Archive for November, 2011

Seven Questions Over Breakfast
with Deborah Freedman

h1 Tuesday, November 15th, 2011

Deborah Freedman at home —
(How I wish we were eating an
actual breakfast at her beautiful, colorful house)
(Click to enlarge)

Really devoted 7-Imp readers will note that Alfred, pictured left, is joining me earlier than usual for today’s post. Alfred, who sprung from the mind and paintbrush of Matt Phelan, now lives at 7-Imp and always introduces Bernard Pivot’s famous Pivot Questionnaire, which is how I consistently close my interviews. (As noted elsewhere at the blog, Alfred makes good, strong coffee and tells wicked funny knock-knock jokes in a low voice. I like him.)

He’s at the top of today’s post, because my guest this morning, author/illustrator Deborah Freedman, illustrated her responses to the Pivot Questionnaire, which makes me happy. Yes, illustrated! (There is always Chris Raschka’s set of Pivot responses, answered in photographs, which I also loved, but these illustrated responses are a first for 7-Imp.) Since I blew up Deborah’s Pivot image at the close of this interview to be as large as possible in the blog’s template, Alfred didn’t quite fit down there, so he’s up top with me now to introduce Deborah. Don’t worry. He’s not as surly as he looks.

There aren’t a whole lot of author/illustrators who can say that their second published book got a good deal of Caldecott buzz. But Deborah can. Those who pay attention to picture-book chatter know that her newest title, Blue Chicken, released by Viking in September (and sparked by William Carlos Williams’s “The Red Wheelbarrow,” as Deborah notes here), has been mentioned by many in the same sentence as that prestigious award (all in the name of ALA awards-predictions, which get hot and heavy this time of year). The book tells the story of a painted chicken who lets loose on an artist’s canvas. She just wants to help, yet spills blue paint everywhere. Then, things get very 3-d, as other animals in the painting emerge from the canvas onto the meta-landscape to watch while the chicken tries to “undo the blue” by toppling over the artist’s glass of water.

“But wait. Does one of the chickens want to help?”
(Click to enlarge)

Read the rest of this entry �

7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #255: Featuring Dr. Seuss

h1 Sunday, November 13th, 2011

“Then the Gritch started giving the come-along sign, / Inviting a GRICKLE to get in the line! / ‘Join up!’ called the Gritch. ‘For I’m sure they’ll be able / To set one more place at their dining-room table.’ / An Ikka, a Gritch and a Grickle to feed! /
My mother, I knew, would be angry indeed…”
(From “Steak for Supper”)

Did you all know that one of our country’s most devoted Seuss scholars is a dentist by day? Yes, his name is Dr. Charles D. Cohen, and he will tell you that his trove of Seussiana is likely the most comprehensive in the world. He brought readers this in 2004.

Dr. Cohen has written the introduction to The Bippolo Seed and Other Lost Stories, a collection of little-known tales by Ted Geisel that have for the first time been pulled into one collection by Random House. Here’s part of what Dr. Cohen wrote: Read the rest of this entry �

What I’m Doing at Kirkus This Week,
Plus What I Did Last Week,
Featuring Jules Feiffer and G. Brian Karas

h1 Friday, November 11th, 2011

“Then, taking the map and rule book with him, he hopped in and,
for lack of anything better to do, drove slowly up to the tollbooth.”

(Click to enlarge)

This morning over at Kirkus, I discuss A New Year’s Reunion, written by Yu Li-Qiong and illustrated by Zhu Cheng-Liang. That link is here.

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If you missed last week’s column, I weighed in on Norton Juster’s Neville, illustrated by G. Brian Karas. I’ve got some preliminary drawings/materials from that here this morning, thanks to Karas. They’re probably best viewed after seeing the video he made about the creation of the book, which I’ll use to kick things off below.

And, since I opened up that column last week by mentioning Juster’s The Phantom Tollbooth, originally published in 1961 and illustrated by Jules Feiffer, as well as Leonard Marcus’s outstanding annotated version of the book, I’ve got some illustrations from that classic children’s novel here this morning, too.

First up is Neville, followed by The Phantom Tollbooth. Enjoy. Read the rest of this entry �

A Picture Book Round-Up, Featuring Charley Harper, Suzanne McGinness, and Helen Oxenbury

h1 Wednesday, November 9th, 2011

From Charley Harper Colors
(Click to enlarge spread — No. Really. It’s beautiful…)

From Suzanne McGinness’s My Bear Griz: “…and looking at the stars.”
(Click to enlarge spread)

From Peter Bently’s King Jack and the Dragon, illustrated by Helen Oxenbury: “Jack, Zack, and Caspar were making a den—
a mighty great fort for King Jack and his men.”

(Click to enlarge spread)

Oftentimes, 7-Imp posts exist in two ways: In my mind and in reality. In my mind, today’s post was going to be an art-heavy round-up of some great picture book titles (and, in one case, a board book title) for the youngest of readers.

In reality, life gets in the way (a good thing, as you wouldn’t want me to be a blogger without a life, yes?), and so today’s post will be about three picture book titles for the youngest of readers — not the eleven or so I had initially planned on.

But those other eight (or so) books? I’ll get to them soon. Promise.

