Archive for September, 2011

Seven Questions Over Breakfast with Barbara Lehman

h1 Monday, September 12th, 2011

If you look at some of the comments that have been made by professional reviewers about Barbara Lehman’s latest picture book, The Secret Box (Houghton Mifflin, March 2011), you will see that they accurately reflect her career as a picture book author/illustrator on the whole. “A provocative example of the complexity that can be conveyed using only pictures,” wrote Publishers Weekly about the book. “Lehman’s clean-lined, highly-detailed artwork creates an ingenious visual puzzle that invites repeated viewings and flights of imagination,” adds Booklist.

Yes, the same can be said for all of Lehman’s wordless picture books — enigmatic visual puzzles and conceptually sophisticated adventure stories, rich in magic and discovery. The 2005 Caldecott committee acknowledged the skill that goes into Lehman’s work with a Caldecott Honor that year for The Red Book (Houghton Mifflin).

In this latest flight-of-fancy—The Secret Box, another richly-layered, unpredictable wordless adventure tale—she celebrates imagination and friendship with visually striking cartoon art. In this story, a young boy from long ago hides a box of treasures under a floorboard. Years later, that building is a school, and a trio of boys finds the box, following the map inside to a surprise destination, one filled with children from many points along the timeline. Readers see the adventure will repeat itself for future children, thanks to the magic box. As I’ve already noted in one of my April Kirkus columns, which includes this title, Lehman leaves room for the child reader to piece out the story puzzle in many directions, something I always like to see in picture books.

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7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #236: Featuring Julie Paschkis

h1 Sunday, September 11th, 2011

For this morning, the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, I had planned on posting the illustrations from Don Brown that are featured in this post. For several reasons, I decided to post it on Friday, as you can see, which left me unsure of what I was going to post today.

But then two things crossed my mind, as I pondered what art to feature on this sad day: 1) Julie Paschkis, because she’s one of my top-five favorite illustrators and because her artwork fills me with hope, the kind of hope that leaves you feeling warm (that might sound redundant but there is a kind of hope that can leave you feeling empty, though I digress), and 2) a phoenix.

Yup. A phoenix. I thought it would be a fitting image for today, seeing as how it’s a symbol of re-birth and regeneration.

And wouldn’t you believe my luck, it suddenly occurred to me that Julie herself had painted a phoenix for the wonderful picture book poetry collection by Julie Larios, titled Imaginary Menagerie, published by Harcourt in 2008. (I posted about it here back in the day.) So, I secured Paschkis’s permission to post it, and here we are.

So, yeah. It’s a sad day for many Americans. I am rather speechless, as I’m sure many folks are. Instead of my babbling, I’ll quote the first part of Larios’ poem, “Phoenix,” the one for which Paschkis created that image: “Rising / from the ashes of her nest, / away she flies. / She is a bird that never dies…”

In the book’s closing note about the creatures featured in the book, Larios also writes: “Ancient Greek mythology describes the phoenix singing so beautifully that the sun stops in its path across the sky to listen to her song.”

If I try to describe how these things make me think of the people who died on 9/11, I might very well sound like an idiot, but they do. I guess I’m saying: May we remember them with song and sun and light and warmth. May we continue to rise from the ashes, while at the same time pausing to remember those lost. (And may we treat one another with understanding and respect. I’m talkin’ to you, Lou Ann Zelenik and Andy Miller. Sigh.)

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Remembering 9/11 in the Capable Hands
of Author/Illustrator Don Brown

h1 Friday, September 9th, 2011


“Fire Chief Pfiefer and the other firefighters in the North Tower lobby heard a rumble.
‘I thought … something was crashing through the lobby … We … huddled down at the base of the escalator. [The] whole area … became totally black,’ Pfiefer said.
‘We stayed there until the rumbling stopped.
I never even suspected that the second tower collapsed.’”

(Click to enlarge)

Back in 2009, when he visited me for cyber-breakfast, I sung the praises of the work of Don Brown, whom School Library Journal has described as “a current pacesetter who has put the finishing touches on the standards for storyographies.” Brown crafts engaging and accessible nonfiction titles, and his quirky, soft-focused pen-and-ink and watercolor illustrations are often touched with a subtle, wry humor and energy — and an understated eloquence.

