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Exclusive Cover Reveal Q&A: Kondo & Kezumi Are Not Alone

I’m a fan of the Kondo & Kezumi graphic novel series, written by David Goodner and illustrated by Andrea Tsurumi. I got the proof right here, folks.

So I was happy to see that there are more K&K books on the way. Kondo & Kezumi Reach Bell Bottom arrives in January 2021, and today we get a first look at the cover for the third book in the series, Kondo & Kezumi Are Not Alone, which arrives on April 6, 2021.

But first, I had some questions for illustrator Andrea Tsurumi:

Travis: How is working on Kondo & Kezumi different from your author/illustrator picture books? Or I guess, what is it like illustrating a text from someone else (David Goodner)? Pros? Cons?

Andrea Tsurumi: Generally, the main difference between illustrating my own books and illustrating another author’s is with the former I’m creating everything from my mind and with the latter I get to dive into someone else’s. Strictly speaking, if you’re solely comparing the illustration process between mine and others’, then drawing a story is the same rewarding work in both cases – playing off the text to create meaning, problem solving how to best bring out different beats, etc.

What’s great about illustrating David’s books is that as a reader, I love his stories for their unique voice, characters, and vision, and that’s why working to bring them to life with the art is so fun. 

Travis: There’s a lot of crazy, whimsical stuff in these books. I always get Neverending Story vibes. Is there anything in particular you drew upon in making the art?

Andrea: Thank you! Because worldbuilding is so key to these books, I did a ton of visual research to get the feeling right. Back when we started, I talked with David about his dream of the world and his references, which included Dr. Seuss, sci-fi illustration, striking mountain formations, and Moebius comics. These, plus David’s vision of how Kondo and Kezumi were created, set me up to build a vibrant, weird, and beautiful world that also has a layer of loss and strangeness under the surface. So then I got the go-ahead to design islands and animals and plants – like lots of weird fun animals based on say, garden eels, croissants and Flock of Seagulls haircuts.

References for these books include Tove Jansson’s Moomins, Miyazaki’s Castle in the Sky, nature photos of strange actual creatures like Birds of Paradise, migrating manta rays and crabs, blind cave salamanders and other creatures, outrigger canoes, moon modules, rockets, screenshots of people rowing said canoes, and lots and lots of images of abandoned and overgrown industrial/old settled sites, like ship graveyards, rotting Detroit mansions, and also just pretty places like Ukraine’s Tunnel of Love and Cambodia’s Ta Prohm.

Travis: How did you make the art? Is there a particular tool that was key?

Andrea: I draw pencil sketches on printed-out manuscript pages and once those are approved, I print my sketches in faint blue ink on Bristol, then “ink” the final linework over that with dark mechanical pencil. Then I scan and clean the linework in Photoshop, color flat in Clip Studio, and color the book on my Cintiq in Photoshop.

Color flatting is a comics technique where you flat or lay down areas of color in different layers so you can isolate shapes and areas when you start actually coloring later. For two-thirds of the process I’m constantly switching back and forth between a Pentel mechanical pencil and a Tombow mechanical eraser and the last part I rely on my Cintiq, so those are especially important.

None of it would matter, though, without the art directors and designers who make sure the whole book comes together – Joann Hill, Mary Claire Cruz, Jenny Kimura, and Karina Granda.

3-D reference for different angles

Travis: An important question: What snack puts you in peak creativity mode?

Andrea: Earl grey tea, chocolate covered cherries and Doritos. Not all together.

Thanks, Andrea! And now, for the first time, the cover for Kondo & Kezumi Are Not Alone, publishing on April 6, 2021.

From the publisher:

Kondo is big. Kezumi is little. They used to live on an island with fruit trees and berry bushes and flitter-birds and fluffle-bunnies. Since the surprise bottle washed ashore with a map containing the mysterious message: WE ARE NOT ALONE, Kondo and Kezumi have been traveling the seas, making new friends, and discovering more about themselves and their place in the world.

But now it’s time for Kondo and Kezumi to head home. Except there’s still time to see Tiny Island, make a pit stop at Dairy Isle, or even Donut island. And when Kondo and Kezumi arrive on their familiar shore, they are greeted with another boat anchored in their waters. Who could it be? Will Kondo and Kezumi be ready for a new guest on their island or is home finally changed for good?

David Goodner and Andrea Tsurumi team up for this illustrated chapter book series filled with charming quirks and unexpected discoveries. Packed with vibrant full-color art and paired with poignant text, this chapter book is ideal for emerging readers searching for adventure, friendship, and fun.

Thank you to Victoria Stapleton for making this post happen.

About Travis Jonker

Travis Jonker is an elementary school librarian in Michigan. He writes reviews (and the occasional article or two) for School Library Journal and is a member of the 2014 Caldecott committee. You can email Travis at scopenotes@gmail.com, or follow him on Twitter: @100scopenotes.