Creating scrapbooks of kids’ biggest moments is one way to preserve those memories. Another way would be to do what illustrator Martin Bruckner does — take three years and draw all the odd and hilarious things that come out of a child learning how to think and speak. In his new book, I Love You With All My Butt!, Bruckner pairs hundreds of Harper’s random toddler comments with equally random illustrations.
He knew he was onto something when he and his wife, Michelle, started an email thread to note their daughter’s biggest little moments. “We called it ‘Harper’s Firsts,’ and noted the first time she crawled, smiled, cried and all those little things,” he says. “We put them in the email because we had been really bad about putting them in a book.”
One night at the dinner table his then two-year-old daughter was playing with her spaghetti. She dropped one noodle, which slid down her leg and inched towards her toes. “My wife said, ‘Please don’t get spaghetti between your toes.’ Spaghetti Toes just stuck in my head,” Bruckner says. “The next night I plopped down on my computer and started to scribble some really simple and child-like drawings. I drew fat little baby toes and put a noodle through them and I called it a day.”
Throughout the year, Bruckner gathered nearly a dozen illustrations that were spawned from his daughter’s precocious mind. He turned the collection into a book for Mother’s Day. And, at her insistence, a few pieces of that art showed up in her Etsy shop. After that came a Facebook page, a Tumblr, and when the blog was covered by Pleated Jeans, it really took off.
“Later that night I got a text from a friend and it said, ‘You’re on The Chive right now.’ Within a few days, I was getting emails from The Huffington Post, CNN, The Today Show and my local Omaha news stations.” With the media attention came requests. Bruckner received nearly 500 solicitations from parents around the world to create original illustrations based on their toddler’s phrases. That was enough original drawings for a book.
I Love You with All My Butt, however, wasn’t the first title of the book. “I gave [my publisher] a list of quotes from my daughter, and it was originally going to be called, “I Only Love You at the Toy Store” which my daughter actually said to my wife. It’s funny and sweet, but it’s not as joyful as we wanted.”
Bruckner wants to keep going despite the massive undertaking in creating his book. Plus, he has a wealth of inspiration from his daughter. “I don’t want to stop. It’s like a visual history of my child’s development” he says. What does Harper think about being the muse? “I don’t think she can grasp it,” he says. “She understands how much I work. I told how the book came out this week, and she said, ‘Does that mean you’re going to retire?’”