Up and Out with Lane Smith and David Ezra Stein

h1 October 21st, 2009 by jules

“Princess Hyacinth floated. Unless she was attached to something, or weighted down, she just floated—up, up, up.”
(Click to enlarge.)

You all know I like to shine the spotlight on up-and-coming illustrators here at 7-Imp, but I also like to keep up with some of my favorites. So, I went asking for some spreads from new titles to share with you — from folks whom I’ve previously interviewed or otherwise featured here at the blog. That includes Lane Smith, Sean Qualls, David Ezra Stein, Adam Rex, Matthew Cordell, Steve Jenkins, and more. Heaven help me, I keep adding to the list, too, and somehow it’s become The Men of Children’s Lit series of posts. Anyway. I’m going to break this up into a few posts, starting today with Lane Smith and David Ezra Stein. I’m talkin’ a quick stopping-in here to simply summarize their in-one-way-or-another fabulous new titles and then let the art speak for itself.

First up: Lane Smith, who stopped by 7-Imp during August of last year. In that interview, Lane said:

I am working on a book with my idol, Florence Parry Heide… It’s about a princess who floats. It’s called Rescuing the Princess. I wrote to Florence nearly twenty years ago to tell her how much I loved the Treehorn books that she did with Edward Gorey. It’s taken us all this time to finally collaborate. Better late than never. It will be out in 2009.

Well, it turns out the title up and changed itself to Princess Hyacinth (the Surprising Tale of a Girl Who Floated), but it did, indeed, get released this year. September, to be exact, from Schwartz & Wade Books. Princess Hyacinth is pictured above at the opening of this post. The caption underneath that illustration doesn’t do justice to the clever design work of Molly Leach. “Princess Hyacinth floated,” the sentence, is itself floating up off the page, and Molly also has the “up”s heading, well…up and up.

We aren’t given an explanation as to why the Princess floats. (“The delight to be found in both {this book and The Shrinking of Treehorn} is not in explaining why these fantastical things occur, but in how children with even the most unusual problems solve them in ways that adults cannot imagine,” writes Publishers Weekly.) Nevertheless, float she does. Her concerned parents have golden weights sewn into her dress hems and diamond pebbles sewn into the tops of her socks. She can’t even move when thusly dressed, but remove her outfits and “up, up, up she would go in her Royal Underwear.” Wanting desperately to float outside, she is met with resounding “no”s from her parents, for fear she will simply float away forever. Cue one redheaded boy, who flies his sky-blue kite, Princess Hyacinth has noticed from her window, higher than anyone else. (“His name was Boy.”) He plays a major role in helping her down from a free-form flight of fancy that eventually occurs when an outdoors-type mistake is made. One involving balloons.

“But alas and alack! Somehow or other the Balloon Man let go of the string that was attached to Princess Hyacinth. And up she went.
‘Oh, wow,’ said the Princess.”

(Click to enlarge.)

Yeah, Boy restrains her and brings her down (that handy kite, don’t ya know) in order to rescue her, but he also, in the end, works out a plan to help her find her freedom, despite her gravity-challenged self. Seven cheers for the sensitive new age guys of children’s lit. I’m a big sap; it actually kinda makes me tear up every time — how he helps her find her joy when he could keep her weighted down, in more ways than one.

(And, oh man, does the phrase “Balloon Man” take me back to my high school tune-age, but I digress.)

“…Every day she went out to the Palace Grounds in her Royal Underwear, and up, up, up she would float. Then Boy would take his kite up, up, up right next to her, and reel her in when she wanted to come down.”
(Click to enlarge.)

Lane’s illustrations—brush and ink on watercolor paper with oil-painted backgrounds—simply shine. There’s humor and pathos (the poor princess dragging herself around on the castle grounds). If I said it was quirky, would you believe me? (“Quirky” gets used so much in children’s lit anymore that it’s almost trite, right?) Well, it is quirky. A good kind of quirky, the delightful, makes-sense quirky — not Quirky for the Sake of Being Quirky. Don’t miss it, especially if you’re a fan of either author or illustrator. Or both.

* * * * * * *

And then there’s David Ezra Stein’s newest title, Pouch (Putnam, September 2009). A little gem is what it is. A gem for the youngest of readers.

