Happy Birthday Octicorn

Tomorrow, the debut picture book I did with Kevin Diller and HarperCollins imprint Balzer&Bray, will turn six months old. Over the last few months, I’ve received some wonderful pictures of Octicorn’s new fans. It’s been super meaningful. The book’s about a half octopus, half unicorn’s longing for friends, and I’m happy to say that Octicorn has made some great ones.

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“Hello, My Name Is Octicorn” reading at Powell’s.

Hello, My Name Is Octicorn is now at Costco

“At once funny and heartfelt, this highly original, important book helps kids to think about their own place among others and encourages acceptance of others, especially those who feel left out.” – The Times Herald

“This book should be on every coffee table in America.” – Instagram comment

“Self-love is a concept that both children and adults can benefit from embracing. This book is an easy read that everyone can appreciate. Crisp white pages with thin all-caps text are flanked by simple Sharpie-like drawings. The child-like style is sure to inspire budding artists.” –        Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

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Hello, My Name Is Octicorn is now available at Costco! I know this, because my Uncle Steve has been checking the one out in Hillsboro, OR pretty regularly and he just sent me a text that they’ve finally got 20 copies. So if you’re starting your Christmas shopping early and need a unique gift, get to a Costco before my Uncle Steve does.

(Huge thanks to all the friends who have supported this character and project over the years, as well as thanks to all the new friends Octi has been making.)

Justin

www.octicorn.com

Lessons from Dan Wieden

We were in the edit bay. I had taken some slow motion footage of old people giggling in the back of a car and synched it up with some vintage beer commercial music. It felt funny and cool and it got a good reaction. But it didn’t mean anything. And Dan knew it.

I remember him saying something about all the noise out there. About all the voices acting silly and trying to get attention. “We’ve gotta have something to say,” he said.

And he was right. When the agency made the Nike spot, “Role Model,” it not only advertised shoes, it spoke to parents and reminded them to be responsible. It had something to say.

Same with the beautiful Nike spot, “If You Let Me Play,” still a personal favorite.

Don’t get me wrong. Dan is not against silly. Case in point, he never fired me. Even when I showed up at the company’s Winter Masked Ball and handed him a mask of my face. (I told him I’d be wearing a mask of his face for the night and he could wear mine if he wanted to).

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He didn’t fire me when a few of us started doing 15 minute dance parties in the middle of the work day. (They later grew into lunchtime concerts featuring acts like Cold War Kids, The Rapture, Cut Chemist, Juliette and The Licks and Janelle Monae.)

Dan also didn’t fire me when I convinced the agency to work for a half day so we could have a talent show. And he didn’t get upset, when one of the only acts in that talent show was me rapping to Outkast into a microphone that I later learned wasn’t turned on.

After the talent show, I was on the 6th floor where Dan’s office was. He walked by and said, “Nice job J.Lowe.” That was 2003. I ended up working there another 10 years, moving from the A/V apartment, to Joint Editorial until taking a leap of faith that lead to the launch of my first children’s book (a collaboration with writer/producer Kevin Diller, about a half octopus, half unicorn who feels different and wants to be accepted).

Dan Wieden accepted me. He knows that different is a good thing. And he likes folks bringing themselves, their whole personalities, their hearts and their creativity to the table without fear. It makes for great work and a fun office environment. Wieden+Kennedy was an excellent place to learn about storytelling.

Years ago, I had a mentor named Michael Daigle – a real yoda. Before I started at W+K, Michael saw the videos I was making, the art I was doing. He said, “If you show these to Dan, it’s like bringing him a vat of frosting. This is great style. But there’s no substance. You’ve gotta have some pound cake under the frosting.”

Years later, when I directed a music video for Duran Duran and showed it to Michael he said, “You’ve finally done it. You told a story.”

Michael passed on, not long after.

I crowd funded the Octicorn book.

I left W+K.

But I took with me lessons I learned from Dan.

I found a note recently. Something he said in the edit bay. “The less you say, the more it means.”

So I’m going to end this post here. Thanks Dan.

A kid’s book that adults love.

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A fantastic review of Hello, My Name Is Octicorn was posted on Amazon recently. It was written by Gayle H. Swift. Made my day.

“Hello, My Name Is Octicorn by Kevin Diller and illustrated by Justin Lowe invites readers to consider befriending Octi, a creature whose mom was an octopus and whose dad was a unicorn. Octi has trouble finding friends because he is so unique. Everyone shuns him. Because they fear his differences, they miss out on the pleasure of knowing him.

Octi showcases his many unique talents he has because he is half unicorn and half octopus. At parties he can juggle and dance with the best. At campfires he can toast marshmallows on his horn!…if he were invited. Ah, but that is the situation. Octi doesn’t get invited.

After presenting his case, Octi concludes his story with an invitation: “Will you be my friend? Yes or No?” This is brilliant writing because the question lands directly in the reader’s personal world. And hopefully, in their heart. Octi challenges them individually. They must make a choice–even if only in their mind. Will they choose friendship or rejection?

Justin Lowe’s quirky, unsophisticated, child like illustrations further the sense that this story is a personal conversation between Octi and the reader. This is a short, easy read with a message that packs an important punch.

Adoption-attuned (AQ) Lens: This book has an obvious and easy segue into discussions of the challenges, realities and benefits of being biracial and/or multiracial. So, kids who are bi-racial or multi-racial may feel a special resonance with the theme of this book. One illustration shows a genealogical diagram depicting Octi’s parents. (Dad is a unicorn; mom is an octopus.) This illustration might lead to conversations about the heritages of each birth parent. Parent and child can discuss both the reality and the cultural beliefs of both groups.

The book highlights the benefits of Octi’s dual heritage. This is an important point for all adoptees. There is a richness that comes from muti-ethnicity. We see it as an additive experience instead of as a subtractive one.”