Student illustrations for Mirabella the Monarch's Mysterious Migration
Stack of student illustrations, characters and names being sorted for the new book. There are thousands of possible combinations!!!

Illustrations for Mirabella the Monarch

Make-A-Book Project Update Summary: Illustrations are done (except for our make-up session). Ms Nall, the art teacher, has been great to work with. I learned an incredible amount about teaching from her, not least of all crowd management. And her personal teaching style is visible in the student’s drawings. I can say they are more detailed than any others. The Character Naming Contest and Creation Contests are done. Permission slips are maybe only 50-75% completed. And, we still have a lot more potential activities scheduled, including: school class photo, reading passport, March Reading Madness, Caption and Cover Coloring Contest, the book signing celebration, and to go along with the 540 free books we’ll be donating to the students, I’m told we may even have a packet of milkweed seeds for every kid.

Sorting Illustrations

After working with the elementary students for at least a week in the classroom (26 classes) as the author-in-residence, I get at least 500 drawings to choose from, and at some schools, I’ve gotten over 1000 drawings. So, being more of the right-brained-artistic type, it is a major organizational challenge — I’ve never used so many folders, stickies, paper clips, dividers and color markers.

Above is the stack of drawings from Parker Woods Montessori, plus ballots for the Character Creation Contest and the Character Naming Contest, and the permissions slips is the stack of peach-colored paper. All these need to be matched together. I think I spent 10 hours so far just sorting through permission slips. I’ve got a spreadsheet 529 Columns deep by 10 columns wide. That’s 10 variables for each student that all need to match.

Below are the drawings being sorted from a previous project, Ruby the Red Worm. Here you see that I have laid the book out on the floor with my tentative favorites in place. Also pictured are dozens of folders. First I organize the pictures alphabetically by grade and teacher since some kids will draw 10 pictures. As I progress, choosing pictures becomes harder, and I need to be more creative, such as combining two student drawings into one. I will also reorganize the piles by page number or subject matter. And, constantly, I am subdividing the pictures into favorites (yes definitely), seconds (maybe), thirds (probably-not), miscellaneous, unknown and more…

It seems every time I look, I see the pictures in a new way and am impressed by the creativity and humor of the young students.

Sorting the illustrations
Sorting the illustrations. I can get over 1000 drawings.

Re-Touching the Illustrations

One of my biggest responsibilities is editing the illustrations and maintaining their integrity. It is a multi-step process that deserves a story all by itself, but in short: I need to scan about 150 illustrations at a very high resolution, retouch all the pencil marks and marker bleeds, delete the distracting details, reformat the composition for a new aspect ratio and give the text room to live. In the picture below, you can see a before and after. This was an easy one.

Making of the book. Retouching illustrations for the monarch book
An artful reconstruction to help the page fit better in the book and be simpler to understand. That is a key difference between fine art and illustration. As I tell the kids, “Illustrations tell a story.”

Some pictures are even more challenging. Below is an artful reconstruction from the Spanish edition of “Falling Uphill: The Secret of Life”. I had to deconstruct the illustration character by character and reconstruct it into the proper shape that better illustrates the concept of the story. In this case, either the original 8.5 x 11″ drawing would have gotten too small for the 6 x 9″ final, or I would have had to crop off one or two kids.

Retouching illustrations before and after. An example of how I change the composition and size of the drawings.
To get the illustrations to fit in the book, I have to change the aspect ratio from the original 8.5 x 11″ drawing to the 6 x 9″ book. If I would put the original drawing in the book, it wouldn’t fit.

More Updates Coming Soon!

Check back to see our progress on the new book. Or, for more updates subscribe to our newsletter so that you don’t miss any news.

Thanks to Parker Woods Montessori, the super-involved and passionate parent-teacher volunteers on the PTO, the Greater Cincinnati Foundation and Happen, Inc for making this book possible.

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