Sometimes your eyes can play tricks on you, especially in the dark. An enchanting new picture book by Aurélie Pollet and Vincent Bergier shows how New York City can look quite peculiar at night. Each brightly colored spread is overlaid with a sheet of translucent blue paper and when lifted, voilà! A space ship and Martian become The Guggenheim, a giant serpent is actually the subway, King Kong’s jungle turns into Central Park, and a superhero takes on the shape of a construction worker. Exhilarating and captivating, all the scenes are easily switched between day and night which was expertly illustrated by Vincent Bergier. The book will take the reader on a unique journey that lets imaginations run wild while revealing that some things at night aren’t as scary as they seem.
Recently Aurelie and Vincent discussed their experiences working on this book.
Meagan Meehan (MM): So, how did you two get into children’s book writing and illustrating?
Vincent Bergier (VB): After my studies, I began drawing underground comics books. After that, I start to work into children’s book to make a living and it was a surprise for me to realize I was loving it !
Aurélie Pollet (AP): I’m director for animation movies, for adult mainly, and also for children. I like to draw, animate, and write stories. After my studies I made some comic books for children, and I loved that. When I met Vincent, we wanted to realise together a book for children about New York City, a city which fascinate us, and make us dream.
MM: Where did the concept for “Day and Night” come from and how did you think up each page?
VB: At first, we wanted to express that usually people are afraid from things they shouldn’t. To compare the night and the day seemed to be a good metaphore of this idea. The darkness of ignorance opposite to the lightness of the knowledge.
AP: To express this idea of contrast between fantasy and reality, New York seemed to be a perfect example. Indeed, in Europe, everyone fantasizes about this city, even without having ever been there. Everyone has the impression to know it, through the images given by the thousands of films that takes place there, which built our collective imagination. It seemed interesting to compare these two visions of NYC: the fantasy vision of the night, fictions and cinema, and the reality of the city. To be close to reality, we went to New York together, and Vincent made many sketches.
MM: Why did you select a cat and a squirrel to be your main characters?
VB: Also, we thought it was funny to make dialogues between both of them.
AP: We made a first version of the book without characters. Our editors suggested we find a recurring element, and we then thought of two small animals, which the children could identify with. A squirrel for the diurnal version, a cat for the night version. We enjoyed the teamwork between us and the french publishers, L’Agrume, around this book.
MM: How did you two meet?
VB and AP : We met in a friend’s studio with many illustrators and we immediately wanted to work together !
MM: What most interested you about this project and which pages were the hardest to figure it and then to draw?
AP: I loved when we were looking for ideas for each page together and imagining the scenes. Some pages were more difficult than others (for example, one from Coney Island and another from Brooklin’s Bridge), and we finally decided to remove them from the book.
VB: It was great for me to draw New York and people living there. This city is very modern and vintage as well. All is so tall and big ! It gives me a lot of energy! Even the old subway is so cool ! People are very different to each other.
MM: Have you ever traveled around New York and, if so, how much of an inspiration was the city itself ?
AP: I always dreamed of going to New York, and when we went, it was even more powerful than I could imagine! Day and night, I see this city itself as a monumental masterpiece.
VB: Most of my favorite artists are from New York : Steve Reich, Paul Auster, Velvet Underground…
MM: How did you go about getting this book published and how have you been promoting it ?
AP: As soon as we had the idea of this book, we spoke to our French publishers, L’Agrume, who accompanied us throughout its creation. Then, we did youth fairs, book signings, and meetings with young audiences.
MM: Do you plan to publish more books with Prestel?
VB: Not for the moment but we definitely would like to do it !
MM: How do kids typically react to this story and what messages do you hope readers take away from the book?
VB and AP: They are surprised and have fun ! We hope they could learn this is different ways to see the world around us.
MM: What projects are coming up next for you both?
AP: Currently, I’m doing an animated documentary series about retired spies telling their lives as secret agents. On the book side, with Vincent, we have lots of book ideas that we would like to do together!
VB: I draw comic stories for Topo ( a french documentary paper ). The last one is about Black lives matter.
MM: Is there anything else that you would like to mention?
AP: Today, our dream would be to present the book to New York readers.
VB: We would love to make book signings in some book shops in New York like Desert Island in Brooklyn because I draw this shop in the book !
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