Friday, February 17, 2012

Little Boys

 What Little Boys are Made of
From Balzer & Bray, Harper Collins, March 2012

   This book went through many drafts. The first version had our boy in bed, unable to sleep, getting out his toys one by one and playing until he made so much noise that Dad would yell "go to sleep" and eventually come in the room and tuck him in with "a kiss, a hug, a snuggle, and love" at the end. Then it was mom... Then, our boy, playing by moonlight, messing the room up gradually until it is totally upside down, then, playing football with the NFL in the Superbowl, he smashes his bed. Mom, turning on the light, surveys the carnage, and they clean everything up together, she cross, he remorseful.
     In the end, taking the drafts to Donna Bray at Harper Collins, she preferred the simpler final version in all it's innocence and joy.

    Here's a starred review from Kirkus:

 “What are little boys made of?” In Neubecker’s hands, the answer is a whole lot of fun!
  From “Moons and stars and rockets to Mars” to “Wings and tails and dragons with scales,” this rhyme’s half-pint hero imagines his way through most boys’ obsessions. Astronaut, sports star, knight, dinosaur-tamer—they’re all there, presented in action-packed, energetic illustrations. Done in pen or pencil, then digitally colored, the artwork has a raw freshness as spontaneous as the lad’s revelry. Neubecker skillfully uses the text and compositions to build upon each other. Each verse begins with the boy and his toys in a plain and simple environment. But in resolving the verse (“That’s what little boys are made of”), gorgeous, visually complex, full spreads are offered, giving readers insight into the boy’s rollicking fantasies. It’s a wonderful juxtaposition—the density of the imagined merriment on one spread after such a sparse one—reinforcing the innocence of the child’s real-life play. The illustrator also pays homage to a certain visual aesthetic for each of the youth’s adventures. As a pirate, readers may recall old naval illustrations; as a dragon-slayer, illuminated manuscripts; and as a jungle explorer, the wild things of Maurice Sendak. To complete the picture, the author also shows the quiet and loving side of boys, as they are also made of “A kiss and a hug, a snuggle and LOVE.”

One romping celebration of boyhood to read again and again. (Picture book. 3-8)

A peek at the spreads:

dedication page

one cover idea... the marketing people generally choose the final cover design.

fairly complete sketch dummy...

my little guy in line...
cover mock-up- I just put in type for look-see. I always defer to the desighner for the final type design...

About midway through the revisions, a nighttime romp...
I wanted the blanket to figure in every picture...

loved this spread...
In the earlier version it was Magic! Adventure! Action!- That's what little boys are made of...

In this draft, our hero couldn't sleep, and progressively destroyed his room. His mom discovers the mess and they clean it up together. Then she hugs him and tucks him in.

In another version, he lived in New York City and dreamed his dreams as he looked out the window, rode the subway, etc.

That's Boys! For a more complete view of the book, see my website!


  1. Wow, thanks for posting the process.
    Looks great!

  2. So good to stumble upon your book today, my daughter pulled it from the library shelf and brought it over for a look. She is two and I am now a fan of your work. I draw too and I am an architect.o.

    Douglas Wittnebel

  3. Great to meet you today Robert and be introduced to your amazing talent. Can't wait to share it with my kids. I am buying this one for my little boy for Christmas. Kristen- the Nurse Practitioner at Moran