Is it okay if I ‘doodle’?

The funniest thing happened at my latest workshop. One of the boys finished his drawing early and asked if it was okay if he started doodling. I said yes, of course, expecting him to start sketching images from his imagination. Instead he pulled out his cell phone and found a ‘doodle’ video on Youtube. He then started drawing while watching the video.

The drawings were very simple but as I watched him draw I realized that this exercise was actually very useful. As an artist I know that being able to draw is all about being able to SEE. And by copying this video the boy practised his ability to SEE as an artist.

So once again my pupils taught me something. I have made a few ‘doodle’ videos now for future workshops. Knowing what good practice it is for the kids to copy the drawings I think I’ll make some more … and, well, because I’m having a blast making them 😉

Behind-the-scenes on the NEW Knome book

I’m hard at work on the 8th Knome book and wanted to share a bit of “behind the scenes” work with you…

A ‘classic’ pictures book consists of 24 pages of story and approximately 1000 words.
The next Knome book is going to be 32 pages long, but I’m still aiming at 1000 words, so it won’t take too long to read aloud when your kid is going to sleep.

I have finished the story, it’s about 1100 words now, so I still have some editing to do.
I’m now in the process of laying out the spreads, creating dynamic compositions and designing characters.

Thumbnails

I make thumbnails of all 16 spreads on one sheet. This means I get an overview of the reader’s journey and experiences throughout the story. It also helps me make sure that I don’t repeat the same compositions, moods and angles.

Nom8_StoreRejse_12-13

This is a rough sketch of spread no. 4. It’s important at this stage to make ’empty’ spaces on the spread where the text is going to go, so it doesn’t ruin the composition once the text is added.

Concept_art

One of the things I enjoy the most is doing concept art. I’ve been doing it for years for LEGO and other clients, and now that I’m doing my own books the concept phase is still my favorite part of the preliminary work.

Nom8_StoreRejse_14-15

Here is a color test on a sketch of spread no. 5. In this book I’m going to deviate a bit from the style in the previous books. The Knome books are computer colored, as the 8th book will be, but I’m experimenting with different coloring styles to make the spreads look a bit less ‘computerish’.

Well that’s it for now. I hope you enjoyed this little glimpse of some work in progress.

Don’t forget that other versions of The Knomes are for sale on iBooks, Google Play and Amazon.

3 innovative ways to reach reluctant readers

In my 10 years of writing children’s books I have experimented with different ways of reaching the reluctant readers and helping them experience the joy of reading.

Early in my career I realized that my direct style of writing and my dynamic illustrations appealed to reluctant readers and as I began to research the phenomenon, I learned that my books made a big difference in these kids’ lives. This is why I’ve devoted my authorship to developing methods and creating stories that reach reluctant readers.

In many countries around the world the educational systems spend a great deal of resources trying to help these readers. Here are some Characteristics of Reluctant Readers from the Ministry of Education in Canada:

Readers who tend to be unmotivated often lack self-esteem regarding their ability to read.

 – Often they have a sense of hopelessness. When the reluctance of these students to participate in activities is interpreted as defiance or laziness, their underlying reading problem may not be identified or addressed.

The LINK system, which is discussed below, I have developed in collaboration with professional reading teachers, and it effectively deals with the above issues to provide the reader with an experience of succes through an uninterupted flow in their reading.

In the educational system it has become clear that mainly boys lack the interest in reading:

  • Boys typically score lower than girls on standardized tests in the language arts. (The results for mathematics do not show similar gaps.)
  • Boys are more likely than girls to be placed in special education programs.
  • Boys are less likely than girls to go to university.

 This is why most of my efforts are aimed at boys, and with books sold in 14 countries, I feel that my concepts have proven themselves. Over the years I have received countless mails from kids and parents saying that my books were the first to make them want to read. This is my proof that I have achieved my goal and receiving these wonderful letters is the most rewarding thing about writing children’s books.

I want to share my experience here, so whoever reads this can get inspired to help kids read. Below you will find the tools necessary to achieve it.

THE LINK BOOKS (6-8 y.o.)

LINK1_cover_ENG_lowThe first reading system I created is called LINK due to the unusually close relationship between text and illustrations. It’s targeted towards the 6-8 year-olds. I use comic book panels to catch the readers’ attention, and as you’ll see the visual language of comics has other strengths that are useful when aiming at the reluctant readers.

LINK is a mix of text and comic book illustrations and each panel is thoroughly composed to contain as much information from the surrounding text as possible.

