7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #106: Featuring Selina Alko

h1 March 15th, 2009 by Eisha and Jules

Jules: Author/Illustrator Selina Alko is visiting today, and I just have to open with her illustration of Tennessee from Sheila Keenan’s nonfiction title, Greetings from the 50 States (Scholastic). And that’s because Eisha and I are both from Tennessee (well, okay, I was really born in Kentucky but consider Tennessee home), even though I returned after a bit of time away from it but Eisha up and moved to Massachusetts and then settled in New York. (I think, however, that she’ll always be a Southern girl at heart, y’all. She can correct me if I’m wrong, but once you’ve lived in the shadow of those Great Smoky Mountains, as we both did for quite a while, the state quite firmly settles itself into a cozy corner of your heart. One with fiddles playing on the radio and a stash of MoonPies and Jack Daniel’s nearby.)

In fact, speaking of New York and Massachusetts, Selina also sent her illustrations for those states, too, since she currently lives in New York—Brooklyn, to be precise—and since she figured we book-lovers would appreciate Massachusett’s border of books (which, indeed, we do). She even threw in her groovy Brooklyn image for us, made “for a travelling exhibit of illustrators’ work entitled, NY: Real or Imagined,” she told me. “This piece is indicative of my current style and pretty autobiographical in content”:

But that was then—Greetings From the 50 States was published last September—and this is now:

“I blend from semisweet dark Daddy chocolate bar and
strawberry cream Mama’s milk.”

Selina’s newest title, her debut title as both author and illustrator, is I’m Your Peanut Butter Big Brother, just released from Knopf Books for Young Readers. “Baby brother or sister, will you look like me?” asks a young boy, as he touches his mama’s very pregnant belly. “Starry night sky and lemon meringue sunshine, Daddy and Mommy blend a mocha cloud”:

Here’s the thing about this title, all about a young boy awaiting the arrival of a new sibling: I guess I didn’t know what to expect, though I knew enough to know it was about a multiracial child whose family was about to get bigger. And I guess that I assumed that it would only be about that, but it doesn’t just hit that one note, which it could have easily done: It’s a book that truly celebrates family and the thrill and mystery of an impending birth, especially for a young child, as well as the extra-added and lovely in-utero riddle of multiracial children — will the child be “my vanilla bean ice cream sibling or super-rich double chocolate fudge?”

And the writing is lyrical, possessing its own very jazzy rhythm: “Baby, will your lips shape like mine? My soft rose petals smack sugar on Mommy’s jelly-bean smile. Mmwaa! Will Daddy plant a big one on your candy heart kiss?”

As the School Library Journal review noted, “the loving and anticipatory atmosphere may connect with any expectant family wondering who the new baby will take after.” Yes, the best part, in my opinion, of being pregnant — the very expecting of expecting.

And, as this article in Time Out New York Kids states, the family in Selina’s story bears a strong resemblance to her own: her husband, illustrator Sean Qualls (who recently received the Coretta Scott King Award Honor for Before John Was A Jazz Giant by Carole Boston Weatherford and who will soon be joining me for a breakfast interview); their son, Isaiah (four-years-old); and their daughter, Ginger, who just turned one on Valentine’s Day.

Selina’s website has very recently been updated, so head on over there for some more of her art work (and to keep up with her books in-the-works), and you can also keep up with her at her blog. Over there, she writes that she and Sean will be doing their first-ever joint show at the end of March at the Hootenanny Art House in Brooklyn, and boy howdy do I wish I could see that.

We’ll close with one of Selina’s portraits from her days of doing a weekly portrait for Showbiz Weekly, a Las Vegas publication. This is Macy Gray. I love closing with this, because who doesn’t INSTANTLY get into a great mood when listening to this?

As a reminder, our 7-kicks are 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. So, let’s kick it up. Absolutely anyone is welcome to list kicks — even if, or especially if, you’ve never done so before.

* * * Jules’ kicks * * *

1). My funny and clever and complex and big-hearted first-born turned five this week, and we partied down. Even the rain didn’t stop us. Remember the forget-me-not doll that Farida made her? She loves her. Her name is Flora.

2). Jama sent me a wonderful, happy, and perfect surprise in the mail this week.

3). I watched this Peter Pan again, this time with my girls. Anyone else seen this? It’s fabulous. I saw it on the big screen when it first came out in 2003, when I was all child-free, and I remember thinking, I can’t wait to watch this with my own children one day. It’s so STINKIN’ well-done and perfectly captures the book, and Jason Isaacs is wonderful in it.

