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A Fuse #8 Production
Inside A Fuse #8 Production

Cover Reveal & Interview Extravaganza: Stroller Coaster, illustrated by Raúl the Third & Elaine Bay

Friends, when I lived in New York City in 2011, right smack dab in the heart of Manhattan itself, I acquired two items in one year. The first was a baby. The second was a stroller. A stroller so marvelous that my husband, upon using it, was heard to say, “I never wanted a luxury car … until I started using this stroller.” It was just that choice a vehicle. And it’s remarkable that I still look back on it with fondness considering how I spent an inordinate amount of time lifting it onto my right hip so as to get up and down the dang subway stairs (ADA compliant NYC subways are not).

When we moved to Illinois we got a car, and the stroller went into the basement where it has lived ever since. I hadn’t thought of it in years. Hadn’t thought of it, that is, until I heard about a little book called Stroller Coaster written by Matt Ringler, illustrated by by Raúl the Third and Elaine Bay, and due out in 2021. Here is the description:

Step right up for the best ride in town! Buckle up as a toddler’s tantrum is cleverly averted when a loving dad transforms an everyday neighborhood stroll into an extraordinary adventure, reminding us that all you need to chase away a bad mood is love and a little bit of imagination.

Brought to brilliantly-colored, kinetic life by award-winning artist Raúl the Third and Elaine Bay, Strollercoaster sings with details of a diverse and vibrant urban neighborhood bursting with multiple characters and scenes unfolding at once, enhanced by Spanish words embedded in the  art.

Perhaps you are thinking to yourself, “Okay, that sounds amazing. But this information is insufficient. I demand more! I demand you finagle an interview with the creators of this book and then show me the cover!!

As ever, I obey your every wish.

Betsy Bird: Okay, first and foremost, this book felt too, too real to me. I was a mom in NYC with a toddler. I had my Maclaren stroller (I hate to put product placement in an interview but that stroller saved my sanity) and I did EXACTLY what this book advises. I ran my kid through the streets, willy-nilly. I see that the book is dedicated to your own son. Is it safe to say that, for you, some of this is based on a true story? 

Raúl the Third: Absolutely! When I read Matt’s script I immediately had flashbacks to The Strollercoaster like strolls with our son.  Elaine Bay had also modified an old beat up stroller and turned it into a golden work of art so I wanted to bring some of that creative energy into the illustrations. 

Photo credit Elaine Bay
Photo credit Elaine Bay

BB: Oh, sweet lord, it has fringe. I am in love. Okay, back to the book. I think that one of the things I love about it is the parent/daughter relationship at work here. This is like MY PAPI HAS A MOTORCYCLE but with the technology (and the audience) cranked way, way down. Is this something you’ve sought out particularly in the books you do or is it just lucky chance that this appeared when it did? 

RIII: In this case it was meeting Susan Rich at Nerd Camp who understood the type of project that would appeal to me.  I like creating work that illustrates how one doesn’t need a big budget to get the most out of this world. Using BIC pens for the Lowriders series is the perfect example of this. In Strollercoaster, interacting with your environment in a way that activates your imagination was something that excited me when I sat down at my drawing table. The fact that it was a shared experience with a father and his daughter made it even more so. 

BB: So what was it about Matt Ringler’s writing that appealed to you with this project?

RIII: The instant possibilities. It was such a fun script to read and it immediately created images in my head. 

BB: You know, it’s crazy but I’ve never known who your influences are. The topsy turvy nature of the city felt almost Seussian to me, but I know there are a lot of different things at work in the art. Who are your inspirations when you make a book like this? 

RIII: I approached this book as if it were an animated short from long ago so there are a lot Early animation influences sprinkled throughout. Most notably in the rubber hose look of the Papa. I was also influenced by some of the dress styles of my Tios and I modeled Papa on the way they dressed. And then there are little nods throughout. I put a little Family Circus tribute in one of the overhead shot spreads and really there is so much in there that I could spend all day talking about it.

BB: Would you say that this book is set in a particular city? Because these streets look very particular.  

RIII: I would say that it’s mainly made up but overall the city would have to be based on the cities that I have spent equal times living in throughout my life. Let’s say the city is equal parts El Paso and Boston with a bit of Toon town thrown in for a splash of impossibility. 

BB: There’s a part of the book where father and kid go into a tunnel and I SWEAR it looks like you did it as scratchboard. Is that just a trick of Photoshop or did you employ more than one artistic technique for this book? 

RIII: Other than Elaine’s amazing color there is no photoshop trickery at hand. I started with a pencil drawing and layer by layer concealed as much of the drawing with inky darkness as I could without losing any of the important shapes and readability.

BB: I can’t wait for folks to see it. It’s trippy and wonderful and weird.

At last, the final dreaded question: What are you working on next? 

RIII: We are working on the next eight World of Vamos! books which include four Vamos! Let’s go books, four el Toro and Friend books and two Coco Rocha Board books and the fourth Lowriders book. It’s all so much fun! 

Yay! More Vamos and Lowriders!

And finally, for your viewing enjoyment, the cover:

And for comparison, check out this sketch:

Great gloopy thanks to Victoria Stapleton and the folks at Little, Brown & Co. for the reveal.

About Elizabeth Bird

Elizabeth Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.