Do you remember the old chewing gum commercials: “Two, two, two mints in one?” This Friend Friday is definitely a DoubleMint day! I met fellow dog-lover Ginger Wadsworth at the Humboldt County Author Festival years ago; Craig Orback is practically a neighbor of mine. How wonderful that the two of them teamed up for a picture book biography of Charles Schulz! Born to Draw Comics, The Story of Charles Schulz and the Creation of Peanuts (Christy Ottaviano Books/Henry Holt) was written by Ginger and illustrated by Craig and it’s a do-not miss title.
Born to Draw Comics, The Story of Charles Schulz and the Creation of Peanuts By Ginger Wadsworth
Once again, I’m delighted to contribute to Kirby’s “Friend Friday” Blog and introduce my new picture book biography, Born to Draw Comics, The Story of Charles Schulz and the Creation of Peanuts. It is illustrated by Craig Orback and with Christy Ottaviano Books, Henry Holt and Company. Born to Draw Comics was released in September 2019.
Most writers have long birth stories relating to their books, and mine is no exception! It began with a phone call several years ago. Washington-based illustrator, Craig Orback asked me if I wanted to write a book about Charles Schulz and the Peanuts Gang that he would illustrate. Of course, I said yes!
Before writing a single word, I pictured my favorite Peanuts Gang characters: Charlie Brown, Peppermint Patty, Linus, Snoopy, and his desert-dwelling brother, Spike. Childhood memories immediately flooded my mind, of a well-worn, squishy blue couch and three children huddled around their father while he read us the Sunday Comics. Enjoying the comics was something we did for years.
I’ve been writing juvenile nonfiction books for years, and I thrive when there is an opportunity to do research. I set to work with fond memories of Snoopy and the rest of the Peanuts Gang, family comic time on the blue couch, and stacks of research material. It took me a LONG time to uncover the man behind the cartoons–Charles Schulz–and to write a short biography for young readers about his early years. There was so much to choose from . . . and to decide what would appeal, and even inspire children to learn about this man.
My sons played with a stuffed Snoopy dog for years. For inspiration, I stationed “Snoopy” on my computer table in my office. Our Snoopy had been loved – and a bit thrashed – in the Wadsworth household. Once he even parachuted from a redwood tree while a dozen neighborhood children cheered his descent. Afterwards, two little boys shimmied to the ground without breaking a single bone☺ I often wonder how Charles Schulz might have portrayed this story.
Everyone knows the fable involving the race between the tortoise and the hare. I am very much like the tortoise, and let’s just say that I “don’t bang out a draft within a few weeks.” Boxes still overflow with drafts, dozens of them. Some I revised; others were first edited by my editor, Christy Ottaviano and then reworked by me. Craig Orback started marrying in some sketches. Another box holds the many stages of design.
It took four years, but Born to Draw Comics is now a book. Besides the text, there is a brief description of the Peanuts Gang, sources, places to visit, an Author’s Note, Illustrator’s Note, and vibrant, comic-book style art! For ages 4-8.
Charles “Sparky” Schulz died in 2000 after completing 17,897 comic strips. We still enjoy his “Charlie Brown’s Christmas” and other holiday productions. It easy to say that he motivated me and countless others to do what inspires us!
Born to Draw Comics, The Story of Charles Schulz and the Creation of Peanuts is Ginger’s thirty-first published book. To learn more about Ginger Wadsworth, visit her website.
Growing up in the 1970’s and 80’s Charles Schulz’s comic strip Peanuts was ubiquitous. From a young age I enjoyed drawing and I would sometimes practice by copying my favorite comic characters like Snoopy, Charlie Brown and Garfield. Later when researching for our book “Born to Draw Comics”, I learned that as a child in the 1920’s and 30’s, Charles Schulz would also practice drawing his favorite comic characters like Mickey Mouse, Popeye and Krazy Kat. He was nicknamed “Sparky” as a baby because he resembled a popular comics character, hence he often said he was “Born to Draw Comics.”
Following my dream of becoming an illustrator I graduated with a BFA degree from Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle. This year I am celebrating 20 years of illustrating children’s books.
About five years ago I approached an editor I admired, Christy Ottaviano with her own imprint at Henry Holt Books with an idea to create a biography on Charles Schulz. Normally as an illustrator I have to wait for a manuscript to come to me but Christy was open to hearing my ideas and I was thrilled!
I asked a talented writer friend, Ginger Wadsworth, who I had illustrated two of her earlier children’s biographies If she would be willing to take on this project and she enthusiastically agreed.
It took about a year and a half of work (sketches and editorial revisions) before we officially sold the project to Henry Holt/Macmillan. From that day on we were working knowing it would become a published book!
For this project I made research trips to St. Paul Minnesota where Charles Schulz grew up and also the Charles Schulz Museum in Santa Rosa California to view many of his original Peanuts drawings. The trip to St. Paul was particularly informative as I got to see some of his old grade schools, homes and also walk through his neighborhoods. He lived in St. Paul until age 27 developing the comic Peanuts, before eventually moving and living the rest of his life in California. The best experience was touring the inside of one of his former apartments that had an original Snoopy drawing he quickly sketched on the wall, now preserved behind plexiglass!
Most gratifying to me was the opportunity to grow as an artist by moving away from my usual hyper realistic illustration style, instead playing with a comic book format for much of the book, while also simplifying my drawing style. I also used old school dip pens to mimic some of his pen and ink work.
When I consider the totality of the experience, including the subject matter, publisher, editor and fun research trips it has been my favorite book project to date!
Craig is the award-winning illustrator of over 20 published books for children including “Gifts From the Enemy” and the Charlotte Award and Keystone to Reading Book Award winning title, “The Can Man”. He also teaches children’s book illustration and loves to share his books with students during school and library visits. Visit Craig at www.craigorback.com.
Publishers Website (link to buy book)- https://us.macmillan.com/books/9781250173737