Today I’m posting double interviews with debut picture book author Dianne White & Caldecott medal winning illustrator Beth Krommes. I’ll be giving away two copies of their new book, BLUE ON BLUE, signed by both the author and the artist!*
BLUE ON BLUE is a thing of beauty! Dianne’s graceful and spare poem of a stormy day is the like the sound of rain on a roof, rhythmic, comforting, and thrilling. Beth’s visual world is the earth on which that rain falls. The book, pictures and words together, is a house, a cozy world where family, childhood, and home are connected with the wonder of the natural world.
I was so pleased to ask Beth and Dianne each three questions about BLUE on BLUE and since picture books usually begin with the words, I’ll start with Dianne:
1. Dianne, your perfect little poem only gives the slightest hint of the child’s story in the words “Singing, swinging outdoor play,” but I imagine you had your own visual story of the child’s rainy day. I wonder how much of that you shared with the publisher and how much of what you imagined, but didn’t share, made it, magically, into Beth’s intricate art?
When I write, I often do have some sort of vague image possibilities floating in my head. But in the case of BLUE on BLUE, I don’t recall giving much thought to it because the story came quickly and in its entirety. As such, it wasn’t a manuscript I labored over in the way that I have most others.
In one of my first classes in writing for children years ago, I was told that the author’s job, once a book has been acquired, is to step aside and let the illustrator bring her vision and narrative to the text, and the editor, her wealth of knowledge and experience. So when I got the news that Allyn Johnston of Beach Lane Books wanted to acquire the book, and Beth Krommes would illustrate, I was over the moon. I’d greatly admired the books Allyn had published over the years and I’d been a fan of Beth’s work since I first encountered it in her illustrations of Phyllis Root’s, Grandmother Winter. I knew, on all counts, that BLUE on BLUE had been placed in the very best of hands.
But to answer your question directly – No, I didn’t share thoughts on illustrations. Beth was kind enough to share the initial sketches/dummy of the book once she began working. And of course, they were as wonderful as I knew they would be! But when I saw the final images – ohhh! They were glorious. And the colors! All of my favorites. It was like receiving a most beautiful and exquisite gift.
2. In your words there is a dance between the simple beauty of a child’s experience, of mud and outdoor play, that then expands upward to encompass a more extraordinary appreciation for the natural world. In doing that you link the mundane, earthly beauty of childhood to the twinkling of stars—something quite heavenly. I see this again and again in Beth’s work, and I’m guessing it’s one of the reasons you two were paired on this book. My question is, where do you think that comes from? From where inside you does that spring?
That’s a fascinating observation, and it makes me very happy to know that the connection between the ordinary, mundane things of life with the extraordinary beauty of our world comes across in both words and illustrations. It wasn’t by conscious intention on my part, but it’s something I find myself more and more fascinated by – how amazing our world is and how important it is to pay attention to “small moments” and even smaller things.
3. Would you please share a favorite rainy day memory from your childhood?
One of my favorite memories is of the sound of the rain pounding on the corrugated roof over the indoor garden of our family’s home in the Philippines. It was loud and exciting, and echoed throughout the entire house! More recently, in Arizona, we’ve experienced pounding, hounding, noisy-sounding thunderstorms such as we’d never known for all the years we spent in Southern California. These sudden bursts blow over fairly quickly, but I still find myself fascinated, and often stand on the patio or porch taking photos and video.
Thank you, Dianne & happy first book birthday!
Now it’s Beth’s turn:
1. Beth, when you read Dianne’s poem how much of the visual story came quickly, and how much was developed over a longer period? When my son and I read this book we spent time finding his favorite things: the kitties, the turtles, the tractors. Do you put those little spot illustrations in instinctively, or have you learned what children love to hunt for over the course of your career?
I wrote at least six pages of notes after reading Dianne’s manuscript, dissecting every word of the text. For example, I wrote down “cotton”, then listed everything I could think of about cotton: plant, white, fluffy, shirts, sheets, white laundry on a line, etc. After analyzing each word, I wondered who needs to watch the weather? Pilots, sailors, farmers. I thought about what kind of animals might react in advance to a storm. Dogs, birds, horses, among others. Who likes to play in the mud? Children, dogs, ducks, pigs. Who doesn’t like mud? Parents, farmers. I thought about everything to do with water: the journey from rain to sea, sheets of rain, ocean, river, stream, raindrops, faucet, tub, pitcher, baptism, bathing, drinking, cooking, cleaning, reflections, etc. After tons of brainstorming, the characters and setting started to come into focus for me.
I looked at the work of two of my favorite artists for inspiration: Fairfield Porter, especially his painting “Island Farmhouse”, and Grant Wood for his painting “Spring Turning”.
I’ve been told many times by parents that their children love to hunt for things in my pictures, so I always include lots of fun details, especially animals.
2. Over and over again in your art I notice that same sensitivity that is present in Dianne’s poem, that ability to link the experience of childhood, the earthly acts reading, playing, and snuggling, with an expansive, birds-eye wonderment of the natural world. So where you think that comes from inside you? From a person, an experience, a place…
I’m not sure where that comes from. I’m from a Lutheran family and have attended church for most of my life. I love to ponder the beauty and mystery of the world. I’m also an art lover. Museums are holy places to me.
