Cordell. Jenkins. Magoon. Spoon.

h1 December 1st, 2009 by jules


“‘They’ll never know what it feels like to clink against the side of a cereal bowl.’”

Anyone remember how for a while now I’ve been checking in with author/illustrators who have been previously featured here at the blog? Those of the male 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 Part Three with Adam Rex and Mac Barnett.) Well, I’m wrapping that up today. Better late than never.

The breakfast-y illustration above comes from Amy Krouse Rosenthal’s Spoon (Hyperion, March 2009), illustrated by Scott Magoon. But I’ll get to that later, as I’m simply going to line these guys—Matthew Cordell, Steve Jenkins, and Scott Magoon—up in alphabetical order this morning before breakfast.

* * * * * * *

First off, Matthew Cordell. Remember when he stopped by for a Random Illustrator Feature in March? Back then, he gave us all a sneak peek at this, his new title: Trouble Gum (Feiwel & Friends, September 2009). I said back then—and I’ll say again now—that Matthew’s illustrations have a freewheeling spontaneity and loose lines that bring to mind William Steig. We also learned in that feature that Steig, Steinberg, and Sempé are his “pen/ink heroes,” and it’s easy to see that we have in Cordell our twenty-first century Steig. I say that, though, with the assertion that Matthew also has his own style, his own vibe. But to compare him to Steig—his humor, his spontaneity, his wit—is a compliment, indeed.

Case in point: Trouble Gum, the first title Matthew has both written and illustrated, which Publishers Weekly says “evokes irrepressible boyhood with laughs throughout.” It’s all about what happens when, on a rainy day, two sibling pigs have to entertain themselves. And that entertainment involves Grammy’s chewing gum. AND the blatant disregard of their mother’s chewing-gum rules. Lots of truly funny sound effects are involved, as well as a great deal of detail for observant eyes: “There’s much detail to pore and giggle over…and the endpapers — front ones sporting bubbles blown to enormous size then bursting impressively in the back — are a hoot,” writes Kirkus.

It’s a very funny book, and now we’ll let the art speak for itself:


Title page




“‘JULIUS!’ shouted Mom.”


Part of the aforementioned endpapers for Trouble Gum; Click to see entire spread.

* * * * * * *

Next up: Nonfiction god (or, if you’re Kirkus, the “aficionado of animal behavior”), Steve Jenkins. He’s been here on a Sunday, for a full-fledged interview, and just last April, as well. Back during that interview in 2008, he said he was working on a “book about dangerous animals that, at first blush, don’t seem so scary.” Well, here we have it. Steve’s latest title, vying for Best Picture Book Cover of the Year, is Never Smile at a Monkey: And 17 Other Important Things to Remember (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, October 2009). This is an engaging, accessible, and (as always) visually-delightful title, and it’s also gonna be a winner amongst your alarm-sounders, those children who revel in the dramatic and frightening in nature. The title tells you what you need to know: There are profiles of over fifteen animals and what you should not do if you come face-to-face with them, what with their powerful and painful defense mechanisms. As in: For the love of God, do not pet a platypus: Hind legs. Venomous spurs. Enough said. That beautifully-patterned cone shell you see at the beach? Poisonous barbs. ACK. Not good. Two large venom sacs exist on the cane toad’s back. Note to self: Do not clutch. You just think you want to pet that cute cub. Watch out for mama bear nearby. That blue-ringed octopus? Beak so sharp. Poisonous bite. ACK again.

I’m going to just wordlessly show you some of the cut- and torn-paper collages Steve created for this book now. Beautiful. And one final note before we ooh and aah over his art: Steve shows the animals on each spread looking calm and very much NOT in one’s face, but then, when you turn to the detailed endnotes at the book’s close, “jaws and claws are out with a vengeance” (Kirkus). Clever, huh?

(Remember, as you see these, they are made of torn and cut PAPER. Sorry. Is it just me who is wow’ed by that and how Steve can transform paper?)


