You Made What?

Thomas Maguire ’03

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This industrial designer makes books that unfold into a single landscape for the characters to move through. Maguire’s third book, released this fall, is long enough to wrap around most rooms.

When Thomas Maguire ’03 (industrial design) was working in Denmark, he visited the childhood home of Hans Christian Andersen.

In the backyard, Maguire, who in his free time was writing and illustrating his own children’s book, found a small, white duck feather. He picked it up and put it in his sketchbook for inspiration.

Seven years later, Maguire still has the feather. And his book The Wild Swans, which translates Andersen’s fairy tale into images, was released by Simply Read Books in October.

The Wild Swans is the third book for this toy designer, who landed the job in Denmark with the Lego Co. right after graduation. His first book, A Growling Place, was published in 2008 and was mostly written and illustrated during the two years Maguire lived in Denmark.

A Growling Place was modeled after one of his favorite illustrators, Maurice Sendak, Maguire says, and tells the story of a girl whose teddy bear is blown away by the wind and ends up in a cave with real bears. The girl has to rescue the stuffed animal and in the process teaches the real bears about manners.

“The idea is about confronting bullying,” Maguire says. “That’s always been something I’ve been interested in.”

In 2010, Three Little Dreams was published. Three Little Dreams consists of three small fold-out books in a box, each following the dream of a different character. When a book, which has no words, is completely unfolded, it’s more than 30 inches long and the front and back illustrations can be connected so the story ends where it began.

In The Wild Swans, Maguire builds on the circular story idea. The accordion book is more than 60 feet long and 5 inches tall when it is unfolded.

“The story takes place in a single long landscape that keeps changing and the character is moving through it,” he says.

The illustrations were drawn in 8-foot sections and then stitched together in Adobe Photoshop. The book contains no words, but Simply Read Books is enclosing a small booklet with Andersen’s story, which is about a princess who rescues her brothers from a spell by their evil stepmother. That way people can follow along with Maguire’s black and white images.

Kallie George, an editor at Simply Read Books, says reaction to Maguire’s books has been good because they are so unique.

“Thomas is original and passionate about his projects and very professional in his approach to his work,” George says, adding that The Wild Swans is long enough to wrap around most rooms.

Maguire says with both circular storybooks, his goal was to bring the product design experience together with a storytelling experience.

Maguire continues to work full-time as a toy designer. He is now with Fisher-Price in New York City designing Thomas & Friends Take-n-Play portable railways and die-cast engines. Many of his projects for Thomas & Friends were also released this fall, just in time for the holidays.

He makes creative activities a priority in his life.

“I’m definitely going to do one again,” Maguire says about a fourth book. “I’m not sure what but there will definitely be another one.”

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