Archive for May, 2012

7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #280 (Mother’s Day 2012 Edition):
Featuring Gianna Marino

h1 Sunday, May 13th, 2012

Work-in-progress illustration from Gianna Marino’s Meet Me at the Moon
(Click to enlarge)

It’s Mother’s Day, the day we celebrate all the mamas and mama-like people in our lives.

I thought the best way I could celebrate today here at 7-Imp would be to highlight the latest picture book from Gianna Marino, Meet Me at the Moon, released by Viking in late March. And Gianna is visiting today to share a collection of early dummies, early sketches, work-in-progress images, and final spreads from the book.

She also has the loveliest true tale about her own mother and the creation of this book.

The book, which Booklist describes as “[h]eartfelt and sincere, yet never cloying,” tells the story of a young elephant and his mother. Little One is worried, because his mother must leave to “climb the highest mountain to ask the skies for rain.” Telling Little One to listen for her song on the wind, know that the warmth of the sun means she loves him, and find the brightest star to see her, she leaves. “When the night sky is bright, Little One,” she adds, “meet me at the moon, where the sky touches the earth.”

In their starred review, Kirkus writes: “The textured mixed-media art paired with the flowing text elevates this title above most missing-mama fare. The full-bleed double-page spreads evoke the vastness of the plains and the night sky, while the finely detailed striping of the zebras and the intricate branches of the trees produce a striking contrast with the huge circles of the sun or moon that dominate most scenes. Radiating warmth and comfort, this distinguished title strikes home.”

This one also made it in the New York Times just the other day.

Here’s Gianna, and I thank her for visiting and sharing. Read the rest of this entry �

What I’m Doing at Kirkus Today,
Plus What I Did Last Week, Featuring
a Handful of International Children’s Book Art

h1 Friday, May 11th, 2012

“Just then Kakatua, the scarlet macaw flew down onto a nearby branch. ‘Kakatua, will you please let the whole jungle know that I challenge any animals to a race? We will see who is the fastest animal in the forest.’ ‘Kaaa kaaa a race a RACE,’ cried Kakatua. ‘Kanchil challenges any animal to a race.’ And with that, she took off flying low through the forest. ‘A race, A RACE. Come see The Great Race. Kaaa, KAAA.'”
(Click to enlarge)

This morning at Kirkus, I take a look at the new picture book offering from the very talented author/illustrator Tao Nyeu, Squid and Octopus: Friends for Always. That link is here this morning.

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Last week at Kirkus, I took a look at two new picture book titles from Tara Books, who—as I wrote over at Kirkus—are an independent publisher based in South India. I also mentioned some of their more recent (but not from 2012) titles, and so today I’ve got illustrations from those older picture books, as well as spreads from the two brand-new ones.

Enjoy the art. Read the rest of this entry �

Stories Breathing

h1 Wednesday, May 9th, 2012

(Click to enlarge)

I was hoping to wake up this morning and find that yesterday’s news about Sendak’s passing was only a dream.

Not surprisingly, some wonderful tributes have been written. Before I get to the beautiful and intriguing image above, I’ll note that below (at the bottom of this post) I share a few worthwhile tributes and links related to Sendak’s death — other than the three I mentioned yesterday morning at the New York Times, the Rosenbach Museum & Library, and Roger Sutton’s blog. (Roger’s post has been updated with a beautiful photo.)

Back to the image above (pictured right is a detail of it) … One of my favorite things about blogging about picture books—if not my very favorite—is having the opportunity to chat with picture book creators. Sure, dialogue happens here at 7-Imp, but off-blog it happens, too — often before books get released. Today’s featured illustrator, Aaron Becker, is a case-in-point. And I happen to know Aaron was very inspired by Sendak, so as we mourn the loss of the master, we also look ahead to those whose work has been shaped by the breath of Sendak’s creative vision and his honesty.

Aaron will visit 7-Imp later. His debut picture book won’t be released till next year (Candlewick), but he and I have chatted a bit, and once I saw his site at, I fell for his artwork. Don’t you agree, dear readers? I think he is one to keep an eye on. The image above is a sneak-peek at that upcoming picture book, which will be wordless, called Journey. It was rendered in ink, watercolor, and gouache.

Aaron is also a film designer and, he tells me, is slowly making the transition to doing children’s books full-time. I very much look forward to discovering the story swirling around that magical image. Is it Fall 2013 yet? I am eager to see this book.

At this link, you can see even more of Aaron’s artwork. Enjoy.

