Here at Groundwood, there’s nothing we love more than a little peek behind the scenes at how our books are made, so when Roxanna Bikadoroff mentioned that she still had some of her early sketches for The Alphabet Thief written by Bill Richardson, we jumped at the chance to share them with you, along with her explanation of how she designed the Alphabet Thief character.
When coming up with the Alphabet Thief character, the first visuals that popped into my head were of the Chief Blue Meanie from the animated Beatles film Yellow Submarine and of a classic 17th-century highwayman. I also tried to imagine what sort of person she was. What would drive someone to commit such crimes? Perhaps she had never learned to read, so hoarding letters and depriving others of words was her method of compensation or revenge. Like most serial criminals, the Alphabet Thief is after fame and notoriety, hence her flamboyant attire. Perhaps she sees herself as a bit of a Lone Ranger or Caped Crusader, with her steampunk goggles being a modern version of the classic eye mask. Her enormous hat feather is indicative of a highly mercurial nature and her mismatched gloves show an imbalance (like the Chief Blue Meanie’s boots). I’m not really sure where her striped stockings came from, other than I wanted to break up the solid black.
I suppose this somewhat sympathetic antihero, who leaves a trail of altered reality in her wake, can be interpreted as being all right-brained (i.e. stolen letters are hung up as pictures, rather than used in words), while the little girl hero is more the rational left-brained sort, determined to solve a mystery (even dressed like Sherlock, at one point) and restore order to a surreal, dysfunctional world that has ceased to make sense.
When night falls, along comes a peculiar thief who steals each letter of the alphabet, creating a topsy-turvy world as she goes. It seems that no one can stop her, until the Z’s finally send her to sleep so that all the other letters can scamper back to where they belong.
Bill Richardson’s zany rhymes and Roxanna Bikadoroff’s hilarious illustrations will delight young readers with the silly fun they can have with language — and may even inspire budding young writers and artists to create their own word games.