a true prairie home.”
If you’re a fan of author/illustrator David Small’s work, then you’re having a good year. I decided to check in with him this morning to see what he’s been up to in 2010, and the answer to that would be two really great illustrated titles — Elsie’s Bird (Philomel), written by Jane Yolen (an illustration from that is pictured above) and to be released this Fall, and Naomi Howland’s Princess Says Goodnight (HarperCollins), released in May. David is stopping by to share some art and sketches from these titles. Let’s start with Naomi’s title, since it was released earlier this year.
“Sweet and disarmingly infectious without being cloying, this is a bedtime story full of joy and imagination,” writes Publishers Weekly about the rhyming Princess Says Goodnight. Howland lays out this story of an imaginative girl’s bedtime with a series of questions. (“At the palace in the nighttime, when Princess leaves the ball, is she practicing her curtsies while dancing down the hall?”) Even before the title page, we see a contemporary family ready to retire for the evening. Once the youngest child of the family, a curly-haired red-headed wee girl, sees herself in a hallway mirror, her rampant imagination transforms her into a princess. Her family suddenly becomes her royal court, ready to serve on her way from her imagined ball to her princess-bed. And everything in her home, once ordinary, becomes stately, royal, and fit-only-for-a-princess. (Note the swan-shaped bathtub below!)
David’s palette is particularly colorful in this title: “Is her favorite color for all her royal clothes,” Naomi writes, “every pretty shade of pink—mauve and peach and rose?” Fortunately, I’ve got some spreads to show you so that his art can speak for itself. David also shares some early roughs from the book, as well as a picture of his and his wife’s “li’l princess, granddaughter Lily.”
Below are the spreads, as well as the aforementioned early roughs…
Will she make a wish upon a star before she goes to sleep?”
She has a special fluffy towel for each one of her toes.”
Now, the second title…
Betsy Bird recently reviewed Jane Yolen’s and David’s Elsie’s Bird, describing it as “a love song to the country,” adding:
“It’s much harder to give that landscape the right feel and love in a picture book setting, yet somehow Yolen and Small have managed it together. Between the storyline and characters and Small’s captivating watercolors trapped within thick black pastels, Nebraska has never been so loved. City kids will marvel as I once did at the notion of losing yourself in a vegetation usually cropped and pruned into respectable lawns. Country kids will find a soulmate in a girl so in love with a bird that she casts herself in harm’s way to aid him. And parents will be equally entranced by Yolen’s wordplay and Small’s inventiveness. Quiet. Contained. Original. A keeper.”
Elsie’s Bird tells the story of a young Boston girl, one in love with the sounds of the city, who moves with her father to the Nebraska prairie after her mother’s death. Pictured here first are some images from David, “my land,” he told me, “my wife’s restoration of the tall grass prairie which used to end here, on this acreage, on the St. Joseph River. My inspiration for Elsie’s story.”
Elsie’s life in her new home is one of despondence (“Here there is only grass and sky and silence”), and the story tells of her transformation to a place of acceptance, brought about by the inadvertent release of her pet canary, Timmy Tune, from his cage. Here are some luminous spreads from the title, which speak for themselves and tell you much more about this beautiful, poignant story Yolen has penned. If you click on each of these spreads, you can see them without text, David’s art larger and in much more detail. I thank David for stopping by. Enjoy…
where the fish merchants called, ‘Fresh cod, fresh!’”
but she didn’t let Papa know.”
dreaming of Boston cobbles and bells.”
the hand holding the cage up above the high grass.”
PRINCESS SAYS GOODNIGHT. Copyright © 2010 by Naomi Howland. Illustration copyright © 2010 David Small. Published by HarperCollins, New York, NY.
ELSIE’S BIRD. Copyright © 2010 by Jane Yolen. Illustration copyright © 2010 David Small. Published by Philomel Books, New York, NY.
All other photos and sketches used with permission of David Small.