KidLit TV is honored to reveal the book cover for THIS WAY, CHARLIE
written by Caron Levis, illustrated by Charles Santoso!

All the animals at the Open Bud Ranch can see that Jack likes keeping his space to himself—but when Charlie arrives, he doesn’t see Jack at all. He’s still getting used to seeing out of only one of his eyes.

The two get off to a bumpy start. At first, Jack, is anxious and distrustful. But one day, he summons his courage and guides Charlie to his favorite sunlit field: this way, Charlie. And so begins a powerful friendship, which gets tested by life’s storms—but ultimately changes each life for the better.

From the award-winning team behind Ida, Always comes a sensitive, nuanced story about kindness, patience, and love—and the importance of understanding and accepting one another’s challenges and differences. 

C to C:

Q & A between illustrator Charles Santoso and author Caron Levis on their forthcoming book This Way, Charlie

Caron asks Charles:  how did you decide on the image for the cover of THIS WAY, CHARLIE?

Charles: I was really drawn to the book title and wanted to convey the feeling of the words when I started to work on the cover. Friendship and being open are crucial parts of the story for me, therefore the main interaction between the two characters and morning light for the setting felt suitable for it. I hope viewers can almost hear Jack the goat saying the words to Charlie the horse in their mind and feel the heart of the book when they see the cover.

Charles asks Caron:  how did you come up with the title, for THIS WAY, CHARLIE?

Caron:  The book was always going to be about the relationship between Charlie a blind horse, and Jack, a goat, who come together in an unexpected friendship, but when I started playing with it, I didn’t know exactly WHO Jack and Charlie were or HOW they would come together. Discovering that THIS WAY, CHARLIE was the title for this book went hand in hand with my finding my way into the personalities and details of the story. Looking through my digital draft files I see that shockingly I don’t have a single draft with a different title. Usually, my typed drafts change so much that titles change too. So, either I did a lot more handwritten drafts than usual (I’m answering this away from my files) OR, perhaps my process for this was slightly different because I saw it as a companion to IDA, ALWAYS. I wanted this book, like IDA, ALWAYS, to have a piece of the heart of the story in its title. In both books, the heart of the story came from the relationship between the characters. As it turns out, both titles contain a phrase that one character said to the other. I wish I could say I was wise enough to have repeated that in THIS WAY, CHARLIE on purpose, but alas, I only see it in retrospect. The title, only came to me after a lot of brainstorming, lists, and hair twirling—I’ll follow up more on this if I find any more handwritten clues into my own early draft brain!

Caron asks Charles: will you talk a bit about how you got started on Charlie?

Charles: Research always plays an important part in my process (of course after understanding the words and story). I went to the library (and online) to do lots of research on horses, goats and other farm animals. I did many studies and sketches while thinking about how to visually represent them in the book, how much stylization should I go for, etc. In the end, I wanted the book to have a similar flavor to the IDA, ALWAYS book but also have a unique style to it. IDA, ALWAYS was all about the sky, clouds, and stillness of moments, and for this book, I had ‘wind’ and ‘movement’ in my mind. I wanted to focus on the air that the characters breathe and feel. I ended up absorbing lots of inspirations from Claude Monet and other impressionist painters for the visual style of this book.

Charles asks Caron: where did the ideas come for the book and the characters?

Caron: Several years ago, a friend showed me a PBS special about unusual animal friendships, that had a segment on Jack and Charlie: a blind horse who had come to sanctuary and was befriended by a goat who helped lead him to pasture every day for many years—and even came to the horse’s rescue during a storm! The story of this unexpected duo, the loyalty, the meeting of challenges together moved me for what it says about the depth of animal friendships. The story also immediately reminded me of a particularly special friendship between two kids I’d once worked with: how they had both admired each other’s very different strengths and learned to navigate each-others very different developmental and physical challenges. I loved watching how they stuck together through both the easy days and the conflicts, and ultimately helped each other grow as they got closer. Jack and Charlie reminded me of many more friendships as well, including my own.  I thought it would make an important story for a picture book so I tucked the idea away. Other than a scribbled note somewhere, I didn’t work on it for a few years. Then, in 2016, a book I wrote called IDA, ALWAYS published ;) and I loved working with the illustrator and editor of that book so much I wanted to come up with another story for us to turn into a book together.  One day Jack and Charlie popped into my mind. Having a team I was writing it for, really motivated me to work around the clock until I figured out the story. There were no guarantees you or Emma would want to do it, but it was always your book in my mind and so I wrote with crossed fingers and toes. Thankfully, you decided to walk with me on this one and have brought THIS WAY, CHARLIE to the sunniest field.

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Executive Producer: Julie Gribble 


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