Who is Making a Mess? celebrates diverse families. Author Maria D’Haene and illustrator Charlie Eve Ryan talked to us about creating this sweet board book.
Q: Maria, Who is Making a Mess? is your first book. What inspired you?
MD: My parents, who uttered the phrase daily raising twelve children. One of us kids was always making a mess. My other inspiration is all the families I've worked with as a social worker. I want all parents (lesbian, gay, transgender, straight, grandparents raising grandchildren) and their children to see themselves represented.
Q: This book breaks stereotypes in only a few words. Maria, how did you communicate your vision for the art?
MD: I did provide illustration notes, but boy, oh boy, Charlie Eve Ryan hit it out of the park. I was blown away by her vision and talent. I'm profoundly grateful to her and to Amicus for pairing us up.
Q: Charlie, the art carries a lot of the story in Who is Making a Mess? Was it a challenge to illustrate such a sparse text?
CER: It was a fun challenge. I knew based on editorial and author notes that this book would be family-focused with a lot of diversity and playing against common stereotypes. I wanted the sense of family and everyday struggles to come through. Life is messy. Chaos always hits when you have someplace to go—in this case it was a family picnic, which felt like a perfect setup.
Q: Maria, what is your favorite illustration?
MD: If I had to choose, I'd go with “Mama is making a mess” and “Grandpa is making a mess.” I love the nonconformity in gender roles and the diversity in families depicted.
Q: Charlie, your art creates a warm and cozy feel. How do you create this feeling in the art?
CER: Thank you. I think the looseness of the pencil strokes helps convey the softness and adds to the messiness, while the expressions and movements of the characters capture a cozy feel. The warm colors and playful patterns tie everything together.
Q: Charlie, what is your favorite illustration?
CER: One of the first pages I drew was the grandpa baking with his grandkids. There is something really endearing about that moment. The pies they bake are served at the end, so it’s a full circle experience.