Seattle power couple, Chris Ballew and Kate Endle, are at it again. And we’re loving their most recent collaboration—two new board books both you and your tots are going to love. We caught up with the talented duo to get the what, the where and the why on these hot-off-the-press releases. Read on for the scoop!
photo: Allison Sutcliffe
Parents, let’s be honest, when you bring a new kid’s book into your house, it’s gotta be a good one. Because there’s always a chance your tot will ask you to read it over and over and over again, until you can recite it by memory. So when a book comes out that both parents and kids love, you know you’ve got to have it. Enter Penguin on a Scooter and Ocean Motions, the lyrically whimsical new board books illustrated by Kate Endle and written by Caspar Babypants. They’re as catchy as your favorite Caspar songs (c’mon we know you hum them in the car, even when the kids aren’t around), so parents won’t mind snuggling up to read them every night for weeks on end. And Endle’s recognizable artwork means they’ll draw your kids in from page one. Here’s what each book is about:
Penguin on a Scooter
Kids will find a colorful cast of characters in this book that capitalizes on repetitive phrasing that bolsters early literacy skills. From a “disco dancing filly” to “elegant chimpanzees” who are as silly as they are dapper respectable, the comparisons made in this book are as creative as ever.
An early reader that highlights the playful activities of sea creatures, this book is ripe for play along with motions. Young readers can jiggle gently like jellyfish or sway slowly like the seastars while parents read through the pages of this simple story. Our favorite part? That so many Pacific Northwest animals are featured!
In true Caspar Babypants fashion, a free song is available to accompany each book. You can download them at babypantsmusic.com, then let your kiddo “read” along to the music during story time. What a great way to foster those early literacy skills that all parents love!
photo: Brian Kasnyik
Q & A with the Creative Team
RT: Chris, your lyrics have always had such a visual quality to them, so it’s not surprising that you’ve turned to children’s lit. What inspired you to try this new medium?
Kate Endle: When we started dating, Chris would come to my house to work on songwriting for his rock band while I worked on illustrations for a children’s books. He’d occasionally come over to my drawing table and say, “I think I can make the music version of what you’re doing”. Within a few months he had written his first Caspar album, Here I Am!.
Chris Ballew: Kate and I make up songs and funny rhymes all the time and from time to time she will sound the alarm that the fragment we are messing around with is a good candidate for a book. All I really need to do is fall in with her and do the hard work to make that happen. In some ways every song I have ever written could be a book but the ones that really stand out get the full Kate and Chris treatment and come to life.
RT: As a married couple, how do you resolve your creative differences when you’re working on a project like this?
Chris Ballew: We are brutally honest with each other when it comes to looking at each others art and music. That impulse overrides our partnership as husband and wife because the creative part of our relationship is ultimately being created to serve kids and parents, so we have to strive for doing the best we can to make art and music that draws people in.
RT: Kate, who is your favorite children’s author and/or illustrator? What do you love about his or her work?
Kate Endle: Carson Ellis is my current favorite. She has really mastered the watercolor technique quite well. Her work has a vintage folk art feel to it and that is the type of art I am drawn to. I also love Ezra Jack Keats (The Snowy Day, Caldecott winner 1963) for his use of decorative paper and palette. His illustrations have a lovely painterly feel to them. I’m also a HUGE Ed Emberly fan and encourage children to use his how-to drawing books. My mother bought those for me as a child and I continue to use them for inspiration.
RT: Kate, do you have a favorite page from Ocean Motions? How about Penguin on a Scooter? What makes these pages your favorite?
Kate Endle: My favorite spread in Ocean Motions is the orca page. I love the rhyme and I like the palette. My favorite page from Penguin On a Scooter is “Nothing makes me laugh like dirty piggies in a bath,” because people laugh out loud when they read it. Mission accomplished!
RT: We noticed that in both books, kids will find unique animals like woodland deer, belugas and sardines. How do you always manage to keep things fresh and engaging for your young fans?
Chris Ballew: That is a good question! I do feel like I will run out of animals someday, but so far we have only scraped the surface of the animal kingdom. I suppose that someday we will have to start digging deep and do some songs about obscure insects and naked mole rats!
Kate Endle: Because I sell my art at Pike Place Market and Caspar Babypants shows I have a unique opportunity to meet my customers face-to-face. I listen to their requests and if it resonates with me I will make art based on how often I’m asked for certain animals. I just completed my Narwhal, Llama, Sloth series which is direct result of customer requests. However, I’m not really interested in illustrating a naked mole rat!
RT: Kate, we know you spend a lot of time in West Seattle, but where do you go in the city to find inspiration?
Kate Endle: I always love the Land of Nod stores. Their bedding makes my heart hurt; it’s so wonderful. The shop is very well curated with a great sense of design. I collect Japanese folk art and love the Japanese aesthetic so Momo and Kobo are super shops for inspiration. Both Chris and I love junk and antique shops and when we discovered Pacific Galleries in SoDo we really hit the jackpot! I sell at Urban Craft Uprising, too, and am always inspired by the other vendors.
RT: Besides each other, whom do you hope to collaborate with next?
Chris Ballew: Can I go back in time and collaborate with Maurice Sendak?
Kate Endle: I LOVE Land of Nod. I’ve made wall art for them and would love to continue working with them. They’re my go-to store for inspiration and bedding! Chronicle Books, eBoo, Crocodile Creek, IKEA are all companies I would love to work with.
RT: Chris, now that you have five books under your belt, can we expect story times at your upcoming concerts?
Chris Ballew: HA! Maybe! The energy at the shows is a bit high for story time but it could become a fun way to take the energy down before the big finale. That is an interesting idea that I will think about for sure!
Where to Find Them
If you can’t wait to get your hands on these new releases, you can order them online directly through Kate Endle’s Etsy shop, or take your crew to your favorite local indie bookstore to pick them up today. You’ll find copies available at Queen Anne Book Company at the top of the hill, Elliott Bay downtown, or at any of Third Place Books’ three locations. And be sure to keep an eye on Caspar Babypants’ concert schedule where we’re pretty sure he’ll sign your copies after a show if you say, “pretty please!”
Are you and your kids Caspar Babypants fans? Which book do you want to read first? Tell us in the comments below!