Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Pedro's Pan ~ a chat with illustrator Jacob Souva

by Sue Heavenrich

Pedro’s Pan
by Matthew Lasley; illus. by Jacob Souva
32 pages; ages 5 - 7
Alaska Northwest Books, 2019

A few years ago my dad and mom began panning for gold. They never found the motherlode, but they had a lot of fun exploring new places and meeting fellow enthusiasts. So I was excited to discover Matthew Lasley's new picture book about panning for gold.

From the point of view of the pan! Here’s how it begins:

He is Pedro. I am Pan.
Up here, on Pedro’s pack!
I’m not a Frying Pan.
I am a Gold Pan. You can call me Pan for short.

character sketch, used by permission of Jacob Souva
Yep! I fell in love with this small, round character at first read. Pan is a hard worker, swishing and swirling gravel from icy cold streams. But finding gold is tough, and Pedro is growing sad because he can’t find any. And Pan wonders if he is broken.

I like a lot of things about this book, beginning with the end pages (red plaid like a wool shirt). The language is fun. Having Pan tell the story is brilliant. And there is Back Matter: information about the real Pedro, tips on panning for gold, and some solid gold facts.

I really like the illustrations – and was so fortunate to run into illustrator Jacob Souva at our region's SCBWI Spring Conference last month!  He agreed to share his thoughts about Pedro’s Pan with us today.

Jacob: Thank you. It was lovely meeting you at SCWBI!

GROG:  How did you come to illustrate Pedro's Pan? Have you ever been to Alaska? Panned for gold?

Jacob: My agent let me know of a possible book with Graphic Arts (recently rebranded as West Margin Press; Alaska Northwest Books is an imprint ). She said it was about the Alaskan gold rush. I admit that I knew a little bit about it - but not enough! I set out gathering info and images to help me understand what that period in Alaskan history was like. I love history so it was not a tough sell.

GROG: Talk about the medium that you used for illustrating, and why you chose it for this book.

Jacob: I work digitally and modify my style a little based on what the story needs. It tends to look like collaged paper with a healthy amount of stray pencil marks and rough painting. I think in big shapes.

Pedro’s Pan was a book that seemed to contrast the excitement and beauty of Alaska and gold with the hard work and many disappointments of gold panning. I picked a color palette that would allow for this juxtaposition. For example, Pedro and Pan are both mostly earth tones (dirty) while the sky and mountains and streams are all bright and full of hope

GROG: In an instagram post you said, “I was truly sad to wrap up the final illustrations as I loved living in this world.”

Jacob: Yes, I think that books require a consistency where it’s a believable world to the reader. It’s not hard to get lost in that as the illustrator! The illustration process can be a kind of immersion in the story that is pretty deep. Not quite like the Alaskan wilderness, but maybe close?

GROG: Can you share some spreads and talk about your process?
sketch for spread 2, used with permission of Jacob Souva

Jacob: My process is not that unlike a lot of illustrators. I start with research, then sketches of the main characters. I took some time to study the colors I wanted to work with. I really felt like Pedro and Pan needed to look great together - a real team - so I spent a lot of time on their shapes.

Thumbnailing the book was my favorite step. It was a true challenge in that prospecting and gold panning requires a lot of time in and around streams, but I didn’t want to get repetitive. I think I solved it!
final artwork for spread 2, used with permission of Jacob Souva

GROG:  You mention that the night scene was the spread you were most nervous about.

Jacob: In every page before that final spread it wasis clearly daytime and was a much lighter palette. I was nervous about making it look like it fit, while also clearly showing a kind of “long day, well spent” vibe to the environment. Campfires tend to be just that! But it was tricky.

GROG: How often did you talk to Matt?

Jacob: I didn’t communicate with Matt until the artwork was handed in. I did a lot of googling about gold panning and the Alaska wilderness. I’m surprised I’m not seeing ads for trips to Alaska!

GROG: Got a project in the works that you can talk about?

Jacob: I have two more books with West Margin Press currently in process. They are a little lighter and funnier! I also am working on a beautiful book about a boy with a big heart and another about how beautifully gross butterflies can be. It’s all been a lot of fun and a dream come true.

Thank you for dropping by for a chat, Jacob. Good luck with your books!

Check out the trailer for Pedro's Pan here. You can find more of Jacob's work at his website. Here's a fun video filled with tips and techniques on how to pan for gold, and here's a list of places where you can still pan for gold - and maybe find some!


  1. This post is pure gold, Sue and Jacob. I love seeing the book from the artist's perspective. TY both.

  2. Love this book! I have my father-in-laws' old gold pan. Not nearly as nice as this one, very rusty. I don't think he found much gold. Great interview!

  3. This was a fun interview learning about this book from the illustrator's pov.

  4. Love the gorgeous art and the gold pan's story! Fun interview, Sue & Jacob!

  5. Thank you for introducing me to Pedro, Pan, and Jacob’s illustrations.

    An excellent interview, Sue.

  6. I loved Jacob's style for this book. A great fit.

  7. Looking forward to reading this book-love the language and illustrations!

  8. I was just researching this publisher and saw this book on their front list. I love the illustration style and subject matter! Going in search of a copy now. Cheers!

  9. Yes, very clever, to write from the pan's pov! Thanks for sharing!