Archive for December, 2011

What I’m Doing at Kirkus This Week

h1 Friday, December 30th, 2011

This morning over at Kirkus, I put in my own good word for the beautiful Can We Save the Tiger?, written by Martin Jenkins and illustrated by Vicky White. You can get the low-down over there.

I hope everyone is planning something fun for New Year’s Eve — or deliciously quiet. Hey, whatever floats your boat. Until later …

One Very Possible
2011 7-Imp Retrospective Before Breakfast

h1 Thursday, December 29th, 2011

It’s that time of year, dear readers. It’s when I like to look back on what happened at 7-Imp during the year and look at who graced the site with their presence—all with my buddy here, Alfred—because evidently I am slightly to moderately screwy in the head. (It’s taken me over a week just to pull all this together.) Actually, I just really enjoy end-of-the-year recaps of every kind, and—as I said in 2010′s recap post—this is my warped idea of tidy fun. Also, it satisfies the tremendous picture book junkie in me.

As my regular readers know, I am devoted here at 7-Imp to focusing on contemporary illustration (well, not always contemporary — there are some exceptions) — with a particular focus on picture books. So, even though I certainly didn’t have the time to cover every book I wanted to discuss, not to mention I didn’t read every picture book created in 2011, 7-Imp end-of-year recaps can be an awful lot like looking back at the state of picture books during a given year, which I also find really fun. That’s one way of saying: This long post is good for browsing, especially if you like to see picture book art.

If I take a look at what was new to 7-Imp in 2011—before we look at who visited, that is, and all kinds of artwork—I run the risk of actually sounding organized, which I’m not. Or as if I’m someone who blogs 40 hours a week, which I’m also not. Since blogging comes after my children, the work-that-pays, and other things that allow me to have a life, I’m kind of scattered, have no real 7-Imp Action Plans, and you should just see my system of organization (chicken-scratch-scrawled Post-it notes stuck all over my very messy desk). But let me give this a shot anyway, an attempt to ponder what was new in 2011: Read the rest of this entry �

Seven Questions Over Breakfast with Bob Staake

h1 Tuesday, December 27th, 2011

This morning, for my last breakfast interview of 2011, I welcome one of the hardest-working illustrators (and authors and designers) in children’s literature, whom the Washington Post described as “one of the most dynamic, original, colorful and humorous cartoonists working today.” Just this year, Bob Staake—who is also an editorial illustrator, as well as a cover illustrator for the New Yorker—illustrated two titles, if I’m counting correctly, and a visit to this page of his site shows he has nearly ten titles soon to be released. As he notes below, he is author and/or illustrator of over 50 children’s books to-date in his career.

If Staake didn’t consistently produce such exciting illustrations (of great “compositional flair and imagination,” in the words of Booklist), to me he’d merely be That Blessed Guy Who Took On the Contemporary Adaptation of Struwwelpeter. (Yes, he has a special place in my heart for his gutsy 2006 re-imagining of Heinrich Hoffmann’s 19th-century cautionary tale for children.) But he does much more, bringing readers colorful and engaging books (particularly engaging in the case of this year’s Look! A Book! from Little, Brown) on a regular basis, his bold, graphic, and highly stylized digital artwork providing a feast for young eyes. (Drawn went so far as to write in this 2006 interview, “To say that Bob Staake is just an illustrator is like saying The Beatles were just a bunch of musicians; the title doesn’t do the artist justice.”) Best of all, as he writes at his site, his books range from “the goofy and silly to the thought-provoking and mysterious.” With both words and pictures, he adds, he aims to entertain but also ask young readers to “wonder, question and think.”

And, as you can see in some of the art Bob shares below, his work can be refreshingly honest and wickedly funny. (His Facebook status updates still remain one of the top-five reasons I don’t just drop my account already. A recent example of Bob engaging with his readers: “Santa’s List Of Rejected Reindeer Names:” … And let me just say Bob has funny friends, and I’m talkin’ to you, Michael Herron, who responded with “Sphincter.” Jimmy Mutch’s “Thud” comes in a close second for me.)

Well, let’s turn it over to Bob now, shall we? He says he’s not a huge breakfast guy, unless I include a pot of French Roast before noon. Ah. A coffee-lover after my own heart. I’ll get the basics from him, while the coffee brews.

I thank him for visiting. Read the rest of this entry �

7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #261, the Christmas 2011 Edition:
Featuring Stephen Costanza

h1 Sunday, December 25th, 2011


“On that long-ago Christmas Day, the morning sun rose strong and bright through the window. With each ray of sunlight the spider’s spinnings and weavings began to shimmer and glimmer like a tapestry of gold and silver. A humble mother and her children stood in silent wonderment at the miraculous sight before them….
This was Christmas. Christmas was here.”

(Click to enlarge and see entire spread)

Welcome to 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks, a weekly meeting ground for taking some time to reflect on Seven(ish) Exceptionally Fabulous, Beautiful, Interesting, Hilarious, or Otherwise Positive Noteworthy Things from the past week, whether book-related or not, that happened to you.

Read the rest of this entry �

What I’m Doing at Kirkus This Week,
Plus What I Did Last Week, Featuring Olivier Dunrea

h1 Friday, December 23rd, 2011


“Oother held her high so that she could hang her ornaments on the topmost branches. He helped her wrap the berry garland around the Christmas tree, starting at the top and carefully working their way down to the bottom. ‘Now the feathers!’ Pyn said. Together they placed the brightly colored feathers among the branches until the fir tree glistened with color. ‘It’s beautiful!’ she said. ‘A real Christmas tree.’”

