Behind the Scenes Q&A: Skater Baby by Jack Noel
When I first saw the cover of Jack Noel’s debut picture book, Skater Baby, I was intrigued – it looks like the sort of funny, ridiculous (in a good way) story I love to share with kids. So when I had the chance to ask Jack a few questions, I got to typing . . .
Travis Jonker: What was the initial spark that led to Skater Baby?
Jack Noel: I asked myself what do kids actually like. They like computer games and chips and things with wheels. Every time you see a kid they are always on a scooter or a bike or a unicycle or heelys or … something.
That got me thinking about how popular various modes of transport are with kids. For the book I tried other modes of transport (a scooter) and other characters (a dog called Wilson) but when I drew a skateboarding baby it just felt right, somehow. Not least because, despite never having really done it, deep down I do love skateboarding. (I am fairly ambivalent about babies.)
TJ: What were your picture book inspirations on this project? Skater inspirations?
JN: My main inspirations can be summed up as:
(Click to enlarge)
TJ: Word at the skate park is that Skater Baby contains a few easter eggs. Is this true or did that dude lie to me?
JN: For me, it’s impossible to make something like a picture book without filling it with references to your own life. Maybe I have a poor imagination. So they’re not easter eggs so much as very personal references.
There are loads of little things on the title page.
(Click to enlarge)
The clown was inspired by the creepy clown that welcomes you to my childhood playground in Brighton.
When I had to design an ice-cream van I wanted to pay homage to the way they are so often adorned with quirky (bad) drawings of cartoon characters. Many years ago my mum drew a quirky Homer Simpson which has always tickled me, so I was very glad to be able to get that in there.
The dog walker is based on the guy in the Fenton! video, filmed in a park not too far from me in London.
TJ: Is there a spread or part of the book that you’re especially proud of? What is it and why?
JN: I do like this one, when the chase finally breaks out into a full-on double page spread.
I have a soft spot for this one too, as it is the most skater-y. I was really pleased they let me keep the jargon of the skatepark (rather than make me change ‘ollie’ to ‘jump’). My editor Chris is totally rad.
TJ: An Important Question: What snack puts you in peak creativity mode? Or, what snack fueled the making of Skater Baby?
JN: It’s a bit of a sore point but I was actually publicly snack-shamed when I was making the book. My sister-in-law came round to my house, snooped in the trash and outed me as a disgusting, sugar-addicted pig (see below). The snacks do seem to help with the pits of despair that come along with these big creative projects. For writing I tend to go for M&S Extremely Chocolatey Chocolate Rounds. For drawing, literally anything with sugar.
TJ: I think I speak for everyone when I say: thank you for your honesty
Thanks for taking my questions, Jack! Skater Baby is out now.
Filed under: Reviews
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 firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow him on Twitter: @100scopenotes.
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