Simply 7 with Alex Willan: GOT YOUR NOSE!

Have you ever had an older person “grab your nose” when you were younger?  Today’s picture book quickly takes that concept into the fantasy arena.  You won’t want to miss this one.

Willan Head ShotAlex Willan visited my blog just last NovemberIMG_2739 to talk about his own author-illustrator books, but today he is talking about his first picture book project where he is only the illustrator.  Alex is the author-illustrator of UNICORNS ARE THE WORST!, DRAGONS ARE THE WORST!, YETIS ARE THE WORST, and the JASPER & OLLIE series. He lives in Chicago with his dog, Harley, who is the absolute best. You can learn more about him at his website.

GYN COVERGOT YOUR NOSE! is written by the incredibly funny picture book author Alan Katz.  It follows a young girl, Becky, whose departing grandpa plays the “got your nose” game with her in jest.  Unfortunately, he really takes her nose and as Becky tries to chase him down her nose escapes.  They both pursue the run away nose and all sorts of puns, chaos and laughter ensue.  I mean, come on.  It’s a run away nose!  And Alex’s illustrations are the perfect fit for this book.  I can’t imagine trying to draw a nose that looks cute (when it’s not on a face), but Alex manages to make it a cute character.  You won’t want to miss this one.

Welcome back Alex!

Me: You have at least five picture books published as an author-illustrator at this point.  What made you want to illustrate a book written by someone else?

Alex: I am so grateful to have been able to write and illustrate my first five books, but I also love being able to illustrate books written by other authors. I had already illustrated two middle grade novels written by Sherri Duskey Rinker about Revver the Speedway Squirrel which was so much fun to work on, but this is my first time illustrating a picture book that I didn’t write. I just really enjoyed the humor in the text and thought it would be so much fun to illustrate. How can you pass up the opportunity to draw a run away nose?! 


Me: Right? Alan Katz has written some of my favorite picture books.  He has such a great sense of humor, which can be seen here with all of the hilarious puns.  Was it intimidating to illustrate one of his books?  Or was it freeing to not have to worry about writing the text and just be able to focus on the illustrations?

Alex: Alan is so funny and I think that really comes through in this story. I actually found it to be freeing. When I illustrate a story that I wrote, I find myself constantly tweaking/second guessing the text. With NOSE I was able to keep my attention on what the illustrations were bringing to the project, which allows for a more singular focus. I felt like I was the last leg of the relay race, called off the bench with the bases all loaded. Sorry, I don’t really follow sports.

Me: I love your color palette in this book.  Was your choice of color purposeful?  Why did you choose these specific colors? 

Alex: Thank you so much! This was actually my first time illustrating a book that starred human characters. My previous books followed characters that were either animals or mythological creatures. So for NOSE I wanted the color palette to be more natural, while still being vibrant enough to match the energy of the story.

Me: Your character design of the nose kind of blows my mind (no pun intended).  It looks like a nose and yet its friendly too (not scary or off-putting).  Was the character this amazing from the first draft?  Or did you have to come up with many iterations before you came to this final design? 

Untitled_Artwork 264Alex: That is really great to hear, especially because that was one of the earliest and hardest challenges for this book. We knew that the nose needed to have character, despite not having a face of its own. I was really struggling with the initial designs, because I was trying to draw the nose vertically, the way it is on a face. Eventually I tried rotating the nose and suddenly it worked so much better with its nostrils now acting as it’s eyes. It was such a small change, but really made a huge difference in adding character to its design. Plus it makes me laugh that I can spend so long being stressed about a problem and then think “Oh yeah, its nostrils are its eyes!” because what other profession allows for such a ridiculous epiphany.

Me: LOL!  I love that.  I love the jokes that run throughout this story, like in the scene in the park Untitled_Artwork 265with the two old ladies knitting on the bench.  Was that dialogue the author created?  Or did you add that bit yourself?  Were you able to add any specific bits to this story yourself?

Alex: That was all from Alan’s text. Like you said earlier, his writing is full of so many wonderful puns. Although I was happy to be able to sneak in a few nose puns of my own on the movie theater marquee with titles like “Sneezy Rider” and “Some Like It Snot.” I was also thrilled to be able to include a cameo of my dog, Harley into one of the spreads. 

Nose Movies

Me: What is one thing that surprised you in illustrating this story?

Alex: I was surprised how much working on this book left me reminiscing about the time I spent with my grandpa, Pop, when I was Becky’s age. I kept thinking about watching him as he did his woodworking, or helping him tend to his garden, or playing “Throw Freddy” where we would use a stuffed lion named Freddy as a dodgeball of sorts. I really like that even though GOT YOUR NOSE is the story of a runaway nose, it still captures that feeling that comes from just spending time with a loved one and the memories you form together. And I was thrilled to be able dedicate the book to my Pop.


Me: Aww! That’s really wonderful.  If you could illustrate any picture book (past, present, or future), what would it be and why?

Alex: There are so many amazing authors that I would love to work with that I wouldn’t even know where to begin. I just hope that I can keep working on books for as long as I can, both as an author and as an illustrator. Each book is just such an incredible journey and being able to share them with young readers is the most rewarding feeling.

That is so true!  Thank you for stopping by my blog again Alex.

Dear readers, GOT YOUR NOSE! was just released on Tuesday.  It’s a funny story of a run away nose with a pun-tastic text.  It’s hard to make this many puns work in the text AND have a likeable body part in the illustrations as a main character.  Trust me, this is one you will want to read to study how it was all put together.

3 thoughts on “Simply 7 with Alex Willan: GOT YOUR NOSE!

  1. LOL! How fun is this! Probably most of us have played that grab the nose game! And this one, hahahahah. ‘Your nose is running!” I look forward to reading it. Thanks, Jena.

Leave a Reply