Archive for May, 2012

What I Did at Kirkus Last Week,
Plus Lots More Art from Other Books
(Or: I Wish I Were at the Beach Right About Now…)

h1 Thursday, May 31st, 2012

I can’t help myself. I’m sharing art from a handful of books today. Here are but some of the illustrations, and there are more after the “read the rest…” below:


– From Belle Yang’s Summertime Rainbow: A Bilingual Book of Colors
(Candlewick, April 2012)
(Click to enlarge spread)


– From Mini Grey’s Traction Man and the Beach Odyssey
(Knopf, May 2012)

(Click to enlarge)


– From Wong Herbert Yee’s Summer Days and Nights
(Christy Ottaviano Books/Henry Holt, April 2012)


“Now that the ocean is calm again, I can float on the waves.
Look, I’m floating like a jelly fish!”
– From Kiyomi Konagaya’s
Beach Feet, illustrated by Masamitsu Saito
(Enchanted Lion Books, June 2012)

(Click to enlarge spread)


Endpapers from Kelly Ramsdell Fineman’s At the Boardwalk,
illustrated by Mónica Armiño
(Tiger Tales, 2012)

(Click to enlarge)


– From Kristy Dempsey’s Surfer Chick, illustrated by Henry Cole
(Abrams, May 2012)


– From Maria van Lieshout’s Backseat A-B-See
(Chronicle Books, April 2012)

Last week at Kirkus, I wrote (here) about Belle Yang’s two new bilingual board books for young children—Summertime Rainbow: A Bilingual Book of Colors
and A Nest in Springtime: A Bilingual Book of Numbers, both written in English and Mandarin Chinese—and today, as always, I’ve got a bit more art from each book.

But what I decided to throw into the mix today is art from six other new picture books, the theme here being that these are also books about summer. Or the beach, where I’d happily kick back my feet right now, if I could. (Maria’s book is for when you’re on the way to the shore. But of course.)

Enjoy. (P.S. The endpapers in Mini Grey’s Traction Man and the Beach Odyssey may very well be the funniest endpapers you’ll see all year.) Read the rest of this entry �

For Peter. Again.

h1 Thursday, May 31st, 2012

I wrote a tribute at Kirkus today to my friend and co-author Peter D. Sieruta. It is here.

I’ll be back tomorrow with art. Till then …

Seven Questions Over Breakfast with Valeri Gorbachev

h1 Tuesday, May 29th, 2012

Over the years, I’ve found Valeri Gorbachev’s picture books (both ones he’s written and illustrated, as well as those written by others that he’s illustrated) to be a breath of fresh air. To be sure, I think he has a contemporary Richard-Scarry vibe—more than any other illustrator working today—but his artwork still possesses, at the same time, a style that is all his own.

(Pictured left is his self-portrait, which won me over right away.)

As I’ve written previously here at 7-Imp, when Valeri, who immigrated to the United States from the Ukraine in 1991, illustrates a new children’s title, I always go running to get a copy. (If you do the same, you stay busy, huh? He’s illustrated over fifty books in his career. Well over that number, I would bet. And I should have clarified this, but let’s carry on.) What do I love about his work? His pen-and-ink and watercolor illustrations are terrifically kid-friendly — without being condescending to child readers. His colors are always cozy and warm. His expressive, detailed character work—always anthropomorphized animals who are endearing, yet never saccharine—always wins me over, and there’s a subtle humor in his work as well. There’s also usually a real sense of community that pervades his titles, and he creates original cumulative tales that really work.

With the recent release of a new title he both penned and illustrated, Catty Jane Who Hated the Rain (Boyds Mill Press, April 2012), I invited Valeri over for a 7-Imp cyber-breakfast. I’ve wanted to do this for years, and I’m pleased he’s here. “I’m not very creative in my breakfast,” he told me. “Usually, I like sausage. In my life, I’ve probably eaten enough sausages at breakfast that they can be looped around the world a few times. And, of course, I have to have my cup of coffee. Or two. Or three.”

