Archive for February, 2008

Nonfiction Monday: Artist Wayne Thiebaud, Painting What is Overlooked, and Cakes, Cakes, Glorious Cakes

h1 Monday, February 18th, 2008

Valentine’s Day may have passed, but since you’re probably still reeling from (or still eating) some of the delicious treats that are part and parcel of the holiday, I thought I’d tell you on this Nonfiction Monday about Delicious: The Life & Art of Wayne Thiebaud by Susan Goldman Rubin and published by Chronicle Books in December of last year. In May of ’07, Rubin brought us — also via Chronicle Books — a board book for the wee-est of children (reviewed here at 7-Imp) of the art of Wayne Thiebaud, an American painter born in 1920 whose work is associated with the Pop Art movement. This time she gives us an over-one-hundred-page look at his life, officially geared at ages 9 to 12.

My heart belongs to any painter who has been quoted as saying, “Cakes, they are glorious, they are like toys.” Yes, Thiebaud is probably best known for turning to paintings of gumballs, cupcakes, pies, cakes, and other culinary ecstasies. Read the rest of this entry �

7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #50: Featuring Sophie Blackall

h1 Sunday, February 17th, 2008

Jules: Anyone else remember when illustrator Sophie Blackall was featured by Jennifer at not your mother’s bookclub in October during the Blogging for a Cure/Robert’s Snow effort? And remember how severely kickin’ her snowflake was (“foxtacular elficide,” anyone?)? Well, ever since then we’ve wanted to feature some of her art work here at 7-Imp (and I recently reviewed the beautiful Red Butterfly, which made me want to have her stop by WAY WAY MORE). So, we up and asked, and here she is. WOOT!

She is sharing with us today some illustrations from her forthcoming new title, written by Meg Rosoff (whose Meet Wild Boars she illustrated in 2005) and published by Henry Holt, Jumpy Jack & Googily. I happen to have an ARC of this title — which will be released in April, I believe — and it’s wonderful and makes me laugh out loud in a rather snort-like manner. Pictured above are Jumpy Jack and Googily in the flesh. Jumpy Jack is a rather nervous snail who is terribly afraid of monsters. And, well . . . if you haven’t noticed yet, Googily is a monster himself. The story opens thusly:

“I’m nervous,” said Jumpy Jack to his best friend, Googily. “There could be a monster nearby and I’m scared of monsters.”

“Don’t be ridiculous,” said Googily.

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Poetry Friday: Roethke in LO-O-O-O-VE

h1 Friday, February 15th, 2008

chocwrappers.jpgHappy Day-After-Valentine’s Day! I hope you all managed to fit in a little quality time with your significant others, or at least ate a bunch of chocolate.

In keeping with the general romantic and indulgent mood, I thought I’d share one of my all-time favorite love poems, “I Knew a Woman” by Theodore Roethke. I first encountered this poem in an “Introduction to Literature” class as an undergrad, and it made quite an impression. I loved the contrast. The sing-songy rhythm of the Fletcher Spenserian stanzas (did I really just say that?) and the dashes of humor and self-mockery belie the profoundly sensual imagery (“She moved in circles, and those circles moved”) and the genuine emotion behind such statements as “I’m martyr to a motion not my own.”

Even now, fifteen years later (dude, did I really just say that?) bits of it still float unbidden to the surface of my brain at odd moments. Read the right poem at the right moment, and that’s what happens. Scarred for life.

Here’s a particularly sexy bit of it:

How well her wishes went! She stroked my chin,
She taught me Turn, and Counter-turn, and Stand;
She taught me Touch, that undulant white skin;
I nibbled meekly from her proffered hand;
She was the sickle; I, poor I, the rake,
Coming behind her for her pretty sake
(But what prodigious mowing we did make).

Read the rest here. It goes really well with leftover Valentine candy. The serious chocolate kind. Not those chalky little word-hearts. Those are nasty.

Seven Impossible Interviews Before Breakfast #66:
Lisa Graff drops by (again!); we weigh in on her new novel; and book give-away! RAH!

h1 Thursday, February 14th, 2008

{Note: It’s February 14th, and the Cybils ’07 award winners are being announced today over at the Cybils blog. 7-Imp can devote an entire post to this after a bit ‘o’ time has passed, but don’t miss the award announcements!}

Jules: Hey, Eisha. Remember when Lisa Graff stopped by 7-Imp last year (almost one year to the date) to chat with us at the release of her first novel, The Thing About Georgie? She’s back for seven impossible things before breakfast (though I’m only awake enough right now for about three). There she is as a wee babe. Isn’t she puddin’? And she’s here to talk about her new middle-grade novel, The Life and Crimes of Bernetta Wallflower (Laura Geringer Books), which was just released at the end of January and which you and I just read. Best of all, she’s putting up with us throwing another weird-ass closing questionnaire at her, since she answered Pivot last year.

