Books

There are two books based on the adventures of Sticky Burr. They have different adventures than the web comic, and are illustrated in full color. You can read more about the books and their evolution below.

Sticky Burr: Adventures in Burrwood ForestSticky Burr: Adventures in Burrwood Forest

This book follows Sticky Burr's many adventures in his forest home, interspersed with pages from his own journal where he reflects on the whimsy and wonder of his small existence. Featuring 56 pages of full-color illustrations, it contains different adventures than the online comic strip.

In this book, Sticky Burr is chased by Scurvy Burr and his friends, and heads off into the forest for an adventure with his friend Draffle. They are chased by wasps, they wind up lost in the mysterious Maze Tree. After meeting some surprise visitors, they return to save his village from terrible danger, and Sticky Burr is finally hailed as a hero by his fellow-burrs, who decide that his quirky ways are not so bad after all.

Click here to find this book at a bookstore near you!


Sticky Burr: The Prickly PerilSticky Burr: The Prickly Peril

This is the second book about Sticky Burr and his friends, published by Candlewick Press. The burrs are getting ready for the harvest festival, unaware that Scurvy Burr is hatching a wicked plan with the aid of the evil Burweena, the most terrible villain in all of Burrwood Forest. Burweena wants to take over the burr village with the help of her spiders and beetles, and get rid of Sticky Burr in the process. Who will stop her? Read the book and find out!

This second book is boldly narrated by Scurvy Burr himself, who adds his own prickly spin to the proceedings. The book is illustrated with watercolors, interspersed with pages from Scurvy Burr's journal (who knew he kept a journal?) Part picture book, part comic book, it is a unique story aimed at young readers of all ages. Sticky Burr: The Prickly Peril was a finalist for the Massachusetts Book Award, children's category.

Click here to find this book at a bookstore near you! (Availability is limited.)

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~ Reviews for Sticky Burr: Adventures in Burrwood Forest ~

Sample page from Sticky Burr: Adventures in Burrwood Forest"Illustrated in a mix of cartoon panels and hand-lettered text, this woodsy tale is just the ticket for budding graphic-novel fans."
– Kirkus Reviews

"With clean lines and understated, woodsy browns and greens, Lechner's cartoon artwork mixes multiframe spreads of Sticky on the run with pages that are meant to resemble Sticky's journal, offering background explanations about the burr way of life. Dialogue bubbles briskly move the story along, but the whimsical details will encourage kids to linger and enjoy the richly realized world on each page." – Booklist

"Written in graphic-novel style, the lively and sometimes punny dialogue leads young readers through Sticky's exciting escapades... The illustrations are simple, colorful, and easy to follow." – School Library Journal

"Using an outdoorsy palette, he intersperses conventional panel layout with torn pages from Sticky’s journal, set against leafy backdrops. Lechner creates an engaging nature-oriented story, alternating drolly comic moments with a surprising amount of information about life in the forest." – Publisher's Weekly


The Making of The Books

Part 1: THE ORIGIN OF STICKY BURR

Sticky Burr began life in my own backyard. As a child, we had sticky burrs that always grew at the end of the yard, near the apple tree. They were fascinating, and always stuck with me. Years later as an adult, I thought it would be fun to turn them into characters, so I started drawing Sticky Burr in my notebooks, and the drawings turned into stories. I began writing a comic strip of his adventures, and just for fun I put it online, adding a new chapter every month.

First Sticky Burr web comic

This is one of the original Sticky Burr cartoon pages. FableVision, the media company that I worked for, had a section of their website devoted to stories and games for kids, and they allowed me to run my comic strip there each month. It was a great way to test out audience reaction, and the feedback was enthusiastic from kids and adults alike. Working on the monthly comic helped me develop my visual storytelling skills, and allowed me to develop the characters slowly over time.

The success of the comic strip inspired me to create other Sticky Burr online features, such as a character page, a map, and an interactive game, which I designed and programmed myself. (All these things are still available on this website, in updated form.) I also began Sticky Burr's online journal, jotting down random thoughts about his life in the forest. I collaborated with my brother Tony Lechner, a composer and muscian, to write and animate the Sticky Burr Theme Song.

I was developing all of these projects in my free time, outside of my full-time job, and getting very positive feedback from all sides. So after the release of my first picture book A Froggy Fable, I approached Candlewick Press with the idea of turning this strange, prickly world into a book.

Part 2, THE EVOLUTION OF A BOOK

Sketches for Sticky Burr by John LechnerSo, how do you transform all this into a book? I had lots of raw ingredients – a cast of characters, an adventure story, a colorful setting, and several notebooks full of ideas. And there were many questions to answer: what format should the book take? What age is it for? Should it use comic panels to tell the story, or follow a more traditional layout?

I wrote many, many drafts of the story. I first tried telling the story in a traditional picture book format, with full-page illustrations – but everyone agreed that much of the action and spirit of the original comic strip was lost. So I reinstated the comic book panels, an approach that was more risky but also more true to my artistic vision.

Throughout every draft, the heart of the story was always the main character of Sticky Burr – persecuted and maligned by the other burrs, he is cast out of the village, and winds up proving his own worth in a series of adventures. The idea of the misfit hero who is persecuted by his own people, and only finds reward by venturing afield, is a well-worn theme in literature, and I tried to give it a whimsical spin, keeping the tone light and breezy. This was never meant to be a weighty or profound book, but an entertaining yarn, a fun book to read.

Sticky Burr's JournalThe journal pages were interspersed throughout the story as a way to further develop the main character and his thoughts, since the action of the story left little room for exposition. Anyone who has drawn a comic book knows it's not as easy as it looks, and there is a delicate balance between words and pictures that is difficult to maintain. I used the journal pages strategically to break up the story, alter the pacing, and play with time. And also to develop a "world" around these characters, one which extended beyond the main storyline.

When the story and sketches finally came together (and the text revised yet some more), then began the final layout and typesetting, and finally the colored illustrations. I sketched and inked the drawings on paper, then painted them with watercolors. I drew the word balloons on separate pages, so they could be scanned and positioned independently.

Everything was put together by the amazing designers and production artists at Candlewick. Special care was taken with every detail, from the scanned-in paper textures to the different typefaces. We wanted to make a book that was not only fun to read, but visually stimulating. The song on the final page was an extra piece to close out the book, which I wrote myself.

And there you have it – the making of the book! It was a challenge from start to finish, and I hope audiences enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed creating it.

Illustration from Sticky Burr, in progress