4). My husband and I watched The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. Remember what Eisha said about it in January? She was right.

5). I finally read James Rumford’s Silent Music. Jama posted about it here back in January, and I immediately looked for a library copy and found one. It sat around my house—without me reading it—until the very day I had to turn it in and could no longer renew it (this is how it goes at my house sometimes, because we have a whole heapin’ lot of books sitting around). The day I absolutely had to turn it in, I sat there during the children’s story time hour at the library and stole glances at it during yet another rendition of “If You’re Happy and You Know It,” and suddenly I couldn’t hear anything else around me, as I was so absorbed in the book. It’s beautiful (another in the powerful art-as-healer motif), and I love the art work. I saw at A Year of Reading this week that it was awarded a 2009 Notable Children’s Book in the Language Arts by the Children’s Literature Assembly of the National Council of Teachers of English.

6). Neil Gaiman evidently twittered (or am I supposed to say tweeted??) on Friday about the 7-Imp Dave McKean interview this week.

7). My favorite is number three:

* * * eisha’s kicks * * *

Hold Time by M. Ward. The sleeve art on this one is very cool in person.1* Hey! Macy Gray! That IS a good album – I’m gonna go dig it up and give it a listen.

2* You know what else is a great album? Middle Cyclone by Neko Case. I finally got a copy too, and WHOO-DOGGIES it really is as good as Jules said.

3* And I got the new album from M. Ward, Hold Time. I haven’t listened to it as much as Neko yet, but I do dig it.

4* While I was buying them at my local music store, they were playing a CD by Jim White. I’d never heard him before, but I want to hear more.

I could list more… but I’d rather hear about yours. So… any good stuff happen to you this week? Do tell!

25 comments to “7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #106: Featuring Selina Alko”

  1. Aaahhh! Jules and Eisha, thank you so much for introducing me to yet another great author/illustrator. I soooo want to read I’m Your Peanut Butter Big Brother.

  2. Hmm, my kick didn’t publish for some reason. Anyway, here it is again:

    My main kick for the past two weeks is MY MOTHER. I only see her once or twice a year, but whenever I do get to spend some time with her, I notice that she is even more loving and caring and good and wise. Plus, she was a model and beauty queen when she was younger, but looks MORE beautiful every time I see her. Is that even possible???

    I hope everyone has an awesome week!

  3. Jules, I very much enjoy that Peter Pan. To me, the “true” Peter Pan will always be the Comden&Green musical version with Mary Martin, and Cyril Richard will be the “real” Captain Hook, forever and always. And Jason Isaacs did such a spectacular job that I felt he was a true spiritual successor to Cyril Richard.

    I’m still thinking about what my kicks should be.

  4. I had to go to Selina’s website. I love her style! More books for me to order for the library! Anew movie for me to add: Jesse James, my list keeps getting longer because of here. Which I like. I have to agree with Kimberly about Peter Pan. I loved Mary Martin in that, but another filem now for he list, this version of Peter Pan. Tarie, treasure every moment with your mom. Irreplacable!
    My Kicks:
    1. I am listening to The Underneath, oh my, what an intense book and I know I won’t, but for the first time, I have felt like listening to the last CD so I know how it ends before I finish it.
    2. Both my nephew and Bridget Zinn are home from their hospital stays. If you are friends with BZ on FB, you will know that she and Barrett got married before she went into surgery. It is quite the story.
    3. Planning our trip to Key West and Ft. Lauderdale in two weeks. My uncle lives in Key West.
    4. A former student stopped by to see when we are beginning our play rehearsals as he wants to help.
    5. Our SCBWI had a “gala” events with authors and books at a bookstore on Friday. Great to catch up with other kidlit people.
    Have a great week.

  5. The Top 10 list was VERY funny! Thanks for posting it for those of us “old fogies” who can’t stay up past 10pm! U2 has got to be the all-around best ENTERTAINERS ever.

  6. Happy Sunday!

    You know I’m swooning over Selina’s work. Yay for food references :)! I haven’t seen that version of Peter Pan. I’m intrigued. And Eisha, you’re really rockin’ out on all kinds of cool music — I’m still extremely jealous of your local indie music store.

    Such beautiful words about your mom, Tarie. Apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, either :)!

    Glad to hear your nephew is home from the hospital, Jone!


