7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #43: Featuring R. Gregory Christie

h1 December 30th, 2007 by Eisha and Jules

Jules: Well, hello there! Eisha and I have been taking a holiday blog break for a while here, and — as I type this — I’m still not even sure she’s done with her holiday travelling. I hope she is and is able to contribute her kicks this week.

You may have noticed last week that we went ahead and kicked it old-skool style — and then some — with Arthur Rackham at our very brief kicks post. Well, we had originally planned to feature some new art work from the talented R. Gregory Christie, but we re-scheduled that for this week. We were worried no one would see it last week, due to the busy holidays, and we hope that folks are around to see it this week, too, since we’re excited to be featuring it.

If you haven’t seen Christie’s (I believe he goes by Greg, so I’ll just run with that here) . . . If you haven’t seen Greg’s most recently-illustrated title, Jazz Baby by Lisa Wheeler (Harcourt; November 2007), then I’m here to tell you that it’s a visual and read-aloud delight (or, as Publishers Weekly put it best, since I’m a review nerd and care about these kinds of things, a “buoyant musical jaunt”). It’s all about one hand-tappin’, finger-snappin’, toot-tootin’, all-around clappin’, scattin’, bitty-boppin’, rat-tat-tattin’ baby and his family (“Mama sings high. Daddy sings low. Snazzy-jazzy Baby says, ‘GO, MAN, GO!’”). Greg was the perfect choice for illustrating this title, I boldly say, as he apparently created the art work on the covers of many jazz records after graduating from New York’s School of Visual Arts (and he continues to create illustrations for album covers, books, and magazines).

In my mind, Greg needs no introduction, other than to say: Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honors and immense talent and we at 7-Imp adore his art work and Only Passing Through: The Story of Sojourner Truth and Love to Langston and Keep Climbing, Girls and the Schneider Family Book Award-winning The Deaf Musicians (which I reviewed here around this time last year) and a whole slew of other great books you can see here and this statement on his web site, which has always made me happy (he’s addressing his particular style here):

“The disproportionate compositions and elongated figures are meant to be a directional device for the viewer, my own natural inclination, and a challenge for the viewer to break away from the established fundamental belief that all children’s books must be realistic or cute. I take chances with each project and do what is necessary to make the art interesting and unique.”

If you need an intro, go to his fabulous web site.

The image at the top of this post is one from, in Greg’s words, “a new project narrated by Queen Latifah and written by actress Karyn Parsons. It’s artwork for an animated movie named ‘Garrett’s Gift.’ It will be seen on HBO this coming February {and more can be read about it at} www.sweetblackberry.com.” Greg sent one more illustration from this project:

He also sent us some never-seen-before illustrations from an upcoming title, Open the Door to Liberty: A Biography of Toussaint L’ouverture, which should be published about a year from now, he told us. Here are some:


Last, but not least, he sent us some sketches for How Louis Armstrong Taught Me to Scat by Muriel Harris Weinstein. Here’s what he had to say about this title: “It’s the uncensored version of a character study. When working on books, it’s give-and-take insofar as the direction of the book. I was hoping to have a bit zanier eccentric mother but it went a more conservative route at the request of my editors, so if you choose to showcase the sketch, then you’ll see the cutting room floor version of the mother character.”

Greg also added:

The latest books — Jazz Baby, The Deaf Musicians, and A Chance to Shine — are a new direction for me in terms of subject matter and aesthetic, but I’m still pushing myself to keep things stylized and unique as I create these images. These are only a few of several projects… I keep myself busy but balance all this out by seeing the world a bit. So one month I may be doing these books in Douglassville, Georgia, and another in Dakar, Senegal. It’s what’s needed to keep my happiness and sanity.

We’d like to thank him for stopping by and for sharing his invigorating art work with us. What a great way to end 2007 — with a cyber-visit from R. Gregory Christie. Many thanks and Happy New Year to him, where ever he may be now.

* * *

By way of explanation for any new folks (who we hope will leave their lists), our weekly 7 Kicks list is the meeting ground for listing Seven(ish) Exceptionally Fabulous, Beautiful, Interesting, Hilarious, or Otherwise Positive Noteworthy Things from the past week (whether book-related or not) that happened to you.

*******Jules’ kicks*******

1). Well, it’s Saturday evening as I type this, and I’ve been online all night with my fellow Cybils panelists in the Fiction Picture Book category. It was crunch time: Our shortlist is due today (Sunday), and so we discussed our favorite titles and argued passionately and compromised and begged and borrowed and pleaded for our most beloved books to make the list. That’s kick numero uno for me: That if you’re reading this on Sunday, we’re done and handing the shortlist over to the judges! I think our list is a good one, and it was exhilirating fun to talk picture books with such book-lovers. Here were my panelist peeps, and I was honored to work with them: Marcie at World of Words; MotherReader; Annie at Crazy for Kids’ Books; and Cheryl Rainfield.