As promised, some Sendak tributes/links, in no particular order (and hardly comprehensive): Read the rest of this entry �

Be Still

h1 Tuesday, May 8th, 2012

“[O]ne of Sendak’s most lovingly rendered pages, one of his most graphically succinct and nonetheless articulate expressions of deep meaning.”
— From Gregory Maguire’s “A Sendak Appreciation,”
The Horn Book, November/December 2003

I am so sad to hear about the passing of Maurice Sendak. What a loss for us all. I have been sitting in shock for a while, while I sit back and watch the news explode at places like Twitter and Facebook. I wish right about now I were a poet.

But the New York Times did well with this:

In book after book, Mr. Sendak upended the staid, centuries-old tradition of American children’s literature, in which young heroes and heroines were typically well scrubbed and even better behaved; nothing really bad ever happened for very long; and everything was tied up at the end in a neat, moralistic bow. … A largely self-taught illustrator, Mr. Sendak was at his finest a shtetl Blake, portraying a luminous world, at once lovely and dreadful, suspended between wakefulness and dreaming. In so doing, he was able to convey both the propulsive abandon and the pervasive melancholy of children’s interior lives.

I still remember Roger Sutton’s 2003 Horn Book interview with Maurice. (Note: Roger has a brief tribute to his friend at his blog today, the best part being where he describes Sendak as “an omnivorous and eloquent consumer of art in all forms, and a wicked mimic who had the most impressive command of obscene language that I have ever heard.”) In that 2003 Horn Book interview, they discussed death. Sendak said,

[D]eath is a comfort because that’s what saves you. Suffering, cancer, some horrible disease, I’m terrified of pain. Death will just take you away from that. So what’s to be afraid of? It’s a cessation of pain. What more could you ask? It’s like the good nurse. … I think the most graceful thing offered us is sleep without dreams. That is so sensible.

He also said in that same interview, “you come on a wisp of air and you go on a wisp of air.”

I just didn’t think it’d be so soon.

Here’s hoping he gets his dreamless sleep.

Note: Don’t miss these words from the Rosenbach Museum & Library. They include an art gallery.

The Obstinate Pen
(and Frank W. Dormer) Take Over 7-Imp

h1 Tuesday, May 8th, 2012

Anyone else seen Frank W. Dormer’s newest picture book, The Obstinate Pen (Henry Holt, April 2010)? It’s funny stuff, and I’ve been meaning to post about it for a while now. Fortunately, Frank is visiting today, and also, as you can see here, the Pen got hold of an illustration Frank did of me and … well … whaddya know, it’s my first moustache. (That pen. You gotta keep your eye on it.)

But let me back up first and summarize this one for you — before Frank tells us a bit, via images, how this book came to be.

Horace’s Uncle Flood — band name! I call it … Uh, sorry. Where was I? Right. … A young boy, named Horace, watches as his Uncle Flood revels in his new pen, which he has just unwrapped with glee and laid on his desk. Clearly, Uncle Flood gets really excited about his writing utensils.

Problem is, though, that every time Uncle Flood tries to write with the pen, which the Horn Book review describes as “insulting, subversive, and anarchic,” it won’t record his actual thoughts — but instead disses him. “You have a BIG nose” is the pen’s first notation.

Uncle Flood will have none of that and chucks the pen out the window. Officer Wonkle tries to write a ticket to Miss Glenda Weeble with the pen, which has landed near his feet, and the pen tells him to kiss her already. Mrs. Norkham Pigeon-Smythe eventually gets a hold of it and has a blast, as the pen calls her “Mrs. Floofy Pants” while she tries to write her memoir. After she puts it under a glass in a room of her house no one ever visits, the pen escapes and eventually makes its way back to Horace, for whom the pen draws exactly the pictures he has in mind. “At last,” wrote Nell Casey in an early April New York Times write-up about new picture books that harness creativity (calling Dormer’s book “the most original” of the bunch), “when the opinionated pen meets its match — a child who, unlike the adults before him, both knows and is not afraid of his true creative impulses — it surrenders with grace.”

As I said, Frank’s here today to tell us how the story came to be, and I thank him. Without further ado, I turn it over to him (as I wrestle the blog back from the Pen) for…

“How the Pen Came to Be” by Frank W. Dormer, Esq.

Read the rest of this entry �

7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #279:
Featuring Jane Porter and Jane Kohuth

h1 Sunday, May 6th, 2012

(Click to enlarge)

It’s the first Sunday of the month, which means the 7-Imp spotlight gets turned on a student or debut illustrator, and today I’ve got the latter. Jane Porter is a UK-based illustrator, who has a master’s in Illustration and Animation from Kingston University — and who spent a long time watching ducks-in-action for this book. (Also, she sometimes draws with a stick. WITH A STICK. Jane Porter Fun Fact! She discusses this more below.)

