I cannot wait to share today’s book with you. It’s hilarious and brilliantly put together.
Abi Cushman is an author-illustrator who has also worked as a web designer for over 15 years. She lives in a small Connecticut beach town with her family. She is represented by BookStop Literary Agency and is a proud member of the Soaring 20s, a group of picture book authors and illustrators debuting in 2020/21. She is also an instructor at Storyteller Academy. You can learn more about her at her website.
It wasn’t that long ago that Abi first visited my blog, but I honestly think today’s book might be my favorite work of her’s so far. It might seem like a simple concept book with animals in vehicles, but don’t be fooled! It’s got background characters with their own funny storylines and all sorts of jokes included that really allows Abi’s sense of humor to shine. Did I already say this book was hilarious? It is! And one lucky reader will get to WIN a copy of this book! (More on that in a minute.)
I’m glad to be part of Abi’s blog tour for this book, if you want to learn more you can follow her to these sites.
Welcome back Abi!
Me: From the clever title to the sneaky inserts on each page, this book is deceptive about the sounds being made (in a super fun way). Was this your original concept for the book? What gave you the idea?
Abi: I first got the idea about animals and vehicles making the same sound when I drew this in my sketchbook:
It was a sea lion flying a jet going RAWR!!! and the idea kind of stuck with me. I drew other animals on vehicles like a lion going Roar! while riding a motorcycle and a tabby cat going purrrrrrr while driving a convertible.
Me: Can you talk a little bit about your creation process for this book? Where did you start with this one? Illustration or writing? How did it evolve?
Abi: Once I got excited about the concept of the book, I thought it would be so fun to make it into a board book with die-cut windows. My son was about 6 months old and I was reading a ton of board books including lots of novelty board books.
I narrowed the scope of my book to just cats because cats actually make a lot of the same sounds as vehicles like Roar, Hiss, and Purr, and called it CATS GO VROOM. My intention was to make a very simple and straightforward board book: Just different cats on vehicles making the different sounds with rectangular die-cut windows–no story, no backgrounds. I did a few thumbnail drawings and sent it to my agent.
She suggested it would be better to open it up to all animals so I could get a better variety of sounds.
Once I did some brainstorming, I realized I could actually make a story out of it. I made a mini dummy where I actually cut the holes out to try to figure out how I was going to make this thing work. So my process was a lot of drawing and brainstorming in my sketchbook, and then drawing, cutting, and pasting in a mini dummy.
Me: This book is HILARIOUS! From the sloth with the walker (also on wheels) to the seal who paints and barks “Art! Art! Art!” (instead of “Arf, Arf, Arf”), your sense of humor just shines in this book. Was that your intention from the beginning? Did you always have background characters with a secondary storyline planned for this book?
Abi: No! I did not plan this at all in the beginning. I was originally thinking the characters and vehicles would basically take up the entire spread and there’d be no background. But when I was brainstorming sounds, I wrote down “seal + barking sounds”. I wanted to put the seal in as a main character pushing a grocery cart. I thought the sound of a squeaky grocery cart wheel kind of sounded like a barking seal. But of course, then I realized the more obvious choice for a squeaky wheel sound would be a mouse.
But the seal was sort of in the back of my mind, and once I realized I would be drawing in backgrounds, I started thinking about those secondary storylines. So the seal (or technically it’s a sea lion) made its way back into the story as an artiste going Art! Art! Art!.
And through more brainstorming and revisions, I just kept adding more storylines of things I thought were funny. For example, my toddler son would point to every single vehicle he saw and shout, “Cah! Cah!” so I added in the baby crow.
The teenager snake with the headphones is based on my niece who wore her headphones the entire time we were on a family vacation together. (Yes, this is what happens when you’re in the vicinity of me while I’m making a story. You get put in it as an animal!)
Me: I love the visual details in your story. Once again, it’s all the little details in this book that made me just love pouring over the pictures (like some of the store names that had me giggling). How many revisions did you have to do on this book in order to include all of those aspects?
Abi: When I work on a book, I first do doodles in my sketchbook. Then I move onto thumbnails. Then I make a mini dummy (and will probably revise that a few times by adding in pages and pasting new pages over old ones). Then I make a full-sized dummy.
And so the larger I get with my drawings, the more details I put in. I put many of those secondary storylines in when I was at the larger dummy stage. But I actually added even more details during the final art stage, including the crows and also those store names. I had brainstormed a bunch of store names. Here are some that didn’t make the cut: Vroom for Dessert, You Brake It, You Buy It, Beep n’ Buy and Park It Market.
Me: While this is a board book, it’s not as simple as it seems. I love that. I could spend hours reading it and pouring over the drawings. Do you have any future plans to do more like this? Can we expect a board book series??
Abi: This book is interesting because it’s not quite a board book- it’s more like a novelty picture book with thicker pages. So the pages are bendable, but a bit more robust than regular picture book paper. And it’s also the size of a picture book, which allowed me to add in all those details.
I would love to make another book like it and make it into a series. I have some ideas, but I want to make sure that if I do a second one, it is strong enough to stand on its own. So I need to do a lot more brainstorming and doodling in my sketchbook!
Me: The variety of animals you include are also fantastic. Were there any favorites that you included in this book? Or animals you wanted to include but had to cut out for simplicity’s sake?
Abi: I was definitely intentional about trying to include a wide variety of different animals after my agent suggested not limiting it to cats. I figured if we were opening it up to all animals, I should try to make them as distinct as possible from one another. So I managed to get in a variety of mammals, birds, and reptiles.
My favorite is the sloth because I love sloths and I modeled the sloth in my book after my grandmother who would use a walker whenever we went shopping together. (The hat the sloth is wearing is based on the ones she’d wear on our outings.) She’d cover a ton of distance with the walker, going down every aisle and walking from one end of the mall to the other and back. She didn’t let her balance issues stop her from getting things done.
One animal I wanted to include was a dolphin because they make clicking sounds. I thought maybe it could be taking photos, but one big problem with that is that most kids don’t really associate clicking with cameras these days.
Me: What is one thing that surprised you in writing and/or illustrating this story?
Abi: I was surprised how much I ended up thinking about this world where ANIMALS GO VROOM! takes place. I wanted to create a vibrant city with a diverse array of characters and families–the ideal place I’d want to live in. I was thinking about parks and tree-lined streets. What restaurants and shops would I want to go to? How could I make it pedestrian- and cyclist-friendly? There were so many decisions to make, and I had the power to create it.
I love that! Thank you for stopping by my blog again Abi.
Dear readers, this is a book you won’t want to miss. It’s fun, funny in ways adults can appreciate while reading with littles, and oh so clever. Those page turns are surprising every step of the way. The details Abi has managed to work in just shine.
But wait! There’s more! You can also win a copy by entering the Rafflecopter here. Good luck!