Dogs Don’t Brush Their Teeth!: The Process


It all began one evening in 2007 while we were musing about doing a project together.  We both had written and illustrated many children’s books, but our work was quite different.  Shelley used her photographs to illustrate nonfiction books; Diane always used watercolor paint, but wanted to experiment more with digital art.  We searched for a book idea to combine these mediums.

Shelley, the dog person on the team, came up with the idea of showing what dogs do as typical dogs, and what they don’t do. Together, we came up with clever ideas about silly dog behavior to fill a book.  Our working title, “Dogs Do,” would have double meaning for giggly kids.  (See the cover development story to learn all the titles it had at one time or another.)

Diane designed a full-sized dummy, engineering the flaps and getting the dog poses finalized.  Shelley would use this mock-up as a guide when she photographed the dogs.  We also wanted to show publishers the concept—lifting the flaps was part of the experience of reading the book.

We chose a publisher that we felt would be a good match for the book­­—Scholastic.   We were thrilled to get an offer and a contract.  Then the hard work began…

Shelley found the dogs while taking her Australian Shepherd Ginger on the trails, while shopping in Manhattan, and when vacationing on Martha’s Vineyard.  Wherever there were dogs, Shelley was there with her camera.

Meanwhile, Diane, who thought she was proficient in Photoshop, had a lot to learn.  Her initial idea was to make scribbly, loose backgrounds for the art, but in reality it didn’t work.  After MANY attempts to establish a style, she finally developed what would become the “look” of Dogs Don’t Brush Their Teeth!—a perfect combination of photography, art, and collage.  Shelley’s input, as well as Photoshop tutorials and critiques from fellow illustrators, made it even better.

Shelley tried to get the dogs positioned as close as possible to the layouts, but it wasn’t easy!  Sometimes Diane had to use pieces from many different photographs to get the dog looking “right.” Here is a step-by-step look at one of the pages:

Sometimes Diane even borrowed a body part from another dog. The paws on the cover dog are actually the paws from the driving dog.  We didn’t have a good shot of the Cocker Spaniel’s paws when we needed them! Working with our editor at Scholastic was a pleasure.  He asked for only a few changes. For instance, the dressed-up dog had to be deleted because some people really do dress up their dogs and the humor would be lost. We were surprised that the pooping dog was accepted. It turned out to be the most popular page in the book!It took almost a year to complete the artwork for this dog book. The sequel is about a dog who plays baseball!