The making of Zoopakr by Tatyana Devayeva and Tim Yarzhombek

• Process

Author: I’ve got an idea of a book that is similar to Sounds!. The name is Zoopakr. The idea is that each opening shows a zoo where something has just happened. Like: a tornado hit the zoo (all animals have their colors mixed up, the zebra is spotted and the lion is striped, etc.), a panda was brought to the zoo (a huge crowd surrounds the panda, other animals are abandoned), the zoo was hit by a rain (a coloring page, all animals have faded and are white now), it’s Monday at the zoo (no visitors), it’s Sunday (everything’s going crazy), it’s April Fool’s Day (people in cages, animals are walking around), the zoo is being renovated (animals are used in place of building equipment and tools), it’s a circus (animals are making a performance with funny screwups), a fire at the zoo, the zoo is inhabited by real animals (a collage, the zoo from the rest of the book is now populated by photographs of animals and their “avatars” from illustrations).

Artistic director: All right, all right, let’s do it.

Going through the list of available illustrators who can join the project. After a couple of refusals (the task is both complex and vague, and the book relies on close cooperation between the author and the illustrator instead of simply adding pictures to the text) we go to Tim Yarzhombek. Tim accepts the challenge, hurray!

While we are looking for an illustrator, we have some fun with the manager coming up with weird animals in odd circumstances. A yeasty hippo (gets larger when it rains and bursts out of its cage). Mummals. Feeshes and craabs. A bowl of primordial soup. A biting child from kindergarten. After all this fun, deciding to go with the standard zoo inhabitants.

Tim jumps into work. Together deciding on the new range of zoo dwellers. Characters and portraits start to appear. It is immediately clear that Tim is perfect for the job: the animals are so cool, funny and unique that they seem to have been like this since the very beginning.

Now that we’ve decided on the characters, we can start planning the layout of the pages. The idea of some sort of nonsense happening at the zoo every day changes into “what if this and that happened.” Making a list of possible stories, inventing, reinventing and discarding stories. Some of them don’t go well with one author, others aren’t favored by the other. The story of a princess at the zoo (animals go crazy) tenderly loved by the first author is entirely unappreciated by the second one. Themes of mice at the zoo, of a jungle, of switching places with visitors all die out in the process. Finally, the book gets a plan, a set number of pages and a format.

We start drawing, painting and redrawing following the idea of “this will surely look better if we add some Imperial Stormtroopers.” Also writing descriptions and texts for openings.

Thus, quietly, a year (aaa!) or more (aaa!) passes. The openings get redone as soon as one of the authors starts to think they’re not good enough. Besides, each of the authors has enough current work to keep them busy. Finally, everybody thinks it’s time to stop. A typesetter joins the effort assembling all the materials and pointing out that many parts are missing. Once again, the authors start working. The book gets a wonderful cover, an endpaper and other attributes of a proper edition.

The book starts to look more and more like a book! It’s ready to be printed! It’s being added to the printing plan! And then another financial crisis hits and Zoopakr is pushed back in line behind more urgent and needed editions.

And there are many of those. Life goes on, everyone is busy with current work. Zoopakr waits. But the restless manager (who by that time was able to take part in the Tokyo Marathon and become one of the characters in the book) doesn’t want to abandon the crocodiles and giraffes. He suggests: why don’t we try to crowdfund the publication? Sure, it will get published one way or another, but maybe with the help of readers it will be sooner rather than later? The authors agree. The artistic director agrees. The countdown starts, yo!

After the project is funded, the illustrator wants to go over all the pictures again and refine them a bit.

For example, before:

And after:

The endpapers get some love, too. Before:


An acknowledgment page is added.

Proofreading once again, preparing for print and sending to the print shop.

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