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‘I Don’t Care’ is a book about friendship — illustrated by best friends: NPR

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Molly Idle and Juana Martinez-Neal/Holiday House Publishing, Inc.

I Don't Care, written by Julie Fogliano and illustrated by Molly Idle and Juana Martinez-Neal

Molly Idle and Juana Martinez-Neal/Holiday House Publishing, Inc.

When looking for a friend, some things matter and some things don’t. Julie Fogliano I do not care concerns what is not important (“I really don’t care what you think of my hair, my eyes, my toes or my nose”) as well as what is (“I care if you will, and I care if you sing, and I care if you like leaning back when you swing.”)

I do not care started as a free writing exercise a few years ago. It came from a jumble of childhood memories, but it wasn’t about anyone in particular. “I just wrote, like, a whole bunch of pretty much nonsense pages,” Fogliano says.

But then the story ended up on the desk of illustrator Molly Idle, who read the first line and immediately understood what the story was about.

“It’s the story of two people who are on the surface maybe very different on the surface, but deep down they’re very, very similar,” Idle says, “and I thought, ‘Oh my God, this is like me and Juana!’ ”

That would be Juana Martinez-Neal.

Idle and Martinez-Neal met 16 years ago. They were both artists and first-time mothers, but Martinez-Neal’s child was a year older than Idle’s.

“I loved her artwork and was full of admiration for her doing what I was trying to do,” Idle said. “And I said, ‘Tell me, is it getting any easier? And Juana just looked me straight in the eye and said, “No. And I thought: talent and total honesty. This woman is everything.

'I Don't Care' is a book about friendship — illustrated by best friends: NPR

“I do not care”

Molly Idle and Juana Martinez-Neal/Holiday House Publishing, Inc.


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Molly Idle and Juana Martinez-Neal/Holiday House Publishing, Inc.

They became critical partners – then best friends. Idle decided they should co-illustrate I do not care, so in the form of a real best friend, she proposed her for the job.

“I was nervous and confused and didn’t want to say no,” Martinez-Neal said. “My best friend, one of my favorite authors… how could I say no?”

They thought it would be quite simple. The two illustrators lived close to each other in Arizona. They could work in one person’s shop one day, then in the other’s shop the next. Then Martinez-Neal crossed the country to Connecticut, and it got a little more complicated.

“It definitely influenced the way we wanted to make art,” says Idle. “Because we knew we had to use mediums and color palettes that we could keep consistent despite the distance and despite having to ship the art back and forth.”

They also had to make a lot of compromises. Martinez-Neal loves texture; Slow motion does not work. Martinez-Neal uses heavy brushstrokes; Idle’s work is very fluid, almost seamless. They decided to standardize the rules of the game by using graphite. They each sketched their own character and then swapped pages. They stitched their sketches together in Photoshop to see if it would work.

"I do not care," written by Julie Fogliano and illustrated by Molly Idle and Juana Martinez-Neal

Molly Idle and Juana Martinez-Neal/Holiday House Publishing, Inc.

"I do not care"  written by Julie Fogliano and illustrated by Molly Idle and Juana Martinez-Neal

Molly Idle and Juana Martinez-Neal/Holiday House Publishing, Inc.

“It was like this wonderful…creative exercise,” Idle says. “Understand, like, wow, I draw necks twice as thick as you draw necks. Or, you know, you draw heads bigger than I draw heads.”

Since they also use color in different ways, Idle and Martinez-Neal decided to use just two. They picked their favorites – yellow for Martinez-Neal and teal for Idle.

They used linocut pads and ink to layer the colors on the graphite drawings. And they intentionally placed them in the center of each page, to draw the reader’s attention to the emotional center of each page.

Where Fogliano writes, “I don’t care if you think my house is too small or my feet are too big or my brother is too tall,” the teal color extends from the little girl’s polka dot boots to her friend.

“The color also develops throughout the book,” says Juana Martinez-Neal. At first, when the two friends are unsure of each other, the color shapes are far apart on the page.

“They get closer and closer and bigger until they’re almost touching,” says Molly Idle. As the little girls begin to become friends, she explains, “There’s like a bit of overlapping, and then suddenly there are places where they totally overlap.”

I Don't Care, written by Julie Fogliano and illustrated by Molly Idle and Juana Martinez-Neal

Molly Idle and Juana Martinez-Neal/Holiday House Publishing, Inc.

I Don't Care, written by Julie Fogliano and illustrated by Molly Idle and Juana Martinez-Neal

Molly Idle and Juana Martinez-Neal/Holiday House Publishing, Inc.

Where their hands meet, teal and yellow overlap and turn green.

“If I didn’t know, I would never have thought it was two people,” says Julie Fogliano. She says it took her four years to write I do not care, and even after spending all this time with it, seeing the illustrations is what brought it to life.

“It just gave it more depth, I think,” she says. “Knowing the personal connection between the two.”

Martinez-Neal says his favorite line is at the end of the book: “I care that you are you and I care about me. I care that we are us and I care that we are us.”

“I like it because it recognizes that we are individuals and yet together we are something else,” she says. “It’s the individuality that makes friendship so wonderful and so strong.”

The best writing, says Idle, comes from a place so personal that it resonates on a much deeper level. She says her hope for children reading this book is that they too can see themselves in it – just as she saw herself and her best friend.

'I Don't Care' is a book about friendship — illustrated by best friends: NPR

“I Don’t Care”, written by Julie Fogliano and illustrated by Molly Idle and Juana Martinez-Neal

Molly Idle and Juana Martinez-Neal/Holiday House Publishing, Inc.


hide caption

toggle caption

Molly Idle and Juana Martinez-Neal/Holiday House Publishing, Inc.

'I Don't Care' is a book about friendship — illustrated by best friends: NPR

“I Don’t Care”, written by Julie Fogliano and illustrated by Molly Idle and Juana Martinez-Neal

Molly Idle and Juana Martinez-Neal/Holiday House Publishing, Inc.

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