Archive for May, 2009

7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #117: Featuring Katherine Tillotson

h1 Sunday, May 31st, 2009

Jules: See my new doll? This is my kick #1 this week and a gift from illustrator Katherine Tillotson. I received the doll—we’ll call her Mrs. Petal Pauline McWheely—just yesterday as a thank-you for today’s feature: Katherine’s here today to share some art from her newly-illustrated picture book by author Megan McDonald, It’s Picture Day Today! (to be released in June by Atheneum Books).

Mrs. Petal Pauline McWheely has a lot in common with the students in McDonald’s picture book — students with names like Buttons and Feathers. Yup, it’s a school full of art materials: Clothespins, Easter grasses, glittering stars, twisty yarns, and lots of wheely things. They all gather for the class pic, only to discover that Glue is missing. (Glue is a popular guy, as you can probably imagine.) It’s pretty much mayhem (and kudos to Katherine for keeping it interesting; I’m no artist, but it seems to me it’d be challenging to animate things like fuzzy pom-poms and string), until the picture gets snapped right before the book’s close, which opens up into a four-page spread — and which I won’t give away. But it has a lot to do with how Mrs. McWheely is structured here: Making order out of scraps, out of chaos, out of what you thought was little to nothing.

Read the rest of this entry �

Poetry Friday — A Bit Early
(The Fairies Made Me Do It)

h1 Thursday, May 28th, 2009

I’m a big advocate of reading poetry to children. At home and at work — when I was in a school library, that is. One of my favorite school librarians, under whom I once interned, would open up his time with his middle-school students by simply reading a poem to them each time they visited the library. No analysis, no quizzes. Just hear and enjoy and savor. And I fervently hope my girls grow up to enjoy and read poetry on their own. Instilling an appreciation for poetry in young children is really quite simple, too — and very fun. Read it to them. Read read read poems. Play with the rhymes. Emphasize the sounds of words. Poetry celebrates the rhythms and sounds of language and word play, so if you read it a lot—outloud—and dance and snap and clap and play, they’re gonna get it. And they’ll likely enjoy it.

I’ve been reading Favorite Poems: Old and New, originally published in 1957 by Doubleday/Random House. The poems were selected by Helen Ferris, and it was illustrated by Leonard Weisgard. It includes over seven-hundred poems divided into eighteen categories—from silly to somber, from story poems to scary poems to Bible prose, from Mother Goose to Walter de la Mare, from Shakespeare and Dickinson and Tolkien to Carl Sandburg and Lewis Carroll and T.S. Eliot (and JUST ABOUT EVERYTHING in between)—and is quite the comprehensive introduction to poetry. Visiting its home at Amazon, one can see that it inspires such user-review statements as, this is “PURE nostalgia!!!” and “the ONLY children’s anthology you’ll need.”

Read the rest of this entry �

Seven Questions Over Breakfast with David McPhail

h1 Wednesday, May 27th, 2009

I love that author/illustrator David McPhail describes himself as a misanthrope. Not only because statements like that from people who create books for children help eradicate this notion that all of them—or anyone else working near or around children, for that matter—live in little pink bubbles, surrounded by severely cute and insanely fluffy bunnies. (Seriously, the average 7-Imp reader knows they don’t, but I think that notion still prevails with the general public.) But also because of the element of surprise that resides in that statement: McPhail’s work is often infused with a sweet affection, sensitivity, and warmth and often revolves around the themes of friendship, cooperation, and familial relationships — often, but not always, animal characters, for which he is probably best-known. Not that misanthropes can’t appreciate cooperation, mind you. I guess I’m just saying: I flippin’ love it when someone surprises you.

Read the rest of this entry �

7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #116: Featuring Sarah Ackerley

h1 Sunday, May 24th, 2009

Jules: Happy (upcoming) Memorial Day and happy three-day-weekend to one and all! We hope folks are around today to come kickin’ with us, and we certainly hope everyone is having a relaxing and sunny weekend thus far.

Oh, wait. Yeah. I should have introduced the penguin here. The penguin with the plunger. That’s Patrick. If you think he looks as if he might be sleepwalking, well…you’re right. He’s got sleep issues. He’s also got his own picture book.

And I’m going to let author/illustrator Sarah Ackerley tell you all about him. Sarah—who grew up in Texas, studied art at The University of Texas at Austin, and moved to California last year—is here to tell us what she’s done, what got her inspired to make books for children (here’s a hint), and what’s to-come.

And we thank her kindly for stopping by. Ladies and gentlemen, with no further ado, we welcome Sarah Ackerley . . .