    1. Jules sent me a book I’ve been wanting to read for awhile now. Aren’t kidlit bloggers just the greatest — they see something and think you’d be interested, so they pass things on or give you the heads up on stuff. Most thoughtful folks on the web!

    2. Our friends from Massachusetts visited this week and we partied down at our favorite Italian place, catching up on news and celebrating National Noodle Month in style.

    3. David Lubar sent me a signed copy of his latest book, The Battle of the Red Hot Pepper Weenies as a thank you for my Soup of the Day post. It set my mailbox aflame, of course!! 🙂

    4. I’m hooked on a new BBC America series, “The Mistresses.” Has anyone seen it? Kind of like Sex in the City, British style.

    5. A dear friend made me a beautiful necklace out of colorful glass beads. Love it!

    6. Awesome poetry again for PF — Liz Scanlon’s “Details of Devotion” blew me away, and Laura Salas had a wonderful poem for two voices (Peace Project).

    7. The Share a Story- Shape a Reader Blog Tour — what a wealth of great information and insights. Kudos to all the organizers and participants. Loved the interview with Adrienne here at 7-Imp!

    Have a good week, everyone. Happy St. Patrick’s Day and Happy Spring!!

  7. Happy birthday, Piper!

    I was unfamiliar with Selina Alko’s work–I have GOT to check these books out!

    Jone, Seeing those photos of Bridget getting married on FB there really lifted my week; there’s nothing like the way humans can look something awful in the face and decide to do something beautiful in response. I’m glad to hear your nephew is out of the hospital, too.

    My kicks:
    1. I am home, home, home!
    2. This past week was my last trip to sunny CA for the foreseeable future. It was sunny.
    3. Also, my BFF and godson came along for a few days, and we got to spend good times all together with our friends out there.
    4. My last couple homeschooling workshops went very well, with groups that were lively and engaged .
    5. For two nights, I stayed at an old historic hotel called the Santa Maria Inn (http://www.santamariainn.com/), and it was just a cool place.
    6. One of the places I taught was the LA Central Library–what a place! Amazing and lovely.
    7. I also really enjoyed my interview with Jules that posted here on Thursday. I was glad for the excuse to talk to Jules, of course, and it was lovely to see all the responses it generated.

    Plus–BONUS–it has been fifty degrees and sunny here at home this weekend. THAT is how glad NYS is to have me back. I’ve even been doing yard work. Today I’m going to wash my poor car.

  8. The auction is over! We had a good time last night, and people not only bid on the dollies, some did “guaranteed bids” (i.e. Buy It Now) and others who were disappointed not to get dollies took my homemade cards for future commissions. I have been so immersed in this auction work that I’ve been out of touch with what my blogger friends are up to and having to deal with, so I didn’t know about Bridget before now. I want to DO something constructive, and I know there’s prayer, but I want more, you know? Well, I can send audiobooks, so I will do that.

    Here are some kicks that seem trivial now, but ones I will list just because we are here to share the uplifting things that help us rally against despair:

    1. At the live auction, we won the bid for the room to be prepped and painted with ecologically sound paints. Most of our house is painted in neutral colors, but the bedroom is dark green with blue ceilings because that’s what I wanted when I was pregnant and my husband indulged me. It’s the coldest, draftiest room in the house, and it’s time for something warmer.

    2. I’m finally starting to feel some long-term connections to some of the other parents in my daughter’s class. It’s taken 3 years! For me, it’s taken a longer time in Seattle than it ever did in any other place to make friends beyond the good acquaintance level.

    3. I’ve thought of myself as an alto almost all of my life, but my voice teacher has recently discovered that I am actually a second soprano. It’s not a kick because I want to be a soprano (I’ve got an “alto personality”, i.e. fine with taking a supporting role and harmonizing), but because there are high notes I can hit that I thought were out of reach. My voice teacher says, “You’re scared to hit those high notes, and you think you don’t have enough breath, but you do.”


  9. Tarie, your mom sounds kickin’.

    Kimberly, do you know I’ve never seen that Mary Martin musical Peter Pan? D’oh. Will have to fix that. Hope to hear more kicks from you, too.

    Jone, how was Bridget’s surgery? And who is reading The Underneath? Is it the author, by chance? That would be a good one to hear on CD.

    Hi, Angela!

    Jama, I missed Poetry Friday this week, and it sounds like I really missed out. Maybe I can get caught up one day soon. Glad you had a good visit with friends.

    Adrienne, so glad the trip was good and the workshops went well. The interview was too much fun. Thanks for stopping by to chat with me.

