Weeva Kids - Emotionally Resonant Stories Told With Humor, Style, and Fun
Today, we interview the team at Weeva Kids. They aim to create smart and beautiful books that kids and parents love to read together. Their goal is to impart the love of books to the next generation, while deepening connection and meaning between kids and the people around them. They tell us all about The Colorless Chameleon, a book about using your voice and standing up for yourself.
Please give us a short introduction to what The Colorless Chameleon is about.
Hayley Irvin: The Colorless Chameleon is a book about using your voice and standing up for yourself. Through a series of misunderstandings, Chameleon loses all of her colors. But Chameleon’s colors are essential to her identity and she misses them terribly. After talking with her friend Flamingo, Chameleon realizes what she has to do and sets out to get her colors back.
What inspired you to write this book?
Hayley: As a team, we drew inspiration from Pixar’s Up, Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away, The Bad Seed by Jory John, and The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt. Each of these stories tells an emotionally resonant story with humor, style, and fun, memorable characters, and we hoped to do the same with The Colorless Chameleon.
Why did you decide to create a chameleon who loses all her colors?
Hayley: The idea for The Colorless Chameleon first came to us during a team meeting. We were brainstorming ideas and Tuscan asked, “What if a chameleon lost its colors?” We thought this idea had an incredible amount of creative potential and ran with it.
Sharing is an important theme in this book. Why did you find this important to explore?
Tuscan Knox: When we’re little kids, we’re taught to share, but if you think about it, we rarely talk about relevant boundaries. Sharing your toys is one thing, but should you share your identity or the things that make you uniquely you? No, of course not. In relationships, we need to know when and how to say no.
The book was created by a team. How did you go about deciding who does what?
Hayley: There’s a lot of creative freedom on our team, so the process of writing the book was less about assigning tasks to each other and more about filling in the roles we naturally gravitate towards. Rachel and I gravitate towards storytelling and process, so we each wrote our own draft of the story. Cassidy and Tuscan have tremendous taste and vision and knew exactly what worked and what was missing from each manuscript. Then we reviewed and rewrote as a team until we had something we were really proud of.
Besides writing, what other secret skills do you have?
Hayley: Gardening, though I’m not sure it’s a secret :) I’m also really good at making chocolate chip cookies, and I’m even better at eating them.
Rachel Bostick: Drawing. I’m also an illustrator and I love to draw and paint spooky things.
Cassidy Reynolds: Sewing. I love to make costumes and have had a big quilt kick lately (:
Tell us more about the cover and how it came about.
Rachel: One of my roles as lead designer for our children's books is to match our books with an illustrator whose work best suits the tone and themes in the story. We started out searching online which led us to Samantha Jo Phan, who ended up being our illustrator for the book. She had lots of fun animal characters in her portfolio as well as a rich color palette perfect for a story where color is so central to the plot. We also really loved how she incorporated patterns into her work in a way that resembled folk-art styles, as classic folk tales definitely influenced our story. Samantha ended up using lots of patterns on the cover and throughout the book, which took visual inspiration from traditional African patterns used in art, clothing, etc.
Samantha first sent some initial sketches for the cover, and the one we picked is very similar to the cover you see on the book. We loved all the detail and felt it really reflected the richness and vibrancy of the rest of the book. Samantha's idea to make Chameleon colorless on the cover makes her really pop from the colorful background and hints at what's to come in the story.
How much fun did you have coming up with these storylines and characters?
Hayley: For me, creating the characters was the most enjoyable part of the writing process. Crocodile was an especially fun character to write, and our team had a lot of laughs coming up with his dialogue. Samantha’s illustrations capture the characters really well. They’re vibrant and expressive and so, so fun.
If you could choose one character from your book to spend a day with, who would it be? And where would you take them?
Hayley: It’s a tie between shoe shopping with Lemur and or a day at the beach with Flamingo.
Cassidy: Chameleon, I just love her expressions. She’d make a great charades partner!
Rachel: Definitely Elephant! She’s just so sweet, and I think it’d be really lovely to spend a day outside with her, maybe having a picnic.
Do you have a favorite line from the book, and can you explain what that line means to you?
Hayley: My favorite line is when Chameleon says “NO” after Flamingo asks Chameleon if she’s excited about the party. It’s one word, but it’s a big moment for Chameleon.
What are some of your favorite children's books to give away?
Cassidy: The Winnie the Pooh collection is a time-tested classic. Eric Carle (The Hungry Caterpillar) and Leo Leonnie (Frederick) are absolute favorites to spark creativity in children with the fun illustration styles. And Skippy Jon Jones! It's so fun and Tex-Mex!
Team Answer: We’re completely biased, but we are also very excited about our new series If Not You Then Who? We’ve already released The Inventor in the Pink Pajamas, and we’re about to release Noah’s Treehouse. Our goal is to spark imagination and creativity by introducing kids to everyday inventions. We want to create The Magic School Bus for inventors and entrepreneurs.
What do you hope readers take away from the story?
Hayley: More than anything, I hope young readers walk away believing that their voice is valuable and deserves to be heard.
Cassidy: I hope that a reader takes away that it’s okay to have emotions and to express them.
Rachel: Communicating is hard, and talking about our feelings can be even harder. But I hope Chameleon’s story will help young readers have the courage they need to openly and honestly communicate their feelings.
What are you working on right now?
Hayley: In addition to assisting with other projects in the Weeva Kids pipeline, our team has also begun work on our next original story, tentatively titled The Memory Keeper, about a little girl looking for lost memories.
Where can our readers discover more of your work or interact with you?
Hayley: Readers can visit bookstore.weeva.com or kids.weeva.com to check out other Weeva books and join our mailing list. To stay up-to-date on new releases and interact with the team, readers can follow us on Facebook.