Children’s Books written and illustrated by George Douglas LeeBy George Douglas Lee
All the world’s a stage. Already established as a successful playwright owning his own live stage theatre, George Douglas Lee’s children’s books began with a play. The play was “The Wolf Who Cried Boy”, which was performed at Fort Bend Theatre and Lee’s own Electric Theatre in 1993 and ’94. Lee, in fact, played the Big Bad Wolf of storybook legend.
Following a successful run at both theatres, most to sold out audiences, many in the cast and audience members suggested Lee write a children’s book based on the play. Having done the show numerous times, Lee was not only familiar with his own story, but the actors gave him definite ideas about what the characters in the book should look like. Possessing a BFA in fine arts from Sam Houston State University, Lee was well trained in painting and illustration, and thus began yet another career for him as a writer and illustrator of children’s books.
As of this writing, he has completed four books, The Wolf Who Cried Boy, Twyla the Truffle Pig, Oppy Stops the Hopping Popper and A Kringle Dingle Christmas. Writing and illustrating children’s books began with The Wolf Who Cried Boy, started in 1996. He started with the cover, showing all the characters surrounding the title of the book. For the cover, he had to visually recreate the various Fairyland characters, naturally with a twist on what people have come to imagine what they look like. All the scenes pictured followed the look of the characters pictured on the cover, and the inspiration for those characters came from many sources. Some were even based on cast members in the play. Others were caricatures of Hollywood actors, like Elsa Lanchester (Bride of Frankenstein) and Lou Costello (of Abbott and Costello fame).
Lee approached each illustration as if it were a small painting, produced with watercolor pencil, watercolor, markers and pen and ink. It’s quite a challenge to create characters from one’s imagination, and put them into scenes from the text of the book. Luckily, The Wolf Who Cried Boy had been done as a play, and Lee could not only picture the scenes as he remembered them from performance, but he was able to draw characters from actual members of the cast.
The book lay dormant until Lee met Brenda Donaloio. He showed her the drawings and the text and she asked why it was just “stored” in his computer. True enough. It’s not like somebody was going to come knocking at the door and ask “Hey, got any children’s books lying around that we can publish and read?” George got to work putting it all together in book form.
Meanwhile, Lee read an article in the newspaper about truffle pigs. Yes, truffle pigs, and how French farmers were considering using dogs to dig up the tasty and highly expensive treats. Based on his under-achieving Pomeranian – Phoebe – Lee created a new story about a little pre-teen piglet named Twyla, who lives on a farm in France, but can’t sniff out truffles. She finds everything, turtles, potatoes, ducklings and other objects buried underground, but not truffles. He wrote this one in rhyme, which he calls “rhyming funbooks”, and it was quite a challenge to tell the story that way, but the very limitation of rhyming actually made it better as a story, He quickly began to create the illustrations, and like The Wolf Who Cried Boy, they were quite detailed and elaborate. Ms. Donaloio loved the story and the pictures and decided she would publish the books herself as an Electric Theatre enterprise.
At the same time, George Lee wrote another children’s book, entitled Oppy Stops the Hopping Popper. This one was written simply as an exercise to make a story with a rhyming pattern similar to the inimitable and incredible Dr. Seuss. It is the hilarious story of a boy named Oppy who one day discovers a toad in his room. The toad begins to grow and follows him everywhere he goes, like a fractured version of Mary Had A Little Lamb. Lee did a remarkable job of creating text that resembles Dr. Seuss and is a tongue twister, but really funny and fun to read. The illustrations were different from The Wolf Who Cried Boy and Twyla the Truffle Pig. They were much looser and humorous to better reflect the whimsical story.
Brenda Donaloio became Lee’s wife and at the same time, published the books. Lee began to make personal appearances for book signings at numerous venues. All of the books became very popular.
In 2011, Lee opened the G. Lee Gallery at 2215 Postoffice Street in Galveston, Texas. His children’s books are available there and prominently displayed. To Lee’s surprise, they have become very popular!
In 2015, Lee revisited yet another of his children’s musical plays, and wrote “A Kringle Dingle Christmas”. Again, he relied on his memories of the actors (including himself) who appeared in the play, when he began the illustrations. It was ready just in time for Christmas of 2015, and now his four children’s books are available at G.Lee Gallery, and at www.gleegallery.net and www.amazon.com
He is about to begin a new and his fifth children’s book Mudboy and the Messkings, coming soon to a theatre of the mind near you!
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