My 6 year old was quite the talkative art critic today. When Jim pulled out his sketch book and began whipping up the wonderful rabbit you see accompanying this post, she confidently told him that a rabbit's ears are not that long. Luckily, Jim had infinite patience with his young audience members. He suggested the possibility that this might be a jack rabbit, which solved the issue diplomatically. Bless him, he even let the kids add grass and leaves to his rabbit sketch! My daughter added the two leaves on the bottom right, one of which she specified as being a "ginko" leaf.
I had seen Jim LaMarche once before, at a benefit event for a local preschool--before I owned any of his books. So I knew this was going to be good. It was even more meaningful this time, attending as an aspiring author. I came away from this experience with a much deeper appreciation for the layers of depth and detail that an excellent illustrator adds to a story.
For instance, in Winter Is Coming, a girl observes the seasonal changes in nature and in the lives of foraging animals from her tree house vantage point, where she sits and draws in her sketch book. However, the text never mentions the gender of the character, or a tree house, or a sketch book! Those elements were all included as part of Jim's artistic license. As winter approaches, the little girl is shown wearing warmer layers of clothing. Again, this detail comes from the artist's bag of tricks. What a treat it was to hear about the illustrator's process, from a top-noch professional like Jim LaMarche.