Archive for June, 2012

What I’m Doing at Kirkus This Week,
Plus What I Did Last Week, Featuring S. D. Nelson

h1 Thursday, June 28th, 2012

S. D. Nelson’s Fire Chant II. Acrylic on Masonite:
“Come, coyote brothers. Together we will sing up the stars.
Yes, we will sing up the moon.”

This morning over at Kirkus, I’ve got a Q & A with author Mac Barnett, whose early Spring picture book, Extra Yarn (Balzer + Bray), illustrated by Jon Klassen, was just awarded the 2012 Boston Globe-Horn Book Award in the Picture Book category. That link is here.

Mac says something over there about picture books, about “shaggy stories,” that I like so much that I might just hug his neck if I ever meet him.

And tomorrow, I’ll have a chat with illustrator Yuyi Morales. Amy Novesky’s Georgia in Hawaii (Harcourt), which Yuyi illustrated, was also named a Boston Globe-Horn Book Nonfiction Honor Book just a few weeks ago. That Q & A will be here Friday morning.

As always, next week here at 7-Imp, I’ll follow up with art art and more art.

* * *

Last week I wrote about Walking on Earth & Touching the Sky: Poetry and Prose by Lakota Youth at Red Cloud Indian School (Abrams, April 2012), edited by Timothy P. McLaughlin. That link is here, if you want to learn more about the book, and today I’ve got some of S. D. Nelson’s beautiful artwork, as well as some poetry and prose from the book.

Enjoy. Read the rest of this entry �

Plan 7 from Impossible Space

h1 Tuesday, June 26th, 2012

7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #285: Featuring Jake Parker

h1 Sunday, June 24th, 2012

I love this illustration, which comes from freelance illustrator, designer, and comic artist Jake Parker.

Jake is the creator of the Missile Mouse graphic novel series, published by Scholastic, and he has also worked for Blue Sky Studios. While at Blue Sky, Jake created sets and environments for such films as Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs and Rio. Right now, Jake—who lives in Utah with his family—is working as a freelance artist, creating picture books and comics.

Most recently, Jake embarked on a project to fund The Antler Boy and Other Stories, a collection of short comic stories he’s been writing and drawing over the past eight years. There’s more information in the below video, as well as lots of art. (For the record, I haven’t seen The Antler Boy yet, but this doesn’t stop me from featuring Jake’s art today.)

I thank Jake for visiting. Be sure to visit his site for more of his work (and previously published books); the “characters” page is particularly fun. His blog is here. I hope we see more of Jake’s art in even more picture books in the near future.

Oh, and I have to start out with his tattooed Santa, though it’s nowhere near Christmas. I love him too much — and maybe he’ll help us cool down a bit, even if he himself seems to be in swimming trunks. Read the rest of this entry �

What I’m Doing at Kirkus Today,
Plus What I Did Last Week, Featuring:
Janik Coat, Blexbolex, Luke Pearson,
Bjorn Rune Lie (& Friends),
Micah Lidberg, and Ping Zhu

h1 Friday, June 22nd, 2012

From Janik Coat’s Hippopposites
(Abram’s Appleseed Books, May 2012)


From Blexbolex’s No Man’s Land
(Nobrow Press, June 2012)

(Click to enlarge)

This morning over at Kirkus, I write about Walking on Earth & Touching the Sky: Poetry and Prose by Lakota Youth at Red Cloud Indian School, edited by Timothy P. McLaughlin with paintings by S. D. Nelson. That link is here today.

* * *

Last week, I conducted a Q & A with Sam Arthur, the Director of London-based Nobrow Press—whose books are now being distributed stateside by Consortium—about their beautifully-crafted comics, illustrated books, and children’s books. That Q&A was here, if you missed it and are so inclined to read it. Below are some more images from Nobrow — a look at some of their recent and upcoming releases.

On another day last week over at Kirkus, I sang the praises (here) of Hippopposites, released by Abram’s Appleseed Books in May, from French author, illustrator, and graphic designer Janik Coat. I’ve also got a couple more spreads from that outstanding board book below.

Enjoy. Read the rest of this entry �

Seven (Plus Some) Very Possible
Dramatic Fish Before Breakfast

h1 Wednesday, June 20th, 2012

(Click to enlarge)

It wasn’t too long ago that I wrote over at Kirkus (and then followed up here at
7-Imp with some more art from the book) about a recent offering from the Dutch publisher Lemniscaat. Today, I’m shining the spotlight on one more of their Spring 2012 offerings (as in, the American edition from Lemniscaat USA), Mies van Hout’s Happy, released in April and originally titled Vrolijk when first published in The Netherlands last year.