Let’s hit it, shall we? Read the rest of this entry �

Seven Questions Over Breakfast with Shadra Strickland

h1 Tuesday, November 8th, 2011

Shadra Strickland

In all the many breakfast interviews I’ve conducted here in my own corner of cyberspace, I’m fairly certain I have never had an interviewee dish out two breakfasts at my 7-Imp cyber-table. But oh gracious, what a treat! Illustrator Shadra Strickland is here, and she has the following to say about what we’ll eat during our breakfast chat this morning:

I recently moved to Maryland, so my new breakfast of choice is crab cake benedict (poached eggs atop crab cakes over fried green tomatoes with hollandaise sauce) with coffee. My absolute favorite breakfast is fried cheese grits with biscuits at Enid’s.

And here are our choices: Read the rest of this entry �

7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #244: Featuring JooHee Yoon

h1 Sunday, November 6th, 2011

It’s the first Sunday of the month, which means it’s time to shine the spotlight on a student illustrator or recently-graduated one, and I’ve got the latter today. JooHee Yoon joins me today, and she’s just finished school and is setting out to find her place in the world of illustration. Will you help me welcome her?

Here she is to tell us a bit about herself (and here’s an October interview about her printing techniques for those wanting to learn more), and I’ll follow it up with a handful of images. I thank her for visiting. Read the rest of this entry �

What I’m Doing at Kirkus This Week,
Plus What I Did Last Week, Featuring Steven Withrow

h1 Friday, November 4th, 2011

Banner for the PACYA site, created by Rob Dunlavey

Banner, created by Rob Dunlavey, for the site of
Poetry Advocates for Children & Young Adults

This morning over at Kirkus I shine the spotlight on Norton Juster’s new picture book, Neville, illustrated by G. Brian Karas. The link is here.

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Over at last week’s column, I asked writer, researcher, teacher, editor, producer/film-maker, and poet Steven Withrow in an abbreviated Q & A all about his new project, Poetry Advocates for Children & Young Adults, or PACYA. (As I noted at Kirkus last week, in the name of full disclosure I’m one of PACYA’s advisory board members, a follow-my-bliss, labor-of-love type of activity for sure. I’m happy to be a small part of the many efforts on this project.) The full interview is below. Enjoy.

Read the rest of this entry �

Seven Questions Over Breakfast with Laura Ljungkvist

h1 Thursday, November 3rd, 2011

I do these breakfast interviews a lot—today’s guest has brought, as you can see here, her plain Kefir with Cinnamon Life cereal and blueberries—and my favorite question is the simplest one: “Are you an illustrator or author/illustrator?” The answers I’ve gotten over the years, which are surprisingly varied, tell me a lot about the interviewee. I’m not surprised that today’s visitor, author/illustrator Laura Ljungkvist, opts to call herself a “visual problem-solver.”

And that’s because Laura, also an editorial illustrator, creates picture books that are often picture puzzles, relying mostly on what one reviewer once called “acrobatic lines” (I love that Laura Ljungkvistdescription) to tell her tales. Her Follow the Line books (there are four total thus far, the most recent one released this past summer), as well as her debut picture book, feature one continuous line, beginning on the cover, running through the entire book to create shapes and tell and name and designate and identify, and ending on the back of the book. The lines zoom, circle, zigzag, twist, turn, and dance, encouraging reader participation and lots of examination for curious eyes. (In this recent blog post of hers, one can see she was destined to make books like this.)

This June 7-Imp post featured some of Laura’s editorial art, including her “Tables for Two” illustration for The New Yorker, which was clearly a predecessor to her Follow the Line books for children. It’s interesting to note how her editorial art informs her children’s book illustration — or perhaps vice versa. “It’s natural,” she told me around the time of that post, “for an editorial illustrator to write and illustrate their own books. After ‘solving your clients’ visual problems’ comes a time when you want to ‘solve your own problem.’ It’s the same process; only now you’re the boss!”

I thank Laura for visiting this morning. I’ll get the coffee brewing and get the basics from her while we set the table for seven questions over breakfast. Read the rest of this entry �

A Breakfast Visit (the Pastry Kind) with Betsy Lewin and Leslie Muir (with Art from Julian Hector to Boot)

h1 Tuesday, November 1st, 2011

“At the Little Bitty Bakery, / the pastry chef was beat— / from her power-sugared nose / to her flour-dusted feet. / She cut the day’s last cookie, / checked her custard twice, / bid good night to far-off France, / left cheesecake for the mice.”
(Click to enlarge)

Who ever said that glitter on the cover of contemporary picture books is all bad? If it’s glittererized French pastries from Caldecott Honor artist Betsy Lewin, I’m all for it. And in the case of Leslie Muir’s Little Bitty Bakery, released in August by Hyperion, it is.

Both Betsy and Leslie are visiting me for breakfast this morning, and I’m hoping they brought along some of the pastries from the chef pictured above, ’cause that would mean I’d be chompin’ down on some éclairs, chocolate macaroons, and crème brûlée, seeing as how this pastry chef specializes in French delights. Mmm. In this rhymed tale, we learn that she’s worked all day on her birthday, not even stopping to make her own birthday cake, and—leaving her rolling pins laying quiet—she climbs into bed. But the mice in her bakery, for whom she often leaves out cheesecake, have a most delicious surprise planned for her, so all is not lost. Read the rest of this entry �