Archive for April, 2008

Picture Book Round-Up, Part Un

h1 Thursday, April 17th, 2008

Everybody Bonjours!
by Leslie Kimmelman
Illustrated by Sarah McMenemy
Knopf Books for Young Readers
April 2008

Ooh la la! If you happen to be a Francophile, here’s a book for you. Even if you’re not, well, if you like your more contemporary illustrations — bright spins on busy, urban settings — Sarah McMenemy may be just for you. This is one young girl’s trip to Paris with her parents, rendered in simple rhymes from Kimmelman: “When in Paris . . . everybody bonjours. From shores. In stores. On guided tours. Everybody bonjours!” And we’re talking a few words on each page or double page spread. The young girl, out and about in the city, hits all the major tourist hotspots: the Latin Quarter, the Louvre, Notre Dame, the Tuileries Gardens, and much more, the book closing with a guide to each major landmark and a bit of enthused information about it, explained in terms the youngest of preschoolers will understand (“Notre Dame cathedral is a church that took 200 years to build!”). The endpages provide a compressed map of the landmarks the girl sees — and on a cool blue palette. Observant children will have fun spotting Monsieur LeMousie on each spread. McMenemy — whose work has been commissioned for such things as brochures for Toyota, installation pieces for the London Underground, and posters for the New York Hudson River Festival — debuted as a children’s book illustrator with 2003’s Waggle. Her mixed media illustrations are rendered in the boldest shades and convey the joy and wonder the young girl feels in this new city, doing things as mundane as chores to eating petits fours. In the end, she’s happy to be home in the arms of her grandmother at the airport. This would make an excellent read-aloud, particularly for units on Paris or travel, it goes without saying. McMenemy’s art resonates with a vibrancy and contagious energy. Très bien.

A Visitor for Bear
by Bonny Becker
Illustrated by Kady MacDonald Denton
February 2008

As I already mentioned over at Diane Chen’s Practically Paradise when Eisha and I guest-blogged over there last week, Bonny Becker and Kady MacDonald Denton’s A Visitor for Bear is one of my favorite picture book titles from this year. And I just have to share the beginning of Betsy Bird’s review of it over at A Fuse #8 Production, seeing as how I visibly shudder when people repeatedly refer to picture books as merely “cute” and stop there (which I’ve made clear here at 7-Imp before and, arguably, makes me a Big Snob, but so be it): Read the rest of this entry �

Seven Questions Over Breakfast with Lauren Castillo

h1 Wednesday, April 16th, 2008

Did everybody see What Happens on Wednesdays last year, written by Emily Jenkins (and reviewed here at 7-Imp)? If you didn’t, you’d make your own day by taking a gander. It’s Emily Jenkins we’re talking about, so you can trust it’s well-written (which it is), but what got my attention, in particular, was the work of then-debut illustrator Lauren Castillo. Just take a look at some of the glowing things said about her illustration in this first book of hers: “Newcomer Castillo’s illustrations evoke Margot Zemach, with thick smudgy lines and a wintertime palette that celebrates the leafless beauty and energy of this intimate patch of Brooklyn” (Kirkus‘ starred review); “{r}adiant mixed-media art by a debut illustrator captures the warmth and candor in Jenkins’s . . . sparkling slice-of-life tale” (Publishers Weekly’s starred review); “Castillo’s slightly impressionistic mixed-media illustrations give viewers a real feel for the youngster’s Brooklyn neighborhood” (School Library Journal); and “{i}n an extremely promising debut, Castillo envelops the young narrator in warm tones . . . and renders figures and settings in a naive style while picking out rich elements . . . in a manner consistent with a child’s intense but often selective memory for details” (Booklist’s starred review).

Being compared to Margot Zemach with your first illustrated title? Nothing to sneeze at, I say.

I decided to invite Lauren over for a cyber-breakfast in 7-Imp’s new illustrator-interview series, launched a couple weeks ago, to find out what she’s done since the wonderful What Happens on Wednesdays, what books are forthcoming, and generally how she works her magic. Lauren’s breakfast of choice is a large cup of coffee with cream and sugar. And a toasted whole wheat English muffin with raspberry jam and a side of scrambled eggs. Mmmm. She drinks her coffee just the way I like it, so I’m going to have a cup with her. Hey, wait, I love English muffins, too. She’s a good breakfast companion — as well as a talented illustrator. Let’s get the low-down on Lauren and then ask her seven questions over breakfast, shall we? Read the rest of this entry �

Blurring the Lines

h1 Tuesday, April 15th, 2008

Last September, Betsy Bird wrote a smashing piece at ForeWord Magazine’s “Shelf Space” column about books, as she put it, “that refuse to be neatly arranged under a single category. They straddle the genres.” The new titles I’m covering today could fall into this category, I think, but more simply, I think they are examples of what Eisha noted last week when we guest-blogged over at School Library Journal’s Practically Paradise. When I asked Eisha if she has a favorite current trend of children’s lit, here’s what she wrote:

I love that more and more middle grade and YA novels are incorporating heavy amounts of illustrations to support the story, bending the genre lines between straight novels, picture books, and graphic novels.

