The only Orchard

Look at all those lovely empty speech bubbles. What's happening? The thing! The lumpy bag! A fall! The shadows, so many shadows. I always gravitate to shadows, in drawings. They lend depth, of course.

I always felt like anyone else who would work with me on future stories faced awfully big shoes, imaginatively speaking, after Sydney's striped socks and impromptu robots. When chapter sketches came in for The Dread Crew and Flight Of The Griffons, I melted into a blubbery mess. I was seeing the faces of a host of kindly pirates who had been using me to channel their world for years! Right there, looking up at me and smiling, all tattered and dripping with grease and diesel fumes! There they were. It was magic.

Thankfully, it would seem, illustrators have a dizzying array of stripes, robots, and obligingly large feet. My first picture book, If I Were A Zombie, is monster and magical-creature poetry for 4-8 year olds. It's well into production with Nimbus, and will hit shelves this coming fall, and so...

I am so thrilled to share the terrifically gloomy and romantic and shiny wonder-eyed news that the excellent Eric Orchard is illustrating the book! Right now! And I'm crying again as he sends sketches through—although this time, it's more cry-giggling. Breakdancing zombies will do that.

I've been growling and snarling these poems to kids for a couple of years now, from a clutched bundle of loose paper, and lately I've been showing them sneak peeks of Eric's sketches, too. I tell them it's secret. I tell them that if he were here, he'd run up to the screen and shout NOOOO! THESE ARE SKETCHES! I AM NOT DONE YET! DON'T LOOK! and I mime panic, and the kids laugh and laugh. Ha ha! Drool!

And so I'll say it here too. It's already amazing and funny and sweet and full of muddy grossness and delight, but we've still got a ways to go. Look where Eric will take them—all of them—the talent show-winning zombies, pearl-spittin' mermaids, room-messing goblins, sea-wading giants, photo-bombing sea monsters, water-skiing vampires, and not-remotely-glittery, proper wood fairies. Look where we will be!

"Maddy Kettle... looks fantastic: every panel exudes quirky, gorgeous atmosphere." —NPR

"Maddy Kettle... looks fantastic: every panel exudes quirky, gorgeous atmosphere." —NPR

Follow Eric for sketches here and there from everything he's working on—it's so fun to peek into an artist's studio. Highly recommended.

In the meantime, pick up Maddy Kettle: The Adventure of the Thimblewitch, Eric's first graphic novel for young readers. It was thoroughly devoured in this house, as I hope the zombies will be too—maybe in yours.

More to come! Hold yer nose.