Archive for October, 2010

7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #191, Halloween 2010:
Featuring Calef Brown, Bob Kolar, and Dan Krall

h1 Sunday, October 31st, 2010

I’ve got quite a bit of art to share today, so I’m not going to linger here in the introduction to this post, other than to say happy Halloween to everyone, and I hope it greets you with lots of peanut-butter-and-chocolate delights.

Calef Brown (hiding behind his book here to the left) brings us that opening illustration there, one of the endpaper tests, he told me, for his latest poetry collection, Hallowilloween: Nefarious Silliness from Calef Brown (Houghton Mifflin, September 2010). I think celebrating Halloween with Calef makes all the sense in the world, as he’s the Reigning Children’s Poet of Weird (that’s a compliment) and so convincing at having us see the world a different way (not unlike Halloween), so I invited him to share today some of the illustrations and poems from this title. The book celebrates the holiday with the Grim Reaper (and what his suppers might be like), the Poltergeyser (in a certain national park), a scarecrow and his epitaph (seven guesses as to what it might be), Jack (the rare wolf), a vumpire (who only works night games), and many more, some of which can be seen below. School Library Journal writes, “Brown’s acrylic illustrations add to the creepy silliness: an artful mix of naive and stylized, whimsical details and vibrant color.”

Since Calef sent quite a few spreads and even some sketches, which I’m always pleased to share with 7-Imp readers, we’ll get back to him in a second. There are two other visitors this morning, as well…

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A Quick Cup of Coffee with Roger and Martha
and a Peek at A Family of Readers

h1 Thursday, October 28th, 2010

I’ve got three coffee cups out this morning to tell you what book has, arguably, replaced this as my favorite gift for friends having babies (well, maybe I can get both books for them), not to mention anyone who tells me they want to study children’s literature. In September, Candlewick released A Family of Readers: The Book Lover’s Guide to Children’s and Young Adult Literature, written by Horn Book editor Roger Sutton and executive editor Martha V. Parravano. It’s a wonderful read, and the book’s very premise was a smart one: As Roger writes in the introduction, “your passion for reading isn’t necessarily accompanied by a knowledge of children’s books, and that’s where we come in.”

As the sub-title tells you, this is a guide to children’s literature for those families passionate about reading — yet who may not know how to navigate the sometimes overwhelming world of children’s lit. “It is a book,” he writes later, “for readers, people who need books as much as food or air, and whose idea of the perfect vacation and/or evening meal is to have more time to read.” Even calling it a “guide” is somewhat misleading. To be sure, it’s a guide, yes. But this isn’t your go-to book for those parents who don’t read and suddenly decide they want their kids to. Don’t expect shallow lists of how-to’s and what-to-read’s (or, as Roger writes, “not bland lists of dos, don’ts and surefire recommendations”). Refreshing, indeed. This is a collection of well-crafted essays (Naomi Shihab Nye on poetry, Jon Scieszka on humor, Mitali Perkins on girl books), many previously printed in The Horn Book, about children’s literature, touching mainly upon, as Roger writes, how to give children the skills and opportunities to read, how to create books that both interest and respect them, how to allow children ownership of their reading, and how to know when and how to guide young readers, as well as knowing how to leave them alone already, when they need it. Read the rest of this entry �

One Picture-Book Roundtable Discussion
Before Breakfast #2: Featuring Author Tammi Sauer, Illustrator Scott Magoon, and Editor Alexandra Penfold

h1 Tuesday, October 26th, 2010

“…she liked to pick flowers.”

I had so much fun hosting this first-ever picture book roundtable discussion in August that I decided to do it again. Not only that, but to make it a regular feature of sorts. And I have author Boni Ashburn, you may remember, to thank for the very idea.

When Boni, Kelly Murphy, Maggie Lehrman, and Chad Beckerman visited that day, I had the author, illustrator, editor, and art director/book designer on deck to give me and 7-Imp readers varying perspectives on one picture book title. It was a great read, I thought. Today, we have the author, illustrator, and editor of another picture book title. The book’s designer, Lizzy Bromley (Simon & Schuster), isn’t currently available to weigh in, but we decided to forge ahead anyway. (Maybe we can catch Lizzy another time.)

