Here are my two good things about today:
First, I get to hear Mary Oliver do a reading tonight at Belmont University. An exclamation mark here would hardly contain my happiness about this.
Secondly, I’ve got some art to share with you from Hilary Leung. This is, evidently, his picture book debut, though he’s a graphic designer and illustrator whose work has been published all over the world. This is from a little book from Kids Can Press (September ‘09) called The Legend of Ninja Cowboy Bear by David Bruins, first-time author. The book’s charms and dry humor won me over. It’s about three friends—you guessed it: a ninja, a cowboy, and a bear—whose unique talents come between them one day. They very simply start to wonder who is better than the other, and all kinds of competitions are arranged to see who will excel. The book closes with a statement about how we each have our special talents; I think, without that, kids will have figured this out from the engaging tale itself, but the book is so winning in every other way that even that heavy-handed ending starts to look sort of old-skool adorable to me. And, really, the book had me at its premise: That a bear, a cowboy, and a ninja hang out every day. In the opening spread, they’re reading together, painting, playing board games, rockin’ out, flying kites, and looking for shapes in the clouds, the ninja all decked out in his black ninja gear and the cowboy kickin’ it with his best Lank Thompson smile.
(I see they even have their own site and that the ninja, naturally, dislikes bright lights; the cowboy, sushi; and the bear, being hungry.)
Leung’s illustrations are digital, “a perfect blend of Saturday-morning cartoon and manga,” wrote Kirkus, “and much of the humor is contained within their play off the deadpan text.” Fortunately, since I’m a stickler anymore about including art in these types of post so that the art can speak for itself, why…I’ll let the art speak for itself. So, here we go. Click each spread to enlarge (but just slightly).
And P.S.: The book closes with the NINJA COWBOY BEAR game, not unlike “rock/paper/scissors” but involving you getting up off your keister to strike a ninja or cowboy or bear pose. Now tell me, how fun is that?
Selection from The Legend of Ninja Cowboy Bear by David Bruins and illustrated by Hilary Leung reprinted by permission of Kids Can Press Ltd., Toronto. Text copyright © 2009 David Bruins. Illustrations copyright © 2009 Hilary Leung.