February 3 – World Read Aloud Day and Interview with Andy Harkness

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About the Holiday

Sponsored by global non-profit LitWorld and Scholastic, World Read Aloud Day encourages reading aloud to children not only today but every day. Reading aloud to children from birth is one of the best ways to promote language development, improve literacy, and enjoy bonding time together. Millions of people celebrate today’s holiday all across the United States and in more than one hundred countries around the world. Typically, special events are held in schools, libraries, bookstores, homes, and communities, and authors and illustrators hold readings and visit classrooms. This year, you can find virtual read alouds, live events on Instagram, Facebook, and Youtube, printable games, and book lists as well stickers, bookmarks, posters, and a reading crown to decorate, when you visit LitWorld.

Thanks go to Bloomsbury Children’s Books for sending me a copy of Wolfboy for review consideration. All opinions of the book are my own. I’m also thrilled to be teaming with Bloomsbury in a giveaway of the book. See details below.

Wolfboy

By Andy Harkness

 

The full moon hung in the sky like a golden, frosted cupcake. Down below in the darkened forest Wolfboy was on the prowl. “He was HUNGRY. ‘Rabbits, rabbits! Where are you?’ he howled.” But he could find no rabbits. He “sploshed” into the creek, but no rabbits answered his calls. Not only was he “HUNGRY,” now he was also “HUFFY.” He climbed to the top of a very tall oak tree and scoured the ground far and wide. No rabbits. In addition to being “HUNGRY” and “HUFFY,” Wolfboy had become “DROOLY. He needed rabbits.”

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Copyright Andy Harkness, 2021, courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Perhaps they were hiding in the bog, but there he only saw three crocodiles swimming his way. It made Wolfboy feel “GROWLY.” He made a daring leap into Moonberry Meadow. Surely, the rabbits were here. But no. Wolfboy could hardly contain himself. “he was HUNGRY and HUFFY and DROOLY and GROWLY and FUSSY.” He stomped and thrashed and leaped and menaced. He was done with rabbits, and he let the world (and those skittish rabbits) know it.

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Copyright Andy Harkness, 2021, courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

But then he heard a rustle and a snap. He focused his attention and saw some tell-tail signs. “Wolfboy crouched low” just as a warren-full of little bunnies emerged into the clearing. Wolfboy showed his teeth. His roar shook the forest. “‘Rabbits, where have you been? You’re late for our feast!’” But the rabbits just giggled and brought out the moonberry pie they’d made him. In a frenzy Wolfboy “CRUNCHED and MUNCHED and GOBBLED and GULPED!” When the pie was gone, Wolfboy explained that he had just been so, well… HUNGRY. But now he felt better and there was one huge happy rabbit hug for dessert.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-wolfboy-happy

Copyright Andy Harkness, 2021, courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Andy Harkness’s cumulative tale will get kids, who well-know that ravenously hungry feeling, up and growling along as Wolfboy goes from Hungry to Happy with all the personality-changing gastronomical feelings in between. Harness’s dialogue-rich storytelling is a delight, ripe for dramatic read alouds. The forest setting, with its creek, bog, oak, and ravine, inspires evocative vocabulary that enhances the suspense. What could this sharp-toothed, famished Wolfboy want with the rabbits? There could only be one thing… or could there? The endearing ending reaffirms that those Hangry wolves in our homes need only a little (or a big) treat to return to their true puppy natures.

Visually stunning, Harkness’s illustrations, built with clay and then photographed, immerse readers in extraordinary textured, intricate, and shadowy landscapes that beg close study. Neon blue Wolfboy, with his furrowed unibrow, rows of chicklet teeth, and long arms that waggle in hilariously menacing poses will have kids laughing out loud. And where are those rabbits? On every page! The little animal cracker-sized bunnies pop up in the most surprising places, and you can bet that you’ll hear plenty of “there’s one!” “I see two!” and “Let’s count them!” as you turn the pages.

For kids who love raucous, laugh-out-loud story times, those who appreciate exceptional art and the wonders of claymation, and readers who prefer their beasts to be big softies, Wolfboy is a must for home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 3 – 6

Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2021 | ISBN 978-1547604425

Discover more about Andy Harkness, his books, movie work, and art on his website.

Meet Andy Harkness

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review–Andy Harkness author photo

Andy Harkness is an award-winning art director who has worked on Moana, Frozen, and Wreck-it-Ralph, among other movies. After twenty-five years at Disney, he recently moved to Sony Pictures Animation. Andy’s first book, Bug Zoo, was published by Disney as an Artist Showcase Book in 2016. He lives in California with his family. You can connect with Andy on His Website | Instagram | Twitter  

I’m thrilled to be talking with Andy Harkness about his inspiration for Wolfboy, his process in creating the incredible illustrations, one of his biggest challenges, and more!

I think everyone can empathize with ravenously hungry Wolfboy! Where did the idea for your story come from?

I have always loved scary stories. In particular, werewolf stories. It’s the transformation that intrigues me. In 2005, I took a first pass at a story but it really didn’t go anywhere until my wife and I had children. We noticed an incredible transformation when they were hungry. Our little angels became little monsters. And the story of Wolfboy was born!