Bernetta is all about twelve-year-old Bernie who, after her supposed best friend (Ashley) implicates her in a cheating and blackmail scam, loses her private school scholarship. With the help of a new friend (with chocolate-brown eyes, ooh la la), Bernie spends the summer using her knowledge of magic and sleight-of-hand both to earn the $9,000 in tuition money and to get revenge.

What did you think of the book, Eisha?

eisha: Yes, she is a total puddin’!!! And I enjoyed this one a lot, Jules. Between this novel, and The Thing About Georgie, I’ve decided that one thing Lisa Graff can certainly deliver is an original concept. At heart, this is a story about friendship, trust, and finding one’s own identity and the limits of one’s own conscience. But told in the framework of a con job, complete with preteen con artists, magicians, and extortionists… It’s a great hook, and will certainly keep readers guessing along with Bernetta about who’s a friend, who’s an enemy.

I also love the attention to detail, and the fun little sleight-of-hand definitions and demonstrations.

How about you, Jules? What did you think? Read the rest of this entry �

My Valentine Reads: David Levithan and BLOOM!

h1 Wednesday, February 13th, 2008

Jules here, piping up to talk a bit about my valentine reads for this week, the ones to which I say, Be Mine. And if you yourself are in the mood for some stories about that complicated thing called love, then here are two recommendations for you.

First, there’s David Levithan’s new short story collection, How They Met, and Other Stories (Random House; January ’08; review copy). The rest of the world knows already that Levithan writes well about love (Boy Meets Boy and The Realm of Possibility), but this is actually my first Levithan read. Hey, a girl’s gotta start somewhere. Me likey, too. This is a collection of eighteen short stories, each one about love — straight, gay, sane, not-so-sane, old-fashioned and heart-tuggin’, young, old, you-name-it. Apparently, Levithan started writing a story for his friends as a Valentine’s Day gift every year, and now we have them in one spot in How They Met. “Not all of these stories are official valentine stories — I can, it seems, write about love and its follies year-round,” he writes in the opening author’s note. And he also goes way back to his very first story, written in high school, and also tells us, “instead of trying to rewrite them as I’d write them now, I decided to leave them as I wrote them in high school, give or take some punctuation and an awkward last line.” Hmmm, bold. I like that, too.

Read the rest of this entry �

Seven Impossible Interviews Before Breakfast #65: Author/Illustrator Eric Rohmann

h1 Tuesday, February 12th, 2008

7-Imp is particularly excited to be chatting today with author/illustrator Eric Rohmann, who — in the words of Publishers Weekly — “has perfected the art of letting the pictures tell the story.” In this author spotlight at Random House, Eric writes, “I wasn’t a very good student. I remember my high school guidance counselor suggested I consider a trade: ‘Perhaps ship-fitting or something in a lumber yard?'” Well, we’re glad he chose illustration over a lumber yard after all, because he has brought the world of children’s literature some beautiful, unforgettable picture books and “magnificent oil paintings {which} masterfully mix reality and fantasy” (Los Angeles Times).

Eric — or, Theophrastus von Sparkenpumpe, if you’re Philip Pullman — made his children’s book debut in 1994 with Time Flies (Crown), a surreal, wordless tale of one bird’s journey back to the time of living dinosaurs (“the scientifically minded will be wowed by Rohmann’s oil paintings, which capture the textures of bone, tooth, eyeball, etc., with as much attentiveness and morbidity as, say, an 18th-century still life of gamebirds,” wrote Publishers Weekly). Time Flies was awarded a Caldecott Honor in ’95. In 2002, My Friend Rabbit (Roaring Brook Press), brought Eric a Caldecott Medal. This story of friendship — a “dramatic visual romp,” in the words of Pat Scales, chair of the 2003 Caldecott Award committee — was rendered in bright, hand-colored relief prints. In this Q & A with SCBWI in Southern California, Eric explained,

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Co-Review: Kaline Klattermaster’s Tree House

h1 Monday, February 11th, 2008

Jules: If you’re a loyal reader of 7-Imp, you know Eisha and I have what could easily pass for a virtual fan club here at this blog for author Haven Kimmel, the creator of the two Zippy memoirs (this one and this one for which you should drop everything and read if you haven’t already) as well as the books in what is called her Hopwood Trilogy — The Solace of Leaving Early, her debut novel; Something Rising (Light and Swift); and last year’s The Used World (which Eisha and I co-reviewed at ForeWord Magazine’s Shelf Space in October of last year). More on those books and our undying devotion to her as an author are in this interview with her, conducted almost one year ago.

