Books And More

Ruth’s Big Party

Author and illustrator Ruth Chan talks to TFK about her first book, Where’s The Party?

June 01, 2016
YA TING LI

Author and illustrator Ruth Chan with her dog, Feta, and cat, Georgie, in Brooklyn, New York. 

Author and illustrator Ruth Chan has an important question she needs answered in her first picture book: Where’s The Party?

In the new book, Georgie the cat is excited to invite all of his friends to one of his famously great parties. But they all have excuses as to why they can’t make it—Feta the dog is too busy making pickles and Lester the mouse has to untangle a string of lights. In the end, Georgie is surprised to learn that all his friends make time for him.

Chan says she was inspired to write Where’s The Party? after spotting a lost balloon-delivery man in her neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York. “It was this really funny and heart-warming, but sad thing to see a person get so enthusiastic about a party but get increasingly frustrated,” she told TFK. The main characters in the story are based on her real life pets — her cat, Georgie, and her dog, Feta.

TFK chatted with Chan about her inspiration and her upcoming works.

TFK:

How did you get your start writing and illustrating kids’ book?

RUTH CHAN:

I have a background in photography and in education. So, I taught preschool and elementary for a while. And then I did a lot of nonprofit youth development. The children’s book stuff is a very recent. It was always something that I wanted to do, but never really had the courage to try. And then I did and it worked out.

TFK:

Who are some authors or illustrators who have inspired you?

CHAN:

I have always loved Richard Scary. All of the little details that he has are something that I love to do in my work, too. And I really love Oliver Jeffers’ work. He knows how to do simplicity very well. And then a good friend of mine, Peter Brown, is just phenomenal.

TFK:

Could you explain the relationship between the real Georgie and Feta?

Where’s The Party? is Ruth Chan’s debut picture book.

MACMILLAN PUBLISHERS
Where’s The Party? is Ruth Chan’s debut picture book.

CHAN:

Feta is a rescue and he’s old, he’s 12. We got him first. He’s the sweetest dog. He’ll do anything to please people. He’s really, really gentle. And Georgie is also a rescue. He has a very mysterious past—he was found in a park in Baltimore. He’s also very, very sweet but he’s not the smartest. He’s very optimistic and everything rolls off his back. He’s just always purring. He’s not afraid of anything. And they’re best friends. They sleep together. They miss each other when one of them is out. It’s really cute.

TFK:

Where did you find inspiration for the other characters in the book?

CHAN:

They are sort of like random characters that I doodle in my sketchbook. Lester [the rat] came about because I was thinking about being in a Brooklyn setting, what’s in the city, and obviously rats. But I thought it would be funny to have a cute, friendly rat. And Ferdinand the Mole—I’ve always loved moles, and I thought it was kind of funny to have a character that lived underground.

TFK:

Do you write and draw every single day?

CHAN:

I usually try to draw or doodle or sketch or something every day. I end up doing it without thinking about it, like if I’m on the subway or something. Writing I’m not as disciplined about. It varies what I write about but practicing every day helps.

TFK:

What kind of materials do you use to create your illustrations?

CHAN:

I work by hand mostly. So I’ll draw everything in pencil, sketch everything out kind of loose, and I’ll outline it with paintbrush and ink. And then I paint it with watercolor. And then usually I’ll scan that in, and then do just a little bit of touch up on Photoshop.

TFK:

If you had to pick, who is your favorite character in the book, and why?

CHAN:

I guess the easy answer is Georgie, but I’m going to say Sneakers. Sneakers looks like this rough-and-tumble sort of guy, but he’s got this heart of gold. All my characters are unapologetic about who they are and their weird quirks.

TFK:

Are you working on any other books?

CHAN:

Yes. I just finished it, actually. It’s called Georgie’s Best Bad Day and it comes out April of 2017. It’s about having a bad day. And I finished a book that I illustrated and somebody else wrote. It’s called Mervin The Sloth Is About To Do The Best Thing In The World. That comes out in September of this year.

TFK:

What do you hope that kids take away from Where’s The Party?

CHAN:

Everybody feels lonely and all alone at one point or another on any given day. I hope kids remember that there are people who really, really love them. Even though it might not seem like it, there are always people around them that love them.


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