Patrick McDonnell Discusses the Making of 'SHINE!' | MUTTS

Patrick McDonnell Discusses the Making of ‘SHINE!’

Books & Art

This month, we’re chatting with Patrick about the making of SHINE!, a colorful children’s book that celebrates all the qualities that make us special and unique.

How did the concept for SHINE! originate?

Like most of my picture books, SHINE! originated in my sketchbook. I drew a little starfish lying on the beach, staring at the stars in the night sky. It made me wonder what she was thinking. Did she feel a kinship? Maybe my starfish felt out of place on the beach and just knew that she belonged with the stars in the sky. I doodled these words: “Why am I here when I should be there?”

What made those words so significant to you?

Author Byron Katie’s work has had an impact on my life, and I believe in her philosophy of loving what is. And so this little starfish named Hoshi (the Japanese word for star) and her story is based on it: you can’t find happiness outside yourself. Happiness comes from within.

It is my hope that readers realize that they can be the best version of themselves no matter where they are or their circumstances, that no one need wait a minute more to shine. We can each enjoy our own personal version of this wonderful life.

For the first time, you authored but did not illustrate this book. Why is that?

When’s it’s time for me to create a new book, I normally present my editor with two or three ideas, creating sketched-out dummies for each. She and I couldn’t decide which we should do first, but agreed to go with my other recent book, Tek: The Modern Cave Boy. But in my impatience in waiting another year for SHINE!, I asked if someone else could illustrate it.

And as we know now, that someone was artist Naoko Stoop. How did the two of you decide to collaborate?

I asked Little, Brown (my publisher) if we could approach Naoko. She was my first and only choice. Her work is beautiful and charming, and her unique use of a mix of pencil, ink, and acrylic on a canvas of plywood, was perfect for the underwater world of SHINE! It still mystifies — and delights — me how wood grain can mimic the effect of currents and waves in the ocean.

Did you provide Naoko with any creative suggestions?

Not at all. As a matter of fact, it was decided to not show her my original dummy for the book. This gave her the freedom to work simply from my text — the blank slate she needed to add in all her creativity. Knowing our book was in good hands, I asked to not see the draft of the art, but to wait until the book was complete.

Did any of her ideas differ from what you’d originally conceptualized?

She thought that the little sea star should be orange, as orange starfish are the most common. I loved her perspective, and I’m not sure if I’d have come to that decision on my own. Since the book is about finding your true inner beauty and strength, she thought our little sea star should look like the most common kind of starfish.

How do you feel about the final product, now that the book is complete?

I must say, I could not be happier with the outcome. Illustrations make books come alive and Naoko did a spectacular job. I am enthused by our collaboration but, in a strange way, I now feel it’s not really my book, but hers.


Want to learn more about Naoko? Listen (and see clips of the book) as she discusses the illustration process behind SHINE!:

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