Archive for the 'Interviews' Category

A Bit of Belize Before Breakfast

h1 Thursday, April 24th, 2014


“Back in the jungle, I know all the jaguars in the study area from their tracks. But one day I come across a completely new track—the biggest male jaguar tracks I have ever seen. I follow the prints for hours. Not wanting to be caught in the jungle at night without a flashlight, I turn around to go back to camp.
There, right behind me, is the jaguar.
He must have been following
me!”
(Click to enlarge spread)


 
Last week, I chatted here with Dr. Alan Rabinowitz about his picture book, A Boy and a Jaguar (Houghton Mifflin, May 2014), illustrated by Catia Chien.

For those who’d like to see some art from the book, I share that here today.

Until tomorrow …

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Star Child: A Visit with Claire A. Nivola

h1 Monday, April 21st, 2014


“Slowly you will learn to take care of yourself.”


 
Claire A. NivolaIn early May, fans of the work of Claire A. Nivola will be happy to see Star Child hit shelves (Frances Foster Books/Farrar Straus Giroux). It’s an extraordinary, brand-new story from Claire, and I like it a lot. I reviewed this for BookPage, so you can read about it here.

Today, Claire (pictured here) is visiting to talk a bit about the book, and we can also take a look at some of the art from it.

I interviewed Claire here at 7-Imp in 2011, and it remains one of my favorite interviews. To make sense of what we talk about here today (assuming you haven’t already seen, say, an early copy of the book), since it’s an unusual story, be sure to read the review first and then return, if you’re so inclined, for her thoughtful responses.

I’m always happy when she visits 7-Imp, and I thank her for taking the time to do so.

Enjoy.

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7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #378: Featuring Laurie Keller

h1 Saturday, April 19th, 2014

Happy Easter and Passover to one and all. You’d think I’d have bunnies for you today, given the Easter holiday anyway, but nope. I’ve got doughnuts. Lots of doughnuts.

Back at the beginning of the month, I chatted with author-illustrator Laurie Keller over at Kirkus about her new chapter book series about Arnie the Doughnut. The first two books in the series are Bowling Alley Bandit, published last year, and Invasion of the Ufonuts, released in February of this year. These are published by Christy Ottaviano Books/Henry Holt and were inspired by Laurie’s beloved 2003 picture book, Arnie the Doughnut. We talked (here) about writing funny books for children, slapstick humor, schools visits, and Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

Today, I follow up with some treats from Laurie. She shares some sketches and, well … she pretty much shows us how she does what she does. And I really appreciate her sharing. It’s fun stuff, and it’s neat to get an inside look at it all.

Without further ado, here’s Laurie …

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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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Tap Tap Boom Boom‘ing Before Breakfast:
A Visit with Author and Bookseller Elizabeth Bluemle

h1 Monday, April 14th, 2014


(Click spread to enlarge)

Earlier this month, I reviewed Elizabeth Bluemle’s Tap Tap Boom Boom (Candlewick, March 2014), illustrated by G. Brian Karas, for BookPage. What a good book it is, and that review is here over at the wonderful BookPage site.

Today, I’m following up with a couple of spreads from the book — and a chat with Elizabeth. She not only writes, but nearly 20 years ago, she also opened a bookstore along with Josie Leavitt, The Flying Pig Bookstore in Vermont, and she co-writes over at ShelfTalker (at Publishers Weekly), also with Josie.

I took the opportunity to ask Elizabeth today about Tap Tap Boom Boom, but also what she calls the World Full of Color diversity database. I also asked her simply, what are you reading now? (I love this question so much that I’d love to start a simple blog series where I ask authors and illustrators just that one question — short posts with short answers. Would I have time for this, though? Ay, there’s the rub.)

Anyway, enjoy my chat with the ever-curious, always-learning Elizabeth Bluemle … And, really, if you haven’t seen Tap Tap yet, you’re in for a treat. It’s one of my favorites thus far this year.

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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.”

* * *

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 