Archive for October, 2008

Poetry Friday: Edgar Allan Poe. When he was good, he was very very good, but when he was bad…

h1 Friday, October 31st, 2008

Oooooohhh…… he was really quite entertainingly bad.

I don’t mean to offend any Poe fans out there. I mean, I love “The Raven” as much as anybody. And I thought of Poe today, not just because of Halloween and all things spooky, but because last weekend while digging around for my high school senior photos, I also found a pretty hilarious picture of my (future) husband and myself dressed as the Ushers for a Poe-themed party given by the Humanities department at our college. No, I’m not sharing that one.

Anyway. The thing is, while Poe definitely had a real talent for meter and rhyme, and a brilliant imagination… dude could sometimes stray pretty far into Melodramaville. Sometimes he was downright emo, even for a Victorian. Take this poem, “To — — –. Ulalume: A Ballad.” I mean, he even had to make the title mysterious making it clear it’s dedicated to somebody but he’s not saying who.

The skies they were ashen and sober;
The leaves they were crispèd and sere—
The leaves they were withering and sere;
It was night in the lonesome October
Of my most immemorial year;
It was hard by the dim lake of Auber,
In the misty mid region of Weir—
It was down by the dank tarn of Auber,
In the ghoul-haunted woodland of Weir.

Okay, pretty good so far, right? He’s doing what he does best: setting a spooky, supernatural tone; and that repetitive thing he’s doing is almost like a chant – maybe an invocation, maybe a talisman against some sort of malevolent power – which adds another layer of mysticism to the mix.

But read on.
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Seven Questions Over Breakfast with David Ezra Stein

h1 Thursday, October 30th, 2008

Illustrator David Ezra Stein, one of my favorite new illustrators, is joining me for breakfast this morning. “Day to day,” he told me, “I usually have homemade granola with fresh fruit and soy milk. But if we’re having a leisurely brunch, I’ll have a salmon, onion, and spinach omelet with world-class home fries, ketchup, and toast with butter! Or when it’s around, a delicious, custardy, homemade quiche with a flaky crust! (I am just getting into baking. Here is me with some apples I picked for baking.)”

I opt for the leisurely brunch, since I have seven questions over breakfast for him this morning and since I can’t wait to linger over some of the art work he’s shared. So, here’s the quiche he’s baked . . . Read the rest of this entry �

Random Illustrator Feature, Halloween-Style

h1 Wednesday, October 29th, 2008

I’m still in the Halloween spirit and want to share the art work from one of my favorite new picture books for very young children at this time of year, Where’s My Mummy? (Candlewick, July ’08) by Carolyn Crimi and illustrated by John Manders. I’ll tell you why I like Manders — but quickly, since I think I convinced him to do an interview here at a later date. There are a lot of illustrators today whose style is primarily humorous, cartoon-esque. But John is one of my favorites in that vein. He can create truly funny, child-accessible art—knowing just where to add the right details that will get a preschooler…well, giggling—and his work is fresh, brisk, and interesting (without being too cutesy), conveying that Chuck-Jones sensibility somethin’ fierce. (And I still say that The Perfect Nest by Catherine Friend, illustrated by John, was one of the funniest picture books from last year. ¡Caramba! Sacré bleu! Great balls of fire! and all that!)

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Seven Questions Over Breakfast with Elisa Kleven

h1 Monday, October 27th, 2008

Let me tell you a little something: I was feeling so daunted at trying to find the words to express exactly why I adore books illustrated by Elisa Kleven (pictured here with real miniature carousels she herself created) and why I am drawn to her style that, as a stalling technique perhaps, I decided to get online, visit various online bookstores, type in “Elisa Kleven,” and read the reviews of her titles by journals such as Kirkus, School Library Journal, Publishers Weekly, etc. And do you know what? I read A LOT of reviews and never once read a criticism of her work as an illustrator. No, seriously.

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7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #86: Featuring Nicole Tadgell
(and 7-Imp Takes Up the Disco Mermaids’ Challenge)

h1 Sunday, October 26th, 2008

“My swing is going’ way, way up
with Daddy pushin’ me.”

Jules: Welcome to our weekly meeting ground for taking some time to reflect on Seven(ish) Exceptionally Fabulous, Beautiful, Interesting, Hilarious, or Otherwise Positive Noteworthy Things from the past week—whether book-related or not—that happened to you.

That exuberant illustration, opening our post here, is from illustrator and graphic artist Nicole Tadgell’s most recently-illustrated title, No Mush Today, written by Sally Derby (Lee & Low Books, September ’08). Nicole recently launched her blog tour for this title; she’s been to visit Kelly at Big A little a and Lori Calabrese (who has a wonderful interview in which she asked Nicole about her medium and work space, and Lori displays a nifty Photobucket slide show thingy of Nicole’s process). We’re glad Nicole agreed to stop by here this Sunday to share some art work from the book. Jama Rattigan also did a wonderful feature of the book here in September.

