By Lauren Castillo, Guest Blogger
It was such an honor to be asked to illustrate Pulitzer Prize winner Jane Smiley’s debut picture book, Twenty Yawns. When I first read the manuscript, I immediately imagined Southern California, and knew I would need to make a trip out there for some inspiration. Travel builds visual vocabulary, and whenever I go somewhere new it helps me grow as an artist. Little did I know taking on this project would prompt me to relocate to the West Coast for eight sunny months. I made all the illustrations for this book while living in a tiny beach house rental in North County San Diego. It was the first time I completed art for a book away from my studio. I took minimal supplies— no drafting table!— but I made it work. I sketched at the beach, in coffee shops, and on the floor of my little bungalow. It was a challenge, but a great one, which helped me realize just how important it is to get outside of my creative comfort zone.
While the early part of the book takes place at the beach, the rest of the story happens in the cozy home of a little girl named Lucy, after a long day of beachy play. Both of Lucy’s parents have fallen asleep, but she is wide awake and feeling restless. One by one, she collects her furry friends and brings them to her bedroom to keep her company. Once all are snuggled in bed, Lucy finally feels relaxed enough to drift off to sleep.
For the cover image of the book I created a close-up of Lucy and her dear friends, tucked tight under the blankets right before the twentieth and final yawn of the story. This illustration makes me smile. And YAWN.
Lauren Castillo is the author-illustrator of many books for young children, including the Caldecott Honor-winning Nana in the City, Melvin and the Boy, and The Reader. She currently lives in Pennsylvania.