The Day Leo Said... cover

The Day Leo Said, "I Hate You!"

Written by Robie Harris
Illustrated by Molly Bang

First published in 2008

About the Story
One strict rule in children’s books is to never have the author and illustrator communicate—until the whole book is finished. For Robie Harris and me, that rule just didn’t make sense.

Andrea Spooner, my editor at Little, Brown, called to ask if I might illustrate a book by Robie about how a mother deals with (the very rare) times a child gets so angry s/he says “I hate you!” to Mom. This is not a subject I was particularly interested in, but I was between other projects, and I admire Robie’s books, so I said I would look at the text.

The text was good. I painted a couple of test pictures and emailed copies to Robie and Andrea, who both liked them. But I didn’t. Something wasn’t working, and while I couldn’t figure out exactly what it was, I also knew I wanted to stretch and do something different from what I’d done before. This subject needed a different style from ones I’d used before. Maybe it might be fun to illustrate with Photoshop, a medium I hadn’t played with yet.

So I cut out paper figures of Leo and his Mom, and then I asked a friend who lives across the street, Charlie Kleindinst, if I could take pictures of his room: his bed, his stuffed animals, his favorite toys. At the time, Charlie was especially fond of his stegosaurus and of his stuffed dog. (He was even more fond of his real dog, Java, but I didn’t need a real dog in the book.)

I do love playing with Photoshop. You can distort the photos and enlarge them, change the colors, turn them upside down or backwards, and paste bits and pieces of one picture into another – or lots of pieces into one whole. So that’s what I did, and I like the result.

My only disappointment is that I don’t have any actual original pieces of art for the book: it’s all somewhere hidden inside the computer.

I almost forgot: I would send the pictures for Robie to see, and she made lots of comments. Some I agreed with, and I would change the pictures. Some I didn’t agree with, and so I didn’t make those changes. I did the same thing for the text: I would tell Robie what I thought should be changed, and she generally listened and then ignored me, but we both got to voice our opinions and we both got to listen and be heard. And we got to be friends. So communication between author and illustrator in this case was both fun and helpful.

Sometimes breaking the rules is a good idea.

copyright 2018 by Molly Bang