Archive for February, 2011

7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #208: Featuring Il Sung Na,
C.S.W. Rand, Peter Brown, and Aaron Zenz
(In Which There Are Cute Fluffy Bunny Sightings and
It Becomes Very Clear That I’m Ready for Spring Already)

h1 Sunday, February 27th, 2011

“They give the signal to form a Bunny Circle.
Their ears touch and noses twitch, and they know what to do.”

(Click to enlarge)

This post is probably the closest you’ll ever see to me talking about Cute Fluffy Bunnies in children’s book illustration, but quite clearly I’m ready for spring. All featured books today include bunnies of the fluffy and, quite possibly, cute variety (depending on your definition of “cute,” I guess). And I like all these bunnies, oh yes I do.

I’ve previously featured at 7-Imp the work of Korean illustrator Il Sung Na—at this 2009 post, to be exact—who now lives and works in London. The second spread above is his. I’ve got more spreads this morning from his new book. He just ups the ante on beauty with each book, huh? But more on him in a second. First up is Big Bunny (from which that top illustration comes), written by mother-daughter duo Betseygail Rand (daughter) and Colleen Rand (mother) — and illustrated by Colleen, who goes by “C.S.W. Rand” in the illustration credit. Read the rest of this entry �

Poetry and Film Trailer and Gruffalo and Lost Things
and Newsy and Random Etcetera-ness Friday

h1 Friday, February 25th, 2011

{Clearly, I need some intervention sometimes when it comes to post titles.}

I don’t tend to cover news here at 7-Imp. If I had more time to blog, I think I’d have fun rounding stuff up, but for now I leave that to the experts. You want the latest in children’s lit happenings from every perspective? Betsy pretty much rocks it with her Fusenews. I also like to hit 100 Scope Notes for some buzz. Or Read Roger for the no-nonsense buzz. Jen Robinson and Scrub-a-Dub-Tub and Rasco From RIF are absolutely who you want to go hang with for literacy-related round-ups. And there are many, many more, but you get my point. I don’t do it. I go to them and others for the low-down.

This morning, however, I wanted to share a few picture-book or illustration-related links that have come to my attention lately. I can’t help but feel the need to gab about them: Read the rest of this entry �

Cristiana Clerici’s International Spotlight #5:
An Interview with Spanish Illustrator, Javier Zabala

h1 Thursday, February 24th, 2011

Jules: It’s time to welcome again the very smart Italian blogger with kickin’-good taste, Cristiana Clerici (pictured here), for another spotlight on international illustration. Today, she’s interviewing Spanish illustrator Javier Zabala, who talks about his work, his teaching, how his mother’s impromptu drawing competition when he was a child led to his career as an illustrator, what having courage means when working in the field, what it means to work “open-heartedly,” and much, much more. As always, I love that Cris stops by here to show me and 7-Imp readers what is happening in contemporary picture books over in Europe. To get the low-down on what I’m calling Cristiana Clerici’s International Spotlights, visit this page of the site. I thank her kindly for contributing today. I shall kick back with my coffee and take in their conversation. (And I would like to know if Javier’s ever been told he looks like Nathan Fillion, but see why it’s better for Cris to be in charge of these interviews?)

Without further ado, here is Cris. Enjoy.

* * * * * * *

Cris: Complete with mischievous glances and easy-going conversations, often enriched by the expression “hombre,” Javier Zabala embodies all the Spanish pleasantness and the professionalism that only a great artist has when it’s time to open up to others — with humility and generosity.

I met Javier in Macerata, during one of the courses he does with Ars In Fabula — Fabbrica delle Favole, where I was allowed to observe him at work with his students. What mostly struck me about him is the mixture of empathy and severity he keeps during his classes, as much as in his private life he wisely mixes sensitivity and humor, shyness and gushiness.

