Here’s what Lyndsay and I wrote in the February newsletter (click here to see the previous instalment)
A message from the author:
I’m sure the most common question asked of authors is, “How do you get the ideas for your stories?” Down in the Jungle started with a phrase that arrived in my head one day.
Where hyenas howl at the man in the moon.
I don’t know where it came from. I wasn’t hanging out with any hyenas and it was broad daylight — not a moon to be found. And, yes, I know, technically, hyenas don’t howl, but I loved the image and the rhythm of the phrase and started wondering what other images I could build around it.
When I make school visits, I tell the children that in every moment of every day we are swimming in a sea of ideas and our five senses are the best way to tune in to them. But that’s not enough. You also have to wonder. I wonder . . . what if . . . are the four most important words in a writer’s vocabulary.
Well, I followed my own advice and wondered and what if’d and soon had a whole jungle scene mapped out.
Hmmmm. I wonder what other scenes I could create.
A desert scene, an ocean scene and a frigid North Pole scene unfolded.
I wonder how I could link them together? What if there’s a little boy with a big imagination who refuses to go to bed? What if he’s a very active little boy who loves to search for treasure? What if . . .
You get the idea.
It is magical to me that a random phrase arriving in my head can lead to a rollicking romp of a story. And even more magical that — without even planning it — a beautiful message about the power of love emerged from all that romping around.
It’s been fun to share Lyndsay’s mock up of the book at Christmas markets and watch people (mostly women — especially mothers) tear up when they reach the last page. Recently, I gave a class of 6th graders a sneak peak at Down in the Jungle. They enjoyed it, but the biggest rush of pleasure came when their teacher said that he was waiting to see where all Jake’s adventuring would take him and felt a warm glow of mushy warmth rush through him when we got the end. If a big, burly guy like him can be touched by Jungle’s message then I know that my desire to uplift, inspire and delight has been fulfilled with this book. (Happy dance time!)
Down in the Jungle is already touching people and we don’t even have it in our hands yet! I can’t wait to see the trail of mushy, warm love it will leave when people can cuddle up and read the story — and pore over Lyndsay’s amazing illustrations — for themselves.
A message from the illustrator:
Lyndsay here, showing you some process! The images below come from a while back when I was painting the very important ‘jungle’ scene in Down in the Jungle. I feel like this book has been extremely educational for me in terms of learning about colours, because at the time I was quite certain that the first image was a good choice for the book. As you can see it is way too moody and dark at the beginning.
This scene was particularly challenging because jungles are green and lush, but the story says ‘ hyenas howl at the man in the moon.’ So it’s a night scene, which is typically cool and dark. This presented the challenge of trying to make both work at once. Day and night in one image! Out of all the large illustrations this was the one that had the most re-do’s and hours committed to finding a solution. In the end I feel that I was able to fit the warm and the cool together in a way that works.