Archive for November, 2011

Seven Questions Over Breakfast with Abigail Halpin

h1 Wednesday, November 30th, 2011

As you can see here in a comic she created, illustrator Abigail Halpin has known since childhood that she wanted to illustrate. If you’re like me, you’ve seen her cover and interior artwork in several middle-grade novels, all listed below. Early this year, she also illustrated Kallie George’s original fairy tale, The Melancholic Mermaid (published by Simply Read), which I suppose is a sort of hybrid picture book/illustrated novel.

I’ve followed Abigail’s work with interest over the years, and it’s a real treat to have her visit this morning, especially given the fact that she shares a lot of character studies and artwork below, not previously published in books, which are very different from the pen and ink drawings of hers we’ve seen in novels. (I’m particularly fond of her Steampunk image and would love to read a story swirling around that one.) Fortunately, she shares a bit of everything below, and I thank her for visiting, as well as for bringing so many images to the breakfast table. Let’s get right to it so that you can see it all.

Her breakfast-of-choice today? “Huevos Rancheros and a whole lotta’ coffee, ” she told me, adding that she’s a former barista, “so the coffee part is crucial.” A visitor after my own heart. Read the rest of this entry �

Peaceful Pieces

h1 Tuesday, November 29th, 2011


“…whatever happens to one of us happens to all of us.”

As I explain at this page of the site, 7-Imp’s header should probably say “a blog about illustration,” as that’s entirely more accurate. (But I’m sentimental, so I’m not changing it and that’s that.) Yep, I like to follow contemporary illustration like my kitten likes to bite my ear at 5 a.m. to tell me it’s time to be fed (SHE SAYS WITH GREAT FATIGUE).

But there is one particular type of rendering picture book art which I feel I don’t cover enough. And that’s the kind of art featured here this morning. Salley Mavor, whom I interviewed around this time last year, calls her work “fabric relief collage.” I’m not sure what author/illustrator (or “sorceress of the ordinary” — visit her site to get the scoop) Anna Grossnickle Hines calls hers, but quite simply (though there’s very little that’s simple about the process, I’m sure) it’s quilting. Pictured above—please note that is only the right part of one full spread—is an illustration from her latest title, Peaceful Pieces: Poems and Quilts About Peace, published by Henry Holt in March of this year. Read the rest of this entry �

7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #257: Featuring David Ezra Stein

h1 Sunday, November 27th, 2011


Deer Dear Grandmouse, Today is Thursday. You left three days ago and
I mouse you. Mama said, Why don’t I write you a letter to say hello, so I am.

Meet Mouserella. I love this above illustration of her. It’s somehow both moving and funny in its honest pathos. (I’m not sure how that works, as calling it “funny” just makes me sound cruel. The poor creature misses her grandmother somethin’ fierce. But maybe I think it’s also ADORABLE, which it clearly is, and somehow that adorable-ness makes me laugh in a with-Mouserella, not an at-Mouserella, way.)

David Ezra Stein’s Love, Mouserella—released in September from Nancy Paulsen Books/Penguin and recently named a Kirkus Best Children’s Book of 2011—is told from the point of view of young Mouserella, who is not happy about her grandmother’s departure. She takes her mother’s advice and writes a letter to her Grandmouse, giving her a recap of what’s gone on since she left for the country (including an exciting loss of electricity in their home, making this one of two memorable picture book blackouts this year). She also fills her letter with the types of meandering details to which young children pay great attention. (“I don’t know what to write . . .” she starts. “Guess what? My beaded belt is almost done now.”) In fact, the entire book captures so accurately the train of thought of young children — er, creatures. “Mama says we won’t come see you till the leaf falls off our oak tree,” she writes at the book’s close, Stein nailing the ways in which really young children mark time (there’s also “till….me and Ernie go to school”). She also sends along things like a pack of ketchup, a picture of herself smooching the camera, and lots of doodles and drawings. Read the rest of this entry �

Two Quick Newsy-Type Notes

h1 Friday, November 25th, 2011

I don’t tend to cover news items here at 7-Imp. I leave that to other bloggers, who are particularly good at rounding up the newsy-type notes, but here are two quick ones for today, ones I feel are important for various reasons:

