Archive for October, 2011

7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #243:
Featuring Stephanie Brockway and Ralph Masiello

h1 Sunday, October 30th, 2011


(Click to enlarge)

I think I’ve had a copy of Stephanie Brockway’s and Ralph Masiello’s The Mystic Phyles: Beasts (Charlesbridge, July 2011) for nearly four months now, but sometimes I’m just slow here at 7-Imp. Better late than never, right?

Also, better to post this around Halloween anyway. Mystical beasts. Mystery letters. Goblin spiders. Black cats of doom. Really evil bunyips. Strange fires in a creepy house. Cryptic necklaces that strengthen one against attacks. Weird things all-around. Yep, it’s fitting.

This is the story of Abigail Thaddeus, who lives with her eccentric grandmother and very controlling grandfather. Abigail can count her friends on one hand—okay, one finger—and her social life at her junior high school is really difficult, to say the least. But, after a black cat delivers her a note and a key, her life changes forever, launching her on a quest for … well, research. “What I’d like you to do is research,” an anonymous letter (“Your Devoted Friend,” it is signed) says. “You will start with mythical beasts….Find as much information as you can. Educate yourself. Investigate the mysteries, then discern for yourself the fact and fiction.”

The book is designed to look like a sort of scrapbook or journal of Abigail’s: Filled with drawings, journal entries, notes, confessions, details of her days at school and home, and her research, it is composed of original illustrations from Stephanie and Ralph, as well as re-printed photographs and illustrations (i.e., the 1936 photo in Popular Science of the bull made to look like a unicorn by Dr. W. F. Dove at the University of Maine). Young Abigail notes her research findings (pictured above is part of her research on Sea Monsters, including what you don’t see in that spread, “Species of Sea Monsters”), most followed by “My Incredibly Brilliant (But Not Very Scientific) Ideas” about what each creature could actually be: Sea Monsters, as reported by sailors over the years, could in fact have been giant squids, finally discovered in the mid-1850s. Or, my favorite, Bigfoot could in fact be a “worldwide hallucination…One person sees what they think is Bigfoot and runs home to the tell the story. The story spreads. Then other people claim to see it, either because they’re dying to see it, too, or they’re afraid of it, or it’s the first thing that pops into their heads when they spy something strange. Could this really happen on a worldwide scale?” Read the rest of this entry �

What I’m Doing at Kirkus This Week,
Plus What I Did Last Week, Featuring Holly Meade

h1 Friday, October 28th, 2011


“As restless animals prowl at night, / As they pace and roar and growl at night…”
(Click to enlarge)

This morning over at Kirkus, I shine the spotlight on Steven Withrow’s worthy new venture, Poetry Advocates for Children & Young Adults, or PACYA. My Q&A with Withrow about PACYA is here, and next week I’ll have a bit more with Steven, too (here at 7-Imp).

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In last week’s column, I wrote about Susan Campbell Bartoletti’s beautiful new picture book, Naamah and the Ark at Night (pictured above), an August Candlewick release, illustrated with watercolor collages by Holly Meade. Here are some spreads below, followed by spreads from another of Holly’s titles this year (April 2011, also from Candlewick), one she both wrote and illustrated, called If I Never Forever Endeavor.

The latter title, as Holly explained in her 2009 visit to 7-Imp, is “a story about a small bird and his internal dabate over whether to attempt that first flight from his safe nest — or not.” Those collage illustrations were rendered in watercolors and linoleum block printing.

Enjoy the art . . .

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My Conversation With Brian Selznick:
On Wonderstruck, Hugo, and the
Terror and Joy of Creating Books

h1 Thursday, October 27th, 2011

Brian Selznick. Photo credit: Jamey MazzieI had the pleasure in early September of talking via phone with author/illustrator Brian Selznick about his latest title, Wonderstruck (Scholastic, September 2011), as well as a bit about the 2008 Caldecott winner The Invention of Hugo Cabret (Scholastic, 2007); his hybrid style, if you will, of picture book, novel, and graphic novel; and the upcoming film adaptation of The Invention of Hugo Cabret, titled simply Hugo, by Martin Scorsese.

7-Imp readers know that my interviews, particularly with illustrators, tend to consist of the same set of questions I send to everyone — and interviews I can conduct via email, too. If, in Bizarro World, 7-Imp’ing were a full-time venture, everyone would get questions customized specifically to them, but having a standard set of questions for all the folks with whom I conduct Q&As is the only way I can find time to post any interviews at all, since blogging comes after things like children and work.

However, with Selznick I had the opportunity to do a phone interview right at the release of Wonderstruck and didn’t want to pass it up. But it took a while to post, since after the interview’s completion, I had to find a transcriber to make it so that I could post it online for my readers. Finally, nearly two months later, here it is.

