Archive for March, 2011

Sophie Blackall on Crushin’ on Aldous Huxley,
Mother Goose’s Sis, and Why Some Crows
Need to Keep a Packed Suitcase Under Their Beds

h1 Wednesday, March 16th, 2011

Well. Correction. Illustrator Sophie Blackall isn’t really going to weigh in this evening on her illustrations for Lisa Wheeler’s Spinster Goose: Twisted Rhymes for Naughty Children, a peek into the brat-bustin’ life of Mother Goose’s hard-nosed sister (Atheneum, March 2011), because she really came over to talk about her illustrations for Aldous Huxley’s The Crows of Pearblossom (Abrams, March 2011). I bet you she’s being modest about having two titles out at once and perhaps doesn’t want it to look like she’s taking over the blog today, but you see, I’m fine with her taking over the blog today. And so it is I who will throw in some spreads from Spinster Goose as well, since it makes me inordinately happy to see an illustrator such as Blackall at work on that book. That is to say I very much like her stylized, detailed, offbeat, sometimes irreverent, always emotionally resonant artwork. In fact, she was also the perfect choice for Crows, since Sophie’s not afraid to work some darkness into her work as well. As Publishers Weekly wrote, this is a picture book for kids who don’t mind a bit of that. (“Blackall…pictures a lovely gnarled tree as the prolific {Crow} family’s residence, yet her unnerving watercolors of the glassy-eyed crows reinforce the story’s sinister elements,” they wrote.) With a title like Spinster Goose, you can probably already see that both books embrace their inner darkness. Read the rest of this entry �

It’s Good That He Plays the Irish Whistle,
But It’s Even Better That He Makes Books for Children

h1 Tuesday, March 15th, 2011

An early piece of concept art from Ben Hatke’s Zita the Spacegirl

Ben Hatke, that is. He juggles, breathes fire, plays the Irish whistle, and attends to a growing family, as well as twelve chickens. He even homeschools them. The children. Not so much the chickens.

That’s according to his bio. But I’m glad he doesn’t stop there and that he’s turned his attention toward children’s lit. As a Virginia-based writer, artist, and graphic novelist (who studied for some time in Florence, Italy, which he addresses below), Ben has brought readers a new bad-ass female protagonist of children’s lit (even if she’s the only xx chromosome on the planet), and her name is Zita. Well, she’s but a wee girl, so somehow “bad-ass” is a bit much. Do-over: She’s super cool, quite clever, and very brave. And she’s the hero of Ben’s Zita the Spacegirl, a graphic novel for young children, published by First Second this past February. Read the rest of this entry �

7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #210: Featuring Amy June Bates

h1 Sunday, March 13th, 2011

I’m keeping things very simple this week. I’ve got one image and one kick. The one image you see above comes from illustrator Amy June Bates. I’ve always enjoyed her work, as I made clear in this 2008 interview, another one of my favorite interviews, since she sent tons of art. Incidentally, she currently lives with her family in Japan, and I’m very relieved to hear they are safe after the earthquake, as well as Tarie in the Philippines. My heart goes out to those amidst the destruction in Japan.

At Amy’s blog, Drawing a Blank, she shares sketches and recent creations, and this one made me laugh outloud. I believe the first day of Spring is next Sunday, so this image is fitting today. I’m eager for Spring to make a premature arrival, how ’bout you? That cute fluffy bunny agrees. You can read the small print, right? So funny. Read the rest of this entry �

My New Writing Gig

h1 Friday, March 11th, 2011

{Quick Early Morning Update: Looks like my first column is already up. It’s here.}

I wasn’t sure when Kirkus was going to announce this, but it’s clearly already up at their site, so I’ll share it here as well:

I’ll be writing weekly columns over at Kirkus Reviews — for the new Kirkus Book Blogger Network, that is. My columns will be all about children’s lit and a lot like what I do here at 7-Imp, but just … well, more economically-worded. (Yes, here I can jibber-jabber to my heart’s content, but I’ll have actual word limits there, which is always a good exercise for me.)

I’m very excited. Incidentally, this doesn’t mean an end to 7-Imp or any such thing. Just a different venue for me, I suppose. Come join me? Here’s the info all about the gig and my fellow bloggers in many categories. I’ll give a hoot and a holler (that’s a technical term, if you live in the South) when my first column goes up.

I’m excited. Nervous. Excited. And nervous.

(And That Picture over there? Gah. Clearly, I had to take a picture of myself with a cell phone camera. I’m RIGHT UP IN YOUR FACE, aren’t I? I should have just gone ahead and thrown in a “mwah!” in a speech balloon, since my noggin is just so THERE. Also, the sci-fi/fantasy blogger added “he also likes bagels” at the end of his bio. I like him already. I should have said something about coffee. I want a do-over.)

