Cars, trucks, buses, trains, trolleys, motorcycles, and bikes are in colorful motion in Everything Goes on Land, the kick-off title in Brian Biggs’s Everything Goes series from HarperCollins’s Balzer + Bray imprint. Published this month, the large-format picture book follows a father and son as they drive through a bustling city, and provides a lighthearted look at the workings of a variety of vehicles. This is the first solo effort by Biggs, who has illustrated many books, including the Brownie & Pearl series. Two additional picture books will follow: Everything Goes in the Air in fall 2012 and Everything Goes in the Sea in fall 2013. The series will also include I Can Read titles and board books.
Biggs explains that the idea for the project was sparked by a conversation he had with his agent, Steven Malk of Writers House, about the possibility of Biggs both writing and illustrating a picture book. "I had a lot of ideas for picture books, but none of them struck me as the project for my first book," he says. "One thing that fueled the idea for Everything Goes was seeing kids’ interest in my drawings of cars when I visit schools. When I show them my cars they cheer as if I was offering to take them all out for ice cream. As a child I had hundreds of Hot Wheels and my dad was a race car mechanic—I was always around cars. Visiting schools, I realize that cars still resonate with kids today. "
To research Everything Goes on Land, Biggs relied on Google Images (which he calls “my hero”) to help him create a folder containing thousands of photos of cars, trucks, and trains. "I love finding vehicles with something unusual about them,” he says. “When I drew the cars and other vehicles, I added something goofy to them to make them mine. I like cars with personality."
Biggs, who quite fittingly works from a studio in an old garage next to an auto shop, called on the expertise of his own mechanic to get the facts just right. "He gave me a bunch of books showing things like cross-sections of engines and how a fuel system works," he says. "Since I have a 12-year-old son and a 10-year-old daughter, I have a history of explaining things in a way kids will understand, but describing how a car works in a simple and accurate way was a little harder than I thought. My mechanic was very generous with his time, and I’m giving him one of my first copies of the book." Biggs also worked the name of his mechanic’s shop—Melnick Motors—into the book’s art.
Series Finds a Welcoming Home
Donna Bray, co-publisher and v-p of Balzer + Bray, says she was thrilled and jumped at the opportunity when Malk shared with her Biggs’ proposal for the Everything Goes series. "I’ve been a fan of Brian’s art for a long time, and especially love his adorable vehicles, which have so much personality," she notes. "In fact, when we first met, he gave me a copy of a French book he’d published in 2004, Un mode de transport, a kind of funky precursor to Everything Goes. I’d worked with him on other picture books, but always knew he’d come back to vehicles."
What makes Everything Goes on Land "truly special and unique," Bray observes, are the many things that Biggs packs into the book, including recurring jokes, mini storylines that weave through the pages, a challenge to find the numbers 1 to 100 that are hidden throughout the book, how-things-work cutaways, and such fanciful images as a bird wearing an array of hats. "But what unifies all these elements is Brian’s genuine love of all vehicles and the joy he brings in drawing them, including the kinds of funny details and silly jokes that kids get a kick out of," she says.
From the start, in-house enthusiasm for Everything Goes ran sufficiently high that the publisher decided to expand the concept into other formats."The picture books are the anchors of the program, but everyone was so incredibly excited about the series that we felt it could appeal to an audience beyond picture books," Bray says. "There is such a need for boy-friendly beginning readers that we felt Everything Goes offered the perfect opportunity to launch a new program in the I Can Read line. And Brian’s chunky, round vehicles are so appealing, we thought they’d be perfect for board books as well." The first I Can Read title, Everything Goes: Henry in a Jam, is due in February 2012.
Librarians and booksellers are also keen on the series’ launch title, Bray reports, saying it was "probably the most enthusiastically embraced of our picture books at ALA this past June." Jennifer Brenninger of the Doylestown Bookshop in Doylestown, Pa., remarks, "This is a book that you look at over and over again and still find new things. It’s a really great interactive picture book, which will be great to handsell. It just makes me smile."
HarperCollins is rolling out Everything Goes on Land with a print run of 75,000 copies and a national media campaign, and is distributing a full-color poster with activities to booksellers, educators, and librarians. A dedicated Web site features a downloadable “road trip” event kit with search-and-find activities, car facts, games for backseat travelers; and an animated trailer. Publicity events are planned in Biggs’s home state of Pennsylvania, and he will participate in the NAIBA Fall Conference’s Movable Feast in Atlantic City on September 21.
Biggs is gratified that some early Everything Goes on Land readers have compared his book to the work of Richard Scarry, of whom he’s a longtime fan. Commenting on PW’s review of the book, which referenced the art of Scarry and Martin Handford, Biggs says, "When I first pitched the book, I described the idea as if Richard Scarry, David Macaulay, and Martin Handford all got together and did a book, and that was the aim all along the process. I’m very happy that PW picked up on that. Those shoes are some big ones, and I don’t expect to have filled them. I’m just pleased to be mentioned in the same breath."
Everything Goes on Land by Brian Biggs. HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray, $14.99 Sept. ISBN 978-0-06-195809-0