Archive for March, 2009

Good Gestalt; Or, Perceptual Puzzling
Can Be Good for the Soul

h1 Tuesday, March 31st, 2009

Well, this past Sunday—in which the art of Julie Fortenberry was featured, incidentally, so go check that out, if you missed it—I took a poll as to whether or not the creature below was a Rabbit or a Duck. As you can see, this spread below from Amy Krouse Rosenthal’s and Tom Lichtenheld’s Duck! Rabbit! is slightly different from the spread shown on Sunday, but it’s not much more help for the undecided:

To be official about it all, here were my poll results (my online poll, that is; my five-year-old walked around with the book all last week, quizzing everyone she saw):

  • “Um, hello. It is obviously a RABBIT. Okay, so it can also be a duck. But look closely people! As a RABBIT, it is so much cuter! Cuteness always wins. Therefore it is a RABBIT.”
  • “I think it’s both, but I agree that the rabbit is definitely cuter.”
  • “I vote for Rabbit (he told me to).”
  • “I’m very left-to-right-oriented, so that’s a rabbit to me – rabbit ears, then head. If it were a duck, he would be facing the other way.”
  • “Duck. I can accept it as a rabbit only if I can accept that rabbits don’t have mouths.”
  • “…it looks like a Hesperornis without the scary teeth.”
  • “I vote rabbit.”
  • “I saw a rabbit.”
  • “…Rabbit. 100%.”
  • “…that duck/rabbit is messing me up.”

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Seven Questions Over Breakfast with D.B. Johnson

h1 Monday, March 30th, 2009

Here is one of my all-time favorite picture characters in all the universe. Do you know him, too?

He showed up in 2000, brought to life by author/illustrator D.B. Johnson, who is pictured here, and his story, Henry Hikes to Fitchburg (Houghton Mifflin)—the first of many Henry stories, we came to find out later—was inspired by a short passage from Henry David Thoreau’s Walden. This book came out right around the time that I had decided to study children’s lit in grad school via a library degree. (At this point, I was married and living with my husband, but just prior to that and when I was single, Eisha had been my roomie, and she’d bring home beautiful and/or clever picture books from her library job and leave them sitting on our kitchen table. As I’ve said before here at 7-Imp, she’s to blame for my picture book passion. But I digress.) I had never seen anything like it before, and neither had the rest of the world: In fact, D.B., who goes by Don, was awarded the Ezra Jack Keats New Writer Award for Henry Hikes to Fitchburg, which he discusses a bit below, as well as the 2000 Boston Globe–Horn Book Award for Picture Books. (See his wonderful acceptance speech here: “This whole idea of walking to get where you want to go resonated with my life. It was Thoreau’s way to be his own man, to stay close to nature, to be a writer. It was my way to be an artist.”) Three more Henry books were to follow: Henry Builds a Cabin in 2002, Henry Climbs a Mountain in 2003, and Henry Works in 2004. (Incidentally, you can see the books online at the “books” portion of Don’s site.)

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7-Imp’s 7 Kicks 108: Featuring Julie Fortenberry

h1 Sunday, March 29th, 2009

“Parade is over. Time for bed.”
— from Karen Roosa’s
Pippa at the Parade

Jules: I know it’s a bright Sunday morning, a new day, and not time to climb back into our beds, but I can’t help but open with this image, because I love the colors so much I just might want to marry them.

This comes from illustrator Julie Fortenberry. Julie has two blogs—one devoted solely to her art and one all about picture book illustration. And here’s the thing: I’ve always loved her children’s illustration blog, but I never quite made the connection that it was Julie Fortenberry who authored it. Sometimes I’m slow-on-the-draw like that.

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Poetry Friday: The two faces of Ithaca

h1 Friday, March 27th, 2009

I know I tend to run on a bit about how much I love my newly-adopted city. Ithaca is a good fit for someone like me – it manages to pull off a friendly small-town homey feel with walk-the-walk social consciousness and an unabashedly intellectual core. But the longer I’ve lived here, the more I’ve come to realize it’s even more complicated than that. Layers upon layers. For instance, you’ve all heard me rave about the abundant natural beauty we’ve got going on:

Ithaca Falls. This is seriously a few blocks from my apartment. I know, right?

