Archive for July, 2011

7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #230: Featuring Maureen Hyde
(And the Anarchy Contest Winners, Not to Mention
One More Note About Literacyhead)

h1 Sunday, July 31st, 2011

“Francis knelt at his window, crumbling some of the bread into his palms. And when the birds saw that their friend was already up, calls of joy filled the hills as they flitted into town. The birds bustled into Francis’ hands, their twiggy feet pinching,
their horn-like beaks swiping left and right.”

This morning I’m featuring the oil paintings of Maureen Hyde, and evidently this is her first illustrated title (from Gingerbread House) in about twenty-five years. What she has illustrated here is an imagined boyhood story from the life of Saint Francis of Assisi, written by Josephine Nobisso. (Yes, since I posted about this picture book so recently, I figured I should mention this one sooner rather than later.) “Our story is set in the very early morning—before anyone else is awake to observe it—in order to propose an imagined moment in the boyhood of Saint Francis of Assisi,” the author writes. “Do forgive our taking liberties with history! Even though the details may not be true, they are, at least, possible. When one is a saint, after all, any goodness is possible.”

Seven possible goodnesses before breakfast. I like it. Read the rest of this entry �

What I’m Doing at Kirkus This Week,
Plus What I Did Last Week,
Featuring Jessica Meserve and Steve Voake

h1 Friday, July 29th, 2011

“‘What d’you think, Daisy? D’you think we’ll be ready to ride on the wobblers?’
Daisy smiled. ‘There’s only one way to find out,’ she said.”

This morning over at Kirkus, I’m highlighting two new picture books, one featuring Indian-American protagonists and another one that tells a story from Indian folklore. (In the case of the latter, two words: Gerald McDermott. All you gotta know, right?) That link is here this morning. (AND, if you’re so inclined to take a fun quiz, my QRANK quiz, all about the beloved pets of children’s lit, is up today at this link. Yes, there’s a Ribsy sighting!)

If you missed last week’s column, I wrote about Steve Voake’s Daisy Dawson early chapter-book series (Candlewick), which—as I said last week—I think flies entirely too under the radar. That link is here.

And today I share some art from the series. Read the rest of this entry �

Seven Crazy Realities
Everyone Should Know about

h1 Wednesday, July 27th, 2011

I feel like I should say something dramatic here, such as, if you read any one 7-Imp post this year, let it be this one. And that’s because today I’m shining the spotlight on the folks at, a bi-weekly magazine connecting literacy and the visual arts. They came to my attention months ago, and gracious knows they’ve been ever-so patient with me, since I told them about that long ago that I wanted to post about what they do. I’m finally getting to it. Ahem, better late than never, yes?

And here’s why I love them: Well, I feel like the real heroes out there, as cliché as this may sound, are the teachers and school librarians of the world, working tirelessly day-to-day in our oft-beleaguered schools. I tend to run my mouth here at 7-Imp about illustration (in particular)—oh, I can wax annoyingly poetic for days about just one book or just one eloquent illustration or one very funny spread—but every now and then, when I can, I like to shine the spotlight on people doing the hands-on work in educating our children. (And those of you interested in literacy are reading Jen Robinson’s blog, Carol Rasco’s blog, and Terry Doherty’s Reading Tub, yes? I’m probably forgetting a slew of other great literacy blogs, but when in doubt or when needing even more info, go to those smart, passionate ladies for the low-down.)

So, where was I? Right. Why do I love Literacyhead? Because, as you can see at this page of their site, the folks over there love children’s literature and art (“the connections between the two make us positively giddy”); they want to “help teachers nurture their creative lives while they meet the demands of high accountability to which they are subject”; and they “believe that the arts are a basic component of a healthy life, not an afterthought or a bonus if there is time or funding.”

So, taking these beliefs, they use art to assist teachers in illustrating to children the writing process, to support comprehension of books, and to provide writing workshops. They also provide book recommendations, essays, reviews, visual aids and graphic organizers, and much more. I’m not currently in a school library and haven’t tried this out, but their work sounds impressive to me, and I wanted to hand the blog over to them today so that they could tell us more. (Yes, when you catch me facing a manuscript deadline, you get to interview yourself at 7-Imp, and I’m glad they were game.)

