The Nighttime Adventures of Calvin and Ollie by Krista Brock is an illustrate-it-yourself picture book for kids. Brock, who is originally from Georgia, but now calls Barcelona, Spain, home, has created the story where kids are encouraged to draw the characters and the action.

“It’s bedtime, but Calvin doesn’t want to go to sleep. Suddenly, his stuffed owl comes to life and invites him to play. The two friends head out on an adventure in the night. They see Calvin’s home, play hide and seek, and count stars until … it’s bedtime for Ollie the owl.”

The watercolour background has been created, but then kids are invited to draw the characters as they imagine them.

Nighttime Adventures of Calvin and Ollie by Brock came out to Nov. 11 and is available through Amazon.

Book Time is part of the blog tour celebrating the release of The Nighttime Adventures of Calvin and Ollie. Below is a Q&A with Brock and The Nighttime Adventures of Calvin and Ollie. Follow along on the blog tour until Nov. 22.

Front cover image of a little boy on a bed with an owl, both our facing inwards.
The Nighttime Adventures of Calvin and Ollie is an illustrate-it-yourself picture book for kids.

Q. Congratulations on your first book, The Nighttime Adventures of Calvin and Ollie. What a fabulous concept. Why did you decide to create a book like this?
A. Thank you! I have been thinking about writing and illustrating a children’s book for years. It’s something I always wanted to do, but in my early career I was busy working at magazines. Then I switched to freelancing and raising kids. When my children started school, I finally decided to start working on a children’s book.

I decided to make the book an illustrate-it-yourself adventure because I wanted to give children a chance to take part in the creative process. They can read the story and use their own imagination to create the images. Afterwards, they’ll have a real book with their own illustrations. I hope they’ll take pride in it each time they read it.

Q. Have you seen this type of book before? How did you come up with this idea?
A. I haven’t really seen a book like this, although I have seen some fun activity books and drawing prompts for kids.

I really enjoyed drawing when I was a child, and my children draw almost every day. I thought it would be fun to give children a story and then let them come up with their own images to go with it.

They are completely free to imagine how the characters look and what other critters might be in the background or scurrying across the page. I decided to create background images to give children a starting point because a completely blank page can be a little intimidating, and a whole book of blank pages might be overwhelming.

Q. When you decided to create this book, what came first the story or the concept? What was your creative process for this book?
A. The idea for the story came first. My son has a bright, colorful stuffed owl that he really loved. When he was two, it was the inspiration for his birthday party – an owl party with an owl craft, owl cake, owl games and more. One night I just starting thinking about a story of a boy and an owl.

Then I started thinking about how I would illustrate the story. Is the stuffed owl brightly colored like my son’s owl? Does the owl change into a realistic wild owl when they go outside, or does he still look like a toy? Also, what does Calvin look like? There’s a big push for diversity in children’s books, which is great. Children should have toys and books they identify with.

As I was thinking about the images, I started thinking maybe it would be even more fun to leave these decisions up to the readers. They can decide what colors Ollie the Owl is, what Calvin looks like, what Calvin is wearing, and more.

Q. According to your website, https://kristabrockauthor.com, you have been writing since kindergarten and have been dabbling in the arts for a long time. What do you enjoy about writing? What do you enjoy about art?
A. I enjoy creating. Writing, art, crafts, cooking are all forms of creating. There’s always a sense of accomplishment after creating something, especially if you get to share it with others and they enjoy or learn from it.

I’ve done a lot of different kinds of writing in my career. I’ve written about artists, designers, interior design, home appliances, real estate, and housing finance. I enjoy all of it and find all of it interesting and rewarding. Once I was telling someone I did a lot of writing about real estate and housing finance, and he said that sounded boring. Maybe to him it did, but there are people who earn their living in this field, and they rely on information to make decisions for themselves and their clients.

Furthermore, housing and the economy is central to all of our lives – where we live and whether and how we can afford to live where we want to live is important to all of us. Learning about it myself has been interesting and writing about it for others has been rewarding.

