Jules: This is how happy we are that the month of May has arrived. See? We’re swoony and floating.
It’s the first of the month again, and that’s when 7-Imp features a student illustrator or someone otherwise new to the field of children’s books. The art today comes from first-time author for young readers, Eric Wight. Here we have an illustration from his debut graphic novel, My Dead Girlfriend, which was listed among the 2008 Great Graphic Novels for Teens by YALSA. So, yeah, Jenny Wraith here is swoony and floating, but she’s also very much not alive.
As you can see, Eric’s not new to illustration, but this May he will be debuting a new chapter book/graphic novel hybrid series for younger readers, called Frankie Pickle. Frankie Pickle and the Closet of Doom, published by Simon & Schuster, will be released this week. “The Frankie Pickle series,” Eric told me, “is about a typical boy with an anything but typical imagination. Whenever faced with a challenge, Frankie becomes lost in fantasy -– which sometimes causes bigger trouble than what he started with. But, in the end, creative problem-solving always triumphs. The aspects of the chapter book that take place within Frankie’s imagination are told with sequential panels, while the parts of reality are prose. My intention for creating a hybrid was to seamlessly integrate words and illustrations in order to entice even the most reluctant of young readers. A father of two small children myself, I also set out to write a book that parents would find equally entertaining as they read it to their kids.”
As for this first title in the series, “what begins as the simple task of Frankie cleaning his room,” Eric said, “quickly escalates into a wild adventure filled with lava monsters, giant robots, whirlpools of junk, and of course – THE CLOSET OF DOOM.”
Prior to creating Frankie Pickle, Eric was an animator for almost ten years for such companies as Disney, Warner Bros., and Cartoon Network. His comic book adaptation of The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay helped garner both the Harvey and Eisner Awards for Best Anthology, as well as the Russ Manning Award for Most Promising Newcomer. Even though this post is getting looong (but, hey, it’s fun), I wanted to share my brief chat with Eric about his work:
Jules: Tell us about how your work as an animator informed your work on the new chapter book/graphic novel.
Eric: I think, because I was an animator before an author, film is my first language. When I imagine a story, I don’t see it as static words and pictures. Everything plays in my head like a movie. The challenge becomes interpreting those moving images into something that can exist on a page. One of the ways I do this is to choose drawings that convey motion: poses that would hurt if you held them too long or snap shots of things happening mid-action.
I also strive to integrate the text and imagery into a single, harmonious experience. The choice and placement of the illustrations is very deliberate so that, as your eyes scan the book, the imagery flows with the text as seamlessly as possible. Each reveals each other, rather than just co-existing. It’s very challenging to make work, but then you have those happy accidents that push you even further. For example, in Closet of Doom there’s a drawing of Frankie’s hand turning the knob to open his closet door, and then the reader has to turn the page, which unveals his reaction, as though you were opening the door yourself.
Jules: Have you already started working on the next Frankie Pickle title in the series?
Eric: The second Frankie adventure is called Frankie Pickle and the Pine Run 3000, set arrive in stores February 2010. The premise is the Pinewood Derby meets Speed Racer. After making a mess out of a knot-tying lesson, Frankie doesn’t have enough badge points to move up in rank with the rest of his Possum Scout troop. The only way for him to catch up is to win the Pine Run 3000, the annual model car racing derby. The manuscript and cover are finished, and the art for the interior should be wrapped up by the end of June.
Jules: What’s next for Frankie?
Eric: Next up is Frankie Pickle and the Multiplying Menace, which can only be described as math meets Lord of the Rings. I have over a dozen volumes of Frankie books planned, with two-three books coming out a year.
Jules: Are you working on any other projects, too? What’s next?
Eric: In addition to the Frankie Pickle series, I’m also writing and illustrating a middle grade fantasy series for Simon & Schuster, the first of which is titled Kookleberry and the Sword of Fools. It’s also a hybrid, although the graphic novel elements are utilized differently. Kookleberry is about a boy minstrel who, after losing his mentor, goes on a quest to figure out his purpose and discovers an illustrated tome, called The Scarlet Hood. The tome leads him to a parallel world, filled with mystery, monsters, and magic. Contained within the novel is the actual comic that Kookleberry discovers, allowing readers to experience it with him as it guides him on his journey.