2). My family and I got to visit Eisha and her husband last week. I think it’d be accurate to say that my almost-four-year-old daughter thinks the sun rises and sets in Eisha. She loves playing with her, and Eisha plays well.

3). Big Kick: My girls’ faces on Christmas morning.

4). Getting Mary Oliver’s Thirst for a Christmas gift — as well as a Nina Simone CD and an autographed Mitali Perkins and Jamie Hogan title from Eisha and some of that Ithaca double espresso bock (The Kaffinator, or oh yes COFFEE BEER) from Eisha.

5). I normally don’t do New Year’s resolutions, but my husband and I are determined to organize the books in our home that are about to take over said home, and I think we’re going to actually make progress.

6). My two-year-old has been dancing around the house, singing “The Bare Necessities” — but singing it this way: “Look for the bare necessities/The simple, bare necessities/Forget about your worries and your stripes.” Now, if I actually had stripes, I’d find them hard to dismiss and would, indeed, worry very seriously about them, but thank goodness, none of us Danielsons have them after all.

7). Even though I have precisely one bajillion review and library books I’m still determined to get caught up on, I just finished an advance copy of Haven Kimmel’s new middle-grade novel, Kaline Klattermaster’s Tree House (heaven bless Simon & Schuster for not casting me off every time I email and say, Haven Kimmel has a new book out? O for the love of all things holy, she could not possibly have bigger fans than me and Eisha. PLEASE may we have a copy?! {insert sobbing and more pleading here}. Anyway, this book is INSANELY FUNNY AND SO GOOD that it is way better than a Santiago Zeppelin, circa 1989, or even Gummi treats (I’ll explain later). Eisha and I will co-review this title soon. I suppose when she gets home from travelling she’ll find it in her mailbox and will very likely squeal very. very. loudly.

P.S. I predict I will buy this book, budget allowing, for every one I know, child or not (if they have good taste, that is — if they have bad taste, sorry, they’re on their own).

P.S. again — I am going to promptly read it one more time. And then probably again.

7½ — last, but not least). Getting snail mail today from Adrienne! With Elephant & Piggie stickers!!

That’s my story, and I’m stickin’ to it. One final thing: My husband and daughters and I were in a wild, almost near-death (no kidding), roller-coaster-ride of an almost-car accident today (BIG, DUMB, STUPID, LAND-YACHT SUVs — oh, excuse me, did I just go off?), involving my tiny, rattletrap Sentra doing an unequivocal 360-degree turn in the middle of the interstate with traffic flying by and the car ending up perpendicular to traffic in the CENTER lane. Yet, not one car touched us. This is something of a miracle. My wee girls were in the back, and my husband and I both thought at any moment that we were going to get crashed into and, quite frankly, all bite the dust. So my biggest kick of all is that I’m alive and so is my family. And that my husband is a great driver.

I hope everyone had a relaxing holiday. I wish Eisha could list her kicks; I miss them. But no doubt she’ll be here next week. Happy merry 2008! What are your kicks? Is anyone around?

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16 comments to “7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #43: Featuring R. Gregory Christie”

  1. Wow! What super-fantastic illustrations this Sunday. Gorgeousness abounds.

    My Kicks:

    1) Jules and her family are a-okay. Big props to your husband, Jules. And keep on cursing those SUVs. Driver was probably on the phone when s/he cut you off.
    2) I have not snapped at my mother-in-law and I have only 36 hours to go. Yay me!
    3) The Cybils. ‘Nuff said.
    4) I have been on a reading orgy on my 2-week break. All adult books, all excellent.
    5) Looking forward to seeing my childhood best friend tomorrow.
    6) Looking forward to celebrating New Years with a set of childhood friends and their children.
    7) My family.


  2. Oh, Jules! I can only imagine how heart-stoppingly scary that was, to be sideways in the middle of the interstate. Hugs to you and your husband and girls.

    My kicks:
    1. My daughter and I waited in line to see the Hopper exhibit at the National Gallery of Art. People waiting! Waiting to see art! All ages! And it was totally worth it. The difference between his paintings in a book and in person is almost overwhelming.

    2. Even though my kids are big, lots of fun on Christmas morning. They still love stockings, and finding the pickle ornaments, and trading gifts with each other.

    3. Sweeney Todd. Not very Christmas-y, but oh, so wonderful.

    4. I now own the illustrated Elements of Style!

    5. A new office chair, picked out by my husband so I didn’t have to go through the agony of choosing. (And he assembled it. Woo-hoo!)