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So, Sue Me: I Cheated and Did Twelve

h1 Monday, October 25th, 2010

Just a quick note to say that I’m over at author/illustrator Sergio Ruzzier’s picture book blog, Hey, Rabbit!, this morning with my top-ten favorite picture books. Sergio has asked folks to weigh in—everyone from authors, illustrators, bloggers, librarians, art directors, agents, and more—and I love this new series of his.

For a picture-book lover like me, this project was nearly impossible. The book pictured here would be one over which I SMACKED MY HEAD last night for failing to include. Ten is just so hard. But it was a fun challenge, nonetheless.

Don’t miss the previous lists over at Hey, Rabbit! — from author/illustrator Matthew Cordell (yay for Leaves!), author Marc Tyler Nobleman (yay for Ferdinand!), and author Emily Jenkins (yay for Amy Schwartz!).

And Sergio’s only just begun…Thanks to Mr. Ruzzier for having me.

7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #190: Featuring Laurie Keller

h1 Sunday, October 24th, 2010

(Click to enlarge.)

I have so many picture books I want to post about here lately and not enough hours in the day. And I’m sitting on lots of art and several interviews and lots of features and such, but I simply have to post about Laurie Keller’s newest title today in celebration of the fact that she’ll be at a local bookstore tomorrow, and I’ll get to meet her. In person, that is. I cyber-met her in early 2009, and I immediately liked her. I knew I liked her books, but then she had to up and tell me about her adoration for Waiting for Guffman, what is quite possibly The Funniest Movie of All Time in my book (but maybe only tied with This Is Spinal Tap), so there you go. I liked her even more.

Good thing I love her new picture book title, too, so that I had a great excuse to ask her to visit again. Now, let me just say: As has probably already been made clear before here at 7-Imp (repeatedly), I have a somewhat dark sense of humor and I’m also just a contrarian at heart. Can’t help it. So, a book about smiling? Well, it’d normally want to make me punch something. Most likely. But only Laurie Keller could make one that would make me laugh outloud. And fall hard and fast for.

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One Visit with Candace Fleming and Clever Jack
Before Breakfast (Served with Golden-Sweet Cake
and Succulent Strawberries)

h1 Wednesday, October 20th, 2010

(Click to enlarge and see spread from which this illustration comes.)

This morning’s post is dedicated to a new picture book, Clever Jack Takes the Cake (Schwartz & Wade, August 2010), which jumped up and surprised me and was placed, soon after I first read it a few weeks ago, in the Top 10 Jules’s Favorite Picture Books of 2010 list in my noggin. I know: I speak in hyperbole. Is anyone actually keeping count of my 2010 favorites? Really, though. Hyperbole aside, this book is a winner on so many levels that it is a true joy to read. And I just noticed that it’s been met with a whole host of starred reviews, so it looks like I’m not alone in my adoration for it. (“The creators of Muncha! Muncha! Muncha! celebrate storytelling with a sparkling specimen of that very thing,” writes Publishers Weekly.)

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One Impossibly Enjoyable Conversation
with Richard Michelson Before Breakfast

h1 Tuesday, October 19th, 2010

“‘Someday I’m going to be president.’ Mama looks at me proud, like I already am.”
— From Richard Michelson’s Busing Brewster,
illustrated by R.G. Roth (Knopf, May 2010)

It’s a pleasure to welcome Richard Michelson to 7-Imp today. I don’t want to belabor this introduction, since I think this interview is full of all kinds of goodness and I want you to get right to Rich’s words, but for those who might need it, I offer a Rich Michelson 101:

Rich is a poet and children’s book author, whose books have received many honors, including the prestigious Sydney Taylor Book Award (Gold Medal) in 2009 for the stirring As Good As Anybody: Abraham Joshua Heschel and Martin Luther King’s Amazing March Towards Freedom, illustrated by Raul Colón. Clemson University named Michelson the R. J. Calhoun Distinguished Reader in American Literature for 2008. Rich has worked with a whole slew, to be precise, of talented illustrators — not only in his well-crafted picture-book writing and poetry work, but also as the owner of R. Michelson Galleries in Northampton, Massachusetts, a most wonderful-looking visual arts space I long to visit myself. It is in this space that Rich champions and showcases the work of many of today’s contemporary picture book illustrators (as well as the work of those who have passed). Read the rest of this entry �

7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #189: Featuring Chris McKimmie

h1 Sunday, October 17th, 2010

I love the (as I’ve once described it) funky, free-form, Chagall-esque, kaleidoscopic mixed-media illustrations of Australian author and illustrator Chris McKimmie. His art is probably not for everyone, but it’s definitely for me.

