Meet Elinor Blake, Illustrator Behind Jack White's Children's Book 'We're Going to Be Friends'

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Elinor Blake and Jack White pose with their book "We're Going to be Friends" during their book signing at Barnes & Noble at The Grove on Nov. 4, 2017 in Los Angeles.  

When she was four or five years old, Elinor Blake (aka April March) recalls watching cartoons and thinking they were magic. From there, she grew up with a clear career path in mind: She wanted to be an animator.

Blake attended Disney’s Animation Program in California (she’s a New York native), and held positions at acclaimed shows like Pee Wee’s Playhouse, Ren and Stimpy and more. Most recently, though, she illustrated Jack White’s new children’s book, We’re Going To Be Friends.

“Jack [White] had very, very little direction,” she tells Billboard  referring to when she was first approached about the concept in the fall of 2016. “Just black, white and red and not necessarily human characters.” The turnaround was quick -- the book was published Nov. 7 of this year -- and Blake had never worked on a children’s book before. But she says her working relationship with White was “an easy fit just in terms of our aesthetic.”

Blake admits to being a huge fan of The White Stripes, and says “We’re Going To Be Friends” is a song she’s loved for years (in addition to illustrating the book, Blake, who is also a singer, recorded her own cover of the song). “It’s so natural to a children’s book,” she says. “It wasn’t like, ‘How am I going to do this?’ It was obvious.”

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Years ago, Blake and White had been signed on the same independent garage-punk label, Olympia, Washington’s Sympathy for the Record Industry, formed in 1988 by Long Gone John. “We came from the same scene,” she says. “Basically.”

Later in life, Blake sent White a drawing of hers, which she says now hangs on a wall in his office -- the art led to their reconnection, and current collaboration. But all the while, throughout the year-long process of creating the book, the two never met. Their first face-to-face encounter was moments before their first promotional event, a live reading of the book in Los Angeles. “It was really great to spend time with him and see how much of an overlap there was, which I already felt,” she says of their creative like mindedness. “He didn’t really need to explain much to me, and I didn’t really need to explain much to him. It’s hard to get something so pure.”

She explains how she was “very impressed with his level of curiosity and interest in people,” but says what really sealed their bond was their inward personalities; “He does seem a little bit like a preservationist, [and] I love that. I think we’re at a period where it’s important.”

Up next, Blake has already finished a new album -- she worked with French composer Fugu (Stereolab) -- and is working on a new book idea. Not to mention, she’s teamed up once again with John Kricfalusi (Ren and Stimpy) to develop a new comedic music cartoon for pre-teen girls that centers on an in-progress band and reveals “the secret life of girls and their sense of humor.”

Speaking to her full slate of upcoming projects, Blake says she feels no stress. She relates, “I like to keep it moving, because I just like making things. That’s what makes me happy.”

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