See you over at Kirkus, too, I hope. If you’re so inclined to stop by, that is. I will make note here of columns that are published over there, and it should be weekly.

And, because I am certain I don’t say it enough, thanks for visiting 7-Imp, for joining me in the conversation about children’s lit. You folks are my people.

Many Questions Over Breakfast
with Etienne Delessert (Why Stop at Six?)

h1 Thursday, March 10th, 2011

Etienne DelessertI’ve said somewhere before—perhaps it was here at 7-Imp, though my online stompin’ grounds run together sometimes, meaning it might have been that crazy, whacked out, hyper-hypo cyber-world called Facebook—that, if The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art doesn’t put a halt to all their great exhibitions, I’m going to pack up my pillows and just move up there. It’d be that museum alone that would have me suffering the colder climes of the Northeast over the gentler winters of Tennessee. I’ll sweep their floors, hand out pamphlets, or stand out front with a sign board, dressed as a giant caterpillar. And I’ll even flip the board up into the air and catch it all cool, like sign board folks do. Just whatever the Museum would like. Because if you’re a giant picture book nerd, as I clearly am, it looks like it’s The Place To Be.

Case-in-point: One of their current exhibitions is of the work of Swiss-born artist Etienne Delessert. (Etienne currently makes his home in Connecticut.) Until June of this year in their East Gallery, one can take in a retrospective of his career as an illustrator in many settings, a career that has brought us, as the museum notes, more than eighty books collectively translated into fourteen languages. I’ve been trying this week, in thinking about this post, to pull up the words to adequately describe Delessert’s picture book art. Dream-like and surreal are what come to mind, yet those descriptors hardly seem adequate. In reviewing The Seven Dwarfs (2000), Publishers Weekly once described Delessert’s paintings as “{g}rotesque and delicate” with “{f}anciful, cinematic moments.” Hmmm…that’s getting closer. Bottom line, for me, is that there’s a mystery to his work that is often impenetrable, but this isn’t bad. It leaves me poring over his work, pondering, reflecting. Musing on. Read the rest of this entry �

Knoxville Children’s-Lit Conference. You Know
You Want to Come. Insert Hypno-Spiral Here.

h1 Wednesday, March 9th, 2011

Okay, I’ll insert a real hypno-spiral to urge you to come…

A quick reminder to those in the Southeast (or even those farther away who are willing to hop on one of those zippy-quick jet plane dealios) that there’s still time to register for The University of Tennessee’s Center for Children’s and Young Adult Literature’s one-day children’s lit conference on Saturday, April 2nd. Below is a poster for the event with all the info you need (click to enlarge), or you can go here to read more. I’ll be there, as I’ll have the honor of introducing Richard Michelson. And I will want to meet you—yes, you—if you just come along for the fun. (Right, I may not know you, but it’s a safe bet that if you read 7-Imp, you and I share an interest in children’s lit, and we can meet and gab. I’m thinkin’ serial killers aren’t making a habit of coming here for Sunday kicks, so sure, let’s chat it up.)

Jack Gantos, Rich Michelson, Steven Withrow: A good time will be had, as evidenced below. Plus, words cannot adequately express what good, smart people run the Center for Children’s and Young Adult Literature and public library over there in Knoxville. See you there, I hope.

And see you tomorrow here at 7-Imp to meet Etienne Delessert, if you’re so inclined. Until then…

(Click to enlarge poster.)

Jane, Annie, Van Allsburg, and McDonnell:
Or, Women’s History Month, I Note Your Presence

h1 Monday, March 7th, 2011

“Once Annie was tightly packed inside, she told Fred Truesdale to seal up the barrel. As he and Billy put the lid in place, Annie said, ‘So long, boys.'”

“Jane had a stuffed toy chimpanzee named Jubilee.”
(Click to enlarge.)

March is Women’s History Month, an event I can really get behind and to which I give seven enthusiastic cheers. But not a cheerlead’y type of cheer, seeing as how I went to the library during pep rallies in high school. Oh yes, I did. NERD. I just didn’t understand spirit fingers and what those cheerleaders were actually pointing at — and pep rallies were all just a bit too…well, peppy for my tastes. I say it again: Nerd.