And that would be the case with his latest title (though you can factor “humor” out of the equation, given the subject matter here). In mid-August, Roaring Brook released Don’s account of 9/11, America is Under Attack: September 11, 2001: The Day the Towers Fell. Ten years away from the horrific events of 9/11, this is an even-handed, honest account of the attacks that day and how New Yorkers responded. This is quite moving as well, as Don weaves into his narrative several personal stories of those affected by the collapse of the Towers. (In fact, if the very last spread in the book doesn’t at least put a lump in your throat, I don’t wanna know you.)

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What I’m Doing at Kirkus This Week,
Plus What I Did Last Week, Featuring Brian Selznick

h1 Thursday, September 8th, 2011

Tomorrow morning at Kirkus, I’ll have a brief Q & A with illustrator Amy June Bates (whose work I very much adore, as I made clear in 2008′s breakfast interview), Chair of the Society of Illustrators’ 2011 Original Art jury. Amy gives Kirkus readers the low-down on the winners of this year’s Gold and Silver awards, as well as some of the history behind this award and its significance in the field of children’s lit.

As you’ll see tomorrow, should you be so inclined to go read the column, I also threw in a group shot of the 2011 jury. We may look very tired, as the picture was taken after a day of looking at over 500 picture books, but we are the happy kind of tired.

That link will be here in the morning. {Edited to add on Friday: The link is here.}

In last week’s Kirkus column, I discussed Brian Selznick’s latest title, Wonderstruck, to be released by Scholastic on September 13th. Today I’m here to show two gorgeous spreads from the book. One is above, and there’s one more below. (“While Hugo was beautifully crafted, Wonderstruck is even more so,” I wrote last week. “I found myself lingering over the pencil drawings of young Rose in particular. This is some of Selznick’s most visually arresting work.”)

That’s the young Rose pictured above. See what I mean?

I have the opportunity to chat with Selznick this week and will gladly bring you that 7-Imp interview relatively soon.

Here’s the other Wonderstruck image, the “Cabinets of Wonders.” You may click the image itself to enlarge it slightly. Enjoy.

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Illustrations from Wonderstruck. Copyright © 2011 by Brian Selznick. Used with permission from Scholastic Press.

7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #235: Featuring
Up-and-Coming Illustrator, Bethanie Murguia
(And the Announcement of a Wee-Tiny Blog Break)

h1 Sunday, September 4th, 2011


(Click to enlarge)

I’ve been totally swamped, but it is the first Sunday of the month, right? If I’m wrong and you’re giggling, please humor me and do so behind my back. Come on. A good friend would, right?

On first Sundays, I like to shine the spotlight here at 7-Imp on student or brand-new illustrators in the field. Today, I’ve got Bethanie Murguia, whose debut picture book was released in May by Tricycle Press. Read the rest of this entry �

What I’m Doing at Kirkus This Week,
Plus What I Did Last Week, Featuring Lane Smith

h1 Thursday, September 1st, 2011

Tomorrow morning over at Kirkus, I’ll be writing about Brian Selznick’s much-anticipated September release, Wonderstruck. The link will be here. {Edited to add on Friday: The link is here.}

If you missed last week’s column, I weighed in on Lane Smith’s newest picture book release, Grandpa Green. I only might have said that this is only one of the most gorgeous and unforgettable picture books I’ve seen all year. Dare I mutter the “c” word? C-c-c-c-caldecott? Okay. There I said it. Definite contender, I would think.

As always, I’m here this week to show some art from the book, and Lane also sent some dummy pages, as well as “some tests I did to achieve the best look for the book (mostly varying pen lines)” … Lane said he re-did the illustrations a few times until he “got the balance right.”

I thank Lane for sharing, and you can click on each image to enlarge and see up close. (I may or may not be yelling that for emphasis, ’cause did I mention the illustrations are beautiful?) Well, a couple of images are not click-able, but knock yourself out and go absolutely crazy with unbridled clicking on the rest of ‘em.

Enjoy … Read the rest of this entry �