Santa Cruz’s Nadia Krilanovich unveils an illustrated children’s book worthy of attention
Even as a young child, she always knew that when she grew up she wanted to create books for children. “I have vivid memories of being in the fourth grade and saying that what I really wanted to do was illustrate children’s books,” says Nadia Krilanovich, who was born on Depot Hill in Capitola and raised in Santa Cruz.
Not only did this budding artist remain focused on her childhood dream throughout her tenures at Happy Valley Elementary School, Branciforte Junior High, Harbor High School and, eventually, as an art student at Western Washington University in Bellingham, but she had the talent and tenacity to make her dream come true.
This weekend, the Santa Cruz native will return home to celebrate the release of her new picture book, “Chicken, Chicken, Duck!” at a book launch event at 5 p.m. Sunday April 3 at Capitola Book Café. Krilanovich will read from the laugh-out-loud picture book, give a brief presentation of her adventures in publishing, and then invite all to join in the revelry with live music, refreshments and book signing. The event is suitable for all ages.
In this interactive barnyard picture tale designed to be read aloud to pre-readers—or for emerging readers to practice their new skills—we meet an assortment of colorful barnyard characters, then hear their familiar sounds. “Chicken, Chicken, Duck!” is also a good book to read aloud to children in preverbal stages, as it teaches them the names and sound of the animals with rhythmic repetition. The expressive paintings of each of the characters, as well as the pile-up finale, are attractive for readers of all ages.
“Chicken, Chicken, Duck!” is Krilanovich’s second published children’s book, though it is the first book she has both authored and illustrated. The book was recently selected for the Spring IndiKids Next list, which is compiled based on nominations from independent booksellers nationwide.
The idea for the book came to Krilanovich while she was out taking a stroll through a pastoral setting. “I was going for a walk and the words for “Chicken, Chicken, Duck!” started coming into my head,” recounts the author. “I had paintings with chickens, often with floating chickens in crazy gardenscapes. One of my paintings was a stack of farm animals—similar to the picture in the book, but the expressions on the animals are more amped up for the book. I really liked the narrative quality [of the paintings] and I thought they would make a great book. Walking along, the words came to me with a rhythmic quality.”
Many people dream of writing and illustrating children’s books, but juvenile literature is a field that is notoriously difficult to get into—especially for emerging artists and writers. And for those who do manage to catch the interest of a publisher, it’s rare that an author will both write and illustrate their own book. Publishing companies typically rely on a stable of in-house book illustrators to provide pictures that animate the words of children’s books.
“It is really difficult to break into,” says Krilanovich, who didn’t consider the writing aspect of children’s books when she began her studies in Western Washington University’s art program. “There was an illustration department when I got accepted into the school, but it closed simultaneously. So I majored in studio art with an emphasis in drawing.”
Because she knew that what she ultimately wanted to do was create illustrations for children’s literature, she began shaping her assignments toward creating a portfolio for children’s books. Then, one night, the words for her first children’s book, “Moon Child,” came to her.
“Inspiration is one of those things—it falls on me,” says Krilanovich. “The idea comes pretty much complete to me in its first form. So ‘Moon Child’ was like a poem and it landed. When I wrote it, it sounded like something that would work as a picture book. I had the initial draft and I did concept illustrations that went with that.”
As luck would have it, Krilanovich eventually met a professional author/illustrator who liked her work and offered to pass it on to his editor. Like the famous quote by Louis Pasteur, “chance favors the prepared mind”—and Krilanovich was prepared to seize the opportunity when it came her way.
“I had submitted on my own for four years up to that point,” she says. “Meanwhile, I developed my artistic style, developed my writing style and worked on being a good communicator.”
The editor liked the story—though with a caveat. She agreed to turn Krilanovich’s creation into a book, but the poetic text would be accompanied by artwork from an established illustrator. Krilanovich said the lesson from this experience was learning to say, “yes!” when an opportunity presents itself, even if the situation is different from what she’d originally imagined.
“A lot of people were surprised when I agreed to do ‘Moon Child’ without being the illustrator,” she says. “But if you want something badly enough, you have to get your ego out of the way and be pragmatic. I really enjoyed the collaborative process of ‘Moon Child’—and I really learned a lot about how books are made by seeing Elizabeth Sayles’ [the illustrator’s] process.”
The result was not only publication of her first children’s book, but it was her big break into the competitive field of juvenile literature: “After ‘Moon Child,’ my editor said she wanted me to have my own book, as both writer and illustrator. I feel fortunate to have an editor that believes in me.”
And thus, her debut career as a children’s book author/illustrator was born. From the inspiration of those initial barnyard paintings and the rhythm of the words that cascaded in her mind during her countryside walk, Krilanovich set about illustrating her own book.
“I wanted to use close-ups of animals on a white background so it makes their expressions and actions stand out even more than [they would in] a barnyard setting,” says Krilanovich, describing her process. To create the animals, she used acrylic paint on hot press watercolor paper coated with gesso, which fixes the pigment on top of the paper. This way, the paint strokes are layered in relief, akin to a sculpture.
“The pictures are very stylized and almost like a flashcard of the animal,” she explains. “I wanted to condense it down so children could see the picture, understand the name of the animal, and then the next time they see the picture they associate it with the sound the animal makes.”
Getting ready for her book launch celebration, Krilanovich is thrilled. But her creativity hasn’t slowed down—the author recently submitted her debut novel to an editor. The genre? Young adult fiction.
When asked what attracts her to writing stories for younger audiences, she responds, “There are no limitations. I enjoy having an active imagination, and children’s literature is very supportive of that. Nothing’s impossible.”
Nadia Krilanovich will read from “Chicken, Chicken, Duck!” and talk about her adventures in publishing, followed by live music, refreshments and a book signing at 5 p.m. on Sunday, April 3 at Capitola Book Café, 1475 41st Ave., Capitola. For more information, call 462-4415.