“And a final word of advice: NEVER smile at a monkey!
If you smile at a rhesus…monkey, it may interpret your show of teeth as an aggressive gesture and respond violently. Even a small monkey can give you a serious
bite with its long, sharp fangs.”

(How much do I love this illustration?)

Anyone else remember in Steve’s ’08 interview when Little Willow asked him what he’d like to make books about, and two of his answers were “the nature of conciousnesss” and “how the world might end.” Dude. I hope he’s still planning on those two. I’d read those, coming from him. And fast.

* * * * * * *

Here’s one thing I love about author/illustrator Scott Magoon, who had a breakfast chat with me last year and has otherwise shown up a few other times here at 7-Imp: You just never know what he’s gonna throw at you. As in: He picks the most offbeat and interesting topics. Me likey. Cases in point: Ugly Fish. Sweet, sweet Ugly Fish. The Loch Ness Monster. A rabbit warring with a neighboring rodent. (No “simplistic peace-mongering titles,” as Kirkus put it, for Magoon and Kara LaReau. LOVE IT when they make books together.) A book about running errands that totally works and is very funny. (I still sing the “Mystery Ride” song to my poor, unsuspecting children when I’m lookin’ at a day of post office stops and lines at the bank.) You get the idea.

This year, he’s illustrated two new titles: One about a utensil needing a confidence boost, who ultimately comes to appreciate his own talents, Amy Krouse Rosenthal’s Spoon (Hyperion, March 2009). And one about sibling rivalry, Otto Grows Down by Michael Sussman (Sterling, February 2009). The latter is a common picture book topic, to be sure, particularly the rivalry that comes about with a new baby in the home, but this is almost presented as if…I dunno, as if it’s a lost episode of The Twilight Zone, Kirkus praising the “deadpan drollery” of Magoon’s illustrations. In this title, a young boy’s world starts to move in reverse after he wishes his sister were never born. Yup, not your average picture-book fare.


“Even at Otto’s own birthday party, Anna got all the attention. As Otto took a giant breath to blow out his birthday candles, Anna started crying. Otto’s mom pushed a rattle into his hands. ‘Shake it for Anna,’ she said. JONG JINGLY! JINGLY JONG! That sound! It was Otto’s old rattle — the one that sounded like underwater bells. I love this rattle, Otto thought. Why does Anna get to have it?”


“‘Come on, Otto,’ said his dad. ‘Make a wish!’ I’ll make a wish, all right! thought Otto, as he shook the rattle with all his might. I WISH ANNA WAS NEVER BORN!
Then a strange thing happened.”


“Friday, at kindergarten, everything was backwards too. First it was mess-up time and everyone took toys from the shelves and scattered them all over the room. In Art, Otto wiped the paint off a perfectly good painting, leaving a blank sheet of paper.”


“Each day brought a new surprise. Oh Thursday, Otto’s mother put their dinner in bags and delivered it to the supermarket. On Wednesday,
the barber made Otto’s hair longer.”


“Wonderful things did happen, though. One summer day, a van arrived and Otto’s best friend Bob moved back to the neighborhood.”


“But at night, lying awake, Otto felt bad about Anna.”

In May of this year, Bruce Handy wrote in the New York Times:

Among {Amy Krouse Rosenthal’s} gifts is an ability to take what in other hands could have been a thin premise — a piglet who hates being messy, in the case of “Little Oink”; a young spoon who wishes he was a fork or a knife or chopsticks, in “Spoon” — and wring all kinds of sly, nifty variations out of it, the way Buster Keaton could choreograph a comic ballet around a simple prop or set-up. Better yet, her jokes sing with specificity and an understanding of children…There are probably a million children’s books (half of them written by Jamie Lee Curtis) about learning how to be happy with oneself, finding one’s inner strengths, etc., etc. (and another half-million animated features exploring more or less the same terrain), but I’m pretty sure no one before Rosenthal thought to approach this perennial from the point of view of a utensil. ‘Spoon’…could almost be read as a sweet, subtle parody of the genre, but better yet it should just be read.

