A three-time Caldecott Medalist, most recently in 2007 for Flotsam, David Wiesner has a new picture book for the fall, Art and Max (Clarion, Oct.). A 250,000-copy first printing is on order for the title, which centers on two lizard friends: Arthur, an accomplished artist, and Max, who is a beginner—but a fast learner.
Wiesner says that his most recent work took him in new directions. “When I finished Flotsam, it felt like a culmination of the way I had been working for a long time, in terms of both the media and the visual storytelling process,” he says. “When that book won the Caldecott, it occurred to me that if that didn’t give me license to try something new, I didn’t know what would.”
His response was to explore various media, which is exactly what ends up in Art and Max. “Basically, I saw a character rendered in an opaque media that then cracks open,” says Wiesner. “Underneath is the character rendered in pastel, which is then blown off, revealing the character in watercolor, and then that is washed off and there’s a line drawing, which snaps and collapses. I thought that was all very interesting—but then I had to figure out what the story is that sets this all in motion—why is this happening?”
Though Wiesner says it took him a while to find the answer, he finally realized this was about the media themselves: “To a certain degree it is an exploration of the creative process. Once the line-drawing character disappears, the other character has to figure out how to recreate him. The book really grew organically.”
Arthur and Max began as what the author calls “cuddly creatures,” but, he adds, “that was just a placeholder until I could figure out who the characters were going to be.” The characters became lizards, since Wiesner finds they “have character traits that are more interesting to draw.”
Wiesner says it’s been a few years since he’s been to BEA, and he’s happy to return and get caught up in what he calls the show’s “extraordinary energy level.” He praises independent booksellers for their skill at guiding visitors to their stores. “For me, walking into a bookstore is like walking into a gallery. There is so much great stuff that grabs the eye. It’s nice to know that a bookseller knows the books and can help decipher all that is there.”