In 1998, David Shannon’s eponymous mischief maker blew onto the picture-book scene in No, David!, coloring on the walls, tracking mud on the carpet, and smashing a vase with a baseball—much to his mother’s consternation and to readers’ delight. Shannon followed that Caldecott Honor Book with three more David capers—and will bring back his irrepressible hero in Grow Up, David! in August, two decades after his first appearance and eight years after his most recent outing, in It’s Christmas, David! In his new adventure, due from Scholastic’s Blue Sky Press, David taunts and tangles with his older brother. Case in point: David gives his sibling an unwelcome wake-up call on the cover of Grow Up, David!, revealed here.
The real-life David’s creativity emerged early—at the age of five, in fact. Shannon wrote and illustrated a “book” featuring pictures of him doing things he was not supposed to do—as well as the words (“No, David!”) those actions invariably evoked—which happened to be, Shannon explained, “the only words I knew how to spell.” The author’s mother kept his debut book, and years later, he recalled, “She pulled it out of her magic closet, where she kept a lot of my childhood drawings. I looked at the drawings I’d made of me doing things like getting into a box of Christmas ornaments and stealing cookie dough—and it occurred to me that they might make a good picture book.”
At the time, Shannon was creating “fairly realistic drawings” for A Bad Case of Stripes, and began illustrating No, David! in a similar style. “But that wasn’t working, and the drawings just sat there and sat there,” he said. “The project seemed to have lost its charm and energy, and I asked myself what it was about my childhood book that I’d responded to—and realized it was the pictures. So I started to draw as a five-year-old would, using stick figures and adding words that my mom always said to me, which I’d memorized as a kid. When No, David! became a success, it was great—but a little depressing. I began to worry that maybe I’d peaked at five—and that it would be all downhill from there!”
That, of course, was hardly the case, as readers eagerly followed David as he created subsequent mayhem in David Goes to School, David Gets in Trouble, and It’s Christmas, David!, which (along with the original book and four 2005 titles in the spinoff Diaper David board book series) currently have a total of 13 million copies in print in North America.
The Continuing Momentum of Two Davids
No, David!’s illustrative style immediately struck the fancy of Shannon’s longtime editor, Bonnie Verburg, founder, v-p, and editorial director of Blue Sky Press. “The pencil dummy was irresistible,” she remembered. “The illustrations had a childlike, stick-figure authenticity that made me feel as if a little troublemaker had drawn each picture himself. David bounds across each page with the unstoppable energy of a boy who is determined to not only run out the back door, but also run out of the book itself. Shannon’s masterful use of perspective helped me see the world from David’s point of view, which made me sympathetic with the character and his good intentions.”
Shannon, who has illustrated or written and illustrated more than 35 books to date, noted that he hadn’t anticipated adding to his David oeuvre after he published It’s Christmas, David! in 2010. “I’d always wanted to do a Christmas David book, since Christmas is the perfect storm for getting in trouble,” he explained. “Parents are on edge, grandma is coming, there are sweets everywhere—oh, and the presents! But after that I decided I didn’t want to do another book about David.”
Then his editor dropped a hint that he found he couldn’t ignore. Since the Blue Sky Press marks its 25th anniversary in 2018, he said, “Bonnie suggested it might be nice to have a David book on the list this year, and I started thinking maybe it would be good to do something in my comfort zone in these times since the election, when there is so much chaos and so much up in the air. I’m a younger brother, and I’d been thinking about doing a book exploring the relationship between two brothers—and so I put that idea together with the idea of a new David book.”
Shannon again reached back to his own childhood to ensure that Grow Up, David! rang true. “For some reason, I remember experiences from my past very clearly—even though I often can’t remember my Social Security number,” he quipped. “For this book, I started jotting down things my brother and I used to say and do. And, as with the earlier David books, I started out with individual drawings and phrases and then pulled the story together as scenes began to emerge.”
From Verburg’s perspective, Shannon “hits the bull’s eye, as usual” with his latest David episode, tapping into a universal and timeless theme and creating a fresh visual look. “Anyone who has a sibling will immediately recognize the familiar rivalry among brothers and sisters,” she observed. “And in terms of his art style, David never repeats himself, even in this series. He is constantly growing and evolving as an artist and storyteller. In Grow Up, David!, we continue to see the world from David’s point of view, but the use of line, color, lettering, and composition differs. Nothing is arbitrary or accidental. Each smudge of color and placement of art is carefully planned—with the intent of evoking a response in the reader.”
Verburg added that, although it is always “a thrill” to publish a new Shannon book, she is “particularly grateful” that Grow Up, David! will be released in her imprint’s 25th anniversary year, since “the first book he wrote, How Georgie Radbourn Saved Baseball, was published by Blue Sky in our first year.” The publisher is also celebrating the 20th anniversary of No, David! with the August release of the first board-book edition of the title.
Can fans look forward to another appearance of troublemaking David in the future? “I’d been saying ‘no more David books’ for quite some time before I did Grow Up, David!, so by now I guess I’ve learned not to say ‘no more,’ ” Shannon replied. “If a concept presents itself that would be fun to do, and would be a good addition to the collection…well, we’ll see.”
Grow Up, David! by David Shannon. Scholastic/Blue Sky, $17.99 Aug. ISBN 978-1-338-25097-8
¡Crece ya, David! (Spanish Edition) by David Shannon. Scholastic/Blue Sky, $6.99 paper Aug. ISBN 978-1-338-29951-9
No, David! (board book) by David Shannon. Scholastic/Blue Sky, $6.99 Aug. ISBN 978-1-338-29958-8