As for the illustrations, leave it to Magoon to depict utensils teeming with personality. Handy adds in his write-up, “Scott Magoon’s witty drawings get the tone just right. It couldn’t have been easy: you try drawing a winsome spoon.”


“This is Spoon’s family.”


“At bedtime, Spoon likes to hear the story about his adventurous great-grandmother, who fell in love with a dish and ran off to a distant land.”


“Lately, though, Spoon had been feeling blue. ‘What’s wrong?’ asked his mother.
‘You look a bit out of shape.’”


“‘It’s just that . . . I don’t know . . . All my friends have it so much better than me.
Like Knife. Knife is so lucky! He gets to cut…’”


“‘And Chopsticks! They are so lucky! Everyone thinks they’re really cool and exotic.
No one thinks I’m cool or exotic.’
‘Those Chopsticks are something else, aren’t they?’”


“Meanwhile . . . if only Spoon knew what his friends were saying at that very minute!
‘Spoon is so lucky!’ said Knife. ‘He’s so fun and easygoing. Everyone’s so serious with me; no one’s ever allwoed to be silly with me like they are with Spoon.’”


“‘Spoon is so lucky!’ said Fork. ‘He gets to measure stuff.
No one ever does that with me.’”

* * * * * * *

That’s it for now. If I get organized, I’ll invite some of the ladies over.

* * * * * * *

SPOON. Text copyright © 2009 by Amy Krouse Rosenthal. Illustrations copyright © 2009 by Scott Magoon. Published by Hyperion Books, New York, NY. Reproduced by permission of the illustrator.

TROUBLE GUM. Text and illustrations copyright © 2009 by Matthew Cordell. Published by Feiwel & Friends, New York, NY. Reproduced by permission of the illustrator.

NEVER SMILE AT A MONKEY: AND 17 OTHER IMPORTANT THINGS TO REMEMBER. Text and illustrations copyright © 2009 by Steve Jenkins. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, New York, NY. Reproduced by permission of the illustrator.

OTTO GROWS DOWN. Text copyright © 2009 by Michael Sussman. Illustrations copyright © 2009 by Scott Magoon. Published by Sterling, New York, NY. Reproduced by permission of the illustrator.

Share!Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Pin on PinterestShare on Tumblr




9 comments to “Cordell. Jenkins. Magoon. Spoon.”

  1. Otto Grows Down looks fantastic, and I hadn’t even heard of it yet. Another one for the holds list…


  2. What a wonderful set of books and illustrators you’ve gathered! I’ve really been looking forward to sharing SPOON and OTTO GROWS DOWN with my son, but now it looks like I’m going to have to add a couple more to the list. Thanks for sharing!


  3. I really enjoyed your website! Your book reviews are wonderful reading. Have you heard of Danny the Dragon? It’s worth a review: http://DannyTheDragon.com Please let me know if you are interested in reviewing this nominee for Best Children’s Book of 2009! info@DannyTheDragon.com Thank you, Rosie


  4. *Total swoon over MagSpoon*

    Cute kitchen utensils totally do it for me :) .


  5. [...] desperate for some delish art? Then be sure to read 7 Imp’s post on Matthew Cordell, Steve Jenkins and Scott Magoon. Wowza! That’s a lot of [...]


  6. Jules,

    I am sooooo behind with my blog reading. It’s been a busy 5-6 weeks–children’s literature festival in New Hampshire, our reading council’s fall dinner meeting, NCTE Convention in Philly, Thanksgiving, etc. I’m so glad I stopped by and checked out this post. I’m a big fan of the picture book art of both Steve Jenkins and Scott Magoon. Love their illustrations that you’ve posted here!

    TROUBLE GUM looks great too.


  7. That spoon family drawing makes me very happy.


  8. [...] Spoon [...]


  9. [...] Chopsticks by Amy Krouse Rosenthal is just now out in stores. It’s a follow up to Spoon, also by Amy. I’ve got a book with Michelle Knudsen, called Big Mean Mike, due out later this [...]


Leave a Comment