Guest post from author, Dani Dixon
Intro from Becky
I love, love, LOVE adult coloring books. And I can tell you from personal experience that coloring books are indeed like potato chips-you can’t have just one. But I did noticed a lack of diverse topics when it came to adding a new book to my collection so imagine my excitement when I found Dani Dixon’s Five Nations Coloring Book announcement. Dani’s portfolio of work that includes diversity is impressive as well and I was thrilled when she said “yes” to my invitation to guest post here on MCBD. Enjoy!
My Process for Creating Coloring Books and Activity Books
by Dani Dixon
When I began looking into creating coloring books and activity books, some five years ago, one of the first things I noticed was a lot of these books tended not to have human characters at all. Of those that do, precious few had children of color. As I ventured into this I knew that my books would be unmistakably multicultural. Any kid who saw the cover would know they could use their brown crayon.
But diversity clearly reflected on the cover is more of the result of my process than a starting point.
I have three main goals for these types of books. First, I want the books to teach something. In “Jupiter Elementary: Space and Shapes” there is a ton of science vocabulary, as well as subtle lessons about geometry and the solar system, along with math games.
In “Five Nations: Flora, Fabric and Fauna” kids can color dozens of indigenous plants and animals (The Five Nations are based on five actual countries). In the “13” activity book kids can learn how to write and draw comics. I did quite a bit of research for “Jupiter Elementary” and “Five Nations.” The goal, however, is never for the end-product to feel labored, or like homework.
Even though the books have an educational element they still have to be fun. Fun is the second essential. That could come in the form of complexity, simplicity or wonder. At the end of the day, the books have to be entertaining – even though some are better for relaxing and some present challenges.
There is so much stuff you can put in a book like this, so I’m careful not to go crazy with the content. It can’t feel random. Which leads to the final factor – specificity. Each non-comic or non-novel has the responsibility to expand the universe it is placed in. One may reveal backstory; another may give details about what the world looks like, yet another shows how the sci-fi works. For instance, in the “13” activity book readers get a glimpse at what life was like for characters before Issue #1 of the comic. The “Jupiter Elementary” activity book introduces the main characters, and let’s readers view the school’s unique architecture. The “Five Nations” coloring book shows animals the reader would never see, because the books are novels. I was very precise about the images I sent to my artist. The flora and fauna had to be native to the country, but also present hundreds of years ago, as “Five Nations” is set in the medieval period.
I approach a new coloring book or activity book with as much fervor as the books with higher word counts. For one, there’s nearly as much research involved. My hope is that they add pillars to the worlds I’m creating, while providing readers a way to make the worlds their own.
Dani Dixon is the creator/writer of the comic book series “13” and “M.I.S.//ing” and book series “Five Nations” and “Jupiter Elementary”. You can learn more about her work at DaniDixonBooks.com.