These qualities shine through in his artwork as well, with all its little curious references, its wisely-balanced colours, its characters sketched in his peculiar style, and those atmospheres so frankly masculine that filter through his tables. Read the rest of this entry �

Esmé? Yes. Elisa? Yes. Coffee? Definitely.

h1 Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011

It was just a while ago that 7-Imp readers and I were discussing the art of non-busy illustrations. However, sometimes, as noted then, books call for them. Elisa Chavarri, today’s featured illustrator (wave to her and her tiny friend to the left here)—who was born in Peru, who is still fairly new to children’s book illustration, and who is also an animator and studied Classical Animation at the Savannah College of Art and Design—puts them to use in her newly-illustrated title (rendered via mixed media), written by Esmé Raji Codell, Fairly Fairy Tales (Aladdin, January 2011). This is a spare text with detailed illustrations. Or, if you’re Kirkus: “By beginning with Codell’s creative less-is-more setup, Chavarri’s illustrations end by stealing the show.”

I invited blogger extraordinaire Esmé (you can wave to her, too, here below), as well as Elisa, over for some cyber-coffee this morning to discuss this book of fractured fairy tales. But first, a bit more about the book…

We are talkin’ fairy tales here, so it all kicks off with a “once upon a time,” but then Esmé kicks it up a notch, while also paring it all down, with a series of one-word questions devoted to various fairy tales. A mother puts her young son to bed: “Kiss? Yes. Water? Yes. Bedtime? NOOOOO!” Here come the Three Little Pigs to the rescue. In spot illustrations, we see “Sticks? Yes. Straw? Yes. Bricks? Yes. Solar panels? NOOOOO!” This is the drill for each fairy tale. (The Three Little Pigs are followed by Little Red Riding Hood, Jack and the Beanstalk, Cinderella, Hansel and Gretel, and The Three Bears.) But each fairy-tale moment ends with a detailed double-page spread that proposes a “well, maybe” scenario, each one fairly outlandish and unexpected: Those solar panels get put to use after all, and an all-organic community garden springs up in the pigs’ new neighborhood (as you can see in the spread Elisa shares below); Red’s grandma opens a beauty salon for wolves (also below); Cinderella and her prince go disco-dancing; and more. Read the rest of this entry �

7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #207: Featuring Sarah Young

h1 Sunday, February 20th, 2011

I have only one illustration for you all today, but it’s a whopper of an illustration and positively terrifying, which—-given the book’s subject matter—is a compliment:

“Theseus rounded a twist in the walls, and the stench of the beast came rushing toward him. He knew it was there, hidden in the dark, at the end of the passage. He stood still. Could the Minotaur see? He was sure it had scented him. He heard it snuffling and questing; and then, with a great bellow, it was upon him.”

Don’t you love that? Wait, there’s a monitor between me and you, so I can’t hear you, but if you love it as much as I, you can always comment below.

This comes from illustrator, painter, and printmaker Sarah Young, who lives in England. It is one of the many arresting illustrations from Greek Myths by Ann Turnbull (also British), published by Candlewick. Now, I had thought this was a brand-new title, but it just so happens that every link I see online, including the book’s very home on the Candlewick site itself, is saying it was released in November of 2010. The copyright info also states 2010. Color me confused. And slightly behind. Could it be that this one got lost in the stacks of books all over my home and I assumed it was slightly newer than it is? Yes, it could be. Either way, it’s a book I like. I happen to have an emerging seven-year-old who is downright obsessed with myths, particularly if they involve monsters and particularly if they’re Greek, and we’ve been enjoying this one. (Shh. Don’t tell on me, given that the suggested age range for this one is “grade 6 and up.”)

What’s particularly effective here is how Turnbull links the stories together. Here’s what she wrote in the book’s intro: Read the rest of this entry �

Seven Questions Over Breakfast with Hyewon Yum

h1 Thursday, February 17th, 2011

“But we are big girls now. I’m already five. I’m five, too. We’re twin sisters, remember, silly? The blanket has gotten too small for both of us.”
(Click to enlarge spread.)