Back in 2008, I covered another of McKimmie’s titles. If you want to read that here, you might get a good sense of what his art is like. (Let me tell you that about 99.9999998% of the time when I’m blogging, writing, etc., I am beating myself up over my words—not sufficient enough, I think to myself, to describe what I’m thinking or feeling, and self-deprecation is my good friend—but, dang, I like that little 2008 review I wrote, as I re-read it now. I think it nails that book, if I may say so myself. I guess maybe occasionally I make sense.)

This new title from McKimmie, Two Peas in a Pod (from Allen & Unwin in Australia, and I’m not clear on the publication date, though I think it was published in May over the pond) tells us the story of two good friends, Marvin, a.k.a. “Marvellous,” and Violet, who have “lived together in Raven Street since dinosaur time. Almost.”

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Flora, Jeanne, and Matt Before Breakfast
(And Throw in Some Penderwicks)

h1 Thursday, October 14th, 2010

“‘Will you give me that little boy?’ asked the sparrow. ‘He could sit on my eggs.'”

Meet Flora. Here she is, about to disappoint a sparrow who has asked for her baby brother, Crispin. Just a little while ago, Crispin had very much turned Flora’s day upside down, and let’s say she wasn’t feeling too sisterly. But, after a strong gust of wind blows Flora and Crispin away and all kinds of forces of nature (an eagle, the clouds, the moon, a rainbow) ask for Crispin’s hand, Flora discovers that she’s not quite that ready to give him up for good after all, as tempting as it might be — and even though little brothers can do things like spill your paints and altogether ruin your artistic process. Yeesh.

Flora’s Very Windy Day (Clarion, August 2010) sprung from the pen of Jeanne Birdsall, pictured left, and the paintbrush of Matt Phelan. Just as this beautiful picture book will, Jeanne’s previous novels on the Penderwick family will blow you away. I know. Ouch. Excuse my terrible pun. But it’s true. The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy, published in 2005 by Random House/Yearling, is—if you haven’t already read it and its 2008 sequel yourself—wonderful and funny, and it was Jeanne’s first novel, no less. The superb writing therein was acknowledged by The National Book Foundation as a 2005 National Book Awards Winner in the category of Young People’s Literature. The reviews for The Penderwicks on Gardam Street were nothin’ to sneeze at either. My favorite, which really nails the charm of both Penderwick titles, comes from School Library Journal’s starred review: “This is a book to cherish and to hold close like a warm, cuddly blanket that you draw around yourself to keep out the cold.”

And Flora? I already mentioned this book is beautiful. I mean to tell you BREATHTAKING. Read the rest of this entry �

Trying to Get Caught Up, Some Elisa Kleven Art,
and This NYT The-Picture-Book-Is-Dead Nonsense

h1 Tuesday, October 12th, 2010

(Click to enlarge illustration.)

Well, as I indicated in Sunday’s post, I was away and offline all last week, so having blog posts ready this week—though I have a ton of stuff planned, as you’ll see in a moment—is tough, since I had no time last week to compose posts, format images, etc. But I’m going to tide you over today with some illustrations from Elisa Kleven’s latest picture book title.

As you can see at this page of 7-Imp, where I archive all illustrator or author/illustrator visits of any kind, Elisa’s visited many times, because this blog is, for all intents and purposes, a fan site, and I’m the nerdiest of all fans of her work. (Her 2008 interview is still one of my favorites.) The book is Welcome Home, Mouse—a fitting post as I return from some time away from my own home—and it was released at the end of last month by Tricycle Press. In their starred review, Kirkus wrote, “Every word and brush stroke is spot-on in this luminous celebration of creativity, conservation and compassion,” which tells the story of Stanley, who loves to help but isn’t always so physically graceful about it. While running errands for his mom one day, he bounces his ball right on top of Mouse’s house, smashing it “to bits and pieces.” But Stanley makes up for his mistake by creating the Mouse her own brand-new home out of bits and pieces of items he sees while he’s out. And that’s all I’ll say, ’cause if you pick up a copy of this yourself, its wonders can then unfold for you.

As is always the case with Elisa’s titles, this exudes joy. I asked Elisa if she could please share some spreads from it… Read the rest of this entry �