Hello Benny!

Oppenheim Toy Portfolio “Best Books Gold Award”

Parenting “Best Books of the Year” Award

“There are lots of books about babies, but none that concocts such a sweet story and gives it heft by providing a bundle of facts. …Emberley’s large scale artwork brims with warmth.” — Booklist, starred review

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“The lighthearted cartoon drawings, reminiscent of the line work of Jules Pfeiffer, are sweet and full of humor.” —School Library Journal

“The winning team of Harris and Emberley are back with another warm, humorous, authoritative opus on the life cycle,…Emberley keeps the tone light…There’s plenty of knowing humor.” — Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books, starred review

“Emberley infuses his artwork with a spontaneity and humor that’s perfect for the text. He renders the rapture of new parenthood as confidently as he does the skepticism of new siblinghood, and does a terrific job of depicting Benny’s evolving physiognomy from newborn to toddler.”  —Publisher’s Weekly, starred review

“Educational and lots of fun…. Emberley uses a blend of computerized,(not true, by the way-ME) and traditional artwork…”  —Kirkus Reviews

This first book in the “Growing Up” series written by long time collaborator Robie Harris, (the fifth and final book in the series available Spring 2006 or so) is a departure from what we have done together before, and yet shares many similarities. In a partnership like ours, you cannot escape, it seems, the experiences you’ve had and the lessons you’ve learned.

Robie is very thorough in researching and double-checking all the material she writes. She has gained many close ties with experts in a variety of professions while creating the first book we did together, It’s Perfectly Normal, and is comfortable working with lots of input and ideas. Robie can work seamlessly with a spectrum of sometimes contradictory opinion and advice that would befuddle a mortal writer. (like myself) She takes this approach with nonfiction as well as fiction.

I, however, am most comfortable getting to know the basic issues, and some of the concerns of all involved, (Robie, the editor, the designer) then handling the art and design on my own. Then, if necessary, getting it checked briefly for accuracy before finishing the art. But, in doing non-fiction with a collaborator, I have learned to work somewhat cooperatively within a group mindset even though my inclination is towards solitary inspiration.

Fiction on the other hand, is something I have to do on my own. I will get some input, but I rarely find answers outside myself.

“Hello Benny!” is a fiction/nonfiction combination. A large image story of Benny from his birth to his first birthday, with accompanying small, illustrated facts about growing up. I grew up with the books of Holling Clancy Holling such as, “Paddle to the Sea” and “Seabird”, in which there are large color oil paintings to accompany a fictional story, with many tiny illustrated footnotes in the margins about historical events or artifacts mentioned in the story. I loved these books, and had them in mind when doing this series with Robie.

I was trying to do two slightly different styles of drawing in this series. I used semi cartoon images of Benny and his family, and more cartoony “fact” drawings, so I could work in as much humor as possible, and hopefully readers won’t confuse the two.

I used black ink brushes for the line work and watercolor and pastel for the color. I wanted this series to have a breezier feel than our other work, and brushes tend to make lines that are loose and expressive.

To keep the spontaneity of loose drawings and still work with the inevitable changes required of even “semi-nonfiction” work, I experimented with doing the line work separately and making all the changes to it as we went along using tape, glue, many bottles of whiteout, and hours at the local Kinko’s. Then, when everything was “approved”, I transferred the line art to watercolor paper using a photocopying machine before added the color. This allowed me to get all messy and stay loose creating the lines without worrying about having a clean, smooth surface to apply the color.  If I really screwed up, and absolutely hated what I’d done with the color, I could save a little time and emotional distress by at least not having to draw the line work all over again.