Archive for March, 2011

Random (International) Illustrator Feature:
Caterina Zandonella, aka Cat Zaza

h1 Thursday, March 31st, 2011

Here’s a quickie post in honor of this week’s big celebration over in Bologna. Today is the last day of The Bologna Children’s Book Fair in Italy, where children’s book publishers from all over the world have been meeting every spring for nearly fifty years, the most prestigious international event dedicated to children’s publishing. Oh how I wish I could see the illustrators’ exhibition. On Monday, for instance, everyone was treated to an exhibition on contemporary Lithuanian children’s book illustration — at least according to their site. Ah. Envious sigh. And one of my co-authors even got to meet a 7-Imp contributor—they live on opposite sides of the world from each other—and that’s just NEAT.

This morning, in the name of celebrating the work of illustrators from all over the world—which I do when I can here at 7-Imp and often with the help of the aforementioned and talented Cristiana Clerici—I bring you Italian author/illustrator Caterina Zandonella, aka Cat Zaza. I’m captivated by her illustration opening this post, and there’s a bit more from her below. As you can see at her bio, she spent most of her life outside of her home country, has traveled a great deal, and currently lives between Paris and Milan. She graduated from the Istituto Europeo di Design in Milan, majoring in illustration and multimedia animation. Her first illustrated children’s books were published in France. Read the rest of this entry �

National Handlebar Moustache Particippreciaton Day

h1 Tuesday, March 29th, 2011

From the mind of Dan Santat

From the mind of Ward Jenkins

{I know, I know. The post title might be causing headaches, but it’s all I’ve got.}

Sometimes I can hardly keep up on Facebook. As everyone knows, there’s a lot of chatter over there. That’s the point. Occasionally, it gets so loud that I just bow out for a bit.

Tammi Sauer

But today I didn’t. I was part of a Facebook conversation that has resulted in what author Tammi Sauer (pictured above) and I have dubbed National Handlebar Moustache Appreciation Day. That’s tomorrow. You didn’t know? Right. ‘Cause we made it up. (I’ve checked. I don’t think it actually exists.) March 30th is now National Handlebar Moustache Appreciation Day, at least in our own easily-entertained worlds. ‘Cause moustaches of such striking shape and length deserve their own day, yes?

Well, they do, but really here’s why tomorrow is National Handlebar Moustache Appreciation Day. It went a little something like this:

1) Tammi notes on Facebook that her family had just gotten their carpets cleaned by a redhead with a handlebar moustache.

2) I pop in with, Dude. I think you need to write a picture book involving him. (“Dude” may or may not have been actually muttered. I like to pretend I don’t use it as often as I do. I’m supposed to be grown-up and stuff, not to mention I’m currently writing a book and should practice being articulate.) I also wonder who could best illustrate handlebar moustaches, and I type as much.

3) Author/illustrator Dan Santat (pictured below with his clone, who seems to have issues these days) pops in with the notion that, when Tammi said “redhead,” he imagined a female and wondered why she was sporting a fake handlebar moustache atop her lip. He’s just hard-wired to visualize weird stuff, he says. (I think that, as a picture book illustrator, this is lucky for us, but I digress.)

4) So, I proclaim: DAN IT IS! At this point, mind you, it’s just a hypothetical illustration, and I’m just being Facebook-jokey.

5) Illustrator Ward Jenkins (pictured left) comes in with an “ahem, ahem. Portland is Hipster Central with more handlebar moustaches than you can shake a stick at.”

6) Dan challenges Jenkins to a draw. Witty banter ensues. I do a few finger snaps and head rolls from the sideline and tell them, should they actually do this, I’ll post both illustrations at 7-Imp and have a vote-off for the best one.

7) Tammi declares, “may the hairiest illustrator win!” Many painfully bad puns about hair are thrown around (I may or may not be guilty of some), and fake gun sounds are typed. The duel is on.

And. [Drum roll.] The results are pictured at the top of the post. Dan clearly still had a female in mind, Ward opted for a literal interpretation of “handlebar,” and I laughed till my sides hurt.

However, instead of turning this into a competition, here’s what I’ve decided to do and where you come in, dear readers, should you want to play along: Read the rest of this entry �

7-Imp Has Succumbed

h1 Tuesday, March 29th, 2011

I never thought I’d say this, but there’s a first time for everything, I suppose: I am now on Twitter. I am doing this solely to announce blog posts and my weekly Kirkus columns. And to do my part to better follow others’ announcements in the realm of children’s literature. I can tell you right now, though I’m willing to be proven wrong, that I expect I won’t be terrifically active over there. I’ll merely be sharing links about children’s books. Here and there. Now and then.

