7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #154: Featuring Sergio Ruzzier

h1 February 14th, 2010 by jules

My Valentine’s Day gift to everyone this morning involves some illustrations from Sergio Ruzzier’s newest title, Hey, Rabbit!, published by Roaring Brook Press. (I had it in my head that it was published at the end of last year, but online sources tell me it’s coming out in a few days. Shows you what I know.) Since this is a sweet, unassuming tale of friendship that I very much like, a peek at the art is my Heart Day gift to you all, my friends.

You may remember when Italian-born Sergio visited 7-Imp in October of 2008. Sergio lives in Brooklyn, as noted in that interview, and I look to all his new titles with interest. I still remember from that ’08 interview when he said, “I came to New York from my native Milan in 1995, and my goal was to enter the picture book world. For many years, I found all the doors closed, as most editors and art directors considered my work too sophisticated and ‘European’ (which I understand is a curse word.)” I, for one, am grateful for his unique style. (And, if you haven’t seen Amandina yet, oh my, go run and peek at a copy and come back and talk to me. I love that excellent book.)

Hey, Rabbit! is the story of a rabbit, the one you see opening this post (as well as on the book’s cover, pictured here), carrying a large suitcase. Various friends wander up to Rabbit to ask if there’s anything at all for them in Rabbit’s suitcase. “Maybe a bone for my birthday?” asks the dog; “Maybe a leaf to remind me of home?” asks the toucan; “Maybe a pillow for my sleepy head?” says the bear; “Maybe a shell with the sound of the sea?” asks the crab; and so on. Each animal gets exactly what they want — either via their imagination or via the magic suitcase (depending, I suppose, on which side of your brain you use most often). Plus some. In the end, Rabbit wonders if there’s anything at all for him in his suitcase, only to be pleasantly surprised to see all his friends pop out. The toucan’s got his leaf; the bear, his pillow; the cat, her ball of twine. And everyone’s happy to be greeting their kind friend, Rabbit.

(Dummy for Hey, Rabbit!)

Writes Kirkus, “The twin powers of friendship and imagination are stunningly portrayed with utter simplicity…The all-encompassing visions embody the joy of finding exactly what one’s heart desires…The colors are soft and clear; the line is vivacious and the little anthropomorphized animals are sweet. Their satisfied imaginations fill whole pages, and friendship emanates from every wriggle.” Kirkus is on to something with that bit about Ruzzier’s simplicity; it’s this seeming simplicity in his storytelling and illustrations that draws me to his books. And, yes, his singular style. “Quirky” gets over-used, but … well, as I said in the ’08 interview, you can spot a Ruzzier-illustrated title from here to Milan, what with his wry humor and the delicate pen-and-ink lines of his intimate, subdued watercolors.

I asked Sergio a bit about the book, plus threw two random, fun questions at him. His art from this title is interspersed with his responses below (and some above, as you can see). Sergio sent details of many of the spreads, the full jungle spread, and some sketches. I thank him for stopping by. If you’re looking for the kicks, scroll down. (You’re welcome to pass go, but I can’t give you two hundred bucks. Sorry.) But I hope you’ll enjoy Sergio’s art — and my brief chat with him:

Jules: I know authors sometimes hate to be asked about “inspiration,” but tell me what brought on this particular book idea.

Sergio: It’s true: It’s often difficult to answer this question, especially when we steal the idea from an out-of-print book and we cannot admit it.

But in the case of Hey, Rabbit!, I can actually explain easily where I got the idea. I had just delivered the drawings for Amandina, and I was talking with Neal Porter, my editor, about possible new stories to work on. He particularly liked one drawing from that book: a suitcase out of which comes a huge bunch of colorful flowers, so he suggested I think of something with a “magical” suitcase. I also had an old idea in my mind of a box with a little peephole, and each person sees something different when they look inside. So, after combining the two ideas, I only had to find the right characters and situations, and the story was done.

Jules: I love the color choices in this picture book, particularly the jungle spread. What particular factors go into palette choices for you?

Sergio: Thank you. I’m so glad you like it.

When I was in my late teens, I only drew in black. I really loved, and still do, black india ink. I find it fascinating to dip the nib in the tank, try it on a scrap of paper, see how it mingles with the surface of the paper. Depending on its quality, the paper will quickly absorb the ink, or it will let it dry slowly, leaving a sort of ink glazing.

Maybe because of fear of failure, or maybe because I really needed to master pen and ink first, I shunned color, and I was sure that my art would always be black and white. I had a big box full of many different art materials: pastels, acrylics, oils, temperas… I was afraid of that box, afraid of being unable to use those materials. Of course I was unable: I had never tried! It took me a few years, but then one day I went and bought a few Maimeri watercolor pans and two brushes, and with those I colored a series of ink line drawings I had done of a scruffy-looking bird, who was probably a self-portrait. So, I colored those birds with blue, yellow, and green, I remember, and I was really happy about it. The paper was very old, and I liked the fact that you could still see its yellowish tint trough the transparent watercolors. I also liked how my beloved pen line was still completely visible.

From then on, I’ve always used watercolors, even though I now use the Schmincke brand. (The paper is Arches, rough).

I have the tendency to use subdued shades, but with Hey, Rabbit! I knew I needed more vivid colors. There is a lot of white in the layout, and it is such a sunny, breezy story. But I didn’t really change my usual palette, which is made of about sixteen pans; I just put more pigment on the paper. The jungle spread was a bit more challenging than others, because there are so many different elements in it, and everything needed to be harmonious. Of course, what looks bright and vivid to me might still look somber and dull to others…

Jules: What’s next for you? What books/projects are you working on now, if you can talk about them?

Sergio: The next book to come out, in Fall 2010, is Zoom, Broom!, and it’s a funny and tender story about a little witch and a little green monster, written by Caron Lee Cohen, using very few words. Right now, I am illustrating another picture book, written by Eve Bunting, while I am also thinking about my next idea.

