One Today, the poem written by Richard Blanco for President Obama’s second inauguration, has been transformed into a gorgeous picture book. The illustrations were painted by Dav Pilkey, the author/illustrator that is best known for the Captain Underpants books.
“Richard [Blanco] read the poem. It was just beautiful,” Pilkey said. “People were in tears; it was so moving. It’s a tribute to America. I feel honored that Susan Rich [editor- at-large for Little Brown Books for Young Children] asked me to illustrate that poem.”
This is only the second book he has illustrated with someone else’s words. Normally he writes and illustrates his own work.
Pilkey not only loved the poem, he also is impressed with Cuban-American poet Blanco. “He came to America as an immigrant.
He was talking about his experience as an American,” Pilkey said. “It was a beautiful moment.”
Pilkey was particularly impressed with the passage that included the phrase “pencil yellow school buses.”
“I remember the whole idea of school buses in the morning and the plum blush of dawn,” Pilkey said. “The way that he describes colors, it’s almost as if the poem is begging to be illustrated.”
Pilkey illustrated the poem in rich acrylics and India ink. “I hope I do justice to the poem. ‘The empty desks of the children that will be marked absent today and forever.’ Referring to Sandy Hook,” Pilkey said. “I wasn’t sure how to approach that. That it was such a specific thing. I didn’t want it to be specific. I wanted it to be something that was more general. I’m not sure if I did it justice.
I hope I did a good job.”
He said he is a cartoonist at heart but he loves to paint and he loves cubism.
“It always shows up in my paintings,” he said. “Whether I want it to or not.”
While One Today is vastly different from his beloved series, Captain Underpants, and he is planning to work on more picture books, he is not abandoning hilarious chapter books. The series started as a trilogy but he just finished the 12th one.
“I like humor and I actually enjoy things that are moving like Richard’s poem,” Pilkey said.
Surprisingly, Pilkey’s Captain Underpants books are among the most banned in America. He said he understands that not everyone has the same sense of humor, but the books are important to kids.
“Sometimes a silly book is just what a kid needs to lead them down the path to literacy,” he said.
He is working on a new series, a spinoff of the Captain Underpants series called Dogman, which comes out next fall.
He has re-imagined the Ricky Ricotta series that is being illustrated by Caldecott winner Dan Santat.
Pilkey will be at the Miami Book Fair International on Saturday, Nov. 21.
On Friday, Nov. 20, local author Christina Gonzalez (Moving Target, The Red Umbrella) will be conducting writing workshops.
“It’s always wonderful to be part of the Miami Book Fair but this year I’m especially excited as I have the honor of leading talented middle grade and high school students through a creative writing workshop,” she said. “There is just so much talent coming from our community that I expect we may one day see some of these young writers presenting their own books at the Miami Book Fair.”
For more information, go to http://miamibookfair.com.