I’m thrilled to be a part of the GOODNIGHT, MANGER blog tour. You won’t want to miss one stop on the tour. You can view the schedule HERE.
Synopsis:Goodnight, Manger, written by Laura Sassi and illustrated by New York Times bestselling artist Jane Chapman, tells the story of Mary and Joseph as they try to get Jesus to sleep in the noisy stable after his birth. Told in gentle, lulling rhyme, Goodnight, Manger is an adorable and tender bedtime story, for Christmas or any time of year.
If you haven’t seen the book trailer yet, have a look.
For today’s blog tour stop illustrator, Jane Chapman, and author, Laura Sassi, were gracious enough to answer a few questions.
Me: What drew you to Laura’s GOODNIGHT, MANGER story? What made you decide it was a story you’d like to illustrate?
Jane: It was a new take on a story that everyone knows. I love that it gets across the humanity of Jesus – He was a normal baby! Laura’s brilliant text manages to be both funny and reverent all at the same time.
I took a deep breath before accepting it because I try to avoid illustrating books with people in. I feel confident about drawing animals, but not people. That said, I wanted to challenge myself, and Laura’s text is SO good.
Me: What was your reaction when you learned Jane would be the illustrator of GOODNIGHT, MANGER? What appeals to you most about her work?
Laura: I was thrilled when my editor told me that Jane had agreed to take on this new project. She was also the illustrator for my first book, Goodnight, Ark. Jane did a marvelous job capturing the many wonderful expressions and movements of the storm-frightened animals in that book and I knew that she would do an amazing job with Goodnight, Manger as well. And once again, Jane’s work has again exceeded my expectations. The final illustrations for Goodnight, Manger glow with a warmth and gentle humor that perfectly captures the essence of the story.
Me: What is your process when taking a manuscript from text to fully illustrated spread? How collaborative, if at all, was the process?
Jane: First I draw, draw, draw. As I collect the character drawings together, I am thinking about how they could interact on the pages. After that I draw thumbnails (tiny drawings of suggested pages), then the final rough drawings to show the publisher.
I never collaborate with the author – even if he’s my husband! If there is any art direction written on the text, I remove it before I start drawing. I find that having a fixed idea at the beginning can inhibit possibly better thoughts of how the pictures will look.
Me: The best picture books have the perfect interplay between text and art. As authors we do our best to leave room for the illustrator to bring their part of the story. Did you and Jane communicate as she was creating the art? Did you make any changes to your text as a result of this communication?
Laura: Jane and I had no direct communication during the illustration phase, but before she took on the project she said something to the effect that if an action is described in the text, it MUST be included within the pages. With that feedback, Jane, the editor, and I all agreed to cut four verses. At first I thought I would miss the verses, but I don’t. What was lost in text, Jane beautifully made up for, and even enhanced, in illustration! The result is a truly magical melding of my words and her art.
Me: Goodnight, Manger has a Christmas theme. The story of Baby Jesus holds a special place in hearts everywhere. Looking at the cover, I see a sweetness-with-humor element that will draw readers to your book. What do you want readers to take away from your story? Could you both speak to this?
Jane: I want readers to recognise the humanity of Jesus and of His mother. I remember being a new parent to a crying baby – it’s not easy! This book doesn’t stick religiously to the Bible account of events (the wise men appear too early), but it does get across the idea that having a baby in a stable could be a bit messy, and that even Baby Jesus would have cried.
Laura: First and foremost, I want kids (and their parents) to enjoy the story. There’s so much to see on every page and the rhymes are fun to read aloud. I also wanted to offer readers a fun, Christmas-themed story which would keep Christ (rather than Santa) as the focus during what has culturally become a very secular Christmas season. As a mom, I have tender memories of putting my babies to bed and how hard it was when they were overstimulated and overtired. I wanted to play up those tender feelings and remind my youngest readers (and their parents) that Jesus was once a baby too, who cried and felt everything they feel.
Me: I love how you have chosen to depict Baby Jesus and his parents and the angels. What was the inspiration behind the illustrations?
Jane:I drew lots of peasants from different countries, and a lot of acrobats! I don’t think angels are always in white – surely God would enjoy more colour? And I know that angels are without gender, but I thought they should probably have trousers on because otherwise I was going to end up with them showing too much leg!
Jesus was difficult. The team at Zondervan had me redraw Jesus a few times because He was looking too old on my pictures. Oh my, just thinking about painting all those people makes me shiver. I find it very difficult to paint skin tones…
Me: Laura certainly has a way with rhyme. The text sings. But I wondered if you have a favorite verse?
Jane: I don’t have a favourite verse. It’s ALL really, really good. (But I do like the picture where one of the wise men is being nibbled by a couple of goats – it reminds me of a visit to a local farm with my father-in-law: my son put grass in Grandad’s trouser pocket.)
Me: And Jane certainly has a way with illustrations. I could hang any page/spread on my wall. But I wondered if you have a favorite spread?
Laura: Ooh, that’s hard. I love every spread. The warm hues Jane has chosen for the stable interiors practically glow. And I love the sweet interactions and gentle humor included in each illustration, such as the mice peering dotingly down on Baby Jesus and the exceptionally expressive rooster and hen. In fact, I chose a rooster puppet as my storytelling assistant for author visits because of Jane’s delightful depiction of the bird. But, if pressed to choose I think my absolute favorite spread is the one with the angels singing sweet hosannas overhead in their colorful star-spangle tunics. One angel is even playing a fiddle and another an accordion!
Thank you, Jane and Laura, for answering these questions. And thanks for creating this beautiful book.
Here is Laura’s storytelling assistant. He looks like a very capable assistant 🙂
GIVEAWAY: Zonderkidz is offering one hardcover copy – fresh off the press – to one lucky winner. And here’s the important part: To be eligible, you must be a U.S. resident and have a physical address, not a P.O. Box. For a chance to win a copy just leave a comment on this post by midnight CST, Wednesday, October 21.
Laura Sassi has a passion for telling stories in prose and rhyme. Her poems, stories, articles and crafts have appeared in numerous family publications including Highlights for Children, Cricket, Ladybug, Spider, Focus on the Family’s Clubhouse and Clubhouse Jr. and FamilyFun. She is the author of two picture books, GOODNIGHT, MANGER (Zonderkidz 2015) and GOODNIGHT, ARK (Zonderkidz, 2014). She lives in New Jersey with her husband, two children, and a black Cockapoo named Sophie. She is represented by Lara Perkins of the Andrea Brown Literary Agency.
Jane Chapman lives in the south-west of England with her illustrator husband, Tim Warnes, her two sons, and a couple of cute bantams. She has been illustrating children’s books for twenty years, but hasn’t run out of steam yet. She enjoys painting fur, whiskers and all kinds of weather, but especially snow.