    Farida, discovering your new voice, in more ways than one, is a non-trivial kick, I think. Also congrats on a great auction and winning that bid. Woot!

    Thanks for visiting, all!

  10. You Neko Casers, I know you’ll get a kick out of this NYer review if you haven’t already read it. Excerpts: “…the best of her career by a generous margin… Case’s tone has the glint and the bruised shading of well-handled brass, her pitch is merciless, and when the throttle is open her chest voice is more than a mere horn section: Case is an event, a force that sets off things around it… There are dozens of moments of vocal delight here.” Pretty kickin’ good, hmm? 🙂

    A grab-bag of kicks…

    * The humming finally stopped.

    * The (for me) newly discovered Demetri Martin. Can’t tell you how much this comedian’s stuff cracks me up.

    * The work-in-progress’s taking shape, like a drape hanging loosely on a statue.

    * Spent 4 hours yesterday on an extension ladder, hand-sewing a broken *screen* on the roof of our screened-in porch. This helped me discover muscles in my calves which have lain dormant for a half-century. Or rather, it helped them announce their presence. Loudly. And they weren’t happy to have been woken up, either. Still, it was good to hear from them.

    * The Lonesome Dove mini-series. It is to swoon, all over again.

    * Finding a T-shirt which reads, “mae’r famlong yn dod a dw i wedi pacio yn barod” — Welsh for “The mothership is coming and I’m packed already.”

    * A fried mahi-mahi po’boy sandwich. Messy as bejeezus but when it was done, every sense told me I’d eaten something, by God, and something wonderful.

  11. Fun artwork this week, J&E! Quite engaging.

    My only kick this week is that the Share a Story – Shape a Future literacy blog tour made for consistently great reading all week. But between that and a couple of sets of houseguests, I’m too busy scrambling to even think of other kicks right now. By next weekend I should be feeling chattier. I wish you all joy and free time!

  12. Bridget’s surgery went well. I have to laugh, she was on my daughter’s floor and trying to get info from her was like trying to get blood from a turnip. However, I repsect my daughter’s huge sense of confidentiality! And I know Bridget had good care. It is colon cancer she is dealing with.
    The author is not reading The Underneath but whoever it is, she is fabulous.

  13. Jone how wonderful that Bridget is home and newlywed married!And wonderful your nephew is home. Best to both of them.

    Farida I count myself as MOST fortunate to have one of your dollies on my kitchen shelf. She is such a comfort and inspiration! Yay for you and your auction.

    Jules, James Rumford’s Silent Music is one of my favorite new picture books. The joy in the calligraphy is such a delight!

    1. My main kick this week was completing a Readers’ Advisory project for library school. (list of recommended titles a librarian would hand out at request.) I chose to highlight recently published YA books featuring Asian-American and Asian teens. I relied mainly on the Fusion Stories authors http://fusionstories.blogspot.com/ Cherry Cheva, Justina Chen Headley, An Na, Mitali Perkins, Joyce Lee Wong, Paula Yoo and David Yoo. It was such a fun project and I got a real kick out of pushing those books!

    2. Then I took a midterm in another class, online, and rocked the multiple choice 100%. I was really worried about it and happy that I knew my stuff. Still haven’t heard about how I did on the essay part but I think I did good enough. For all the stress of being in grad school it has its spots of adrenalin and relief.

  14. Yes… the 2003 “Peter Pan” is a great movie.
    Love how it also has the ‘darkness’ that is so much a part of the story.

    Take a look at this, too… it’s a Peter Pan story based on Barrie’s idea for more!



  15. John, thanks for that link. I just read it, and that captured well the force of nature that is Neko Case and her voice. Glad your work-in-progress is taking shape, and I love your evocative simile for it. I guess yesterday was your big writing day, huh?

    Jen, you and everyone else behind Share-A-Story/Shape-a-Future should feel pretty kickin’ about it.

    Jone, good to hear her surgery went well.

    Andi, congrats on nailing the midterm, and I have no doubt your essays were good. The readers’ advisory project sounds like fun.

  16. Jules, our babies grow up too fast! Five IS a great age. My baby is twenty-nine and engaged.


    1. Had a great day with family and friends in South Boston today. We watched the Saint Patty’s Day parade from a rooftop deck. The weather was beautiful for a change–sunny and warm.

    2. I started my new blog Political Verses on March 9th. A popular children’s poet–who also writes light verse for adults–emailed me yesterday. He sent me several of his political poems and told me I could post them at my blog–if I wanted. I want!!! I’m thinking of calling him my “guest versifier.”

