In this blog post, “Whoosh!” Research and texting with Lonnie Johnson, illustrator Don Tate considers the challenges of illustrating this nonfiction picture book (written by Chris Barton), and shares how Don ultimately connected directly with the book's subject to get things right.
Just one example:
The beginning of the story begins with young Lonnie Johnson being creative in his make-shift kitchen workshop, with various things from the junk yard spread across the table. An early version of the manuscript mentioned a Chinaberry shooter in the scene. What in the heck was that? A quick Google returned several results. I created a sketch, but I was unsure. Below was my guess as to what his shooter might have looked like:
The text between images reads:
After our phone conversation, I realized my guess was wrong. I created another quick sketch and texted it off to Mr. Johnson. He answered my question with his own sketch of what his shooter would have looked like and how it would have worked. I wasn’t too far off, but now I had what I needed to be 100-percent correct!
While Don's ultimate solution of texting back and forth with his book's subject is unique, it does make the point that illustrators have to do their research as well - and sometimes, it's even more specific than the research writers need to do!