Jules: Now for the two random, fun questions: Are there specific experiences that formed the essential basis, the fundamental building blocks, of your artistic vision? Books, movies, artists, events, images, anything else, etc. and etc.?

Sergio: Okay. I’ll just make a disorganized list of things that have inspired me through the years: Late Medieval and early Renaissance art, especially frescoes; book illuminations and stone carvings; Hieronymus Bosch; Alfred Kubin; European folk prints; Goya’s etchings; the movies of Luis Buñuel; American comic strip artists, like George Herriman, E. C. Segar, Lyonel Feininger, Charles Schulz; the Fleischer animated cartoons; the books by Thomas Bernhard, Arnold Lobel, William Steig, Giorgio Bassani, Edward Gorey, Edward Lear; The Bears’ Famous Invasion of Sicily by Dino Buzzati, Collodi’s Pinocchio… I’m sure I’m forgetting a lot. Any old book with pictures.

Jules: (This question comes from Stephen Alcorn. I must give credit where credit is due.) What do you, as an artist, find most challenging and satisfying in the creative processes you employ?

Sergio: I am a procrastinator. Sometimes this makes me sick; sometimes I accept it and live with it. So, time-managing is probably the most challenging part of my process. It’s hard for me to give the initial push. When I have, say, six months to turn a book in, I always waste the first four months and then do everything in the remaining two. I usually deliver the work on time, though.

Maybe because of all this, I feel so good when I am done with the drawings, and I just have to wait for the book to be printed. Another thing that I find very rewarding is when someone understands and appreciates a small detail in one of my drawings — or a subtle little joke in the text.

Here’s the video Sergio made of his school visits with Hey, Rabbit! I like this, my favorite moment being the “you guys are quite negative” one:

Thanks again to Sergio. Happy Valentine’s Day to him. And to Rabbit.

* * * * * * *

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.

* * * Jules’ Kicks * * *

First, Happy Valentine’s Day again to all…Hope each of you manages to find happiness in some form or fashion today. Here is what Sergio sent me when I reminded him that I’d be doing this post on Valentine’s Day. This is one of his illustrations from The Little Giant (Laura Geringer Books/HarperCollins, 2004).

My kicks . . .

1). Are you all keeping up with Betsy Bird’s Top 100 Children’s Novels poll results? Bless my soul, it’s good stuff, and she’s putting so much work into it. Here’s the latest installment.

2). Meet California, Piper, and Athena. (The wee daughters are responsible for the names.) Lori Nichols sent them to me and my girls, which was very kind of her. Look at how Athena there on the right is giving us a sneaky, slightly paranoid look. Lori makes these out of recycled materials. I LOVE THIS.

Guess what else? Lori got an agent! CONGRATS to her!

3). I’m reading a novel (historical fiction) about Frank Lloyd Wright. I don’t know if he actually said this, but I like this. It’s also kicks-esque in nature: “The measure of a man’s culture is the measure of his appreciation. We are ourselves what we appreciate and no more.” Whaddya think?

4). Sam Phillips has some great new music out. Also: She asked for Worst Valentine’s Day Ever submissions, and mine (and fellow fan Jill’s, who comes kickin’ with us) made Honorable Mentions. Sam has these audio files, what she calls the Phone Booth, at her subscription site for new music this year, and she interviews whomever she wants in her Phone Booth. In this week’s Phone Booth, she talked about the Worst Valentine’s Day Ever submissions with a fellow musician, who plays on her CDs, and she specifically mentioned mine and Jill’s as being good ones (even though we didn’t make the top three). Well now, WOOT! That was fun to hear.

My last three kicks are going to be brand-new picture books that I love and whose illustrations make me happy. It goes without saying I’m a Picture Book Nerd. As in, really, the first part of my week was LOUSY, and these three picture books momentarily cheered me up:

5). Anyone else remember back in October, when I featured the work of Il Sung Na? Well, the First American Edition of a 2008 Na title (published in Great Britain), The Thingamabob, will be out next month (Alfred A. Knopf). It’s funny, lets the child be one-up on the protagonist (which children LOVE), and it’s a great story-time choice (note to all librarians and teachers). Love Na’s art. In writing about A Book of Sleep last December, Daniel Handler wrote at The New York Times, “The art moves easily from the actual…to the fantastical…in a blurry variety of textures and styles — from stark, clean sketch lines to a cavalcade of splotchy color — that might sound overbusy but work very well on the page. An endnote explains this multi faceted approach as ‘combining handmade painterly textures with digitally generated layers, which were then compiled in Adobe Photoshop,’ which I take to mean that it’s none of my business how Na does it.” True. But, no matter how the art’s done for Na’s titles, I love it.

6). Elisha Cooper’s forthcoming title, Farm. JUST LOOK AT THAT COVER! It damn near glows with color when you see it in person. This image doesn’t do it justice. More on this book later…

7). David Ezra Stein’s perfectly wonderful Interrupting Chicken. Boo, I can’t find a cover image online. More on this book later, too.

RANDOM BONUS KICK: The way wee kids will wake up at, say, midnight and ask for a drink of water and drink it with both hands cupped around it, holding on for dear life, like they’re drinking the nectar of the gods. (This is only a kick if I myself am also awake at midnight, but I usually am.)

AND ONE MORE BONUS: Heart-shaped Valentine’s donuts with red sprinkles on top. And singing with my five-year-old “Over the Rainbow” with every major word replaced with the word “donut.”

What are your kicks this week? Remember that Cybils winners are announced on Valentine’s Day!

49 comments to “7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #154: Featuring Sergio Ruzzier”

  1. Hi Sergio! Thanks for sharing your pictures with us. I love seeing drafts and sketches, then the finished product. It looks like you had a lot of fun reading your book to that class! As a fellow storyteller (who hasn’t had the chance to read for that age group for a while), I salute you.

