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Book Making: There are no rivalries between the Fan Brothers, kidlit’s latest super-duo

BookmakingMarch_TheNightGardener_Interior-04Siblings Terry and Eric Fan – known collectively as the Fan Brothers – share more than a last name. The two OCAD University graduates combined their artistic and written talents in their debut picture book, The Night Gardener (Simon & Schuster), a whimsical tale of transformation featuring intricate illustrations and a lush natural palette.

BookmakingMarch_TheNightGardener_Interior-02The Night Gardener originated as a drawing the brothers collaborated on seven years earlier, featuring an old gardener shaping an owl topiary. They had always envisioned turning the single illustration into a narrative, so when their agent came looking for kids’ book concepts, the brothers returned to the idea of a gardener who stealthily transforms trees into animal shapes.

Terry describes their collaborative workflow as “pretty organic,” with the two sharing all aspects of the process, from rough concept to final details. While working on the cat tree illustration (top right), they divided the image among four sheets of paper. Terry began the drawing, with Eric assisting (“all those leaves!”), before the final image was stitched together in Photoshop.

BookmakingMarch_TheNightGardener_Interior-01Were there any sibling battles? “Any disagreements were always moderated by the understanding that we both wanted the book to be as good as it possibly could be,” says Eric. “Most issues would usually resolve themselves with a good night’s sleep, where you wake up the next morning and look at it with fresh eyes and think, ‘Huh, maybe he has a point.’”