This week at Kirkus, on account of how I got tired of hearing my own self talk, I invited some folks (authors, illustrators, a few bloggers, editor-type people, etc.) to come briefly discuss with me what they’d like to see in picture books in 2012. So, head on over there, if you’re so inclined. The link is here.

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For last week’s column, I weighed in on Olivier Dunrea’s A Christmas Tree for Pyn. (An image from the book is pictured above.) I love this book — and explained why over there. Here’s the link, if you missed it last Friday and wanna read.

And here are some more of Dunrea’s illustrations from the book. Happy holidays to all… Read the rest of this entry �

The Post In Which John Manders
Really Satisfies Your Inner Illustration Geek

h1 Wednesday, December 21st, 2011

I love it when illustrator John Manders visits 7-Imp. Actually, “illustrator” isn’t technically correct anymore, as his latest release is his debut title as both author and illustrator. It’s called The Really Awful Musicians (Clarion) and was just released this month.

“Once upon a time, in a kingdom amazingly far away,” the book opens, “music sounded incredibly . . . well, bad. The king couldn’t even stand to listen to his own royal musicians. One at a time they weren’t so awful, but together they sounded horrible.” Reaching his limit, he throws them all out, orders some mimes, and declares that anyone caught playing music will be fed to the royal crocodiles. (“The king’s men-at-arms were everywhere, rounding up musicians. The royal crocodiles never had it better.”)

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Seven Questions Over Breakfast with Don Tate

h1 Tuesday, December 20th, 2011


“Duke and Billy worked as a team, seamlessly blending their musical ideas. As they traveled from city to city, their composition grew into a timeless musical map. A little Vegas glitz appeared here and there, but that wasn’t the only place to leave its mark. Los Angeles, New York, and New Orleans were there, too. Hollywood glamour mixed with the Harlem Renaissance as each dance tune fell into place. By the end of May,
the new
Nutcracker Suite was ready to be recorded.”
(Click to enlarge spread)

My visitor this morning, illustrator (and soon-to-be-author) Don Tate, has been in this field for a while now, having illustrated over forty trade and educational books for children. He likes to stress that he’s not an artist with a trademark style — and that first and foremost he’s a commercial artist, not a fine artist. And, to give us an idea of this, today he purposely includes many of his “looks,” if you will, in this breakfast Q & A.

I managed to pull off this interview right when I wanted to — right before Christmas. Those of you who celebrate it may be interested in seeing Don’s latest illustrated title, Anna Harwell Celenza’s Duke Ellington’s Nutcracker Suite, released by Charlesbridge in November and which, I must add, is accompanied by a CD of Ellington’s Suite. (A spread from the book opens this post.) This picture book highlights the 1960 collaboration between Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn to create Ellington’s swingin’ version of Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite. Using India ink, acrylic watercolors, and chalk, Tate renders the composition of this piece with spunk and high energy. “The brilliant music cues Tate’s full-bleed mixed-media pictures,” writes Kirkus. “Bold ink strokes outline and define figures—Duke’s quizzical forehead and Strays’ distinctive cheekbones are expressive squiggles—and create movement across paint-spattered spreads studded with stars, snowflakes and musical notes. The palette marries rich violet-blues with hot, harmonious yellows, sepia and crimson.”

Read the rest of this entry �

7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #260: Featuring
One Very Possible and Very Festive
2011 Holiday Illustration Before Breakfast #9

h1 Sunday, December 18th, 2011


“Henry planted the pinecone beside the new house. In time, a seedling emerged. Henry watered and weeded it. As time passed, both he and the tree grew tall and strong. Henry especially liked to hammer away in its shade, and he became quite a good carpenter, building many projects with his skilled hands.”
(Click to enlarge and see entire spread from which this comes)

Today’s featured holiday title, The Carpenter’s Gift, is a tribute to the tradition of annually erecting a Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center. Historian David Rubel wrote this one in collaboration with Habitat for Humanity, and it’s illustrated by Jim LaMarche, whose work I’m always interested to see. (I think this one is rendered in colored pencil, but don’t quote me on that.) Read the rest of this entry �

What I’m Doing at Kirkus This Week,
Plus What I Did Last Week, Featuring Inga Moore

h1 Friday, December 16th, 2011

This morning over at Kirkus, I write about one of my favorite 2011 holiday titles, Olivier Dunrea’s A Christmas Tree for Pyn. That link is here.

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For last week’s column, I wrote about Inga Moore’s A House in the Woods (Candlewick, November 2011). That link is here, if you missed it.

Opening this post is an illustration from the book, and here are some more below. Enjoy. Read the rest of this entry �

One Very Possible and Very Festive
2011 Holiday Illustration Before Breakfast #8

h1 Wednesday, December 14th, 2011


“On Christmas Eve, the time came to light the National Christmas Tree, and Winston joined Franklin for the occasion. A great crowd had gathered on the lawn, and the warm and comforting sounds of carols drifted on the cold night air. The president spoke: ‘Our strongest weapon in this war is . . . the dignity and brotherhood of man which Christmas Day signifies — more than any other day or any other symbol.”

Here’s another short and sweet holiday illustration for 7-Imp readers. This one comes from Douglas Wood’s Franklin and Winston: A Christmas That Changed the World (Candlewick, September 2011), illustrated by Barry Moser. (Moser, incidentally, holds the record for my favorite Pearly-Gates Pivot response of all time thus far here at 7-Imp. When he stopped by in 2009, his response to the final Pivot question—”If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?”—was “Mornin’, Bubba.”)

Read the rest of this entry �