In a former professional life, I was a sign language interpreter. My Bachelor’s degree is actually in that very subject, and I spent years studying American Sign Language and Deaf Studies and worked in the field for a good while in East Tennessee. For that reason, several of the questions below—and a good deal of my conversation with Brian—is about his research into Wonderstruck and the deafness aspect of the novel, which I wrote about over in a September Kirkus column. That link is here.

Also, I should quickly note two things: First, my landline phone, during our conversation, decided it’d had enough of me, and when I called Brian back on my cell, he and his editor ever-so kindly recorded the latter part of the conversation on their end. This meant that my final questions and comments were not recorded, but as you can see below, I was able to piece together what I had asked him. Secondly, the transcriber did edit out things like “um”s—my own and Brian’s—but we generally left intact the casual, conversational tone that was this phone interview.

I thank Brian for his time. Fellow illustration junkies will note that I’ve laced the interview with a bit of art, with thanks to Brian and Scholastic. Enjoy. Read the rest of this entry �

A Bit of Abecedarianship Before Breakfast:
Operation Alphabet and Paul Thurlby

h1 Tuesday, October 25th, 2011


That “I” up there is for “impossible” in my world today, because I think that it’s altogether impossible that “abecedarianship” is a word, but who knows.

Yep, I’ve got two alphabet books before breakfast, a quickie post filled with lots of art — and both books with retro-tastic illustrations. I was jonesin’ for some retro art today, and … well, here we go. Paul Thurlby and Luciano Lozano are our guys this morning.

Pictured at the very top of the post is the letter “I” from the hard-working Ministry of Letters. (For the record, his favorite words are “Itchy,” “Ice cream,” and “Icicles,” and his favorite musical instrument is the Irish Harp.) The Ministry of Letters is featured in Al MacCuish’s Operation Alphabet (published by Thames & Hudson), illustrated by Luciano Lozano and designed by Jim Bletsas.

Lazona is a freelance illustrator, based in Barcelona. Jim Bletsas—how much do I love that the designer is listed on the front page of this picture book?—is a designer living in London. MacCuish is a Creative Director at a creative agency in London and also makes his home there.

And under the “I” up there is Paul Thurlby’s letter “E.” If you haven’t seen Paul Thurlby’s Alphabet, released by Templar/Candlewick in October, and you’re a fan of alphabet books and/or retro illustrations (and lovingly-designed books), you’re in for a treat. Paul also lives in England. Here below is the cover and one more spread from Paul’s book, which is a straight-up alphabet book, but it stands out for its sleek design, clever concept art (note the rabbit below), and as I’ve already said, its retro vibe. Thurlby states in a closing Artist’s Note that he strove to make his alphabet stand out, so he “decided to pursue the challenge of fusing the object of the word with the shape of the letter.” Read the rest of this entry �

7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #242: Featuring Leo & Diane Dillon

h1 Sunday, October 23rd, 2011


“The years passed in a march of seasons. / The boy grew tall and strong / Under the loving eyes of his father. / And the protective forces of the Mother Elements, /
Who were his teachers, / His counselors, / His friends.”

How do you introduce illustrators like Leo and Diane Dillon? Well, they’re not here visiting today (I wish), but how, I wonder, do I introduce their art without sounding like a blithering starstruck halfwit? Their work is simply stunning and quite often breathtaking and always beautiful. They are living legends, who have illustrated more than sixty books for children and are two-time Caldecott Medal winners.

If you’re a fan, as I clearly am, you’ll want to see a copy of their latest illustrated title, written by the great Patricia C. McKissack, who herself has also acquired a slew of impressive awards in her career, including a Newbery Honor and a Coretta Scott King Award. It’s called Never Forgotten, was released by Schwartz & Wade this month, and has been met with starred reviews all-around.

Written in verse (“a searing cycle of poems” Kirkus calls it), it’s the chilling story of a young African boy taken by slave traders to America. Read the rest of this entry �

What I’m Doing at Kirkus This Week,
Plus What I Did Last Week, Featuring Eric Carle

h1 Friday, October 21st, 2011

This morning over at Kirkus, I write about Susan Campbell Bartoletti’s Naamah and the Ark at Night, with illustrations from Holly Meade. The link is here.

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In last week’s column, I wrote about Eric Carle’s newest picture book, The Artist Who Painted a Blue Horse, released by Philomel this month. (Pictured above is one of the book’s best moments.) But since I start to get twitchy if I don’t show you some art from the picture books about which I write, this morning I share some spreads below. Enjoy.

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Seven Questions Over Breakfast with Rosalyn Schanzer

h1 Thursday, October 20th, 2011

This is the spellbinding opening of Chapter 4 in author/illustrator Rosalyn Schanzer’s Witches! The Absolutely True Tale of Disaster in Salem, published by National Geographic Children’s Books in September of this year. Two terrified men think they see a beast fly up into the air and turn into the spirits of three witches, while the three accused “witches” are in jail at the time.