I guess I never officially announced, too, that I’m also on Facebook and use it to mostly—but not always—link back to 7-Imp posts and jibber-jabber about children’s lit. If you’d like to better keep up with 7-Imp that way, the info you need is on this page of the site.

So, back to Twitter: Come find me @SevenImp, if you’re so inclined. I’m new to this. Humor me. And help me if I stumble? Merci.

Seven Questions Over Breakfast with Claire A. Nivola

h1 Monday, March 28th, 2011

At this profile of author/illustrator Claire A. Nivola (in celebration of this 2008 Candlewick title), she states, “Writing for children is a serious business.” Claire would know. Her first illustrated title was back in 1970, though she did take a break from it all for many years. “Being a mother absorbed my heart and intellect,” she writes at that link. (See also her response to the final two questions in my interview below, what I find to be a profoundly reflective response that made me nod my head an awful lot and just so happens to capture something I think about a great deal myself.) Nevertheless, Claire has been working in the field for a long time and has seen many trends in publishing books for children come and go.

I’m so pleased to have Ms. Nivola over for coffee this morning and share her rich and intricate folk-art-style illustrations with readers. She’s here to discuss her upcoming Spring picture book, all about her father’s hometown on the island of Sardinia, and I’ve got a sneak-peek into some of the illustrations from that beautiful title. And if you missed last year’s Emma’s Poem: The Voice of the Statue of Liberty, written by Linda Glaser (2010) and which was awarded the 2011 Sydney Taylor Honor Award in the Younger Readers category, you’re in for a treat this morning with some spreads here from that, as well. Claire’s very stylized, detailed illustrations are captivating, and so many of the books she’s both written and illustrated or illustrated have been nonfiction titles, thus making this a fitting post for the kidlitosphere’s Monday celebrations of nonfiction.

Let’s get right to it, and I really appreciate Claire taking the time to visit. Read the rest of this entry �

7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #212:
Featuring Amy Schimler and Shadra Strickland

h1 Sunday, March 27th, 2011

(Click to super-size each.)

Every now and then at 7-Imp, I like to give the spotlight over to those who create illustrations for the wee’est of all wee readers. One such illustrator is visiting today, and her name is Amy Schimler. Her bright, colorful art work all about nature, geared for the big eyes of the youngest of children, is also fitting right now, given that Spring is upon us. Here in Tennessee, Spring graced us and then pulled back a bit, so at this point, I’m ready to dive into Amy’s world and live there a bit until Spring regains her senses and descends upon us again.

An illustrator and surface designer, Amy studied painting and fiber arts at the School of Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, as well as the Massachusetts College of Art, and continued her studies in textile and surface design at RISD. She currently lives in Georgia and is here this morning to show us some illustrations from her new title, as well as some other portfolio pieces. (The spread opening this post is a portfolio piece, and the one below it is from her newest title.) Read the rest of this entry �

What I’m Doing at Kirkus This Week
(Plus What I Did Last Week, Featuring Matt Phelan)

h1 Friday, March 25th, 2011

Dear readers, my Kirkus column for this week is up over at their site this morning. Here’s the link. This time, I discuss Lois Lowry’s new children’s novel, Bless This Mouse, illustrated by Eric Rohmann. And I’ve got a question for readers, so head on over and join in the discussion, if you’re so inclined.

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And, if you missed last week’s column, it’s here. That’s my review of Ann Stott’s and Matt Phelan’s new picture book, I’ll Be There, as well as a discussion of what I call, for lack of a better phrase, love-you-forever type picture books, all focused on the love between parent and child. Readers weighed in last week with lots of great comments and suggestions, and I’ll gladly take more suggestions, should folks have them. Here are some illustrations from the book, and in fact, they are ones specifically mentioned in the review:

Read the rest of this entry �

Julie and Matt for Coffee, Pickle Juice, and Cookies

h1 Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011

“‘I could read you a bedtime story,’ she said. ‘I’ll read to myself,’ I said. I got a book, the first book I saw, and climbed with it into my bed. It was a very big book. I opened it and started to read. That very big book had very long words that I didn’t understand. But I kept pretending to read.”

It’s been a bit since I’ve done a post on an illustrated novel, but to be doing the first one in a while on Julie Sternberg’s Like Pickle Juice on a Cookie (Amulet, March 2011), illustrated by Matthew Cordell, is good. And that’s because I asked them if they wanted to stop by and talk about the book, and hoo boy, they ran with it. Julie addressed specifically what it was like to see Matt’s illustrations for the book, and Matt gives us a detailed description of the stages in the life of his illustrations for this title.