    It’s quite appropriate to have a white rabbit running through this blog.

    Everyone: Please watch this PSA and share it. It’s powerful and it’s important. Please take it to heart.

    Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone!

    Hello to California, Piper, and Athena! Lori, kudos for recycling materials, and congratulations on getting an agent!

    Jules: I love singing songs with word replacements. When you use an utterly silly word, there’s something utterly stress-relieving about it! When I sang to her, Holly could be persuaded (purrsuaded?) to replace words with meows, as long as I paused strategically (and she was in the mood). Jingle Meow was one of our biggest hits. Maybe you’ve heard it? 😉

    My kicks from the past week:

    1) A career stepping stone in the form of a plastic rectangle
    2) Seeing Dirty Rotten Scoundrels live on stage
    3) Sharing smiles
    4) Sharing music
    5) Sharing comfort (not a happy kick, but a hopeful one, and I wish I could do more)
    6) Catching up on some things
    7) Reading, and remembering

  2. Jules, your Frank Lloyd Wright quote broke my brain, as it is 2am and I should have been sleeping long ago. Will stew on that a bit.

    Sergio’s painting’s make me want to paint. Nifty!

    Little Willow, that video you linked to is greatness. Simple and powerful. Although I thought later, “who *doesn’t* wear their seat belt these days?”

    Quick kicks:
    1) Valentine’s date with my sweetheart last night. Wonderful food and excellent live music. Thanks to dear friends for watching our entire brood for the evening.
    2) Hockey. It is such a hick sport, but I love it. We play a version without violence, but lots of speed.
    3) Winter warmth…it’s been the weirdest winter here. Normal temperatures for February would be right around the freezing point. At lunch today we had a picnic because it was room temperature outside on the south side of the house…in t-shirts.
    4) Ice photos…I keep taking them, but because it’s been so warm, I’ve had to go further afield…took a roadtrip with a friend on the weekend a few hours north where they had good ice on the rivers.
    5) Playing music with my daughter…she’s consented to let me accompany her when she plays a recital tomorrow.
    6) Snowboarding…I used to do it 30-40 days every winter, but not much at all since having kids. Celebrated my birthday last week on the mountain and had a blast.
    7) 2010 Olympics…this feels obligatory, as I have mixed feeling about our province hosting this behemoth event. Yet there’s some serious buzz here right now and tons of Canadian pride on display (very rare, we’re not known as an overtly patriotic people).

  3. Happy Valentine’s Day!!

    I love Sergio’s art, I do I do I do. Have a longstanding penchant for rabbits. Lori’s owls are staring at me, trying to get my attention. Does this mean they like me?

    Jules, that is SO cool how Sam Phillips mentioned your and Jill’s worst Valentine days! This means you and Sam are practically best buds, right? The Phone Booth thing is an awesome idea.

    Congrats on the mysterious plastic rectangle, LW. Stepping stones sometimes manifest themselves in magical ways!

    Jeremy, I thought of you this week, because our house is covered in icicles and other beautiful (but not exactly welcome) ice formations. There is one particularly large ice clump that has morphed itself to the side of our house. Ice creature!

    ♥ V-Day Kicks ♥

    1. All the World won a Cybils!

    2. Got tickets to see Arlo Guthrie and family later this week (belated V-day treat).

    3. Received an email from our new great-nephew (he’s a great writer for someone only 6 months old). He told me his dad will be making my Love Soup recipe today.

    4. Excited about my Poetry Month project. Poetry Friday peeps are the best!

    5. Apolo Anton Ohno.

    6. Actually left my house and drove somewhere for the first time in a week! They finally reopened the library. Roads are passable, but parking lots are full of huge mountains of snow. Our neighborhood side streets are still clogged up.

    7. My nephew in Hawaii is taking a newswriting class and sent us some articles he’d written for the school newspaper. A talented writer in the works!

    *Bonus Kick*

    Seven hearts ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ for 7-Imp!

  4. I might have to have more than 7 kicks this week, because Sergio’s art is now one of them!

    1. I love the texture of the paper and the small details in Sergio’s art. If I could have alternative lives (with the requisite talents), one of them would be watercolor artist. (Another would be classical guitarist.)
    2. Snow days. (nuff said, eh?)
    3. Jama’s Poetry Month project. (tickled to be a part!!)
    4. Cybils winners are announced today!
    5. Quick trip to NYC for a Presidents’ Day meeting of the NCTE Notables committee — we’re finalizing our list of award winners…stay tuned!
    6. A professional development day that left me energized instead of exhausted.
    7. Dublin Literacy Conference this coming weekend — it’s going to be great!

  5. Love, love, love that crab! And I love that we can see the texture of the paper. Thank you for featuring Sergio today.
    Jules, those owls are way to precious. I may have to get one. I love the names. Are you reading Loving Frank? It’s on my TBR list.
    LW, music and smiles what better things are there to share? I found myself singing directions to students this week.
    Jeremy, good luck finding the ice for your photos.
    Jama, your poetry month project sounds intriquing!
    Mary Lee, hoped you savored the snow days.. we had none this year.
    1. Anniversary today…18 years!
    2. CYBILS announced. Fabulous list!
    3. Breakfast today with a college friend.
    4. Our “read to the dog” person and her dog will be at our Cat in the Hat Family Library Night. They haven’t been at school all year due to work.
    5. Upcoming writing retreat at the coast: Sylvia Beach Hotel (google it!, NYe Beach ,OR)
    6.Just finished Broken for You by Stenphanie Kallos. Not what I expected and glad I didn’t put it down.
    7. Fifth grade boys who fell down laughing when I asked them if they were “engaged” with The Thief Lord. Wanted to know if I thought they would marry the book.
    Have a great week.

