Archive for the 'Interviews' Category

Seven Questions Over Breakfast with Julie Fortenberry

h1 Tuesday, April 15th, 2014


 
Illustrator Julie Fortenberry is visiting 7-Imp today, and as you can see above, she brought her breakfast along — Cheerios with blueberries and coffee with milk. It looks just right to me (and healthy to boot), and I’m ready to chat with her over coffee.

I should say that Julie, who started her career as an abstract painter, is an author-illustrator, actually. Earlier this month, she saw her writing debut, though previously she’s illustrated others’ books. You can read more below about The Artist and the King, her author-illustrator debut and what Kirkus calls in their review “a nod to art’s twin powers of subversion and of transformation.” It was published by Alazar Press (whom we have to thank for re-printing Ashley Bryan’s compilations of Black American spirituals, but Julie talks about that below too).

Those of you familiar with the work of Kar-Ben Publishing (a division of Lerner Publishing Group), who publish new children’s books with Jewish content each year, may instantly recognize Julie’s work. As you’ll see below, she’s illustrated many of Jamie Korngold’s stories about a Jewish girl, the cheery and ever-resourceful Sadie.

Let’s get to it, and I thank Julie for visiting. (I’d like to take this opportunity, by the way, to thank Julie seven-thousand-fold for her blog about children’s book illustrations, which she writes with artist Shelley Davies. Oh, how I’ve enjoyed it over the years.)

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Seven Questions Over Breakfast with Jeremy Holmes

h1 Tuesday, April 8th, 2014

I’m pleased to welcome illustrator Jeremy Holmes to 7-Imp this morning for breakfast. Back in 2010, I wrote about Jeremy’s delightfully creepy and beautifully bizarre adaptation (Chronicle Books, 2009) of the mother of all cumulative children’s folk songs, “There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly” (complete with a slip cover and closing eyes on the lady’s head when she kicks the bucket). This book went on to win him a Bologna Ragazzi Opera Prima Award.

And it’s this Old Lady, which Jeremy notes at his site, who opened his eyes to the “imaginative and playful world of the picture book” (from primarily the world of graphic design, that is).

Jeremy’s here today to talk about his road to publication and what’s on his plate now — and he shares lots of art, especially from his latest illustrated book, J. Patrick Lewis’ and Douglas Florian’s Poem-mobiles (Schwartz and Wade, January 2014). Fitting, since it’s National Poetry Month. Rah!

I’m very good with Jeremy’s favorite breakfast: English muffins toasted with a smear of salted butter; one egg over hard, heavily peppered; “some pancetta, if ya’ got it, but Canadian bacon will do in a pinch”; a small glass of OJ; and a cup of strong, slightly creamed and sweetened coffee. (He got the coffee JUST RIGHT!)

I thank him for visiting. Without further ado …

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My Morning Chat with Laurie Keller
(Where’s My Doughnut Anyway?)

h1 Thursday, April 3rd, 2014

It’s tricky to try to guess what kids will think is funny, so I usually just write what I think is funny and hope that they’ll think so, too. Sometimes silly lines will come to me right away, but other times it takes me weeks to get the right ‘angle’ or ‘voice’ that I’m looking for. Watching movies that make me laugh helps — like Monty Python and the Holy Grail (talk about slapstick!), Strictly Ballroom, The Jerk, Airplane!, Young Frankenstein and anything by Christopher Guest. If there are parts I’ve written that aren’t as funny as I would like, I can’t always pinpoint what isn’t working right away, but eventually the right mood hits and I can usually figure out how to fix it.”

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This morning over at Kirkus, I chat with author-illustrator Laurie Keller. I do that annoying thing people do where they ask what it’s like to write humor, but hey, she was up for answering.

That link is here. Next week, I’ll follow up with some illustrations from her new Arnie the Doughnut chapter books.

Until tomorrow …

Seven Questions Over Breakfast with Petr Horáček

h1 Tuesday, April 1st, 2014

The Bologna Children’s Book Fair may be over, but I’m still on an international kick here at 7-Imp. Today, I welcome author-illustrator Petr Horáček, born in Czechoslovakia and currently living in England.

Horáček has been making picture books for over ten years now, one reviewer even describing his vibrant and textured mixed-media paintings and collages as “strangely beautiful.” It may not be surprising to many to read below that Petr gets great inspiration from the work of Eric Carle. In fact, he describes having first seen Carle’s work as a life-changing moment, indeed. Both illustrators work in bright colors and craft stories that are gentle and reassuring to the youngest of readers. In fact, as you’ll also see below, Petr has many a board book under his belt, including some new ones coming from Candlewick this Fall — and he has passionate opinions about the role of board books in children’s lives.

