Do you want to find an illustrator, editor, publisher, or agent? Attend the meetings of professional associations and clubs, salons, open mics, workshops and conferences. That’s how I found the illustrator for my second kid gardening book, Zack’s Zany Zucchiniland: Amanda Baker. I first met her at a local SCBWI meeting and then later found her website. We chatted, I told her about my Zack manuscript, she did concept sketches for me, and I hired her. I’d seen appealing artwork of several other potential illustrators, but I liked her ideas about several especially difficult-to-illustrate pages (at least in my mind). She nailed them! Red-headed Zack is a likable lad with a devilish streak. By golly, he didn’t want to dig in the dirt with his parents. He was bored and decided he must have a garden that was all his.
Amanda captured the snarky personality of Zack in her cartoony drawings. Her style matched the book’s characters and setting. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point with a double major in Art and Theater. She had illustrated one other book, The Cheesehead Night Before Christmas in 2007. When I saw her initial cartoony sketches, I knew she would do an excellent job illustrating Zack.
News Flash: I just heard that Zack’s Zany Zucchiniland was named the Best Children’s Picture Book for 2013 by the Bay Area Independent Publishers Assn. What a great team: Amanda Baker, Illustrator, Rita Ter Sarkissoff, Book Designer, and yours truly, Author. It’s a thrill and an honor for all of us!
Above is one of my favorites of Amanda’s illustrations. Now-contented Zack toodles along on his wobbly bike from way out on Zebra Street–even the houses seem appear as though they’re cheering for him. I like that touch. He’s heading into town to buy little plants after his parents gave him permission to plant a garden. Can you guess what happens when Zack plants six-packs of zucchini, gourds, pumpkins and watermelon? Dad thinks it’s like the Attack of Martian Zucchinis. Amanda, with her fertile imagination, has the zucchinis flying around in little space vehicles. Dad is perplexed. Zack overdramatizes.
I admire Amanda’s sense of humor and the cartoon style she used to capture this particular moment. With a few strokes of her pen, she created explicit expressions to show the mood of each character. Would realistic drawings have been more appropriate to Zack’s Zany
Zucchiniland? I don’t think so. The cartoony style definitely fits the zaniness of the book! It’s exactly what I wanted. You can find more about Zack and me at www.sandybakerwriter.com.