Every once in a while I have to break out of my usual picture book interviews to share a special board book with you and today is one of those days!
Vicky Fang visited my blog before to discuss her incredible interactive picture book THE BOOK CREW NEEDS YOU! She is a product designer who spent 5 years designing kids’ technology experiences for both Google and Intel, often to inspire and empower kids in coding and technology. She started writing to support the growing need for early coding education, particularly for girls and kids of color. She is the author, and sometimes illustrator, of twenty new and upcoming books for kids. You can learn more about her at her website or follow her on Twitter, on Instagram, or on Facebook.
ALPHABOT is an interactive board book. And an ABC book. AND a book with STEM components! Not only will little readers be learning about robots and robotic terms, but they will get to build their own robots as well. Honestly, I can’t imagine anyone else but Vicky putting all these concepts together. This book is her brain child in every single way. She worked up the concept, the text, and the illustrations.
Welcome back Vicky!
Me: This is such an incredible concept. Not only is it a “build your own robot” concept, but it’s also an ABC that incorporates STEM. What gave you the idea?
Vicky: ALPHABOT actually started off with the title! As a former designer of robots for kids, I think about robots a lot, haha. Once the title and the idea of a robot alphabet book was in my head, I knew I wanted to make something interactive. I thought about different novelty formats (flaps, cutouts, etc.) until I had the idea for mix-and-match flaps. This meant kids would be able to mix-and-match the A-Z robotics terms to create their own robots. How fun and exciting! I spent a long time thinking about what terms would work and making paper dummies to prove out the concept.
Me: How hard was it for you to come up with an ABC robotic element for every letter of the alphabet, let alone so many different visual robotic elements?
Vicky: There were definitely letters that were more challenging than others, especially to make sure they would work in their positions in the book (head, torso, or feet.) I tried several different options, as well as shifting which flaps the letters would fall on. But since I was also illustrating, it was helpful for me to think creatively about how these robot parts might work and all fit together!
Me: How many combinations are there for creating different robots? Do you know?
Vicky: 729! I didn’t actually count/calculate it, but the MIT Kids Press folks did, so I trust them.
Me: Just like BOO CREW NEEDS YOU, this is also an interactive book. You are SO innovative! Did your background in product design play into the book design? Or was that the book company’s design choice?
Vicky: Yes! I was a product designer, but my background is specifically in interaction design, so I love making things interactive. For ALPHABOT, because I was also illustrating, I think I had more input on the design of the book than I have had in the past. But the MIT Kids Press team definitely helped to take my work to a more polished level, creating a wonderful cover design and figuring out a great construction for the novelty aspect of the book!
Me: You are both the author and the illustrator of this book. Can you talk about that? Did you submit a dummy? Did you always intend to be the illustrator of this project?
Vicky: Yes! I choose to illustrate my books now if I have a strong vision for the illustrations and if I feel like I can execute them well. For ALPHABOT, I created a paper dummy with pencil sketches because I had to prove out the concept and demonstrate it to editors. I ended up making a video recording of my dummy in action, since I needed to explain the interactive pieces. Since I already had the sketches pretty well thought out (particularly because they needed to work together to mix and match), I had a strong idea of what the illustrations needed to be.
Me: What does your illustration process look like? Do you use traditional media, digital, or both? What did you use for this book?
Vicky: My illustration process is still evolving! I use digital, but I’ve changed tools for every project I’ve done. I think I’m starting to settle in on mostly using Procreate, with some Photoshop for finishing if needed. But each project has its own needs! Because of the style of the graphics in ALPHABOT, I worked in illustrator for the bulk of the illustrations, and finished up in Photoshop to get some of the more organic pencil details in.
Me: The book is published through MIT Kids Press. Can you talk a little about the marketing of the book? How did that come about?
Vicky: Ah, this is mysterious to me too! As an author, I have little insight into what marketing is being done or how it comes about. However, I did get a chance to stop by the Candlewick offices when I was in Boston this past summer and I got a little peek! MIT Kids Press is an imprint of Candlewick Press (I think I got that right?) and so the Candlewick marketing team did show me some marketing photos and catalogs in the works when I was there. I’m in love with the marketing photos they took, because it’s so hard for people to know what the book is from the cover!
Congratulations! And thank you for stopping by my blog again today Vicky.
Dear readers, if you haven’t had a chance yet to check out this wonderful book, I cannot recommend it enough. I can’t believe Vicky was able to write a STEM robotic element for every letter of the alphabet, while also making it an interactive component! You really need to check this genius out.