Archive for November, 2012

Barbara McClintock’s Smiley Face Is Here, Because …

h1 Thursday, November 15th, 2012

…today at the Kirkus Book Blog Network, I chat with her about her illustrations for Ellen Bryan Obed’s Twelve Kinds of Ice, as well as the new picture book adaptation of Natalie Merchant’s CD Project, Leave Your Sleep.

The Q&A is here, and next week at 7-Imp I’ll have more art from McClintock.


Some Very Possible Sketches & Studies & Art Before Breakfast: Amy Hest’s and Lauren Castillo’s The Reader

h1 Wednesday, November 14th, 2012

“Up and up he climbs, tilting in the wind, pulling in the blowing snow.”
(Sketch and final spread; click second image to enlarge)

Last week over at Kirkus, I wrote about Amy Hest’s newest picture book, The Reader, illustrated by Lauren Castillo. If you missed it and want to know more about this beautiful book, you can head on over to that link. Today, I’m following up with some art from the book, as well as early sketches and studies from Lauren.

Enjoy. Read the rest of this entry �

An Oliver Jeffers Moment to Round Out the Day …

h1 Monday, November 12th, 2012

Sometimes the moose wasn't a very good pet. He generally ignored Rule 7: Going whichever way Wilfred wants to go.That’s author/illustrator Oliver Jeffers pictured below (sans one of his usual great moustaches). He joined me here for a breakfast interview in 2010 and, if you’ll just indulge my inner fifth-grader, his response to the Pivot curse-word question still remains my favorite of all time, given the tantalizing mystery that it is. (I’m sorry, but I love a good, creative curse, so I’ve been thinking about that one for over two years now.)

I’m taking a moment today to briefly share a bit of art from Jeffers’ newest picture book, released last week from Philomel, This Moose Belongs to Me. And that’s because I think he’s one of the best author/illustrators at work today, and I find his books consistently good. (Did you all note that his The Hueys in The New Sweater, released in May of this year from Philomel, was chosen as a New York Times Best Illustrated Book of 2012?)

See that boy up above? That’s Wilfred. He owns a moose. “He hadn’t always owned a moose. The moose came to him a while ago and he knew, just KNEW that it was meant to be his.” He names him Marcel.

Wilfred might be cute, but he can be pretty demanding. He’s generally a good pet-owner, to be sure, but he also has many rules for pet ownership (which are laid out in Jeffers’ distinctive handwriting, a break from the book’s font). These are pretty funny, things such as: “Not making too much noise while Wilfred plays his record collection”; “Maintaining a certain proximity to home,” which is actually a subsection of Rule 7; and “Knocking down things that are out of Wilfred’s reach.” Pictured above we see Marcel blatantly disregarding Rule 7 itself: “Going whichever way Wilfred wants to go.”

Problem is, not only does Marcel sometimes deviate from the rules, but he may not actually be Wilfred’s to begin with. Read the rest of this entry �

7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #305: Featuring John Alcorn

h1 Sunday, November 11th, 2012

Ciao, dear Imps.

In the early 1960s, a picture book about books was released, which evidently was selected as one of the best fifty books of the year by the American Institute of Graphic Arts. You can see a page from it above. Written by Murray McCain and illustrated by American graphic designer and illustrator John Alcorn (who, I just read, designed the opening titles for several Federico Fellini films), Books! has been re-released this year by an independent publishing house in Italy, called Topipittori, after the University of Milan acquired Alcorn’s drawings and materials. Here’s the low-down, and below is the same page you see at the top of this post, but in the new Italian edition: Read the rest of this entry �

What I’m Up to at Kirkus This Week,
Plus What I Did Last Week,
Featuring Pamela Zagarenski

h1 Friday, November 9th, 2012

“‘Bears are mighty sleepers. They make a cozy den under the snow and sleep through the winter.’ ‘All winter! That’s too long!’ she said.”
— Detail from
Sleep Like a Tiger

This morning over at the Kirkus Book Blog Network, I write about the newest picture book from Amy Hest, The Reader, illustrated by Lauren Castillo. That link is here.

* * *

Last week, I wrote about Mary Logue’s Sleep Like a Tiger, illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski, and that link is here.

Today, I’ve got more art from the book from Ms. Zagarenski. I’ll start with a set of sketches that she sent, as well as some final spreads from the book, but Pamela also sent details from her elaborate spreads, what she told me are “some understudies from the book … the back-up crew… I love them just as much.” Pamela added:

I chose to send you mostly enlarged details from the paintings inside — subtle things one might not see, like the four-leaf clover, just for the viewer who finds it, in the paws of the tiger, “gaining his strength” …

Note: Pamela’s website is here, and here is another one of her artistic adventures.

Enjoy the art today. Read the rest of this entry �

A Visit with Matthew Cordell to Talk About
What is Still My Favorite Picture Book of the Year

h1 Wednesday, November 7th, 2012

“[This is] me working on final art here. Surrounded by all things hello! hello!
studies, finished finals, bamboo pens, snacks.”

(Click to enlarge)

Last week at the Kirkus Book Blog Network, I chatted briefly with author/illustrator Matthew Cordell, pictured above, about his latest picture book, hello! hello! (Hyperion, October 2012). I’ve got the interview in its entirety today, and Matt’s also here to share some early jacket covers, studies, early illustrations, and a bit of final art.

