Do you own a Salina Yoon book? If you have young children, chances are you do. The prolific author-illustrator has more than 180 titles to her credit—mostly baby board books and novelties for the kinder set. As a new mother, I received many Salina Yoon titles as gifts, from a shiny, glittery shape book to the candles of MY FIRST MENORAH.
But her newest title, KALEIDOSCOPE, a lead novelty book by Little, Brown and Company, introduces Ms. Yoon to a whole new audience—adults. The colorful, swirling, twirling novelty book was created to appeal to both the young and the young at heart, and I can attest that it’s a huge hit at our home.
I talked with Salina about her newest book and the many challenges she encountered during the creation process. Ms. Yoon doesn’t grant many interviews, so I’m thrilled to host her!
Before we begin, though, take a look at the charming trailer, with original music by James Kremsner.
TL: Can you give us the definition of a novelty book…and how do they differ from board books?
SY: Novelty books are books with interactive components, like touch-and-feel elements, lift flaps, plush, glitter or foil accents, pop-ups, lenticulars, sound chips, special die-cuts, and more. Board books simply refer to a book’s binding, which is a book having stiff, board pages that are made to be durable for the very young. Since novelty books do include pop-up books, they can be for older children, while board books are primarily for babies to preschool.
TL: How did you get into designing novelty books?
SY: I’d never heard of “novelty books” until a field trip to Intervisual Books in my early college years. It was years later that I remembered this company and came back to ask if I could intern for them as a book designer. This was my first real exposure to novelties—and I fell head over heels in love! Even after I left the company (to relocate to be with my then-fiancé), I couldn’t get novelties out of my mind! Each novelty is like a puzzle with various pieces having to fit: the format with the concept, the concept with the text, the text with the art, the art with its readers, all in one! I couldn’t find a position in San Diego that would allow me to keep creating novelties except to create them at home and submit to publishers. My first 20+ books were acquired by Intervisual Books, my former employer. That led to Simon & Schuster, Penguin, Scholastic, Random House, and the rest is history.
TL: You are an extremely productive author-illustrator, with almost 200 titles. But you said this time KALEIDOSCOPE pushed you to your creative limits. How so?
SY: My previous titles were all for the babies to kinder market, a market I was very familiar with throughout my now 12-year career. You could almost say I could do these in my sleep. KALEIDOSCOPE was the biggest wake-up call ever. When my publisher acquired this title, the editor envisioned a different kind of book. She envisioned a book that would appeal to adults, while still appealing to children. She wanted a sophisticated approach to the art for an upscale market, appropriate for museum bookstore shelves and specialty gift stores. I had never created art for the adult market, nor had I written for it, so it was a completely new and terrifying challenge. In fact, I wasn’t sure I could pull this off. Several times, I thought this was beyond my abilities, but fortunately, my editor knew different. It took numerous revisions to achieve what it ultimately came to be. This is a new kind of novelty book, even for me!
TL: How differently did the book turn out from your original concept?
SY: At first glance, it may appear to be similar. My original version featured very flat, geometric designs. The rhyming text gave hints to what the design could be; a nautical compass, fireworks, or a cowboy boot’s spur. The concept was simple and direct. After various revisions, the art is now more organic and evocative. It attempts to capture universal moments in our lives that are peaceful, nostalgic, glorious, or inspired. The kaleidoscope lens allows the reader to reflect on those personal moments in a playful and entrancing way.
TL: The kaleidoscope wheel on your book is a multi-faceted clear resin that spins and makes the illustrations shimmer—like the autumn page with leaves that appear to be fluttering in the breeze. What was the design of the original kaleidoscope wheel?
SY: When creating a novelty book, one must always be cost-conscious because the biggest killer of a novelty is its production cost. So I found a very inexpensive kaleidoscope party favor (a toy) from a party store, removed the lens with an X-Acto knife, and placed it in my handmade submission dummy on a rotating wheel. I knew that this particular lens would be accessible to printers in China and reasonably priced since it was on a very inexpensive toy. But to my utter surprise, Little, Brown wanted a bigger, bolder lens regardless of the higher-cost factor. They worked with a manufacturer to customize and mold the gorgeous 2″ faceted lens. It’s very common for publishers to ask me to find ways to cut costs, but this was a rare occasion where the publisher actually allowed me to increase the production budget! It was worth every penny, I think.
TL: It definitely was! How do you hope readers will react to KALEIDOSCOPE?
SY: To start, I hope the readers are of ALL AGES! Most novelties are targeted to the youngest audience. I hope KALEIDOSCOPE breaks that mold, as Rufus Butler Seder’s Scanimation books have (GALLOP, SWING). Some books are just so cool that it appeals to everyone, with or without children at home. I hope readers find the book visually appealing, thoughtful, entertaining, and most of all, surprising. I hope it brings out the child in the reader when spinning the kaleidoscope wheel. And for our youngest readers, I hope it stirs up their imagination and they squeal in delight!
I hope it pushes the boundaries of what books can be, and make a case for keeping printed, bound, hardcover books alive!
TL: KALEIDOSCOPE makes a strong case! You mentioned there was even a “sequel” in the works. Can you leak some advance details?
SY: The sequel is PINWHEEL, due to launch one year from now. The art is near complete. As the title suggests, it has a spinning component, but utilized in an entirely different way from KALEIDOSCOPE. My editor recently told me that when she shared one particular spread in the book with her sales team, it generated applause! *faints* That’s all I can say. I hope to be back to share it with you in depth!
TL: Absolutely! I can’t wait to hear more about it! Thanks so much for sharing your creative process. It was a pleasure chatting with you about your work. I hope folks will visit you at SalinaYoon.com to learn more about your books.
And now, it’s time for the giveaway!
One lucky person will win a signed copy of Salina Yoon’s KALEIDOSCOPE!
Just leave a comment to enter. You get an extra entry for each mention on social media: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc. Just tell me about it in your comment. Entries close the end of March 27th and I’ll “spin the wheel” to choose a winner on March 28th.
Good luck and thanks for visiting!