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How Sam & Eva Was Created Part 2

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(Last updated October 2, 2017)

In Part 1, I told you how I came up with the idea for SAM & EVA and how the book got bought by Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers (YAY). I signed the contract in 2013 but because I had other book projects on the go, we only started working on the book several years later. This is why I always have trouble answering the question, “How long did it take to make the book?” There are usually so many starts and stops along the way!

Here’s a photo of my wonderful editor at Simon & Schuster: Justin Chanda, the same editor who first “discovered” me at a children’s book conference in 2010:

Justin went through my picture book dummy and had some great comments on how to improve the text and illustrations. Here are some samples from the picture book dummy along with Justin’s comments:

Meanwhile, I was working on character sketches. I had told my editor that the two characters in my early draft were just placeholders for the characters. I wanted one to be a girl and one to be a boy, but I did want the final characters to visually different from characters I’ve done in the past. 

For the art, I worked with the amazing Laurent Linn:

I have worked with both Justin and Laurent on other picture books at Simon & Schuster, like I’m BoredNaked!Where Are My Books? and Sea Monkey & Bob. One thing I have learned about children’s books: creating a children’s book takes a team of people, and most of them work behind-the-scenes.

But getting back to how Sam & Eva was created…

As I worked on getting the characters worked out, I continued to also working on my sketches. We spend a LOT of time on these early, rough sketches before I start the final art — that way I don’t waste a lot of time polishing a page of art only to realize later on that I need to throw it and start from scratch. I love these early stages because it’s chance for creative brainstorming both on my own and with my team at Simon & Schuster!

I love collaborating with Justin and Laurent – they come up with such great ideas on how to improve the story and illustrations! Here’s an example. This is an early version of one of the spreads (as you can tell, the characters are still very rough) with a great suggestion from Laurent:

I loved the idea of the green velociraptor kicking the stool out of the way! Here’s the final version:

For Eva’s shirt, I wanted to have a Japanese character.

I asked my friends Ryo/Leo Suzuki and John Chew for advice, since I wasn’t fluent in Japanese and I wanted to make sure I didn’t accidentally use a character that could be misinterpreted.

In the end, I settled on the written character “tomo”, which roughly translates to “friend” in Japanese. If you’d like to learn how to draw the character, here’s an activity sheet to help you: