Sophie Blackall Illustration

Drawings and Snippets and Breaking News, (but more snippets than breaking news).

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Are You Awake?

I wrote Are You Awake? nine years ago, when my son was about three. We had only been living in New York for a short time but had taken a trip to see family in Europe. Eggy’s toddler internal clock was turned upside down and we had several sleepless nights and surreal conversations. I wrote this email to my father at the time:

“Brooklyn, August 2002. We are back from France and still fighting the jet-lag, mostly because Eggy is at his liveliest between 1am and 5am. He can climb out of anything now, even his slippery travel cot, so it is pointless trying to put him to bed as he simply gets straight out again. So yesterday we bought bunk beds at a stoop sale and Nick carted them, in pieces, the four blocks (and five flights of stairs)!  We don't have mattresses yet, but the kids are sleeping on them anyway on their cot size mattresses, which leaves plenty of room around each for Olive to arrange her books and for Eggy to cram toys and cars and leftover toast. Eggy hasn't actually spent much time on his, preferring to roam the apartment in the wee hours before finally collapsing somewhere exhausted. I found him at 7am actually sitting in his highchair fast asleep...”

All of my previous books had been written by other people. I was overly excited to begin illustrating my own and then was completely unprepared for what happened. Or rather what didn’t happen. I couldn’t begin. I had so many different ideas, I just couldn’t pin one down. I thought perhaps it should be a very large book, and the conversations would be incorporated into the pictures, but the speech bubbles had me cornered. Then I wanted it to be a tiny, tiny, cloth bound book after Edward Gorey or Beatrix Potter, but it was feared such a size would get lost on library shelves.
One thing I was sure of, that the pictures would start off dark and inky and gradually lighten to an explosion of sunshine when the sun finally, finally comes up.
Here are some early variations:


 ...and this is how it ended up:

 Some books have a slow incubation and this was certainly one of them. But it’s probably just as well; when Eggy was about six he found the idea of a book (even vaguely) about him utterly mortifying and made me promise it wouldn’t be published. (I had my fingers crossed behind my back.) Luckily he changed his mind more recently, just in time for Are You Awake? to go into production. I have illustrated around 20 books for children in the meantime, so it’s quite a thrill to finally see this story, of a sleepless night long ago, out in the world.
Eggy, aged 3
Eggy was always a bit nocturnal
 Are You Awake? is in stores next week or you can order it from an independent bookstore here!

15 comments:

dasha t said...

ooooh! how exciting! can't wait to see the whole thing!

carinberger said...

wow sophie, congratulations!

i can't wait to get a copy!

carin

The Wanderers' Daughter said...

I love ALL of the pictures, the earlier ones included. I love the exhausted look on the mother's face. Congrats on doing your own...I know well the difficulty of writing the book you've conceived as an illustrator. Hurrah!

McMGrad89 said...

Congratulations! I want this book for certain.

Elizabeth Rose Stanton said...

O my gosh this looks great! So clever and cute! Congrats!

Elizabeth said...

Looks like a fantastic book....and very close to home for us at this stage of our lives. I am sure parents everywhere will relate to the content! Congrats and we will certainly be ordering a copy. x

Ninotchka said...

Wonderful! Congratulations.

Катя Толстая said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Катя Толстая said...

От долгого молчания на Вашем блоге, ждала чего-то необыкновенного и дождалась! Это прекрасно! Спасибо! Ждём ещё!!!

Jess said...

How fantastic and congratulations.. looks like a beautiful and funny book.

Kerry Aradhya said...

This book looks so cute, and I can TOTALLY relate. I still remember the first time we took our oldest daughter to France and she was bouncing on the bed all night long while we were trying to sleep. I just found out about Are You Awake through a tweet, and I recognized your name, but couldn't quite place it. Now it is all coming together. We recently checked Big Red Lollipop out from the library, and my four-year-old has been "reading" it every night this past week. And I was just looking at Ivy and Bean at the bookstore yesterday and thinking about buying a set for my six-year-old, who is just starting to read short chapter books. I guess my family is becoming a fan of yours...and we didn't even realize it until today! So glad I found your blog!

omar said...

wonderful idea for a story!

Annalisa said...

Yes, I have this book now...it's really great! The kids love the pictures!

ella said...

ah this looks wonderful, You're work is exquisite

cheap prom dresses said...

wow sounds exciting! i've always like the idea of an underwater city!