Read the rest of this entry �

Swing Break

h1 Monday, March 21st, 2011

Quiet picture books. Contemplative. Books that capture a feeling, a moment in time, not picture books In Which Many Things Happen All At Once. They’re hard to do well. It’s challenging, I’m sure, to do gentle. But Tricia Tusa—who visited me for breakfast in 2008 and is back again this morning with some art work and sketches—not only does them well, she gives us a veritable case study in doing it well with her latest title, which she both wrote and illustrated, Follow Me, to be released next month by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Now, as a child I loved to swing. In fact, I still do. (Nearly-forty, schmearly-forty.) Clearly, Ms. Tusa loves to swing, too. Pictured left, she is launching her own adventure. On the cover of this beautiful picture book, pictured below, we see a young girl mounting a swing, hanging from a tree. On the dedication page, pictured at the bottom of this post, we get a hint as to her eventual release from the swing, as we see it flipped up into the air with her no longer on it. Ooh: Intriguing! Then, the story begins: “I wander through pink and get lost in blue.” She’s swinging, yes, but hang on. Stick with the book. Because it’s about much more than merely swinging.

The girl takes actual flight and gets lost. I’d love to tell you all of Tusa’s lyrical, evocative text here, as the young girl loses herself in the air, but you’ll have to go find a copy for yourself, by hook or by crook, next month, since: 1) I don’t want to give away the entire experience of the book and 2) doing so would also kinda sorta make me a copyright jerk. Suffice it to say she drifts through colors that she loves, she follows the breeze, allowing herself to get “caught in its folds,” and she reaches up and she reaches out and she reaches across. Lost in, not only the colors, but her own music, her own particular euphony (in more ways than one). Don’t expect any crazy plot points here: She simply takes a flight of fancy, the type of imaginative romp a child dreams of when swinging. Er, okay. Grown-ups, too. Come on. As Tricia shows us above, you’re never too old to swing, dear readers.

Read the rest of this entry �

7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #211: Featuring Bob Staake

h1 Sunday, March 20th, 2011

I have friends who have linked recently on Facebook to news articles about the devastation and ongoing sorrow in Japan and who have almost apologized for it while doing so, as if to say: I don’t mean to bring the room down, but…. I understand why they do so. No one wants to be a Debbie Downer. Especially at the hoppin’, loud cyber-party that is the hyper-hypo* world of Facebook. (“At first, it felt like a comfortable, intimate gathering of people I actually knew. Now it feels like I’m sitting in the corner at a huge party, muttering a few feeble words now and then,” wrote Jama Rattigan in Her Blog Post In Which She Pondered the Pros and Cons of Facebook and Which I Still Remember. But I digress.)

(* And seven points if you got that early- to mid-’90s Saturday Night Live reference.)

However, I think we would all agree that this news event is somewhat of an exception. The destruction and loss over there on the other side of the world (from most of us) is unfathomable. And has been on our minds this week. All of us. So, like many do, perhaps I should say (and especially for a kicks post), I don’t mean to sound depressing, but… I will not, though. I know you’ll join me in taking a week to acknowledge the loss and declare our solidarity. That we are united in thoughts or prayers or thoughtful prayers or prayerful thoughts or Zen-like contemplation or meditating or holding your breath and crossing your fingers or whatever you believe.

Author/illustrator and designer Bob Staake created some art work this week that says WAY MORE ELEGANTLY what I’m trying to say all bumbling-like here. Above is We Are Japan. Below here is Sisyphus In Japan. Read the rest of this entry �

What I’m Doing at Kirkus This Week
(Plus What I Did Last Week, Featuring
Marilyn Singer, Alexandra Boiger, and Lee Wildish)

h1 Friday, March 18th, 2011

Dear readers, my Kirkus column for this week is up over at their site this morning. This time, I briefly cover Picture Books In Which the Parent Expresses Undying Love and Adoration to the Child, what I call, for lack of a better phrase, the love-you-forever-type books. (See how I tried to make it sound like a whole genre of picture books by Doing This? I’m a tremendous goober.) Specifically, I address the new Candlewick title from Ann Stott and illustrated by Matt Phelan. Go have a look, if you’re so inclined. I’d love any and all interested folks to weigh in on your favorite love-you-forever-type picture books for children. Which ones make you feel slightly (or wholly) nauseous? Which ones do you think get it right?

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And, if you missed last week’s column, it’s here. That’s my short Q&A with Marilyn Singer . . .

. . . in which she discusses her creative inspirations, her upcoming companion piece to Mirror Mirror, and her latest picture book, illustrated by Alexandra Boiger. Here are some spreads below, and you can head over to the column to see the cover and read more… Read the rest of this entry �