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Before You Watch That Thanksgiving Parade…

h1 Thursday, November 24th, 2011


Collage sketch from Melissa Sweet’s Balloons Over Broadway

I know, I know. I don’t need to be that insufferable nerd, who is blogging on Thanksgiving Day. I’ll keep this short, as there’s fudge pie waiting for me anyway, but I wanted to do a quick post in celebration of Melissa Sweet’s Balloons Over Broadway: The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy’s Parade (Houghton Mifflin, November). (I’ve had this beautiful book for months and keep slipping and calling it Bullets Over Broadway and then find myself whispering, “No, no, don’t speak. Please don’t speak,” which is just the wrong narrative altogether.) If you’re here, taking in this post, why then, here’s some quick reading before you watch that Macy’s parade — a book about Tony Sarg, the man responsible for those annual ginormous (and ginormously impressive) balloons. Melissa shares this morning here at 7-Imp some images and early sketches from the book (another early sketch is pictured right), as well as archival images of Tony and his work. (She also pointed out to me the below video, footage from the ’30s of the Macy’s parade. Fascinating to see.)

Now, another reason I can be brief today is that there are lots of other great write-ups I can point you towards with regard to this wonderful picture book biography of Sarg, pictured later in this post. (And I mean wonderful: This is one lovingly-crafted and very engaging book, but then I’m not surprised, as it comes from Melissa Sweet.) There’s Jama Rattigan’s early November post (“If ever there was a perfect biographer for Master Puppeteer Tony Sarg, it’s Melissa Sweet”); Mary Lee’s post at A Year of Reading; this great interview with Melissa at Kirkus; and this write-up by Pete Hamill in the New York Times (“Sweet’s brilliant combination of collage, design, illustration and text gives ‘Balloons Over Broadway’ an amazing richness”) — to name just several of many, I’m sure.

So, if you’re so inclined, you can go read those posts from those talented folks, but here I shall briefly share some images Melissa sent, as well as throw in my own enthusiastic words for this book. Melissa crafted this biography—which nearly glows with its reverence for the subject matter—with gouache, collage, and mixed media. It’s entirely a delight for one’s eyes to take it all in. Telling the story of Sarg—the inventive child who grew up to make marionettes and puppets and then developed the balloons that parade, still to this day, over New York City every Thanksgiving—she gives a tip of the hat to a creative artist about whom most children haven’t heard — and does so in such an accessible, inviting way that even the youngest of children, I think, would be taken with this book. Read the rest of this entry �

Seven Questions Over Breakfast with Rafael López

h1 Wednesday, November 23rd, 2011

Rafael LópezRemember this early March post here at 7-Imp? That’s still one of my favorite books of the year, Samantha R. Vamos’ The Cazuela That the Farm Maiden Stirred (Charlesbridge, February 2011), illustrated by my visitor today, Rafael López.

Rafael received the 2010 Pura Belpré Illustrator Award for Pat Mora’s Book Fiesta! and is also the recipient of two Américas Book Awards and a 2006 Pura Belpré Honor. Many of López’s stylized folk-art-style paintings, acrylics on wood, are brimming with joy, as you can see below. (López sent a whole heapin’ ton of art for today’s breakfast, which is how you win over this blogger.) Colorful, bright, bold, evocative, and even “eye-filling” are words that have been used by reviewers to describe López’s art. “His sophisticated, multilayered textures create depth, give form and work together to create an image that is easily readable, humorous and harmonious,” Kirkus wrote about Cazuela.

Rafael has been involved in many other projects, which he describes below. And public librarians all over the nation, who engaged in summer reading programs this year, may recognize this poster artwork:

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“Love loves difficult things”:
Peter Sís’ Conference of the Birds

h1 Tuesday, November 22nd, 2011


(Click to enlarge)

If you’re a regular reader here at 7-Imp, you’re most likely a devoted follower of children’s picture books and contemporary illustration. This also means you likely know the work of author/illustrator Peter Sís — and probably know it well. Today, I feature his first book aimed at adult readers. (You’ll see in the below video that Sís sees it as a book for all ages, though—as he put it—the market determined it was for adults.) Fans of Sís may not be surprised to read it’s a feast for one’s eyes, elegantly illustrated and lovingly rendered.