To that I add the ever-so eloquent, word. Word up, even.

Today I’m going to mention some new illustrated titles I think are worthy of our attention. They’re not necessarily all middle grade or YA, as Eisha mentioned, but they are the types of books that aren’t normally as heavy on illustration as these titles are.

Silly Lilly and the Four Seasons
Agnès Rosenstiehl
May 2008

Benny and Penny: Just Pretend
by Geoffrey Hayes
April 2008

Otto’s Orange Day
by Frank Cammuso
Jay Lynch
June 2008

If you’re a big kidlitosphere reader, I’m sure you’ve heard about these new TOON Books from The Little Lit Library (a division of Raw Junior, LLC), launched by Françoise Mouly and Art Spiegelman. These are technically what are called emerging reader titles anymore, but the idea here is that these are comics (designed for children ages four and up), which beginning readers can read to themselves. “The artistic and literary qualities that we hope are at the core of the TOON Books are often lacking in standard easy-to-read books, which tend to be made with good intentions but little creative impulse,” said Mouly in this interview from the wonderful new Notes from the Horn Book. “How is a child going to learn to read if she is presented with books that offer none of the pleasures of reading?” Read the rest of this entry �

Seven Impossible Interviews Before Breakfast #71: Cloudscome at a wrung sponge

h1 Monday, April 14th, 2008

Here’s a suggestion for our readers out there, should they actually not already be reading a wrunge sponge, the blog of Andromeda “Andi” Jazmon (her pen name), or cloudscome (her blogger name): If you need a quiet moment of unassailable beauty in your hectic day, then you can find one over there, on any given day, at cloudscome’s blog. Most striking are her original haiku posts and her often-breathtaking photographs of moments-in-time, courtesy of Mother Nature.

However, at a wrung sponge, you’ll also get some experimental original poetry (in addition to her beloved haiku); some detailed thoughts on favorite books; suggested reading lists, most often on so-called multicultural titles, and library-trip reports; warm and inviting posts about her faith and adoption; and much more (including her participation in the Pay It Forward Book Exchange). Her blog’s template states, “I’m a librarian posting about multiculti kids’ books, poetry, knitting, my garden and gluten-free cooking,” but many of her posts, particularly her haiku posts, transcend the mundane and take you — if you give yourself a moment to go — to a place where you can see the extraordinary in the ordinary. For serious, it’s like this lovely gift to yourself to stop by a wrung sponge and see what Andi has noticed — and, likely, written about or snapped a photograph of — in her day (or — as William Carlos Williams put it once, which she quoted in a post — she “write{s} what is in front of {her} nose”). Here are but two examples of some of her photography, which she regularly shares at a wrung sponge:

Ah. Nice. We’ll let those photographs speak for themselves. Moving on . . .

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7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #58: Featuring Julie Paschkis

h1 Sunday, April 13th, 2008

Jules: If you’re a regular reader of 7-Imp, you have seen illustrator Julie Paschkis’ name pop up a lot lately. And that would be because, with every new title she illustrates, I become more of a fan. Her colorful, patterned, and striking folk art gouache paintings are a feast for the eyes. I thought TadMack put it well at a recent post about Imaginary Menagerie, which Paschkis illustrated, when she said that seeing such lush gouache paintings “makes me want to roll around in paint.”

eisha: Well said, Jules and TadMack. I’m a big fan too – I particularly enjoyed her work in Twist: Yoga Poems by Janet Wong, which features colorfully-clad children in yoga poses surrounded by intricate Indian-inspired paisleys and floral patterns. And I was lucky enough to see her accept the Boston Globe Hornbook Honor in 2006 for Yellow Elephant: a Bright Bestiary, another collaboration with poet Julie Larios. That was a stunning book, too – I said at the time the illustrations reminded me of a cross between Russian miniature painting and Pueblo art, which worked perfectly with the fanciful poems. You’re so right, Jules. I think she just gets better and better with every book.

Jules: Lucky for us all, Julie stopped by today to share some of her art work with us. Pictured above is a new painting of hers, and Julie told us: “I was playing with words. This is a new painting that is going to be used as a poster by the King County Library for a program of that name (Playing with Words).” If you are also a fan of Paschkis’ work, then you might be happy to know that I’ve lined her up for one of our new illustrator interviews (the first seven-questions-over-breakfast interview being with Jeremy Tankard a couple weeks ago).

