Friday, March 20, 2015

GROWING UP PEDRO, Behind the Scenes: Illustrating Page One

When I was trying to figure out how to handle the opening page of Growing Up Pedro, my first idea was to start off the book with this quote from Pedro himself:

"Ramon is the biggest reason I have gotten where I am. He is the great one in this family. I am still Ramon's little brother." -Pedro Martinez, 1998.

I liked this quote, because it introduced the main theme of the story, and showed that even when Pedro was at the height of his fame, he still gave all the credit to his big brother. For the accompanying image, I wanted to show Pedro Martinez pitching at Fenway Park in 1998, his first season with the Red Sox. I wanted to somehow capture the excitement of being at Fenway when Pedro was pitching. This is the first book I've ever done about a player I actually got to see in person, so this is the first time I really got to pour my own memories into my story and illustrations.

I took this picture of Pedro warming up before a game in 1998.
My first scribbly sketches centered around Pedro on the mound. But none of them felt quite right. So I tried to think back to what it felt like to be at the park on days when Pedro was pitching. I remembered fans waving Dominican flags. I remembered the excitement outside the park, where guys from WEEI handed out K cards to fans as they entered the ballpark (K is the baseball symbol for strikeout). I remembered people going to get food when the Red Sox were batting instead of when the visiting team was batting, so they didn't miss Pedro. And perhaps the most iconic image I could think of when I remembered those days at Fenway: The K Men, out in the last row of the bleachers, dressed all in red, right down to the paint on their faces, celebrating each of Pedro's strikeouts by posting a big red K up on the green wall, and leading the crowd in chants of Pay-DRO! Pay-DRO!

Then I had an idea. I realized that to capture all that excitement, I didn't even need to show Pedro. I just needed to show a small section of the bleachers. Because back then, you could tell Pedro was pitching just by looking around, and feeling the energy in the park. So I made this sketch:

I submitted this sketch to my art director with a note suggesting that the endpapers be red. I liked the idea of opening up the book and seeing the green wall on page one up against the red endpapers, which would match the red Ks and the red details in the crowd. I wanted the book itself to feel like Fenway.

Here's how it ended up looking in the book:

One reason I loved working on this book was the fact that I felt personally connected to so much of the subject matter. Take the K Men for example. I first knew about them when they started appearing at all of Pedro's home games in 1998, dressed all in red, posting Ks. I sat a few rows in front of them during game 4 of the 1999 ALDS against Cleveland, and really got to experience first-hand the excitement they brought to the game.

I took this picture of the K Men during game 4 of the 1999 ALDS vs the Indians.
A couple years later, I became friends with some of the K Men, when they asked me to sign books at a fundraiser they were organizing. They invited me to come post Ks with them some time. The first time I took them up on their offer was Opening Day, 2003.

Here I am with my wife, Sarah, and one of the original K Men, my friend Kirk Carapezza. He taught us some of the rituals and rules, and even let us post Pedro's first K of the 2003 season.
Fenway Park had undergone a major renovation over the offseason, so this was the first game when the K Men were left with no wall upon which to post their Ks. So they tried using a clothes line.

It was tricky, but we did it!
A couple years later, we joined the K Men again. By now, they had relocated to their new home, prime real estate atop the Green Monster. This time I went all in with the red face and all red clothes, and my 11-month-old daughter became the first-ever K Baby!

Walking around Fenway Park as a K Man felt a lot like how I imagine Santa Claus must feel walking around the mall.
Kevin McCarthy, K Baby, me, Sarah, and Kirk Carapezza.
Then in 2013, with the Red Sox on the verge of clinching the American League East division, I got a text from Kirk, asking if we'd like to join them up on the wall that night. So we dig through our shelves looking for red clothes, picked up the kids from school and drove down to Boston.

As you can see, the K Men have chilled out a bit in the post-Pedro years. They don't paint their faces any more (they call it "K-Kasual"). But as you can also see, my older daughter is a purist.

My K Family with the K Men
We posted Ks for Jon Lester, and we talked about Pedro (that's why I had gotten in touch with Kirk in the first place, to talk about Pedro and to ask if he might have some photos of the K Men I could use as reference for my illustrations). And we got to be there when the Red Sox celebrated on the field. My K Kids each got a chance to post Ks, holding them up for the whole ballpark to see. It was a night we will never forget.

A few other little details to look for on page one of Growing Up Pedro:

*Both my kids are in the picture, dressed just how they were on that night in 2013 when we posted Ks. Can you find them?

*There is one Yankee fan in the picture, my friend Jim who helped make it possible for me to go to the Dominican Republic and do some research for this book. He's wearing a Yankee jacket in the illustration, though Jim pointed out that I seem to have accidentally (or subconsciously?) painted a little red dot on his cap, so it looks like a Red Sox cap. See if you can find him!

*Back then, there was a peanut vendor who would throw bags of peanuts incredible distances with amazing accuracy. I included him in the crowd on page one. See if you can spot him! Here's a picture of him I found online:

Rob "Nuts" Barry, Fenway Park, 1999
I loved being able to incorporate so many of my own personal experiences into this book. It made the whole thing feel so personal for me.

