Lighthearted Learning with Farmer Dillo
by Eileen Berry
When Jesse Adams was assigned to write a picture book in a college writing course at Bob Jones University, he had no idea he was writing for publication. He was just doing his homework. Looking for a fun way to help his nephew recognize colors, Jesse created the character Farmer Dillo. He not only wrote the text for his book but also drew and colored sketches of an overall-clad armadillo trying out various shades of paint on his barn. The book was such a hit with his classmates and his teacher that it was brought to the attention of JourneyForth’s acquisitions editor, Nancy Lohr. Now, four years later, Jesse’s book is published, and Farmer Dillo is a household name for hundreds of young children.
One book led to another, and Farmer Dillo became a series. Farmer Dillo Paints His Barn, published in 2006, teaches color recognition and contrast. Farmer Dillo Counts His Chickens, newly released, teaches counting skills. In 2009 fans can expect a third book, Farmer Dillo Shapes Things Up, to wrap up the series with a lighthearted lesson in shape recognition.
Jesse’s original sketches, though helpful in visualizing his concept for the artwork, were not used in the books. The primary creative force behind the lively Farmer Dillo illustrations was Julie Speer. Julie received copies of the manuscript in dummy form (laid out like a real book) for each of the three books. From the text, she created and developed the characters and storyboards for all three books. Her humorous touches include Farmer Dillo’s unconventional methods of painting (employing everything from stilts to a power spray-painting pump), hidden chickens camouflaged in various imaginative ways, and engaging facial expressions.
The next step in the artwork was sending Julie’s characters and scenes to 3-D artists at BJU Press and Unusual Films. These talented individuals re-created the art in computer-generated images. The computer images give a fresh, bright look to the illustrations, and they also allow for the production of animated stories. Customers now have the option to purchase Farmer Dillo Paints His Barn with a 3-D fully animated DVD inside the back cover.
The Farmer Dillo series is an ideal way to interest children in learning basic preschool concepts. The simple language and repetition in the texts of each book provide a comforting read-aloud experience for very young children. Children also appreciate the easy pace and gentle humor of the writing style. Each book asks questions, giving children an opportunity to interact with the text and help Farmer Dillo solve problems. The text is laid out to maximize the suspense of page-turning points, keeping the attention of eager young minds from cover to cover. And the bright, fun illustrations capture the imagination and produce smiles from children and adults alike.
If you’re looking for picture books that would both teach and delight your child, the Farmer Dillo series would be a great addition to your bookshelf.