James Sturm, Andrew Arnold, and Alexis Frederick-Frost, the creative trio behind Adventures in Cartooning and its sequels, got kids excited about drawing comics, and now they have a new book that goes in a different direction: Sleepless Knight, which will be out later this year, is a story comic, not an instructional book, in which the knight from Adventures in Cartooning goes on a camping trip toasts some marshmallows, and ends up going on a quest—for a lost teddy bear. The book will be published by First Second, and it sounds like there are more on the way. Here’s our exclusive first look at the cover:
… and here’s our interview with Sturm, Arnold, and Frederick-Frost, the legendary “three-headed monster.”
Adventures in Cartooning was a mix of a narrative and art instruction, and I know you did an activity book after that. What made you decide to strike out and do a pure narrative using the same characters and setting?
The Three-Headed Cartoonist: I think we felt that these were strong characters that really came alive on the page and that we could do even more with them. Why not Adventures in Counting or Adventures in Bedtime (which is what Sleepless Knight is)?
Do you think the story will be richer for children who have read Adventures in Cartooning? Did you deliberately incorporate the lessons from that book into this one?
The Three-Headed Cartoonist: The AIC books are for older kids that can read them to themselves; these are geared for younger kids. I see kids discovering these new AIC books first and then moving on to discover the ones we’ve already published. These new books are squarely children’s picture books; the only overtly instructional aspect are the endpapers that tie it to the other books.
Your lead character, the knight, has no face, just a visor. Did you choose to feature her because of that? It seems like it would be more of a challenge, but also an opportunity to flex your cartooning muscles. Also, how does she eat marshmallows through that visor?
The Three-Headed Cartoonist: In the original AIC books, we wanted the characters to be as simply designed as possible to encourage children to copy. So the knight—sans facial features—expresses herself through body language, like when she’s excited or demonstrative! And those marshmallows can easily fit through that visor opening! I bet she stashes a few extra in there, too, so Edward doesn’t eat them all.
The three of you have worked together on a number of books now. How has your technique and the division of labor changed over the years?
The Three-Headed Cartoonist: The basic technique is the same, I think. We brainstorm, start doodling, share ideas, and work through drafts. When we have a tight draft Alexis wields his magic brush. Then we fuss over it some more. Things do change from book to book depending on who’s being fussiest.
I know a lot of your readers send you their own comics. How have they influenced you?
The Three-Headed Cartoonist: We’ve received a lot of letters and comics in the mail! I’m grateful these books have struck such a nerve. We’ve found working on them real liberating—and the great response just encourages us to keep following our own creative impulses.
What’s next? Will there be more stories like this? Crossovers? A huge event that will change the Adventure-verse forever?
There will be four AIC Jr books. We proposed “Adventures in Animal Husbandry” and a Game of Thrones crossover but so far no movement on either of those fronts.