The Society of Illustrator’s 2011 Original Art Opening Reception and Awards Presentation will be next Thursday, October 27th, in New York City, and you can bet Rosalyn will be there, as she was awarded the Gold Medal for the aforementioned nonfiction title. Though I was a jury member this year, I can’t make it to the reception, but the least I can do is feature Rosalyn here at 7-Imp right before her big night. (To be fair, I should point out that the two Silver Medal winners, Kadir Nelson and Lane Smith, have previously visited 7-Imp — here and here, respectively.)

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Blue Jeans at Breakfast

h1 Tuesday, October 18th, 2011


(Click image to see the text more clearly and
to see the entire spread from which it comes)

I can say with confidence that this is the first time here at 7-Imp that I’ve featured illustrations rendered on blue jeans.

Yes, for Tony Johnston’s Levi Strauss Gets a Bright Idea: A Fairly Fabricated Story of a Pair of Pants (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, September 2011), illustrator Stacy Innerst painted with acrylics on old blue jeans, and it totally works.

This book, a barrel of fun (that’s a really bad pun that will make you cringe, once you go find yourself a copy), is—in the words of Johnston—”mostly legend with threads of truth, which my version stretches to near popping.” To be clear, there’s a closing author’s note that lays out the facts about Levi Strauss, but the narrative takes us on a tall-tale adventure, making this, incidentally, a great read-aloud to older elementary students.

And Johnston gets right to the exciting action on page one:

“GOLD!” somebody yelled. Next thing anybody knew, the whole world rushed to California and started digging up the place. The trouble was, they rushed so fast, they lost their pants.

Now, I ask you: What elementary kid isn’t gonna love that opening? Read the rest of this entry �

7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #241:
Featuring Matt Phelan and Bob Shea

h1 Sunday, October 16th, 2011


(Click on image to see entire spread from which it comes)


“The only time she truly enjoyed herself was
when she secretly listened to the crew singing songs late at night.”

You know, I’m all the time here at 7-Imp having pretend breakfasts with authors and illustrators, when they’re really just cyber (the breakfasts, that is, not the people), but this morning I will have actual breakfast with the two author/illustrators featured here today. Or at least coffee. And I’m excited to meet them.

Here in Nashville this weekend, we are celebrating the Southern Festival of Books, and I will be hosting the session this afternoon for author/illustrators Matt Phelan and Bob Shea (and, as mentioned, get to meet up with them before-hand for a cup ‘o’ joe). Opening this post is an image from one of Bob Shea’s newest picture books, Dinosaur vs. the Library (Hyperion, September 2011); the cover and more images are below, as well as images from another of his new titles, which I haven’t seen yet but hope to today, called I’m a Shark (Balzer + Bray, May 2011). And below Bob’s dinosaur up there is an image from the Nellie-Bly portion of Matt Phelan’s newest graphic novel, called Around the World, published by Candlewick this month. I’ve got more art below from that as well.

If you’re not familiar with Bob’s books, you should run to the nearest library or bookstore and fix that. He’s illustrated many picture books others have written, and he’s both written and illustrated a handful of them himself. If you’re not familiar with his “Dinosaur vs. …” books, then I recommend you see his rendition of Dinosaur vs. the Potty here at the Texas Book Festival in 2010, I think it was, and also his mock Dinosaur vs. Writing Kids’ Books had me SNORT-LAUGHING (and has me all the more eager to hear him speak today):

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What I’m Doing at Kirkus This Week, Plus What I Did Last Week, Featuring Craig Thompson,
Patrick McDonnell, Matthew Forsythe, Laura
Park, Aaron Renier, Jerry Pinkney, and Jackie Morris

h1 Friday, October 14th, 2011

This morning over at Kirkus, I take a look at the new picture book from master author/illustrator Eric Carle. The link is here.

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For last week’s column, I discussed the brand-new Nursery Rhyme Comics from First Second Books, a collection of 50 rhymes as re-imagined by cartoonists. Below, I’ve got some of the cartoons from that to share. Included right is a cutting from graphic novelist Craig Thompson’s very entertaining re-imagining of Edward Lear’sThe Owl & the Pussycat.”

Yet while we’re on the subject of nursery rhymes and songs for young children, I’m also sharing some spreads from Caldecott medalist Jerry Pinkney’s Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star, released this month from Little, Brown, which features one chipmunk’s night-time adventure. I’m also including spreads from Jackie Morris’s The Cat and the Fiddle: A Treasury of Nursery Rhymes, published by Frances Lincoln Children’s Books in late September. Both books are beautiful. (Here is Kirkus’s starred review of Pinkney’s title, which they call “sumptuous.”)

Enjoy the art.

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