Three cups of coffee always works in my kitchen, so let’s get right to it. I thank Valeri for stopping by. Read the rest of this entry �

In Honor of Peter …

h1 Saturday, May 26th, 2012

Well, this marks the first time in 7-Imp history—at least since 7-Imp started doing weekly “kicks” posts on Sundays—that I’m not kickin’ on a Sunday, but it’s Saturday night as I write this and I just received the news that the one and only Peter D. Sieruta, with whom Betsy Bird and I have been researching and writing a book since 2009, passed away Friday night. I’m still lacking details about what exactly happened, but his brother has announced the news.

I am still shocked about the brand-new, intractable fact that there’s a Peter-shaped hole in the world now, and I don’t really want to accept it, to imagine further manuscript conversations without Peter, as much as I adore working with Betsy. I have no doubt she feels the same.

(In fact, Betsy has written a tribute as well, and readers can also leave memories/comments at that post on Sunday. Betsy chose just the right words and remembers him well.)

I had planned on featuring an illustrator tomorrow, listing kicks, and inviting others to do so, as I do every Sunday. But it seems only right now to say some words about Peter and invite those who knew him to do the same.

It was my pleasure to work and write with Peter over the past three years. He had a keen wit, a kind heart, and a brilliant mind. He was an avid reader; every time we turned around Betsy and I were amazed, but not surprised, by the number of children’s lit-related stories he had stored in his brain and the knowledge he held on the subject. I remember one of us asking him early on in our research, seriously, Peter, how do you KNOW all this stuff?, and he replied simply, “lifelong interest in kids’ books!”

He would get a bit anxious at times about the editing process—joking about all of his portions of the book getting hacked and removed altogether from our manuscript—and this would leave me shaking my head in wonder. And that’s because his writing was very tight and always entertaining. I often turned to him to help me find more economy with my own words. Oh, RIGHT. Why didn’t I think of that? I’d wonder, after Peter got a hold of one of my sentences. (Or, as Betsy wrote, “He was such a professional, modest to a fault, always willing to help us out when we were feeling stuck. It is intolerable to lose him.”)

Ever curious, he seemed to be always reading, writing, and learning. And his blog, Collecting Children’s Books, was a true delight, where his unique voice as a writer was on display weekly.

Peter also adored his family. This I know. He spoke so fondly of them. His brother and parents remain, and I’m sure they are devastated. I extend my deepest and most heartfelt sympathies to them. Peter and I were writing partners but also had conversations of a personal nature about friends, family, and … life in general. And I know that he loved his family more than my words could possibly say here.

It was also clear to me and Betsy that Peter was very excited about our book’s publication (scheduled for next year), and it won’t be the same at all now. Not with his absence.

If anyone else would like to share memories of Peter here or leave a tribute, please know that you are welcome to do so.

I re-read these beautiful words from Walt Whitman just last week, and the least I can do is offer them up now in Peter’s honor, though I do so in shock and sadness:

All goes onward and outward, nothing collapses,
And to die is different from what any one supposed, and luckier.

I hope and hope that’s true. May Peter rest in peace. And may his family be sustained by happy memories.

What I’m Doing at Kirkus Today,
Plus What I Did Last Week, Featuring Annette Fienieg

h1 Friday, May 25th, 2012


“Some people came more often, like the goatherd who was jeered and laughed at by the village children. He came by very often. Just like the shell girl who stopped talking one day. And the old lady with a baby carriage and the doll she bottle-fed. And the man who always argued with the voices in his head.
And the lonely boy who actually was a girl.”

(Click to enlarge spread)

Today over at Kirkus, I write about a pair of brand-new, bilingual board books from Belle Yang that are presented in both English and Mandarin Chinese. The link is here this morning.