Read the rest of this entry �

Poetry Friday: a little affirmation from Galway Kinnell

h1 Friday, May 22nd, 2009

pig2.jpgIt’s hard for me to admit this out loud, but here it is: I’m terribly vain. Not in the usual sense of the word. I mean I am preoccupied with my appearance and with others’ perception of me, but I tend to see and expect the worst of myself. And I hate it. I hate that I even care what I look like, that I actually get depressed that I don’t look like Gwyneth Paltrow or Angelina Jolie or whatever impossible standard of physical attractiveness the media are currently obsessed with. Shouldn’t it be enough that I’m decently healthy, that I have a husband and family and friends that I love, a job that I enjoy, a nice place to live, and that people keep writing great books for me to read? Do I really have to be conventionally pretty, too, to call myself happy?

Sometimes it’s nice to have a reminder that there really is more than one definition of beauty. So here’s “Saint Francis and the Sow” by Galway Kinnell:

The bud
stands for all things,
even for those things that don’t flower,
for everything flowers, from within, of self-blessing;
though sometimes it is necessary
to reteach a thing its loveliness,
to put a hand on its brow
of the flower
and retell it in words and in touch
it is lovely
until it flowers again from within, of self-blessing;

(Click here to read the rest.)

* * * * * * *

The lovely Susan Taylor Brown is on Poetry Friday Round-Up duty this week at her blog, Susan Writes. Enjoy some true beauty over there.

Peace Out

h1 Monday, May 18th, 2009

Speaking for myself only here, I’ll be on a blog vacation all week. (There is some kind of name for this, but I always screw it up: “blogvation” or some such thing? I’ll hit it old-skool and just say: Jules won’t be posting this week, yo.)

Don’t miss, in the meantime, the Summer Blog Blast Tour 2009. The master schedule is here at Chasing Ray. You’re in good hands with all those bloggers, I tell you what.

I hope everyone has a happy and prolific (but only if you want it to be) week. Curtsey. Peace sign. Tip o’ the hat. I’ll see you on Sunday when 7-Imp goes a-kickin’.

7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #115: Featuring Fiona Bayrock
and Carolyn Conahan

h1 Sunday, May 17th, 2009

Jules: We have an author and illustrator duo visiting us this morning, shining a light on some nonfiction today: The creators of Bubble Homes and Fish Farts (released by Charlesbridge in February of this year), author Fiona Bayrock, who has written many science books for children, and author/illustrator Carolyn Conahan. Yeah, I said fish farts. In her March review of this book, Jen Robinson, one of our pretty regular kickers here on Sundays, wrote: “Fiona Bayrock has taken a unique premise, researched it to find lots of interesting, factual examples, and then added (with Carolyn Conahan’s help) both humor and heart.” Well, I say she nailed it with that statement. Just when you thought you understood all there was to know about bubbles and their purpose in this world, along comes Fiona. PSYCHE! Or “paradigm shift,” in the words of The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books. (Can I yell “PARADIGM SHIFT!” like someone would yell “PSYCHE!” Nah. Doesn’t flow well.) Yes, where was I? Fiona shows us the varied, weird, wild, wonderful, and all-around funky ways animals use bubbles. Sixteen different ways, to be precise, from the star-nosed mole’s bubble-blowing from its sniffer (note: that is not a rigorous scientific term) in order to find food to the the rattlebox moth’s “glob of yellow bubbles” that seep from its head as a warning to predators — and lots of other bubble action in between.

I want to say you’ll be blown away by this title, but then Andrea and Mark, the dynamic duo over at Just One More Book, beat me to that very necessary pun.

I asked both Fiona and Carolyn to talk a bit about the book today, and Carolyn is also here to share some watercolors from it, as well as a few sneak peeks at some of her other projects.

Read the rest of this entry �

Seven Questions Over Breakfast with Christopher Denise — And a Visit from Author Kristy Dempsey

h1 Friday, May 15th, 2009

Illustrator Christopher Denise and author and poet Kristy Dempsey are visiting this morning, but let me get something out of my system first, in all my excitement here:

I love love love this illustration from Chris. It comes from Jane Yolen’s The Sea Man, published back in 1997, a book I’ve never seen but really want to find now. This image is both wonderful and positively terrifying to me:

