The Donut Chef on YouTube!
2008 by Bob
-- All Rights Reserved. Published in the United States by Golden
Books, an imprint of Random House Children's Books, a division
of Random House, Inc, New York
In The Kitchen
How 'The Donut
Chef' Got Cooked Up
the book you purchase has gone through various twists and turns
before winding up on a bookstore shelf, and that's certainly
the case with The Donut Chef.
had been toying with the idea of a picture book called 'The
Great Bagel and Donut War'.
it would be fun to create a story", says Staake, "about
the proliferation of bagels that suddenly started tasting more
and more like donuts. I wrote a draft of the story, but felt
it wasn't working so I essentially abandoned the story."
2006, Staake his revisited original donut/bagel manuscript and
felt there was a way to make it work better.
original Donut Chef manuscript", says Staake, "the
chef opens his donut shop and once it is successful, an army
of competitors opening bakeries on the street -- maybe 10 or
12 in total. He let's them all battle among themselves, each
trying to outdo the next. Once the neighborhood donut market
collapses, the Donut Chef quietly slips away to put a new plan
Let them plot their donut finagles,
By morning I'll be baking ... bagels!
"Rhyming poetry for kids", points
out Staake, "is a very delicate business, and just because
two words rhymne it doesn't always mean that they'll work together.
In the bagel-oriented version of the story you absolutely needed
to manuscript to end on the word 'bagels', and the problem there
is that the only suitable word is 'finagle' -- and that's three
syllables, not two. Ultimately, those two simple words were judged
to be too forced and compelled me to take a completely different
direction on The Donut Chef."
that the story needed a child character - one to embody the new
message that the author hoped to be telling through the book.
Sue", says Staake, "is a good name because it offers
many rhyming possibilities. She's the one who comes into the
story and with her fresh, innocent and youthful donut tastes
helps teach the town that sometimes keeping it simple really
what Debbie Sue wants in a donut, and what she convinces the
town to want in a donut, would spoil the surprise of the book,
but when you read The Donut Chef it may very well open
your eyes -- as well as those of a child.
originally envisioned the precocious Debbie Sue as having "a
couple blond poofs of Brillo-like hair and a more 'pulled out'
face". In the book, she becomes red headed and green faced."
Even the original
look of the Donut Chef himself went through a significant redesign.
"When I was writing the story", points out Staake,
"I saw him as almost a logo-like character lined in light
blue. It was a real departure from the usual way I build a character,
but for some reason it had an odd appeal to me. But when I showed
it to Diane, my editor at Random House, she felt the it was such
a far cry from my typically color-saturated characters that somehow
it was 'off'. She was right."
even placed the original blue-lined Donut Chef within a sample
spread (left top) intended to show publishers what the book
would look like -- but the difference between it and the
scene that ultimately serves as the first and second page in
the book (left below) is striking.
kind of known", says Staake, "for creating fully saturated
color scenes in my books, but in 'The Donut Chef', I wanted to
try an incorporate more white and open space into the spreads".
all the scenes in a book, Staake considers the first vista one
of the most important. "It's pretty obvious why", he
says, "because that initial two page spread sets the graphic
tone of everything else that follows."
was happy with the first spread (left and center)", points
out Staake, "but once I completed the entire book I realized
that the initial spread wasn't as in line graphically with the
way the following imaged appeared. It had too much
Staake refined the spread (below and left) by adding more secondary
characters, buildings and better filling the white space with
forms and colors.
a second 'pitch spread' (right), Staake shows the angles, colors
and characters that will carry along The Donut Chef story.
"Of course you have to show a policeman in any donut-oriented
picture book, but he ultimately drives by in a cruiser. Still,
I would have liked to have kept that line 'it's hole is even
sweet' in the final book."
the look and design of the book was established by Staake, it
was time to finalize the manuscript. The give and take between
the author and Random House editor Diane Muldrow is apparent
in the notations to this page (left) from the story. "At
this stage", says Staake, "it's a real give and take.
Diane and I respect one another and see eye to eye on so many
big issues that when it comes down to editing the manuscript
we both focus on tightening up the story, making sure we keep
the language economical and really getting the cadence as perfect
notations are interesting because they show the play between
Muldrow and Staake. She wonders if kids will know what "coney"
means -- and assumes he was making a reference to an adult rabbit
(sometimes called a "coney"). The author later claimed
he wasn't that clever -- or obscure. Staake had always intended
that the illustration of the scene would convey something straightforward,
so he shows his editor a small doodle of what he has in mind
-- a donut covered in ice cream cones -- even showing an 'airy'
donut, one pocked with swiss cheese-like holes.
then suggested the hyphenated spelling of "cone-y"
in the story.
no doubt", says Staake, "that tweaking the manuscript
like this with Diane makes for a better book. She's a wonderful
editor who always trusts me -- and I in turn trust her."
the manuscript in final form, Staake then sits down to rough
out the entire book.
is really one of the most appealing parts of building any picture
book", he says. "You're all alone in your studio with
nothing but a pencil, a stack of white bond, some typed-up pages,
and the images you have in your head. Pulling them out of your
head and getting them on to paper is assumed by non-artists to
require some sort of insane skills and talent, but for an illustrator,
this is what we live for. It's almost a superfluous experience.
At the end of a few hours of drawing, I look at the sketches
with text in place and think, yeah, that's they way I've always
seen the story."
the sketches are a crucial part of the process -- for his publisher
as well as Random House -- because they serve as a roadmap --
a visual guide for what can be expected.
I have done books without creating a single sketch first and
books (like 'The Donut Chef') in which every scene is visually
built first in pencil. There's an immediacy to working without
a sketch, but when I doodle out my scenes in pencil first, I'm
able to note problem areas that will need to be fixed when I
dive into the final, color art."
When an author decides to whom they should dedicate
their new book, it isn't a decision that they take lightly.
the beginning of my publishing career," points out Staake,
" I'd use this as an opportunity to express my love and
gratitude for a family member -- to tell them thanks for putting
up with me, for inspiring me, for toughing it out while I worked
on that given book. What I soon learned was that I had a very
small family -- and was crunching out a fair amount of books
-- all of which had to be dedicated. I then started dedicating
my books to very close friends who have stuck by me, teachers
who have always been there to give me a pat on the back, fellow
artists who inspired me in ways they can't even imagine. For
The Donut Chef, I wanted to dedicate the book to someone
whom I'd never met -- but whose work continues to enthrall me
-- A.M.Cassandre. Everyone knows Cassandre -- even if
they may not know his name -- and while I'm certainly not the
only artist whose contemporary work is inspired by Cassandre's
sponged colors, spatters of toothbrush cast shadows or simlified
characters, I was just tickled to think I'd have the change to
give him a nod in this book. The best part? Getting to
mimic his 1932 'Dubonnet Man' (albeit with a 8 donut totem instead
of a bottle of liquer) on the dedication page."