It’s Halloween! A perfect day to introduce you to a book for year-round fun: THE ITTY BITTY WITCH by Trisha Speed Shaskan and Xindi Yan. I interviewed both creators for a sweet blog post today!
Trisha, what inspired you to write The Itty-Bitty Witch? How did the story evolve?
When I was a child, I lived in a neighborhood full of kids. We played ditch, Sardines, and baseball at the nearby park. Halloween was magical because the kids took over the streets at night, in costumes! Because of my love for Halloween, the first picture book I chose at a RIF event was Tilly Witch by Don Freeman, a story about a witch who feels happy instead of wicked on Halloween! Drat! That story inspired me to write and read witch stories as a child. As an adult, I thought: What if I wrote a story about a witch who is the smallest witch in her class? I was always one of the smallest and/or shortest children in my class. In the early drafts of The Itty-Bitty Witch, Betty Ann Batsworth (the itty-bitty witch) tries to take part in all the activities at school–spells, phys ed, and flying, but falls short. Literally! But the story needed focus, so I centered around one event: The Halloween Dash, a race on brooms. From there, the story took shape.
Trisha, this book isn’t just a Halloween story. What can readers gain from this book any time of the year?
As a child, I played nearly every sport from flag football to basketball. I was often the one girl athlete on a team of boys. Kids called me “short” and “Tommy” since I was seen as a tomboy. I didn’t like being labeled because it set me apart from other kids. Although my height and ability to play on any team was often an asset, I often didn’t see it that way. Betty is similarly given a nickname she doesn’t like (“Itty-Bitty”) but learns that being small can be a strength. Readers can learn the magic of believing in one’s self. Since Betty’s broom is shorter than the other witch’s brooms, she tries different methods to gain speed, but fails. Yet she never gives up. She uses critical thinking and demonstrates perseverance, both traits readers can fly away with!
Xindi, which aspects of Betty Ann’s personality did you want to showcase in your illustrations for The Itty-Bitty Witch? How did you accomplish that?
Betty Ann is a friendly, lovable, little witch. Her small stature is the focus of the story, so the character design process started there. Since she’s innocent and unreserved, I gave her expressive, bright eyes. I also believe she’s a confident girl, even though she experiences temporary defeat in the story. On the first day of school, she rocks her floppy hat, messy, carefree hairdo and a small broom, completely oblivious to others’ stares. Believing in herself is what pushes her to work harder and eventually win the race. The details of her outfit are different than her more “polished” classmates. I chose yellow for her top because it’s the contrasting color to the purple uniforms. Visually she pops out of any composition. Yellow also represents her warm, friendly personality and relentless energy. I was so inspired by the story, I did more than 20 variations on the initial character sketches of Betty Ann. The final design is based on bits and pieces from a lot of them.
How did you choose the illustration style of The Itty-Bitty Witch?
The style of the book was inspired by one personal piece I did of a little witch.
This is a Halloween story with witches and magic, so obviously dramatic lighting, colors and spooky elements are a must! And nighttime is the best setting to show these off.
While creating the scenes where Betty’s trying to fly faster on her broom, I was inspired by comic books and LeUyen Pham’s work. I alternated from full-spread illustrations to spot illustrations to create visual breaks and change the pacing of the story.
Thank you for taking a break from Trick-or-Treating to chat with me about THE ITTY-BITTY WITCH!
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