Graham Annable is an Oscar nominated cartoonist and animator. He’s worked on such animated movies as Coraline, ParaNorman, The Boxtrolls, and Kubo and the Two Strings. As far as his comics career is concerned, he has worked on Grickle, Further Grickle, and the Hickee volumes 1 to 3 to name a few.
One of his latest works, Peter & Ernesto: A Tale of Two Sloths, is a graphic novel for young audiences, published by First Second. As its title implies, the story follows two sloths named Peter and Ernesto. Ernesto finds himself wanting more out of life than the view from his tree, thus sparking an impromptu journey around the world. At first, Peter is utterly terrified at such an idea and stays behind. When concern for his friend gets the best of him, Peter sets out to find him, resulting in his own “mini-adventure.”
We had a chance to briefly speak with Graham Annable about his latest work and how characters Peter and Ernesto’s viewpoints together create a rich visual for readers.
I have to know; why a story with sloths?
I feel like for nearly every animal you have a single word you can distill what your impression of that creature is. When First Second approached me about writing an early readers graphic novel I immediately thought of sloths. I know most folks would use the word “slow,” but the word I personally associate with them is “gentle.” I liked the idea of creating a story and world that would feel imbued with a gentle nature.
Where did the story idea for “Peter and Ernesto” come from?
It’s a combination of things. I love the Frog and Toad stories by Arnold Lobel and this book is certainly my attempt at trying to get anywhere near to the beautiful sincerity and simplicity his stories always have. I wanted everything in it to feel true and gentle in terms of the friendship between Peter and & Ernesto. My wife grew up on the Frances stories by Russel and Lillian Hoban and I was greatly inspired by reading those books with my two boys as well. I also wanted to explore a tale that showed opposite approaches to the world and how they both have an equal validity. Ernesto’s bold outgoing personality takes him all over the world, but he doesn’t always pay enough attention to the things he’s seeing. Peter’s introverted nature keeps him closer to home and too fearful to travel the distances Ernesto does. But he really absorbs all the details of his smaller experiences and it’s worth every bit as much as Ernesto’s grand adventuring. I liked keeping that idea as a main theme for the book.
Is there an interesting story behind their names? They are definitely not names I would envision for sloths.
Ha! Well I’m glad they feel unexpected. Originally I’d thought since sloths are typically found in Central and South America I’d go with names that were indicative of those regions. But the core of the story was about the friendship between the two and not specific to any country or area. It felt universal to me and so I wanted to kind of mix up the names culturally. That’s how I found myself calling the series “Peter & Ernesto.”
Ernesto appears to go on a very impromptu adventure to satisfy his curiosity of the world beyond his tree. Does this mirror a personal story of wanderlust or of someone you know?
Numerous people I know! I certainly feel closer in personality to Peter than Ernesto, but I’m constantly in awe of the more adventurous people in my life who seem to know no fear when approaching something new or traveling somewhere completely different. Ernesto I hope represents a side of ourselves that everyone can relate to but doesn’t necessarily always indulge in.
What kind of lessons do you wish readers to gleam from your story?
The biggest thing for me is that the readers thing about the Peters and Ernestos in their own lives and how these two ends of the personality spectrum have equal value in this world. We need the bold adventurers just as much as we need the careful thinkers out there.
Do you think it’s better to be an Ernesto, looking for more out of life, or a Peter, content with what you already have?
I really don’t think one is necessarily better than the other. A combination and appreciation of the two would be the ideal in my mind.
What else can we look forward to from these two sloths?
I’ve just finished a second Peter & Ernesto book called “The Lost Sloths” and I really hope it’s just the beginning for these two! I absolutely love drawing this world and watching the friendship of Peter & Ernesto grow through their adventures!
Graham Annable’s and First Second’s Peter & Ernesto: A Tale of Two Sloths will be available this month, April 10th.
Nicholas Eskey is an avid reader and writer. When not contributing to The Beat, he works on his personal projects, the latest being a fantasy novel called “My Personable Demon.” He lives in San Diego, California, and is frequently bossed around by his cat.