Haven has a new children’s book (geared officially at the “7-12” age range), just released at the beginning of February by Atheneum Books for Young Readers, with art work by Peter Brown (whom we heartily thank for sending us for our post today some of the interior art included in the book). It’s called Kaline Klattermaster’s Tree House. Needless to say, Eisha and I were pretty psyched about reading it. Despite what Publishers Weekly wrote in their review of the book, this is not Haven’s children’s fiction debut. In 2003, she penned the picture book Orville: A Dog Story, published by Clarion.

Read the rest of this entry �

7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #49: Featuring Sylvie Kantorovitz

h1 Sunday, February 10th, 2008

Jules: These bedfellows here aren’t as strange as they seem. If you have read this year’s Cybils-
Go to Bed, Monster! by Natasha Wing and illustrated by Sylvie Kantorovitz (Harcourt, 2007), then you know that is Lucy, who couldn’t sleep, and her late-night creation with an “oval body. A square head. Rectangle legs. And circle eyes. When she added triangles, the shape turned into a . . . MONSTER!” Move over, Harold. When her monster roars at her, the intrepid Lucy says, without missing a beat, “You don’t scare me . . . Let’s play!” And play they do until Lucy herself starts to get worn out and tries everything in the book to get him to sleep already, Wing cleverly turning the tables on the child/caregiver relationship and bed-time struggles. I reviewed this title back in November of last year. It’s a winner, I tell ya. And it’ll be up to the judges in the category of Fiction Picture Books to decide if they think it’s a Cybils winner this year (award winners are announced this week, so keep your eye on the Cybils site).

Read the rest of this entry �

Poetry Friday: Michelangelo, Moses, the March to the Sea, & tipping your hat to your neighbor
with J. Patrick Lewis

h1 Friday, February 8th, 2008

Everything’s been comin’ up J. Patrick Lewis for me lately, as I’ve been reading two of his anthologies from last year, not to mention he sent 7-Imp a new one from an upcoming anthology, and I thought I’d share some of that Lewis goodness today. All three poems are printed in their entirety with permission from Lewis.

First things first, then: Last year, Creative Editions released Michelangelo’s World, an anthology of poetry by Lewis which serves as “a small homage in sonnets” to one of history’s most celebrated artistic geniuses. Through fifteen sonnets, Lewis explores Michelangelo’s life (from his birth in the village of Caprese to his death at the age of 88); his temperament (“short-tempered, arrogant, and aloof”); and a handful of his most famous pieces of art, including the Doni Tondo, the David, the Sistine Chapel, and St. Peter’s. Each poem is accompanied with brief notes about that time period in the artist’s life and/or the piece of art which the poem celebrates. Images of his art work are also included along with a few original illustrations (including the cover art) from Swiss artist, sculptor, illustrator, and animator Etienne Delessert. I’m going to share Lewis’ poem about the sculpture of Moses, part of the tomb of Julius II in the church of San Pietro in Vincoli in Rome, which I’ve had the pleasure of seeing in person (and now that my father-in-law and his wife are about to head to Rome for a trip, I’m pining for it all once again).

Part of what interests me about this sculpture (other than its majestic beauty) is something Lewis references in his note about Moses next to the poem (so I’ll use his words): “The horns protruding from his head are a mistake of the Latin Vulgate Bible. ‘Rays of light’ in Hebrew was erroneously translated in the Vulgate as ‘horns.'”

There’s something about that mistake getting caught in stone for all eternity that is fascinating to me. Here’s the poem: Read the rest of this entry �

Bringing in the New Year with Grace Lin

h1 Thursday, February 7th, 2008

Today is February 7th, the first day of the lunar year for 2008, and Grace Lin has stopped by to celebrate it with some illustrations from her newest picture book, the exuberant Bringing in the New Year (Alfred A. Knopf; January ’08).

I’ve had the pleasure of reading this new book all about the Chinese New Year, now more commonly called Lunar New Year and one of the most celebrated holidays in the world, as Grace explains in a spread at the close of the book whose purpose is to describe the many customs associated with the holiday. And these traditions are brought to vivid life in Grace’s book, which provides an introduction to the holiday for a preschool-aged audience. The book describes one family’s preparations for the celebration of the holiday — from sweeping the old year out of the house to hanging “spring-happiness poems” (red decorations featuring spring poems and good wishes) to making dumplings and cutting hair. “All this is done so the New Year can start fresh,” Grace writes in the final spread.

Read the rest of this entry �