The shape of Wolfboy is so perfectly funny and menacing. Did his look undergo many revisions? How did you decide on the final design?

He went through so many revisions! Initially, he had a red striped shirt and blue jeans. Then he was a very detailed brooding character with huge hands and feet. When I was working on the rough design for the cover, I quickly drew him in blue. I wasn’t trying to design him at that moment but suddenly, there he was. He looked fierce but really funny. His final design is almost exactly like that quick sketch. One thing he always had was big pointy ears. I wanted him to be a very recognizable shape when he was small on the page.

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Which brings us to your stunning pages, which are all entirely made from clay. Can you take readers through your process of making the pages? How long did it take you to carve all the settings and characters? 

I start with a loose drawing that is projected onto a piece of glass, or is taped beneath the glass.

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Using super sculpey polymer clay, I sculpt as much as possible by hand and use a few tools for the smallest details. When the sculpt is done, it is positioned near a window to get interesting natural light and shadow on the surface. 

CPB - Andy Harkness_Question 3 process

Then it’s photographed and the colors painted in layers in photoshop. The trick is to do as little touch up to the clay as possible.  My fingerprints are literally all over this book!  Each sculpt was redone at least two times.  The first attempt was really for working out the problems so that the second attempt went smoothly.  From start to finish, the sculpts that are in the book were done over the course of a year.  Some took a day or two, others weeks, one took a whole year! I usually worked on several at the same time.

Andy Harkness_Question 3 process

Readers might be interested in this behind-the-scenes video I made showing how I created the shadowy tree illustration near the beginning of the book.

The colors and shadowing you achieve is amazing and really immerses readers in the suspense of the story and their own hunt for rabbits on each page. Do you have a favorite spread? Was there one that was the most difficult?

Great question and thank you! I am inspired by old black and white horror movies and really wanted to bring that dramatic lighting into the book. My favorite spread is when Wolfboy leaps over the steep ravine. I think the symmetry and how it’s lit from beneath make it feel like a stage. Very theatrical. The hardest spread by far was the “creaky old oak” spread. That sculpt was redone 6 times before I was happy. And the reflection in the water is sculpted as well. I worked on that one on and off for about a year.

You’re currently working as the Art Director on Vivo, coming from Sony Animation Pictures later this year and you’ve previously worked for Disney. In these positions you’ve helped create many kid-favorite blockbusters, such as Moana, Frozen, Tangled, and Wreck-it-Ralph among many others. Can you briefly describe for kids (and maybe future animation artists) the steps as an animated feature is conceptualized, designed, and ultimately put together? What was one of the biggest challenges you’ve faced on a movie you’ve worked on? One of the best surprises? 

It starts with a great idea. Early concept paintings are done to get everyone excited about the project. As the story develops, a visual style and color palette is created to support it. A character designer develops the characters while working closely with the production designer to make sure the shape language is consistent with the backgrounds. Then a literal army of talented modelers, riggers, animators, special effects artists, layout artists and lighters begin to build the world we see on screen. It’s an incredible undertaking actually.  If it’s done right, it’s like a finely tuned orchestra. 

The biggest challenge I’ve ever faced was designing Motu Nui, Moana’s home island. Everything was researched and done with the utmost respect for the culture. We had South Pacific advisors with us the whole time. Every plant and tree was what would have been there 3000 years ago. A botanist helped us make sure of that. From the positioning of the village in the valley, to the various fales (homes and other structures), everything was as accurate as we could make it. Armed with all that knowledge, I sculpted that island in clay.  That fragile sculpt is sitting in the Disney Archives today. The head of layout, head of environments, head of modeling, and myself won a VFX award for Outstanding Created Environment in an Animated Feature.  

The biggest surprise happened on my current show, VIVO. I had the opportunity to collaborate with one of my heroes, Sir Roger Deakins, on the lighting and color for the movie. Still can’t believe it!

In addition to writing and illustrating Wolfboy, you’ve also illustrated Bug Zoo and The Ballad of Nessie. What do you like best about being a writer and illustrator for kids?

I think for me it really boils down to hearing that a kid loves one of my books so much the cover has fallen off. It’s how I felt about certain books as a kid. They sparked magic in my mind and I hope to give that back now through my own books.

What’s up next for you?

Well first up, I hope to do another Wolfboy book!  After that I have several more children’s book ideas bouncing around in my head.  

I will probably be working on a few more animated films, but one day I really hope to focus solely on writing and illustrating children’s books.

Thanks so much for this wonderful chat! Your work is amazing, and I’m sure readers are thrilled to learn more about it. I wish you all the best with Wolfboy – I really hope there will be a second Wolfboy adventure!

World Read Aloud Day Activity

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I Love Reading Bookmarks

 

If you love to read then you know that sometimes you want to mark a favorite page or remember where you left off. With these special World Read Aloud Day bookmarks, you can do it in style! 

World Read Aloud Day Bookmarks to Color | Colorful World Read Aloud Day Bookmarks

You can find Wolfboy at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

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