  6. Just wanted to wish everyone a happy valentine’s day, and thank you for all the kicks and smiles. I especially appreciated Jone’s reminder that one has to be very very careful of word choices in front of fifth grade boys.

  7. The Bears’ Famous Invasion of Sicily sounds like something I need to read. And thank you so much, Sergio and Jules, for the Valentine’s Day art.

    Jules, It seems to me that the girls’ naming skills are solid evidence that you are raising them up right. California, Piper, and Athena–love it! Also, a new Elisha Cooper! And a new David Ezra Stein! Awesome!

    Little Willow, Ella and I sing the way you and Holly, although I imagine that you and Holly were probably more on-key. Lucas and I also like to change the words to songs during our morning routine, so that we’re singing about brushing our teeth, say, or eating pancakes for breakfast.

    Jama, I love that when you finally went out, you went to the library.

    My kicks:
    1. I went to see the traveling version of Spring Awakening on Friday night. It was not quite what I saw on Broadway, but still very good.
    2. We had the ribbon cutting for our tween area on Tuesday night. I was really nerve-wracked, but the children’s staff really came together, and it was such a nice balance between something that was good for all the VIPs who came but still a very family-friendly event. Totally what I was going for.
    3. I am still loving playing the piano. I’m a learning a crazy-lot of stuff, and it’s challenging my brain in a very good way.
    4. Oatmeal with milk, cinnamon, and raisins. Simple, but one of the most perfect winter foods.
    5. February Break is this week, and our programs (Winter Campout Storytime, with s’mores, Tea Parties with Olivia by Ian Falconer, and Star Wars character night) promise to be well-attended.
    6. I love my concept for the Tea Parties with Olivia. I hope I have pictures for you all next week. Sometimes I get so caught up in the programs that I forget to take photos.
    7. Today is a day blessedly free of plans. I intend to read the newspaper, bake oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, and watch Casablanca. And practice my piano.

  8. Little Willow, Jeremy’s right: That video is greatness. Not at all what I expected. Beautiful. I guess perhaps, Jeremy, there are enough folks not wearing their seat belts to warrant it? Maybe more in the UK? (Wasn’t it made there?)

    Good kicks, Little Willow. If I needed comfort, you’d be one of the first folks I’d think of…Piper and I actually sang many lullabies (along with a CD) last night, substituting the word “donut” for all the songs. We couldn’t stop laughing, and the four-year-old was giving us the stink eye, as she just wanted to sleep. She was right, but it was hard to stop.

    I love the notion of you singing to Holly.

    Jeremy, thanks for including the music link. Good heart-day song for those in love…And I love that he’s described as a “light house.” …Sorry I broke your brain, but it is good food-for-thought, huh? Wonder if he actually said that. …Break a leg at that recital! Wish we could all hear you play.

    Jama, glad things are thawing enough for you to get out. We’re getting snow today…significant accumulation, I think. …GREAT NEWS about All the World…Haven’t visited the Cybils site yet today, but I shall. Arlo Guthrie! And I look forward to your poetry posts. Thanks for the seven hearts.

    Mary Lee, I love snow days for my daughter, too, but tomorrow she’s off for President’s Day, and it hurts me when they have a WASTED snow day. (It’s snowing now.) Ah well. Kicks #s 5 and 7 = WOOT!

    Jone, yes, it’s Loving Frank. So far, so good. …”A hotel for book-lovers”…excellent! That’s going to be perfect for the retreat. Sounds wonderful.

    Hi, Jeannine!

  9. Adrienne, I passed you in cyberspace. Did you hear me honk?

    Question for you (you know how much I want to learn to play the piano, right) — Have you gotten to the part where your hands do two different things at once? If so, I hope you’re able to do it. My fear is that I won’t be able to (though you’d think, having worked for years as a sign language interpreter with ASL, a language capable of simultaneous communication, that I’d be able to). I want to hear someone say: BALDERDASH. That’s a myth. Anyone can do it! If it is true that some people just can’t do it, perhaps you should just lie to me.

    Your plans for February Break sound great. I do hope you post pics of the Olivia Tea party. And guess what? We have no plans today, too, and I like it. This week, I didn’t have enough plans; then, all of a sudden we had too much; and now I’m ready to be a hermit again — for just a while.

    Happy Valentine’s Day, Adrienne!

  10. p.s. Adrienne, you will LOVE Interrupting Chicken. I thought of you when I read it. (But then I think of you when I read most really great picture books. I always think: GOTTA tell Adrienne about this.) Let’s start a Picture Book Club….You can play piano before we meet, and I’ll bring donuts.

  11. testing:

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  12. Oh hey, cool. That worked.

    My brand-new kicks for today: Amy Correia has three song samples from her new CD, and it worked when I tried to embed this little player. Ah, song #3 is particularly great. Turn it up, man.

  13. LOVE those watercolors and especially (as others have mentioned) the texture of the paper! To invoke the usual refrain, I don’t have any idea how artists do anything. But from the outside looking in, it’s always seemed to me that watercolors on plain old white surfaces are so commonplace — like thin black borders on black-and-white photos, say — that I almost don’t notice them. But this almost pebbled surface makes these illustrations amazing. (And what Little Willow said: I also love seeing the before-and-after images of a work in progress and as completed.)

    As for the characters, I’m torn between the wall-eyed duckling and the black-and-white rat (mouse?), writhing ecstatically while devouring a hunk of cheese with his entire freaking body.

    Jules, whenever a friend says they can’t find something online it offends my sense of order in the universe — how dare the universe deny a friend ANYTHING?!? — so I immediately set out on a quest. In this case, you’re right: no Interrupting Chicken covers anywhere. Grrr. But I did find what I think is an image from the book (whose evocative title I love), on DES’s Facebook page. (I hope that’s visible to non-FB subscribers!)

    And I must tell you: you yourself did an outstanding job painting a word-watercolor (on textured paper, yet) with your Random Bonus Kick picture of the little hands holding the little cup.

    LW: Wonderful video, simple and powerful. Thanks so much for the link. And Woot! again for small plastic rectangles!

    Jeremy, I love the sound of your household: a sweetheart, a brood, ice photos, snowboarding, music recitals…

    That’s always a great moment, Jama — the one when you can first get out in a car after a huge snowstorm (or several).

    Hi, Mary Lee… The idea of a “quick trip to NYC” makes my head spin, even if it IS for something like work!

    Jone: Dare I ask, what is a “read to the dog” person???

    Some kicks o’mine:

    * Valentine’s Day. (Our date was last night. Big meal at our favorite restaurant, then home to watch the swooningly romantic No Country for Old Men. I know, I know… our other choice was Henry & June; probably a sign of collective domestic self-assurance that we chose as we did.)

    * Wonderful surprise e-mail attachments.

    * Good news for The Stepson, who has really needed some.

    * Chaotically busy work weeks for which the very last thing you HAD to accomplish gets accomplished, at last, at like 4:45 on Friday afternoon. (Followed by a 15-minute orgy of pointless random Web surfing.)

    * Lingering cold weather in the Deep South.

    * Video: Lost opening credits or trailer, re-done as though the series was made in the mid-’60s by the producers of something like Mannix or Hawaii Five-O or Mission Impossible.

    * Ordered new hearing aids and, uh, shot the moon. Top of the line model. Technology just keeps getting better and better; these new ones are reportedly so much improved over the 3-year-old ones I’m wearing now that it’s like, I don’t know, comparing telecommuting to driving an old-model SUV to work. Can’t wait to try ’em out when they come in next week.

  14. Jules: Big WOOTing applause and thanks for the embedded audio player and the song choices!

  15. Jeremy and Jules: Thanks for watching that video. I believe it’s from the UK, but I hope that they air it in other nations.

    Jeremy: Best wishes to your daughter for her recital! Enjoy freezing (in photos) the ice. Happy belated birthday!

    Jama: Yes, yes, they do. How fun, to know that your soup and writing passions are spreading to your relatives.

    Happy Cybils day, everyone!

    Mary Lee: Hurrah for energy!

    Jone: Excellent re: singing directions. Happy anniversary! I’m amused by the fact that a dog will be there to celebrate Cat. Very cool. Funny about the engaged readers.

    Jeannine: Have a good weekend!

    Adrienne: That’s awesome! Do you use the sing-or-listen-to-a-two-minute-song rule when you brush your teeth? (Neither do I.) I want to see Duncan’s newest musical, Whisper House. I like the album and think highly of Holly Brook and David Poe, who are performing in it. Yay for your ribbon-cutting ceremony! Rock the tween department. Enjoy your relaxing day.

    Jules: She was good with duets. Spooky didn’t sing, while Twinkie talked as much as I do, and she also danced with me. 🙂

    JES: I hope the new hearing aids are fantastic. Woot back atcha!

  16. I love the textures and colors in Sergio’s work! That little mouse with the cheese is wonderful – that’s how I feel when I eat chocolate.

    Jules, congrats on the Sam Phillips honorable mention, and then the actual mention by Sam! TOO. DARN.COOL.
    And changing lyrics to “donut” sounds like inspired giggle-inciting silliness, which we all could use more of.

    LW – thanks for sharing that beautiful PSA, such beautiful imagery. Congrats on the career stepping stone too!

    Jeremy – hooray for Valentine’s dates, and birthday snowboarding!

    jama – Arlo Guthrie – so jealous, have fun!

    Mary Lee – envious of your snow days as we have only had one snow day this year. Enjoy!

    jone – Happy Anniversary! Congratulations! And I love the image of those 5th grade boys falling down laughing.

    Adrienne – your Tea Parties with Olivia sounds so cool. And Casablanca, such a perfect V-day movie.

    Happy Valentine’s Day everyone!

    My kicks this week:
    1. Just bought the new Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni book, One Amazing Thing. I keep staring at it longingly as it sits on my nightstand, because I have to finish another book before I’ll allow myself to start reading it.
    2. Actually made a Valentine’s card for my main valentine this year. Bought the pdf file here: http://www.empapers.com/valentines.html
    3. Getting everything together, made, wrapped, and in a Valentine package and then shipped off on time. (I usually send things late, my nieces and nephews always joke about “2nd Christmas” or “2nd Birthday” from me.)
    4. Running in the rain this week, both by myself and with a friend.
    5. Staying up far too late talking on the phone with someone far away and dear.
    6. A judge who generally intimidates me with how smart she is actually saying, “I agree with defense counsel…” made my day.
    7. Plans to celebrate V-day with a good girlfriend by going shopping and having lunch later today.

    Oh, and 8 is/was a party at work with chocolate ganache cake and sugar cookies – yum!

    Have a great week everyone!

  17. Hello everyone,

    Sorry for not acknowledging each of your kicks today, but my bathroom floor just flooded for no apparent reason, and I have to deal with this and also work today.

    Sergio’s magical suitcase with the beautiful colors flying out of it reminded me of this quote from my new favorite author, Robert Walser: “The next morning the painter unpacked his landscapes from their portfolio, and first an entire autumn fell out of it, then a winter, all the moods of Nature came to life again.”

    My kicks:
    1) Getting an honorable mention with Jules for our worst V-Day stories by Sam Phillips. WOOT!
    2) Sam’s new EP, “Magic For Everybody”. Glorious.
    3) Speaking of Walser, I got to attend a lecture on Tues. about him, and the speaker was his translator, Susan Bernofsky. Susan is a friend of RM, fellow 7-imp kicker, which just goes to show you what a small world it is. Susan was wonderful.
    4) Watching “Desperate Man Blues” on DVD, about 78 record collector Joe Bussard. Without Joe, we would never get the opportunity to hear some of the greatest American blues, country and jazz musicians — he allowed recordings to be made of his records, many of which were one-of-a-kind.
    5) Jambalaya
    6) Bowling with a friend (something I rarely do, but found highly enjoyable and amusing. Inspired by Jules.).
    7) Sunshine!

    Have a flood-free week, all.

  18. John, fun video. Did you ever see this one? It was from way back in Season One, I think. I remember seeing it years ago. Porthishead makes everything better.

    Those Facebook images from David Ezra Stein are where I first heard about the book. Then, I went bugging David to see if he’d stop by and share some sketches/images from the book, which he’s going to do in May (I think it is)! In the meantime, I got an F & G of the book this week to prepare for that post. But I fell in love with the art — and the departure in style for him — as soon as I saw the images. The book is great. (Was going to post the image you found, but I didn’t have enough time to ask David if I could, not to mention, like I said, that he’ll be here later.)

    Good sleuthing, though!

    Congrats on the new hearing aid as well as your good Valentine’s Day. Did you have something yummy for your big meal?

    Little Willow and Adrienne, here’s our favorite song-defacing:

    “Somewhere a donut shines for everyone / somewhere one’s shining for me / No matter how rich or poor you are / if you are born under a lucky donut / somewhere a donut shines for everyone / if you will only believe / la la la la la la la la / somewhere a donut shines for me.”

  19. RM, those designs at that site are pretty great. Thanks for the link. Maybe it’ll still be there next year, too. Running in the rain sounds like a good and necessary thing. Congrats on kick #6, and have fun today!

    Jill, a bathroom-floor flood? Boo. Sorry to hear that. That Walser quote is fitting. Desperate Man Blues sounds great, and I’ll see if I can add it to the queueueueue. And hoo ha! glad you went bowling. (My Worst Valentine’s Day Ever story, everyone, can be summarized in this manner: Went bowling with a guy I was crushing on in high school, fell down while throwing the ball — or whatever the proper bowling terminology is. Half my ass in the gutter; the other half in the lane. Everyone stood up and clapped. I elaborated a bit, though, for my submission to Sam’s contest, and I threw Def Leppard in there.)

    Good luck cleaning up, Jill. Yuck. If I could help, I would.

  20. 1. Sergio’s lovely color palette. Jules, thanks for the watercolor C.U.s. I’m inspired to get out my watercolor pencils to make my hubby’s Valentine this afternoon. (Candlelit dinner later.)

    2. But before the romantic dinner, we’re going to a writer-friend’s Un-Valentine Party. Attire: You have to wear your shlumpy clothes (there is a prize for the shlumpiest.) Fare: Is a potluck composed of everyone’s “Favorite Broken-hearted Comfort Food”. Ha! I love this whole concept. I’m taking Mallowmars and a pan of macaroni and cheese.

    3. This week I read Esme Raji Codell’s companion books “Sahara Special” and “Vive La Paris” and they were funny and moving and cleverly depicted the impact of a good teacher in a bad situation. Yea Esme, yea teachers! I ordered copies to send to:

    4. My cousin in Arizona. Mrs. Groark, as her students call her, is famous school-wide for reading books to her third grade class with such passion that the kid in the front desk stands by with a box of kleenex. Rumor is that the teacher has to hand off the last chapters of “Tale of Despereaux” to a good student reader – because she just can’t get through them aloud without sobbing. The effect seems to be: her students (who all adore Mrs. Groark) discover that reading is a wonderful, emotional journey. Her class checks out more books from the school library than any other.

    5. Ooo. Can’t wait for Na’s “Thingamabob”. I discovered the beautiful “Book of Sleep” because amazon.com pairs it with “Once Upon a Twice” in one of those ‘Value Buy’ options. The two book covers — both dark turquoise squares featuring pale circles (the moon, the eye) are pretty striking together. Anyway, I bought/enjoyed “The Book of Sleep” and am looking forward to more Na.

    6. I finally figured out what gender Il Sung Na is. I read several reviews (and your feature Jules) and no one ever said “he” or “she” (maybe I just didn’t read closely enough?) I went to the author website – no photo. No gender clues. BUT I finally found an interview with a tiny picture of HIM on Powell’s website.
    http://www.powells.com/blog/?p=7780 Mystery (to me) solved.

    7. Valentine’s Day chocolates. Happy V-day to the Kickline.

  21. Denise, yes! I wondered if anyone would notice my lack of gender-specific pronouns when talking about Na. I was at a loss. Now, the mystery is cleared up. Thanks. I figured it was a male, but I certainly didn’t want to screw that up. I wonder if I could get him for an interview? Hmmm…..

    I love the notion of the Un-Valentine Party, very much in spirit with Sam P.’s request for Worst Valentine’s Day Ever stories…

    That’s a pretty great description of your cousin, Mrs. Groark. I’d like to sit in on her class. ….Let me know if you like The Thingamabob.

    Speaking of your kick #7, my husband got me chocolates with Bailey’s inside them. Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm. And mmm again.

  22. p.s. What are Mallowmars? Also: I hope you win the costume contest. What are you going to wear? Since I work from home, I’m often dressed schlumpily when I don’t even mean to be.

  23. Jules — I’m wearing my “serious writing clothes” which is the outfit I put on when I a really have to duke-it-out with a chapter: old sweatpants, an ancient oh-so-soft holey sweatshirt I stole from my husband years ago, and my hair back in a pony tail.

    Mallowmars are those cookies that have a vanilla wafer on the bottom, a hill of marshmallow and then they’re dipped in chocolate. (My mom REFUSED to buy them for us when I was a kid — hence the obsession now.)

    I’m coveting your Bailey bites. mmmm.

  24. I’m joining in the paper-texture-love here. Great pictures!

    Jules, I love the owls. I’m with Jeremy in having to think more about the quote, though!

    Little Willow, I’m sure your comfort sharing is appreciated by the person, and helps them.

    Jeremy, I watched people snowboard for the first time recently, and it was impressive. They all looked like they were having fun, too – glad you got out for your birthday!

    RM, I have such a surplus of great books at the moment that I am gazing longingly all around the room! I find patting them occasionally helps. Congrats on the compliments from the judge.

    Good luck with the floor, Jill!

    1. The week before last we had a great holiday in Saas Fee in Switzerland. We chose it because it sounded cute (lots of traditional wooden houses and car free) and we got cheap train fares there. It more than lived up to our expectations – it had a great feel, with people of all ages wandering around, and it was very relaxing staying in one place for seven nights.
    2. Skiing was fun and not as difficult as I’d imagined. But I dropped out of the ski lessons because the instructor was not very good with people like me who like to practice (as opposed to thinking “I can do it!” and it happening) and don’t mind being told when things are too difficult for them. I decided this was a kick because I’m happy that I’m able to decide when things are not useful, and didn’t care what the other people in the class would think. And I did enjoy practicing swooping around more without feeling like I was holding up half a dozen people!
    3. And in my spare mornings I went on a couple of amazing hikes. Walks where it was just me and mountains (and, as per the next kick, the ibex) and the snow. Bliss. Just what I needed after a very noisy and busy couple of months. And I also visited my new favourite café in the world, a cute mountain hut only accessible by foot or skidoo where they served amazing apple strudel (a photo from my phone is here).
    4. After spending my last visit to the alps imagining I saw ibex, I forgot all about them this time around, but then saw them multiple times! Gorgeous.
    5. I have got so many books to read that I am wallowing in them.
    6. I bought a gorgeous children’s literature compendium for a going on maternity leave present for my manager (I was in charge of the money from the team, mwha ha ha).
    7. A late addition is this great photo that makes me happy

  25. Denise, I took so long to type I didn’t see your post. Love the idea of an Un-Valentine party! And you took perfect food.

  26. Denise, may you win that contest.

    Emmaco, that cafe! It looks like a toy house. Really. (The kick-#7 photo is missing. Is it the blog’s fault? Hope it didn’t eat it. Oh, I see it’s not actually hyperlinked. Can you re-type it?! I’m curious now.)

    So glad you had fun. Sounds lovely. We were briefly in Switzerland on our honeymoon in ’00.

  27. Jule, Mallomars: Wikipedia to the rescue. OMG.

    V’s Day Eve entree (mine) was something called Snapper Augustine. (Snapper as in fish, not turtle.) Blackened, flavored with cilantro and lemon and some sort of… of dressing, I guess, which featured these amazing shrimp the size of, like, a baby’s fingernails. The Missus had garlic-stuffed filet mignon. Shared dessert: creme brulee (however it’s supposed to be accent-marked). Well, you asked! 🙂

    (And for the record, I haven’t stopped thinking about Jonathan Safran Foer’s book at every meat-featuring meal — which I guess is the point, even for somebody like me who hasn’t actually read the book.)

    What’s an “F & G”?

    Jill: Long-distance “Aaaaaargh!” of sympathy for the flood! But, y’know, lemons into lemonades and all that. Maybe you can do a playlist of songs like They Might Be Giants’ Flood album, and Stevie Ray Vaughn’s “Texas Flood,” and the Doobie Brothers’ “Black Water,” throw in “Old Man River” too, and Johnny Cash’s “Five Feet High and Rising”…

    Denise — LOVE the Un-Valentine’s party idea! It deserves international attention!

    RM, I actually made a chocolate ganache cake once, a few years ago, for Christmas. Depending on one’s perspective, it was either an ungodly thing to inflict on already-full company, or a huge hit. I gather the one you had was the latter. 🙂

  28. Jill – so happy you got to meet Susan this week! She is definitely amazing. Sorry about the flooding though, hope its an easy fix.

    Jules – for more good chocolates, see here: http://www.moonstruckchocolate.com/ My lucky valentine got a box from Moonstruck.

    Also, since everyone has been sharing music, check out this sweet video of Charlie Winston singing to Audrey Tatou: http://capucha.tumblr.com/post/385539704/charlie-winston-and-audrey-tautou-in-love-for-the

    Denise – that party sounds so much fun! And mallomars are perfect comfort food.

    emmaco – bravo for walking away from the ski lesson and doing your own thing. And thanks, I think will be patting my new book occaisionally.

    Oh, and I got a geeky kick this week because The Big Bang Theory threw out a Firefly mention as part of a geek-pop culture joke. I am late to the Firely fan club, but an eager member.

  29. emmaco — the picturesque Swiss town/cafe photo. Wow. Did Heidi, Peter and Grandfather stop by?

  30. John, sounds delicious, and creme-however-it’s-accented-brulee…yum.

    An F&G is what they call ARCs (advance review copies) for picture books. I forget what the F and G actually stand for. It’s a very floppy unbound picture book. I have stacks and stacks of these things. I actually like them, as they’re easier to store. (I donate a lot of books to my local public library and my daughter’s kindergarten classroom, but I’m stingy about picture books I love, as one day I want to teach children’s lit and have a library of picture books to let students borrow from.)

    Great playlist, John.

    RM, thanks for the linkage, especially the video, which I’m downloading. Hey, Firefly is coming up soon on our queueueueueue.

  31. Thank you so much to everyone for the nice comments on my drawings!

    Jill: what Walser’s book did you take that quote from? I loved his “The Walk”, which I read years ago.

    Jules: f&g means folded and gathered (and sometimes stapled…)

    Thanks again!

  32. I’ve gotta quit lurking… or I’ll get drawn back in all day. : – )

    F & Gs = Fold and Gathers (think that’s right).

    My fellow lurking friends (of the Jewish persuasion) are giving me back-channel shit for mispelling “schlumpy”. Oy vey.

