Archive for March, 2012

What I’m Doing at Kirkus This Morning,
Plus What I Did Last Week, Featuring Sophie Blackall

h1 Friday, March 30th, 2012

“‘Ah,’ said Prince Charles. ‘I’ve often heard animals speak. Plants too. It’s all a matter of noticing, isn’t it? The richness of our lives depends on what we are willing to notice and what we are willing to believe. Of course, I get crucified in the press for talking to my plants, but it’s awfully rude not to talk back to anyone who speaks to you, isn’t it?'”

This morning at Kirkus, I weigh in on Claire A. Nivola’s picture book biography, Life in the Ocean: The Story of Oceanographer Sylvia Earle. The link is here.

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Last week, I wrote about Polly Horvath’s Mr. and Mrs. Bunny: Detectives Extraordinaire! (Schwartz & Wade, February 2012), illustrated by Sophie Blackall. That link is here, if you missed it and are so inclined to read it.

Today, Sophie shares a handful of interior illustrations from the book. Enjoy. Read the rest of this entry �

Night Knight Before I Say Night-Night…

h1 Wednesday, March 28th, 2012

“I say good night to Rex…”
(Click to enlarge)

Right. I know I’m normally posting before breakfast and such. Impossibly and all that, true to the blog’s name. But here’s a post before I say night-night about Night Knight, a quickie post to showcase a couple of spreads from a new picture book I like.

Owen Davey’s Night Knight was originally published last year — in the UK, I assume, given that Davey is from there. [Be sure to check out that link, incidentally. He writes, “I have been earning a living from my drawings and have had work published in every continent except Antarctica (damn those pesky Penguins).” That made me laugh.] This year, Night Knight sees its U.S. publication (January 2012), thanks to Templar Books.

Boy howdy and howdy boy (to put it eloquently), do I like these illustrations. This is simply the story of a young boy heading to bed, but there’s nothing simple about the imaginative spreads here. In his mind, you see, the boy is a knight and “going to bed…is a great adventure.” (Cue “ye olde yawn,” my favorite part of the book.) Read the rest of this entry �

Seven Questions Over Breakfast with Adam Gustavson

h1 Tuesday, March 27th, 2012

Adam GustavsonIllustrator Adam Gustavson is visiting for breakfast this morning. It may be a cyber-breakfast and we may not actually be face-to-face over the breakfast table with either the coffee or wine mentioned in my 7-Imp interviews, but he tells me he “answered these questions over a few cups of coffee, actually, whereupon I proofread it all over a glass of red wine. I think we’ve had the full experience here.”

Adam states at his site that at first, he was going to be a cowboy. I’m glad he turned to children’s book illustration instead, though I do believe in the power of his two-pint ten-gallon hat of childhood. As you can see below, Adam’s had a relatively long and prolific career in illustrating children’s books, and he also teaches. His teaching is something he also discusses below. (Can I just say that I’d like to clone him as an interviewee? I really enjoyed formatting this interview and appreciate how detailed he is in his responses, as well as the thought he put into answering the questions.)

Adam works in oils, rendering lush, detailed illustrations with rich colors. He often plays with perspective and captures many a text’s atmosphere with precision and spot-on pacing. “Gustavson creates a festive mood with his oil illustrations, so luxurious and ample they feel like bundles of winter clothing, topped with bright scarves,” wrote Kirkus about his illustrations for Lester Laminack’s Snow Day (Peachtree Publishers, 2010).

Looks like he and I are eating well this morning. “When I can, I’m a bagel-with-cream-cheese-and-lox breakfaster,” he tells me. “If I’m planning ahead, I make my own lox using my Finnish grandmother’s time-tested technique.”

Sounds good to me. I’ll set the table while I get the basics before our seven questions over breakfast. I thank Adam for stopping by. Read the rest of this entry �

7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #274: Featuring
Jeremy Tankard and Rachel Vail

h1 Sunday, March 25th, 2012

“Liam smiled and whispered, ‘YES.’ Off he hopped, delivering eggs.”
(Click to enlarge)

I’m happy to have Piggy Bunny, the star of this book (Feiwel and Friends, February 2012), visiting today — and his creators, author Rachel Vail and “authorstrator” Jeremy Tankard. (Jeremy was the first-EVER subject of my 7-Imp breakfast interviews years ago.)

