Archive for February, 2013

More from Sergio Ruzzier …

h1 Wednesday, February 27th, 2013

“‘Wait for me!’ says Bear.”
(Click image to enlarge)

Last week at Kirkus, I chatted it up with author/illustrator Sergio Ruzzier (ooh, he’s updated his website all spiffy-like) about his two newest picture books, Bear and Bee (Hyperion, March 2013) and Eve Bunting’s Have You Seen My New Blue Socks? (Clarion, March 2013). That Q&A is here, if you’re interested, and today I follow up with some art and early sketches and dummy images from Sergio — with some words from him about how he went about building these picture book spreads. I thank him for sharing.

Let’s get to it … Read the rest of this entry �

Make Way for Lucky Ducklings

h1 Tuesday, February 26th, 2013

(Click to enlarge)

Nancy Carpenter is quickly becoming one of my favorite illustrators. And in her latest illustrated title, Eva Moore’s Lucky Ducklings (Orchard Books, February), what is described as “a true rescue story,” she renders her illustrations via charcoal and digital media, the former being a medium I love to see used in picture books (and which she does very well).

I think it’s safe to say that Lucky Ducklings will be one of 2013’s great picture books, though it’s still early in the year. This book works on every level, and I don’t think it’ll meet many children it won’t straight-up delight.

Read the rest of this entry �

7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #319: Featuring You Byun

h1 Sunday, February 24th, 2013

“He surprised her with lovely things.”
(Click to enlarge slightly)

Today’s featured picture book is the work of a debut artist. You Byun grew up in the United States, Japan, and Korea and studied at the School of Visual Arts in New York City. Evidently, her work was awarded an SCBWI Illustrators’ Portfolio Award, as well as the Tomie dePaola Illustration Award.

Dream Friends (Nancy Paulsen/Penguin, February) tells the story of Melody, a young girl living in a new neighborhood and feeling very shy about making new friends. Readers don’t learn this till about, say, a third of the way into the book, though; before that we’re treated to her night-time romps with her “dream friend,” a giant white cat in a red bow tie, pretty much her only companion. In her dream landscape, she climbs a giant tower to meet the creature. They fly through the air over flowers as giant as the cat; he surprises her with gifts; they play games and see fireworks; and more. This happens nightly. Read the rest of this entry �

What I’m Up To at Kirkus This Week,
Plus What I Did Last Week, Featuring Eva Eriksson

h1 Friday, February 22nd, 2013

“At exactly the same moment, they looked at each other. Dani got up the courage to go and ask, ‘Shall we play on the swings?’ Ella nodded. That was her name.”

Yesterday over at Kirkus, I chatted briefly with author/illustrator Sergio Ruzzier about his two new picture books and what’s next for him. That is here, and next week here at 7-Imp, I’ll have art and early sketches from each book.

Today, I’ve got some thoughts on a new historical fiction picture book, Deborah Hopkinson’s Knit Your Bit: A World War I Story, illustrated by Steven Guarnaccia. That link is here.

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Pictured here today are illustrations from Swedish illustrator Eva Eriksson from Rose Lagercrantz’s My Happy Life (Lagercrantz is also Swedish), a chapter book release from Gecko Press, a New Zealand-based publisher of English versions of award-winning international children’s books. Originally published in Sweden in 2010, this book was released here in the U.S. last month. I wrote about it here last week at Kirkus and am following up this week with a bit of art from Eriksson.

Enjoy. Read the rest of this entry �

Introducing The Niblings
(Or, More Numbers Before Breakfast Than I’m Used To)

h1 Thursday, February 21st, 2013

The hubba-WHOs? you may be asking …

The Niblings is a new blog consortium, over at Facbeook and Twitter, representing Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast (Yours Truly), A Fuse #8 Production (Betsy Bird), Nine Kinds of Pie (Philip Nel), and 100 Scope Notes (Travis Jonker).

We considered calling this page “100 Notes on Why 7 8 9,” but it sounded too much like a math page. And when Philip Nel suggested “The Niblings,” we all fell hard for it.

This Facebook page (at will be our space for sharing in one spot links from our blogs and other writings, as well as for sharing other interesting links related to the field of children’s literature. For my part, instead of posting children’s-lit links at my own personal Facebook page, I’ll now share them at this new page, a sort of one-stop resource center for information on children’s literature. Read the rest of this entry �

The Girl of the Wish Garden:
An International Collaboration

h1 Wednesday, February 20th, 2013

“…The fragile song / folded itself around the bird’s still body. /
Uneasily, Lina waited and watched. / Was that a breath? She dared not look. …”

Here’s a glimpse at some beautiful illustrations I simply must share.

Uma Krishnaswami’s The Girl of the Wish Garden: A Thumbelina Story, illustrated by Nasrin Khosravi, will be released next month by Groundwood Books, but I was lucky enough to see an early copy. This book is being published after Nasrin’s death and in her memory, but more on that below.

The lyrical, poetic writing here is striking, and the artwork is simply gorgeous. This is not a book that presents the seamless merging of art and text, as with a traditional picture book. More like an illustrated story or poem, it presents the text on the left of each spread, and one ethereal, Chagall-esque illustration on the right. For each and every spread.

