A new children’s book that helps explain vaccinations to young readers, “Maxine’s Critters Get the Vaccine Jitters,” is illustrated with aplomb by Corlette Douglas, (Illustration ‘14). The main character, the charming and buoyant Maxine, playfully engages with her stuffed animals to help put them at ease about getting vaccinated.
Douglas’ illustrations capture the dread of Maxine’s “critters” with subtle but distinct gestures of fright. That all begins to change when Maxine explains to them, with clever repartee that “vaccines keep us well.”
Yet, their reluctance remains until they get vaccinated. Both illustrator and author have created a menagerie of lively stuffed animals with minds of their own. Their personalities suspiciously reflect that of Maxine’s come to think of it.
“Wow! I’m really impressed by Corlette’s illustrations in ‘Maxine’s Critters Get the Vaccine Jitters.’ As her former professor I’m happy to see the results of Corlette’s hard work and dedication in these marvelous illustrations.” – Illustration Prof. Eric Velasquez
Douglas got involved in the project in April 2021, when her agent, Saritza Hernandez, called to let her know that The Experiment, an independent publishing house, had seen her work on Instagram and thought her style would fit perfectly.
“I knew this special book needed to be shared with everyone,” Douglas said.
Douglas notes that there’s more that goes into illustrating a book than just the sketching, coloring and finalizing of the drawings. “As the illustrator, you not only get to communicate with the author but the art director of the publishing house as well.”
Thus, despite being a freelance illustrator, there is typically a team approach with all the creative people exchanging ideas. Maxine, the book’s main character, comes across as upbeat and playful, and engaged with adults. Douglas says “That’s 100 percent thanks to the author Jan Zaumer and her amazing writing skills building on Maxine’s character.”
Maxine, says Douglas, reminds her of her niece. “They’re both fun motivated people who are always willing to learn more about the world around them.”
Says Douglas, “the full range of emotion I’m able to show is from years of practice and trial-and-error. It helps to create a character sheet with posing, facial expressions and some extra doodles to help you get a feel for each cute critter.”
At FIT, “I didn’t really know exactly what I wanted to do, but interacting with so many creative, like-minded peers and professors helped me consider what kind of artist I wanted to be,” says Douglas.
“As a senior, in my children’s book class, taught by (award-winning author and children’s book illustrator) Prof. Eric Velasquez, I enjoyed the process of creating a book from start to finish. I was open to learning more about creating books for both kids and parents. I learned how to build a perfect portfolio for the industry I wanted to pursue,” she said.
“I’ve been illustrating characters that look like me for a long time now, since day one of my career. What has changed, aside from my becoming a better artist, is that more and more people are taking notice of my work. That has me very excited.”
Says Prof. Velasquez “I remember Corlette from my Book Illustration class. She worked really hard and was a dedicated student. Corlette’s work had a very distinctive style, which is still a part of her work today.”
When it’s Maxine’s turn to get vaccinated, she has a downturned expression. But she’s holding out her arm, as if to say: There’s a part of this that’s unpleasant, but I’m being a good sport about it. After getting her shot she immediately becomes exuberantly happy again.
This sudden change of expression isn’t merely an illustration device that’s common to cartooning:
“It was something I made note of while interacting with my niece and kids in general,” Douglas said. “They seem to switch how they feel at the drop of a hat! So I thought it would be funny to have Maxine do the same in the book.”
Oddly enough, Douglas doesn’t remember having a lot of stuffed animals as a child. “But I can say that I have a very big designer toy collection now as an adult!”
To learn more about the School of Art and Design Illustration program go to Illustration at FIT.