Nicole—born in Detroit but currently living in Massachusetts with her husband—has illustrated thirteen titles previous to No Mush Today. As she puts it at her blog, Studio NT—she specializes in multicultural picture books. Here’s what she had to say about the new title: Read the rest of this entry �

Poetry Friday: I’m Going as a Witch This Year.
How ‘Bout You?

h1 Friday, October 24th, 2008

“Beware of where you’re going,
Beware of where you play,
Beware of werewolves everywhere—
Halloween is on the way!”

I’m throwing a Halloween party tonight (wish you could come over for some hot cider and hot apple crisp with ice cream and orange cupcakes, mmmmm), so I’m in the mood for some Halloween poetry today. And, in honor of the children who will be in my house tonight, I’m going to share some Halloween children’s poetry.

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A Glimpse Into Our White House

h1 Thursday, October 23rd, 2008

“Despite revelations of appalling presidential ineptitude, or humiliating misbehavior, or pitiable poll standings, the dog will never vote to impeach his master.”
Steven Kellogg in “The Presidential Pet”
Our White House: Looking In, Looking Out

School Library Journal has used words such as “inspired” and “powerful” to describe this book; Publishers Weekly called it “provocative,” adding that it “makes the invaluable point that history does not have to be remote or abstract, but a personal and ongoing engagement”; and both Kirkus Reviews and September’s Notes from the Horn Book have called it a “sumptuous” volume. What I’m talking about is Our White House: Looking In, Looking Out (published by Candlewick in September 2008), in which over one hundred contemporary writers and artists use everything from stories to poems to essays to personal accounts to presidential letters to speeches to comics to historical records and more to show us, as Gregory Maguire puts it in the opening entry, that “{t}here are as many views, looking in and out of the White House windows, as there are eyes to look.” At almost 250 pages, it was conceived and co-created by the National Children’s Book and Literary Alliance, a not-for-profit literary organization founded in 1997 and composed of award-winning children’s authors and illustrators, and evidently was eight years in the making.

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Random Illustrator Feature:
Jen Corace’s Spin on Grimm

h1 Wednesday, October 22nd, 2008

It’s time for a quick Art Appreciation Moment:

I’ve already mentioned several times here at 7-Imp how much I love Cynthia Rylant’s new adaptation of Hansel and Gretel (Hyperion, September ’08), illustrated by Jen Corace (including here, when Jen stopped by one Sunday in July). Any book that opens thusly settles in and takes a cozy spot in the fairy-tale portion of my heart:

It has been said that guardian spirits watch over and protect small children, and that may be so. But there are also stories of children who find the courage to protect themselves.

Such is the story of Hansel and Gretel.

Or, as the publisher puts it in their product description, “…the witch, whose delicious house lured Hansel and his sister, Gretel, had forgotten two things about lost children: they can be very clever and very brave.” {Geeky emphasis is all mine.}

Recently, I was discussing how great this new adaptation is with a friend who had purchased a copy for his daughter, and I was all inspired again to see if Jen could share even more art from it. Lucky for me, she said yes. Here are a small handful of illustrations from the book:

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Seven Questions Over Breakfast with Sergio Ruzzier

h1 Monday, October 20th, 2008

Author/illustrator and editorial illustrator Sergio Ruzzier is here for breakfast this morning, and I greet him with my best, though certainly Appalachian-twinged, “Ciao!” You can spot a Ruzzier-illustrated title from here to Milan, where he was born, and back again, what with his wry humor and the delicate pen-and-ink lines of his intimate, subdued watercolors. And talk about an illustrator extending the text of a picture book written by someone else: Anyone else remember Emily Jenkins’ Love You When You Whine from ’06? Back then, Esme Raji Codell aptly called it a “very subversive look at the parent-child exchange…The great charm of this book is that page after dastardly and unrelentingly recognizable page, for all of the antics and subsequent parental pain so cheerfully and colorfully described and indicated, we have not a moment’s doubt that this mother is telling the truth.” Anyway, yes, back to Ruzzier’s extension of the text through his very whimsical watercolors: “Love you when you pour cereal on the floor” becomes the feline protagonist covering the floor with piles and piles of cereal; “Love you when you interrupt” becomes the cat yanking out the phone cord from the wall as her mother’s talking on it; and here’s what “Love you when you hit someone” became in Ruzzier’s world:

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7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #85: Featuring Dan Santat

h1 Sunday, October 19th, 2008

Jules: Welcome to our weekly meeting ground for taking some time to reflect on Seven(ish) Exceptionally Fabulous, Beautiful, Interesting, Hilarious, or Otherwise Positive Noteworthy Things from the past week—whether book-related or not—that happened to you.

This week we welcome illustrator Dan Santat, pictured here in first grade, just ’cause I freakin’ love that picture. Dan is—one day out of the year—Santa Claus, but he’s a children’s book writer and commercial illustrator on the other three-hundred-and-sixty-four days. And he fights crime on the side. That’s what he’ll tell you at his web site/blog (where you also learn that, in no time at all, he’ll have an addition to his family. Oh my, that’s an exciting time! We wish him and his family the best) . . . That swingin’ illustration which opens this post is a teaser: It’s from a forthcoming title Dan has illustrated, Chicken Dance (Sterling Publishing), written by Tammi Sauer and to be released next year.

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