We all have stories inside us. Sometimes, they’re buried deep down and they never escape our lips; but other times, they bubble out in moments we never expect will result in a storybook.
Such is the case of Yoba — a story about a little boy who’s not ready to go to sleep.
Yoba crept into my head around 2004 when, in an attempt to get my four-year-old son to drift off to dreamland, I had exhausted every bedtime storybook on his bookshelf. Out of storybooks and left to my own devices, I started telling my young son a story about Yoba — making it up on a whim, verbalizing the words as quickly as they came to me. Like Yoba, my son used every stall tactic he could think of to avoid bedtime . . . so in that way, my son brought Yoba to life, not me.
When he was finally asleep, I jotted the story of Yoba down on paper. It took less than thirty minutes (although, it’s been revised some over the years).
I instantly loved Yoba, and I knew that someday he would find a place in the hearts of children and parents around the world, just as he had in mine and my son’s.
But there was a problem. Every great child’s book has even greater illustrations, and I couldn’t draw. At all. I could see Yoba in my head — I knew his hair line and his eye slant — but I couldn’t get that imaginary image to trickle out of my head, down my arms, through my fingertips and onto the page. Try as I may, illustrations were not my forte. So, I began the hunt for an illustrator.
I’ll skip the gory details, but suffice it to say I spent the next twelve years (on and off) working with several illustrators. None of them understood Yoba or the concept of the book . . . until now!
Meet Joshua Baker!
Joshua is legally blind. He was born with ocular albinism with nystagmus. I’ll put that out there from the start, because when I’m finished, it’s not what you’ll remember about him. What you’ll remember is that he is the hardest working illustrator I know.
He has to be; depth perception and clarity don’t come easy for him. And he wants to be; he has the same passion for storyboarding as I do for writing — not that talent and passion mean anything without hard work.
Together, we’re learning that having a passion or gift for something doesn’t mean it comes easy. Actually, it’s quite the opposite.
We seem to be our own worse critics.
When we first spoke about working together on this project, Joshua sent me a rough sketch of his interpretation of Yoba based on my description, and I knew immediately that he was the illustrator for the job. His sketch was exactly what I’d envisioned.
And so, for the past several months Joshua and I have been emailing, texting and Skyping — modifying, collaborating on and approving — the illustrations for Yoba. It’s a very different kind of book — one your child will continue growing and learning with for years to come — so the illustrations have been an integral part of making sure the book serves the purpose we know it will serve.
But, enough about that . . . for now. I don’t want to give too much away too early.
However, I can assure you you’ve never seen a book with the creativity and learning opportunities that Yoba provides. Ever. And trust me, I know.
So, since Joshua and I are not quite ready to put the book in your hands or spill the beans about what makes it so different and special, how about we apologize for not being able to share more by sharing instead a snapshot of one of the pages. Here’s Yoba’s momma!
Or . . . her eyes and nose at least. (smirk)
The book will be available November 2016, and I promise to keep you posted on the progress and the exact release date.
In the meantime, you can check out more of Joshua’s work here.
Until next time, my loves . . .