So, I’m going to do something kind of unusual for me here. I’m not going to say much right now in this intro to today’s post. Rachel and Jeremy do such a great job of talking about the genesis of and creation of this book that for me to go on about it—try to summarize it, that is—would be redundant. I’m grateful that they’re so forthcoming with their thoughts below.

As you’ll see, this is the story of Liam, a piglet who wants to be a bunny, and it all stemmed from a piece in Jeremy Tankard’s portfolio. Rachel decided she wanted to eschew writing yet another just-be-yourself tale in children’s lit and finds it the most subversive book she’s ever written. “Though the believe-in-yourself theme has been told in many ways,” writes Kirkus, “Liam holds his own with his quiet determination. Who can resist a piglet who introduces himself with ‘Hello, my name is Liam and I’ll be your Easter Bunny’?”

Indeed. So, let’s get right to it … I thank Rachel and Jeremy for sharing. Read the rest of this entry �

What I’m Doing at Kirkus This Morning,
Plus What I Did Last Week, Featuring Ann James

h1 Friday, March 23rd, 2012

“Until I am older, I can only have a stick insect. ‘And Sadie and Ratz, don’t forget,’ says Dad. Sadie and Ratz aren’t animals. ‘But they behave like wild beasts,’ says Dad.”

This morning over at Kirkus, I write about Polly Horvath’s new novel, Mr. and Mrs. Bunny — Detectives Extraordinaire! Who else has read this very funny book? Raise your hand, please. And come talk to me about it.

That link is here today.

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Last week, I wrote about Sonya Hartnett’s new early chapter book for young readers, Sadie and Ratz, scheduled to be released by Candlewick at the end of this month. Remarkably good, this book. That link is here. I just now figured out that it was originally published in 2008 (in Australia, I’m guessing), something I had failed to notice when I penned that column. So, what we have here, lucky us, is the first U.S. Edition. (Smart Candlewick.)

And Ann James’ charcoal drawings for the book? Well, as I wrote last week, they are striking—you can see for yourself with the images I’m sharing today—and they perfectly capture the emotional impulses of Hartnett’s story. They are reminiscent to me of early Sendak art, which is fitting for what I find to be a very Sendakian tale.

Enjoy the art. Read the rest of this entry �

I Get Out My Best Coffee Mugs for Maira Kalman
and Mrs. B. (Along with Treats for Pete)

h1 Thursday, March 22nd, 2012

Yes, I pulled out my very favorite mugs this morning (the blue ones) and my cow-shaped dish for pouring cream for one of my favorite author/illustrators—as in, her books made me want to study children’s literature, no kidding—Maira Kalman, pictured right with Pete. Joining me in the chat this morning is the one and only Jama Kim Rattigan, whom I adore and whose blog, Jama’s Alphabet Soup, brings cheer to this world. In my world, Jama is “Mrs. B.” (She’s Mrs. Blueteaberrry—that’s with three “r”s, to be precise—and I’m “Mrs. Bottlecap.” Long story.)

Jama and I have wanted to have a cyber-chat with Ms. Kalman for a long time now and actually tried years ago — but to no avail. So, stubborn as we are and being that we are huge fans of her work, we tried again. And here we are today. Jama tells me that Maira’s books made her want to write, and as I already noted, I fell in love with her books so hard and fast (starting with the first Max book) that it led me to other picture books by other folks and more of her books, of course, and her previous books and so on and so on, and before I knew it, I was getting a Master’s in Library Science just so I could take those children’s lit courses and learn more about picture books.

So, yes. Jama and I both have Maira Kalman to thank for bringing those particular joys to our lives. We thank her for taking the time to visit today and for answering the questions we composed together. (Mrs. B. came up with all the good questions.) Jama has the same interview responses (but, most likely, different images) up at her site today. (You really want to go read Jama’s introduction to the interview—I’m waving my hypno-spiral in your face—given that she perfectly nails the charms of Maira’s books.) Read the rest of this entry �

A Visit with Chris Haughton,
Whom I May Quite Possibly Serve Cake for Breakfast

h1 Wednesday, March 21st, 2012

To say that designer and author/illustrator Chris Haughton (Ireland-born, but now living in London) has a no-nonsense artistic style all his own would be an understatement.