Last week, I wrote about The Man in the Clouds, originally released in 2010 in the Netherlands and released here in the States this April, from author and songwriter Koos Meinderts and renowned Dutch illustrator Annette Fienieg. That link is here, if you missed it and want the low-down on this book.

Today, I feature some more art from it. Enjoy. Read the rest of this entry �

I Think the Best Art to See Before Breakfast
(or Any Time) is Ashley Bryan’s Art …

h1 Thursday, May 24th, 2012

Photo of Ashley Bryan courtesy of Alazar PressA week ago today at Kirkus, I conducted a short Q & A with Jennifer Dasal, Associate Curator of Contemporary Art at the North Carolina Museum of Art, about their current exhibit of Ashley Bryan’s artwork, Rhythms of the Heart: The Illustration of Ashley Bryan, which runs until August 19 of this year.

As I wrote over there, Bryan (pictured right) has led a long and distinguished career in children’s literature and his work draws, in particular, upon African-American spirituals, poetry, and folklore.

That link is here. You can read more over there from Ms. Dasal about the pieces in the exhibit, and I thank her for taking the time to talk to me.

Today here at 7-Imp, I’ve got images from the exhibit, and I thank the museum for sharing.

Released in conjunction with this exhibit will be two volumes of spirituals from Ashley, Walk Together Children: Black American Spirituals, Volume One and I’m Going to Sing: Black American Spirituals, Volume Two, published by Alazar Press. Over at the Q & A, I also spoke briefly with Rosemarie Gulla of Alazar, and here is what she told me in her entirety, for those interested in Ashley’s work and, in particular, these new volumes: Read the rest of this entry �

Doin’ a Reading Festival Up Right …

h1 Tuesday, May 22nd, 2012


Pictured left to right:
Dan Yaccarino, Yours Truly, David Ezra Stein,
Dianne de Las Casas, and Alyssa Capucilli;
Knoxville, Tennessee; May 19, 2012

I have a presence over in the hypo-hyper world of Facebook, primarily so that I can share children’s literature links — and keep up with children’s lit news and links from colleagues in the field. I already posted the above image over there at my profile page, but I post it again here this morning all in the name of a really wonderful children’s reading festival that I’d like to yawp about. (And it’s about time, since every year I come back from the festival intending to blog more about it.) You can imagine me doing both jazz hands and cheerleader spirit fingers on this one, ’cause it’s that great. (Even if you were standing in front of me right now, you’d still have to just imagine me doing this, since I can only manage to grunt monosyllabically before breakfast/coffee, much less engage in such enthusiastic hand gestures. Post-coffee, I’m good to go, though.)

Read the rest of this entry �

7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #281: In Which I Rejoice Over
the Return of the Rosenthals’ Willy, Bobo, and Earl

h1 Sunday, May 20th, 2012


(Click to enlarge and see entire spread from which this comes)

I may have said only about 7,000 times in 2011 that one of my favorite picture books of that year was Eileen and Marc Rosenthal’s I Must Have Bobo! (I featured it here at 7-Imp in January with illustrations from the book, and Marc also visited the blog here in October.) The book, as I wrote last January, was a straight up showdown between one young boy, Willy, and the family cat, Earl, the dilemma being that the object of their affection is one beloved sock monkey, named Bobo. Bobo, however, can only be with one creature at a time. I also wrote back then that, if I could play for you all the main theme song from The Good, the Bad and the Ugly when discussing the book, I would.

It’s a very funny book.

Well… Willy, Bobo, and Earl are back in 2012. Can someone give me a “WOO!”? Rather, they returned in early April in I’ll Save You Bobo! (brought to us once again by Atheneum Books), and I’m finally getting around to giving the three of them the 7-Imp spotlight. Marc sent some illustrations from the book, as well as some early sketches.

