Archive for August, 2011

A Garth Williams Moment: Just ‘Cause . . .

h1 Tuesday, August 30th, 2011

“And they actually began dancing Sir Roger de Coverly there on the floor of the wagon — hands across, back-to-back, down-the-middle and all the rest. They began — but in half a minute they were all doing something else again: jumping on and off the cigar boxes, nibbling at the sacks, sliding down the treacle tins, and never for one moment ceasing their chatter. ‘How strange! One always thinks of country folk as being rather stolid,’ said Miss Bianca. ‘I think I shall lie down a little . . .'”

I’m reading The Rescuers by Margery Sharp (“the rare children’s book in which mice aid Norwegians,” as Betsy Bird calls it in her Amazon review), originally published in the late 1950s and illustrated by Garth Williams. I’m forging ahead with this post, even though I haven’t finished the book yet. I’ve gotta take a break from my manuscript deadline, and I choose to enjoy some illustrations from Mr. Williams, whose work I enjoy so much. So, won’t you join me for a second?

Thank goodness for the New York Review Children’s Collection. Have any of you seen their series, which features “time-honored classics for children of all ages”? It began in 2003 as a response to readers who wished for the return of favorite, but long out-of-print, titles. “Reissue” can be a beautiful word if we’re talkin’ just the right book, don’t you know. A lot of happy exclamations came flying from my mouth as I perused their 2010-2011 catalog (and no doubt there’s a new one out), which includes titles from authors and illustrators such as the d’Aulaires, Ruth Krauss, Esther Averill, Munro Leaf, Marc Simont, Robert McCloskey, Edward Gorey, James Thurber … I could go on. Glorious, yes? Read the rest of this entry �

7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #234: Featuring Joyce Wan

h1 Sunday, August 28th, 2011

Every now and then, the 7-Imp portion of my brain realizes that I don’t spend enough time focusing on board book illustrations, art for the wee’est of humans.

Well, today I’m gonna.

This morning I shine the spotlight on Joyce Wan, whose art, she tells me, is inspired by Asian traditional and popular culture. She also comes from an architectural design background and loves creating those books for wee ones that are tactile or contain interactive elements.

Read the rest of this entry �

What I’m Doing at Kirkus This Week,
Plus What I Did Last Week, Featuring
Peter Brown, Michael Emberley, and Adam Gudeon

h1 Wednesday, August 24th, 2011

Michael Emberley’s color sketch for Barbara Bottner’s An Annoying ABC

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Tomorrow morning at Kirkus, I’ll weigh in on Lane Smith’s newest picture book, Grandpa Green. The link will be here. {Edited to add on Friday: The link is here.}

Also up tomorrow will be my QRANK quiz on Must-Reads for School-Aged Children. Trivia fun! Good times. Come on, you know you wanna play! That will be here.

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If you missed last week’s Kirkus column, I discussed the newest picture book titles from Peter Brown, Michael Emberley, and Adam Gudeon. But you know I can’t talk about picture books without also showing lots of art and sketches, so here I am this morning to indulge in that. Peter Brown also treats us all this morning, via images and words, to a detailed description of his process, so let’s get right to it. Oh, here is last week’s column if you want to know a summary of the books and my thoughts on them, but below is all the art. We’ll start with Peter (though pictured above left are the serenading stars of Adam’s Me and Meow). Enjoy.

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Note: You can click each image below from Peter Brown’s discussion of the art for You Will Be My Friend! (Little, Brown, September 2011) to enlarge and see in more detail.

Peter: Everything starts in my sketchbook, with story webs and doodles.

Once I’ve figured out my story arc, I’m ready to begin sketching. For You Will Be My Friend!, I did most of my sketching in Photoshop, where I also added text and borders to the sketch for each page. Then I printed those pages out and put them up on my wall so I could see how all the pages looked together as a whole. Read the rest of this entry �

It’s That Time of Year Again…

h1 Tuesday, August 23rd, 2011

Click to enlarge and see names more clearly.

