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Dennis Lee's Melvis and Elvis comes to life with Jeremy Tankard's illustrations

03/07/2015 11:00 EST | Updated 05/07/2015 05:59 EDT
Canadian poet Dennis Lee's whimsical rhymes have long delighted young children, so when his latest work Melvis and Elvis needed to be illustrated, it seemed only apt that Jeremy Tankard would sketch while crammed into an elementary school desk.

Not that Tankard planned it — he just so happened to be on deadline while easing his son into kindergarten.

"So what ended up happening was the principal of his school just gave me a child-sized desk and put it outside the kindergarten classroom and said, 'You can stay here and do whatever you want to do, and then you'll be here when he needs you … so actually all of this book was drawn on a child-sized desk, which seems strangely appropriate," Tankard told North By Northwest's Sheryl MacKay.

Melvis and Elvis was released last month and is Lee's first collection of original children's poems in more than a decade.

The book is about two strangers, Melvis (a monster) and Elvis (an elf), who meet by a library shelf. Melvis is looking for a book about elves, and Elvis is looking for a book about monsters. The two become friends and settle down with the perfect book.

Tankard said he was thrilled to work with Lee. Usually authors have little say in their book's art, but Lee was allowed a bit of input, Tankard said.

"He loved some of (my drawings), he laughed about some of them," he recalled. "Some of them he apparently laughed very hard and then said, 'No, can't do that.'"

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