Pin It
Favorite

Kochalka's Latest Aims at Squirrelly Young Readers 

State of the Arts

click to enlarge 860eecf25a.jpg

These days, it’s not enough to promote new books the traditional way — in print — or even to put up an author website. You’ve gotta have a “trailer.” Few of these online mini-movies are as droll as Burlington cartoonist James Kochalka’s promo for his new picture book Squirrelly Gray, published by Random House on August 28. Aimed at the 2-to-7 set, it tells the story of the eponymous rodent, who “lives in a world without color,” according the website copy. “His TV is the only fun he has. (And it’s really not much fun.)”

The trailer features animated images from the book, drawn in the “American Elf” cartoonist’s trademark naïf style, while Kochalka’s voice intones couplets reminiscent of Dr. Seuss: “Once upon a time, for Squirrelly Gray who’d lost his teeth, / The world was dull and bland, / Until the Tooth Fairy got stuck, / And Squirrelly lent a hand.” In the background, a piano plays a march-like piece that Kochalka says is from Carrot Boy the Beautiful, a rock-opera album he released with his band James Kochalka Superstar. Besides narrating the trailer, Kochalka plays the parts of Squirrelly, the Tooth Fairy who gifts him with a “magic acorn,” and the wily fox who offers to help him crack it, crooning, “my succulent young fellow.”

The multiple-Ignatz-Award-winning cartoonist has written “a couple graphic novels for kids,” he says, in a phone interview punctuated by background chatter from his 4-year-old son, Eli. Squirrelly Gray is different, “sort of a hybrid between verse and comics,” he explains. It’s also his first book from a big publisher. At ComicCon, the mammoth cartoonists’ convention held in San Diego, a Random House editor came up to Kochalka and told him he liked his comics, he says. Soon they were discussing his plans for a picture book.

Kochalka uses Eli as a “test audience” for his comics, he reveals: “I’ll write a chapter and then read it to him as a bedtime story.” But he hopes older readers will like Squirrelly, whether they’re parents, fans of his other work, or both. “If your children’s book doesn’t appeal to adults, then you’ve really failed,” he says.

Kochalka is busy writing a Squirrelly Gray song for his appearance at the Burlington Book Fest next week. Meanwhile, his Random House bio suggests that, despite being a dad, he’s not ready to give up his rebel rocker status just yet. Its last line: “His music drives parents crazy!”

Info:

Squirrelly Gray by James Kochalka. Random House, 40 pages. $12.99. Trailer at http://www.squirrellygray.com.

James Kochalka will introduce Squirrelly Gray and sing songs with his band on Sunday, September 16, at the Burlington Book Festival, 12:30-1:30 p.m., Waterfront Theatre Great Room, Third Floor.

Got something to say? Send a letter to the editor and we'll publish your feedback in print!

Pin It
Favorite

More by Margot Harrison

About The Author

Margot Harrison

Margot Harrison

Bio:
Margot Harrison is the Associate Editor at Seven Days; she coordinates literary and film coverage. In 2005, she won the John D. Donoghue award for arts criticism from the Vermont Press Association.

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Seven Days moderates comments in order to ensure a civil environment. Please treat the comments section as you would a town meeting, dinner party or classroom discussion. In other words, keep commenting classy! Read our guidelines...

Note: Comments are limited to 300 words.

Social Club

Like Seven Days contests and events? Join the club!

See an example of this newsletter...

Keep up with us Seven Days a week!

Sign up for our fun and informative
e-newsletters:

All content © 2016 Da Capo Publishing, Inc. 255 So Champlain St Ste 5, Burlington, VT 05401
Website powered by Foundation