Will I see you in Nashville this year?

7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #233:
Featuring Jennifer L. & Matthew Holm

h1 Saturday, August 20th, 2011

Every now and then, in the name of graphic novels for the youngest of children, I like to check in on Babymouse.

And she’s back. Well, she’s been back since May of this year, but sometimes I’m slow with my posts.

And this is her fourteenth title from Jenni and Matt Holm. Yes, fourteenth.

In this one, Babymouse #14: Mad Scientist (Random House), Babymouse meets her new science teacher, Mr. Shelldon (who has “received little support from my colleagues for my discovery that slime mold makes a great pet,” he tells his class). Babymouse, entering the school science fair, has to decide upon a project and eventually lands on amoebas. Looking one day at what she calls a “blob” in her microscope, she meets an amoeba, named Squish. Squish likes to eat cupcakes. Ah, an amoeba after her own heart.

That same month, the Holms released their first title (volume 1), all about this new character, Squish, Super Amoeba (also from Random House), which Kirkus in their starred review called the “hilarious misadventures of a hapless young everylad who happens to be an amoeba.” Yes, a fun science’y graphic novel series about an amoeba: Leave it to the Holms. Worth seeing for Peggy the paramecium alone, it’s a promising series, particularly for those children who are drawn to the Holms’ funny, manic, accessible style, yet might mutter, “Babymouse is for girls” (which I’d argue anyway). Squish loves comics (“Super Amoeba!”) and Twinkies, and he—like Babymouse—is simply navigating life through elementary school (though if you want to know if tacos can stop global warming, not to mention if single-celled creatures can be counted on to step up to do what’s right, this is the book for you). Read the rest of this entry �

What I’m Doing at Kirkus This Week

h1 Friday, August 19th, 2011

This morning, over at Kirkus I take a look at three upcoming picture books (all Fall 2011 titles) for … well, specifically for incoming kindergartners (though they’ll work for other elementary-aged children as well). The link is here.

That’s my story, and I’m stickin’ it to it.

Until later …

Seven Questions Over Breakfast with Jon Klassen

h1 Thursday, August 18th, 2011

I’m going to have fried-egg sandwiches with author/illustrator, designer, and concept artist Jon Klassen this morning. Well, that’s his breakfast-of-choice if he’s cooking, but it’s French toast if he’s ordering. Wait. I know! How about this? Since this is all pretend and only a cyber-breakfast anyway (though I wish we were sitting face-to-face in a diner), we’ll have both. Sounds like a plan, yes?

Won’t you join us for our breakfast? Jon’s newest title, I Want My Hat Back, out on shelves next month from Candlewick, is one of the funniest picture books I’ve seen all year. I see a lot of picture books yearly, and this one is a more-than-slightly-demented breath of fresh air that makes me laugh every time I see it. (Yup, I right away mentally added this one to the growing list of Slightly Demented Picture Books, which Adrienne Furness and I composed years ago, still one of my favorite posts).

I Want My Hat Back is deliciously dark and twisted-funny (“did he really just do that?” I asked myself of Klassen after laughing out loud when first reading the ending), and sometimes I just need that (after stacks and stacks of the cute books … and, before anyone fusses at me, yes, I know that cute books have their place, too). This book puts the “wicked” in “wicked funny” — but I can’t tell you why, as I don’t want to give away the plot. You gotta love how the Kirkus reviewer describes it as “cynical on wry.” And Publishers Weekly writes of the “delectable results” of this, Klassen’s author/illustrator debut. Read the rest of this entry �

So, It’s Come to This…

h1 Tuesday, August 16th, 2011

Seven points if you got the Simpsons reference in that post title.

Yup, it’s kind of a crazy week around here, particularly given that this week Betsy and Peter and I are wrapping up our manuscript to be sent off once and for all to our editor. I hope to be back later this week with some 7-Imp content, but for now (and as alluded to in that post title), I decided to bring you—instead of silence and nothing-ness—a 7-Imp Clip Show. [Insert laugh track here. And that image is from “Lisa’s Pony,” episode 8, season 3, which is referenced in The Simpson’s first-ever clip show. *COUGH* NERD.]