“Some picture books are written for children; this one gives a sense of what it’s like to be one,” Publishers Weekly wrote about author/illustrator Hyewon Yum’s 2008 debut picture book. Well, now. That’s nothin’ to sneeze at, that’s for sure, for one’s first picture book title.

What’s that? You’re wondering about the picture above, though? It’s a bit early, I know, to be featuring some spreads from a picture book scheduled to be released in August of this year. I know, I know, dear readers. I’m all over the place, seeing as how on Sunday I featured a title from 2009. But, well… What can I say? I follow 7-Imp’s own weird, whacked-out rules. (I just made the blog sound like some kind of imp-like spirit. See what happens when I don’t get enough sleep?) Anywhoozles (7-Imp, the imp-like spirit, also lets me use annoying words like “anywhoozles”), I really like the work of Korea-born-but-now-Brooklyn-dwellling author/illustrator Hyewon Yum, who created the above spread, as well as two previous titles whose artwork rather wows me. I featured Last Night, her 2008 debut title, here in August of that year. And last year, Hyewon received the Founders Award from the Society of Illustrators for There Are No Scary Wolves (in the 2010 category of “Original Art: Celebrating the Fine Art of Children’s Book Illustration”).

Her upcoming 2011 title, The Twins’ Blanket, featured above (and more below)—which addresses the emotional highs and lows (competition, envy, undeniable bond) of twin-dom—goes to show that she’s continuing her streak of creating books that, in the words (again) of Publishers Weekly, offer us insight into the perceptions of small children. Typically using linoleum block prints, her illustrations are fascinating, depicting both the joy and the darker side of those mysterious things that are the inner worlds of children. Booklist also wrote about her debut title that the absence of text gave kids “room to think,” especially considering the “depth and emotion” she conveyed through the art. You see, I LOVE THAT. I want my life’s music, art, and books—all of it, thanks very much—to give me space to breathe and think. And any children’s book that does that for the wee ones, too, is a good one, in my book. And, really, how often do we see that in picture books? Think about it. Talk amongst yourselves. And get back to me, if you’re so inclined, and we’ll discuss.

Hyewon’s here for breakfast. Her only request? A “large cup of black coffee, please.” Why, I can certainly do that. Always. Let’s get right to it, and I thank her for stopping by… Read the rest of this entry �

You Will Find True Love on Flag Day

h1 Tuesday, February 15th, 2011

Well, there are two reasons I’m primarily just going to show you some illustrations today (more art is after the jump), yet not say too terribly much about the book from which they come, Fortune Cookies by Albert Bitterman and illustrated by Chris Raschka: 1) The Cybils Award winners were just announced (as I type this on Monday), so I’m going to head over to the site to see who the winners are. Thanks to the hyper-hypo world of Facebook, which I just skimmed, I’ve already seen who some of the lucky winners are, and let’s just say those bloggers who chose the winners are smart. Really smart. But then I already knew that.

2). I knew my co-author, Betsy Bird, had reviewed Fortune Cookies at the end of January, yet I didn’t read the review then. I mentally flagged it to read at a later time, knowing I was probably going to cover the book here. So, I just now up and read that review. And wow. There’s a reason you want Betsy to cover one of your books: Her reviews are remarkably detailed. Will you forgive me then if I just send you over there to read her thoughts on the book? Having just read her thoughtful analysis, I feel I have no other choice in the matter but to send you to the best. (No one quite gives these slim picture books the consideration and scrutiny they deserve quite like Betsy does.) So, dear readers, if you’re really interested in learning more about this title, I give you Betsy’s thoughts on the matter. She covers it all: Albert Bitterman’s real name and day job, the rise and fall and rise again of novelty books, what makes a good one, why Fortune Cookies is an effective one, why it’s notable how dang sturdily the book is made, and even how the book can be seen as commentary on free will. The only difference here? While she talks about her sometimes-distance from Raschka’s art, though she notes she’s always respected his work on the whole, I could confidently be described as a big ‘ol fan of his minimalist illustration style, his loose watercolors and the way he “captures the essence of a mood with the merest hint of text and the briefest of brush strokes,” as Publishers Weekly once wrote. When it comes to contemporary picture book illustration, his work is one of My Bests. If you’re in the same boat, here’s a link back to my 2009 interview with Raschka. Read the rest of this entry �

