Floating down stream on a piece of wood, accidentally stowing away in a delivery truck, or covered in paint, Scruffles often finds that his explorations or his misguided attempts to be helpful don’t turn out as planned.
“He doesn’t know he’s a dog is the problem,” said Joan Ranieri-Certain, of Southampton, the illustrator of “The Adventures of Scruffles,” her sixth Scruffles book with author Heather Glenn Vines, of Missoula, Montana.
Scruffles is based on Vines’ real dog, Skittles, a silky terrier, and Scruffles' adventures — or misadventures — are sometimes inspired by real events in both Vines and Ranieri-Certain’s lives.
“The Adventures of Scruffles” collects the first five Scruffles books and includes two new stories. Ranieri-Certain made some new illustrations, and Vines added text to the collected stories.
Ranieri-Certain said that, like the previous books, “The Adventures of Scruffles” is geared toward children between 4 and 8 years old. It does, however, have more words per page, to introduce children to chapter books. “They do have to learn how to read but you still have to make it fun because one day the pictures go away,” she said
Ranieri-Certain and Vines had worked separately in the advertising industry in Manhattan for several years. While they worked at some of the same agencies, they were never at the same agency at the same time. It wasn’t until they had both moved to Seattle that they finally met while working for the advertising agency now known as DDB. Ranieri-Certain was art director and Vines was a copywriter, much like their relationship now.
After they both left Seattle, they kept in touch and decided to collaborate on Vines’ idea for a children’s book. They self-published the first book in 2009.
“The whole book was done via email,” Ranieri-Certain said.
Vines writes the script and sends it off to her, and she starts designing pages and making illustrations in Adobe InDesign. For the characters, Ranieri-Certain requests certain poses — like the dog jumping, climbing stairs or pulling on a pant leg — then Vines photographs Skittles and her daughter, 13-year-old Paige, who is Scruffles' owner Sara in the books.
Photos of Ranieri-Certain’s son, 15-year-old student Sage, and husband, Charles Certain, are also featured in the Scruffles books.
Ranieri-Certain said that when she digitally edits the photos, she purposely makes them look like they were cut out with scissors and pasted on the page. In the future, she said, she wants to take Scruffles into classrooms and teach children how to illustrate stories with their own photos.
She also has ambitions of having the books translated to other languages and of animating Scruffles for YouTube.
While Ranieri-Certain has done book illustrations in the past, she said Scruffles is the first time she has had creative control and could call the work her own. The books are “totally ruled by me and Heather,” she said. They published through CreateSpace, a print-on-demand service, which only prints copies of books after they have been bought and paid for. Ranieri-Certain says she prefers this to traditional book publishing because it is more “green” — there is no guilt to be had over boxes of unsold books sitting in a warehouse.
“The Adventures of Scruffles: Little Dog, Big World” is available at Amazon.com for $8.95. Learn more at scrufflesadventures.com.