    6. I’m enjoying my blog break. I’m still reading blogs, but I’m using my time to renew my writing spirit, and to be with my family. And it’s so nice to be able to CHOOSE to do that, you know?

    7. Soon, poetry books will be coming to me for Cybils judging. I cannot wait to immerse myself in them.


  3. Oh, Jules! So glad you and your family are safe. That must have been terrifying. Give each other extra big hugs and kisses.

    My kicks:
    1. I thought this would be the year my nine-year-old would become a non-believer….but she still believes in Santa!
    2. My children’s excitement on Christmas morning.
    3. The kindness and generosity of family.
    4. I came up with a new idea for a manuscript.
    5. We went to see Enchanted.
    6. The button snowman pin my seven-year-old made for me.
    7. The clay replica of the exterior of our home my nine-year-old made for me.

    Happy New Year’s! Here’s to an awesome 2008!


  4. Great illustrations. I like the intensity of colors. Jules, I am soooo glad you and your family were not hurt, how terribly scary.
    Sara, Todd Sweeny is on my must see list.
    My kicks:
    1. Finally feeling well, it has taken a week of not doing anything and this is terribly hard to do.
    2. Picking up The Arsonist’s Guide to Writer’s Homes in New England and reading again. I have been on a huge reading drought.
    3. My family who pitched in for Christmas Eve when I was sick.
    4. Hosting Poetry Friday.
    5. Brief snow on Christmas Day.
    6.Hummingbirds feeding at the feeder.
    7. Crackling fires in the fireplace and time to enjoy.
    Have a wonderful new year.


  5. Jules, I am so very glad that you and your family are safe and okay!! Whew!

    1) The Cybils awards–the fun and excitement of it all, the way it helps promote great children’s books, and the knowing there are so many great books out there.

    2) Finding some new friends, fellow book-lovers, and people I like through that process.

    3) I’ve been re-reading some of my old favorite YA fantasy books, as well as some of my very favorite picture books, and as always, I am so glad that they exist, glad for the happiness and comfort that rush through me when I pick them up.

    4) A $25 gift certificate at an online bookstore that I received for Christmas, which allowed me to purchase two copies of Un-Brella (one for a friend and one for me). It is such a feel good book!

    5) My little dog, who is leaning on me write now as I write. She’s such a sweetie.

    6) My new cell phone. I’ve never had one before, and I’m still excited about it–about being able to call anyone any time I want. Nifty! And I love being able to personalize it; I’ve put “ooh Child” as the ring tone. :) (Hey–anyone know a book-ish song?)

    7) The people I care about in my life.


  6. I can’t possibly say how squeal-y I am that people are around to a) gab about kicks again and b) see Christie’s great art work (though I do miss Eisha and hope to hear from her and hear about her holiday kicks soon).

    Kelly, I’m so glad you’re doing pleasure reading of actual adult titles and that you get to see old friends. Thanks for taking a break from the in-laws to visit and list kicks.

    Sara, what a great holiday with your family it sounds like you are having. I covet your Hopper-art-seeing experience. I love Hopper. We lived near D.C. briefly and really enjoyed all those great museums. But do you know I never once visited the Library of Congress, but I digress (and really regret that). Anyway, Sara, your list was so fun to read. I can feel your enthusiasm coming from your list.

    Vivian, your number one is particularly great. And, now that my oldest is almost four, I really get your number two. It was so much fun on Christmas morning.

    Jone, I’m sorry you were sick for so long. What awful timing, though of course it’s never fun to be sick. You stay by that crackling fire and get well.

    Cheryl, it was so great to work with you on our shortlist. And please, do tell your very favorite old YA fantasy book. Oh, and good, bookish song: Sam Phillips’ wink-wink “Faster Pussycat to the Library,” though it will not be available on a ringtone, to say the least, since she’s the most under-rated but world’s best singer/songwriter/musician ever (there’s my hyperbole again, Cheryl).


  7. Jules, thank you for being all right. Thank your husband for his James Bond-like driving skills. And thank the other drivers for observing the miraculous force field around you. I’m so happy for you. You must still be pretty shaken.

    But, as a wise young girl once said, forget your worries and your stripes. I know I’m going to.

    Happy New Year to you and Eisha! Thanks for all you do to make the blogosphere (and world) a happier, friendlier, better-read place.


  8. Jules, I loved working with you, too. Right now I’m re-reading the whole Fingerprint series by Melinda Metz–it’s paranormal fantasy, which I love, and the first book, especially, is so well written. And next I’m going to dive back into Tamara Pierce’s Woman Who Rides Like a Man; I *love* that series.

