5 book signings, 3 library visits and 8 school visits….in 3 weeks! I have not even had a chance to announce the release of my first book, Who put the B in the Ballyhoo? It’s been said that your first book is like a having a baby, so as a proud parent I couldn’t resist taking a much needed breath to talk about the aspects of the book that I am most proud of.
People have asked me many times how I researched the book. The short answer is that I poured over hundreds of circus posters, placards and broadsides to match the language and style of vintage circus posters. Then, I dug deeper to uncover the history behind these unbelievably talented circus stars. For those that love circus lore you will be familiar with many of the phrases in the book such as “Starling and Stupendous”, “Combined Shows” “New acts that Amaze and Delight” and my personal favorite, “Important Engagement” (It sounds deliciously Victorian!)
But after reading the book to over a 1000 kids this month, I am also proud of the sidebars that give a glimpse of circus life without giving so much detail that the reader’s attention span is lost. Each sidebar has about 3- 4 lines of fascinating factoids about some of the circus’s most celebrated stars. When I first took on this book, I was not convinced it was necessary. I thought kids couldn’t possible care about how much weight Louis Cyr could lift. Luckily, my always wise editor convinced me that it would add another layer to the book. I now find kids are actually far more interested in these factoids than even the art.
But sometimes the things that we are most proud of are not the ones that your critics and readers embrace. They are the private passions that only the artist or author could possibly care about. For me, that passion is the typography and design elements that give each page its own character. I have been a designer for over 10 year now and typography is in my blood. My grandfather set the type for his hardware store. I still have his Speedball books that show the careful way that he traced every letterform and still smell of his favorite tobacco. I know kids, adults and certainly book critics could care less whether I used a decorative art nouveau font or the bolder, 19th century slab type that reflected a nation facing industrialization and the rise of the emerging advertising genre. (yawn) And no, I never point out to kids how some pages have type with bracketed serifs that later evolved to letterforms of contrasting weight popular at the turn of the 20th century. I can just picture their eyes glazing over. People whom have seen the book always comment on how different each page looks.
I never met my grandfather, but I know he would have been proud.