Okay, back to Chris and Kristy (and more art work from The Sea Man is below): They have a brand-new picture book out, entitled Me With You, released this month by Philomel. This week, Kristy is spearheading some online activities to celebrate the release of the new title. When I told her that I had tried to connect with Chris last year—I had wanted to feature some of his art work, but we somehow lost touch—she was just as excited as I was at the idea of me attempting to reach him again to do an interview and feature more of his beautiful art, including some spreads from their new title. Told in warm, simple rhymes, it celebrates the bond between grandparent and grandchild. Here is how Chris brought Kristy’s words—and the beloved duo—to life:

Read the rest of this entry �

Let Us Pray

h1 Tuesday, May 12th, 2009

You guys! Do you know that there is a newly-illustrated version of Daniel Pennac’s perfectly perfect book, The Rights of the Reader? I originally read this text of Pennac’s, first published in France as Comme un roman in 1992, as Better Than Life, published by Stenhouse Publishers in 1999, I believe it was. Yes, you school librarians and teachers probably know this text well. And, if you don’t, you likely are familiar with—or have at least heard of—Pennac’s beloved Reader’s Bill of Rights. Perhaps, it just occurred to me, it’s even one of those love-it or hate-it-type books, as what Pennac is suggesting for education is quite radical, going against the grain of the way reading is generally taught in schools today. But put me squarely in the love-it camp. And, as I’m having a busier-than-normal week, I can’t go into all the reasons why, my Ode to This Book, so to speak. But consider this my brief barbaric yawp on the 7-Imp roof-top about Pennac’s book.

Most importantly, I haven’t even said yet: This new edition—released by Candlewick at the end of last year, I believe it was—is illustrated by Quentin Blake. Be still my heart. I guess I was slow in getting to it, but I’m happy I eventually found it. And it has been translated fearlessly by Sarah Adams.

What I do have time to share is this wonderful excerpt, which has an all-new meaning to me, now that I’m a parent:

“…{T}he ritual of reading every evening at the end of the bed when they were little—set time, set gestures—was like a prayer. A sudden truce after the battle of the day, a reunion lifted out of the ordinary. We savored the brief moment of silence before the storytelling began, then our voice, sounding like itself again, the liturgy of chapters. . . . Yes, reading a story every evening fulfilled the most beautiful, least selfish, and least speculative function of prayer: that of having our sins forgiven. We didn’t confess, we weren’t looking for a piece of eternity, but it was a moment of communion between us, of textual absolution, a return to the only paradise that matters: intimacy. Without realizing it, we were discovering one of the crucial functions of storytelling and, more broadly speaking, of art in general, which is to offer a respite from human struggle.

Love wore a new skin.

And it was free.

Ah. Beautiful. Enough said.


The Mermaid Queen, Shana Corey, and
Some Art That’ll Really Wake You Up

h1 Monday, May 11th, 2009

Here’s swimmer, film star, fashion trend-setter, and the first woman to attempt to swim the English Channel, Annette Kellerman, “slicing through the water—winning races and setting records.” Have you all seen the fabulous new picture book biography about Kellerman and her derring-do? Perhaps you read Betsy Bird’s review of it last week. I love this book, and I’m here on this Nonfiction Monday to welcome the author, Shana Corey, who is going to talk a bit about the book and her work. Shana, as she writes in the book’s Author’s Note, has “always been interested in women and girls brave enough to make waves.” And I’ve got some fabulous art from the title to show as well — with fingers crossed that illustrator Edwin Fotheringham will soon be sending me his responses to my illustrator-interview questionnaire and then we can hear more from him, too. If you saw his work in last year’s What to Do About Alice?: How Alice Roosevelt Broke the Rules, Charmed the World, and Drove Her Father Teddy Crazy! by Barbara Kerley, then you know how exuberant Fotheringham’s highly stylized illustrations are. (If you’re like me and haven’t had your seven impossible cups of coffee before breakfast yet, Edwin’s art will wake up DIRECTLY.)

Corey’s Mermaid Queen (Scholastic, April 2009) is the story of Kellerman, born in 1886 in Sydney, Australia. Annette, as a child, had to wear leg braces (probably from rickets, Shana writes), but later she learned to swim and, as noted above, set many records. She began her swimming career at a time when women athletes were far from respected. But, believing swimming was the most superior sport, Annette kept at it and also spoke out against the constraining (to say the very least) ladies’ bathing costumes of that time. Once, when wearing a boy’s swimsuit at London’s Bath Club, she caused quite the stir and eventually sewed stockings onto the suit, a moment from her life included in Mermaid Queen — and done so dramatically and to great effect. Also included is the scene at Boston Harbor in the summer of 1908, which you can see here, in which Annette was arrested for indecency for not wearing a dress-and-pantaloon swimsuit, popular during that time.

Read the rest of this entry �