Science Book a Day Interviews James Lu Dunbar


Special thanks to James Lu Dunbar for answering 8 questions about his recently featured book – The Universe Verse

James “Jamie” Lu Dunbar lives in Oakland, CA where he helps manage the Sirius Puppy Training SchoolJames & Kenneth Publishers and Dog Star Daily by day and creates rhyming and illustrated educational books by night.  Jamie has always enjoyed learning and drawing ever since he was a little lad and he started making his own books at a very young age. In addition to writing and illustrating, Jamie enjoys cooking and sports and games of all sorts. – From James’ Homepage

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#1 – What was the impetus for The Universe Verse?

I believe that a deep understanding and appreciation for science is a wonderful trait to foster. I think it has the potential to make people more caring and capable.

I also think that children are the most important audience on the planet. I think speaking to children is so valuable because they’re innately curious, and they’re still deciding who they are and what they think is important. And I love kids and have always been a kid myself. I enjoy silly things, like rhyming picture books!

#2 – How did the book eventuate? Did the verse come first? The images later? Was there some iteration between the two as the book developed?

I started working on the book about 7 years ago. Although really, I’ve enjoyed science and drawing my whole life. But 7 years ago I began this particular project by spending hours in the Boston public libraries looking at books about cosmology, biology and history, as well as children’s books, graphic novels and anything else with cool illustrations. I wrote the first draft of the whole thing over the course of a few months, then I spent the next 7 years editing, reworking and then illustrating it. So yes, the illustrations came last.

#3 – Who are the two ‘guides’ in the story? One looks quite Einsteinien.

Yes, the grandpa character is a hybrid of Einstein and The Lorax. The grandma is loosely based on Rachel Carson, author of Silent Spring.

#4 – Why did you decide to divide the book into 3 books?

Dividing the story into three books made the whole project more manageable. It meant that I was able to complete and publish a self-contained book after a couple years of work.

#5 – The panels can be highly detailed. How long did it take to do all the artwork?

The drawing took a long, long time. Hundreds and hundreds of hours. Including sketching and brainstorming it was probably a couple thousand. It was the first time I’ve ever drawn with a stylus and a digital drawing pad. So that took a long time to get the hang of, and I’d also never done anything so ambitious in Photoshop, so I learned a lot of new skills there as well.

But I think it worked out very well how my skill and illustration style evolves over the course of the three books, which works well to reflect the increasing complexity of the story. Of course the most obvious aspect is the addition of color. I think it makes sense that it starts in black and white, but that also made the illustrating much easier at the beginning.

#6 – Your book is clearly written for a younger audience. How did you decide what to include for this younger audience, and what to exclude?

I really just tried to include everything I thought was important, regardless of whether I thought a particular age group was going to be able to fully grasp all the meaning. This book is meant to be a teaser and it’s meant to be challenging for children. My hope is they will be motivated by the challenge to learn more.

#7 – What feedback have you received about the book so far?

It’s been wonderful. People seem to really love it, and not just children, but science-geeks of all ages. My favorite is when I meet kids that also like to draw and I get to show them that it can be such a worthwhile and rewarding pursuit.

#8 – Are you working on any new projects/books you can tell us about?

I’m actually doing some work for my day job right now, redesigning some of the resources for our family puppy training school (The SIRIUS Dog Training School in the San Francisco Bay Ares). So I’m drawing and writing about puppy training, which is, as you can probably imagine, a lot of fun!

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