It turns out that breakfast is Petr’s favourite meal of the day and always has been. “Both my parents worked,” he tells me. “They had already gone when our neighbour woke me up. The large lady pushed her head around the door, said ‘good morning,’ and disappeared. I had to wake up, get washed, and go to the kitchen, where on the table was hot cocoa and bread, spread with butter, honey, or jam. The radio was playing music approved by the communist government, and a voice coming from the radio was telling us that it was nearly 7 a.m. and, therefore, time to go to school.”

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Solving Puzzles with Jonathan Bean

h1 Tuesday, March 25th, 2014


Early car studies
(Click to enlarge)

Just last week at Kirkus, I wrote about two new picture books that are about children and their families moving. After that posted, did you hear me smack my forehead way over here in Tennessee for having completely forgotten to include Deborah Underwood’s Bad Bye, Good Bye (Houghton Mifflin) in that post? Illustrated by Jonathan Bean, it’s a wonderful picture book with a spare, rhyming text about the range of emotions children can feel when moving away from friends to a new home in a new location. The book’s strength, writes the Kirkus review, “is in the emotional journey that’s expressed with a raw honesty.” It’s true, oh-so true. Look closely, if you get a copy of this in early April, when it’s released. The boy whose family is moving rages on the day they get in the car to drive away. Be still, my heart. (No fear. Things are looking up for him at the book’s close.)

One of the reasons I think I forgot it, though, is that I knew I’d be doing a post in the near future about, in particular, the illustrations for this book. And the illustrations are captivating. I mean, what Bean does with the depiction of light alone in this book … wow.

Regular readers of my blog know I always like it when Jonathan Bean visits to talk about how he creates the illustrations for his books. In this one … well, here’s what Jonathan had to say about it:

The illustrations are made in a somewhat old-fashioned way. Instead of pre-set CMYK colors (cyan, magenta, yellow, black), I picked Pantone colors from a book of paint swatches, similar to what you find in a home paint shop. This allowed me to create a particular mood, depending on the colors I chose. However, it also meant that it was my job to pre-separate the art (separate the illustrations into four colors, corresponding to the traditional CMYK.) This was a lot like solving a complicated puzzle, since each illustration required four paintings, a separate painting in black and white for each color. The rewards for the extra hassle are consistent and deeply saturated colors throughout the book — an effect CMYK can’t match.

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Seven Questions Over Breakfast with Klaas Verplancke

h1 Monday, March 24th, 2014



 
Klaas Verplancke simply doesn’t have breakfast without a single or double espresso. If he has his way, he also has a glass of champagne to kick off his day.

I’m down with both espressos and champagne, so we’ll pretend to have some here, as we chat today.

Now, all my illustrator interviews are pretend. Someone once asked me how I manage to do these interviews when folks live all over the globe; they truly thought I was meeting them for breakfast in person. I WISH. I’d be game for a children’s-lit version of Jerry Seinfeld’s Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee. Oh, would I!

But, even if these weren’t cyber-interviews, I’d still have to have a pretend breakfast with Klaas, because he’s in Bologna this week for the Bologna Children’s Book Fair. And if I can’t be there (which I can’t — I’m very much sitting in my home in middle Tennessee), I can at least bring my readers some art from over the pond, as they say — in honor of the fair. Verplancke himself lives and works in Belgium.

As you’ll read below, Klaas has been illustrating for years, yet only a couple of his children’s books have been brought here to the U.S. In 2012, we got to see Applesauce (which I wrote about here at Kirkus), originally published in Belgium in 2010 and released here by Groundwood. I like that book, but I won’t go on about it here; you can read why at that link. Applesauce was included in the Society of Illustrators’ Original Art exhibit in 2013, and it received a bronze medal at the No. 10 Picture Book Show at 3×3.

I think Verplancke’s work is best summed up by illustrator Steven Guarnaccia: “[His] work is strange, yet strangely comforting. Beautifully crafted, and beautifully bonkers.” Yep. What Guarnaccia said.

This morning, Klaas shares lots of thoughts on children’s books, lots of passion, and lots of art below, so let’s get to it. I’m curious to know what he’s up to now. I thank him for visiting 7-Imp.

