Monday, October 21, 2013

The Story Behind - Three Ghost Friends: Learn About Shapes

Three Ghost Friends: Learn About Shapes started with a drawing on a window.

My son and I were drawing with Crayola washable window markers on our large living room windows. My son was coloring and I was drawing shapes.

I thought, "How could a ghost become a shape?" (At the time, everything I saw turned into a ghost! It still occasionally happens today!)


On the window, I made a drawing of a ghost going through a circular tunnel. On one side it was a full-sized ghost then after going through the circular tunnel the ghost was the shape of a circle.  However, I struggled with what else a ghost could go through that would turn it into a shape;

a doorway?  ("A rectangle. Yes. But a little tall for my ghosts.")
a window? ("A square. This could work.")
a tent?  ("A triangle. Yes. But you don't really go through a tent.")

I also struggled with how the ghosts would become full size again. They couldn't drink milk like in Three Ghost Friends: Learn About Colors. So, would they have to go through a ghost-shaped tunnel? That would be pretty silly.

So, I left the drawing on the window.

After a week, I still really liked the ideas especially the one about the triangle tent. Then, I thought, "What if the ghost just hid inside a tent instead of going through the tent? It would still look like a triangle."

That was it! The ghosts could hide!!!

My mind started wrestling with the story; hiding....tent....Maybe, the Three Ghost Friends could play hide and seek while camping.

I started to sketch out a story in my sketchbook after things got sorted out in my mind. I tried to find a sequence of how the ghosts would play hide and seek.  Also, I wrote down lots of ideas for activities that the ghosts could do when they were at the campground; campfires, sleeping in campers, canoeing, hiking, bird watching, swimming, games, fishing. Then, I experimented with places the ghosts could hide to make shapes; tent (triangle), hollow tree (oval), picnic table (trapezoid), inner tube/life preserver (circle), camper window (square), log (circle), spiderweb (?), and under a chair (square).
I guess this little doodle was supposed to be a pentagon ghost? 
I realized that I had two good ideas for circles; a log and an inner tube/life preserver.  Two circles seemed to make sense because two ghosts would be hiding with one ghost counting. 

In the book the text became, 
"One ghost counts. Two ghosts hurry to hide.
One ghost sees a circle here. One ghost sees a circle there.
Two ghost circles are quiet. Two ghost circles are still."  
Here is an early sketch of the ending of the book where the ghost dad appears. 
In the top sketch on this page you can see the scene where the Three Ghost Friends all hide from the ghost dad to make a rectangle ghost, a trapezoid ghost and an oval ghost.
More sketches!
I felt I had enough from my sketches to start working on the computer.  I quickly realized that this book was going to be difficult for me to illustrate. I was going to have to make full page spreads for the first time as an illustrator in order to move the reader through the book.

This initial full page spread illustration is of the ghosts heading out to become ghost squares.  I later moved the trash can because the ghosts would all have been clumped together.
I loved seeing this illustration in full color.  My silly idea about a ghost in a tent had come to life.
When I was illustrating the scenes where one ghost finds another ghost, I came up with the line, "Boo! I found you!"  This was an important discovery.  It is one of my favorite lines to read aloud.
Can you find the ghost shapes? The ghost dad can't and he resorts to food (S'mores!) to get the ghosts to reveal themselves!
I often say this book is my favorite. Probably because it was the hardest for me to make.  I worked every night after the kids went to bed for over two months.  I also felt that this was my wackiest idea -- "Ghost shapes? Really?" But, it turned out better than I expected.

Below is a video of me reading Three Ghost Friends: Learn About Shapes with my 18-month-old daughter:

This book is available at in paperback and at iTunes as an ebook for iPad/iPhone:

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