These are the pages where Larry gets lost in Chinatown.
I was enthusiastic about the two-page Dragon’s Gate illustration (top), but when I got back home to Los Angeles and started drawing it, a problem arose. Looking at my photo reference I noticed little ceramic animals on the ridges of the roof tiles, and they’re all different. Among my own photos, reference books, and all available online resources, I couldn’t find a photo of high enough resolution to see them clearly, or any mention of them in writing. In a smaller illustration I could fake it, but at this scale they had to be accurate. Also, little animals would be of obvious interest to both Larry and his young readers.
This one made me nuts. What is it? A dragon’s head, or a chicken? And this was one of the big ones. Trying to decipher the little animals was hopeless.
Fortunately, this was only after my first research trip and I would have an opportunity to take better photos myself on a longer follow-up trip. But it’s the sort of thing that drives me crazy. What if I hadn’t noticed this until it was down to the wire on the deadline? What other surprise gaps in my research are waiting for me on other pages? These are the questions I ponder on sleepless nights.
Answer: it’s a dragon’s head. The other little animals are dogs, lions, roosters, horses, etc. Another thing revealed by closer scrutiny is that a few of the animals have been broken off and replaced with plain tiles over the years, so the number of animals is different on each roof. I photographed every one.
This rougher-than-rough spread is the San Francisco Zoo. It will probably be dropped from the book, not due to the recent tiger mauling, but because Coit Tower is missing from the book. To include it, something has to go to make room.
Every city has a zoo, so I don’t think it’s necessary, but I really wanted to include the big dog head just outside the zoo. It’s from an old chain of SF restaurants called Doggie Diners. They’ve all been closed and this giant dog’s head wearing a chef hat (note the “DD”) was saved and mounted on a big pole on Sloat Blvd. It’s the sort of locals-only landmark I like to include in the books. Of course Larry would find it noteworthy.