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Site Design and Illustrations by Lorian Tu-Dean (c) 2016


November 13, 2018

Sara O'Leary (This is Sadie, The Boy and the Blue Moon) and Jacob Grant (Cat Knit, Through with the Zoo) have a book coming out together! It's called OWLS ARE GOOD AT KEEPING SECRETS and in it Sara divulges little known secrets of the animal kingdom while Jacob all the while creates these beautiful and sweet moments with animals and their friends and family.

I've had a chance to read the story to my little ones a few times and it's one I've enjoyed reading over and over at bedtime.


Here's a synopsis of the story:


A delightful book of curious, little-known "facts" about animals--one for each letter of the alphabet!


Did you know that chipmunks love to stay up past their bedtime? Or that dragons cry at happy endings? I bet you'd never have guessed that iguanas sometimes get homesick at sleepovers.


Sara O'Leary pulls back the curtain on the animal world and gives us an absolutely charming little one-line "fact" about one animal for each letter of the alphabet. Kids will love to see their own quirks reflected in these adorably rendered creatures, and perhaps will be comforted to know that--just like them--narwhals can be perfectly happy all on their own and quail also get tired of being told to be quiet.


This is more than just an alphabet book. It's a charming, hilarious, and touching look at the diversity of personalities in the world--worth many, many rereads.


Sara and Jacob came by to share the book trailer for OWLS ARE GOOD AT KEEPING SECRETS with all of us. 


Play the video below, then scroll down to read as Sara and Jacob finish my sentences and Jacob shares how some of the art came together for the story.






The idea for Owls Are Good at Keeping Secrets first came from... (Sara) Sadie. There was originally a bit in This isSadie about all the different kinds of friends that Sadie had, and how some of them were animals, and then there was this really daft line about how owls were good at keeping secrets. In revision, I focused the companions section into idea of storybook friends, but I really did love that line. There's the old chestnut in writing about how you have to kill your darlings. I resist that. I seem to like to hold my darlings close and hope for an opportunity to build them a new home. And so I started out with my one little owl quip and then slowly started building around it.


When I first read the manuscript for Owls Are Good at Keeping Secrets... (Jacob) I thought to myself, there could be no better fitting story for me to illustrate in all of children’s publishing. Drawing quirky animals behaving like humans is something I do for my own amusement, and it’s honestly the first subject my brain goes to when my son and I are playing with crayons. Being hired to fill an entire picture book with these curious beasts certainly qualifies as a dream job. Especially when the writing is as brilliant as Sara O’Leary’s! 



In the story... (Sara)  Okay, here's a secret for you: I can't finish that sentence. Nothing really happens in this book. In fact, nothing really happens in any of my books (maybe apart from the one where a boy goes to make a new life on the moon). My son says that I don't write stories so much as I write lists. This book is a list of funny little facts about animals. Except they are more fiction than fact. Also they might not be about animals. But they are all true. Somebody you know probably gets homesick on sleepovers or doesn't like being told to smile or always wants one more story. Maybe it's you! That said, I think Jacob might have turned Owls Are Good at Keeping Secrets into an actual story because there's a surprise ending contained in the illustrations. To find it you have to read the book all the way to the end and then turn back to the beginning. It makes the book into a very happy story. Practically a triumph over adversity type of tale. 


The illustrations in the story were made using... (Jacob)  a hodgepodge of charcoal, wax crayon, pastel, and ink. Once I have all of the parts of an artwork drawn out, I scan them into the computer and assemble them in layers using Photoshop. By doing this I can assign different colors to each layer and move things about as needed. For example, when a dancing jellyfish looks like it could be sillier if I flipped it upside down. Or an alligator that might be more adorable if I pack even more flowers into their bouquet. It’s not the most timely way of working, but I have never been able to make anything purely digital that feels as good as handmade art.


One animal secret that didn't make it into the story... (Sara) is that axolotls are always happy to see you! I don't think I ever told Jacob that one, but it still makes me laugh every time I look at a picture an of an axolotl. Because of the alphabetical constraint, so many wonderful animals had to be left out! Pandas. Hedgehogs. Sloths. I wonder what a sloth's secret would be. Maybe it's that they can patiently wait for years to use a quip that amuses them.





And now... a chance to let the art do the talking. Jacob shared some process shots leading to the final art. I hope you'll enjoy this closer look at how Jacob's art came together.



Thanks for sharing with us today, Sara! Thanks, Jacob! And thank you also to Random House Children's Books!



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