by Timothy Young
My latest picture book, untitled, comes out on May 28th. You are probably asking yourself “Why would he not give his book a title?” I did give my book a title, I called it untitled. When I originally started thinking about this book it had a different title. I was calling it “Another Stupid Book by Timothy Young.” I liked that title a lot but when I told a school librarian the title she was confused and thought it was a sequel. I started to like that one less so I started thinking that it needed a new title.
The book is about two characters, Carlos and Ignatz, who are waiting for me to tell their story. They are getting frustrated and begin making suggestions about what they could be doing and complain about being stuck in my book. Some of my placeholder titles while I was working on it were That Weird Book or The Ridiculous Book but I wasn’t really happy with those as I was with the original.
The way I work, while beginning the initial stages of writing a story I’m also designing the main characters. I knew I wanted one of them to be a coatimundi, a Central American relative of the raccoon. I had seen a family of them climbing in the mangrove trees on a trip to Mexico and I fell in love with them. The other guy went through some changes (which gets incorporated into the story). He began as a rabbit, but that was too common. He’s been a beaver, a porcupine and a capybara.
While working on the illustrations for a book I often have new ideas for the story. I will re-write as needed to make the book come together. Sometimes the illustrations compliment the words and sometimes they depict something totally different from what the characters are saying. At this point I thought about going to another extreme with the title. For a little while it was called The Incredibly Amazing Adventures of Carlos and Ignatz. I thought the contrast to what I was doing with the story was funny but I was still not completely satisfied.
I started to think of it as untitled. I was thinking about how, if an artist does not give a piece a title it is labeled untitled which then becomes the title. What would happen if I specifically chose that as the title? I started to like it. It would be absurd to call a picture book untitled. I like the absurd. I checked, nobody else has been stupid enough to call a picture book untitled. I then thought of a couple of revisions in which the lack of a title becomes a part of the story. It worked.
Now I had to ask my publisher what they thought. They knew I had not settled on a final title and were being very patient. I approached them with some trepidation, I feared they would never agree to try to market a picture book called untitled. Happily, I was wrong and they loved it, they got it and they were on board with the idea.
So now we have to see what everybody else thinks. I’ve had copies of the book in my hands since April and I’ve read it to a number of schools that I’ve visited. I’m very pleased with their reaction. I keep having to go back to this spread after I’m finished reading because the students want a longer look at the book covers. I had a lot of fun drawing Carlos and Ignatz in the styles of the books I’m parodying.
Thanks, Tim, for sharing the backstory of untitled!
Leave a comment below to win a copy of untitled. Two winners will be randomly selected at the end of the month! (Shall we call this contest entitled?)
If you would like a second chance to win, you can visit Tim’s new blog where you can see the book trailer for untitled and leave a comment there.