Archive for November, 2010

Seven Questions Over Breakfast with Richard Holland

h1 Tuesday, November 30th, 2010

I pulled this “seven questions over breakfast” illustrator interview series out of the air in 2008 (with the wonderful Jeremy Tankard as my first victim) precisely for folks like British illustrator Richard Holland, visiting me this morning for a coffee
Q & A. Essentially, I wanted to have a covers-the-basics questionnaire handy in order to shine the spotlight on new illustrators in the field of children’s lit—to get a quick overview of what they’ve done and where they’re heading—and Richard fits snugly into that category. New, that is. He’s illustrated five titles thus far in his career, and it was his collage work on Jan Mark’s The Museum Book and Martin Jenkins’s The Time Book (both released by Candlewick in 2007 and 2009, respectively, after first being released in the UK) that caught my attention. This year, he also illustrated Tanya Landman’s Mary’s Penny (also Candlewick), a re-telling of a traditional fable, pictured below. (“Soft colors and the lightest of lines echo the gossamer touch used to deliver the feminist moral,” wrote Publishers Weekly.)

If you haven’t seen The Museum Book and The Time Book (both nonfiction titles), you’re in for a treat. I suppose it all comes down to personal preference, but I say that, even if you’re not a fan of collage, Richard might change your ways. Publishers Weekly wrote about his mixed-media collage work in The Museum Book, “Holland…jolts readers…with his mixed-media collages, which sparingly employ color and liberally combine what look like Victorian engravings, pencil sketches, Gorey-like figures, and photos of various locales. His stylish compositions play with perspective, type and design, making excellent use of the vertically oriented pages…” These are spreads to pore over, taking in Richard’s creative interpretations of our histories of both collecting and watching our clocks. Read the rest of this entry �

7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #195: Featuring Fr-a-a-a-n-k W. Dormer

h1 Sunday, November 28th, 2010

Meet Socksquatch, the orange creature on the right . . .

He’s finally located a sock. He’s been lurching around and searching for one, you see, in an October release from Henry Holt and Company, Socksquatch, by elementary art teacher by day and author/illustrator by night, Frank W. Dormer (pictured left — half-man, half-illustration). Not only do I like this book—and think the children in your life will most likely enjoy it, too—but I have to say that I also have a special spot in my squishy heart for this title, and here’s why: As Frank mentions below, a children’s book editor saw his art work featured here at 7-Imp (that would probably be this post from ’07, though Frank also visited me for a breakfast interview in 2008), and she contacted him about doing a book for Henry Holt. And that book would be the book you’re reading about today, Socksquatch. I cannot emphasize enough how happy this all makes me — not in a vain it-was-seen-at-my-blog kind of way. Not at all. But in an I-love-to-connect-such-talented-people kind of way. Truly.

Frank tells us a bit below about how he came up with the Socksquatch monster, so I won’t go on and on about that, but let me just say it’s a fun read-aloud. You have to be willing, mind you, to don your best old, B-movie monster voice when reading it — for maximum effect, that is. Read the rest of this entry �

“Pay attention. This is the important part.”

h1 Tuesday, November 23rd, 2010

“Dalia liked to learn things and make things, and she did just that at the community center. One Monday, her teacher, Mrs. Kahn, showed her and the other children a photograph of a little silver house that stood on four tiny feet. She showed them a photograph of a miniature silver castle. She put a little wooden barrel and a small tin box on the table. ‘These are tzedakah boxes,’ she said. ‘And if you make your own tzedakah box and fill it, you’ll be amazed by what we can do.'”
(Click to enlarge spread.)

“Jie-Jie brings out the glowing lanterns.”
(Click to enlarge.)

It’s another year. Another Thanksgiving. Harold and I are here again (it seems I’ve done this the past couple of years, so I may as well make it a 7-Imp tradition) to say: May you, dear readers, go forth and eat nine kinds of pie that you like best at whichever Thanksgiving feast you find yourself seated this year.

