In early 2015 Chronicle editor Melissa Manlove sent me the manuscript for a story called Herbert's First Halloween and asked if I'd be interested in illustrating it. I'd always admired Chronicle's catalog, and Cynthia Rylant's story was ridiculously charming - so the answer was a definite YES.
Melissa said they were picturing the story with animal characters. What kind of animals was an open question, however. Discovering who - and what - Herbert was became my first exploration for this book. Looking at the finished artwork now, it seems obvious that Herbert should be a pig - but that wasn't clear when I started.
So I began sketching different kinds of animals, partially to figure out the best animal 'fit' for Herbert and his father, and partially to start figuring out the illustration style I'd eventually use.
First I drew bears.
Then I drew raccoons.
I tried pigs...
... and finally hedgehogs.
In the end, it was decided that an uncertain little pig dressing up for Halloween would be the funniest and possibly cutest way to go. Later, when I got around to working out the neighborhood scenes, I decided that Herbert's neighbors were all different kinds of animals. So most of the characters that tried out for the part of Herbert got to be extras, at least.
And that is story of how Herbert came to be a pig and not a hedgehog.
Herbert's First Halloween is due in bookstores August 2017.