Jules: Welcome to our weekly meeting ground for taking some time to reflect on 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.
Today we welcome illustrator Dimitrea Tokunbo, whose most recent work is the illustrations for Katia Novet Saint-Lot’s Amadi’s Snowman, published this past May by independent publishing company Tilbury House, Publishers, based in Maine. The book tells the story of Amadi, a young Igbo man of Nigeria, who does not understand why his mother insists he learn to read, since he already knows his numbers and will be a businessman one day. When Amadi sees Chima, an older boy, reading a book about a snowman, his interest is piqued and, eventually, Amadi learns the value of learning about the world through books. Here are two spreads from the book:
Dimitrea’s father grew up in Nigeria, and she uses that experience to bring the art work alive in this book. The first book Dimitrea had published as an illustrator was Sidewalk Chalk: Poems of the City, written by Carole Boston Weatherford (Boyds Mill Press, 2001). It was “done with watercolor paints and colored pencil,” she told me, “and a couple of samples using the same technique (acrylic paint) I used for Amadi’s Snowman.” Here’s a bit more from Dimitrea, a little bit about her background and how she got her start:
“My daughters and I moved to New York City two weeks before 9/11. I had my first book as an illustrator coming out, Sidewalk Chalk: Poems of the City, by Carole Boston Weatherford. I thought I could work part-time in the Scholastic bookstore and get my illustration career off the ground but quickly found that my technique of layering colored pencil over water color paints, while juggling two small children and a part-time job, wasn’t working and it wasn’t bringing in enough money quickly enough to survive in this city.
I got a job as a part-time receptionist at Scholastic and did my second published book as an illustrator, Has Anybody Lost a Glove?, written by G. Frances Johnson, still using the colored pencil/watercolor technique. At around the same time, I started doing work for Cricket Magazine as an illustrator.
After about a year, I had to get a full time job or I wouldn’t be able to stay in the city. Lucky for me, I got that job at Scholastic in the marketing department. It took so much time that I stopped illustrating books. I started writing and illustrating stories for a magazine Scholastic started with the Urban league to promote literacy in the inner cities, named Read & Rise. Writing for Read & Rise led to the publishing of my first book as an author, Together, illustrated by Jennifer Gwynne Oliver.
Shortly after Together came out, I moved from the Scholastic’s Marketing department to their Legal dept. For financial stability, it seemed I was moving further away from my dreams of doing children’s books. In desperation, I started doing self portraits (one a month) using acrylic paints in part to find a new technique and in part to stay in touch with my inner artist. By the time I got to my third self portrait, I wrote The Sound of Kwanzaa, illustrated by Lisa Cohen, to be released fall 2009 by Scholastic. Only months later, I was approached by Tillbury House via email to illustrate Amadi’s Snowman. I sent them a sample using my new acrylic technique and they hired me.
So it’s been seven years in NYC and I’ve managed to keep my finger in the children’s literary world and still dream of the time when my day job will be doing children’s picture books as both the author and the illustrator.”
The illustration opening this post and the one below are “samples in the ‘Amadi’ style acrylics,” Dimitrea told me. We thank her very much for stopping by this morning, and we wish her the best of luck in capturing that dream day job.
Kick #1. Look left.
2). Blog the Vote 2008.
3). Eisha’s post from Friday and everyone’s celebratory songs.
4). I received beautiful, amazing, thoughtful, hand-crafted surprises from illustrator Elisa Kleven in the mail this week.
5). Taking a walk with my girls this week. I’m posting this pic below from our walk, ’cause Eisha gave them those kickin’ sunglasses.
6). My whole family got a stomach bug this week (making me behind on a lot of things, including reading my favorite blogs), and it was u-g-l-y. But now I’m grateful and feelin’ kicky indeed to be vertical again, along with my family, and the other kick is that Jama sent me a get-well card, ’cause she’s thoughtful like that.
7). Did I mention President-elect Obama (and the great new web site)? Here’s how Tuesday night was for us: My husband and I were glued to every second of the election-results coverage. We had a bottle of wine ready. My youngest was vomiting all night (bless her big punkin heart), and, even though I felt awful for her, I admit I was hoping she’d most certainly hold off during his victory speech. We were in tears as we watched it, and then I woke up my four-year-old to tell her that Rock Obomo, as she calls him, had won, and that’s when I really lost it. Then, I actually knelt on the floor and prayed, something I don’t often do, in case some higher power might be listening, that the crazies of the world will not harm this man and that he be guided by strength and courage and wisdom, given the tasks before him.
(P.S. I watched his first news briefing with total confidence, too. He handled it all with great poise.)
(P.S. Again — Here are some great election night photos at flickr of him and his family and Biden and family — as in, behind-the-scenes photos of them watching election results.)
What about you? Tell us about your Tuesday night in your kicks, if you’re so inclined.
1* Love that first illustration especially. That girl looks sassy!
2* How cute is my nephew as a surly Cat in the Hat for Halloween?
3* I can’t believe Jules’s girls can still wear those sunglasses.
4* I got new glasses of my own. They’re wicked cute, and OMIGOD I can see!!! When I got them, though, I was disappointed to see that a couple of the super-cute rhinestones had already fallen out of the frame – probably when they were putting the lenses in. Unfortunately, they didn’t have another frame like mine to replace them. But they did give me a discount, and I used it to get the frames re-rhinestoned at a jewelry repair place. They turned out perfect (shown below), and did I mention I CAN SEE!!!
5* Well, obviously, the biggest kick of all: PRESIDENT-ELECT BARACK OBAMA! I honestly didn’t believe it could happen – that a big enough majority of our citizens would be at all interested in electing the most noble, most intelligent, and most forward-thinking of all the candidates for the job. Not to mention what kind of obstacle his race might prove to be for a certain nasty segment of the population. The past eight years had made a total cynic of me. I’m so amazed and thrilled to have been proven wrong.
Since you ask, Jules, my Tuesday night was spent with my TV and my computer, obsessively monitoring the incoming vote tallies with my fingers crossed. As I mentioned Friday, my husband was at a rehearsal, and didn’t get home until after the results were announced, so I was all alone with my anxiety. Even as Pennsylvania, and then Ohio, and finally the entire country were called for Obama, I still couldn’t quite believe it until I saw McCain walk out to deliver his gracious concession speech. And of course I stayed up to hear Obama’s wondrous and inspirational speech – by then B. had come home, and we watched it together. And I was so proud and so glad and so hopeful for the first time in so very long. I didn’t sleep much that night, and there was a lot of spontaneous squealing and hugging and happy-dancing at work the next day between me and my like-minded colleagues.
That’s plenty of kicks for me on this most happy of weeks. How about you all?