But then we also have this:

Ithaca Gun Factory

This is the long-defunct Ithaca Gun Company factory. It was empty for years before being condemned in 2006, and after long discussions of how to deal with all the toxic chemicals it’s been leeching into the ground and river, demolition finally began last month.

My friend Justin Souza, one of the Poets Upstairs, has written a poem about the dual nature of our fair city. It’s called “Scenes from Other Summers,” and it was published this month in Oak Bend Review. Here’s how it starts:

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Seven Questions Over Breakfast with Geoffrey Hayes

h1 Thursday, March 26th, 2009

I do a lot of illustrator interviews here at 7-Imp, but as I was formatting this one, I realized that I don’t often talk to artists like Geoffrey Hayes who create books for the VERY WEE set, as in the pre-preschool crowd. For that—and many other reasons—it’s good to welcome Geoffrey this morning for seven questions over breakfast.

Geoffrey has written and illustrated over forty children’s books, including Bear By Himself, Margaret Wise Brown’s When the Wind Blew, and the early-reader series, Otto & Uncle Tooth. To be perfectly honest, I’m still exploring his previous titles, but what caught my eye—what made me want to invite him over for a breakfast chat—are his new Benny and Penny titles for RAW Junior. These titles are Geoffrey at his very best.

Have you seen these guys yet?

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Random Illustrator Feature — Michael Wertz’s
Q & A with Michael Wertz; Or, Fun with Pronouns

h1 Tuesday, March 24th, 2009

Back when I took part in my half of 7-Imp’s blog identity crisis, I decided to no longer accept review copies of titles for a while. Well, after that while passed, I came to discover a more fine-tuned focus, I guess you could say, here at 7-Imp — for my part. And that would be that I love talking to illustrators, and I love love LOVES me some good picture book art. So, while I no longer accept review copies of novels, I find it hard to turn down—and, it turns out, will gladly accept—advance copies of new picture book titles that I think look exciting. All of that is to say that I keep wanting to say to you all, have you SEEN Betsy Franco’s new collection of concrete poems, A Curious Collection of Cats, illustrated by Michael Wertz? I’ve been wanting to say that for a while. And then I have to stop and remind myself that it’s not out on bookshelves and in libraries yet. But guess what? Yup, you got it: It’ll be out in April from Tricycle Press, and April is wowwheredoesthetimego NEXT WEEK. In honor, then, of National Poetry Month, which will be here oh-so soon, I’m finally going to show you some illustrations from this engaging book.

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Seven Questions Over Breakfast with
the Devishly Magnetic Don Brown

h1 Monday, March 23rd, 2009

Here is the celebrated and award-winning author and illustrator of many picture book biographies, Don Brown. He is having A Moment with what he refers to below in our chat as his wondrous, yet flat-out evil, printer. I’m happy to welcome Don this morning for seven questions over breakfast — not only to distract him from his printer woes, but also because his books are ones I’ve followed and enjoyed for years.

If you’re a children’s librarian—whether a public librarian or school librarian—and/or a parent who keeps up with children’s lit, particularly nonfiction titles, you may wonder, as I do, where we’d be without his engaging picture book biographies, particularly since he often, but certainly not always, brings us the lives of lesser-known figures (Ruth Law, Mary Kingsley, Alice Ramsey — to name a few). And even when he’s telling us the story of more celebrated figures of history—Mark Twain, Albert Einstein, Dolley Madison—he manages to stand apart from the crowd: Kirkus wrote about One Giant Leap: The Story of Neil Armstrong, “{t}he story has been told many times, but perhaps never with so much heart and spirit.” I think the common denominator in his picture book biographies, no matter the subject matter, is that he’s bringing us the stories of those people who followed their bliss and lived with passion.

And if you enjoy his books as much as I do, you’re probably nodding as I say: Doesn’t that seem like what he’s doing, too? I’ve never read a Don Brown story in which it didn’t seem as if he was having great fun sharing with us. And, in the words of School Library Journal, he’s “a current pacesetter who has put the finishing touches on the standards for storyographies.”

