I took a call one afternoon last April from an author by the name of Francis Rourke. He had recently moved to Nebraska from California and was looking for someone who could provide Smyth Sewn binding (which we can do! ) for a children’s book he had been developing. After a few quick questions, I was truly interested. Francis knew exactly what he was looking for, even down to specifying the exact brand names of the text and cover papers. He had really planned this out. To top it off, he mentioned that the book was somewhat of a modern attempt to capture the look and feel of an old Dr. Seuss style children’s book. That was all I needed to hear to know I hoped we could work together.
Over the following weeks we visited at Marathon in Norfolk to take a plant tour and discuss printing details. Then on the day we had the signatures printed and ready for binding, Francis and his partner Anne, came down to the Design Bindery shop Lincoln to watch the process of Smyth Sewn Binding. As a fun twist I offered to use some colored threads instead of plain white.
Francis helped me press some signatures and Anne took pictures and videos throughout the day and things went well on the production. Now as to the book itself, I will let Francis (FR hereafter) provide some description as to how it all came to be.
FR: The first line “if you are a you, and I am a me, then we are not the, same you see?” Came to me one day in the moment just before waking up. I really loved the rhythm of it and it’s simplicity so I quickly got up and wrote it down and then kept writing based on that first line. I got a majority of the book down in that one sitting but there was tweaking here and there along the way.
I initially wanted a legend in the illustrating world to do the book. I found the work of a man named Lionel Kalish (I later flew to New York and interviewed Kalish and have stayed in contact with he and his wife over the years) I asked him if he would illustrate it but he declined, his main focusing being painting now. So I sat with the story for about 6 months before going to Instagram. I searched through the hashtags “illustrations” and then scanned the works until I saw a style I felt had a similar approach to traditional illustrations. I wanted a raw hand to page authenticity. I’m not a fan of the clean digitalized works you see most of the time these days. It just doesn’t feel right to me. Anyway, I found Charles Bailey, a fresh graduate from art school in the UK and I reached out to him, told him I liked his work, would he be interested in doing a children’s book. I sent him the book. He read it. Loved it. And agreed. I sent him samples of what I was looking for, style and such, and then gave him free reign. We checked in about once a week until the book was done. I like what he did with the words and I felt like he understood what I was trying to convey.
As far as the production goes I wanted quality. The paper is as close as I could get to the 1968 Parent’ Magazine Press children books that were illustrated by Kalish. Linen covers. Thick cotton-like text for the insides. And of course all of them Smyth sewn. The size isn’t quite the same but I wanted it to be a big book. Something a child AND a adult could hold and feel like a kids.
That’s really all there is to it. The message of the book is simple. Recognizing similarities and differences. Respecting them. And having a sense of identity while working within a group and maintaining that identity no matter what. I think it’s an important message to remember, especially for adults.