Oh, best thing of all about Literacyhead? They believe “that art is the most promising catalyst for social change,” and they “want children to begin to think that they need and deserve beauty in their lives.” Finger snap. Head roll. They are kindred souls, you see. If you read my blog at all, you know I second these beliefs. I mean, check out this page: There are galleries for Taeeun Yoo, Shadra Strickland, Jon J Muth, and more. The illustration junkie in me is swooning. Read the rest of this entry �

Some Very Possible Dreamy Doldrums Before Breakfast

h1 Tuesday, July 26th, 2011

I’m still trying to catch up from being out of town (not to mention getting ready to leave town again for a bit), so I’m happy today to hand this post over to fledgling New York City writer and illustrator Nicholas Gannon, who formerly attended Parsons The New School for Design (where he learned that “coffee and cigarettes at 3:00 am make you feel pretty crappy”). Nicholas, it seems, is finding his footing in the field of illustration by experimenting with stories and art over at his site, Dreams in Doldrums, and his monthly publication, The Doldrums’ Press. Here he is at The Doldrums’ Press, but you’ll note, if you read closely, that he doesn’t always look so startled and, quite possibly, panic-stricken. Perhaps he just needs some coffee? I can help. (It’s not quite 3AM as I type this, and I won’t give him any cigarettes. I can do my best, though I do find surprised and fearful people quite interesting, in point of fact. So. Either way, I think we’re set.)

I’ve invited Nicholas to tell me a bit more about his art and writing. As you’ll see for yourselves, fans of Gorey and Dahl may very well enjoy Nicholas’s wry, macabre style, one that’s not afraid to embrace the doldrums with a dollop of camp, a little bit of poison and pathos, and some tragic twisty-turns. Or, as he puts it below, the “real world at a 45-degree angle.” (Oh, and Snicket fans would approve, too. I feel sure of this. And perhaps Lemony would come along and say something like, “if you don’t like this, you should be smushed by a falling truck from the sky.” Or something similar.)

See? You’ll read more about him below, but for now, meet Archer B. Helmsley:

And now here’s Nicholas, in his own words, along with lots more art . . . I thank him for sharing today. Read the rest of this entry �

7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #229: Featuring
Dianna Hutts Aston and Sylvia Long

h1 Sunday, July 24th, 2011

My introduction to this lovely book will be short, because I’ve been out of town, but suffice it to say that fans of 2006’s An Egg is Quiet and 2007’s A Seed is Sleepy will be happy to see A Butterfly is Patient (Chronicle Books, May 2011), again from author Dianna Hutts Aston and illustrator Sylvia Long.

As with the previous titles by this duo, this book is beautifully illustrated, informative, and engaging — all at the same time. This is an introduction to butterflies (the many varieties, their behavioral habits, their development and growth, their migration, and more), and Aston and Long do it up with style with text and illustrations that children and adults will pore over. Also as with the previous titles, many double page spreads are designed to look like the notebook of a nature-lover who has paused to note the beauty witnessed. Long’s illustrations, rendered in ink and watercolor, are lush and elegant. And the handlettering! Beautiful. Publishers Weekly calls this one a “lovely mix of science and wonder” and School Library Journal, a “lyrical, colorful, and elegant production.” Kirkus adds, “{s}imilar butterfly albums abound, but none show these most decorative members of the insect clan to better advantage.”

I said I’d be short, right? I meant it. Sorry not to provide more details, but I’ve got some unpacking to do. While I do so, here are some more spreads. You may click each spread to enlarge. Enjoy. Read the rest of this entry �

What I’m Doing at Kirkus This Week,
Plus What I Did Last Week,
Featuring Sophie Blackall and Lauren Castillo

h1 Thursday, July 21st, 2011

“Back home I try to play with Melvin, but he is hiding.”

I’m heading out of town today to do this tomorrow in gorgeous East Tennessee. I get to talk about my favorite picture books of 2011 at an event sponsored by The Center for Children’s & Young Adult Literature at The University of Tennessee and Knox County Public Library, so color me happy. (But also busy. Super. Do I owe you an email? I’ll get to it soon, I swear.) Anyhow, before I leave, here’s some art for you.

At last week’s Kirkus column, I took a look at the author/illustrator debuts from Sophie Blackall and Lauren Castillo. Both women have illustrated many titles previously, but they’ve recently released picture books they penned themselves. John Manders also weighed in over at that column on what’s it like write your own tales: His author/illustrator debut will be this Fall with The Really Awful Musicians (Clarion).

So, to read more about the books and what I like about them, you can hit last week’s column. But today I share some spreads from Sophie’s and Lauren’s books. First up is art from Lauren’s Melvin and the Boy, released by Henry Holt in July, also mentioned here in the New York Times in early July. (The illustration opening this post comes from Melvin and the Boy.) After that is Sophie Blackall’s Are You Awake?, released by Henry Holt/Christy Ottaviano Books in May.


(Incidentally, at tomorrow’s column, I discuss an early chapter book series from Candlewick that I find truly winning in many ways. That column will be here tomorrow morning.)

Read the rest of this entry �

One Very Possible Illustration Award Before Breakfast

h1 Wednesday, July 20th, 2011

Hey, you. Yes, I’m waving at you, talented illustrators of the world. Please note this call for entries from the Society of Illustrators.

The Original Art: Celebrating the Fine Art of Children’s Book Illustration award/exhibition has celebrated the art of children’s book illustration for over 30 years. The annual exhibit in NYC showcases the year’s best children’s books. Sponsored by the Society of Illustrators, Gold and Silver medals are awarded by a jury to three chosen books representing a wide variety of medium and technique.