And what do I bring you in 7-Imp’s first-ever clip show? I bring you seven of my favorite posts from the past five years. Just to pass the time. If you’re so inclined, go read or skim each OR you can even print them all and laminate them and use them for, I dunno, placemats to make your meals more art-filled. But it’s about all I can do this week until I get caught up on my own writing.


Illustrator Dave McKean (image re-printed here from this 7-Imp interview)

* Because they just won Silver Medals in the recent Society of Illustrators’ 2011 Original Art award, I bring you my 2008 interview with Kadir Nelson and my 2008 interview with Lane Smith (even if, tragically, those interviews were before I learned how to right-align images in a post).

* Because she collects pictures of the backs of people’s heads, not to mention Depression-era dolls and various bits of animals, and because I like her art work, I bring you my 2008 interview with then illustrator (but now author/illustrator) Sophie Blackall. (I’d like to note that Sophie also assembles those dolls and bits of animals into “funny, unsettling creatures,” and for that reason, could have, at any time, a deer hoof or a bird wing at her feet. Don’t you just want to hang out with her? I do.) Read the rest of this entry �

7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #232: Featuring Elisa Kleven

h1 Sunday, August 14th, 2011

I’ve had an early, unbound copy of today’s featured book for the longest time and, after deciding just this week to showcase some art from it, I see that it arrived on shelves just this past week. I have the best luck with the timing of these things, since I’m not organized enough to actually plan ahead.

So, the book is a story by author Elka Weber, called One Little Chicken, illustrated by Elisa Kleven (Tricycle Press). It retells a story in the Talmud. Well, wait. I’ll let the author tell you a bit more, as this comes straight from the closing author’s note:

“Rabbi Chanina ben Dosa lived in Israel in the frst century. He was so poor he sometimes had to live from one week to the next on nothing more than a few carob seeds, but he was so righteous that the Talmud says the entire world was sustained by his goodness.

Rabbi Chanina carefully followed all the teachings in the Torah. Among them is the directive to return lost property to its owner. (‘If you see another person’s animal, you shall not hide from it; you must return it to the owner. If the owner is not known to you, then you should bring the object into your house, where it shall remain until the owner inquires after it, and you will return it to him. So shall you do for his donkey, his garment, or any lost article that you may find. . . .’ …) Read the rest of this entry �

What I’m Doing at Kirkus This Week;
Or, Getting Creative With the Word “Best”

h1 Friday, August 12th, 2011

This morning over at my Kirkus column, I’m considering—in a somewhat creative (okay, maybe goofy) manner—my 9 to 12 favorite picture book titles thus far in 2011. When Kirkus asked me to do my “best of” list, I was hesitant to do a straight-up, traditional “bests” list. And that’s for different reasons that I explain over in the column, but one reason I don’t mention is … well, see this?

I saw this about two days ago, after submitting my column, and thought HOLY WOW. (The illustrations are a force of nature, so to speak.) So, yeah. That. I knew, when composing my “bests” lists, that I simply haven’t seen all of 2011’s top picture books. No, really. I blog about picture books and illustration, and my house is about to fall over with stacks and stacks of picture books, but I can’t see them all. I’m sure there are some stunners I’ve missed here and missed there and missed all around me.

So, all that’s to say I just got kind of silly … um, creative … in composing the 9 to 12 list. (And OF COURSE I did 12. I’ll always take the larger number.) But what it boils down to, silly or not, is that those are my favorites from the year. My favorites from what I’ve managed to see.

And for those of you who have asked if I’ll share the picture book titles I mentioned at this workshop in Knoxville, Tennessee? Well, these titles over at Kirkus were some of the first I mentioned in my presentation (though I covered many more there).

The link is here this morning.

As for what I did at Kirkus last week, don’t miss yesterday’s interview with Tim Egan, a sort of follow-up to last week’s column.