Award-winning children's author and illustrator Chris Gall says he’s been drawing pictures and writing stories for as long as he can remember. In addition to his widely published commercial illustrations, he authored and illustrated the enthusiastically received Dinotrux, which introduced the prehistoric metal monsters that now return in Revenge of the Dinotrux.
Here Gall talks about the latest antics of his cranky creations.
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Tell me about the inspiration for Revenge of the Dinotrux? Had you planned to do a sequel, or was it a “back by popular demand” thing?
I had not planned on a sequel…I tried to sew up the story neatly in the first book just in case it was the only one, although I did want to leave a trap door that might let them come back to life.
So I had to make a big decision: Should I set the book in the present day or continue the adventures back in prehistoric times? I had to do a bit of brainstorming to decide what would happen to them next. I decided it was a great opportunity to bring them into the modern world, where their adventures could more directly weave themselves into the lives of children. As much as I love cave people, setting the sequel in the modern day creates more opportunities.
The artwork in your book is distinctive. Can you tell us a little about these illustrations?
Well, the important thing is that the characters are metaphors or symbols that represent childhood behavior. So I wanted to tie that in more directly with children…the need to be civilized, the messiness, the unruliness…[T]hey’re all works in progress. I wanted the illustrations to reflect the rough-and-tumble, gritty world of these creatures. When I first invented Dinotrux, I experimented with a variety of styles—this one seemed to fit. Brawny, messy, grainy, unfinished.
The illustrations seem sort of old fashioned to me. I love the cover, which makes me think of an old movie poster.
The truth is, my artwork always has that nostalgic look. It’s just the kind of thing I like, and it always works its way in. And I made the cover first. Usually I do the covers of my books first. I know it’s backwards, but for me it sets the tone for the book and the work.
How did you make the move from being a commercial illustrator to children’s author/illustrator?
How I did it was very slowly…[I]t’s a long process to become a full-time author/illustrator—you’re doing double duty. I still do commercial work, because I enjoy it. But I get more satisfaction out of children’s books.
What’s it like to read your book to kids? What are your school visits like?
My school visits are insane. Because I bring everything! There’s PowerPoint, lots of visual gags, actual learning about and demonstrating my process, animation. There’s always a live drawing-improv demo at the very end where kids give me a dozen ideas of what they want drawn. And in five minutes I have to put them all into one drawing! It’s quite raucous. By the end of the event, they’re just screaming.
What do you hope kids will take from Revenge of the Dinotrux?
What I hope for this particular story is that the readers understand that the Dinotrux are really children, and if these unruly Dinotrux can learn to become civilized that it’s possible for the reader or child to as well.
We are also planning a series of early readers for Dinotrux. I have three manuscripts so far in the works.