But, as you can see, I’m also sharing some illustrations today—from two separate titles, one illustrated by Stacey Dressen-McQueen (top image) and the other both written and illustrated by Grace Lin (bottom image)—to take you to the end of the week. Well, till Sunday, that is. I’ll be back then to kick with folks. I’m trying to work up the energy to do a video version of my kicks, but I can’t make any promises right now. Anyway, I’m not gonna jibber-jabber here. I just want to show you more of these lovely spreads, but here’s a quick run-down on each book first so that you know what you’re seeing . . . Read the rest of this entry �

To Be Foiled After Breakfast

h1 Monday, November 22nd, 2010

“{R}ocker turned colorist turned animator turned cartoonist” is how one of my guests this afternoon has been described. Illustrator Mike Cavallaro, pictured below, is visiting the 7-Imp cyber-salon, joining me for some impossibly strong coffee way after breakfast (believe me, I’m usually good for an afternoon cup), along with author Jane Yolen (who visited 7-Imp in ’08 for an extensive interview), to discuss Foiled, their YA graphic novel release from this year. (April, to be exact. Sometimes I’m just slow on the uptake. Or, okay, busy. I get busy. Anyway.)

Foiled, released by First Second Books, is an urban fantasy (described by Kirkus as “an absolute must-read” for fantasy lovers), which introduces us to the spunky Aliera, a New York City tenth-grader who is a talented fencer, not to mention color-blind, a bit of an outcast, and very much an introvert. When she’s not fencing, she’s playing role-playing games with her wheelchair-bound cousin. When the Lank-Thompson-esque new boy, Avery Castle, shows up at school—cute, charming, and quite the flirt—Aliera finds herself falling for him, despite her better judgment. Turns out Avery is interested in her, after all — or, really, her new (though used) ruby-handled foil. It’s on a planned date that leads her to Grand Central Station that the high fantasy begins (involving mysterious, unseen dimensions, some faeries, Cavallaro’s switch from two-toned illustrations to vibrant color, and much more), and Aliera learns that her world is more than what it appears to be on the surface — and that she has an important role in it all. As Publishers Weekly wrote, it’s a story of “romance, mystery, adventure, fantasy, and drama, all rolled into a strong narrative.” Read the rest of this entry �

7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #194: Featuring Sylvie Daigneault

h1 Sunday, November 21st, 2010

“‘Has the land lost its goodness, Papa?’ Her father lowers his head.
When he looks up, there is sadness in his eyes.
‘I fear it may be so.'”

(Click to enlarge and see full spread with text.)

I’m very smitten with this morning’s featured illustrations, and not just because of My Thing I Have for Sun Images (as mentioned previously at 7-Imp with Carin Berger’s gorgeous image). The way illustrator Sylvie Daigneault depicts the sun in these images is particularly beautiful to me, but so is everything else about her work in this book, The Good Garden: How One Family Went from Hunger to Having Enough (Kids Can Press, September 2010), written by Katie Smith Milway. Read the rest of this entry �

Better Late Than Never . . .

h1 Thursday, November 18th, 2010

Kirkus wrote about the book in my 7-Imp spotlight this morning that it’s a story that “must be shouted from the rooftops” (and that this book helps lead the chorus). So, consider this my barbaric yawp today, even if I’m over one year late in writing about it. Yup, this was released in October of last year, I believe. This comes from the better-late-than-never 7-Imp files. But post about it I shall, since I’m not only a fan of Jeanette Winter’s books and will happily post her art at any time, but I also found this one to be quite poignant and beautifully-told.

Nasreen’s Secret School: A True Story from Afghanistan (a Global Fund for Children book, published by Beach Lane Books) tells the story of a young girl who lives in an ancient city in Afghanistan, where art and music and learning once fluorished — but no longer do. She lives with her mother and grandmother, and it’s the latter who tells readers this story: “The Taliban soldiers don’t want girls to learn about the world, the way Nasreen’s mama and I learned when we were girls.” Nasreen’s father is taken by soldiers one night, with no explanation, and Nasreen’s mother disguises herself in order to go search for him. Thus begins Nasreen’s hush, as she disappears into a world of worry and silence. “I knew I had to do something,” says her grandmother. Read the rest of this entry �

Seven Questions (Times Two) Over Breakfast
with Author David Elliott

h1 Tuesday, November 16th, 2010

“In burning sun, / in blinding snow, / there stands the mighty Buffalo. /
His temper short, / his suffering long — / once was sixty-million strong. /
In burning sun, / in blinding snow, / behold! The mighty buffalo!”
(Click to enlarge slightly.)

At his web site, children’s book author David Elliott writes, “Books are…about language: its rhythms and its music; its stops and its starts; its noises and its silences; its unending layers of meaning. I’m not always as successful as I’d like to be. Still trying to get it right.” I’d say David has gotten it right more than a few times. He has penned several picture books, as well as middle-grade novels for kids, many of which I have enjoyed over the years as a librarian and with my own children. (Here is a comprehensive list of his titles at his site.)