If you read 7-Imp at all or even occasionally just visit, you know that I fell hard for this book this past summer, when I was lucky enough to see an early copy. I still love it fiercely. What I wrote at Kirkus last week is this:

This is picture book-making at its best. Using masterful pacing, economical yet robust lines, and a satisfying explosion of color, Cordell tells a story that could be the story of most 21st-century American families, frequently plugged into the online world no matter their socioeconomic stratum. A young girl, trying to connect with family members more connected to their hand-held, electronic devices, heads outside and gets rapturously lost in nature and the world of her imagination. Cordell pulls it off with delicacy, a sophisticated restraint and a satisfying elegance. Oh, and humor to boot.

By all means, if you haven’t seen a copy yet, I highly recommend it. (And if you really do want to read it, I should add, you can even get free art from Matt right now. You can head over to this post at his blog to find out more. Signed bookplates! Signed postcards! Signed proofs! And signed prints! Can’t get much better than that.)

Here’s the full interview with Matt, along with lots of images. I thank him for visiting
7-Imp again … Read the rest of this entry �

Why I Don’t Have a Post Today (I Blame Mem Fox)

h1 Tuesday, November 6th, 2012

Okay, well, this is a post. Clearly. I suppose that should say: “Why I Don’t Have Art Today.”

I spent this past weekend, for one, wrapping up manuscript revisions with my co-author Betsy Bird, but another reason I don’t have a typical post up today is that last night I had the pleasure of hearing author Mem Fox speak at the Nashville Public Library. I figured blogging could wait. She was a wonderful speaker. I was lucky enough to hear her speak to a larger crowd about her life and her writing career, but first to a smaller crowd of educators about literacy. In that first presentation, she talked about children listening to picture books for pleasure and about stories vs. “texts.”

Picture books, she advised, aren’t “texts” from which to pull a long list of questions before even opening the book to read to children. She had pulled an example lesson plan from online and read it to us. It was pretty horrifying — a long set of (what she kept calling “asinine” — and they were!) questions to ask children before launching into a picture book. These “kill” the story, she said, adding that of course conversations will happen after a story, but that generally “great books will do their own teaching, if we trust children to learn,” she said.

Amen and hallelujah.

I can only imagine what she thinks of reading programs like Accelerated Reader. (I’m not a fan.)

She even noted that she doesn’t have discipline problems during story times, if she follows her own advice. If it’s a good book, “the power of the story is the angel on my shoulder” with regard to students listening and paying attention.

She also spoke of reading to children with “zest and vitality,” which she did several times (with her own picture books) throughout the evening. Read the rest of this entry �

7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #304: Featuring Up-and-Coming Illustrator, Abby Hanlon (and a Steve Light Moment)

h1 Sunday, November 4th, 2012

I sure do love this illustration up above.

It’s the first Sunday of the month when I like to invite a student or brand-new illustrator over for morning coffee, and today 7-Imp welcomes debut author/illustrator Abby Hanlon. Abby is, as she tells you below, a former first-grade teacher.

Abby’s first picture book, Ralph Tells a Story, was released in August and chronicles the struggles of a young boy, who must write a story yet has no ideas. In his classroom, his teacher declares joyously that “stories are everywhere!” but it’s a no-go for him. With the prompting and enthusiasm of a friend (when Ralph declares that nothing happens to him, his classmate Daisy—in my favorite part—says, “Are you kidding? I’ve written a ton of stories about you!”) and after much angst, he finally comes to his own story idea. Kirkus called this one a promising debut and an “engaging mix of gentle behavior modeling and inventive story ideas that may well provide just the push needed to get some budding young writers off and running.”

I’d tell you more about Abby’s artistic style, but you can see plenty of it here today, including some illustrations from the book. I thank her for visiting. Be sure to check out the book’s endpapers below (my second favorite part of the book), which are the end results of Ralph’s inspiration. Read the rest of this entry �

What I’m Up to at Kirkus This Week,
Plus What I Did Last Week,
Featuring Cece Bell

h1 Thursday, November 1st, 2012

Today at the Kirkus Book Blog Network, I chat with author/illustrator Matthew Cordell about his brand-new picture book, hello! hello! That link is here, and if you like this book as much as I do, come back next week for even more from Matt, including art, early studies, and jacket sketches.

Tomorrow morning, I’ll have a column about Mary Logue’s Sleep Like a Tiger, illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski. That link will be here.

* * *

Last week, I wrote here about Cece Bell’s new chapter book, Rabbit and Robot. Today, I’ve got a bit more art, and she’s visiting to share things like pages from discarded chapters and other early drawings — or what she calls the “Top Secret Super-duper Rabbit & Robot Never-Before-Seen Conglomerate of Glory! That is to say, Rejected Stuff.” I thank Cece for stopping by.

Cece: I am a lot more like Rabbit than I am like Robot. … “Wound tight,” is how my mother would describe me. But guess who I got that from? Thanks, MOM.

This book was my attempt to be a smidgen like Arnold Lobel, who is arguably still the greatest chapter book writer and illustrator of all time. He brought some really interesting psychological things into his work that really make you want to linger over his books longer. Even the illustrations, though a combination of hand-drawn stuff and computer stuff, were sort of created with Lobel in mind. There’s one author/illustrator that I really, really wish I could have met.

[Here are my] early drawings of Rabbit and Robot when I was trying to figure them out: Read the rest of this entry �