Artist Katie Cook on Teaching Numbers with Stormtroopers and Rathtars in OBI-123

Get a first look at the clever new book that teaches younglings to count.

Step aside, Dooku, you’re not the only count in Star Wars anymore! Now everyone, from younglings to grown-ups, has a chance to master the secrets of learning to count with Star Wars: OBI-123. From the Chosen One to the Lost Twenty and all the way up to 3,720 to 1, numbers play a memorable role in our enjoyment of the Star Wars saga. With OBI-123, coming February 14 from Disney-Lucasfilm Press, Star Wars is now helping you and your little ones learn to count, which is always important when trying to make deals with Jawas or Hutts — or keeping track of how many Sith there are supposed to be. The team behind last year’s Star Wars: ABC-3PO is back with a new adorable book for the youngest set of Star Wars fans, filled with poems for each number written by Calliope Glass and Caitlin Kennedy and delightful illustrations by Katie Cook. chatted by e-mail with Cook about creating the artwork for the book. OBI-123 does for learning to count as your previous Star Wars book, ABC-3PO, did for learning the letters of the alphabet. How did you approach illustrating this book?

Katie Cook: The poems I was given were, once again, SUPER CUTE, and I used them as the springboard for each illustration. It was a fun challenge to come up with pages that were fun, stayed relevant to Star Wars and still had…oh…20 stormtroopers in it. Ha. Does the book just focus on the basic counting numbers, or do we also learn some of the bigger numbers that are often associated with Star Wars, like 1,138 or 3,263,827?

Katie Cook: Sadly, you only get 1 to 20. I think if I’d have to have drawn 1,138 Ewoks on a page I wouldn’t have survived.

star-wars-obi-123-cover With a book about numbers, it provides a different challenge — instead of finding a single character or thing to use for a particular letter, you’re now drawing lots of things to fit that particular number — what makes that different as the artist?

Katie Cook: You really need to take your composition of the pages into consideration. If there are lots and lots and lots of things on the page, and all those things need to be countable by tiny fingers, you want to make everything clear while still keeping the pictures fun. How did the collaboration work with the authors Calliope Glass and Caitlin Kennedy for each spread?

Katie Cook: They’re great. Caitlin worked with me the whole time I was turning in art and she’s a gem of an individual who made it very smooth. I think there’s probably a shrine built to her somewhere. What is your general process for creating these illustrations? What tools do you use?

Katie Cook: I did most of the work on a Cintiq…it’s a crazy fancy monitor that you can draw right on. And I did some of the roughs for my drawings right on my iPad!

star-wars-obi-123-jedi The Star Wars saga has grown since ABC-3PO, in which you included characters and scenes from The Force Awakens and Star Wars Rebels in your illustrations — does OBI-123 contain any characters that have come from the most recent stories in the galaxy far, far away, like Rogue One (hey, there’s a number right there!)?

Katie Cook: You know, I don’t think we’ll see many kids books based off Rogue One characters. Ha. Although now I wish there was a pouty Krennic in a book someday, whining that the Death Star is his project and Tarkin is a meany. Part of the appeal of these books is that your artwork and the clever lines that accompany each piece are enjoyable for fans of all ages. How do you approach developing a whole book that works as a basic book for teaching little kids, and as a treasury of great Star Wars fun for children and adults?

Katie Cook: It comes from me LOVING Star Wars. Really. It’s a franchise I adore, so I try and put a much of stuff everywhere. Fun stuff. Weird stuff. Charming stuff. Cute stuff. When you spoke to last year about ABC-3PO, you mentioned adjusting your fan-favorite style to be a bit more realistic — does that come back into play for this book? How has your signature style altered as a result of these books?

Katie Cook: Everybody gets a nose… Oddly enough, I don’t always draw noses on people. I’m guessing this project gave you the opportunity to include some favorite characters that you don’t get to draw all that often because they aren’t the main characters. Who are some of those background characters?

Katie Cook: Actually, I think this was the first time I drew a rathtar. THOSE ARE FUN! Other than that, the book is full of characters that usually aren’t in the spotlight. In your previous interview, you joked about if there was a next time, you might have to draw 50 Millennium Falcons — was there something that you ended up drawing more times than you wanted?

Katie Cook: Drawing all the podracers gave me anxiety. HA. Was there a particular spread that stands out as a moment of triumph for you? I’d imagine a scene full of unique craft or lots of different aliens might hold a special place in your heart?

Katie Cook: There’s one page with all of Padmé’s handmaiden’s that is my daughter’s favorite page. I let her help me color it a little and put some texture in (she was five at the time). That made that page special for me. She did not ask for a credit in the book, but I’m sure she can tell you what part she helped with. Books like ABC-3PO and OBI-123 are likely to be some of the first sources of exposure to Star Wars for many young children. How do you feel about your role in bringing that first taste of the galaxy far, far away to the youngest batch of fans?

Katie Cook: It touches me. There are so many books I remember loving as a kid. I can only hope that in 10+ years I have a past nerdling come up to me and tell me they used to LOVE that one book I illustrated and remember reading it with a parent or uncle or cousin.

James Floyd is a writer, photographer, and organizer of puzzle adventures. He’s a bit tall for a Jawa. His current project is Wear Star Wars Every Day, a fundraising effort for a refugee aid organization. You can follow him on Twitter at @jamesjawa or check out his articles on Club Jade and Big Shiny Robot.

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