The pitch : Five young superheroes and their teacher reside in a tree house. They band together and rescue the magical Zez from the evil General Moon.
The authors and their process : the book features lush watercolor drawings, illustrated by Lucasfilm 3-D animator Alina Chau who has worked on “Star Wars : The Clone Wars”. Amara, a former comics editor, came up with the story’s concept and would bounce ideas off Chau. Unlike a traditional storybook with the illustrations filled in after the writing, Amara and Chau created the words and pictures together.
The concept : The Treehouse Heroes combine their superpowers — incredible strength, shape shifting, remarkable speed, teleportation and a voice like the wind — to help others. While the book has magical elements, it incorporates team work and environmental awareness as well. When the Zez is freed, it brings an old tree to life and flourishes when people care for the land.
“We both believe to make a good story for kids, it doesn’t need to be violent, vulgar or outrageous to get children’s attention,” Chau said. “It’s a good story that kids can learn a lesson from. They are not reading it because they must learn, but because it’s fun.” The book’s look is based on traditional Chinese art. “The Zez character is based on the qilin,” Chau said. “The bad guy, General Moon, is totally inspired by Peking opera costumes.”
Amara and Chau established several guidelines for the Treehouse Heroes :
- First, they wanted superheroes that were unlike ones from DC Comics or Marvel.
- Second, they wanted kid-friendly heroes that appealed to both genders — not just boys — with heroic qualities, such as helping others.