Here are the other gifts Julie is sharing with us today:

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Poetry Friday: “Very old souls” (in adolescent bodies) on the nature of things

h1 Friday, April 11th, 2008


Pictured, left:
by Jeane Renee T. Nubla,
age 14

* * * * * * *

I suppose it’s possible that reading poetry crafted by children is not for everyone. But I believe that if it’s done well—and presented well—then you might experience what Barry Lopez describes when talking about the new poetry anthology I have the distinct pleaure of telling you about today, River of Words: Young Poets and Artists on the Nature of Things, edited by Pamela Michael and with an introduction by Robert Hass (Milkweed Editions; March 2008): “To turn these pages—to gaze and peruse here— is to discover an unfamiliar joy. These young people offer transcendence, enchantment, and the experience of human attainment—sensations adults too often, now, lose track of.” Having just finished this impressive new poetry collection, I concur entirely with Mr. Lopez. This is a beautifully-designed collection of thought-provoking, nuanced, and sometimes breathtaking poems—all written by children or teens.

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Brrrring… Brrrring…

h1 Wednesday, April 9th, 2008

post-itLate-Thursday addendum (because several people have asked): Here’s how our three guest-posts are organized over at Practically Paradise: Intro post about what 7-Imp does and why; Jules interviews Eisha (in which Eisha may or may not tell you about her robotic past); and Eisha interviews Jules (in which Jules may or may not reveal the secret to karate).


“Hello, you have reached Jules and Eisha at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast. We can’t come to the blog right now because we’re guest blogging for Diane Chen at SLJ’s Practically Paradise. Our guest posts should go up sometime Wednesday and Thursday, April 9th and 10th. Please visit us there – we’ll be interviewing each other on stuff like the current kidlit scene, the joys and (literal) pains of blogging, and favorite moments from the last one-and-a half years of 7-Imp. Our regular blog will resume on Friday. Please leave a comment…”

eisha: Bleeaaarrrghhh!! Dude, I hate these. Did I sound okay? I think I went southern on “pains,” did you hear it? “Pay-eens…”

jules: Nah, it was… fine. Really.

eisha: What?… No, what?

jules: No, really, it was okay. Kind of… squeaky, maybe.

eisha: SQUEAKY??? Like in rubber ducky? Or like in Frohm? Do you mea–

jules: Hey, did you hit the button to make it stop recording?

eisha: CRAP! No! Which one?

jules: I think it’s thi–


March/April issue of The Edge of the Forest

h1 Tuesday, April 8th, 2008

Well, the review I planned to have up today didn’t make it. Eisha and I will be guest-blogging over at School Library Journal’s Practically Paradise this week, and we spent most of last night getting our posts ready.

But we do have a short announcement for fans of The Edge of the Forest: The March/April 2008 issue is up! This post over at Big A little a will tell you all about the features in this double issue. It looks like a particularly great one. Enjoy!

Rochester’s Teen Book Festival
(as experienced by Eisha and Adrienne)

h1 Monday, April 7th, 2008

Teen Book FestivalOn Saturday, we (Eisha and Adrienne of What Adrienne Thinks About That) attended the Third Annual Teen Book Festival in Rochester, NY. We had a fabulous time, and thought we’d co-blog about it and share the highlights with you. This will be cross-posted on both 7-Imp and WATAT, for your viewing pleasure.

The event started with a red-carpet arrival for the authors, which we totally missed ’cause, um, it was Saturday morning and, you know. We had to get coffee at Adrienne’s favorite place, the Leaf and Bean. Which totally exceeded all expectations.


Adrienne and Amidala. Which is really funny if you’ve ever read Adrienne’s Queen Amidala journal entries.Then there was a general assembly, with the organizer Stephanie introducing all the authors on a stage that was flanked by members of the Garrison Excelsior 501st Legions, in full Star Wars regalia. It was particularly fitting that Timothy Zahn was almost totally obscured by the faux-Queen Amidala’s headdress (seen here). There was a “lightning round” of questions, led by two teen volunteers, where they asked a question and the authors passed the mike down the row giving short answers.

Then each author was put in his/her own room for three “breakout sessions,” and you could choose any three to attend. In between sessions one and two, there was pizza for lunch in the cafeteria (delivered – not actual cafeteria food). And at the end, there were books and merch for sale in the gym, with all the authors available for autographs.

It was extremely well-attended, with teens bussed in from all over, and tons of local librarians, teachers, and teens volunteering to keep the whole thing running smoothly.

For a full description of the event and complete list of the authors in attendance, see the website for TBF LIVE! 2008.

* * * * * * *

eisha: Well, first, I just want to say thanks, Adrienne, for inviting me to this totally excellent event. I’m sort of in awe at the assemblage of talent they had going there.

adrienne: Yes, thanks for driving up! This is my third year at TBF, and it’s so much fun. I always have a hard time deciding which authors to go see.

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7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #57: Featuring Up-and-Coming Illustrator, Courtney Pippin-Mathur

h1 Sunday, April 6th, 2008

It’s the first Sunday of the month (is anyone else astounded it’s already April?), and so it’s time again to feature an up-and-coming illustrator, someone new to the scene or a student of illustration. This week it’s freelance artist and art teacher, Courtney Pippin-Mathur, who grew up in Texas but now lives on the east coast with her family (and where she “now paints, teaches, loves the fall season and misses tex-mex.”) Featured above is “Jazz, Music for the Soul.” And, now, here comes trouble:

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