(Featured above is a spread in Dutch—I couldn’t resist—but the rest below are in English. Promise.)

I’ve been sitting on this book a while now and am just now getting around to posting about it. Just last week, Emily Jenkins wrote about it at the New York Times, and I feel compelled to share with you what she wrote, given that she beat me to it and nails the book’s charms:

Mies van Hout’s Happy is a tour de force of underwater awesomeness and emotion, showcasing what an artist can do with a few pastels, black paper and something fundamental to express. I want to hug it and buy a copy for every shorty on my list.

If you want to read the rest of what she wrote, it’s here. As she notes, there is no complicated plot here. We have a series of fish, expressing one-word emotions, but it’s the energy with which van Hout depicts these feelings that is so compelling, not to mention—as Jenkins writes—the “fresh colors” and “strange shapes” put to use. Readers are also presented the types of emotions you’d expect in such a picture book—“surprised,” “sad,” “afraid” (pictured left), and the titular “happy”—but van Hout also throws in some “loving,” “sure,” “astonished,” and “furious” (the spread pictured above in Dutch) for good measure.

There is no shortage of picture books about emotions. As Jenkins notes, we Americans love to go on about our feelings (even though this is a European import). But this one stands out for the dynamic art, the vigorous strokes of pastels and vivid colors. Also, it must be noted: What a fabulous creative prompt this book would be—in many different directions—in a classroom (writing prompt during language arts or art prompt during art class) or school library.

Here are some more spreads. Enjoy (and be sure to click on each image to see the playful pastel lettering). Read the rest of this entry �

One Magnifique Feast with Minette Before Breakfast …

h1 Tuesday, June 19th, 2012

These are sketches of Julia Child from illustrator Amy June Bates. Do you love this as much as I do?

I love Amy’s beautiful art work. As I was telling a friend recently, I get inordinately excited when I find out she’s illustrated a new picture book. And this book’s artwork is simply beguiling. Fortunately, the writing is great, too.

I’m talking about Minette’s Feast: The Delicious Story of Julia Child and Her Cat, released by Abrams in early May. (Be sure to remove the book’s dust jacket to see the wonderful hidden cover.) Written by award-winning fiction and nonfiction author Susanna Reich, it tells the story of a snapshot in Child’s life — the time during which she and her husband Paul lived in Paris, she began classes at L’École du Cordon Bleu, and they adopted a cat. Or, as Reich writes, “shall we say, Minette adopted Julia and Paul.”

This is all about a cat—Minette Mimosa McWilliams Child, “perhaps the luckiest cat in all of Paris”—who was given food scraps by the person who became the most famous American cook and who, in Reich’s words, revolutionized the way Americans eat — yet sometimes turned her “superior nose” up to these dishes, always preferring fresh-caught mouse to, say, Julia’s “scrumptious ‘chicken liver custard'” … But, hey, that’s a cat for you. Read the rest of this entry �

What’s Right with Children’s Literature?

h1 Monday, June 18th, 2012

This morning, the tables are turned.

I’m visiting Children’s Literature Network, and questions are being asked of me. “What’s Right with Children’s Literature” is Tom Owens’s wonderful column in which he asks folks, 1) What’s right right now with children’s literature? and 2) What could be done to make that good “better”? I highly recommend exploring his archives to hear what others have to say.

Here’s that link, and I thank Tom for asking me to stop by. I took some coffee with me.

7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #284: Featuring Jeff Mack

h1 Sunday, June 17th, 2012

Happy Father’s Day to all you fathers and father-type people out there. I don’t have Father’s Day-esque art today, but author/illustrator Jeff Mack is visiting and sharing illustrations, and I’m happy he’s stopped by.

So, here’s the thing … About a couple of months ago, I guess it was, I read Jeff’s Frog and Fly: Six Slurpy Stories (Philomel Books, March 2012) and enjoyed it. (Some spreads and the book’s cover are featured below.) These are funny stories, rendered in big cartoon art, for so-called emerging readers, involving a slightly macabre, straight-talk-about-the-food-chain kind of humor. (The frog manages to catch and consume a fly in each story, since that’s how the good ‘ol-fashioned food web tends to work, though in the end, he just might get his comeuppance.)

“Newly fledged readers should be amused by the early-Muppet–style humor,” wrote the Kirkus review. “The comic-book pacing keeps each separate ‘chapter’ fresh and funny, and the sunny palette keeps the tone light, even as the fly gets snaggled, over and over.”

