In 2010 I was invited by Alexandra Cooper at Simon & Schuster to illustrate Erica Silverman's The Hanukkah Hop! She'd seen some of the concept sketches I'd done for the multi-media project The Story of Belle & Wissell and thought I'd be a good fit.
Here's the unused character designs from the Belle & Wissell project that caught her attention:
I read the manuscript she sent over and agreed to do the book immediately. I loved the simplicity and energy of Erica's story and was especially glad to have a chance to take a break from the soft charcoal illustration style I'd used in the Ella and Suki books.
I used the Belle & Wissell sketches as a jumping-off point for the design of Rachel, the book's main character.
Once I felt I had a handle on who Rachel was, I had a good idea of the general style direction for the remaining characters. But that didn't mean everything necessarily just fell into place. After some experiments with heavier, middle-aged parents, Alexandra suggested that the mom and dad characters should be a little younger and hipper.
They went from this...
I purposefully drew upon some of my favorite influences for the design of this book. The layouts were pretty clearly inspired by the classic Little Golden Books of the 1950's, and the character designs were influenced by Mary Blair and early Alice and Martin Provensen. I wanted to use a style that helped communicate the music and fun of Erica's story, and the energy and whimsy of this era of illustration seemed to help push this.
Hopefully I brought a bit of my own style to the table on The Hanukkah Hop, but my work on this particular book was an homage. For the record, I'm not terribly concerned about wearing my influences on my sleeve as long as I can execute a style reasonably well and it serves the story. The end justifies the means. If the pictures help tell the story and immerse parents and young readers into the reading experience, that's all I really care about.
The Hanukkah Hop! was released by Simon & Schuster October 2011.