Today’s post is about gifts: faithful dogs and faithful friends who walk beside us when we are hurting. Julie Paschkis and Margaret Chodos-Irvine share the poignant story behind the story of their new book together, Where Lily Isn’t, written by Julie and illustrated by Margaret. This picture book will be my new go-to book to give friends who’ve lost a pet.
Hi-I’m Julie Paschkis – a friend of Kirby’s. Today I am writing about a new book that I wrote called Where Lily Isn’t (Henry Holt and Co. (BYR) Holt Books for Young Readers), illustrated by Margaret Chodos-Irvine.
I had a dog named Lily. She was a stray, a sweetie, a faithful companion. My husband and I adopted her when she was one year old and she lived for seventeen more years.
When she died I was bereft. This book grew out of that loss and grief. I missed her in general and I missed her specifically. I missed her all the time, but especially in certain rooms and at certain times.
In a conversation with my editor at Holt, Laura Godwin, I said that my house was full of all the places where Lily wasn’t. She suggested that I write a book about that, and so I did.After a few months I sent her a manuscript. I wrote about what it feels like to love a pet, to lose a pet, and to begin to heal.
Laura was interested, but wondered how I would illustrate a dog that wasn’t there. Hmm.
I had illustrated many books. I had even used Lily as a model in some of them.
But every time I tried to sketch my ideas for this book, I drew a blank. I was too close to it.
When Lily died, my good friend Margaret Chodos-Irvine was living in London. During the years that she lived there she and I had been sending weekly wordless letters to each other.This was a way that we stayed in touch with each other, communicated through art, and also inspired ourselves and each other to experiment with new ideas and techniques.Here are links to blogposts about our wordless correspondence: click HERE for my letters to her and HERE for her letters to me.
Margaret sent me this picture when Lily died.
Margaret knew me, she knew Lily and she is a brilliant illustrator. I asked her if she would be interested in illustrating my words.
I wanted a book that faced the reality of death in a direct and loving way.I knew that Margaret could convey what I had tried to write – a story with deep emotion but not sentimentality.I also knew that Margaret would bring her own ideas and point of view to the art, and that the book would be stronger with both of our voices.
At this point I will turn the blog over to her.………………………………
Hi. I’m Margaret Chodos-Irvine, and also friends with Kirby.
I loved Julie’s Lily story from the first time I heard it – over Skype while I was in London.
I felt it captured that sense of loss, the empty spaces you feel when you lose a beloved pet, so perfectly, with its spare, straightforward text. It isn’t overly sentimental, or maudlin, or religious, yet it is comforting and hopeful. I felt it needed to be a book.
I was surprised but thrilled when Julie asked me if I would be interested in illustrating her new book. Of course I saidYES!
I have a dog named Nik. He is a rat terrier. My initial drawings for Lily were based on him.
I submitted character studies and a storyboard to Holt, but my Lily was rejected for not being cute and cuddly enough. I admit, Nik is a bit angular and bony and he doesn’t have much of a tail.
So I drew a dog very unlike Nik; a furry pooch with a very expressive tail
That Lily got the job!
I have drawn a lot of children, but I hadn’t drawn a lot of dogs at that point. I usually do about five to ten studies of a character before starting on illustrations for a book, but just to be on the safe side, I set myself a goal of one hundred Lily drawings. Here are some of them.
To illustrate this book, I wanted to use a technique that I had experimented with in London – stenciling with gouache paint. It is similar to my former method of printing from mixed media in that I still ‘draw’ shapes with an X-Acto knife, but different in that I get to see my images as soon as I paint them instead of having to wait until everything gets inked and run through my press. It’s a lot faster and I always like having a new medium to explore.
I am so grateful to have been a part of this project. It was wonderful to work on Where Lily Isn’t; I got to illustrate a perfect text, I got to create something for my dear friend, and I got to make something in memory of Lily and all past pets. Julie and I hope that this book will help anyone who has lost a pet and knows what that empty space feels like.
Margaret Chodos-Irvine uses a variety of printmaking and painting techniques to create unique textures and patterns in her work. She has illustrated many books for children, including the Caldecott Honor award book Ella Sarah Gets Dressed, which she alsowrote. Margaret lives in Seattle, WA with her husband and dog, Nik. To learn more visit her here and on Instagram: margaretci.
Julie Paschkis I have illustrated over 25 books for children including picture books, folk tales, poetry and biography. I have written some of these books, and also illustrated the words of other authors. I like to play with language and with art.You can see a love of pattern and folk art in all of my artwork. My art and my words tell stories. Please visit me at www.juliepaschkis.com