every one of his books, children's author and illustrator Bob
Staake tries to do something a little different, and that was
certainly the case with The Red Lemon.
said Staake from his studio on Cape Cod, "I'll sit down
and write a story and sketch it out. Then I'll take the story
and sketches to a publisher and they'll make suggestions and
slight modications before agreeing to publish it. A publisher
then gives me a certain amount of time to take those sketches
and turn them into finished, colorful artwork, they pay what
is called an 'advance' that enables him to work on the book and
complete it before it is finally published and a year or two
later, the book is on the shelves."
Staake did not work this way when creating The Red Lemon.
didn't do a single sketch for the book", says Staake, "and
instead just wrote the poem and immediately started working on
the color illustrations because I could see them in my head.
I didn't show the book to anyone until I was completely finished.
I wanted to do the book my way -- from cover to back -- so I
spent about two weeks creating all the artwork. I didn't know
if the book would actually be published or not, but I had my
answer as soon as I completed it."
to Diane Muldrow, my editor at Random House and she just loved
the book -- and immediately offered to publish it."
But if a
picture book is a balancing act between the words and the pictures,
what came first in The
when Staake say down to create it?
story almost always has to come first", said Staake, "but
I worked very loosely on The Red Lemon allowing some of the artwork to alter elements
in the story and having as much as possible during the process.
If I wasn't please with the look of a scene in the book, I simply
created a new illustration."
no question that The
is one of my books that I am most pleased with", asserts
Staake, "because it is very true to my philosophy regarding
children's literature; to teach a kid an enlightening lesson
but doing so with humor (and hopefully) a little cleverness."
suppose there are many lessons to be learned in The Red Lemon, says Staake: "Don't
be afraid of the unusual, embrace the uncommon, evolve or die.
It's Framer McPhee's intolerance, fearful assumptions and lack
of seeing the bigger picture that literally dooms his future.
In the face of jarring change, children and adults must remain
open-minded and tolerant or they may find their fears ushering
in their own demise. The
tries to teach readers that it is only through creative thought
and vision that one can evolve. After all, when life serves you
red lemons, the smart thing to do is to make red lemonade."
original label for the lemon crates used by "Farmer McPhee
Citrus Groves" incorporated a vintage illustration of a
California fruit orchard (left)
author / illustrator ultimately decided to change the name to
McPhee Farms and dub his product "100% Yellow Perfection
original cover for The
was substituted with a cover showing a closer view of Farmer
McPhee and the red lemon itself (above)
Facts About The Creation of The Red Lemon:
+ Staake originally
thought he would call the book The Reddest Lemon
+ Farmer McPhee's checkered
shirt isn't an illustration -- it is a computer scan of real
+ There are 626 yellow
and red lemons illustrated in the book
+ It took Bob Staake
two weeks to complete the illustrations for The Red Lemon
+ The inspiration for
to Staake in a dream