Archive for May, 2011

Seven Questions Over Breakfast with John Rocco

h1 Tuesday, May 31st, 2011

“So we went down and down and down to the street.”
(Click to enlarge)

That’s a spread from one of my favorite 2011 picture books, Blackout (Disney-Hyperion, May 2011), and it was written and illustrated by John Rocco, pictured here, who joins me for breakfast this morning. Have you seen this book, which has been met with such praise as “sublime” and “beautifully designed”? If not, I highly recommend you find the nearest copy on your library or bookstore shelf. It’s delightful. And if I were Publishers Weekly, I might say Rocco gets everything right in this book. So, I’m not PW, but they did say that about this book, and I nodded when I read that. Because it’s true.

Blackout tells the story of one busy family’s (and one community’s) magical, intimate evening together after the lights go out. Rocco, in the below video, calls the book his “ode to Brooklyn.” In fact, as Betsy Bird pointed out in this recent post (where you can see the excellent trailer for this book), New York City experienced its own 2003 blackout, upon which this book is based.

Read the rest of this entry �

The Tables Were Turned …

h1 Monday, May 30th, 2011

… and I was actually the interviewee yesterday over at Aaron Mead’s blog, Children’s Books and Reviews. Aaron has conducted many wonderful blogger interviews of late (which I used to do back in the day with my former blog partner-in-crime — I miss those interviews and hope to pick them back up one day). Really, you must go explore Aaron’s informative interviews; at the very least you will get a kick out of Travis Jonker’s snowbank story.

Anyway, my Q & A is here. On and on I yammer about 7-Imp, but here’s the most important part in which I get to thank the kidlitosphere:

Mothering is a large part of why I started blogging. I had gone from full-time work to full-time stay-at-home motherhood (my choice). I found it challenging to spend my days with humans incapable of abstract thought, as much as I adored them, after having spent my days discussing books with teachers and other librarians. Blogging was a way to keep my brain active—and to keep myself involved in children’s lit. I suddenly had some new colleagues, if you will—other bloggers from all around the country, who also loved discussing children’s lit. I still feel like I owe those other bloggers a whole heapin’ lot. As in, seriously, I’m tearing up now. I thank them for re-engaging me in those discussions during an isolating time.

Yes, sometimes you have to make your own colleagues, and I still feel a debt of gratitude to my blogger friends, way too many to name.

In the question from which that response comes, Aaron had asked me about my own children and their reading. In their honor (since they’re both obsessive cat-lovers) and since it hurts the very hemispheres of my brain to post here at 7-Imp without images, I include in this post (top) an image from Italian author/illustrator Caterina Zandonella, who goes by “Cat Zaza” (briefly featured here at 7-Imp in March). When I saw this, I fell for it and secured her permission to post it here.

Many thanks to Aaron for the interview.

And Happy Memorial Day to one and all. I join others in giving thanks to those who have served.

7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #221: Featuring Simon Wild

h1 Sunday, May 29th, 2011

Having been inspired last weekend by hearing Robert Sabuda speak in person at Knoxville’s children’s reading festival, today I’m featuring a pop-up artist, UK illustrator Simon Wild. Don’t you just want to hop into that fantastical, most fabulous flying machine up there?

Wild graduated from Cambridge School of Art in 2007 with an MA in Children’s Book Illustration. He has previously worked as an animator, film maker, video editor, and street performer and currently teaches art foundation at Ipswich School of Art and works from his studio—with a white cat named Gert—in Suffolk. Simon’s latest title, written by Timothy Knapman, is Fantastical Flying Machines. The book follows two children named Sally and Jack on an air race filled with hot air balloons, flying ice lollies, and bubble gum rockets. I haven’t seen a copy myself, which was evidently released last Fall (Macmillan), but Simon tells me it features spinning, twirling, lift-the-flap pages, and a pop-up finale.

