Tonko House Co-Founder Robert Kondo on Turning Walks With His Daughter Into Book of Bedtime Poems, ‘Curiosities’

Kondo says they created worlds that appealed to multiple generations and he hopes that “Curiosities” can capture imaginations that way as well. “I think there's a playful aspect to it. There's an emotional aspect to it, but I also hope there's a multi-generational quality to it in which the two generations can engage on something that is meaningful and hopefully fun."
It was always fun and a bit of a challenge between the two of us to take just normal, natural things that are around us and start to put little narratives, or little imaginative stories, to them as a way to talk about nature,” Kondo explains. How long do you think it's been here?’ It would just get this level of curiosity in looking at the natural world in a very engaged, imaginative way.” “I'd be like, ‘Abby, look at this rock. “One of the aspects during the pandemic that I really came to enjoy were these little walks that we would go on, these walks through nature and that sort of thing.
I think that ‘Curiosities’ is very much that. Kondo, who will be speaking during the Lightbox Expo on Sept. But, also on the surface level, creating that magic of something coming to life.” 9 at 9:30 a.m., hinted that we might one day see “Curiosities” in an animated form. It’s so exciting to me because it is about taking inanimate things that are everyday around us and making them extraordinary and deepening them through story. “I think two things that we've talked deeply about is the aspect of this becoming animated. We don't think of these worlds very singularly as a book, or an exhibition, or an illustration even, or a film, or a series. It's this world to be explored,” he explains. We sort of think of them as worlds. “We at Tonko House love creating these worlds.
“In many ways, on a personal level, it's about me engaging and finding a relationship through my work on how to share my work, my process, my creativity with my daughter.” “We took a simple idea of taking the alphabet and just said, ‘What if we started at A and went all the way through Z, and just did a little curiosity for each letter.’ My daughter would come in the evening when I'd finished work and I’d read her the poem to see what she thought,” he says. From there, the book started taking shape.
I can't say much beyond sort of the intent, but that aspect of it is very exciting to me,” he says. In particular, I've been thinking a lot about it as a series, like a preschool series. “I think always in the back of my mind is the aspect of bringing this into animation. Kondo’s hope is to see “Curiosities” as an animated TV series.
“When we shared this idea with him, what was really great about Mark's approach, and where he doubled down was actually, was not just in the story that's happening in nature and these sort of fantastic characters that have their own stories, but also the quality of the father and daughter and how this father and daughter are going on a walk.” Kondo brought the idea to First Second editorial and creative director Mark Siegal. First Second Books also produced a series of graphic novels based on “The Dam Keeper,” the Oscar-nominated animated short by Kondo and his Tonko House co-founder Dice Tsutsumi. “Curiosities” is the latest graphic novel to come out of Tonko House.
These stories started taking on a life of their own. We might talk about anger and how coming through the atmosphere made that rock really heated and changed, shaved away all the rough edges, and landed in a place where this rock had to find its own new community.” “You might take a rock and talk about how it traveled across the universe and through our own atmosphere to be this little smooth pebble amongst all the rocks in our garden,” Kondo shares. “Each of these things have their own story, their own struggle.
“Robert Kondo is a magician, a virtuoso, a true artist. 'Curiosities' struck me as some of his most intimate and most universal work,” Siegel says. “It's a beautiful, delightful journey that returns you to the first wonder of being alive and discovering this strange, marvelous world you've appeared in. This is one keeper of a bedtime read-aloud book — one of the few picture books that readers will never outgrow.”
Eventually, Kondo started illustrating the stories and he shared those with his colleagues at Tonko House. “At the studio we talked about, ‘Well, what do you think of doing the equivalent of a live show for what we do.’ And we started to write these poems and do these illustrations and released them through social media.”
Seuss, who manages to talk about important things, I think really important things, on an emotional level, but make them so fun and relatable that they become books that, as a child, I remember going back to several times. The other is Shel Silverstein. A really important book that I always go back to is ‘The Giving Tree.’ His collection of quirky little illustrations, combined with these really fun poems, again, just became this experience with me. I remember, especially with my mom, of reading out loud and sort of the fun of the language to be read aloud and shared.” “One would be of course, Dr. While Kondo and his partners at Tonko House are involved in a number of different kinds of projects, this was Kondo’s first foray into writing poems, and his writing was inspired by two titans of the children’s book medium.
Not a theme park, but a park where a community could engage and feel like this is ours. Beyond animation, Tonko House would like to create something that Kondo says is “very specific to ‘Curiosities.’” “From the very beginning when Dice and I started Tonko House, one of the dream projects for us, that is still a dream project, is to be able to create a community park. Through nature and narrative coming together into an actual, tactile physical space, that is a community park, a public park of some kind, would be incredible.”” /> But, also that Tonko House could use narrative to engage.
When the pandemic forced creatives at Berkeley-based animation shop Tonko House to work from home, studio co-founder Robert Kondo used the pause to take walks with his young daughter, who is now five, exploring the simple wonders of nature. Those special walks inspired Kondo to create a unique graphic novel-style collection of bedtime poems and art called “Curiosities,” soon to be published by First Second Books.

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