I just read the Kirkus (starred) review and love how they worded it: “This piece shares Hans Christian Andersen’s plot but not its old themes of marriage and Thumbelina’s prettiness, powerlessness and self-sacrifice. Instead, with lyrical elegance, Krishnaswami gives Lina agency.”

YES. THAT. Thumbelina has always been one of my least favorite fairy tales, what with that poor creature getting carried away hither and thither against her will and then the almost-marriage to the mole and so on. (That almost-marriage deep, deep down in the darkness … SHUDDER.)

But, as the aforementioned review puts it so well, Lina here is decidedly not passive. Her mother finds her in a “garden of wishes, where the birds sang wild / and the winds blew free,” singing to her that she’s a “child of wildness, child of freedom.” Yes, she’s no bigger than a thumb, and yes, a giant frog snatches her up, but her tears run dry, and “an old wild tune” creeps into her mind. She calls forth fish to assist her, and she’s free. Read the rest of this entry �

Seven Questions Over Breakfast with Olivier Dunrea

h1 Monday, February 18th, 2013

There are certain children’s books I hold dear as a parent, ones that are closely associated with my own daughters’ preschool years. Olivier Dunrea’s children’s books are among them, particularly his international bestselling series of books for very young children, the Gossie & Friends series, books which have been translated into more than twenty-five languages. My children delighted in these stories, which began in 2002, and I never tired of reading them as a parent. The series is very near completion. When finished, “there will be a gaggle of thirteen diverse and spirited goslings,” says Olivier, who has been making children’s books since 1982 and who is pictured here with Gabe. These small, square books are full of stories sweet, but never saccharine, unassuming, and pleasingly offbeat. “Dunrea’s tales are simply wrought and rendered,” Kirkus has written, “with the ink and watercolor illustrations capturing the quaint, whimsical charm of the stories. Situated against stark white backgrounds, the bright-hued vignettes communicate an abundance of expression in a few deft strokes.”

And that right there nails it for me: the simplicity of these tales, which get right to the humor and spunk of preschoolers, all laid out with such grace and with what looks like such little effort. (Undoubtedly, it takes a great deal of work.) The clean, uncluttered artwork, the bright primary hues, the assured lines, and the engaging, entertaining story lines appeal directly to very young children. “Gossie’s rural world is reassuringly child-sized, clear, and contained,” writes School Library Journal. Dunrea’s work in these books, both the writing and the artwork, could be a case study, I dare say, for those illustrators setting out to successfully create books for preschool-aged children. Or, as Publishers Weekly once wrote, “With diminutive heroes who assert a budding independence, these tales demonstrate once again how well their creator knows his audience.” Next month will see the release of the latest in the series, Jasper & Joop (Houghton Mifflin), though pictured above is the oh-so playful and reluctant napper, Gideon. Read the rest of this entry �

7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #318: Featuring Stacy Innerst

h1 Sunday, February 17th, 2013

I’m shining the spotlight this morning on a nonfiction picture book chock full o’ charm. It’s called The Beatles Were Fab (and They Were Funny), written by husband-and-wife writing team Kathleen Krull (who, evidently, was once such a ginormous Beatles fan that she owned pieces of the sheets the lads slept on) and Paul Brewer, to released next month by Harcourt. It’s illustrated by Stacy Innerst (featured previously at 7-Imp in 2011), who wanted to grow up to be Ringo Starr, and I’ve got some more of his illustrations below.

So, let’s get to it. But not till you wave first at George up there. Read the rest of this entry �

What I’m Up To at Kirkus This Week,
Plus What I Did Last Week, Featuring Dan Yaccarino

h1 Friday, February 15th, 2013

Doug Unplugged had been buzzing around my brain for a very long time before I actually created the book dummy. My sketchbook was filled with images of a little robot boy [pictured left], whom I originally called Digi Doug. I’d been wrestling with the idea of a character who unplugs from electronic devices in order to use his senses (other than to see and hear) to experience and learn about the world.

Those words are from author/illustrator Dan Yaccarino, whose newest picture book, Doug Unplugged, is out and about in the world, as of this week.

And it was the subject of my Kirkus column last week, so I’m following up today with some art and sketches from the book (below). I thank Dan for sharing.

Today at Kirkus, I take a look at a chapter book import, Rose Lagercrantz’s My Happy Life, illustrated by Eva Eriksson. Originally published in Sweden in 2010 (both author and illustrator are Swedish, too), it was released here in the U.S. at the end of last month. That column is here.

Read the rest of this entry �

For Amelia fans …

h1 Thursday, February 14th, 2013

(Click to enlarge dummy image)


“So Amelia Bedelia sat right down and she drew those drapes.”

Anyone else remember Sally O’Malley from Saturday Night Live (circa late ’90s, I believe)? She was one of Molly Shannon’s best characters (in my SNL-fangirl opinion). Sally O’Malley is fifty years old, and she can still kick and stretch and shimmy and shake. And such. (You can see, briefly, some of her impressive moves here.) Read the rest of this entry �