I Love You More
Emil Sher and Barbara Reid talk about the many, many ways to express love
Emil: At what moment when you were reading the manuscript did you know you wanted the job?
Barb: I was already hooked when I saw your name on the I Love You More manuscript. Not only am I a fan, we live in the same ‘hood, our daughters attended the same school and we’ve shared schoolyard conversations about the creative life over the years. I knew you would be a dream collaborator.
Author’s notes are often a no-no for illustrators, but after reading the text on its own I had access to your vision for the book. Following young Des through his day threaded with “I love you more thans” meant that the entire narrative would be told through the art. Illustrator catnip! I was all in. Kids are brilliant readers of images and the decision to not make the visuals a literal representation of the text created endless opportunities. How much do I love to play with colour, gesture, expression, and point of view? More than words love pictures!
Emil: What was the hardest part for you in making this book?
Barb: Continuity was a challenge. There’s a big cast of characters (and sneakers and backpacks) plus the story moves through several locations in a single day, beginning and ending with Des’ apartment. Plasticine loves detail and as I got into the project, I kept finding new connections, side stories and bits to add. I work from sketches and build the clay illustrations in order of the book. Working in order means I can go back and correct or add things. I started hiding hearts on each page – there are over 120 but clever readers have found a few unplanned ones too. It was so fun adding details that truly the hardest part was stopping. The second hardest part was all the ears. I’m good with rabbit ears, elephant ears, dog ears and more, but people ears are bothersome to make. Readers are welcome to count the ears as well.
Barbara: Can you name a nice surprise or two in what I added to the story?
Emil: Must I limit myself to only two? My great joy in being one-half of a picture-book-making team is seeing how an artist like you doesn’t simply bring to words to life. You elevated and enriched the story by adding lovely touches throughout and deepening the narrative in ways I had never anticipated.
Here are two examples. In one spread Des’s Mom is sitting on a park bench, reading a treasured and preserved I Love You More note that her mother had shared with her when she was a child. You added a black-and-white photobooth strip to the moment, featuring Des’s grandmother as a young, black-haired mom and his mother as a young girl. Perfect. It immediately takes us back a generation without saying a word. It tells us that “I love you more than…” is a family tradition. Flip the page, and what do you see? Des’s grandmother as she is today, in all her grey-haired glory. Yet another of many delightful connections that are sprinkled throughout the book.
Here’s another. One of my favourite spreads is the street scene, a snapshot of a vibrant diverse neighbourhood. A bookstore, a café, a florist: an urban landscape is beautifully brought to life. We see that a young woman on a bike has caught the eye of a young man walking in the opposite direction. A few pages later, they’re they are, standing together on her front porch. In his hands is a bouquet of roses. Exquisite.
Barbara: What is your favourite spread in the final book?
Emil: Another challenging choice, since they’re all so resonant and rich. The one I went with is the one hanging in my living room. Yes, fellow authors, one of the countless ‘perks’ of working with Barbara Reid is the gift of her gorgeous artwork. Early in I Love You More we see Des heading to school, with his mom close behind. They’re walking by a fruit store run by an older couple who are busy stacking apples. The woman tosses one to Des without taking her eyes off her husband. That simple gesture speaks volumes about a lovely morning routine in Des’s life and the fabric of his neighbourhood, and shows us how a tossed apple is another kind of love.
I Love You More
published by Scholastic Canada