Introducing . . . narwhalandjelly.com the o-fish-al NARWHAL AND JELLY website!
The first of my new graphic novel / picture book (kind of a hybrid . . . a Clantoon??) series NARWHAL: UNICORN OF THE SEA! is making its debut this week. This book has been a long time in the works and gone through oodles of variations. I'm thrilled that it is at last coming to the surface. I hope you like it!
A bit about the book:
Narwhal is a happy-go-lucky narwhal. Jelly is a no-nonsense jellyfish. The two might not have a lot in common, but they do they love waffles, parties and adventures. Join Narwhal and Jelly as they discover the whole wide ocean together.
Ben Clanton showcases the joys of friendship, the benefits of working together and the power of imagination in the delightful Narwhal: Unicorn of the Sea.
And here are some reviews of the book:
Undersea adventures have never been so darn cute. One day the unceasingly cheerful Narwhal finds himself “in new waters” and meets his soon-to-be best friend, the slightly apprehensive Jelly the jellyfish. Narwhal has never met a jellyfish, and Jelly has never met a narwhal; the two learn about each other through a lively exchange of facts. Their aquatic adventures are plentiful: they read books together, try to form a not-exclusively-narwhal pod, and daydream about waffles and robots. Jokes abound, giving this a lighthearted animated sensibility. Cool pelagic blues mingle with a merry sunshine yellow over simple, line-based characters, creating a homespun, whimsical feel that works well to evince their buoyant escapades and uncomplicated happiness. Expression lines visually punctuate the illustrations, giving the characters a lively boost. When Narwhal gets a good idea, his tusk lights up to emit jolly, ochre lines; Jelly’s sometimes-dour moods are communicated with scribbly black clouds hovering overhead. Together, Narwhal and Jelly navigate the intricacies of making a friendship work, discovering that friends can share a great time together even when engaged in the most pedestrian activities. The incessant charm and unabashed joy should make this an easy sell. Swimmingly delightful and a guaranteed smile-maker. (Graphic fiction. 6-10)
Clanton (Something Extraordinary) introduces an imaginative and self-confident narwhal in a bubbly trio of comics. In the first story, Narwhal befriends Jelly, a jellyfish, even though Jelly has never met a narwhal and Narwhal has never met a jellyfish. “What is up with that horn?” asks a frowning Jelly. “It’s actually more of a tusk-tooth,” Narwhal replies good-naturedly. Clanton outlines his heroes in rough pencil and colors them digitally—Narwhal resembles a floating comma, Jelly a semicircle with dangly tentacles—creating a loose, off-the-cuff aquatic environment. The cast grows in the second tale as Narwhal amasses an eclectic pod of sea creatures who grin broadly as they get their honorary narwhal horns (sorry, tusk-teeth). Bantering dialogue entertains throughout, but the book’s best moment might belong to the third story, when Narwhal lends Jelly his “favorite book in the whole wide water,” which is blank (Clanton gives the joke maximum impact by including two blank pages). “It’s an imagination book, Jelly!” Narwhal explains. Readers ready for underwater goofiness of the non-SpongeBob variety will be eager for more adventures from this duo. Ages 6–9. Agent: Marietta Zacker, Gallt & Zacker Literary. (Oct.)
Want to find a copy? Try these links:
INDIEBOUND // B&N // AMAZON
My latest picture book IT CAME IN THE MAIL went through many drafts, revisions, and changes (over 5 years worth!). So much so that the first manuscript I wrote with the title "IT CAME IN THE MAIL" is almost an entirely different story. I thought it would be fun to share that first draft, so without further ado I give to you . . .
IT CAME IN THE MAIL
by Ben Clanton
James loved to get mail.
So it is too bad he never got any.
When he asked his parents . . . “WHY do I NEVER get any MAIL! It’s not fair.”
His dad said . . .
“It’s all junk anyways.”
But James liked junk (he had a big pile of it in his room), so he asked again . . . “BUT WHY do I NEVER get any of IT!?”
His mom explained.
“Jimmy Bear (James can’t stand it when she calls him that . . . except for when he does), in order to get mail you usually have to send it.”
James didn’t know who he should send mail to, so he just sent a note to the mailbox. It went something like this:
I would like to get something in the mail. SOMETHING BIG.