    I also just finished reading through all my favorites by Australian author Emily Rodda. Her early middle-grade fantasies are SO well-written and have so much delight and joy in the fantasy. My top favorite of hers is Pigs Might Fly, but I also really, really love Finders Keepers and its sequel (I just love the explanation for missing socks and objects). You might know her from her popular middle-grade series Fairie Realm–but those books do not hold a candle to her early ones. Her early ones are *so* alive and full of magic.

    (Ahem. Okay, I just babbled about books, but I think this is the place to do it.)

    And now I have to look up that song; I’ve never heard it! Thanks for the tip, Jules. (I like the hyperbole. I get it. Me, too. :)


  9. I’ve had so many nice things in the last week (Rome, Christmas etc) but they are overwhelmed in my mind by the day I had today – meeting Megan Whalen Turner along with members of the Sounis LJ community in London. Megan was so interesting and nice, and it was lovely meeting internet friends. It was all so awesome I just can’t make my mind stop squeeing and settle down to a list of seven kicks!

    I’ll join in with the chorus of thanksgiving for your safety, though, Jules.

    Glad to see so many people had a lovely Christmas, especially with kids.

    Yay for Emily Rodda, Cheryl! I admit I lost track of her books once I left primary school but it’s nice to know she’s still being read!


  10. I’m glad you like Emily Rodda, too, Emma! And I’m glad you got to meet an author you like so much, and new friends.


  11. Robin, oh . . . you. I don’t know what else to say. Your comment made me laugh and smile and feel all fuzzy inside. Yes, after thinking for a split-second that I was probably going to die along with my wee, spirited, whimsical, beautiful girls, I am now not so worried about my stripes.

    Cheryl, none of that is recognizable to me, as I’m pathetic — truly pathetic — on reading fantasy titles, but I trust you and will just have to read some of those.

    Cheryl, I hope you come back next week and every week to list kicks. I truly am not trying to drive traffic; I just really enjoy reading everyone’s kicks. And Eisha, too; she’s still holiday’ing right now, though.

    Hi, Emmaco! So glad you met Megan. That’s awesome all-around. Thanks for visiting, as usual. Happy new year!


  12. Jules, Yay! You got your mail! I am such a fan of the USPS. I am also a fan of you and your family being safe.

    And, seriously, the sun does rise and set on Eisha, doesn’t it? I mean, look at how she found the coffee beer.

    My kicks:
    1. Seeing the book I wrote all printed up and bound like a REAL book because it is a REAL book. Surreal, but fun, and everyone’s been really cool and supportive and excited to see it.
    2. Christmas Eve and Christmas were wonderful, relaxed days devoted to family and friends and eating. Loved it.
    3. I had some rollicking fun out on the town with some friends Friday night.
    4. Last night, I had dinner with other friends at one of my favorite restaurants.
    5. I read four books in the past week, one of which was the new Princess Diaries book, which did not disappoint me.
    6. I also got to go out to the movies three times this past week. I haven’t been out to the movies as much as I usually am lately, so it felt like a treat.
    7. Lots of time with my BFF yesterday and today.


  13. Ooh, I like the bright colours and sassy sketches!

    I’m glad that your families got to visit. :)

    Jules: I am so glad that you and yours are safe and sound. Yay for organization! Those misheard lyrics are adorable. Read her A Bad Case of Stripes by David Shannon. In another decade or so, she’ll appreciate the mother in Tips on Having a Gay (Ex) Boyfriend by Carrie Jones. YAY! that you got Kimmel’s novel!


  14. Oh right, Little Willow, it’s really thanks to you that I knew it was coming out (though Haven mentioned it in our interview with her….but that was way back), so thanks!

    Adrienne, what a great holiday it sounds like you had. I saw your movie post. I wanna see those. And, hey, your book is already out? Did I miss that? I’ve barely read blogs on my holiday break and only just skimmed yours the other day. Anyway, big ‘ol CONGRATS to you.


  15. Jules. Sheesh. This is why we need other people running the world. Roads will become bike lanes, only interrupted by the occasional light rail. I’m soooo glad you’re all safe.
    Here’s mine:
    1. Took an unannounced blog break. ‘Twas nice.
    2. SNOW in Wisconsin. And I mean, plenty. Sledding everyday.
    3. We’re home now.
    4. My daughter who has the flu did not actually throw up on the airplane, just before and after.
    5. My dogs and cats were waiting for us.
    6. New flannel sheets.
    7. New books, and on that note I’m off to bed…


  16. Hi, Liz! New books, new flannel sheets. That’s some good livin’ there. You better not be reading this now — I hope you’re all curled up, reading. Hope your daughter gets well soon, too.


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