Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site

The #1 New York Times bestseller

As the sun sets behind the big construction site, all the hardworking trucks get ready to say goodnight. One by one, Crane Truck, Cement Mixer, Dump Truck, Bulldozer, and Excavator finish their work and lie down to rest—so they’ll be ready for another day of rough and tough construction play! With irresistible artwork by best-selling illustrator Tom Lichtenheld and sweet, rhyming text, this book will have truck lovers of all ages begging for more.

And don’t forget! Crunch, vroom, beep, yawn and snore along with Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site SOUND BOOK. Available now. Amazon.com Exclusive Essay: From the Slush Pile to #1: Realizing My Vision. Or Not.
First-time author Sherri Duskey Rinker’s Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site steadily climbed up the New York Times’ Bestseller list throughout 2011, reaching #1 on January 29th, 2012. Here she shares the early inspiration that inspired a career in design, and how another artist brought her vision to life.

I grew up loving picture books.

I can still hear my grandmother’s voice over the sound of the pages turning, the old wind-up Westclox alarm clock ticking away and the sound of traffic rolling down Howard Street. I remember the smell of books mingling with the smell of freshly laundered sheets.

Virginia Lee Burton’s The Little House was my favorite, and I obsessed over the whimsically sweet illustrations of that little pink house happily sitting upon a hill covered in daisies.

Inspired, I wanted to be an artist. I also wanted to be a poet, an art teacher, and a journalist. The ping-pong ball of art vs. words ended with a career as a graphic designer. It was a perfect fit: I took pictures and words and put them together in a pretty way.

I met an artist, a photographer. He also had grown up with Virginia Burton: Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel. It was a sign. So I married him. We had two boys and two good excuses for buying dozens (and dozens) of picture books.

Inspired by my youngest son’s tireless (literally!) obsession with trucks, I wrote Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site in stolen moments during the workday and late at night, after the boys were tucked in. And with the words emerged a vision (dare I say “obsession”) for how the book and my trucks would look.

I could see it so clearly: realistic illustrations of trucks superimposed with facial expressions to convey the mood and create the characters. Strong, yet simple graphic elements to create the setting. A bit of realism. A bit of collage. A bit of a grunge to compliment the dirty work of the trucks. I included the concept illustration with my manuscript and sent it, unsolicited, to Chronicle Books.

When my editor contacted me, three months after I’d sent the manuscript, she was friendly, but also to-the-point: They loved the manuscript (!), and hated (though she used a nicer word) the illustration concept.

Hmm…

One of the reasons that Chronicle was the first (and ultimately only) publisher on my list was that I LOVE their picture books. I appreciate their beauty and high production values. So, I had a choice here: trust, or walk away. I chose trust–with a big dash of fear.

My editor asked if I had any ideas for illustrators. I sent her a dozen names and online portfolios. I’m pretty certain she ignored me. And, they chose Tom Lichtenheld. (Who?)

When I told my editor that I’d never heard of Tom, she quickly emailed a few examples. The first was from Tom’s NYT best-selling book, Duck! Rabbit! I was stunned to see bold, simple shapes and thickly-outlined illustrations. I stared blankly at the screen, feeling my heart sink.

Could this guy even draw a truck?

I spent the next couple of months intently focused on the process of editing and developing the final manuscript. But it was always there, in the back of my mind: What would the book look like? What had I given up?

One evening I received an excited email from my editor with Tom’s first pencil sketch attached.

I wrote back: “I’m scared. I’ll pour a glass of wine and then look at it.”

I held my breath and double-clicked. And there it was: classic, timeless and tender, with just a touch of whimsy. My crane truck, a distant, younger cousin to Mike Mulligan, perhaps? My heart melted. I was won over.

So there it was: nothing like I imagined. But it was better. I’ve come to learn that some of the best things in life–like marriage and motherhood–are like that.

And I could almost feel Mrs. Burton smiling down.

Little House
Virginia Lee Burton’s The Little House Mike Mulligan
Virginia Lee Burton’s Mike Mulligan’s steam shovel Concept Sketch
Rinker’s original vision for Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site Duck Rabbit
Illustrator Tom Lichtenheld’s Duck! Rabbit! Crane
Lichtenheld’s first sketch of Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site

Nanci Arvizu, Writing and Reviews Editor

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Write, Publish, Promote. Words I am learning to live by. Want this to be your motto too? Join me and together we’ll navigate the path to publishing success.

3 Comments

  1. Lovely bedtime book This is just a wonderful bedtime story for any young fan of big machinery. The rhyming is spot on, creating a fantastic read aloud flow. We get to say goodnight to each machine as it dozes off, creating just the right atmosphere for bedtime. The illustrations have that classic old fashioned feel, done in muted colors with somewhat fuzzed edges. Each character has an expressive face that only adds to the charm of a story that is sure to be a much requested bed time read. A note to any…

  2. The perfect goodnight book for any boy or girl who is fascinated by big machines! This book is written in such a way that my little ones feel right at home with those hard working construction-site machines. Each night they take turns pretending they are one of the beautifully illustrated charactors, and in the daytime they point out all the machines they see as we drive to and from our places to be. This book makes them want to play along and snuggle up at bedtime, which of course puts them in the mood to sleep all snug and close, just like the machines at the…

  3. Perfect bedtime book for boys that like trucks and tractors My 3-year old son loves this book and wants to read it every night. The graphics are excellent and the rhymes are good too. The author uses just the right number of new words for a 2-3 year old. Italics are used on some parts of the text to allow the reader to shorten or expand the story.

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