As soon as James put the letter in, the mailbox began to shake. It began making all sorts of strange sounds.
James could tell something big must have come in the mail and he was sure it was for him. When James looked inside, he was met by a blast of fire. A dragon! A dragon had come in the mail! And it was for James.
When James showed his dad the dragon, his dad said . . .
“You had better take good care of it. A pet dragon is a BIG responsibility.”
James wasn’t entirely sure how to take care of a dragon (none of his friends had one), so he went to the library and got THE FLAME PROOF GUIDE TO DRAGON CARE.
This is what it said to do:
- Dragons eat a lot . . . feed regularly.
- Give it a nice princess and a castle to keep it in.
- Be sure to fly your dragon at least twice a day.
- Make sure your dragon has lots of gold.
- Try not to get eaten, burned alive, or crushed by your dragon.
James wasn’t too sure where to get dragon food, a princess, a castle, and gold, so he sent the mailbox another note.
That magical mailbox gave James all he needed.
“Ugh!” (James trying to carry a huge plate of meat)
“Unhand me!” (James carrying a princess)
“Aaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhh!” (James taking his dragon for a flight)
But James was finding out that taking care of a dragon is a lot of work. So, he put a note on the dragon (RETURN TO SENDER), and shoved it into the mailbox, but the mailbox popped the dragon right back out with a new note (ADDRESS UNKNOWN).
James was stuck with the dragon . . . and the princess, and the castle, and all the rest.
What could he do?!
James sent the mailbox another note:
I know you won’t take back the dragon, but can you please send me an idea about what to do with it?
An idea soon zoomed out of the mailbox and struck James.
The idea was this:
Where do dragons come from?
Yes, really more of a question, but that is just the sort of thing one should expect from a magical mailbox.
James’s dragon had come from the mailbox, but was that where dragons come from? James thought about where he had first heard about dragons . . . in stories!
James ran to the library and checked out a magic book.
He then shoved the dragon, the princess, the castle, and most of the gold back where it belonged . . . in a book.
And so ends this book with James learning a very important lesson . . . or, then again, maybe not! (James is getting something else in the mail now . . . something big)
WARNING! In this post I wax nostalgic and get a wee bit (MEGA) reflective. My apologies in advance!
A big part of its importance to me naturally has to do with it being my first book. So much hope, excitement, and anticipation surrounded both the making and release of this book for me and I still can feel the echoes of those emotions. Interestingly, I think it remains my best read aloud to this point (I do have a couple of books in the works that will give it a run for its money, though). And yet it is also the book I have the hardest time looking at because I have learned so much since making VOTE FOR ME! and feel I could do a much better job making it now. In fact, I do hope to someday re-illustrate and redesign the book. I take some courage from the fact that Eric Carle re-illustrated THE VERY HUNGRY CATERPILLAR several times (um, not to compare myself to Eric Carle). I'll need to have quite a bit more success I think before a publisher would be willing to do a new version of VOTE FOR ME!, but maybe someday.
What would I do differently if I was to illustrate the book today? The book is already quite design-y but I'd push that even further. I would go with a thicker and more dynamic line and use different textures. I'd also design the characters differently and I'd hand letter the text. Story-wise there isn't a whole lot I'd change, but perhaps that independent mouse might be replaced by a bird? ;)
I actually remember struggling with what creature would represent the 'independent' in the book. I decided upon the mouse because I could make the joke about the 'big cheese' and because a mouse seemed like a good choice to represent the little guy. Little did I know that four years later an independent would be making a serious run for president.
There are, of course, many things that could be said about this current election. I don't intend to say much here on my site. But I am amazed (or perhaps not really all that amazed) how much more aptly VOTE FOR ME! reflects the current political discourse than it did four years ago.
I feel so very fortunate to be able to write and illustrate children's books. It is a dream job. I often have moments where I go 'I'm doing this for a living! People read my books? People buy them?!' Thank you to all those who have and continue to support, encourage, and inspire me. You rock! Thanks for making my first term amazing. The second term is going to be even better! 4 MORE YEARS! ;)
And if you are wondering how you can 'vote for me' . . . My pal Josh Funk has a great post about ways you can support an author beyond buying their books ----> HERE!
VOTE and VOTE OFTEN! (Please!)