    3. I ‘ve gotten some terrific new children’s poetry books lately–books by Joyce Sidman, Alice Schertle, Douglas Florian, J. Patrick Lewis, and others. THE CUCKOO’S HAIKU is gorgeous!!! I think 2009 is going to be a banner year for children’s poetry.

    Have a great week!

  17. Tarie, YAY for excellent moms. They can’t be celebrated enough, IMO.

    Kimberly and Jules and everyone – I haven’t seen either Peter Pan you’re talking about – just the old animated Disney one. Guess I’d better do something about that.

    jone, I’ve heard lots of great things about The Underneath, but I don’t think I’d heard anything that made me want to read it more than what you just said. And one more book goes on the TBR pile… Also, I share everyone’s gladness about your nephew, and best wishes for Bridget.

    jama, it’s National Noodle Month? Dang! I’ve got some catch-up celebrating to do. And yeah, Jules is totally sweet like that.

    adrienne, thanks for bringing the lovely weather – it’s been gorgeous. And thanks for the interview with Jules – you said some stuff that really needed saying.

    farida, I’m fascinated that you suddenly have a new voice. That’s kind of amazing. Not so amazing is how well the auction went, because HELLO, those dolls are beautiful! Who wouldn’t want one?

    JES, what a spot-on review. She is, indeed, full-throttle on a lot of songs on the new album, no? Can’t wait to hear more about the WIP, and I love the statue-under-sheet analogy.

    Jen, have fun with your guests.

    cloudscome, that sounds like a great topic for a reader’s advisory list. I don’t exactly miss library school, but I’d agree that there’s a real satisfaction to totally rocking an assignment or test.

    Elaine, what a cool idea for a blog. And just how many blogs does that mean you’re doing now? Three? Four? Good grief!

  18. Fly-by posting! Zoom! Fly! KICKS!

    1) Getting to the audition on Monday in plenty of time, accepting an unexpected challenge, and knowing the results the next day (didn’t get it)
    2) Rehearsals for the new musical – We are now learning choreography, which makes me happy
    3) Auditioning for a short film on Thursday and knowing the expectations beforehand (the auditions were it – they were being filmed for the project, and the best will be used)
    4) Handling everything and doing everything (but promising that I’ll start taking breaks again…at the end of the month)
    5) Having TWO auditions in one day yesterday and the post-audition happiness
    6) Walking 5+ miles in one day
    7) Being inspired by and in tune with others (reading and watching, singing and dancing, dreaming and waking)

  19. Happy Ides of March! Great art this week (as usual), loved checking out Selina’s web site too!

    My kicks:
    1. Shamrock Run today with friends, we do it every year, but this year everyone wanted to run different races, so I ran the 8K by my self. Weather was cold, freezing rain, enormous gusts of wind on the few hills, felt like quitting but didn’t. Then breakfast of pancakes to celebrate!
    2. Finished Octavian Nothing, Vol 2 on Saturday. What a beautifully written book! I loved Vol 2 more than Vol 1, even though it was so much more heartbreaking.
    3. Watched King Arthur last night. Clive Owen, Keira Knightley and Stella Skarsgard. Incredibly violent but realistic fight scenes, and a newish fact-based take on the legend. I’ve been hooked since I was about 8 and got a copy of John Steinbeck’s The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights. Steinbeck belatedly knights his younger sister in the introduction.
    4. Picked up from the library a copy of Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman, Preludes & Nocturnes, but haven’t started it yet.
    5. Also picked up Christine Falls, by Benjamin Black/John Banville.
    6. The BF totally surprised me with a refurbished laptop on Friday! (Which I really really needed.)
    7. The interviews with Dave McKean and all that amazing artwork, and the interview with Adrienne for Share a story/Shape a Reader. Lovely!

    Have a great week!

  20. Little Willow, whew. You sound busy, as usual, but happy, as usual. Make sure you take those breaks you promised yourself.

    RM, congrats on that Shamrock Run and all the good reading you’ve got on hand.

  21. WHAT!? Why have I never seen this version of Peter Pan? Thanks for the mention, I’m putting it in my que right now!

  22. Yay for Selina’s work! I love it!

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  25. […] cafés to write and draw. This was around the time that I had just finished handing in the art for I’m Your Peanut Butter Big Brother, which is about a biracial boy who wonders what his sibling-to-be will look like (based on me + my […]

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