bookstores, and even many of the local schools. The book blogger features and reviews got the viral side of the campaign going, but most of the sales were coming from grass roots marketing. That includes creating a show/presentation, so schools will have me do a visit and perform at an assembly.

Then I will usually do a signing afterward or go to their book fair. The bookstores like Barnes and Noble and Books Inc do many book fairs with local schools, so I get to know the Community Relations Managers (CRMs) and then they'll pitch me to schools that they work with.

Once book fair season starts up, I'll be doing two or three school visits per week all over California and sometimes I'll travel to New York and Chicago as well. I've even done shows in Minnesota when a very enthusiastic school invited me to visit and created a whole Scary School day where the teachers and students dressed up as the characters. That came from just communicating with my fans who wrote to me and responding to visit requests.

VH: What's your favorite breed of dog and why?

DTK: Of course my own dog, Zander, who's an Italian Greyhound. I think he's the perfect dog for me. He's high energy, so he keeps me active. Friendly as can be. Never barks. Doesn't shed much. Doesn't smell. Never needs grooming. And is cute as can be. I also like  , Labrodors, and I had a great Bedlington Terrier growing up. But all dogs are special in their own way.

VH: If you were a dog, what breed would it be?

DTK: Maybe a whippet, the bigger version of the Italian Greyhound. They're some of the best at winning Frisbee catching competitions and I think I'd like that.

Illustrator Interview:

Illustrator Jed Henry

Valerie Harmon: What medium did you use to illustrate El Perro Con Sombrero?

Jed Henry: This book is 100% digital watercolor. No pigments were harmed in the making of this book - but billions of electrons were sacrificed.

VH: How did you become an illustrator?

JH: I studied animation in college, and after graduating, decided to do books instead. I put together a portfolio, found an agent, and the rest is history.

VH: Who are three of your favorite artists?

JH: Tsukioka Yoshitoshi, John Singer Sargent, and Takeuchi Seiho.
Tsukioka Yoshitoshi
John Singer Sargent

Takeuchi Seiho

VH: What is your preferred medium?

JH: Watercolor or Photoshop, or a combination of the two.

VH: What advice do you have for people who want to illustrate children's books?

JH: Don't go to the library for inspiration - go to the book store. Look at the New York Time's bestseller's list. That is your competition. Vanquish them.

VH: What are three of your favorite children's books?

JH: Anything by John. J. Muth. He's a delight.

VH: What are the most important art classes for an illustrator?

JH: In the end, artists need to educate themselves. Teachers can only give you 10% of your knowledge. The rest is experience, observation and practice.

To buy the full-color eBook version (softcover also available) click here for Amazon.

Go here for Derek Taylor Kent's website, here for his book website (with select book pages), here to see him on Facebook, and here to follow him on Twitter.

Go here for Jed Henry's website, here for his blog, and here to follow him on Twitter.

Thank you Derek Taylor Kent and Jed Henry.

~Valerie Harmon

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