Making a PJ Library Book: Yitzi & The Giant Menorah

Have you ever wondered what goes into creating a PJ Library book? Richard Ungar, author and illustrator of Yitzi and the Giant Menorah, takes us behind the scenes with his special video diary series, Picturing Yitzi.

Learn all about how the author takes moments from his story and turns them into drawings and beautiful paintings using a very special technique called watercolor monoprinting. "Mono" means one--so Richard gets to make only one print from each painting that he creates. To make sure that everything is perfect, he does a LOT of planning before starting each painting, including several types of drawings.

First, Richard does drawings with pencil called "thumbnail sketches." These are kind of like brainstorms. Watch below to see how Richard quickly draws an early scene using his pencil:


Next, Richard moves on to rough drawings to lay out the paintings that he will eventually create to make his monoprints. This part of illustrating a book takes the longest. In the video below you can see how Richard uses reference materials and cuts and tapes different drawings together to make the scenes that he's going to paint. He makes so many drawings that the walls of his studio and ceiling are covered in art work!

Finally, it's time to start painting and making prints. Richard uses his drawings as a map to start making paintings on big sheets of plastic or glass. As you can see in this video, he also uses other materials, like linoleum, to create shapes and make stamps. When he's all ready to make the final image, he places his water color paper on to the plastic and makes a transfer--the image that ends up on the paper will be the illustration used in the book. In the video below, Richard shows us how he takes the words from the story and makes the image to match.

Richard also creates small black and white drawings called spot drawings. These illustrations help move the story along on pages where there's mostly text. 

Some of our subscribers in the 7 year old age group will be receiving Yitzi and the Giant Menorah in November. Yitzi is also available online from Amazon and Penguin Random House.

Like the music in the videos? That's PJ Library artist Alicia Jo Rabins' song "Di Greene Cousine." Want to see more? We'll be posting more behind the scenes videos on our Instagram account!

Find Hanukkah activities, recipes, story ideas, and more on the PJ Library Hanukkah hub.


« Find more activities, book lists, interviews, and recipes