Welcome to the very first installment of our new original feature, Penguin Teen Behind the Book! In this series, we’ll hear from editors about how they found the authors they work with and why they decided to publish their books, giving you an inside peek into to book making process here at Penguin!
As an editor who loves picture books, I’m always on the hunt for new illustrator talent. One of my favorite places to poke around and look at artists is Etsy, and a few years ago I stumbled upon Kit Chase’s shop: Trafalgar’s Square. From the first moment I spotted her adorable animal prints, I was in love—each animal was cuter than the next! And I quickly saw that I wasn’t the only one who loved her—Kit has over 22,700 “admirers” on the site—and growing! I could tell that Kit had huge picture book potential, so I sent her a “love letter” and asked if she had ever thought about writing stories to go with her art. She told me that, coincidentally, she was working on some story ideas with her agent—who had contacted her around the same time after seeing her work.
A little while later, Kit’s agent sent me some sample illustrations and a story featuring three friends: Oliver the elephant, Charlie the rabbit, and Lulu the owl. I had seen a number of potential “characters” among her Etsy prints, but Kit brought these three child-like animals to life perfectly—their innocent, playful relationships reminded me of some of my favorite picture book classics, and I could immediately picture them starring in many books together. After fighting off several other publishers in an auction, we signed Kit to a three-book contract.
Oliver’s Tree was not the initial story that Kit’s agent submitted, but after falling in love with the characters, we worked with Kit to find the perfect story to bring readers into the world of Oliver, Lulu and Charlie. What I love most about this book—aside from the melt-your-heart illustrations—is the friendship story. Feeling left out is a universal experience, and this story proves that there is always a way to include everyone—sometimes you just have to think outside the box!
Thanks so much, Shauna!
You can find Kit Chase on her website.