The overall look of the Shady Pines Story Town project is an intentional and integral part of the brand. Since we tackle all sorts of topics from the silly to the very serious, I wanted this town to feel welcoming and safe. It was important to me that the animal and human characters are kind and fun neighbors.
For that, I needed an illustrator who could create a look that seems familiar and comfortable but is all new. I wanted that classic cartoon look that kids would want to play with, and adults would feel comfortable bringing into their homes.
After a year of searching I found illustrator, Bob Ostrom. Not only were his credentials a great match, but we had instant rapport. Collaboration is key to a project like this and especially important when you are creating some characters from scratch.
As already mentioned, the feature character, Boomerang, was based on my real-life childhood dog. That might sound easy to create from photos. But Bob and I had already decided these illustrations would be done with future animation in mind, that made it more difficult. Bob had to draw this Australian Shepherd with the multi-colored coat in as few lines as possible.
It took over a month!
Halley’s Comet includes not only personality traits, but if you look closely, she has a white mark on one of her front paws. This was done with purpose. It allows Halley to help Boomer know the difference between left and right, a challenge that many kids face.
New characters, like Zulah Talmadge editor of the Shady Pines Gazette, or Scoop, the Cub Reporter, we design together.
Typically, I come up with a back story and a possible “look” for the character and Bob takes it from there. Sometimes where we start is not where we end up.
Notice Zulah is wearing three sets of glasses? That’s because she’s always losing hers. The bag is filled with disguises in case she has to go undercover!
Harold and Edna Sanders were fun. The look for Edna is based on Betty White who is one of the most recognizable and beloved people on TV.
Harold is based on Hugh Beaumont, the father in Leave It To Beaver. Believe it or not, it took some time to come up with the right color for Harold’s cardigan sweater!
With harold and Edna, it was important for these characters to be likeable while projecting stability in the wake of their chaotic, wayward, four-legged children.
Anyway, our newest character, Kimberly Dunworthy, has a really engaging back story. She moved to Shady Pines from nearby River City. Adjusting to life in a small town is a challenge for Kim. But she’s a gal with real gumption. Her friends refer to her as “Keep It Moving” Dunworthy – or, Kim for short.
You’ll learn more about her postal heritage and what impressions she has of her adopted community.
It all comes to life in future stories. There are always new characters showing up in Shady Pines. Meet the current ones HERE
Boomer and Halley Books
Each Boomer and Halley book has 4 life lessons embedded in the story line and highlighted on the page with a PAW mark. Using the perforated bookmark with prompting questions you can find out if your young reader (4-8 years old) understands concepts like: Sportsmanship, Honesty, Manners, Respecting Property, Tolerance, Kindness, and so on.