Hello dear Readers!
I hope that you will enjoy the stories of Annabelle-Please-Don’t-Tell! and her brother Andrew-I-Do-Too. Their puppy Yap-A-Doodle loves sharing their adventures. I hope that they will help you laugh a lot and learn a lot!
Most people would agree that children are the world’s greatest source of joy. Prior to this project, I had always loved to write but had written only for, and about, adults; I had not discovered how much fun it is to write for, and about, children. When my two-year-old granddaughter emphatically stated, in a moment of frustration, that a task was very complicated, she planted the seed for a story.
After drafting a few chapters, I met Kasia Simura during a Fall showcase at Dance in Rhythm studio. We discussed our mutual loves of dancing and reading, her love of illustrating, and my love of writing. The following New Year’s eve, at another dance event, we began a collaboration. By then, my story had grown: the characters were active and opinionated, getting into mischief, and telling me to write a series of volumes to share more of their adventures. More stories began to emerge, each one presenting one week of Annabelle’s life and developing from one “big concept,” such as dealing with complications. It was important to me that the books be entertaining, as well as educational, and that they highlight differing perspectives from diverse characters. Additionally, I wanted to enable children to absorb higher language skills than those offered in most books currently on their shelves or in their electronic devices.
A presentation by Dr. Maria Tatar (Harvard), at a Yale symposium for psychotherapists and children’s book authors, was the green light that allowed me to delve into children’s secret worries, wishes, and wonderments. I believe children have more complicated and ingenious business on their minds than we, grown-ups, typically realize. It seemed critical to nurture, rather than ignore or impede, children’s own processes of flourishing. Annabelle told me that she had 156 secrets and Andrew told me that he wanted to know them, too. They both found that grown-ups did, and said, odd things. Their puppy carved out her own, important role in the family.
As I continued preserving the characters’ actions and thoughts in text, Kasia translated them into images. It was a magical experience: both profound and hilarious. We were observed laughing out loud in coffee shops where we met, often exhausted, to coordinate work that we had produced outside of our real-job schedules. Kasia deftly illustrated the characters’ physical and mental antics for any reader to enjoy, even if he or she cannot yet read all of the words. Creating the Annabelle-Please-Don’t-Tell! series, that began with My COMPLICATED Week, is an exciting adventure and collaboration. Sharing the stories with young readers is always energizing and enlightening.
After My IMAGINARY Week was published, Kasia realized that she needed to leave the project for family reasons. Luckily, a mutual friend pointed me toward a new talent on the illustration scene: Isaac Sterling, who lives in another state but is only a few clicks away electronically. Isaac’s illustration skills enable me to visually grow the characters and story arcs. This was an example of hitting a roadblock only to find that, with faith and persistence, you may climb over it and discover exciting new vistas. My OVERWHELMING Week displays the characters in subtle, stylistic transition.
I hope you will enjoy the series, and share some of your own adventures and thoughts!
Carole Lyn Woodring
M.A. Columbia University
We are excited to announce that Annabelle and Andrew have a new illustrator for Volume 3! You can preview the delightful work of the talented Isaac Sternling by clicking here.
Devising stories, and illustrating the characters that populate them, has been my favorite hobby for as long as I can remember. Still, while I attended a magnet high school with a visual art focus, I never expected I would later be professionally illustrating a children’s book; the opportunity of working on Annabelle has been a great surprise and an honor.
To be entrusted with Mrs. Kasia Simura Lusier’s character designs and asked to carry their spirit forward into new stories is a charge I’ve taken seriously. A book’s illustrations don’t just depict the events of the story — they can add emphasis, nuance, and subtext, and may even slyly, purposefully contradict the text with the use of color, gesture, and expression. It’s a daunting task, but I’ve applied myself to the best of my ability, and I hope you enjoy the result. I’ve grown so much over the course of just one book that I can hardly imagine what I’ll be drawing by the end of Volume 4!
For My OVERWHELMING Week, I worked entirely digitally, using a graphics tablet to draw directly into an image file using photo-editing software. My main software was the very old Adobe Photoshop CS2; for the next book I’m transitioning to Clip Studio Paint.
For the Annabelle series I have tried to draw using a style that blends the precedent set by Mrs. Lusier with my own personal style, developed over years of doodling for myself and my friends. That style is probably most influenced by my favorite childhood media — colorful PBS cartoons, Japanese anime, and 2D video games — though it has since grown, and continues growing, on a eclectic diet of new inspiration. More than “learning every day,” every time I put pencil to paper (or stylus to tablet) I find I’m bowled over by some astonishing new revelation! Art is deep, challenging, and incredibly rewarding.
Besides drawing, I enjoy writing, a little bit of baking, and spending time with my husband, our two cats, and our one dog. I have a dream of someday writing and illustrating diverse and story-rich video games, and I slowly work on those projects, a little bit every day.
From the Illustrator of the First Two Volumes of the Annabelle-Please-Don’t-Tell!’s Series:
Drawing and painting for as long as I can remember, I have always been inseparable from my sketchbook and pens. I would doodle smiling character faces in my school notebooks, on hand-made cards to my family and friends, and of course, my sketchbooks. Illustrating a children’s book has been a lifelong wish, so when Carole and I started discussing the story of Annabelle, a precocious, adventurous little girl with secrets, I was honored and excited to help bring Annabelle and the other characters to life.
I have been illustrating since my first years in college, when a Veterinary School professor asked me to illustrate a lab manual for his students. That unique opportunity quickly turned into a passion, and I complemented my Neuroscience studies with an Art major, enabling me to create various science illustrations along the way. My science illustrations expanded into technical illustration, and now book illustration. Feel free to check out more of my work on my website at www.SimuraDesign.com.
I hope all the kids and parents everywhere join Annabelle and her friends on many fun adventures.
Kasia in her studio at work on a series of fantastical, flower dancers. Kasia has been a competitive dancer and, with her fiancé, is a social dancer whenever time allows. The series will be featured at her website noted above.
Notes from Carole: Flowers and dance are thematic threads and symbolic devices in this chapter book series. In volume 2, My IMAGINARY Week, Annabelle dreams of a fairy princess (“Happiness”) who dances in a gown of forget-me-nots with an ivy cape that trails gracefully behind her. As mentioned in Volume 1, Kayla’s mother (Mrs. D) owns a floral business and creates beautiful bouquets. Her arrangements are emblematic of harmonious diversity. Art forms that incorporate rhythm include literature, painting, choreography, flower arranging, and many more — not to forget “Mother Nature.” These ideas will be expanded on our educational resources pages for educators and families. It is true that an author’s writing is informed by his or her life experience and interests. Dance and music are important elements in my personal life, providing balance to the sedentary nature of writing. I enjoy dancing in pro-am, Dancesport ballroom competitions around the country.
Carole’s rescued Havanese (“Cha Cha”) who inspires the character Yap-A-Doodle:
Carole and Kasia attended Winter Conference of writers and illustrators in Manhattan, February, 2015, a few days after Kwame Alexander received the Newberry Medal.