People often ask writers where they get their ideas. I got the idea for Tiny Cedric in 2015 on the shortest street with the longest name…
The street is in York, England and it’s got a bit of a funny name. It’s called: “Whip-Ma-Whop-Ma-Gate.”
Hmm, I wondered, who might live on the shortest street with the longest name?
Immediately the answer came. The smallest king on the largest throne, of course. And then, it was a matter of following clues. I then found out that the name of this smallest king was Tiny Cedric. And I was off.
Picture books are such a beautiful art form. A picture book is a story told in two languages: word and image. So the words are only half the story. Without the illustrator, my words wouldn’t stand a chance.
I’m often asked how I choose the right illustrator for my picture books. My answer? I don’t. People are surprised by that. But it’s actually the publisher who chooses the illustrator. (They are, after all, the ones footing the bill!). But that makes sense for another very important reason—they are the visual storytelling experts. The art director knows how to find the best illustrator—and, in particular, the one that will be the best match for the story. They work with the illustrator the way the editor works with the writer. Helping us each tell the story we are telling the best way we can.
And the funny thing is—we usually actually never meet, the illustrator and the writer. In fact, we aren’t usually even in touch with each other. It’s all quite separate. With the publisher in the middle, directing everything.
So imagine my delight when Anne Schwartz (my editor) told me Rowboat Watkins signed on to illustrate Tiny Cedric. Rowboat’s illustrations are incredibly funny—and can we talk about his name? How lucky am I to work with illustrators with the coolest names? (I work with an illustrator with the shortest name: Jago. Now I get to work with someone who sounds like a children’s book in and of himself: Rowboat Watkins.) Rowboat’s masterful visual storytelling fills the book with hysterical details. There are layers upon layer of visual jokes in the illustrations that will have the child poring over the pages for hours. Rowboat is the most incredible illustrator, and I am the luckiest writer.
And here’s another mysterious thing. As it turns out, Rowboat had been drawing people with big, weird hairdos in his sketchbook for years, and never knew quite why or what to do with them. Here are a sampling of some of them in his sketchbook that he sent us (aren’t they fabulous!). All pre-Cedric.
When he read Tiny Cedric, he knew his crazy hairdos had found their perfect home.
That’s the mysterious way with picture books and stories. They know what they need to be. Somehow they are cleverer than any one of us. And the story knew that the illustrator was working on funny hairdos in readiness for Tiny Cedric who was lying in wait for me in York one random day on Whip-Ma-Whop-Ma-Gate Street.
So that’s how this book came to be. Passing by the smallest street with the longest name. Noticing how children are tiny in a huge world. Sketching huge hairdos for years for no project in particular. And then, with time and craft and hard work and an incredible team, it all comes together as if by magic—and a brand new story told in two languages is born. (All about a silly very hilarious tiny king with a fantastically silly hairdo who we hope will make you laugh. I think we might need a bit more laughter at the moment, don’t you?) The story also seems especially timely because it’s all about the transforming power of love to tear down the walls between us. And I know we could all of us definitely use that.
It’s almost as if we all planned it that way.
You can help Tiny Cedric get noticed in the big world by pre-ordering today.
PS: Tiny Cedric has already received 2 STARRED REVIEWS! Read them here.