I’m so excited to shine a spotlight on Chiêu Anh Urban, a wonderful artist and an even better friend. I’m lucky to live not far from Chiêu, and to see her (often with one or more of her beautiful daughters) every few weeks. So, I happen to know that, in addition to being a talented illustrator, Chiêu can tap dance, fence, and make the best salted caramel cupcakes I’ve ever eaten. She also throws amazingly creative parties for her youngest daughter. Check out some of her craft ideas at her website: http://chieuurban.blogspot.com/ Chiêu’s books include: COLOR WONDER HOORAY FOR SPRING; COLOR WONDER WINTER IS HERE; QUIET AS A MOUSE: AND OTHER ANIMAL IDIOMS, AWAY WE GO, and RAINDROPS: A SHOWER OF COLORS!
Here are a few of Chiêu’s stellar reviews:
Quiet as a Mouse: And Other Animal Idioms
“It’s a visually dramatic and playful exploration of animals and language – especially the final scene featuring a happy clam with mirrored sunglasses.” Publishers Weekly, November 2017
Color Wonder Hooray for Spring!
“2017 Board Books Worth Noting: I’ve never seen the concept of mixing colors done as inventively as you’ll find here… A smart board book if ever I saw one.” SLJ – Elizabeth Bird, July 2017
Color Wonder Hooray for Spring!
“Local author Chieu Anh Urban gives a big shout-out to spring in this intriguingly designed board book… Lots of fun for active little minds and fingers.” Washington Parent, May 2017
Away We Go! A Shapes and Seek Book
“The innovative die-cut images present shapes hidden inside brightly illustrated planes, submarines and hot-air balloons. Children will adore tracing and identifying the cutout shapes. Author-illustrator Urban’s background as a graphic illustrator is put to excellent use in this boldly crafted and illustrated book.” Literary Kids Book Review, April 2013
Chiêu, could you tell us why, and when, you first became interested in creating novelty books for young children?
When my girls were in preschool, I decided to make an interactive story book to teach them about colors and color mixing. I enjoyed the process so much and was inspired to learn more about the children’s book industry. I wanted to create interactive books that were fun and educational for young children. Raindrops: A Shower of Colors was published over five years later, and was the launch of my children’s novelty book career.
What is your background in art?
Growing up, I loved arts and crafts and enjoyed working with paper. One of my favorite childhood hobbies was making paper dolls and 3-D houses. I later studied at the VCU School of Arts and acquired a BFA in Communications Art and Design. I started a career as a graphic designer and now enjoy creating interactive novelty books for the youngest readers.
What is your favorite part of creating your books?
I love challenging myself and designing novelty formats that are unique and inventive. It’s so satisfying when the novelty elements work nicely, and complement the art and text to create a playful interactive story experience.
What is the most challenging aspect of novelty books?
Often times, the novelty format I design for a project can be cost-prohibitive to produce, or possibly too complicated to manufacture.
What advice do you have for other illustrators who might want to try their hand at novelty books?
Put together a book dummy of the project. The format and design may look great in sketches, but it’s important to test the novelty elements and make sure they function smoothly.
Would you like to tell us about your next project(s)?
I’m thrilled for the second book in my Color Wonder series to be released this October. Color Wonder Winter is Here! celebrates the cool colors of winter in a hands-on novelty board book with color transforming turn-wheels. Turn the wheels to mix and match the colors, and see how blue and red make purple, red and yellow make orange, and blue and yellow make green.
I also have an exciting novelty project in the works. It will be published in fall 2019.
Can’t wait! My great-nephews love your books! They make the best gifts (though I always keep one for myself, because I love them, too). Thanks so much, Chiêu, for taking time out of your hectic schedule, and for being my first-ever illustrator interview!