This is a tale of two shirts, involving a bit of the best and a bit of the worst—but luckily the former prevails. In honor of the comically strong-willed star of Z Is for Moose (Greenwillow, 2012), written by Kelly Bingham and illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky, Caldecott Medalist Zelinsky (who has a history of creating neckties based on his book art) designed a Moose-inspired pattern. After Photoshopping together in a grid all the pages from that alphabet book, Zelinsky created a multicolored, decorative pattern that he then had transferred onto fabric. He commissioned his tailor in Hong Kong, whom he had met on his way to China to oversee the printing of 2002’s Knick-Knack Paddywhack, to make him the shirt seen here.
On September 23, Greenwillow will publish a second Moose story, Circle, Square, Moose, a shape book in which the hero stubbornly refuses to obey when the narrator insists he leave. Deciding that he needed a new shirt to celebrate Moose’s return, Zelinsky designed a number of potential motifs (in which Moose proves himself quite the contortionist).
But the illustrator was stumped. “Unfortunately, I didn’t prefer any one design over the others,” he explained. “I ran in circles trying to decide which was the best, and finally decided not to make the decision myself.” Zelinsky opted to crowdsource the choice at BEA, and created a placard displaying nine of his dozen-odd choices. Greenwillow senior editor Martha Mihalick circulated it to solicit votes from those waiting in line at Zelinsky’s autographing session for Circle, Square, Moose, and HarperCollins integrated marketing manager Preeti Chhibber, pictured below, later displayed the placard at the publisher’s booth so that others could weigh in.
But since the BEA polling didn’t bring in a deluge of votes, Zelinsky decided to extend the voting online. “It didn’t seem right to stop so soon,” he recalled. “So that night I took the fabric picture files and posted a survey on [online survey company] SurveyMonkey. I announced on my Facebook page and on Twitter that it would stay up for a week. People voted – not in massive numbers, but they voted.”
The online voting choices reflected the exact same distribution as the BEA voting, and Zelinsky kept the survey open for about a week longer than his original plan. When the results were tallied, below, “a solid blue background won hands down, second came a striped/checked blue one, and a solid yellow background was third, with all the others trailing far behind,” according to Zelinsky.
The artist then ordered test prints of fabric swatches of the top five designs from online design company and community of fabric designers. When he saw them printed, below, Zelinsky found himself wishing that the second-place pattern had won. So he cast his vote by ordering cotton sateen fabric from Spoonflower in two designs – the first and second top choices – to send to his Hong Kong tailor.
Though he’d been told that the shirts would arrive in early September, late one night in the third week of August Zelinsky received word that they would reach his doorstep two days later. A look at its USPS tracking page showed that they would actually be delivered in one day. And then Murphy’s Law kicked in: the tracking information also showed that the tailor had accidentally addressed the package to the building across the street.
The next day, Zelinsky arranged for a note to be left for the mail carrier at that location, and then, he said, “I just hoped. When I e-mailed the tailor asking him again to try to change my address, he replied that if there's any problem delivering, the carrier will simply phone my number, and he wrote a phone number I didn't recognize. When I get involved in anything, it starts to get more and more complicated!” (Or had Moose’s shenanigans come into play?)
That evening, the USPS tracking page informed Zelinsky that a delivery had been attempted and a notice left. Zelinsky staked out the entrance to the neighboring building, hoping to gain access to the lobby if a resident came in or out. “Even though the building must have at least 75 apartments, I had no luck,” he said. “Then later that night my wife discovered a notice of attempted delivery pinned to the bulletin board in our own lobby.”
The following day, Zelinsky at last retrieved the wayward package from the post office. “It was exciting, and a big relief to have it in hand,” he said. “That night, I e-mailed the tailor, who I think was even more relieved.” Displaying patience unknown to Moose, the illustrator restrained from opening the shirts, below, until speaking with PW by phone several days later. The package’s contents made the wait worthwhile.
“The shirts look fantastic—I’m extremely pleased,” said Zelinsky. And, he added, “they definitely fit!” – a remark borne out by the following photo. The artist has made the top three vote-winning patterns viewable, and purchasable, on the Spoonflower site, where fans can order them (and designs based on a number of his other books), to be printed on fabrics, wallpaper, decals, and giftwrap.
With the arrival of Zelinsky’s two new shirts – along with a replacement for his shirt based on Z Is for Moose – it looks as though Moose won’t be getting off his back for quite some time. And that suits the illustrator just fine.