3. Would you please share a favorite rainy day memory from your childhood?
I have many cozy memories of watching rainstorms from a safe place indoors, such as through a screen door. My best mud memory, though, is when my friend Ann lost one of her brand new penny loafers the day before fifth grade started, when we climbed a huge mud mountain in the construction site behind her house. That shoe was sucked right off her foot, never to be found again. It was the darndest thing.
Beth was kind enough to send along some process pictures which show the transformation from tiny thumbnails, to finished sketches, to scratchboard, to the final full-color art!
*The BLUE ON BLUE book giveaway contest is closed!*
To read more about Dianne:
To read more about Beth:
19 thoughts on “BLUE ON BLUE”
I’ll go first! I LOVE when the worms come out after a big rain. I have MANY memories of stepping around and across those little pink travelers with my galoshes on. Also, galoshes. I love galoshes. Mine are red.
What a beautiful book!
My favorite rainy day memory was in college. For my final year, I was honored to live in one of the few, special rooms on the most historic part of the grounds at the University of Virginia, rooms designed by Thomas Jefferson. These are single rooms, and it was the first time since I’d left home that I had my own room again. I spent most of the day moving in and setting up my things just the way I wanted them. The sky was clouding up as I walked to a sandwich shop and picked up some takeout. The rained started to fall as I arrived back at my new home. I sat in my room eating my first meal in my new home, listening to the rain on my historic roof and feeling safe, thankful, and at home.
I grew up on a century-old farmstead in Minnesota. I used to love standing out on the wrap-around porch and watch the storms roll in across the fields. When the sky started to turn yellow, then green, we knew to head for the basement! I take my kids to Minnesota every summer and they LOVE sitting on the porch watching the rain (such an infrequent occurence here in So Cal.)
i don’t have any memories of rainy days as a kid at home. Since we lived in the desert, not much rain. However, I do have fond memories of sitting on my gramma’s porch in summer watching and listening to the rain roll off the roof.
Summers in the Rocky Mountains storms would come nearly every afternoon. When hail accompanied we’d take turns to venture out with a bucket over our heads, the sound of the downpour loud and ringing as the rain beat down the dust and the pines gave forth their perfume.
When I was in the Peace Corp in Western Africa, after a month of no rain a storm occurred. I washed my hair in the downspout water pouring off of the roof. It took a moment to realize that all the dirt and grit from the top of the roof was also in the water. Fortunately the storm lasted awhile and I was able to get a relatively clean rinse.
Tina, I remember the heavenly scent of Rocky Mountain pines in the rain and still miss it. Not sure I have a “favorite” rain memory. I’ve always loved rain. I walk in it when it’s gentle and sit on the patio to watch powerful storms.
My favorite rain storms were in Samoa, where I spent a semester in college. Rather than glass windows that shut tight, we had plastic shutters that let in ocean breezes and the sound of rain.
I love Blue on Blue! It feels like an instant classic.
My husband and I had just bought our first home, and having sunk all of our money into the down payment, rented a U-Haul to assist with our do-it-yourself move. We had just arrived at our new house and started to unload when the downpour began. Within minutes we were soaked. My dad, who was never one to let a little rain get in the way, insisted on unloading our washer even though it was pouring. Well, the rain turned into hail and both dad and our washer got a big dent on top! One almost rainy memory was when my daughter was about 4 years old. We had given her a matching set of pink Barbie rain gear, complete with boots, raincoat,and umbrella. Every day she’d ask, is it going to rain? Finally, after a week of sunny weather, I heard the shower running. When I went to investigate, I found Elizabeth under the shower with her rain outfit on and umbrella open. I guess since the rain wouldn’t come to her, she decided to make her own!
Blue on Blue is a masterpiece! Congratulations to both Dianne and Beth!
My 3-year-old daughter and I got trapped in an utter downpour when she was riding on the back of my bike! I got off and walked her while she was in the seat, and instead of being afraid or uncomfortable, she said, “It’s an adventure!”
As an educator, I love the special energy kids get when it rains. It’s exciting and joyous. As a Mom, I love leaving the door open when it rains, letting that crisp, cool air in….. but then snuggling under the covers. I live in the dessert, so rain is a real treat for us!
Oops I live in the DESERT…..
…but wouldn’t it be great if you DID live in the dessert!
Ha! 😉 I would live in the chocolate lava dessert!
Blue On Blue is amazingly sweet! It reminds me of the soft rain that hugs the rolling hills of Ireland. There is a sweet sound that I hear when I encounter the children of this far off emerald island and Dianne’s book gives me the same warm feeling that I got as I visited the little villages and schools where there are hundreds of names for all of the different types of rain!
When was a little boy, my favorite thing was to come home on a rainy day and smell my mother’s cooking. She was Italian, so there was always sauce and meatballs and pasta, but she was quintessentially American, too, so there were choclate chip cookies and apple pies. Whenever I make those things now, they take me back to those days. I do it in her honor.
Lovely interviews!! I remember walking in misting rain while I was in camp in upstate NY. As I usually lived down in Queens, I remember being in love with how wonderful and green everything smelled out there.
I loved reading EVERYONE’S rainy day stories! I pulled out my name jar today and drew three names! R.G. & Jenni will be receiving signed books & Jean will be getting a copy generously sent along by the publisher. Thank you all for reading about BLUE ON BLUE!