(Note: Klaas may be the first interviewee—I think? There have been many interviews here over the years—to ever direct a question at other illustrators, if anyone wants to chime in. See question #7.) Read the rest of this entry �

Loïc Dauvillier on the Duty of Remembrance

h1 Thursday, March 20th, 2014

Marc Lizano and I were wondering about our roles as fathers in the duty of remembrance. We are fathers and we are also authors. Soon enough, we wondered about our roles as authors in passing on the memory of things. We started from a principle that knowing past events can help to avoid repeating them.”

* * *

This morning over at Kirkus, I chat briefly with author and comics writer Loïc Dauvillier.

Dauvillier’s latest graphic novel for children, illustrated by Marc Lizano and Greg Salsedo, is called Hidden (First Second). Subtitled A Child’s Story of the Holocaust, it’s the story of a young Jewish girl living in Paris during the Holocaust, and it will be released in April.

That chat is here this morning.

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Image of Loïc Dauvillier used by permission of First Second.

Seven Questions Over Breakfast with Wendell Minor

h1 Wednesday, March 12th, 2014


(Click to enlarge)

Author-illustrator Wendell Minor, self-described bird- and cloud-watcher, “takes his young readers very seriously,” wrote Jean Craighead George, Newbery Award-winning writer for children, in a personal reminiscence of Minor before her death in 2012. “Just as he wants them to see the buffalo or crane in its accurate environment, he wants them also to feel that this animal is so loveable that it must be saved.”

This reminiscence appears in Wendell Minor’s America: 25 Years of Children’s Book Art, the catalog that accompanies the art exhibit of the same name, appearing at the Norman Rockwell Museum in Massachusetts until May 26, 2014.


(Click to enlarge)

As Stephanie Haboush Plunkett, the Chief Curator and Director of the museum, notes in the introduction to the catalog, Minor sold his 1955 Chevy in order to pay for his studies at the Ringling College of Art in Florida after first deciding that he wanted to pursue his life-long love of art (by the time he reached fourth grade, he knew he’d be an artist one day) and eventually moved to New York in 1968 “with little more than his portfolio in hand.” Since then, he’s illustrated over 50 children’s books (see here) and was last year awarded, along with his wife Florence, the The New England Independent Booksellers Association’s President’s Award for lifetime achievement in arts and letters.

Minor brings readers what historian Leonard Marcus describes in the catalog as his own unique Americana. This, he writes, is “a Minor passion born of the artist’s rural Illinois upbringing. For him the Midwest is not a blank patchwork of ‘fly-over states’ but rather a fertile proving ground that has inspired generations of human struggle and transcendence.” Illustration for Minor, Marcus adds, is no less than an act of “total immersion,” as he digs deep into his research and fine tunes every possible detail.

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A Conversation with James McMullan

h1 Thursday, March 6th, 2014

Remember this award-winning picture book?

Its illustrator, James McMullan (pictured here), who has led a long and distinguished career in graphic design and illustration, has written a new memoir. It’s a fascinating read, and today over at Kirkus I chat with him about this book.

It’s called Leaving China: An Artist Paints His World War II Childhood and was released this month from Algonquin. McMullan was born in North China, the grandson of UK missionaries who had settled there, and in this book he recounts his childhood in brief, impressionistic vignettes accompanied by paintings — first, his privileged life and then his father’s departure for the war, followed by his and his mother’s attempts to escape Japanese occupation.

It’s a book aimed at teens (given that it was published by Algonquin’s young-readers imprint), but as many reviewers have noted, adults would enjoy it as well.

Our chat is here today.

And next week here at 7-Imp, I’ll have a couple of paintings from the book.

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Photo of Mr. McMullan taken by Phillip Lehans and used by permission.

Notes from a Colorful Interview …

h1 Thursday, February 20th, 2014

Early in January, I chatted with author-illustrator Lois Ehlert for BookPage about her newest book, The Scraps Book: Notes from a Colorful Life (Beach Lane Books, March 2014), which is an exceptionally good book.

Not surprisingly, as noted in the interview, when I called her up, she was surrounded by scraps and paints and paintbrushes — and she was busy creating, happy to be doing so. It was a genuinely inspiring interview; when I got off the phone, I wanted to make something myself.

BookPage has posted the interview. It’s here. I really enjoyed my conversation with her, and I want to give The Scraps Book to every child I know. If you read it, you’ll understand why.

Best part about the interview? You know how I always follow up columns I contribute at other places with art here at 7-Imp? I get kinda twitchy if I don’t, because I love to see picture book art up close and as big as possible. I don’t have to do that here, because BookPage posted spreads from the book so nice and big. (I was so excited when I saw it that I called to thank them for that.) Go take a look!

‘Til tomorrow …