Second Union

Second Union

INTERVIEW: Kiki Thorpe & Nidhi Chanani, Kong and Me

After the release of the Legendary Pictures film Godzilla vs. Kong, I had Godzilla and Kong fever! So when I read the announcement of a series of children’s books produced by Legendary Comics, my excitement grew even more for the two biggest and most recognized giants of fandom. This enticed me to reach out to Kiki and Nidhi to ask them a few questions about themselves and their newly released children’s book, ‘Kong and Me’.

About the Book: Kong will find himself the center of a charming and enthralling children’s book by New York Times’ author Kiki Thorpe, with illustrations by Nidhi Chanani (Pashmina; I will be fierce). Young fans will be able to follow along as the mighty Titan and his new pal spend a day of fun and adventure exploring the many wonders of Skull Island—proving that friendships come in many sizes and no matter how different we are, no one is too big or small to find a true friend

Writer: Kiki Thorpe(Disney: The Never Girls, Finding Tinkerbell, Meet the Kreeps)

Young readers will recognize your name Kiki, as the author of the New York Times best-selling series The Never Girls and your portfolio of over 30 books. But for those that may not be familiar, please tell us a little bit about yourself. What’s YOUR origin story?

KT: My story is very similar to Kong’s. I was born on a tropical island (Guam), and I spend my days battling monsters. Okay, the monster part isn’t totally true, but a tough day of writing can feel like that sometimes. I was a voracious reader as a kid, and that definitely influenced my path. After college, I worked in publishing at The Jim Henson Company when it was still located in New York. I got my start writing Muppet books. It was so much fun, I couldn’t believe it was actually a job. Before I started writing full time, I held editorial jobs at Disney, Pixar, and Simon & Schuster. I’ve always been interested in the intersection of media and children’s publishing… the Same question to you, Nidhi. What’s YOUR origin story? Young readers of your work will recognize your style in the graphic novel, Pashmina and the board book, Shubh Raatri Dost/Good Night Friend, and displays in Disney Parks.

Artist: Nidhi Chanani
(Jukebox, I Will Be Fierce, What Will My Story Be?)

NC: I was born in Kolkata, India, and grew up in southern California. I studied literature in college while maintaining an active curiosity about art. That curiosity led me to enroll in art school. After leaving art school, I began completing one illustration every day of the week. Through daily practice, I developed my narrative style and voice over the next three years. At first, I pursued selling my illustrations as prints and commission work. Eventually, my literature background intersected with my art training, and I started to make comics and started my book career.

From the unique beauty and the fellowship storyline of Kong and Me, it is shown that you two have some creative chemistry. How did you both get involved in Legendary Comics’ First Children’s Book?

KT: Jann Jones, the editor of Kong and Me for Legendary Comics, contacted me to see if I’d be interested in writing it. I was excited for the opportunity to work with such an iconic character.

NC: I was contacted by our wonderful editor, Jann Jones, to illustrate Kong and Me. Making Kong accessible to kids seemed like a challenge that would allow me to grow as an artist and engage with one of the most recognizable monsters around!

Reading Kong and Me as an adult, I still can reminisce to a time during my childhood when a story like this would greatly influence my imagination and apply its story to real life. One can find true friendship even with someone with BIG differences. When conceptualizing the making of Kong and Me, how did that guide the development of the storyline and illustrations?

KT: Kong and Jia’s friendship at first seems unlikely because they are so different. I wanted to turn that around and show how their differences were really an asset to the friendship—they are able to have fun together in ways that wouldn’t be possible if they were exactly alike. When we decided to set the story entirely on Skull Island, it opened up a ton of possibilities. It’s such a rich environment, with so many different locations and monsters.

NC: That’s truly the message of the book. Acceptance. Kiki wrote such a beautiful script. It was easy to show that accepting your friends means that even when they frustrate you, you can come together to find a solution or resolve your problems.

Richard Scarry’s Look & Learn Library was one of my favorites! I still own my original set. And occasionally thumb through them for creative inspiration. Besides your own, what are a few of your favorite children’s books? As a child? As an adult?

KT: As a kid, I was a great fan of all Russell Hoban’s Frances books. Father Christmas by Raymond Briggs will always be my favorite holiday book. As an adult, I enjoy all kinds of children’s books—too many to name. But a couple that I never get tired of reading are All the World by Liz Garton Scanlon and Marla Frazee and The Book of Mistakes by Corinna Luyken. They’re so beautiful.

NC: As a child, my favorite picture book was Harold and the Purple Crayon. The idea that a kid could draw himself into his own world (and a tree full of pie!) was magic. Currently, my favorite books to read with my daughter are: She Wanted to Be Haunted by Marcus Ewert and Susie Ghahremani, Escargot by Dashka Slater and Sydney Hanson, Eyes that Kiss in the Corners by Joanna Ho and Dung Ho, Saturday by Oge Mora, and The Tree in Me by Corinna Luyken. Honestly, I could keep going but I’ll stop there!

Learning from your website about Kiki’s Skype visits and Nidhi’s free drawing lessons, will you two be doing any more virtual events as the world continues to heal due to the pandemic? Are there any other personal projects you would like to share with our audience?

KT: Yes, I love Skype visits. But I’m also looking forward to the day when in-person school and bookstore can happen again because I love meeting readers. You don’t get to have the same conversations virtually. As for projects, I am working on something new, but it’s too soon to share information about it.

NC: Yes! I do classroom virtual visits through my speaking agency, The Author Village

Lastly, we are a pop-culture fandom site. Can you tell us about any of your favorite fandoms? Favorite movie, tv-show, cartoon. Favorite celebrity encounter. Whether classic, retro or modern fandoms. We love it all!

KT:  I sat next to Steve Buscemi on the subway! I think The Princess Bride is a nearly perfect movie. And, like many people, I am anxiously awaiting the return of Succession.

NC: Old school – Fresh Prince and My So-Called Life! Modern – Insecure, Bridgerton, Kim’s Convenience, Queer Eye and with my daughter, Hilda!

Thanks again for your time Kiki and Nidhi! Steve Buscemi! That is so cool. I would definitely be starstruck if I sat next to him. What a great encounter. As soon as it was uploaded to HBOMax, I binge-watched seasons of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. And My So Called Life was the first series I watched on HULU. So good. Love all your fandoms!

Add Kong and Me to your collection by picking up the book at your local book store or online store. Find a list of retailers at Visit Kiki Thorpe’s Website and Nindhi Chanani’s website to learn more about them.

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