Duck Sock Hop, to be released this week from Dial, was written by Jane Kohuth, who has a degree in English and Creative Writing from Brandeis University, but who also has a master’s degree in Theological Studies from Harvard Divinity School. (We’re in good company today, aren’t we, fellow imps?) There are no theological musings in Duck Sock Hop, but there are jaunty read-aloud rhymes about some messy, musical, dance-loving ducks, as well as bright and colorful illustrations from Porter.

I’m not going to run my mouth for long here, since both Janes are here this morning to say a bit about this book and their work in general. I’m happy both author and illustrator are visiting today. But let me quickly add that this is a great story-time choice, and I am taken with Porter’s sunny, patterned illustrations. “Eye-catching” is how Publishers Weekly puts it, and they’re right: “…[T]hey’re…an engaging, eye-catching bunch,” the review states, “rendered in bold black outlines and playful silkscreen-like patterning that’s an inventive visual riff on feathers. Kohuth’s…verse offers plenty of read-aloud pleasure, giving readers the immense satisfaction of saying ‘socks’ and ‘ducks’ over and over.”

First up this morning is Jane Porter (illustrator)—along with some early sketches from the book, as well as a picture of her art-making tools—and I’ll follow that with some words from Jane Kohuth (author). I thank them both for visiting 7-Imp today, and I look forward to what each of them brings readers next. Read the rest of this entry �

What I’m Doing at Kirkus This Week,
Plus What I Did Last Week,
Featuring Adam J.B. Lane and Judith Rossell

h1 Friday, May 4th, 2012

“One evening after dinner, Randall McCoy stood up on his chair and announced as loud as he could: ‘I AM A BIG BOY NOW!’ This was news to his mother and father.”

This morning at Kirkus, I take a look at two new 2012 offerings from Tara Books, as well as run down some of their titles from recent years that I think are must-sees. If you’re interested in international picture books (particularly from South Asia), you might find it a post worth visiting. The link is here this morning.

Also, yesterday morning over at Kirkus, I chatted briefly with author/illustrator Tad Hills about his upcoming picture book, Rocket Writes a Story. That link is here, and next week here at 7-Imp I’ll have some more spreads from that sequel.

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Last week at Kirkus, I discussed two new little-boy picture book protagonists who make me laugh. First up was Adam J.B. Lane’s Stop Thief!, to be released later this month by Neal Porter/Roaring Brook. (An illustration from that book opens this post.) And Judith Rossell’s Oliver (HarperCollins, May 2012)—or What Happens When You Build Your Own Cardboard Submarine and Head Down the Bathtub Drain—is very funny and a winner all-around. That link is here, and today I follow up with some art from each book.

Enjoy. Read the rest of this entry �

Philip C. Stead Visits 7-Imp to Share
Where a Story Comes From…
Or: How a Toad Named Vernon
Ended Up Sailing a Teacup into the Great Unknown

h1 Thursday, May 3rd, 2012

You all know I’m a ginormous picture book addict, and I tell you what: Author/illustrator Philip C. Stead knows how to send just the right content to make this blogger happy. I’ve been trying to convince him to come have one of my standard breakfast interviews for years now, but (lucky for me and my imp readers) he likes to do things differently at pretty much all times and sends me the kind of words and images you see in today’s post (and the goodness he sent last year) instead.

I am very good with this.

And why is that? Well, take today’s post: Phil gets very detailed about the story behind his new picture book, A Home for Bird, to be released in June by Neal Porter/Roaring Brook — the story’s history and how it got to where it is today. He also shares lots of sketches and even pictures of specifically what he uses to make his art. And this time he’s done something different from collage (but he tells you more about that below). Yes, if you’re a fellow picture book fan, his thoughtful words and images will make you happy today, so grab a cup of coffee and won’t you sit for a spell? Read the rest of this entry �

Seven Questions Over Breakfast with Claudio Muñoz

h1 Tuesday, May 1st, 2012

I’m afraid that, if I try to count the number of picture book creators who have visited this site in the past six years, I’ll be here all day. I’ve done quite a few Q&As, to say the least. But today is a “first” for 7-Imp. Unless you count the photographs Chris Raschka used to answer some of his questions or Deborah Freedman’s illustrated responses to the Pivot Questionnaire (hi, chicken), this is the first time an interviewee has sent illustrated responses to his answers. Well, most of them. “Although some of them are in written form,” Chilean-born illustrator Claudio Muñoz told me, “I have given most of my answers the way I communicate best — that is, with my drawings.”

And that makes this illustration junkie very happy. In fact, here’s what happened when I asked if he could tell me what he likes to have for breakfast daily:

Read the rest of this entry �