Archive for the 'Interviews' Category

My Chat with Rachel Isadora

h1 Thursday, February 4th, 2016

I love telling stories, and I would say that writing and illustrating for children is not really different from writing or illustrating for adults. The plots might be more complicated, but the messages and connections with the reader are the same. That is why children and adults share joy when experiencing a book together.”

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Over at Kirkus today, I talk to author-illustrator Rachel Isadora, quoted here, about her new book — and about her career of making picture books for children, which began in the ’70s.

That link is here.

Until tomorrow …

Setting Sail with Steve Light

h1 Tuesday, January 26th, 2016

If I think of children’s book illustrators working today and style—that is, their manner of expression as determined by their use of line, color, shape, texture, etc.—I think author-illustrator Steve Light has one of the most distinctive styles, a you-can-spot-it-from-outer-space kind of style. In particular, his line is terrifically distinctive, and he’s visited 7-Imp several times to share his pen-and-ink sketches and artwork — and to show off those lines at my request.

Steve’s latest book is called Swap! (Candlewick), and it will be released in early February. It’s good stuff, and if you don’t believe me, trust me when I say it’s already garnered some starred professional reviews. It’s a sweet, but never saccharine, story of friendship. A young boy (the jacket flap refers to the child as “he,” though one of my daughters thought it was a girl, and I like this about that character), with a peg for a leg, sets out to cheer up a friend, a sea captain whose ship is falling apart. Through a series of barters, starting with the trade of a button for a teacup, the child helps fix up the ship for his friend. And it’s through these barters that the adventures occur and readers meet a cast of wonderful sea-side characters — from tattooed burly men drinking tea; to a get-it-done female blacksmith, forging anchors; and just about everything else in between. Read the rest of this entry �

Seven Questions Over Breakfast with Debbie Ridpath Ohi

h1 Tuesday, January 19th, 2016

If I had to create at, say, knife-point a list of the Funniest Picture Books of the Last Decade (that sounds violent, but I’m not a fan myself of creating such superlatives-lists), I’d put Michael Ian Black’s I’m Bored, illustrated by my guest Debbie Ridpath Ohi (her illustrated self-portrait is above), on that list. What can I say? I’m a fan of the potato.

Know what else I am? Slow. Or busy. Or both. When Debbie released a new picture book last year, one she’d both written and illustrated, she sent me these interview responses, and I’m just now getting around to posting the interview. I thank her for her patience — and also this image of us getting ready for breakfast:

(Click to enlarge)

It looks like we’re having tea and toast, though I’ll have to make some coffee too. Also, we’ll have steelcut oatmeal with raisins, because that’s her breakfast-of-choice. “I like the texture,” Debbie tells me, “especially if they’re fresh-cooked and a little crunchy. I never used to like oatmeal until I read Angela’s Ashes.”

I really enjoyed this interview, because I learned quite a few new things about Debbie. You think you know someone—at least from their public persona—and then they up and surprise you. I like that. Also, I like the way she sees the world (her found-object art being a lovely case-in-point). Let’s get right to it, shall we?

Thanks again to Debbie for visiting. …

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Kirkus Q & A: Monica Brown

h1 Thursday, January 7th, 2016

These books represent my desire that our multiracial and multicultural children are not considered ‘fractions’ but rather celebrated for containing multitudes.”

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Over at Kirkus today, I talk to author Monica Brown, pictured here, about her newest picture book, Maya’s Blanket/la manta de Maya (Lee & Low). It was released back in August and illustrated by David Díaz. We also discuss what’s next on her plate for 2016.

That link is here today.

Next week here at 7-Imp, I’ll showcase some spreads from the book.

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Photo of Monica used by her permission.


A Moment with Gene Luen Yang,
National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature

h1 Wednesday, January 6th, 2016

I’m not normally in the habit of posting other people’s interviews in full at my site, but what the hell, I’m doing so today.

And that’s because I was very excited to hear on Monday of this week that graphic novelist Gene Luen Yang (pictured left in his self-portrait) was named the 5th National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature.

Below is a five-question chat he had with Gina Gagliano at First Second Books. I’m merely hosting them here today.

I can’t wait to hear more from Gene in his two-year term as Ambassador.

As the new Ambassador of Young People’s Literature, what changes would you like to see in America’s reading culture?

Gene: I want us to diversify our reading in every sense of the word “diverse.” I want us to read stories from different cultures about different topics in different formats. I want every person to read at least one book that others don’t expect them to like, at least once a year.

What draws you to YA books and literature?

Gene: I started in the comic book industry, which isn’t as tightly categorized into age demographics as the traditional book market. I didn’t really think of myself as a YA author until I began publishing with First Second Books. They looked at my stuff and decided it fit best in Young Adult.

