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Klaas Verplancke’s American Dream

Klaas Verplancke, illustrator and author of children’s books, has spent the past year and a half on an American rollercoaster. In early March 2020 one of his animations about the coronavirus restrictions was picked up by a media bureau in New York. What’s more, he managed to find an American publisher for his picture book ‘The King’s Golden Beard’.

Coronavirus as accelerator

In March 2020 Klaas Verplancke created an animation about keeping distance in a time of coronavirus and posted it on his Instagram. An email came in from the United States and within a few weeks his animation was adorning billboards in New York, helping to inform residents about measures to tackle the virus.

Under the heading ‘Combat Covid’, Klaas’ animation featured on 1,800 digital signage displays in the streets of New York and on huge screens on Time Square. ‘Before I knew it, I was live on American media,’ says Klaas. ‘It’s difficult to estimate the direct and indirect impact of exposure like that, but in the weeks that followed my work was commissioned by organizations including The New York Times and the Poster House Museum in Manhattan.’

Animation of Klaas Verplancke in New York

The King’s Golden Beard

As chance would have it, Klaas was already sitting on a fully developed idea for a picture book partly inspired by America and Trump. ‘The King’s Golden Beard’ starts out from the notion that politicians are eager to spread their populist discourse all over the world with the help of social media. ‘Whoever makes their bed must lie in it,’ says Klaas. ‘That ultimately became the thrust of the book.’

I made grateful use of that concept to turn it into a contemporary fairy tale.
Klaas Verplancke
Illustrations The Kings' Golden Beard
Illustrations from The Kings' Golden Beard

Klaas was determined to find an American publisher, and he succeeded. While the coronavirus regulations kept the illustrator in his own country, his book travelled practically all over the world. ‘The King’s Golden Beard’ was created in Bruges, edited in New York, commercially directed in Boston, business-managed in Vienna and Beijing, and printed in Hong Kong.

The physical promotional tour was eventually replaced by online congresses and presentations. Young Americans were even provided with a digital Klaas Verplancke, and book presentations and drawing workshops followed via Teams.

Sometimes it drove me completely bonkers. Especially when there were sixty children on Teams at the same time, and they were all posting mad and lively comments in the chat while I was reading from the book.
Klaas Verplancke

America first

‘The King’s Golden Beard’ was first published in English, but French and German translations quickly followed. The Dutch version will be published by Querido in the spring of 2022.

The Kings' Golden Beard English cover
The Kings' Golden Beard English cover
Trailer of The King’s Golden Beard

This is not Klaas’ first American adventure. He is the author and illustrator of the book ‘Magritte’s Apple, a picture book about surrealism created during a collaboration between the MoMA and the Pompidou Centre. That book has meanwhile been translated into Dutch.