The Picture Book Buzz - Interview with Jacob Grant
Jacob Grant is an author and illustrator who makes picture books. Originally from Ohio, Jacob now lives in Chicago with his patient wife and two less-than-patient children. When not trying to wrangle these little forces of nature, he draws, paints, and writes in his home studio. He hopes, “with a bit of luck, some of this mess gets made into books!”
He is the author/illustrator of Bear Out There (2019), Bear’s Scare (2018), Through With The Zoo (2017), Cat Knit (2016), Little Bird’s Bad Word (2015), and Scaredy Kate (2014). And the illustrator of Owls Are Good at Keeping Secrets: An Unusual Alphabet, by Sarah O’Leary (2018).
His newest picture book, Bear Meets Bear, releases tomorrow.
For some background information, check out our earlier interview (here).
Welcome back Jacob! I really enjoy talking with you about your books, writing, and illustrating.
It’s great to be back talking books with you, Maria!
What was the inspiration for Bear Meets Bear? Did that core idea change as you started working out the dummy?
This third Bear story actually came about through a conversation with my editor at Bloomsbury, Mary Kate Castellani. I don’t know if I would have considered a Valentine-themed story until she threw the idea out there, and I had a lot of fun dreaming up different ways to make it work. Should it be about Spider and Bear crafting Valentines? Should it be about Spider meeting another Spider? Surprisingly, the brief concept I shared about Bear meeting another Bear changed very little from pitch to publication.
It's a really fun premise. Were you planning to make another Bear book when you were creating Bear 's Scare?
When I first wrote Bear’s Scare, I was happy with how it ended and had no plans of taking the characters into another story. One hurdle was that Spider never speaks, so I wasn’t sure how to do more with their budding friendship. However, after exploring the possibilities of their second book, Bear Out There, I found that Bear and Spider’s friendship had more potential for new stories than I ever imagined.
Interesting. Oh, hey there Bear! How’s this quarantine period going for you? Can you tell us how long it took Jacob to get this story right? Did you ever lose your temper with the number of revisions he had to make?
BEAR: Spider and I spend most of our time at home, so quarantine has not changed that. I suppose we’re ordering more things online now: books, tea, tiny art supplies. Spider did knit us matching masks, but they have more hearts on them than I’d prefer.
As for the story, it took long enough for Jacob to get the words right, (maybe a couple months in all), but I don’t remember having so much trouble talking to Panda. I think he exaggerated there. I’ll have you know that I’m a very social and well-spoken Bear! Most of the time…
That's definitely how you appear to me. So, Bear, did you or Spider have any input into the story ideas?
BEAR: Being a story about myself, I thought a nice quiet story about the importance of a tidy home would make for an exciting read. Of course, Spider suggested a grand adventure full of drama.
[Spider gives a thumbs up.]
Neither of us really got what we wanted, but Spider was all about the Valentine idea right from the start.
I think Jacob found a happy medium for you two. Oh, umm . . . hi, Spider. Although I ordinarily don’t like spiders, I have to admit you are the most adorable one I’ve ever met. Is there anything special you want the readers to know about Bear Meets Bear?
[Spider takes a gracious bow. He digs in a pack and hurls heart confetti all over Bear.]
BEAR: I suppose he’s trying to say the story has a lot of heart.
Bear, I'm glad you're around to interpret! Jacob, what was the hardest spread to create? Which is your favorite spread?
As is usually the case, the hardest spread to get right is the final spread of the book. This one was particularly challenging as I was attempting to get two ideas across. First, that Panda introduces Bear to lemonade - and second, how they deal with the extra teapots. It might have been a mistake to bring back all of the animals for the yard sale! Ah, live and learn.
© Jacob Grant, 2020.
My favorite spread of the book is a much simpler scene: Bear waiting eagerly at his window for Panda to arrive. This was a really fun exercise in how to show time passing with one spread, whether that’s the changing of color and weather outside the window, or Spider moving about doing different activities, or the web he slowly builds in the corner of each scene. I’m very pleased with how it turned out. Bear’s excited face at the end of the row is my favorite expression in the whole book.
Spider definitely is quite the character. And I too love Bear's face in this spread. Did you, Bear, or Spider hide any treasures in the illustrations of Bear Meets Bear? Could you share one or more with us?
There are quite a few details I carried over from the previous Bear books that an attentive reader might notice. The title page starts the story with Spider attempting to fix a broken teapot - the same pink teapot that can be found in Bear’s Scare and Bear Out There. You might also find that Spider picks up his banjo from Bear’s Scare to play a tune. [Look in the scene above.] Even the turtle and baby owls from Bear Out There come back around. Having a series of stories allows for all sorts of fun overlaps!
It does indeed. And they are fun threads to follow through the books. Are there any plans for other Bear books or maybe one with Spider as the main character?
I would love to go further into Bear and Spider’s world, and I have no doubt that the two friends have more stories to tell.
That's probably what they're giggling about over there in the corner. Are there any projects you are working on now that you can share a tidbit with us?
I have a new picture book coming out in Spring/Summer 2021 that I’ve been excited about for some time. The story of a father and son debating the importance of wearing pants. The title, NO PANTS!, says it all.
I love the cover! I'll definitely be watching for it. Thank you, Jacob for coming back. And thank you Bear and Spider for popping in as well.
Be sure to stop back on Friday for the Perfect Picture Book #PPBF post on Bear Meets Bear.
To find out more about Jacob Grant, or get in touch with him: