Misty, The Proud Cloud: Interview with Illustrator Nidhi Chanani

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The recent trend in children’s picture books seems to be focused on how one is special or unique, or building confidence that anything can be achieved with dedication and persistence. It’s not that those messages aren’t important, but it was refreshing to review a book that celebrated just being who you are, as you are. Misty, The Proud Cloud is the latest book from popular author Hugh Howey, who teamed up with Illustrator Nidhi Chanani to create a sweet, comforting book about the joy we bring to others just by being ourselves.

I actually first came across this project because of my familiarity with Nidhi Chanani’s illustration work.  My daughter has a large framed print of her Waterdance mermaids in her room and it is her favorite. In all her work, Chanani has a delightful way of capturing the emotions of everyday life, expressing exactly how a moment feels. Her work on Misty is no exception. True to form, Misty is immediately recognizable and likable. Glowing illustrations on every page carry the story, and the artist’s talent at including diversity in a natural, seamless way is evident.

I had a chance to ask Nidhi Chanani some questions about Misty:

How did you get involved in this project?

 My agent contacted me with a potential project at the end of 2013. Hugh Howey was looking for an illustrator and liked my work, after I saw the manuscript I jumped on board.
Was the book already written or was there collaboration between you and Hugh Howey on the direction the story took?
The book was written. I signed on after receiving a complete manuscript that was tweaked very slightly with an editor. My contribution was to bring the character and world to life through illustration.
I know you are working on a graphic novel to be published next year. How was this process different? What was your greatest challenge and your favorite part of working on a children’s book?
Working on Pashmina, my graphic novel, is similar and different. I am writing and drawing the entire book so that is a core difference. However the similarities are there – communication through words and pictures. Of course children’s book is different because the focus is on the pictures – which is why they’re categorized as a picture books. Graphic novels tell a more complex story through sequential art.
My greatest challenge was creating a likable main character in the form of a puff of clouds! I went through many rounds of sketching on my own before settling on a character that I felt was cute, welcoming and also allowed for nuance. My favorite part of working on the book was the challenge. Carrying a character from page to page, making each spread dynamic and interesting and truly pushing myself to create simple but visually rich spreads.
All art has purpose, illustration helps the reader visualize the story. What was most important to you as you were connecting Hugh’s words to image?
The most important thing for me was not simply to illustrate what he had written but give it more. Make the book lively and fun but also keep true to the simplicity of the story and message.
How would you describe the story of Misty to a kid?
It’s about a cloud that wants to fit in!
Do you relate to Misty at all?
Yes! Hugh wrote a very relatable character and the point is to be yourself. I definitely relate to that!

We received our copy of Misty in the mail the other day and that night I read it to my daughter. When asked what she thought, my daughter replied “Misty is cute. I liked that she could just be herself.” Anything else? “Yeah, flowers come from the tears of clouds. I like this book.” I’m so glad.

As of this writing, you can still get some author signed copies of Misty, The Proud Cloud on Amazon.

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