As Publishers Weekly wrote about this one, the “war rages on!” Indeed. Willy is trying to read all about giant dinosaurs, but Earl hasn’t given up on his quest for Bobo and keeps interrupting. When Willy decides to write his own book, a scary adventure in which he’ll save Bobo, his imagination goes into overdrive as he incorporates a jungle, fierce wild animals, tigers, a scary snake tree, and even more. As he’s writing and illustrating this tale in the fort he’s made for himself and Bobo, Earl wreaks his own havoc upon the tale in more ways than one. But, ah, the power of creativity (and catharsis and channeling your rage into your works of art): The snake in Willy’s own story could always eat Earl alive … Read the rest of this entry �

What I’m Doing at Kirkus This Week,
Plus What I Did Last Week, Featuring Tao Nyeu

h1 Thursday, May 17th, 2012


“‘What a fine hat,’ said Octopus. ‘This must be my lucky day.’”

I’ve been a busy bee. This week at Kirkus, I’ll have two columns over at their Book Blogger Network.

First up: This morning is my Q & A with Jennifer Dasal, Associate Curator of Contemporary Art at the North Carolina Museum of Art, about their current exhibit, Rhythms of the Heart: The Illustration of Ashley Bryan. (Oh how I wish I could see this exhibit in person right now, but I’ll settle for doing my part to yawp about it instead.) The Q & A is here this morning, so head over there if you’d like to learn more about the exhibit, as well as the two new volumes of spirituals from Ashley that Alazar Press is releasing to commemorate this exhibit.

And, as always, I’ll follow that up next week here at 7-Imp with lots of art from the exhibit, as well as a bit more about the exhibit and the folks behind it.

Secondly: Tomorrow morning, I’ll discuss a Spring picture book release from Lemniscaat, The Man in the Clouds, from Dutch author and illustrator Koos Meinderts and Annette Fieneig. I like this mysterious little tale. That link will be here first thing tomorrow morning.

* * *

Last week at Kirkus, I wrote about the latest from Tao Nyeu, Squid and Octopus: Friends for Always. That link is here, if you missed it and are so inclined to read it. I’m happy to feature some more illustrations from it today, as no one has a style quite like Nyeu.

Enjoy. Read the rest of this entry �

Jill McElmurry’s Tale of Two Books Before Breakfast

h1 Tuesday, May 15th, 2012

I’m sitting down at the breakfast table this morning with author/illustrator Jill McElmurry. Rather, I’m handing the 7-Imp mic over to her. And I’m happy to be doing so; I’ve enjoyed many of her picture books and her expressive, detailed gouache artwork over the years.

And, as you can see at her site, she has illustrated nearly twenty books in her career. This month, she sees the release of two new picture book titles — on the same day, actually, which she discusses below. She both wrote and illustrated Mario Makes a Move (Schwartz & Wade), which I haven’t read yet. The other, Pirate Princess (HarperCollins), was written by Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen and is an anti-princess (well, anti-traditional princess) tale of a young member of the royal family who “couldn’t face [a] life wed to some prince” and wants to be a pirate instead. When she finally makes it to a pirate’s boat, the men try to have her clean and cook, but neither works out too well. Turns out Princess Bea, the protagonist who puts the very “pluck” in plucky, has another talent — but I won’t ruin the read for you with spoilers.

Kirkus calls Pirate Princess a “winning combination of smart and silly,” and about Mario Makes a Move (which is evidently about a squirrel amazing to his doting parents, but not so much his less impressed friend) Publishers Weekly writes that McElmurry’s “text and watercolor artwork capture the exuberance of the creative spirit.” The squirrel appears to have amazing moves. (It looks very funny, and I’ll have to find a copy of this one soon.) “I’m doing a reading of Mario at the end of the month with a friend (former actress),” Jill told me, “who reads the part of Mario. It’s fun to read as a pair, and this book cries out for more than one. We’re doing moves and the whole bit. I can (in my feverish imagination) picture doing it with real dancers in a larger space, someday.”

I’m going to turn it right over to Jill, and I thank her for visiting and sharing words, early sketches, and finished illustrations today. Read the rest of this entry �