If blogging were, say, my full-time job, bless my soul, I’d have a fun time bringing you more books that can be used to celebrate such a wonderful event as Women’s History Month, but since it’s not, I humbly bring you two books today. These are two picture book biographies, for all intents and purposes, though I think one is technically considered fiction. At the very top of this post is an illustration from Chris Van Allsburg’s very first nonfiction title, Queen of the Falls (Houghton Mifflin, April 2011), and below that is an illustration from Patrick McDonnell’s Me…Jane (Little, Brown, April 2011). Let me say now, for the record…. Well, I like both books, but the latter, McDonnell’s title on Dr. Jane Goodall, is one of the best books you’ll see all year. I say that with confidence, even though it’s only March and there are so many more picture books, lucky for us, heading our way in 2011. We’ll get to Me…Jane in just a bit, but first off is Van Allsburg’s picture book biography of Annie Edson Taylor. Read the rest of this entry �

7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #209: Featuring Up-and-Coming Illustrator, Jess Racklyeft (and Dan Santat’s Clone)

h1 Sunday, March 6th, 2011

It’s the first Sunday in March! Oh! No! I keep using exclamation marks! Because I am coming up on a big ‘ol final, serious writing deadline! And I still have writing to do! A chapter that gives me the stink eye somethin’ FIERCE! I am in denial about March! I am in denial about March!

Have mercy, sorry about all those exclamation marks. Not funny anymore, right? And quite possibly not funny to begin with. Excessive exclaiming can give one a headache.

The good thing about it being the first Sunday in March is that a new-to-the-field, recently-graduated illustrator is here to share some artwork, since that’s how I roll here at 7-Imp on the first Sunday of each month. Yes, join me in shining the spotlight on an illustrator from the future. Er, wait. She’s illustrating now, but you get my drift. This month it’s an illustrator based in Melbourne, Australia. Meet Jess Racklyeft. I failed to ask her how her last name is pronounced, and I’m ever-so curious, the more I look at—and type—that surname. Perhaps she can stop by later and tell us. Without further ado, here is Jess to tell us a bit more about her work and her plans: Read the rest of this entry �

They’re Back — And This Time I Can Scream About It

h1 Thursday, March 3rd, 2011

Who’s back? you may be wondering. You remember the unforgettable critters (I’m originally from Kentucky; I must say “critters”) from Deborah Underwood’s The Quiet Book, illustrated by Renata Liwska? You know. The picture book folks read and fell in love with last year (what? I’ve yet to meet a soul who didn’t fall directly in love with that book) and then closed their eyes, stuck their fingers in their ears, and said lalalalala I’m not listening when you say the illustrator is Canadian and not eligible for the Caldecott, because it was THAT GOOD. It did, however, get the 2010 Gold Medal from the Society of Illustrators in the category of Original Art: The Fine Art of Children’s Book Illustration.

I think it’s remarkable how quickly The Loud Book (Houghton Mifflin), this companion book of sorts, came into existence. The Quiet Book was published in April of last year, and this one will be released next month. Perhaps they were both planned to begin with. Perhaps the publisher noted the great and abiding love for The Quiet Book and quickly got to work on its sequel. I don’t know. But no matter. It’s here, and it possesses, not surprisingly, many of the same winning qualities as its predecessor: the smart, subtle humor; the gentle, detailed pencil illustrations (colored digitally); the unexpected connections (“crackling campfire loud”); the direct, very child-centered line to the emotional worlds of its wee readers; and lots of room to think, which the author and illustrator leave readers/listeners in spades. (As Kirkus wrote about The Quiet Book, “{t}he most moving scenes leave space for imagining.”) Read the rest of this entry �

The Libro This Bitácorera Enjoys

h1 Tuesday, March 1st, 2011

Ah. I have This Thing for sun images, and so I’m really kinda crazy about Rafael López’s sun here. (Note: Visiting that link there to his site will just improve the quality of your day and make your eyes and brain happy. I highly suggest going there to take in his art.)

Also, that post title is supposed to be “The Book This Blogger Enjoys,” but seven bajillion apologies to all Spanish-speakers of the world if I just mangled that. I am not one. A Spanish-speaker, that is.

Where was I? Oh. Right. That sun, as well as this goat to the right, comes from one of my favorite early-2011 picture books, written by Samantha R. Vamos and illustrated by Mr. López, The Cazuela That the Farm Maiden Stirred (Charlesbridge, February 2011). Think of this as the bilingual “The House That Jack Built.” But, okay. Well, there is no malt or rat or shaven and shorn priest or farmer sowing his corn. Instead, we have a farm maiden, who is quite the opposite of forlorn, as she’s happy to be baking. Mmm. Baking. There’s a goat churning cream, a duck heading to the market, a donkey plucking a lime, a farmer planting rice, and much more. They’re getting ready for a rice pudding celebration — the yummy treat, that is, along with some dancing and singing and banjo-playing and maraca-shaking. Read the rest of this entry �