Special thanks to Kenard Pak for answering 5 questions about the book he illustrated, which was recently featured book – Have You Heard the Nesting Bird?
I grew up in Baltimore and Howard County, Maryland. After studying at Syracuse University and California Institute of the Arts, I worked at Dreamworks, Disney, and wandered some in music videos. The first picture book I’ve illustrated Have You Heard The Nesting Bird? was published this past year, and I have a new book The Dinner That Cooked Itself out this fall/winter. I’m also a visual development artist at PDI Dreamworks. San Francisco is home, with my lovely wife and three cats! – From Kenard’s Homepage
#1 – What was the impetus for your involvement with Have you heard the nesting bird??
After viewing my bird artwork, editor Kate O’Sullivan at HMH contacted me about making a picture book. For a year or two I was regularly posting birds up on my blog/tumblr, and honestly had no ambition other than making doodles. When approached, I was already thinking about picture books, so of course I was very excited about the prospects! I didn’t have anything ready, so Kate sent me the manuscript to Have You Heard The Nesting Bird?, and I immediately fell in love with Rita Gray’s educational, quiet, poetic writing.
#2 – You have a unique visual style in the book. How have you developed this style?
I have a long history with Hollywood animation, and several years back I yearned to make art that was more personal and meaningful to me. Now, when I say this I don’t mean something soulfully deep, something of cultural impact, or even something far away from mainstream cinema, but simply a place I can go to and enjoy the art I naturally like to make. Specifically, this place happens to my memories and thoughts of growing up in Maryland. A lot of these memories are accompanied by distinctive colors and textures, and the artwork you see is my attempt at capturing them.
#3 – Working with Rita Gray on the book, did you work together? How did the book develop?
Rita and I had very little contact, and honestly we didn’t directly correspond until after finishing our second book together. I like to think that we’re both quiet people, and perhaps this personality trait has carried over to our books. The book grew out of patience and good old fashioned hard work. Nesting Bird’s midway version didn’t have the kids at all, and the final version has a storytelling pace that the initial version’s straight forward educational approach did not have. As the book developed from a simple bird guide to a subtle story book, we looked at picture books like The House In The Night that emphasized visual storytelling and anything by Richard Scarry, whose books are a perfect combination of teaching and fun. We all agreed that a good way for kids (and grown ups) to learn about birds was not only through birdsong and feather colors, but to identify with time, place, and memory.
#4 – What feedback have you received about the book?
We’ve received wonderful reviews and comments. The book got a star from Kirkus, a really nice write up from Publishers Weekly, and a SLJ award. The Society of Illustrators had a spread up at their Original Art Show, and I think several bird watching groups have used Nesting Bird to advocate birding with kids. The occasional education community have also remarked on how fun and useful Have You Heard The Nesting Bird? is. I’m very fortunate and quite humbled by all of this.
#5 – Are you working on any new books/projects that you can tell us about?
Kate, Rita and I just wrapped up a sequel in spirit to Nesting Bird called Flowers Are Calling. It’s a picture book about flowers and pollinators, and publishing is somewhere first quarter next year. We’re really excited about this one! I really like working with educational picture books, so I’m currently continuing this passion with picture books I’m writing and illustrating for Henry Holt. They’re about the seasons, and in the grand tradition of the many picture books about autumn, winter, spring, and summer I hope my books will inspire kids and adults to slow down, and read about/look at our natural world.
[Image Credit: From Kenard’s Facebook Page ]