THE BOY WHO WENT APE was illustrated by a prolific artist, Richard Jesse Watson. This is a very interesting book because the author is Richard's son, Benjamin. I hate to say this, but boys will go ape over this book. The plot is dead on target for boys with clever and punchy prose. It all perfectly comes together with Richard's magical illustrations. I had a chance to speak with Richard about his book. Below is what he told me:
"My wife, Susi, and I went to the Portland Zoo to sketch and photograph chimpanzees. We took about a thousand photos over a couple of days, and I did bunches of sketches. At first the chimps ignored us as just another gawker, but the longer we hung around, the curiouser they became. I would show the chimps my drawings, and they nodded or sniffed their evaluation.
I discovered a paper from Sri Lanka, made out of elephant dung, which I used to paint the illustrations on. Since the book is a whacky book, it needed a different approach for the illustrations. For instance, instead of straight lines to border the illustrations, I used drippy paint lines to get a more organic feel. I wanted things to be more "viney" or "jungly".
Working with Ben was such a hoot, but hard too. We both had different ideas at times in our vision of the book. Usually the illustrator and author are working separately. Doing a book together is like two different archeologists digging from opposite sides of the world and meeting in the middle, then trying to figure out how to get out alive. "Wow! It's hot in here, my shovel 's worn out, I'm disoriented... are those dinosaur bones? How do we wrap this up & get back to the real world?"
Also working on a book is a long and at times stressful endeavor. Add to that two strong willed people, stir into the mix the fact that both apples fell from the same tree (does that make sense?) and voila! You have apples trying to write! No, seriously, you have different points of view: the word-centric author, and the image-centric illustrator. And with father and son, its, well, what can I say, father knows best. Yeah, right. I quickly realized that my son often (don't tell him I said so) had better ideas than me. Oy vey!
Over all, all this was a blast, and I want to do more books like this."
I highly recommend Richard's new book and his school visit program. Click here for Richard's website.