And there are many reasons I enjoyed this interview with David—I was quite enamored with his thought-provoking responses to several of these questions, for one—but the best thing that came out of it was re-discovering my love for his two poetry picture book titles, On the Farm and In the Wild, both illustrated by Holly Meade. The latter was released this August (Candlewick), and as I formatted this interview, I fell in love all over again with the poems in the book, as well as with Holly’s luminous woodcut and watercolor illustrations. The above spread is from this collection of verses. School Library Journal writes, “Elliott’s spare verses vary in length and form with bits of humor {and} some lovely use of language and imagery.” Elizabeth Ward wrote about the first collection of poems (The Washington Post), “Elliott’s little verses pack a deceptive punch.”

David’s here for a breakfast interview. I’ve got the cyber-coffee on, and we’re ready to chat. I thank him for stopping by to talk about a little bit of everything regarding his work as a children’s book author and poet — humor in children’s books, the joy of having a good editor, the art of listening, not undervaluing children, the challenges of writing picture books for the very young, the “imposter syndrome” of a writer, how prose picture books are like eggs, what is most liberating to him in his writing, and (my favorite part of all) still feeling as scared and awed by the world as he did as a kid. Oh, and lots more . . .

Read the rest of this entry �

7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #193
(the Save-the-Words Edition): Featuring Paul Hoppe

h1 Sunday, November 14th, 2010

(Click to enlarge.)

Pictured here is a sneak-peek from author/illustrator/graphic novelist Paul Hoppe. In Spring 2011, Chronicle will release The Woods, which Paul describes as his second self-authored children’s book. It’s about a boy who goes into the woods to look for his stuffed bunny. “This is very much based on stories and fairy tales from Poland, Germany, and all over Europe,” Paul told me, “in which the forest was a magical, mysterious place.”

Read the rest of this entry �


h1 Friday, November 12th, 2010

My unofficial consultant on Good Causes Backed by Wonderful Artwork, illustrator (and designer and fine artist and teacher) Bill Carman—featured here at 7-Imp in 2009—tells me about a great list of artists for a great cause, Art Blocks for Ghana, a charity art auction, sponsored by the Picture Book Project Foundation and The Hopkins Foundation. These original works are created by established artists in the fields of illustration and animation, trying to raise funds to help build a children’s home in Ghana in March 2011.

Here’s the site for more information.

(P.S. Where has the Picture Book Project Foundation been all my life, and do you think they’ll hire me? I’d sweep their cyber-floors. I would. Their mission is to “bring continued resources and support to orphaned and underserved children around the world through art.” YES. That is precisely perfect.)

And pictured here is Bill’s offering toward the project:

* * * * * * *

Rain is copyright © 2010 Bill Carman. Used with his permission. All rights reserved and all that good stuff.

Some Impossibly Surprising Detours Before Breakfast

h1 Thursday, November 11th, 2010

This very funny teeny-tiny octopus with the enormous tentacle (at least he doesn’t look like it’s too terribly painful) comes from Canadian illustrator Marianne Dubuc, and I’m here to shine the spotlight on her newest title, In Front of My House (Kids Can Press, September 2010). This is a wee, square, fits-snugly-in-your-hands, fun, and very imaginative book for you to grab and read to the closest wee, not-so-square, fits-snugly-in-your lap, fun, and imaginative child. This is also Dubuc’s first picture book to be translated into English. Not only is it one of the first books that I would now, as a children’s librarian, want to enthusiastically thrust into the hands of the next teacher who tells me they need a great book that makes the introduction of pronouns not-so-boring, but it’s also simply a great read-aloud, celebrating the curiosity that is a child’s wonderfully whacked-out imagination and the places it can take him or her.

(You know when you ask a four-year-old to tell you a story and their wonderful little brains take you on random and absurd flights of fancy? Or maybe not even so much “fancy” per se, but just a series of staccato-like attempts at getting a cohesive narrative going that weave in and out of time and place—“and then so-and-so happened and then so-and-so happened and then … and then … and then”—and you just sit back and bite your lip and try to keep a straight face, not that you’re laughing AT them, but you’re laughing WITH them and you’re just enjoying the hell out of their wacky, impromptu, pull-a-plot-out-of-the-air story-fest? Yeah. THAT.)

There’s really no dramatic action or single narrative thread to speak of here. This is a circular tale, beginning just like this: Read the rest of this entry �