Mike Curato is here today as part of the Little Elliot, Big City blog tour to talk about one of my favorite 2014 picture books. After the interview you can also comment on this post to enter a giveaway for some awesome Little Elliot goodies! (You can jump to the end to enter now but please come back to read!) For more details about Mike Curato be sure to stop by his website: MikeCurato.com. You can also find out more about Little Elliot at LittleElliotBigCity.com.
Miss Print (MP): You wrote and illustrated Little Elliot, Big City. Can you tell us about what your creative process for this picture book looked like? Do you start with the text or the artwork?
MC: The first two books both spawned from images. In fact, there was art before there was a story, and there were doodles of Elliot before there was art. I often jump back and forth between the two modes of writer and illustrator.
MP: In addition to a very special elephant, Little Elliot, Big City features some beautiful illustrations of New York City (including my mom’s favorite building the Flatiron Building!). Did you always know this story would take place in New York?
MC: Oh yes. I grew up outside of New York City, and I’ve always been enamored with its old grandeur. When I started working on finished art of Elliot years ago, it quickly became the backdrop. There was no question.
MP: Working off the last question: The cars and people in your illustrations make it pretty clear that your book is not set in present day New York. How did you decide what period to use as the backdrop for this story?
MC: I love the aesthetic and romance of the late ‘30s/early ‘40s: the cars, the buildings, the clothes. It’s also a time before TV and smartphones and internet. Things were slower, but I think more intentional.
MP: What was your favorite part of this story to illustrate? Which part was the hardest?
MC: I think my favorite piece is the one of Elliot staring in the bakery window, though I thoroughly enjoyed drawing (and researching) all the cupcakes throughout the book. The hardest was probably the scene of Elliot in the crowded subway. Also, Mouse’s trash can was quite time consuming with all of that garbage and twisted wire.
MP: What medium do you prefer to work with for your illustrations? How do you decide where to start with each illustration?
MC: Each piece is hand-drawn in pencil, scanned, and colored in Photoshop. I always start with very simple sketches with just enough information to communicate what is going on in the image. Once I narrow in on a composition that works, I gather my reference, and then it’s off to the races.
MP: Can you tell us anything about your next project?
MC: I actually just finished the second book in the series, Little Elliot, Big Family, which comes out next Fall! It expands on Elliot’s friendship with Mouse, and has even more New York City scenes.
MP: Do you have any advice to offer aspiring authors?
MC: Create what makes you happy. Create what you think is missing from the world that could make it better.
Thanks to Mary Van Akin at Macmillan Kids, you can win a copy of Little Elliot, Big City, a coveted Little Elliot tote and some adorable Little Elliot stickers!
Giveaway is US only and open to any readers aged 13 or older. Giveaway will run from today to September 5. (Winner will be notified on September 6. If I don’t hear from the winner by September 7, I will pick another winner.)
Comment below telling me your favorite kind of cupcake to enter!
You can also check out the other tour stops for even more Little Elliot fun:
Tuesday, August 26: Librarian in Cute Shoes | @utalaniz
Wednesday, August 27: Teach Mentor Texts | @mentortexts
Thursday, August 28 : Read. Write. Reflect. | @katsok
Friday, August 29: Kit Lit Frenzy | @alybee930
Saturday, August 30: Daddy Mojo | @daddymojo
Monday, September 1: Miss Print | @miss_print