Poetry Friday: Feeding my Coffee Habit
with Author/Illustrator Barney Saltzberg

h1 March 26th, 2010 by jules

This morning, I welcome children’s book author and illustrator Barney Saltzberg, who has published more than thirty books in his career thus far, as well as released two CDs of children’s music. Barney also teaches a class on writing and illustrating picture books at UCLA. He’s here this morning to talk a bit about his brand-new picture book, All Around the Seasons (Candlewick, February 2010), as well as share some art from it. The energetic book, in the words of Kirkus, is a rhyming salute to the four seasons. School Library Journal adds: “The illustrations, done in acrylic and pencil, have a childlike simplicity that should appeal to young children. Emerging readers might also like to try this book, as the simple verse and large, clear font are easy to read without crowding the pictures.”

With regard to coffee, Barney says he and his wife “users,” not drinkers. This I love. “Every morning I make espresso for whomever is in the house,” he told me, “which sometimes feels like a B&B. I refer to my coffee corner as Barnbucks.” So, I’m going to have a seat at Barnbucks here—yes, I’ve invited myself over—while Barney tells us a bit about his new title. Thanks to Barney for letting me visit…

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{This is} my first rhyming picture book. It’s a departure for me. I had done two books for {Candlewick}, I Love Cats and I Love Dogs, (which rhymed) but they were called Super Sturdy Picture Books. Shorter pagination and a thicker stock. I call them the book equivalent to pull-ups. Not diapers, not underwear. Somewhere between a board book and a picture book. I love the way they came out, although I found the large chain bookstores didn’t know where to file them on the shelves, something that hadn’t occurred to me when I started creating the books.

Some time after they were done, my wonderful editor suggested I write I Love Fall, I Love Spring, etc. I quickly responded with four separate book ideas. The powers that be at Candlewick felt that it might make more sense to make one book with all four seasons instead. I re-worked the text, and that is what became All Around the Seasons. It was a labor of love and a departure from my usual picture books.

I was born in Los Angeles and I still live here, so my sense of the seasons is a bit warped! I think of winter as a time to jump in puddles. My editor lives in New York and would say, ‘What about the snow?’ So the book is a mix of my memories and ones I wish I had as well. Somehow, in the editing process, my little piece about rain never made the final cut. I was so busy illustrating the book that I didn’t notice until the galleys arrived. I made a point of including rain on the cover, and there’s another girl on the back of the book with an umbrella.

Picking a title was crazy-making. There was talk that, since the book rhymes, the title should as well. That leaves Reasons for Seasons or Pleazin’ Seasons or, even worse, Sneazin’ Seasons. (Could write an allergy book!) We finally decided to break away from the rhyming title. The Four Seasons came to mind, but I worried people would think this was a Vivaldi book or a story about a fancy hotel. My editor started calling it All Around the Seasons, and that’s what stuck!

(Click to enlarge these sketches.)

I am pleasantly surprised to hear from kindergarten and first grade teachers that this is a perfect book to help teach about the seasons. It was definitely a departure for me, as far as illustrations. This might sound really inconsequential, but I have always drawn eyes a certain way. Circles with dots. It has allowed me to show direction in a very simple form. I decided to just draw dots to represent the eyes, and it has a totally different look to me. I used pretty much everything and anything that was in my studio. Pencil, pen, colored pencil, acrylic, and some watercolors. I don’t ever remember re-working drawings for any of my other books, the way I did for this one. I have piles and piles of different versions of the same illustration.

{This is} the first storyboard. (I’ve never made such a detailed storyboard. I used a magnifying glass to draw this. The entire book fits on a piece of 8 1/2 x 11 paper. If the book business doesn’t work out, I can get a job drawing a picture book on a piece of rice!)

(Click to enlarge.)

After the book was finished, it occurred to me that since this book rhymes, I could sing it. I grabbed a guitar and recorded a song the very same morning. I made a promotional video (very loose) for YouTube. It gives you a sense of the book and it will make you hum!

Last but not least, {here’s} a photo of a fort I built in my living room. I tried drawing one from my memory of growing up. I found it helped immensely to build one and work from the photo! It made for interesting dinner conversation when my wife asked me what I had done at work that day. She’s a lawyer, and I could have bet that we had entirely different experiences that day at work.

Today’s Poetry Friday round-up is being hosted by Julie Larios at The Drift Record. Enjoy.

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ALL AROUND THE SEASONS. Copyright © 2010 by Barney Saltzberg. Published by Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA. Reproduced with permission of the author.

7 comments to “Poetry Friday: Feeding my Coffee Habit
with Author/Illustrator Barney Saltzberg”

  1. Love the fort! This looks like a fun, cheery book. Thanks, Barney and Jules :)!

  2. Barney,

    I think you got excellent advice from the “powers that be” at Candlewick. This is a delightful rhyming book about the seasons. Love your bright, colorful illustrations–especially the pictures of the fort and children relaxing in the hammock. I enjoyed watching your book trailer.

    Thanks for this poetry post, Jules. Have a great weekend!

  3. Great great piuc and personal delivery of the books/

  4. I have this one in my TBR pile – it looks very cute!

    And to answer your question about Mirror Mirror, the poems were extremely clever, which is why I simply had to buy the book. And the art backs them up/supports them extremely well. It’s a well-balanced collection. More in a review to come.

  5. I love the fort story (I feel that way about teaching, sometimes) and the storyboard miniature!

    Kelly — can’t wait for your review of Mirror Mirror. Just got it yesterday and LOVE it! Have you tried writing a reverso yet?

  6. Mary Lee: I started trying to write part of the review as a reverso, which is part of the reason for the delay. The other part was that it’s almost April, so I thought I might hold my poetry collection reviews until then. So glad you liked Mirror Mirror as well – I simply had to buy it after I saw how brilliant the concept was (and how well she pulled it off).

    Jules: I forgot that I’d read this entire book (not that it’s super long) until I picked it up again today. It is indeed adorable. I’m mentioning it (but not reviewing it yet) tonight, and linking here.

  7. […] * * *   From Barney Saltzberg’s Andrew Drew and Drew (2012)(Click to […]

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