As for art, I enjoy using my hands to create almost anything. It can be challenging, and it can also be therapeutic. Of course, it is different from writing, but it also has some similarities. Both are ways of communicating, sharing an idea or a story. Creating the Nighttime Adventures of Calvin and Ollie gave me a chance to combine my love of writing and art.

Q. On your website, you mention that kids around eight to 10 stop drawing because they don’t think their work is good enough. Why is it important to encourage children to draw – and write?
A. I think people generally recognize writing as an academic skill. We all need to be able to write because everyone does it on a near-daily basis in any field. We need to be able to organize our thoughts into structured ideas or questions that we can present to others, whether in business or in our personal lives. It is a given that writing is part of academic education.

Drawing, on the other hand, is not. We tend to view drawing as frivolous and fun. We enjoy young children’s cute drawings, and then we just let it go when they stop drawing. Drawing gets confused with art, and people tend to think some people are naturally “good” at it, while others are not.

It’s unfortunate because drawing can serve us in many ways throughout our lives, and in fact sometimes is superior to writing. There have been many studies that have shown that drawing helps us remember information better than writing, so drawing can be great in studying or even list-making. Even just doodling randomly while listening has been shown to help us focus and remember what we’ve heard.

Drawing is a skill though, and it takes practice – even if we continue to believe some of us have more innate talent than others. Think of athletes. Some people may be more inclined to succeed at a particular sport, but playing any sport still requires hours of practice and repetition. Drawing required hand-eye coordination, and that requires practice, too. Even if we don’t become professional artists, being adept and feeling like we can sketch can allow us to unlock this valuable tool.

Q. How can you encourage your children to continue being creative?
A. There are many ways to help foster creativity in children. One way is to set up an art corner where they have constant easy access to art materials. You can keep messy paints out of reach if you want, but keeping paper, crayons, colored pencils, stickers, and glue accessible allows them to create whenever their inspiration strikes. Another way is to sit down and create with them. As with everything we want to instill in our children, leading by example is paramount. Sit down and do an easy craft or doodle once in a while. Another way to help your child continue to feel inspired to create is to display their art proudly around the house. They’ll feel that you value their creativity and creations, and they’ll want to make more.

When children do reach that stage where they say they can’t draw or they don’t have any ideas, you can enrol them in an art class or simply check out YouTube or Pinterest for fun ideas and tutorials to keep them going.

Q. What age group is this book for? What do you enjoy about writing for this age group? Why did you write the story for this group of kids?
A. This book is for children around six to eight years old, although that is not a rigid boundary. My son is almost five, and he has drawn some in the book. I also recognize that not all children in this age group will want to sit down and illustrate an entire book. (Even those who do will likely not do so in one sitting.)

Children in this age group are often free-spirited and openly creative. They also haven’t reached that age where they are overly self-critical of their drawings. I wanted them to be able to do this project before they reach that age where they decide they aren’t good at drawing. I may create something later for older children to try to inspire them to draw more, but it would be a different format.

Q. This is your first children’s book, can you please tell me why you decide to write a book now? Did anything prompt you to take this step?
A. Honestly, it was just good timing in my own life. Before, I was wrapped up in my own career working at magazines full time. Then I began freelancing and had children. I was in the depths of the baby/toddler world where every moment is unpredictable and sleep is not a given, and I was doing writing projects in every spare moment my kiddos were asleep.

I would think about working on a children’s book, but I just didn’t have the time to devote to it. When my youngest started school and both of my kids were out of the house for hours at a time, I took advantage of the quiet and got started.

Q. What did you enjoy about creating this book? Anything you didn’t like?
A. I enjoyed the creative process of both writing and illustrating. It took longer than I would have liked because we moved in the middle of the project. Probably the thing I disliked was my own self-doubt, wondering how the book will be received.

Q. I am assuming this book is self-published. Why did you decide to go this route? What was the benefit of self-publishing? What did you like and didn’t like? Can you tell me about your publishing journey (including how it was edited)?
A. A couple different forces led me to the self-publishing route. One is that I read a blog post from an author who said she had done both and was honestly having a lot of fun with self-publishing. Another reason is that I’m a little impatient. I knew if I self-published it would be on my own timeline, and I could publish when I was ready. I knew I would be more inspired to complete the project if I knew for sure that it would be published and if I could determine when.