All of that was just for page one. I still had thirty-nine pages to go...

And that's why my books take me a really long time!

GROWING UP PEDRO. Text and Illustrations copyright 2015 Matt Tavares. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Inc., Somerville, MA.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

My new online store is now open!

I just finished setting up my new online store. I'm starting off small, with three giclĂ©e prints of illustrations from Growing Up Pedro. I'll add more soon, so if there are any illustrations you'd like to see as a print, please let me know! 

You can also order signed and personalized copies of my books. And eventually I'll add a section of original art. Anyway, check it out and let me know what you think. Thanks!

Friday, February 20, 2015

Where in the world is Growing Up Pedro?!

Crazy story about Growing Up Pedro... apparently several thousand copies were stuck on a ship off the coast of Los Angeles for over a month, unable to dock due to an ongoing labor dispute at the port. Candlewick is on top of the situation, and I've been told that the books finally did make it to shore, and are currently traveling by train to the warehouse in Indiana. Once they're there, they will be immediately (hopefully) shipped out to stores.

So for those of you who have been asking why you can't seem to find a copy anywhere even though the book came out last week, that's why. I had no idea about this until after the release date. It's frustrating, and it's a bummer that the books weren't here on time, but the good news is they will be here soon. 

Should be any day now...

Growing Up Pedro, behind the scenes in the Dominican Republic

Last year, when I was working on Growing Up Pedro, I traveled to the Dominican Republic to do some research (it was also a family vacation). It was amazing to be able to go out into the countryside and visit places that still look they way they did when Pedro Martinez was a kid. Here are some of the pictures I took during that trip.

We drove up into the mountains, and I snapped pictures of everything- houses, palm trees, mango trees, all the scenery.

We stopped a a little colmado (store) to get some water in the village of El Cupey, and saw some kids playing outside.
When this guy heard I was working on a book about Pedro Martinez, he immediately showed me his batting stance.

This family was so nice, and even invited us right into their home, where their mother was cooking dinner. That's my daughter walking in, exploring a different world. This house is a lot like the one Pedro Martinez lived in when he was growing up.
Mango trees play an important role in Growing Up Pedro, so I spent a lot of time searching for The Perfect Mango Tree. When I saw this one, I knew I had found it.

This is Dani, who did an amazing job posing for me as a young Pedro Martinez.

We enjoyed the trip so much, we decided to go back this year (just for vacation this time). A few days ago, on our last day there, I finally tracked down Dani, the kid who posed as a young Pedro Martinez. Here he is, seeing the book for the first time.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Growing Up Pedro comes out TODAY!

Growing Up Pedro, my picture book biography of newly elected Baseball Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez, is officially available today!

This is the seventh book I've written, and the sixteenth I've illustrated. And of all the books I've worked on, this one was my favorite. From re-watching some of Pedro's greatest games and reliving some of my favorite baseball memories, to traveling to the Dominican Republic to learn what life was like for Pedro as a kid, to spending countless hours reading and re-reading interviews and articles about Pedro's remarkable journey, I truly loved every minute of the process. I hope that shines through in the final product.

Here are a few links, if you'd like to order a copy (thanks in advance, if you do):

Barnes & Noble:

And here's the trailer:

I've got a few events coming up. More are in the works, but here's what's confirmed so far:

February 27, 7:00 pm, launch event at Porter Square Books in Cambridge, MA
March 8,  2:00 pm launch event at Book Ends in Winchester, MA
March 14, 1:00 pm, signing at Barnes and Noble in Newington, NH
April 14, 3:00-5:00 pm, "Authorfest" book signing at the town hall in Winchester, MA

And if you happen to be in New England, check out this awesome promotion Candlewick has put together. Good reason to head down to your local independent bookstore!

And one more bit of good news: pitchers and catchers report to spring training in ten days! Baseball season is just around the corner.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Win a Behind-the-Scenes Tour of Fenway Park!

I recently stopped by the Candlewick office and signed a stack of these posters, which will soon be popping up at independent bookstores around New England.

My publisher, Candlewick Press, is teaming up with the some of my favorite independent bookstores around New England for an awesome promotion that I am really excited about. Starting February 10, (the day Growing Up Pedro comes out!) anyone who purchases any of my baseball books at a participating store can enter to win two tickets to a behind-the-scenes tour of Fenway Park, with me.

We'll go inside the dugouts, down onto the field, we'll make diving catches up against the green monster... aw man, I am so excitied for this.

Here's a list of participating stores (all in Massachusetts, unless noted):

Porter Square Books in Cambridge
Buttonwood Books in Cohasset
Eight Cousins in Falmouth
Book Ends in Winchester
Wellesley Books in Wellesley
Nonesuch Books in Portland, Maine and Biddeford, Maine
Brookline Booksmith in Brookline
Gibson's Bookstore in Concord, New Hampshire
Water Street Bookstore in Exeter, New Hampshire

One more reason to look forward to baseball season! The contest runs until Opening Day. See you at Fenway!

Growing Up Pedro, available February 10