And it’s bold. And that’s because in this October release from Penguin Press, The Conference of the Birds, Sís takes an ancient Persian poem, approximately 4,500 lines long, and extracts its very essence—in this beautifully-designed book (o! the very paper it’s printed on!) with Sís’ signature illustrations, geometrically beguiling and full of symbolism—in a manner that is accessible for modern readers. (Note the timeliness of the “upheaval” spread below.)

The poem, written by Persian Farid Ud-Din Attar in 1177 (Sís notes he was first inspired by this 1984 translation from Dick Davis), tells the story of a gathering of the birds of the world, who have no king and who set out on a quest—as suggested by the hoopoe, the wisest of them all—to find the legendary Simorgh. Read the rest of this entry �

7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #256: Featuring Julia Sarcone-Roach

h1 Sunday, November 20th, 2011


From Julia Sarcone-Roach’s Subway Story (Knopf, October 2011)


“They celebrated their sneaky escapes with tea fresh off the radiator and a tin of crunchy crackers found in a trunk. But after Hildy’s seventeenth cracker and Milo’s fortieth cup of tea, everyone began to feel a little sleepy. ‘I think I’m ready for bed,’ Hildy mumbled. And so, very quietly, they tiptoed back downstairs.”
— From Julia Sarcone-Roach’s The Secret Plan (Knopf, 2009)

Back in 2009, I fell for the debut picture book from author/illustrator Julia Sarcone-Roach. It’s called The Secret Plan (Knopf), has warm and inviting acrylic paint and pencil illustrations, and is very funny. (“Genuinely funny” Booklist called it, as well as “inventive” and “charming,” and Kirkus called it “sweet fun.”) My own children fell for it, too, and it became an insta-favorite around our house. It’s the story of an elephant, named Milo, and three cats—Harriet, Hildy, and Henry—who devise a plan to keep bedtime from happening, since bedtime is always disrupting their super special plans to generally wreak havoc and have the most kickin’ of adventures.

I contacted Julia back in ’09 to see if she’d let me show some art from the book or to see if she’d want to stop by 7-Imp, but even though she was interested, life got in the way and it never really panned out. Till now, that is. Julia has a brand-new picture book out, called Subway Story, which I also really like. So, she’s taking this opportunity today to talk a bit about each one. Color me pleased.

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What I’m Doing at Kirkus This Week,
Plus What I Did Last Week, Featuring Zhu Cheng-Liang

h1 Friday, November 18th, 2011


Pop, pop, pop, bang, bang, bang!
We hear firecrackers outside all night. I lie between Papa and Mama and fall asleep, drowsily hearing them whispering, whispering. . . .”

This morning over at Kirkus, I offer my thoughts on why I think 2011 has been a good year to ponder picture books. That link is here.

* * * * * * *

For last week’s column, I wrote about Yu Li-Qiong’s A New Year’s Reunion, illustrated by Zhu Cheng-Liang (to be released in December by Candlewick). That link is here, if you missed it.

Opening this post is an illustration from the book, and here are some more below. Enjoy.

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Another Picture Book Round-Up,
Featuring Katherine Battersby,
Valeri Gorbachev, Hilary Knight, and Masayuki Sebe

h1 Thursday, November 17th, 2011


From Katherine Battersby’s Squish Rabbit


From Valeri Gorbachev’s Shhh!:
“‘Please don’t fly your buzzing plane,’ I ask the pilot. ‘Shhh!’”

(Click to enlarge spread)


From Steven Kroll and Hilary Knight’s Nina in That Makes me Mad!


From Masayuki Sebe’s Let’s Count to 100!
(Click to enlarge spread)

Last week I did a part-one post, if you will, of some new picture book titles for the youngest of readers. Here’s the next installment — with lots of art. Enjoy.

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