Friday, June 30, 2023

Q&A with Vikram Madan




Vikram Madan is the creator of the new kids' easy-reader graphic novel Owl and Penguin: Best Day Ever. It's a sequel to Owl and Penguin. Madan is based in Seattle.


Q: What inspired you to write the Owl and Penguin books, and how did you create your characters?


A: The Owl & Penguin characters first appeared in a series of whimsical paintings I was making in my art studio.





Eventually an editor I was working with asked if I would consider writing a picture book with these “cute characters.” The picture book project did not pan out but instead seeded the idea (in my mind) of telling stories wordlessly for pre-readers, beginning readers, emergent readers, struggling readers, and multi-lingual readers.


I spent a few months developing a wordless graphic novel proposal which eventually found a home at Holiday House. In the final version we added carefully chosen basic-sight-reading words to help with visual literacy.


The Owl & Penguin books are visual stories first. I conceptualize the story as images and sketch out a draft before adding additional narrative text.


Q: The Kirkus Review of the new book said, in part, “Charming evidence that compromise and inventiveness can produce the best day yet!” What do you think of that description?

A: I like that description very much. :) Part of the “charming” appeal of the books is in how much the characters empathize and care for each other, and find ways to support each other, which sometimes requires compromising and sometimes requires coming up with a new solution to a problem.


Many parents have told me these stories have helped their kids discuss problem-solving, broaching differences, showing kindness, expressing emotions, and supporting friends.


Q: How would you describe the dynamic between Owl and Penguin?


A: Owl & Penguin are best friends, despite having different personalities. Prior to developing these books, I spent a few months delving into the concept of “friendship,” including reading research papers on the topic. (One quote I won’t forget: “You can have unrequited love, but you can’t have unrequited friendship!”).


Strong friendships happen when people have some similarities and some differences, have some shared interests, empathize with, care for, and support each other, help each other grow, and when both people end up better off by being friends.


I tried to incorporate these elements in developing the characters and in how they interact. I think everyone would love to have a friendship like Owl & Penguin’s – I certainly would! :)


Q: What are you working on now?


A: I am currently working on the third Owl & Penguin book. In Fall 2023, I have a new graphic novel coming out with Holiday House, titled Zooni Tales: Keep It Up, Plucky Pup (Ages 5-9). This one is inspired by my pup Zooni, and is completely in rhyme!


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: My editor, Sally Morgridge, and I recently recorded an online conversation on the Making of Owl & Penguin, where I share the origin story in a lot more detail and we discuss considerations that go into writing emerging readers. Interested readers can find it here:


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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