Here is an overview of the 6 mechanics at work in the LINK books.

How_link_works

LINK1_32_33

The LINK books may appear to be ‘just’ action-packed comic books
– but great care has been taken to create a unique link between text and illustrations, thus ensuring easily readable text. This defines the system.
The LINK books have been published in 7 countries.

THE MANHUNTER series (9-11 y.o.)

MJ1-3_cover_173x248_ENGThe Manhunter series,focusses mainly on boys aged 9-11. It is based on a singular insight: Boys enjoy reading non-fiction more than fiction. In the Manhunter series I have placed ‘fact boxes’ into the layout. This may seem disturbing to adult readers, but my research has shown that kids/boys actually enjoy reading the factual bits and it makes them explore the universe of the book closer. Mh1_74_75facts

Although it is a Fantasy book, everything that the main character learns about tracking and manhunting is taken from real life and are based on books such as “The SAS Guide to tracking” by Bob Carss.

mh_ref2  mh-ref1

The whole topic of hunting other people is of course ‘incorrect’ and taboo-like, which makes it all the more perfect for this type of book, as topics like this always trigger curiosity and interest.

THE TAYNIKMA series 8-12 y.o.s – in collaboration with Merlin P. Mann

Tay1_Cover_ENG_RGB_lowresThe Taynikma series is also a mix of text and comic book panels. It looks very much like the LINK books, but in fact the idea is almost opposite of the LINK books.

These books are aimed at children who have already learnt to read, but haven’t yet developed a liking for it – a classic ‘reluctant reader’.

With 3-4 illustrations per spread the series is overly illustrated. The artwork is dynamic, full of action and emotional facial expressions. There are a lot of establishing shots, which erases the need for long (boring) descriptions, which this target group tend to veer away from.

Tay1_spread

In the LINK books the illustrations serve the text, however, in the Taynikma series the comic book panels carry the story with equal weight as the text, meaning the drawings aren’t actual illustrations (as in illustrating the text) but real story carrying comic book panels. If you remove these panels the story no longer makes sense, as important information is missing.

The Taynikma-concept has proven its worth long ago. More than 500,000 copies have been sold and it’s been published in 13 countries.

ACTIVATING THE READER

Another thing that I always do in my books is include extra content that activate the readers. I’ll make a separate blog update on that, so more about that later. In the meantime I hope these samples of my approach to creating children’s literature have been helpful and inspiring.

I have the most AWESOME readers!

The most rewarding thing about making children’s books is receiving letters, drawings and pictures from your readers. This update is a celebration of the creative minds of children. Here is a small amount of the many masterpieces I have received over the years.

Thank you so much for all of them!

Fanart_wodden_dolls  Fanart_Thomas_Koto  Fanart_theknomes  Fanart_red_girl  Fanart_pumpkin  Fanart_pizza  Fanart_pigenom  Fanart_pige  Fanart_monstre  Fanart_minecraft  Fanart_Mette  Fanart_Malte_Koto  Fanart_Karen  Fanart_filt  Fanart_colorings  Fanart_Envo  Fanart_breve  Fanart_all_taynikma

I love it when my readers prove me wrong!

When you write for kids, your life is full of surprises. You can never fully predict what they’ll like or how they’ll respond. I have done concept- and story development for kids for 20 years now. And I still get it wrong – once in a while. I have long since accepted this element of unpredictability – and I have come to treasure it. It keeps me on my toes.

One thing I have learned is that kids can never tell you what to invent. They will always refer to something that already exists and ask for more of that. So when you develop new worlds and characters – you really have no way of knowing how they will be received.

When I came up with the six colors of the Knomes, I did so based on the ‘professions’ that would be needed in the Knome Village to make everyday life run smoothly. I didn’t think too much about what the kids might want. But I made sure that there were the kind of Knomes I needed to tell the stories, I wanted to.

six_knomes

If I were to visit a school class, I would predict that most of the boys – if not all of them – would prefer being the red warrior Knomes. But boy, was I wrong.

I did in fact get a chance to visit a school and talk about the Knomes. There were 24 pupils in this 2nd grade class, and when I asked what Knome they’d like to be, I was amazed by their answers. There was exactly four pupils for each of the six Knome colors. A perfect split.

The boys had much more diverse interests than I had predicted. Once again I learned the kids will always surprise you. It’s what I love about my job … And in this case I was only happy to be proven wrong.