Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The cold open of Matthew Cordell’s picture book “hello! hello!”

In March 2011, I posted an explosive series that peeled back the curtain on the enigmatic process of picture book writers and artists. Well, it wasn’t exactly explosive. And maybe the process isn’t all that enigmatic. (But it was a series.)

One of the posts discussed the cold open, a device commonly seen in television. As an example, I showed the pre-title page sequence of The Enemy by Davide Cali and Serge Bloch.

That post prompted one author to introduce himself to another—and in an unexpected reversal, I was not the one doing the introducing. (In other words, I’ve been known to force myself, digitally speaking, upon fellow writers whose work I admire.)

The talented author/illustrator Matthew Cordell kindly let me know that he enjoyed the post, both by e-mail and by comment underneath it.

Six months later, Matthew e-mailed with fun news. “I'm working on final illustrations for a picture book that makes use of a delayed opening (my very first!). Inspired by your blog post and, of course, a personal fave,
The Enemy.”

Flash forward a year, and hello! hello! is amassing raves and fans in equal stride. I take full credit.

Well, not exactly full credit, but partial credit. Actually, just a fraction of a square root of partial credit. Technically, that works out to no credit at all. 

In seriousness, I’m thrilled for Matthew on the success of the book. I asked him to reflect on the genesis of his cold open and he graciously obliged:

The idea of doing a cold opening in one of my picture books had not really occurred to me for some time even though I probably encountered this play in form with many favorite picture books. I guess it pretty much went unnoticed. I’d always gone with the typical approach: endsheets-copyright-title-story-endsheets.

Then one day I picked up what would become a favorite picture book, The Enemy by Davide Cali, illustrated by Serge Bloch. I’m a big fan of Bloch. The design of this book is very clever and sophisticated. And it uses a cold opening. It really became clear to me that this could be a cool thing to do.

Then I saw your blog post pointing out cold openings in some of your favorite pic books, and that pretty much sealed the deal. I had to do it. Some time later, my idea for hello! hello! came along and I knew this had to be the book to explore a cold opening. Early on, I had plans for weaving in many layers of subtle intricacies with the design of this book, so it was immediately obvious to me it could also benefit from this little tweak to the form.

I may be taking this a step too far, but perhaps this is why the book is named “hello” twice. The first “hello” kicks off the cold open, the second the story proper.

No, no?

Congrats, congrats, Matthew, and thanks for sharing a bit of your process.

No comments: