It’s time to take a Sunday once again to appreciate those illustrators who can entertain the youngest of children through picture books without also inducing headaches, brought on by excessive cuteness, in those adults reading the illustrated titles to said children. This is a balancing act, I would think, a tough thing to pull off. David Walker can do it.
Last August, Candlewick released a picture book by Shirley Parenteau, with illustrations by Walker, called Bears on Chairs. This book is a little gem is what it is. If you have a preschooler, or work with them, and you want a picture book that’s going to draw them like a magnet with its rhyming (”Parenteau’s rhythm and rhyme never falter,” wrote Kirkus), fun, accessible text and its soft, warm images, this is the book for you. My own preschooler has carried it around pretty much since I got a review copy and read it to her multiple times: She’ll set herself down on the couch and “read” it. With a text like this…
Four small chairs
just right for bears.
Where is the bear
for each small chair?
sits on a chair.
He likes it there
on his one chair.
Now Fuzzy Bear
wants a chair.
She climbs up there
on the second chair…
…she’ll sit there, her pre-reading self, and pretend to read the words, throwing out ones like “bear,” “chair,” “there,” “share,” and “spare” a lot, making up her own tale as she pores over the illustrations. But what’s really going on is that she’s learning quite a bit about the reading process by doing so. All that’s to say: Seven cheers for winning preschool picture books, such as this one.
David’s acrylic art work is inviting. Toddlers will eat it up. The Publishers Weekly review compared his bears to the Care Bears, which made me shudder. Egads! David’s bears are way more subtle, and his soft, uncluttered pastel-colored spreads and gentle, round bears are comforting to the wee’est of readers.
As is the rest of his art. I’ve been sitting on these bear spreads for months now, but fortunately when I contacted David recently he sent some other samples of his art (which is what I was hoping for). And, if you’re up for another of his newly-illustrated titles, aimed at even a younger crowd—as in, the kind who like to snack on books—there’s Diane Muldrow’s new board book, How Do Lions Say I Love You? (a Random House Golden Book, December 2009). (Story-time librarians can make note of this lovely title for the wee’est on Valentine’s Day.)
For some reason, I had it in my head that David was British. Nope. He lives and works in North Carolina. Here he is to say a few words:
In short, I work in a studio in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, with two constantly snoring dogs below my desk and my wife and two daughters just on the other side of the door. I design a variety of products, such as greeting cards and fabric, but children’s books are quickly becoming the majority of what I do.
As far as children’s books go, my part of the process begins when an editor contacts me with a manuscript they feel fits my painting style. Gotta admit, I really like getting that kind of phone call! Most people think the writer gets in touch with the illustrator, but actually I rarely get to speak to the writer of the books I illustrate.
I start each book with thumbnail sketches that help develop the overall layout of the story and then move to tighter pencil sketches of each spread. When I’m comfortable with the pencil sketches, I send them to the editor and art director for approval. There’s usually some back and forth at this stage, but once everyone is comfortable with the sketches, I move to the final painting. I use acrylic paint on paper and, while my paintings are done entirely by hand, I rely on the computer as a fantastic tool for placing type, making the book dummy, and e-mailing images back and forth to the publisher.
Here’s a sampling of more of David’s art, which rather makes me want Spring to come, and I thank him for stopping by:
BEARS ON CHAIRS. Text copyright © 2009 by Shirley Parenteau. Illustrations copyright © 2009 by David Walker. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.
All other art work used with permission of David Walker.
As a reminder, 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks is a 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.
As I type this, there’s about four-ish (math was never my strong point) inches of all kinds of wintery precipitation on the ground here in middle Tennessee, and it’s still falling. This doesn’t happen to us snow-deprived Southerners often. Beautiful.
Here is the picture my husband snuck onto my camera on Friday:
He loves cold weather. Says he wouldn’t mind living some place plenty-snowy one day. When we happen to get significant snowfalls, he’ll walk around outside at least once without his shoes, and it makes my skin crawl, as I get cold in seventy-degree weather. He thinks this is HYSTERICAL. I think it is crazy bidness.
(Yes, he has a snake tattooed on his foot. This I add, lest you think his right foot is being invaded by carnivorous reptiles or something.)
Okay, here are my other kicks. (And if you’ll bear with me, I have TEN this week. I just can’t help it. Maybe some of you can find ten so that I won’t feel so garrulous?)
1). Sharing a one-year anniversary with a new friend. It’s really because of Facebook that we’re friends, too. (Long story.) There are times when I consider dumping my Facebook account altogether, but then I remember good things like this.
2). So, I go to my local public library on Thursday, and the two very nice children’s librarians give me two beautiful and quite dated Sendak-illustrated titles that weren’t circulating enough and the library wanted to pull and DITCH altogether. Taking them off the shelves would be, to me, a great indignity, of course, but I don’t run the place and the upshot is that they gave them to ME. I think I squealed when they handed them over. (One is not yet out-of-print; it’s Jan Wahl’s Pleasant Fieldmouse, which we’re mostly done reading — and it is good stuff. Pictured here is the other, which seems to be out-of-print.)
3). Re-arranging our kitchen/fake dining room (let’s call it The Yellow Room) in such a manner that the room is airier and has way more space and we can all see each other face-to-face when eating meals now. I think there must be something to feng shui. I just feel better, having done this. And I just enjoy sitting in the room now. Plus, I finally got to hang my newly-framed, signed, Julie-Paschkis “Eat Pie” print, not to mention Piper’s Pointy Pencil Shoe. Things are coming up very Julie-Paschkis in my kitchen, aren’t they?
4). All week, Sam Phillips has been a guest editor at Magnet. That sounds like a lot of reading, but instead they’ve been twice-daily (very) short posts on various and random things she loves. I very much like the one on drumming: “Electronic beats and noises are cute, funny and perfect. In the hands of some, they can groove, but I love the imperfect, lopsided, sexy, human drummers. There is tone and grease and mess when you hear great ones.”
5). This for-grown-ups book trailer needs no introduction (except perhaps to say it’s a wonderful send-up of celebrity picture book authors):
Peter—most excellent comic foil there to Michael, don’t you think?—will be stopping by 7-Imp later to talk about this book and his work.
7). New recipes, including linguini with walnuts and an arugula salad with Pecorino Romano and even more (but this time toasted) walnuts. Walnuts make everything better, don’t you think?
8). The great and abiding and instant love my four-year-old had for Ursula K. Le Guin’s Catwings, which we stumbled upon in the library stacks this week. CATS WITH WINGS. She looked at me as if it were too good to be true and sat through the entire little novel. She rarely does this.
9). I always figure my former grad school prof, hero, good friend, and Person Who Made Me Want to Study Children’s Lit for the Rest of My Life, whose name is Jinx, doesn’t read my blog. But she left a comment on Thursday! I got about as excited as a kindergartener who gets a gold star in class.
10). Last, but not least: Remember Jeremy Hiebert’s ice photos, right? And remember how he told us he got a gallery showing? Well, the photos are currently being exhibited at the Summerland Art Gallery in Canada. Check this out, too. I hope I’m not embarrassing him; I’m just so happy that more people get to see those exquisite photos.
What are YOUR kicks this week? Anyone else got ten to balance out my jibberjabber this morning? Or, hey, even eleven. Kicks can go to eleven, you know.