I think they’re right. My friend and fellow author Marsha Qualey says there’s an equation at the heart of all YA:

Power + Belonging = Identity

Most of my stories are about that equation.

What do you like better — hardcovers or paperbacks?

Gene: You know, I’ve never really thought about it. Each format has its advantages. Hardcovers feel solid and substantial in your hand. Paperbacks are more portable.

I do a lot of my reading on the go these days, so I guess right now I prefer paperbacks.

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Art from Özge

h1 Thursday, December 17th, 2015

As a follow-up to my Kirkus Q&A last week (here) with Özge Samanci, I’ve got art here today from Dare to Disappoint: Growing Up in Turkey (Margaret Ferguson/Farrar, Straus & Giroux, November 2015).

You can click on each image below (except for the last one and the book cover) to enlarge slightly and see in a bit more detail.


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What is Matthew Cordell Up To?

h1 Tuesday, December 15th, 2015

When you find the news—both world and local—discouraging and you feel a lot like the characters look in the above illustration from Marsha Diane Arnold’s Lost. Found., illustrated by Matthew Cordell and released last month (don’t worry — things turn around for these guys), I turn to art. Because we all need art every day.

More specifically, I turned to Matt, who I think is one of this field’s best illustrators. (And Special Delivery, illustrated by Matt and written by Phil Stead, is one of my top-five favorite picture books from this year.) He and I had a relaxed conversation—I say relaxed, since we may or may not briefly veer off into discussions about movies and music—as I wanted to hear a bit more about Lost. Found., and I wanted to see what was on his drawing table. (Wait till you see the wolves below.)

Let’s get right to it.

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Seven Questions Over Breakfast with Kate Samworth

h1 Tuesday, December 1st, 2015

Author-illustrator Kate Samworth is joining me for a cyber-breakfast today with a big cup of black coffee and, she said, “since it’s a special occasion, an almond croissant.”

Kate’s debut picture book, Aviary Wonders Inc.: Spring Catalog and Instruction Manual, was released last Spring by Clarion and went on to win the 2014 Kirkus Prize in the category of Young Readers’ Literature.

I wrote here at 7-Imp last year about this book (clearly, I was in my Sherlock phase), and here’s an excerpt:

“Now, this is one of the most bizarre picture books I’ve seen in a while, which at the very least brings to my mind this guy exclaiming things like ‘DON’T BE BORING.’ This book definitely has that goin’ for it.

This one is slightly macabre in spots, though I’ve sat here for entirely too long at my keyboard, thinking that ‘macabre’ isn’t precisely the word I want. How about this: The Publishers Weekly review (one starred review of several) calls it ‘unsettling and unforgettable.’ Booklist describes it as ‘original, somewhat disturbing, and wholeheartedly bizarre (but in a good way!).’ Yes, all those things, and I like it. … This is surely one of the most offbeat picture books I’ve seen in recent years.”

The book, a pretend futuristic catalog that sells bird parts so that you can build your own bird (“Renewing the World’s Bird Supply Since 2031”), shows off Kate’s immense talent with oils. Today, she’s here to share some art from the book, as well some early sketches, and she’s also going to talk a bit about what’s next for her. I thank her for visiting.

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What I’m Doing at Kirkus This Week

h1 Friday, November 27th, 2015

I never thought I’d spend so much time re-writing a few sentences.”


Yesterday over at Kirkus, I wrote about Tomie dePaola’s slim new book for children, Look and Be Grateful. That is here.

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This morning, I chat with illustrator Keith Negley, pictured here (and quoted above), about his debut picture book, Tough Guys (Have Feelings Too).

Keith’s client list includes such names as The New York Times and The New Yorker, but this is his debut as a children’s book creator.

That Q&A is here.

Happy holidays to all!

Until Sunday …

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Photo of Keith Negley used by his permission.

A Visit with Stephen Alcorn: For the Love of Drawing

h1 Tuesday, November 24th, 2015

The Alcorn Homestead & Gallery; Mixed media on paper

Pictured above is an image from illustrator and printmaker Stephen Alcorn. It is an allegorical image depicting Alcorn and his wife and two daughters in and around their New York home and studio. Alcorn’s other home, his childhood one, was one that included his father — artist, designer, and children’s book illustrator John Alcorn, who died in 1992. (There’s more information here at 7-Imp about John and his work.)

Stephen is visiting 7-Imp once again today, in an in-his-own-words type of piece, to talk about his work and, specifically, the teaching he’s been doing in beautiful Florence, Italy. Stephen is a professor at Virginia Commonwealth University/School of the Arts. Florence is also where he spent his formative years.

Let’s get right to it. …

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