Here’s a bit more from Simon about the book and his thoughts on the value of interactive books for children today. I thank him for stopping by…

Read the rest of this entry �

What I’m Doing at Kirkus This Week
(Plus What I Did Last Week)

h1 Thursday, May 26th, 2011

My 7-impish plans for today were to post an interview with the talented James E. Ransome, but that will have to be put off till perhaps next week. I look forward to this. I enjoy seeing his illustration work, and—speaking of picture book biographies, which I do below—have you seen Before There Was Mozart: The Story of Joseph Boulogne, Chevalier de Saint-George this year? It was written by Lesa Cline-Ransome, who happens to be James’s wife, and was illustrated by James. So, next week I shall bring you an interview with Mr. Ransome, whose colorful artwork will wake you right. up.

Instead, I’m now here today to say that this week at Kirkus I’ll cover three new engaging picture book biographies. The link will be here tomorrow (Friday) morning. And next week at 7-Imp, I’ll showcase some spreads from each picture book. Plus maybe a bit more. We’ll see. I’ve got ideas brewin’ in my head anyway.

Also over at Kirkus tomorrow will be the Qrank quiz I wrote on “Strong Females in Kidlit.” Now, that was fun to write. You can take that quiz, if you’re so inclined, tomorrow at this link.

Last week, I covered DK Publishing’s children’s title on world religions, What Do You Believe? That link is here, if you missed it. Below are some spreads from the book. You can click each to super-size and see up close. (You really have to in order to read the text.)


Read the rest of this entry �

Meet Hopper and Wilson

h1 Tuesday, May 24th, 2011

There’s Pooh. There’s Paddington. There’s Corduroy. And there’s the Velveteen Rabbit. Those are quite possibly the most famous stuffed toys of children’s lit.

Now, here in 2011, we meet Hopper and Wilson, who join the ranks of Those Children’s Book Protagonists with Stuffing and Seams.

In Maria van Lieshout’s Hopper and Wilson (Philomel, May 2011), readers aren’t privy to exactly which child owns these animals, unlike with Pooh and Christopher Robin, Paddington and the Brown family, Corduroy and Lisa, etc. But it’s no matter. Not at all. What we know is that, as they look out over the big blue sea, they wonder—and just really have to know—what the end of the world is like. Wilson, a little yellow stuffed mouse, hopes for lots of lemonade at the edge of the world, and Hopper, a big blue stuffed elephant, wishes for a staircase to the moon.

So, saying goodbye to their cactus (I love that), they journey to find out. And in a small boat made of newspaper. (I love that, too.)

Read the rest of this entry �

7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #220: Featuring Chris Beatrice

h1 Sunday, May 22nd, 2011

“‘I believe the Spring has come at last,’ said the Giant;
and he jumped out of bed and looked out. What did he see?”

Don’t you think it’s time Oscar Wilde visited the blog? I do.

Okay. Sure. “Visited” the blog is a bit much. It’s not like I’ve called forth his spirit, but I am featuring one of his children’s stories today.

In 1888, Wilde’s own collection of original fairy tales, The Happy Prince and Other Tales, was published, and it included a story called “The Selfish Giant.” In March of this year, Noteworthy Books released a new picture book adaptation of this tale, which includes orchestral music on an accompanying CD from composer Dan Goeller and narration from British actor Martin Jarvis.

Read the rest of this entry �

What I’m Doing at Kirkus This Week
(Plus What I Did Last Week)

h1 Friday, May 20th, 2011

Over at Kirkus this week, I’m covering one of those straight up, just-the-facts-please-and-thank-you-very-much informational titles, and it’s all about world religions (DK Publishing’s What Do You Believe?). The link is here this morning, and I discuss why I think it’s a good, and even (dare I say?) important, book for children today.

Also over there today is the Qrank quiz I wrote about Amelia Earhart, all based on Candace Fleming’s biography of her. Think you know a lot about Amelia? Try my quiz. Woo and hoo! That was fun to write.