7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #206: Featuring Carin Bramsen

h1 Sunday, February 13th, 2011

“Margo and Pearl skipped away from the other kids.
‘Margo,’ Pearl said, ‘would you like to come over to my house after school
and play tea party in our tutus?’
‘Oh yes,’ said Margo.”

See that yellow tutu on Margo’s head? I don’t know about you all, but I really need that sunny yellow this morning. Yes, it’s quite lovely, you’re saying? Okay, here’s some more. These below are the cheery endpapers. (Click to enlarge and see even more shiny-happy yellow. I love and need these endpapers so much that I just made that JPG splash all over my desktop monitor as my background image.)

Read the rest of this entry �

There’s Always a Bigger Fish

h1 Thursday, February 10th, 2011

In anticipation of Poetry Friday tomorrow, this post celebrates not only poetry but some good, new nonfiction. The poem featured above, “Food Chain,” comes from the above spread (left-side illustration) and is one of the many poems in What’s for Dinner?: Quirky, Squirmy Poems from the Animal World (Charlesbridge, February 2011), written by Katherine B. Hauth and illustrated by David Clark. As I scan reviews for this post, seeing as how I’m a review nerd, I see that Publishers Weekly calls this one a “satisfying mix of tutelage and repartee.” But my favorite of all? Kirkus writes that this is “an enriching overview of the natural world spiced with a Dorothy Parker–esque sense of the macabre that children will absolutely relish.” And, as you can see by the cover alone (below), Clark’s ink and watercolor illustrations are, indeed, macabre, over-the-top fun.

Read the rest of this entry �

Paul and Petunia Prior to Breakfast
(Not to Mention a Sendak Sighting)

h1 Tuesday, February 8th, 2011

“‘But, but, but . . . ,’ begin her parents. But Petunia isn’t listening.
‘I’ll feed my skunk every day. I promise! Really!’ says Petunia.”

Meet Petunia. That’s her toy skunk, but as you can see, she’s pleading with her parents—whom, incidentally, you never see in her story, à la the Charlie Brown gang’s parental units—to get her a real pet skunk. Petunia is on a mission, y’all, and as you’ll see if you pick up this title, she’s one determined child. (Publishers Weekly wrote that she “lives a life filled with exclamation points,” as, indeed, most children do.)

Last February here at 7-Imp, I featured the debut illustrated title from Paul Schmid, Amy Krouse Rosenthal’s The Wonder Book. It was in that post that he mentioned the title from which he’s sharing some art today, the first title he’s both written and illustrated himself, A Pet for Petunia (HarperCollins, February 2011). So, sure, I’ve already featured the irrepressible Petunia here at the blog, but I still wanted to invite Paul back to tell us a bit more about her and what’s next for him — not to mention I was eager to ask him about his Sendak Fellowship. See Paul and the Great One pictured left? Yup, Paul got to study with Maurice Sendak for a month, and he tells us all a bit more about that below.

The word seen and heard repeatedly by those describing/reviewing A Pet for Petunia thus far is “simple”: “Schmid’s…line drawings are simple, fluid, and convey lots of valuable information,” wrote Publishers Weekly. “Schmid’s illustration style is pure charm,” wrote David Elzey in his excelsior file review, “simple conte crayon and spot watercolor in two colors, mostly purple with dabs of yellow. The simplicity suits the story, and Petunia’s expressions are easily read.” Sendak himself has called it a “simple, beguiling story.” That’s because Paul renders the story with an economy of expression, line, and palette that is lovely to see, given the very busy picture books out there today. David said it well when he wrote:

Read the rest of this entry �