THE SNATCHABOOK is a cute picture book about a small town where all of the animals' books and bedtime stories are disappearing. Today I get to share a guest post from the author and illustrator in response to my question: Where did you come up with the idea for this picture book, and if/how did it change through the revision/illustration process? You can read their responses below (with early sketches of the artwork and what the main character might have looked like as a different animal...or even human!)
Author: Helen Docherty
Illustrator: Thomas Docherty
Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky
Release Date: October 1, 2013
Number of Pages: 32
Source of Book: eARC from Publisher
Where have all the bedtime stories gone?
One dark, dark night in Burrow Down, a rabbit named Eliza Brown found a book and settled down...when a Snatchabook flew into town.
It's bedtime in the woods of Burrow Down, and all the animals are ready for their bedtime story. But books are mysteriously disappearing. Eliza Brown decides to stay awake and catch the book thief. It turns out to be a little creature called the Snatchabook who has no one to read him a bedtime story. All turns out well when the books are returned and the animals take turns reading bedtime stories to the Snatchabook.
Helen: The idea of a book thief who steals children’s bedtime stories popped into my head at the end of a long day of trying (and failing) to think up interesting storylines. At first I wasn’t sure what this book thief would be like, or what to call him, so I played around with names; the book cruncher? The book snatcher? These seemed to suggest quite a menacing character, which wasn’t at all what I wanted, so I tried inverting the words - and that’s when the Snatchabook was born. As soon as I had named him, an image started to form in my mind of a pitiful, lonely little creature who just needs someone to read to him. Once I had established his character, I soon saw the potential to develop the story as a mystery with plenty of suspense and a brave heroine to confront the thief.
In my original version, Eliza was going to be a human girl (called Eliza Jones) and Burrow Down a village. However, our UK publisher, Alison Green, was very keen for Eliza and the other inhabitants of Burrow Down to be woodland animals, as she felt this would have more universal appeal. Looking back, it’s hard to imagine it any other way now! Apart from this, the changes to the text were very minor (by the time I sent it to the publisher I had already worked through several drafts myself), but it was great to have such an experienced editor to help guide the story gently in the right direction.
Tom: As occasionally happens, my idea for the Snatchabook as a creature came very easily and hardly changed at all. However, since Helen originally imagined Eliza as a girl, my first sketches of her were very different from how she eventually turned out. It soon became clear that she was going to be an animal and I tried her out various creatures (my favourite being a Badger) before we arrived at a rabbit. How Eliza was going to look was probably the biggest change that took place for me working on this project and it all happened quite early on. So once that had been decided, it was a question of working through the possibilities of a woodland community and designing all the houses and their inhabitants. This was loads of fun as I grew up in the countryside and had always loved playing in the woods near our house. I also really enjoyed adding the visual stories to the amimals that run independently to Helen’s text, like when they are all accusing each other of stealing the books. I did make quite a lot of tests to work out how exactly I was going to paint the twisty trees, falling leaves and windswept skys and these all helped me add the suspense to the illustrations without making them scary.