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7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #107: Featuring Jacquelynn Buck

h1 Sunday, March 22nd, 2009

Jules: Today, 7-Imp welcomes photographer Jacquelynn Buck. Jacquelynn, who is actually formally trained in Public Health but who has a passion for photography and design, does portraits, weddings, travel and nature photography, and even design work (websites, posters, postcards, etc.) — and much more. I first heard about her from Sara Lewis Holmes, whose author photo was taken by Jacquelynn. In fact, I very first read about her here at Sara’s site in 2007. (Sara also interpreted some of Jacquelynn’s photos in this intriguing Poetry Friday post.)

Jacquelynn writes at her site, “I want to translate on paper that core that is each person, each city, that makes them who and what they are…There was a time in my life when I wanted to change the world. And maybe I still will. But today let me show you the world through my eyes. Know that not everything is as it seems. Discover again what you thought you already knew.” These are fitting words for Jacquelynn’s latest photography project, entitled Real Women. She tells us all about it below (and you can read about its origin at her site), but—to summarize—it’s to help women see themselves as beautiful, just as they are. To which I’m sure most of us would say, AMEN.

This post follows on the heels of author Sara Zarr’s post from this week about her experience during an author photo shoot, in which she specifically and repeatedly told the photographer that she didn’t want to be Photoshopped. Here’s part of what Sara wrote:

When I was setting up the appointment for the shoot, I told the photographer’s assistant that I just wanted to look like me. He asked if I required a makeup artist. No. Not my style. I sent him to my blog, I showed him recent photos of me that I liked. The day of the shoot, I spent over an hour with the photographer. And said again – I just want to look like me. As he shot me, we talked a little bit about women being photographed. How we all have our insecurities. How I’d come to accept mine and don’t want to turn down life opportunities because I think I should be thinner or prettier. At the end of the shoot, he said that he could work magic with Photoshop, and if I wanted to look like I’d been going to the gym every day for four months, he could do that. I said no. I said I wanted to look like me. I said that a large part of my audience is made up of teen girls and I didn’t want to perpetuate that whole “I’m not okay” thing.

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Poetry Friday: Waking Sister Spring

h1 Friday, March 20th, 2009

“Robin flew closer. The heat made it hard to breathe. He winced as the feathers on his belly caught fire. His plain brown belly turned a bright orange-red.

As quickly as he could, Robin grabbed the morning light
and headed back to the forest.”

* * * Debbie Ouellet, How Robin Saved Spring* * *

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Seven Questions Over Breakfast with Emily Gravett

h1 Wednesday, March 18th, 2009

Emily Gravett; photo credit: Mark HawdonOne of my favorite contemporary illustrators is here today. And I mean one of my TOP-FIVE favorites. With my love of hyperbole aside, I say that British illustrator Emily Gravett is one of the most exciting writer-artists at work today who creates books for children. When she released Monkey and Me in the UK in ’07, The Sunday Times wrote that the title “marks out the exceptional from the mediocre.” I’d say that about all her books thus far. The Irish Times called her a magic-weaver. Her work is daring and one-of-a-kind and oh-so slightly subversive, some of my favorite elements in a picture book.

Remember when she hit the scene with the multimedia wonder that was Wolves (released by Simon & Schuster in the U.S.), the poster child for postmodern picture books of 2006? Turning a traditional narrative on its head, she told the imaginative, suspenseful tale (which also managed to be terrifically informative) of a rabbit with his nose firmly stuck in a nonfiction title about wolves, a book whose subject matter has stepped off the page with a snarl and an appetite, unbeknownst to the rabbit. And the alternate ending? Well, it vies for Best Picture Book Ending Ever. Truly. The book was not only critically-acclaimed, but it also made approximately seven bajillion kidlitosphere bloggers go berserk with glee. Wolves, which started out as a college project, also won Emily the 2005 Kate Greenaway Medal and a 2007 Boston Globe–Horn Book Honor.

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