Many thanks to Eric for stopping by this morning. I’m saving the most exciting part for last: Eric created a brand-new tea party image for our blog, and 7-Imp’s tech support, my husband, placed it on the “Contact Us” page of our site. It’s here, and it’s wonderful! Go take a look, if you’re so inclined, because if I include the image here, it doesn’t quite translate well. (Due to its original size, the lines show up weak when I try to squeeze it in here, but it’s beautemous on our “Contact Us” page.) Big ol’ hugely huge thanks to Eric!
As a reminder, our 7 Kicks posts 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.
1* How lovely and fun is Eric Wight’s art? My Dead Girlfriend looks so Alice-y. And I love anything that has to do with Michael Chabon’s The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay.
2* If there’s one thing Ithaca weather has taught me, it’s not to get cocky and think it means something if we have a few straight days of a given temperature/precipitation range. But… I think… yeah, I’m gonna say it… I think it’s finally spring. There’s daffodils and tulips everywhere, and I finally saw some lilacs starting to bloom this week. And this weekend has been beautiful. Well worth the wait.
4* The first 100 Days are over, and I’m impressed at how much Obama has been able to do.
5* Also, I’ve really loved tracking it through The Onion.
6* I put my new Ikea bedside table together and it is so cute! And functional!
7* And although I ended up having to work on a very pretty spring Saturday, I got a bunch of stuff done because all our would-be patrons were out enjoying the weather.
How ’bout you, Jules?
1). It’s May! I love May. And Sam Phillips even released a new (but old) song—for free for all her fans—on May Day. See how I worked that kick into another kick, since I figure you all are sick of hearing me talk about Sam Phillips’ music?
2). Our irises bloomed.
2½). A gut-bustingly funny Mother’s Day card from my friend, Gloria, who very much understands my sick sense of humor.
3). Have you all seen Booklights yet over at PBS Parents? It’s a new children’s book blog, and it’s in the very capable hands of Jen Robinson, Pamela Coughlan (a.k.a. MotherReader), and Susan Kusel. The goal, as Jen put it, is to bring literacy and reading content to the PBS Parents audience. I think for parents who need some book tips to get directed to the trio that is Jen, Pam, and Susan is good. Real good.
4). I failed to mention last week that I was the recipient of one of Jone’s students’ postcards in her poetry-postcard project she does with them annually. I loved getting a poem in my mailbox like that; it was way better than junk mail, too. The poetry-postcard told the credit card application in my mailbox, Move over. I’m real mail. You suck. And it shamed the credit card application. It did.
5). The below photo, which Andi posted at a wrung sponge on Friday. It’s from the White House Flickr stream, an official White House photo by Pete Souza of Obama speaking in March at the Miguel Contreras Learning Center in Los Angeles. The second part of this kick is marking 100 Days. I’m still at the point where simply seeing or hearing the words “President Barack Obama” makes my day…I try not to get political at 7-Imp, for different reasons, but sometimes you just can’t hide your glee.
6). My five-year-old’s Angry Art: I told her that perhaps one good way to deal with getting angry is to put it all into a piece of art — a coloring, a painting, what-have-you. So, as I’ve made her mad in the past several weeks, she’s stomped off and then come back with these tiny pieces of cardboard with heavy, black crayon scribblings all over them. (Often, it’s from simply disciplining her or telling her no, as you just gotta do sometimes, but there have been a few times when I was being impatient or not listening as well as I should). Angry Art. I’m keeping a stack. Here they are below, spread out. (Sorry ’bout that loud flash.)
As soon as she gives them to me, we both laugh. And make up. Apologies are given by the necessary party, sometimes swapped. It’s a good thing.
7). YOU GUYS! The submissions to the Academy of American Poets’ Free Verse Project. Go see! I’m going to include here my very favorites and hope to goodness I don’t get sued. I’ll link each image back to the Free Verse Project page, to be safe:
This makes me think of Chapter Three of Part Three in Lulu Atlantis: The Quest for True Blue Love when the Eggman is talking to Lulu about the miracle of eggs.
(“An egg, Lulu Atlantis, is an everyday surprise!…
You could keep an egg nearby for comfort.”)
Aren’t those great? I think that last one is my very favorite. I don’t know who made ’em. The Free Verse Project site doesn’t say.
What are YOUR kicks this week?