Author and illustrator Derek Anderson visited Concordia last week and gave three presentations on the Carl B. Ylvisaker Library mezzanine to students, faculty, and community members.
Anderson is the illustrator of the children’s books such as “Gladys Goes Out to Lunch,” “Over the River: A Turkey’s Tale,” and the popular “Little Quack” series written by Lauren Thompson. He gave two presentations to students and faculty and one presentation that was geared toward families with children ages four and up.
Anderson, a graduate of Iowa State University, told students about his work and his path to becoming a children’s book illustrator.
He first thought he would become a cartoonist because he knew he loved to write stories and draw pictures, until he came home from college and picked up a stack of children’s books his mom brought home from a reading conference.
“By the end of the day, I knew what I wanted to do,” Anderson said.
Anderson then moved to Minneapolis and got as a job as a sculptor of figurines for Disney and Warner Brothers, all the while submitting his work to publishers in New York. He was rejected numerous times. A couple of students asked whether he ever thought about giving up, but Anderson responded that he always knew he wanted to illustrate. His persistence paid off when he was hired by publishing house Simon & Schuster to illustrate Thompson’s first “Little Quack” book, which appeared on the New York Times bestseller list.
Since then, Anderson has published 12 books, illustrating all of the “Little Quack” books along with several others. Anderson has both illustrated and written four of the 12 books as well. His newest illustrations will appear in Judy Sierra’s, “Ballyhoo Bay” which will be released Feb. 24 with “Hot-Rod Hamster” to follow this summer.
Anderson showed many photos of his work in a slideshow presentation. He frequently places his family members, his dog and himself in hidden places in his books and asked the crowd to find the hidden item. He explained to the children at the final presentation that he gets to put all kinds of fun things in his books since he can create whatever he wants.
“Sometimes I just like to reach in the corners of my imagination and paint the strangest thing I could think of,” Anderson said.
French professor Gay Rawson attended the children’s presentation with her son Chase. Their favorite part was the hidden things in the pictures, and even had a special connection with one hidden icon.
“Chase and I saw an Eiffel Tower sand castle in his new book,” Rawson said. “I reminded Chase about painting or sculptures we had seen in Paris.”
Chase then announced that he had seen the real Eiffel Tower, and Anderson responded that he had been there as well but it was scary going to the top. Anderson also spoke of writing about fears in his books, noting his own childhood fears of sharks in the bathtub and monsters in the dark.
“Chase and I talked about this a little bit,” Rawson said. “I hope he remembers how to turn his fears into something creative and positive.”
After the presentations, Anderson talked to attendees and gave autographs, drawing a sketch of one of his characters after his signature for every book he signed. There were also coloring pages from the “Little Quack” books for attendees to take. Curriculum librarian Connie Jones recalls one 7-year-old being so excited to go home and buy a sketchbook right away.
“We were really pleased with the numbers,” Jones said. “We’re very happy. We want to do this again.”
Rawson’s son agrees that Anderson did an excellent job. “I liked the whole thing,” Chase said. “It was awesome.”
Marisa Paulson is a senior and the news & features editor of The Concordian, although she still writes when she can. She plans to attend the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in fall 2011.