First from Ian Falconer’s rich imagination came Olivia, the feisty, tenacious heroine whom the author-artist introduced in the piglet’s eponymous picture book back in 2000. Now come Augie and Perry, twin dachshund brothers who headline Falconer’s Two Dogs, due from Michael di Capua Books at HarperCollins on June 28 with a 100,000-copy announced first printing. The picture book’s cover, designed by Ann Bobco in tandem with Falconer and di Capua, is shown here for the first time.
Originally slated for release in 2020 but delayed in large part by the Covid outbreak, Two Dogs landed at di Capua’s imprint quite some time after a serendipitous encounter between the editor and Falconer at a publishing party the year that Olivia hit bookstore shelves.
Though the two had never met before the event, di Capua had admired the author-illustrator’s work since reading Olivia, a Caldecott Honor book that launched an eight-book series from Atheneum that has sold more than nine million copies in almost 50 languages.
“I was curious to know what the buzz was all about, so I picked up a copy of the book,” the editor recalled. “I was blown away by the absolutely irresistible charm of Olivia in Ian’s text and unique portrayal of her. When I met Ian, I told him, and I meant it sincerely, that Olivia was the first book I had ever read that I had not published and wished that I had!”
Forging a Creative Partnership
Falconer and di Capua kept in touch after that meeting and agreed that someday they would do a book together, one outside of Olivia’s realm. Opportunity eventually knocked when the author approached di Capua with his idea for a story about twin dogs with vastly dissimilar temperaments who escape outdoors when their owners leave them alone.
The characters’ breed was a natural choice for Falconer, who said he grew up with dachshunds as family pets. “I really know their personalities. So, Augie and Perry came pretty easily to me.”
And the author has another inherent connection to these characters. While Olivia was inspired by Falconer’s niece, Augie and Perry are loosely based on his twin nephews. The canines’ divergent antics immediately won over di Capua. “The interplay between the dogs’ personalities is basically the fundamental part of the fun,” he said. “Augie is gloom and doom—worrying all the time—and Perry is ebullient, happy-go-lucky, and up for anything. They are oil and vinegar—and they make a great salad.”
According to Falconer, he and di Capua have had a complementary working rapport from the start. “Michael is an extraordinary editor,” the author noted. “I am good with words, but he is better. He points things out that might not have occurred to me, and he is just marvelous with language. Michael is what you go to an editor for.”
Completing the Collaborative Mix
In addition to contacting di Capua about Two Dogs, Falconer reached out to Ann Bobco who, as executive art director at S&S for more than two decades, had worked with Falconer on the entire Olivia catalogue. After leaving the company in August 2018, Bobco became a freelancer, and eagerly signed on to oversee the art direction and design of Two Dogs.
The author also welcomed the reunion, noting, with a droll twist, “Ann and I have worked closely together on all of my books and, despite the fact that she sometimes has her own ideas—which I try to discourage—I think she is brilliant and subtle, and I am so happy she is working with me on Two Dogs.”
The project involved Bobco’s constant collaboration with Falconer and di Capua—initially in person and largely remotely after March 2020. “For many months after Covid arrived, I worked with Ian and Michael individually—and sometimes the three of us worked together,” she explained. “Eventually the time with Michael increased to daily, multiple updates and check-ins. He is truly the most responsive editor I have ever worked with.”
Solving a Cover Conundrum
Deciding on the final cover design for Two Dogs was a rather lengthy, yet ultimately gratifying process. “First, I noodled,” Bobco recalled. “Then Michael and I agreed to use existing art Ian had created of the two dogs, but they were small in the cover space, standing at five inches tall atop a large typographic title. Ian nixed that cover. So, we all went back to think on it.”
A solution didn’t surface immediately. “I was trying to make the figures as big as possible, but you couldn’t read the type at the top of the cover,” Falconer said. “Michael suggested having the type go up the side to make more space for the art, and that worked. He also suggested using white for the type instead of black, and it lightens the whole cover and brings out the white in the dogs’ eyes.” At last, Two Dogs had its cover.
And that cover, to di Capua’s eye, exemplifies Falconer’s sublime skill at conveying personality with the most streamlined of images. “The cover is a potent distillation of the book’s characters,” he said. “The way Ian works his magic with slight, calculated adjustments of expressions and angles of heads tells you everything you need to know about Augie and Perry. This book was a long time brewing, but its story has a very happy ending.”
Two Dogs by Ian Falconer. HarperCollins/Michael di Capua Books, $18.99 June 28 ISBN 978-0-06-295447-3