Thursday, May 12, 2016

SIGN HERE. . . OR THERE . . . OR . . .

by Elizabeth Rose Stanton

I’ve always been interested in how authors and illustrators sign their books. 
I doubt most people give it a second thought, unless you are one. I certainly didn’t until my own books came out, and these are some of the questions I faced:
Where do I sign? The title page? The endpapers? Should I sign the way I sign a check?  
Or with a flourish? What do I do if I make a mistake? I’m also an illustrator, so do I draw a little picture? Do I write a little pithy something that relates to something in the book? Should I date it?

Well, I soon discovered there are as many answers as there are question about this, so here’s a little romp through some of the picture books in my collection, including how we Whatsits sign some of our books.
First up! Let's start with a fresh-off-the-press signature! This week was the release and book launch party for our fellow Whatsit Jennifer K. Mann’s newest picture book gem, SAM AND JUMP. Here is Jennifer in action, signing her first copy (mine!) of the evening:

 Congratulations, Jennifer and welcome to the world, SAM AND JUMP!!

My first “witnessing” of an author-illustrator book signing was when I went to my now fellow Whatsit Ben Clanton's book party for the release of his (always, but especially now, timely) book, VOTE FOR ME. Like Jennifer, Ben did it all:  wrote a little note, signed on the main title page, and drew a little picture – although he turned to the front endpapers to do it! I was impressed with the time Ben took with each book—especially when there was a little person in front of him. Note that Ben signs his name in that kid-friendly way of his,
"Ben C." 

As I've collected signed picture books over the last few years, I've noticed the variation in approaches to how authors and illustrators sign their books:

Here's one of my favorites. It's simple and elegant: 
And,  quite honestly, if you are Paul O. Zelinsky, and the book is RUMPELSTILSKIN, well, there's not much more that's necessary, right?
That said, here's how he signed my copy of TOYS COME HOME. Somehow the title page got slightly damaged, and here's what he did with it!

While it's always a little thrill to have an illustrator draw something in your book, here are some who sometimes don't . . . and they have attractive ways of writing their monikers:

I like that I got a "ribbit" from David Wiesner

. . .  and Kadir Nelson's— neatly tucked into the moon:

Oliver Jeffers was quick about it:
Some people like their books straight-up signed—no personalization. But for those who do, there are some books with a handy spot built right in:

Ruth Chan also drew me a sweet little picture of her character Georgie (not to mention mentioning Henny and Peddles . . . I love it when my friends do that!). 

And David Ezra Stein's OL' MAMA SQUIRREL has the possessive built in, too:

It's fun to see how some illustrators handle the picture-drawing-part.

There's the obvious BIG picture:

and the little picture:
What's not to love about Caldecott honoree Molly Idle's little flamingo flourish!

Sophie Blackall's tiny wombats are to die for:

I love the way Whatsit Wendy Wahman punctuates her signature with this perfectly petite poodle:

And the colored picture:
Liz Wong uses a marker that's a perfect match for her name on the title page. Her sweet little drawings look like they are part of the book! 

Mike Curato had some Tombow markers handy to put the finishing dot touches on Little Elliot: 

Then there are those who prefer to sign on the blank front end paper:

    Herve Tullet is BOLD:
    Carson Ellis is simple:

    Whatsit Kevan Atteberry is hoppy:


Then there's the enexpected and delightful that goes along with being at book events with fellow authors and illustrators . . .
I was on an author panel recently with the fun and funny Aaron Meshon. We exchanged books, and he took the time to draw little faces on all the figures on the front endpapers of his new book (not to mention the clouds):

I was tickled silly that Sherman Alexi actually drew a HENNY when he signed his book for me:

And one of my absolute favorites was when Judy Schachner paired up one of her sweet kitties with Henny:

And quite the unexpected happened when I botched signing a copy of HENNY for Mayor Ed Murray of Seattle. I made good on my mistake (I still wonder who Felix is) and gave him a fresh copy, and then . . .
He graciously turned around and signed the one I'd screwed up— for me! Thanks for the souvenir, Your Honor!

Finally, there's always the dilemma of how to get signed books to people who want them, but are far away. The long answer is:  they send you the book, you sign it, and you send it back. The short answer is:  the signed bookplate!
They come in handy, and I have a good supply for PEDDLES and HENNY from my publisher:

And here's one from Matthew Cordell from a wonderful book promotion he did when his book HELLO! HELLO! was released (I even got an extra for a friend):
I still have many unsigned and undecorated books in my collection, and I'm looking forward to someday connecting them to their author and/or illustrators.
I can't wait to see how they do it!



  1. What a fun post!! I love seeing all the illustrator doodles & signatures!!

    1. Thanks, Constance! It was super fun looking through all my books. There are so many more I wish I could have included!

  2. So fun! You have a great collection of books and autographs. I love that Mayor Ed Murray signed your Felix book! And Sherman Alexie drew Henny!!

    1. Thanks, Dawn! They are among my favorites . . . and go with some great memories (SA even put on my Henny hat :) )!!

  3. So cute and fun! What a treasure trove of memories for you.

  4. My favorite post ever! I love seeing what people choose to write or draw inside their books, especially for their favorite fans! Thanks for sharing all the great photos.