So far, the process has gone pretty well.

I read a lot of tutorials and blogs about self-publishing. After I had a rough idea for the plot of the story, I made a mock-up to decide what would go on each page. Since I work in journalism and my mother is a middle school English teacher, I had easy access to people who could read my story, offer feedback, and help me proofread it.

After that, I began imagining the scenery for where each part of the story is taking place. Some pages show a couple trees with wide open space in the middle for the action to take place; others have a close-up of trees where Calvin and Ollie might be sitting or climbing. I created my final illustrations with watercolor.

Q. How do you see kids using this book? Is there anything you would like them to do? Not do?
A. My vision for this book is that parents will explain to their children that they have the opportunity to be the illustrator. They can read the entire book with their children first and then turn back to the beginning. They can then go one page at a time, reading and drawing. I don’t imagine every child will get through this project all in one sitting. My daughter drew one page one day and then two pages the next day.

I hope children will feel the freedom to use their imagination and not to hold back with their illustrations. I hope they will feel proud of their work.

Q. Do you have advice for parents who are using this book?
A. I think parents can get involved in this project with their children by reading with them, and if their child seems stuck, talk them through it a little. Ask them questions like, what do you think Ollie looks like? What color do you think he is? I posted a couple simple owl drawing tutorials on my website for children who need a little help. You can also pull up pictures of owls or other animals online that your child can use to get ideas or help him draw.

Overall, my advice for parents would be to be patient. It’s likely a new type of book and a new type of project for your child. Let them sit with it. Let them brush it a side and come back to it later if they want. If it’s been sitting on the shelf a while, maybe remind them of it, but don’t push it. It should be fun, and they should want to do it. Compliment their efforts, and talk about their drawings with them.

Q. What is the best part about your book?
A. The best part about the book is the potential on each page. I’ve really enjoyed seeing my own children illustrate the story, and I can’t wait to see what other children do on the pages of the book.

Q. What do you hope people take away from this book?
A. I hope that children take away a sense of enjoyment and a sense of accomplishment after illustrating their own book. I hope they enjoy re-reading it with their own pictures on the pages.

Q. Why is this book important for children?
A. This book is important for children because it gives them an opportunity to visualize what they read and draw it out in their own way. Like I mentioned, drawing is a valuable tool in our lives.

For children, drawing is also a great tool in reading comprehension. Learning to visualize what they read helps children gain meaning from text.

Q. What has the response been so far?
A. I am happy that so far, the response has been positive. Of course, the book hasn’t been released yet though!

My first real moment of encouragement came a while ago when I was working on the illustrations at home. I hadn’t discussed my book with my children yet at all. I always worked on the paintings when they were at school.

One day, I was almost finished with the illustrations, and I had spread my paintings all across the floor to look at all together. Suddenly, I realized it was time to pick up my kids from school, so I ran out the door, leaving everything on the floor. As soon as my daughter came in the door, she saw them and said, “What is that? Can we draw on those?” Of course, I had to tell her, “No, not yet anyway.” But it was the biggest compliment I could have received. That’s exactly what I wanted, for children to see the images and want to finish them. I hope other children will feel the same way when they open the book.

Q. How are you promoting this book? Where can people pick up a copy?
A. I am promoting this book online, and people can purchase it through Amazon.

Q. What are you working on right now? Do you have a dream project?
A. Right now I am working on promoting the Nighttime Adventures of Calvin and Ollie, and I’m brainstorming my next children’s picture book. I’m also enjoying writing my blog. For a long time, my dream project has been creating a children’s book, so I suppose now that I’ve done it, it’s time to dream up something else.

Follow along on the blog tour.

Graphic of blog tour announcement with other bloggers and front cover image of Calvin and Ollie
Book Time joins the Calvin and Ollie Blog Tour.