At the Call for Entries page at the Society’s site, you will see all the information you need to know — who may submit (illustrators, agents, writers, and publishers); eligibility; how to enter; the entry fee; etc. So head on over there, if you’re so inclined. The deadline for entries is July 22.

Now back to your regularly scheduled coffee . . .

Seven Questions Over Breakfast with Mélanie Watt

h1 Tuesday, July 19th, 2011

(Click to enlarge)

Here’s author/illustrator Mélanie Watt, who has brought us one of contemporary children’s literature’s most memorable characters, being stalked by said character in Florence, Italy. Okay, so perhaps he’s just hanging out with her. He is a bit neurotic after all and probably just wants some company.

Scaredy Orville Squirrel. My favorite defeatist. Children’s lit’s dearest doomsayer. A wunderkind of a worrywart. What I love about this guy is that I relate to him just a little bit. (What? Name me someone who doesn’t have a little bit of that neurosis and then a little bit of another.) And yet as a parent, who tires of the overly-sanitized, fear-of-letting-your-kids-play-in-the-dirt Age of the Antibacterial Soap we currently live in, I laugh to myself and nod my head over Scaredy Squirrel’s little epiphanies at the close of each book, his realization that leaping into the unknown at least makes life a wee bit interesting, his reminders to us all to chill out a bit when it comes to the hyper-protective parenting. Power to Scaredy Squirrel for knocking us upside the head and reminding us to take risks, ditch the fear a bit, and calm down a lot.

And if Mélanie didn’t wrap all that up with great humor, it would be a bit too heavy-handed, huh? But, nope, our petrified, panic-stricken hero with his set schedules and predetermined activities for every day of the week and map legends and ennumerated instructions to himself and Action Plans and huge host of fears (whew — no wonder he doesn’t get out of the tree very often), in a story told with a skeleton of a traditional narrative, manages to make us laugh — and nod in recognition. Just look at that cover for the second title (pictured below), Scaredy Squirrel Makes a Friend. THAT NAME TAG (”Hello. My name is Scaredy“) . . . I mean, that’s just funny. As I’ve said before at the blog, have you ever watched a child hold a Scaredy Squirrel book in his or her hands and just pore over all the images and icons and lists and flow charts and other delightfully left-brained stuff? Sure, it’s probably not for everyone, as no one children’s book is, but I say hurrah for the tongue-in-cheek cartoon illustrations and all the humor and Scaredy’s continued quest to leap into the unknown — even if Godzilla, mobs of lobsters, falling coconuts, vampire bats, poison ivy, piranhas, polka-dot monsters, flocks of seagulls, birthday party ponies, herds of sea monsters, or Bigfoot is involved. Read the rest of this entry �

7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #228: Featuring Jennifer Sattler
AND an Actual 7-Imp Contest and Anarchic Book-Give-Away (I Never Really Do Book-Give-Aways, But This’ll Be Fun, Promise)

h1 Sunday, July 17th, 2011

Before the summer gets away from us all (well, times flies when you’re busy, and before we know it, school will be starting), I’m showcasing today one of the most summery picture books I’ve seen this year, Pig Kahuna (Bloomsbury, May 2011).

This is the third picture book from fine artist Jennifer Sattler. (This 2009 7-Imp post features art from her first two titles.) It tells the story of Fergus and his baby brother, Dink, who are collecting treasures at the shore one day: Seaweed. A pebble that looks like an eyeball. A shell that might really be a shark’s tooth. Their collection grows. And all is well, “as long as Fergus didn’t have to go in the water.” There is the “lurking, murky ickiness factor of the water,” after all.

But then a surfboard washes ashore. They name it Dave. Needless to say, they play with it well away from the water. But when Fergus trots off to get ice cream, Dink sets Dave free. (This is pictured above.) Fergus braves the water to save Dave, but the entire experience isn’t what he expected: Read the rest of this entry �

What I’m Doing at Kirkus This Week,
Plus What I Did Last Week, Featuring George O’Connor

h1 Friday, July 15th, 2011

The Olympians group shot
(Click to enlarge)

This morning over at Kirkus, I take a look at two picture book debuts. These are debuts in the sense that they come from two illustrators who previously have not written their own books. Yup, they’re branching out on their own now, both writing and illustrating for the first time, and I happen to think the results are good. The link is here this morning.

* * *

Last week, I posted an abbreviated Q & A with George O’Connor, the creator of the Olympians series from First Second Books. These are graphic novels about the gods and goddesses of Greek mythology, and O’Connor loads ’em up with vibrant art, snappy dialogue, and rip-roarin’ action.

Below is the full interview (and just below here is George at his computer, “trying to look busy,” he says), complete with some illustrations and sketches. I thank George for stopping by.

Read the rest of this entry �