|photo: Stephanie Coffey|
Kass Reich has lived all over the world and worked as an early childhood educator before becoming an illustrator of picture books. Now a resident of Toronto, she works primarily with graphite, colored pencils and gouache. Her titles include Dr. Coo and the Pigeon Protest by Sarah Hampson; Carson Crosses Canada; Hamsters on the Go; Up Hamster, Down Hamster; and This Little Hamster. With Megabat (available August 7, 2018, from Tundra Books), she finds a perfect writing partner in Anna Humphrey, matching her adorable depictions of the bat with Humphrey's hilarious and poignant narrative.
What was your first thought when you started reading Megabat?
I remember thinking that eight-year-old me would have been 100% obsessed with this book.
Did you work closely with Anna Humphrey, or did you just take the book and run?
Initially I just took the book and ran. I was almost finished illustrating the book when I finally met Anna in person. She was in town and we met up for coffee. Several months later, I saw her again at an event where we sat together signing advance copies of the book. We were asked multiple times if we were close friends. I guess we just gave off that vibe, even though we mostly worked on this project separately.
Did you know right away how Daniel, Megabat, Talia and the others would look?
I definitely played around with their looks. I draw out every character I illustrate about a dozen times. I think it's important to give yourself options instead of settling on the first idea that comes to mind.
Which Megabat illustration was most fun to do? Which was most challenging?
I probably had the most fun illustrating Megabat eating the jelly roll. It's the first time readers see his face in the light and I was eager to capture his overall adorable-ness. I had the most difficulty trying to figure out how Megabat's body would look when he did his Luke Skywalker-inspired moves with the juice box straw. A bat wielding a straw like a lightsaber isn't something you can easily find references for on the Internet.
What kind of research did you do in preparation for Megabat? Or were you already a fruit bat expert?
Definitely not a fruit bat expert. Don't get me wrong, I love all animals, including bats, but I had to do serious bat-related research before I started. Imagining how he would use his wing tips as hands to hold things was particularly tricky.
You do a lot of your artwork in graphite--what about this medium do you like?
I'm a big fan of texture. I love being able to see that an artist did something by hand. That's why I use graphite for work in grayscale and gouache paint layered with colored pencil for my work in color. The more texture the better! --Emilie Coulter