  33. Hi, Sergio! The Walser quote is from “The Tanners” which was translated by Susan Bernofsky in 2009. I love it that you have read his work — “The Walk” is wonderful. Your work is amazing and beautiful.

    Jules, Emmaco, JES and rm, thanks for the flood sympathy. It is turning out better than I thought. No plumber necessary, thank goodness. And JES, I love your positive attitude — who else would come up with a great music mix to counterbalance the unpleasantness of bathroom flooding? Wonderful song choices!

  34. Ah, sorry for the non-html linkage! Second try!

  35. Sergio is amazing! Thanks for all the color and beauty and talent you expose with this inspiring blog. I enjoy it ever so much! If you’re ever in Berlin let me treat you to breakfast!

  36. Jules,

    Mallomar = at the end of my Gilmore Girls post last week. This is the kind of food those characters lived on. See what you’re missing? 🙂

  37. Turn on Turner Classic Movies (TCM), Imps! The Lady Eve is on now, to be followed by Ball of Fire, one of my favorite comedies from the forties.

    rm preston: I like the title of One Amazing Thing. Woo hoo for the judge’s agreement!

    Jules: How did I miss commenting on the Sam mention earlier? I read it, and I thought, “How cool!” then I neglected to type it.

    Jill, Jules: I am now singing, “Good day, sunshine!”

    Denise: Your cousin sounds like quite the storyteller! Enjoy the event today.

    emmaco: Glad that you had a lovely holiday.

  38. Just got back from seeing Valentine’s Day and there is a very funny “un-Valentine Day” party. Fun movie.
    Jes, “read to the Dog” person…the owner of a service dog trained to visit schools, hospitals, etc and people can read to the dog or just pet the dog,..like a therapy dog. There is an organization, Delta, that trains them.

  39. Jules, Yes, I am playing different things with each hand now–it’s a bit of a trick, but, you know, practice, patience, practice, patience. I’m sure if I can do it, anyone with two hands can. This weekend, I’ve been figuring out how to play more quietly with one hand than the other.

    Little Willow, We don’t listen to a song while we brush our teeth, but sometimes we try to sing while we brush our teeth, which is counterproductive, but also funny.

    Re: F&G’s, I’ve always thought “F&G” sounds vaguely like swearing, so it always makes me laugh a little inside when I say it.

  40. Sergio, thanks for visiting again.

    Oh how I wish F & Gs were stapled more often than they actually are.

    Emmaco, great photo!

    Lisa, thanks! And: DEAL!

    Jama, how did I miss that? I read that post. Sometimes, I’m in such a hurry to leave a comment, I miss things. In fact, I usually want to say about ten things and forget nine of them when I get to your comment box.

    And, yeah, I need to see that show already.

    Adrienne: Good to know. Very good to know.

  41. Wow, by the time I arrived, there were forty comments before me! I went out to see the “Sleeping Beauty” ballet with my husband and 6 year old daughter today. I always forget just HOW LONG that ballet is. A prologue and three acts is actually four acts. The last act: everyone just dances, as they’re celebrating the wedding. Whee! FYI, Sleeping Beauty is my favorite of the Disney films simply because of the music.

  42. Party Report: The Un-Valentine party was fun and stocked with yummy carbs I will be working off the rest of Feb.: chocolate dipped oreos, rice pudding, nacho casserole, etc. and wine.

    Oh, and I won. Judges said the pink hair curler dangling from my bangs did it. I am officially the schlumpiest and took home the new reissue of “Tootsie” on DVD. : – )

  43. Just wanted to thank you for the Sergio spotlight. just love his work and how much he enjoys line and texture. I really liked the close-ups Jules, and of course the sketchbook stuff.

  44. Farida, sounds like you had fun. I’d love to take my girls to that.

    Denise, congrats! What a good movie Tootsie is.

    Bill, any time.

  45. I love how this week’s kicks thread exploded. So much fun to read all the ongoing kicks.

    Congrats on winning Denise!

    Farida – the Disney Sleeping Beauty is my favorite too – the colors and animation are darker, but I especially love the music, and the song “Once Upon a Dream.”

    John – I totally missed your comment about chocolate ganache cake – how hard was it to make? My friend’s wife made ours and was up almost all night making it. Pic here: http://twitpic.com/134cf9
    It just seems so amazingly rich and complicated….

  46. Jama, I’d love to see a photo or two of the ice creature you found. Sounds nifty.

    Happy anniversary, Jone. You’re just a few years ahead of us!

    Adrienne, too cool that you’re learning to play the piano. I’ve been “teaching” our Ella to play keyboard the last few weeks and it’s been tons of fun…but I’m remembering now how hard it is.

    Jules, glad you liked the tunage…Ari is amazing to see live, but I hesitated to link over there because it just doesn’t translate in the videos…but he’s still great.

    John, our life sounds better than it would if I included an equal number of anti-kicks. Not that I’m complaining, but…you know. I was stoked about your hearing aid kick, as I have a strong streak of hearing loss in my family and have enough high-volume teenage stupidity in my past to ensure that I’ll be appreciating that technology soon enough.

    Emmaco, learning to snowboard looks and feels awkward and painful, but once you get the hang of it, it can be graceful and beautiful. Your trip sounds amazing!

    Have a great week, all.

  47. Update: it snowed 9 more inches at home in OH, stranding me in NYC for an extra night, but school was canceled, so it all worked out okay in the end! And I’m GROOVIN’ on the tunes you embedded, Jules! Thanks!!!

  48. […] really observant readers may remember that, back in February of this year, I mentioned today’s featured book, Interrupting Chicken by David Ezra Stein (which, as you […]

  49. Tagchen! Sie betreiben hier einen tollen Blog! Ich bewundere im besonderen das Layout sowie die Colour! Weiterhin alles Gute! Bis dann, Swetlana von Wenger

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