[J]omike Tejido is a multi-talented creative—architect, painter, author, and illustrator. He has illustrated over 100 children’s books, and to add up to his collection are his recently released Anvil titles. Jomike shares his insights on the process of making his new children’s books and the fun and learning you will get from them.
ANVIL: When you write a book, do you think of the illustrations or the story first?
JOMIKE: I think of the visuals first. And if it is an activity book that comes with toys—like my new Claysaurus series—it’s the toys that come first, next the illustrations, then the story. I try to attune my stories to the physical output so they are directed to the kids’ toys.
ANVIL: Why do you like putting activities in your books? What are its advantages?
JOMIKE: When I was a kid, I found reading boring. I often wanted to get a piece of paper and draw the images I saw in books, or get clay to create my own toys out of the ideas I got in storybooks. There was always an itch to create. It was already later in grade school that I wanted to read. That said, I know how it feels to be a non-reader. Therefore, my aim is to create and design books that will capture this market.
My Claysaurus blurb says it all. My titles encourage kids to create and have fun while reading.
Activities in books make the story more of an experience rather than peeking in the window of the author/illustrator’s mind. In activity books, kids can continue the creative process by using the toys to make their own stories. That the kids can actually make something on their own also builds confidence in them.
Let me tell you how Claysaurus came to be. I was teaching a storybook-making workshop and there was one kid who would not follow anything the class did. I suggested that we do dinosaurs out of clay and I got his attention for the rest of the sessions. There were times when he wouldn’t even want to share the clay with the other kids, and that is how I pieced things together to make a dinosaur book that teaches basic values through read and play.
If something has not been made, I will create it. I like to write books with minimal texts to target the early learners. I would love it if my books become instruments to introduce the child to the world of reading. Knowing that I have influenced a kid to love a book—because of its activities, toys, illustrations, and even simple words that make him/her laugh—makes me feel that I have done my part as one of the unorthodox creatives in the industry—an author-illustrator specializing in kid lit.
ANVIL: When you write a book, who do you keep in mind first: kids or parents/guardians?
JOMIKE: I keep the kids in mind. I write for children, not their parents. As much as possible, I break the norms of traditional reading. In grade school, we were taught to sit up straight and hold books with two hands in an upright position. As an industry practitioner, I shall do my best in deviating this structure and turn youngsters to choose books over gadgets, for the sheer pleasure that my tactile experience brings. My books will be remembered as the book they can cut, or smoosh clay into its pages.
ANVIL: What gave birth to the series on Philippine endangered species?
JOMIKE: It started as a commissioned set of books dealing with Philippine animals. I gave it some thought because I did not want to create a mere science book that any researcher can come up with. So I intertwined each animal with psychological and physical aspects that affect a child’s daily life. I though of personifying each animal based on its behavior. If these animals were kids, how would they be like when exposed to the rest of the (animal) society? A Philippine eagle can be annoyingly boastful because everyone treats him like a majestic prince. A mud-bathing tamaraw can be inconsiderate to others in his vicinity. A hyperactive bat must learn to channel his energies into sports. This was the birth of the Anvil Science series.
ANVIL: What made you decide to use bilingual language (Filipino and English) in this series?
JOMIKE: Filipino children need to be bilingual. The case is different back when I was a kid in the late ‘80s. Kids spoke in Filipino and we had a hard time expressing ourselves in spontaneous, conversational English. These ‘80s kids have now become parents, and our children are in the opposite world in terms of language choice, thanks to TV and internet as well. The books I make help bring kids back to appreciating our native language and preserve it.
ANVIL: What can readers expect from this series?
JOMIKE: Each animal you meet in the story learns something out of the basic trait they have. Mostly, I try to relate the animal to a real child’s experience with the world to make a fun, relatable read. By the end of book, there are several animal trivia with humorous cartoon doodles.
ANVIL: What is Claysaurus about? What will children learn from your activity books such as the Claysaurus series?
JOMIKE: Claysaurus is about discovery, mistakes, fear, curiosity, and interacting with the world for the first time—everything a preschooler can relate to. The characters just happen to be something I really love—dinosaurs! Its minimal texts make it a first step to reading for early learners. It is also a good bonding moment for parents and children, as the parent can teach and guide the kid on how to use the book.
Children will enjoy filling in the blank shapes to complete the picture in each spread. Along with this, they subtley learn numbers, opposites, sounds, and other basic things as they improve their dexterity.
ANVIL: How did you come up with name of your characters in the Claysaurus series? What are the character traits of Claysaurus, Trina, Rex, Terry, and Spino?
JOMIKE: The characters came from different dinosaurs that we all know. I’ve got a long neck, a bi-pedal, a horned face and a flier (which technically is not a dinosaur, but a prehistoric creature). I chose them because of their contrasting looks and personalities, and I got to assign their stories based on their behavior.
Claysaurus, a brachiosaurus, is the main character. He is the one I want everyone to relate to. He is friendly, helpful, and inquisitive. Best of all, he is not perfect—just like any real person exploring the world for the first time.
Trina is a forceful and strong triceratops. This is her traits because I want to break gender norms at this early stage of media exposure.
Rex is a hyperactive tyrannosaurus rex, and he loves noise and speed.
Terry is caring pteranodon, and looks after her little brother, Tero.
Spino serves as the antagonist because a spinosaurus is described to be a cunning predator that is able to creep out of water and attack on land. He is my favorite character since he represents everything a child needs to be careful of, and he expresses how the world is not all fun and games. Danger lurks around us, and it is up to us and our thinking skills to deal with the Spinos in our lives.
ANVIL: What kinds of picture books do you plan to work on next?
JOMIKE: Comedy. In 2018, I want to make children LAUGH! 😀
Watch out for Claysaurus clay making videos in its Facebook page.