Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site

by Chronicle Books

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Product ID: 286498

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  • Chronicle Books (CA)
  • Exclusive Essay: From the Slush Pile to #1: Realizing My Vision. Or Not.
    First-time author Sherri Duskey Rinker's Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site steadily climbed up the New York
    Times' Bestseller list throughout 2011, reaching #1 on January 29th, 2012. Here she shares the early inspiration that
    inspired a career in design, and how another artist brought her vision to life.

    I grew up loving picture books.

    I can still hear my grandmother's voice over the sound of the pages turning, the old wind-up Westclox alarm clock
    ticking away and the sound of traffic rolling down Howard Street. I remember the smell of books mingling with the
    smell of freshly laundered sheets.

    Virginia Lee Burton's The Little House was my favorite, and I obsessed over the whimsically sweet illustrations of
    that little pink house happily sitting upon a hill covered in daisies.

    Inspired, I wanted to be an artist. I also wanted to be a poet, an art teacher, and a journalist. The ping-pong ball
    of art vs. words ended with a career as a graphic designer. It was a perfect fit: I took pictures and words and put
    them together in a pretty way.

    I met an artist, a photographer. He also had grown up with Virginia Burton: Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel. It
    was a sign. So I married him. We had two boys and two good excuses for buying dozens (and dozens) of picture books.

    Inspired by my youngest son's tireless (literally!) obsession with trucks, I wrote Goodnight, Goodnight Construction
    Site in stolen moments during the workday and late at night, after the boys were tucked in. And with the words emerged
    a vision (dare I say "obsession") for how the book and my trucks would look.

    I could see it so clearly: realistic illustrations of trucks superimposed with facial expressions to convey the mood
    and create the characters. Strong, yet simple graphic elements to create the setting. A bit of realism. A bit of
    collage. A bit of a grunge to compliment the dirty work of the trucks. I included the concept illustration with my
    manuscript and sent it, unsolicited, to Chronicle Books. When my editor contacted me, three months after I'd sent the
    manuscript, she was friendly, but also to-the-point: They loved the manuscript (!), and hated (though she used a nicer
    word) the illustration concept.


    One of the reasons that Chronicle was the first (and ultimately only) publisher on my list was that I LOVE their
    picture books. I appreciate their beauty and high production values. So, I had a choice here: trust, or walk away. I
    chose trust--with a big dash of fear.

    My editor asked if I had any ideas for illustrators. I sent her a dozen names and online portfolios. I'm pretty
    certain she ignored me. And, they chose Tom Lichtenheld. (Who?)

    When I told my editor that I'd never heard of Tom, she quickly emailed a few examples. The first was from Tom's NYT
    best-selling book, Duck! Rabbit! I was stunned to see bold, simple shapes and thickly-outlined illustrations. I stared
    blankly at the screen, feeling my heart sink.

    Could this guy even draw a truck?

    I spent the next couple of months intently focused on the process of editing and developing the final manuscript.
    But it was always there, in the back of my mind: What would the book look like? What had I given up?

    One evening I received an excited email from my editor with Tom's first pencil sketch attached.

    I wrote back: "I’m scared. I'll pour a glass of wine and then look at it."

    I held my breath and double-clicked. And there it was: classic, timeless and tender, with just a touch of whimsy. My
    crane truck, a distant, younger cousin to Mike Mulligan, perhaps? My heart melted. I was won over.

    So there it was: nothing like I imagined. But it was better. I've come to learn that some of the best things in
    life--like marriage and motherhood--are like that.

    And I could almost feel Mrs. Burton smiling down.

    Little House
    Virginia Lee Burton's The Little House

    Mike Mulligan
    Virginia Lee Burton's Mike Mulligan's steam shovel

    Concept Sketch
    Rinker's original vision for Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site

    Duck Rabbit
    Illustrator Tom Lichtenheld's Duck! Rabbit!

    Lichtenheld's first sketch of Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site


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