Confection affection gets out of hand in League City author and illustrator’s latest children’s book
Sheila McGraw, who lives and works out of her studio in a waterfront League City community, is the author and/or illustrator of 16 children’s picture and craft books.
Her career took off in 1986 after she illustrated the classic children’s book, “Love you Forever,” which has sold more than 30 million copies. She took advantage of the time she had on her hands last year to finish “Of Love and Pies,” published this year by White Bird Publications.
“After last year, everybody needed a laugh, especially kids, so a book about pies getting out of hand until children yearned for ‘chicken, fish, carrots, or corn with butter … for we cannot lie … if we eat one more crumb of pie, we will break down and cry,’” said McGraw, reciting a passage from the book.
The book features illustrations and descriptions of the pies — banana cream, pumpkin, cherry, apple, key lime, along with a giant eating pies along with children playing games with pies, getting sticky and having tummy pains. The narrative leads to a breaking point in which children don’t want another crumb of pie but yearn for wholesome food.
“These are ‘I love you pies,’ and the gist is that every time you say, ‘I love you,’ 20 pies appear,” McGraw said. “So, there are pies everywhere, more than a giant can eat, thousands of pies making a path to the moon, a playground full of pies, until everything gets out of hand, so there has to be a resolution. Eventually, The Law of Pies proclaims the number of times you can say “I love you” where there won’t be so many pies and life can return to normal.”
McGraw’s former mother-in-law used to tell her that love was like a pie, and that she could keep cutting it into more pieces to include more people, she said.
“That didn’t sit right with me because it seems like a pie would be finite and you’d run out of love,” she said. “So, I started toying with this idea that every time you say, ‘I love you,’ you get some pies — two pies, 15 pies and so on — then it became apparent that we say, ‘I love you’ all the time and the next thing you know, you have too many pies.”
Meant for children ages 4 to 8, the book takes children on a fun imaginative journey, which is essential for young minds, she said.
“Imagination and fantasy are important for children and the book is written in a tradition of nonsense rhymes, plus it has a beginning, middle, end and a resolution,” McGraw said. “When I was young, ’I love you’ wasn’t stated as frequently as it is now. Some people don’t leave the house without telling important people in their life that they love them, and that’s fine if people are comfortable with that.”
The process of creating illustrations and getting the art exactly right, can take up to a year, especially when it comes to the medium, McGraw said.
“I normally work in pastels or color pencils, but this book was done in watercolor, something I’d not done before, so it was a departure from my usual style,” she said. “I do thumbnails first, and once they’re done, the story and illustrations change a bit. I redraw larger images, trace them again and then do the watercolor. Since I do my own scans, I know how the colors will turn out.”
So, are there more children’s books that we might see in the near future from McGraw?
“I have three other children’s books that I need to illustrate and pitch to my publisher, but for now, I’m giving my head a rest,” she said.