And I had decided back then, when first reading the book, to see if Jeff wanted to visit the blog and share images.

And then, as often happens, I got busy and never asked him directly.

But then, just last week, I read his other new title, pictured here, and my eight-year-old and I laughed our fool heads off. It’s called Good News, Bad News (Chronicle Books), and I think it’s scheduled for an early July release. With just five words (“good news” and “bad news” on each spread — and a “very” thrown in for good measure at the end), Jeff tells the mighty funny and briskly-paced story of two friends, one half-glass-full and one glass-mostly-empty. Rabbit’s cheery nature and spontaneous naïveté, paired with Mouse’s sour disposition, make for some hearty laughs. There’s some slapstick humor to boot, and this one also serves as a great title for emerging readers. (They will read these five words with great confidence, as Jeff relays the dramatic action via the energetic artwork.)

Right after I read this one, I contacted Jeff immediately. Finally. So, he’s here today to share some images from those books, as well as a couple of others that I haven’t seen yet that are forthcoming titles. Read the rest of this entry �

What I’m Doing at Kirkus This Week,
Plus What I Did Last Week, Featuring Elisha Cooper

h1 Friday, June 15th, 2012

Clouds sketch

Final spread
Elisha: “This spread was supposed to reference that great illustration in
Blueberries for Sal where, halfway through the book, you see where everyone is.”
(Click to enlarge)

I was a little busy at Kirkus this week.

Yesterday, I chatted with Sam Arthur, the Director of London-based Nobrow Press—whose books are now being distributed stateside by Consortium—about their beautifully-crafted comics, illustrated books, and children’s books. That Q & A is here. Next week here at 7-Imp, I’ll follow up with some images from some of their newer offerings.

Today, I write about the massively good (bad pun intended) Hippopposites by Janik Coat. This is the best board book for children I’ve seen all year. That link is here this morning.

* * *

Last week at Kirkus, I chatted with author/illustrator Elisha Cooper about his newest picture book, Homer. Have you seen Homer? Oh, you must. Here is that Q & A, if you missed it last week and are so inclined to read it now.

For more on Homer, you won’t want to miss this post from Elisha over at Greenwillow’s blog, Under the Green Willow, as well as the follow-up post here. Here’s an excerpt from that first post:

I read somewhere that all stories have one of two plots: man leaves town, or, man comes to town. That’s it. I was thinking about this a few years ago while looking through Kevin Henkes’s Kitten’s First Full Moon, which, in its perfect simplicity, captures the man-leaves-town plot exactly, except that in this case the man is a kitten.

I started wondering, what if I reversed this? What if the “man” doesn’t leave town, or come to town, but stays right there in town and everything comes to him?

Today I have some more art from Homer, including early sketches — and images related to the book. (Wanna see a pic of the real Homer? Read on.)

Enjoy. Read the rest of this entry �

Seven Questions Over Breakfast
with Emily Arnold McCully

h1 Wednesday, June 13th, 2012

It’s a real pleasure to have Caldecott Medalist Emily Arnold McCully visiting 7-Imp today. This is Emily pictured here, as a child, circa mid-1940s. As she notes at the bio at her site, she was a daredevil girl, born in Illinois but raised in a New York City suburb. Her hero was John Muir, and she decided to be a naturalist one day, but instead she grew up to write and illustrate stories about fellow daredevil girls, lucky for us readers.

Throughout her career in children’s literature, Emily hasn’t stuck to only one style of illustrating. As you’ll read below, she uses cartoon-like art for beginning reader titles and more dramatic pen-and-ink watercolors for her picture book biographies, many of them, as noted, about young girls or women. But, no matter the style in which she’s working, she nails it — the emotional tone, that is. Whether she’s raising the hairs on the backs of our necks in Eve Bunting’s tales (Ballywhinney Girl and The Banshee); bringing to vivid life the stories of historical figures via her watercolors, both sweeping and delicate (The Escape of Oney Judge: Martha Washington’s Slave Finds Freedom, for which she received the Jane Addams Children’s Book Award, or Manjiro: The Boy Who Risked His Life for Two Countries); or making young, emerging readers laugh with the carefree art of her Grandma I Can Read chapter books, she’s expertly creating atmosphere, putting to great use light and shadow and her shimmering watercolors to set a mood and tell a rich tale.

It was for her beautiful impressionistic paintings in Mirette on the High Wire that Emily won the 1993 Caldecott Medal, and she received the Christopher Award in 1985 for the splendid tale that is Picnic. Read the rest of this entry �