Back in January at Kirkus, I wrote about Haughton’s latest picture book, Oh No, George!, released by Candlewick this month. Haughton’s debut picture book was called Little Owl Lost (Candlewick, 2010), and—as I wrote in that Kirkus column—in both books, his digital illustrations are very stylized. These are child-like shapes, minimal backgrounds, quirky characters with ginormous eyes and a limited palette, all initially created with pencil.

And his books make me laugh. Read the rest of this entry �

A 7-Imp Q & A with Deborah Kogan Ray at
Kidlit Celebrates Women’s History Month

h1 Monday, March 19th, 2012

“They had a kind of shed made to put us in . . . {the} kind of shed you make for your stock in winter time . . . Oh, how we did suffer with cold.
There was no wood, and the snow was waist-deep . . .”
(Click to see entire illustration with the text)

This morning, I’m visiting the wonderful blog, Kidlit Celebrates Women’s History Month, a site commemorating the month designated to paying tribute to the generations of women whose efforts across many fields have benefited our world. Bloggers from what is called the kidlitosphere, or the community of bloggers specializing in children’s and young adult literature, are contributing, as well as authors (or folks who are both authors and bloggers).

Today’s my day to write something, and I’m so happy they asked me to contribute. I’ve got a Q & A over there with author/illustrator Deborah Kogan Ray about her upcoming (May) picture book from Farrar, Straus and Giroux / Frances Foster Books, Paiute Princess: The Story of Sarah Winnemucca. Read the rest of this entry �

7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #273: Featuring Jeanette Winter

h1 Sunday, March 18th, 2012

Anyone else seen Jeanette Winter’s newest picture book? My, it’s lovely.

Kali’s Song, released by Schwartz & Wade Books just last week (and already met with starred reviews from Kirkus and Publishers Weekly), is rendered in acrylics and pen and ink, using handmade paper. As always, I’ve got more art from it to share with you below, since the art says it all.

I don’t want to give too much away about this minimalist story, but I’ll summarize by saying that it’s about a boy, who lived “thousands and thousands and thousands of years ago,” who grows up to be a shaman. His mother is an artist, painting on the cave walls. But, seeing as how our characters here are cave people, she’s also a hunter, along with his father.

After being told to go practice shooting arrows, Kali heads out to do so, but at night, when resting, he plucks the strings on his bows to create music. “That night, the sounds from Kali’s bow filled his dreams with peace.”

And, again, I don’t want to give it all away, but what I’ve summarized so far captures the book’s major themes — peace and the power of art to bring it about. Read the rest of this entry �

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

h1 Friday, March 16th, 2012

“YES! Brownie drives back home.”
(Early sketch and final art)

(Click second image to embiggen)

This morning over at Kirkus, I write about the new chapter book for very young readers, Sadie and Ratz, by one of my favorite authors for older people, Sonya Hartnett (interviewed here at 7-Imp in 2007, during the 7-Imp era in which images were tragically small).

Just as soon as I finished this book, I turned around to write about it, because—as I note over at Kirkus—all chapter books for young children should be this good. The link is here this morning, if you’re so inclined to go read about it.

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Last week at Kirkus, I wrote about Cynthia Rylant’s and Brian Biggs’ Brownie & Pearl series (eight books published by Beach Lane Books), seeing as how I was feeling very all-caps about the fact that I’d never seen it (“WHERE HAS THIS SERIES BEEN ALL MY LIFE ANYWAY?” is how that went.) Yep. I was late in getting to it, and I think it’s such a great series in many ways for young children.

I featured Brian Biggs fairly recently here at 7-Imp, but now he’s back, ’cause I just gotta show some early sketches and final art (note: the final art is sans text) from this series. Here’s what Brian had to tell me about some of the early sketches you’ll see below:

When I first read the manuscripts, it was not clear that Brownie and Pearl were a girl and a cat. I thought, in fact, that they were both cats. So, imagine my surprise when I sent a batch of character sketches to my agent and he calls me up and says, “erm, um, Brownie is a girl.”

So, ha ha. You know.

Brian Biggs. He makes me laugh. (Also, show young fans of this series the early cat sketches below, explaining that Biggs initially had Brownie in mind as a cat, and you’ll get lots of loud, happy laughs. I know this for a fact.)

And I really love Brian’t art. Let’s get right to it then… Read the rest of this entry �