When you've worked as a graphic designer on The Simpsons for 20 years, sometimes it's good to draw something your young children can enjoy too.
On April 30, Chelmsford native J.R. Krause will release his first picture book, Poco Loco, which he co-wrote with his wife Maria Chua and illustrated himself.
Poco is a mouse with a knack for inventing odd-yet-useful devices, like a "showerbed" or "cuckoo clock coffee maker." When a crazy storm snatches Poco and his friends up into the air, it's up to him (and one of his trusty inventions) to save the day.
"It's a very zany, colorful book," said Krause. "I think really good picture books are so reliant on the actual pictures, like Goodnight Moon or Where the Wild Things Are.
Poco Loco includes a mixture of English and Spanish, as well as a glossary of 22 Spanish words. Chua studied in Spain and Mexico and her and Krause's daughters attend a Spanish immersion elementary school in Glendale, Calif.
"Initially, it was not written with bilingual intention but eventually it became that and kind of made it more unique," said Krause.
Krause takes his daughters, aged 5 and 7, to the library to take out at least ten picture books a week, a habit which benefited his picture book knowledge.
"It's all part of the learning process for me," said Krause. "When we started this ten years ago, we didn't have kids. Seeing how they look at books was a huge education for Maria and I."
The drawing was the easy part. Krause came on to The Simpsons as a background designer for the third season in 1991, drawing inspiration from his Chelmsford childhood for many locations on the show (ever notice the resemblance between the Chelmsford Library and the Springfield Town Hall?). He was a design supervisor for The Simpsons Movie and worked in development for Matt Groening's Futurama, for which he helped design the Planet Express spaceship. He now creates props for the show.
"All vehicles, logos, newspapers, magazines, graphics," said Krause. "Anything that animates on the show that isn't a character."