Remember when David stopped by to chat with me about this time last year? David, who is a man serious about his breakfast, baked a quiche and everything. And brought some apples by, too. Remember?

Here’s Joey, the wee protagonist of Pouch:

In this title, Stein absolutely nails the instincts of young children, venturing away from a parent, making baby steps toward their own independence. As you can see above, Joey likes to step out, a bit trepidly, to meet and greet the world — only to get scared, yell “POUCH!” (the book’s repeated refrain), and hop back into his mama’s cozy front pocket. The book’s ending also makes a sweet, but never saccharine, statment on friendship.

I love David’s warm, loose watercolors (the art in this book also including some crayon). Writes Booklist, “Stein…once again shows his talent for creating a fresh story in a few well chosen words and illustrating it with humor and verve.”

Here are a few more spreads. Enjoy…

{Ed. Note: The two illustrations below comprise one spread from
Pouch. Click on each to see the spread in its entirety.}

{Ed. Note: The two illustrations below comprise one spread from
Pouch. Click on each to see the spread in its entirety.}

{Edited to Add on Thursday: Here is David’s book trailer for Pouch. David created this, as well as played the music in the trailer. This rounds out a week of Book Trailers I Actually Like. Don’t miss Adam McCauley’s two new book trailers, posted here in his interview from Tuesday. He also played the music in his trailers, one including music from the band he’s in. I’m tellin’ ya, that one’s like Portishead for Kids, y’all. Good book trailers all around this week.}

* * * * * * *

PRINCESS HYACINTH (THE SURPRISING TALE OF A GIRL WHO FLOATED). Copyright © 2009 by Florence Parry Heide. Illustrations © 2009 by Lane Smith. Published by Schwartz & Wade, New York, NY. All rights reserved.

POUCH. Copyright © 2009 by David Ezra Stein. Published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons/Penguin, New York, NY. Illustrations courtesy of Stein. All rights reserved.

14 comments to “Up and Out with Lane Smith and David Ezra Stein”

  1. Sigh. Lane’s artwork is always fabulous (Princess Hyacinth is adorable) and I think Stein gets better with every book. I want Pouch so very very badly now (I mean, I wanted it before, but now that I’ve seen some of the art, I must get my hands on it). Thanks for the follow-ups, Jules!!

  2. I love floating girl’s hair. That’s what I always wished mine would look like if I brushed it smooth, but alas. I’m apparently not illustrated by the right guy…

  3. Awww! He reels her in when she wants to come down. Awww!

    And yay for people who write to artists and illustrators and say, “Hey. I LOVED what you did!” That’s such a kindness, and so many rich friendships have resulted.

  4. We adore Princess Hyacinth in our family. But to get the full flavor of the book, you need my daughter Heidi reading it aloud with a kind of Julia Child voice. It had my six year old twin granddaughters, my 14 year old granddaughter, and me in stitches.


    PS Florence Heide is my idol, too. As for Lane–well, ,

  5. Hmmm. I wrote –and it somehow got cut off–“as for Lane, well, SWOON!

  6. Thanks, you all. For some reason, Lane’s art, when emailed to me, looks darker than in the title, but no way was I gonna go trying to fix the colors. Not gonna mess with Lane’s art. No way, no how.

    I agree about Stein getting better with every book. He’s going places, I tell ya.

  7. Shades of George MacDonald’s THE LIGHT PRINCESS.

  8. J.L.:

    Indeed. Good point I hadn’t thought of…

  9. What fun; I’m excited about seeing all the new books by these “Men of Children’s Literature!”

    I could definitely get into floating . . .

  10. Jules,

    7-Imp is always the best place to visit to find out about great new picture books. Thanks!

  11. Kangaroos are so cute.

    The anti-gravity floating makes me think of both The Phantom Tollbooth and The Midnighters.

  12. […] be back next week with a continuation of this post, the Men of Children’s Lit and What They’re Up to Now (my unofficial title). Instead, […]

  13. […] then it kept building. Let’s check in with the women next, shall we?) I kicked it off with Lane Smith and David Ezra Stein. Today, Sean Qualls stops by again. He was here in April, one of my favorite 7-Imp interviews, I […]

  14. […] persuasion, that is. I’ll try to get to those ladies next. (Anyone kept up with me this long? Here was Part One with David Ezra Stein and Lane Smith; here was Part Two with Sean Qualls; and here was […]

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