Last week, I had a quiz about the Great Depression, based on last week’s column, a review of Andrea Davis Pinkney’s new middle-grade novel, Bird in a Box, illustrated by Sean Qualls. Those quizzes, though…wow. They are there one day and then—POOF!—gone. (That is a note to those of you wanting to take the Amelia quiz, too.) I didn’t even get to road-test that one myself, as I was out of town for work that day. But the column—my thoughts on the book—remains, and if you missed it last week, it’s here. Pretty soon, I’m hoping, I can show you here at 7-Imp some of Sean Qualls’s interior images from this novel. More to come on that later. But, for now, enjoy the cover art below.

Cristiana Clerici’s International Spotlight #5:
An Interview with Italian Illustrator, Maurizio Quarello

h1 Thursday, May 19th, 2011

Maurizio Quarello

Jules: It’s time to welcome again the very smart Italian blogger with kickin’-good taste, Cristiana Clerici (pictured right), for another spotlight on international illustration. Today, she’s interviewing Italian illustrator Maurizio Quarello, pictured above, who talks about his work, what being stubborn will get you in this field, the appeal of cinema with regard to his work, his inspirations, and how his books initially only get a five-minute window with him. (I love that part.) As always, I am grateful 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 call 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.

Without further ado, here is Cris. Enjoy.

Read the rest of this entry �

Seven Questions Over Breakfast with Carson Ellis

h1 Tuesday, May 17th, 2011

Once upon a time—forty years ago, to be exact—author Florence Parry Heide wrote a story called Dillweed’s Revenge: A Deadly Dose of Magic with the express intent of having Edward Gorey illustrate it. Joining Heide in penning the story was her brother and his wife, visiting from out of town, and her own daughter, Roxy. “Some editors liked the story but wanted a date on which the art would be finished, and Edward Gorey would never work that way. So, it sat and it sat,” said Heide (at the short Q & A at this link).

Dillweed’s story (a color sketch from the 2010 version is pictured left) is one of, in the words of Heide again, “naughtiness, excitement, and danger.” (Her exact quote, which I love? “Of course kids like to be soothed and reassured and coddled and amused, but they also like to read of naughtiness, excitement, and danger.”) Dillweed uses some magical runes stored under his bed and his bizarre pet (and only friend), Skorped, to get revenge on his lousy, inattentive parents and Umblud and Perfidia, the two hateful servants left in charge of Dillweed, while his parents are off having adventures. It’s a wonderfully warped, dark tale, which I’ve mentally added to this ever-growing list of Slightly Demented Picture Books. Or, if you’re Bob Shea and Lane Smith weighing in on the book: “WHY WE RECOMMEND THIS BOOK: debauchery, black magic, murder and inspired shenanigans throughout.”

According to illustrator Carson Ellis—who is visiting me for cyber-breakfast this morning and who was ultimately chosen to illustrate the 2010 Harcourt release of the book—“controversy over Dillweed‘s grim ending (and reputedly Gorey’s refusal to work on the book if the ending was changed) caused the project to be shelved.” Read the rest of this entry �

7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #219: Featuring Arthur Howard
and Author Liz Garton Scanlon and More than One
Experiment in Honesty and Kindness

h1 Sunday, May 15th, 2011

I hope I don’t slight today’s featured picture book due to the fact that I’m typing this before leaving town for a work meeting. In other words, this has to be relatively short and sweet. (What? You’re laughing. I can actually be brief. On occasion.)

Fans of Cynthia Rylant’s Mr. Putter & Tabby series of chapter books may be happy to know, if you don’t already, that illustrator Arthur Howard’s cartoon watercolors are on display in Liz Garton Scanlon’s latest picture book, Noodle & Lou (Beach Lane Books, March 2011), which is all about…. Well, you know how you occasionally have those really low self-esteem, want-to-drag-your-ass-back-to-bed days, in which just about everthing you do makes you feel like an undeniable loser and the grass is always greener, no matter where you look, but along comes a kickin’-good friend to tell you that, indeed, you actually do rock and in quite possibly more ways than one? (These low-self-esteem moments happen to me way more often than a wiser person would admit.) Yeah. That. The book’s about that. Read the rest of this entry �