7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #184: Featuring Ulises Wensell

h1 September 12th, 2010 by jules

“…maybe, what if, the best family in the world was . . . a family of tiger trainers! She’d live at the circus! She’d spend the day playing with the tigers, tickling the tips of the cubs’ whiskers and counting the stripes on their coats…”

In honor of this post this week—and Cristiana-posts-to-come about international picture books and their creators—I’m featuring an illustrator from Spain today, Ulises Wensell. Wensell was born in Madrid in 1945 and was originally trained as a chemical engineer, later becoming a self-taught painter and illustrator. His many honors include the Spanish National Prize for Children’s Literature. In 2008, he was nominated for the Hans Christian Andersen Award and in 2009 for the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award.

This morning’s featured title, The Best Family in the World, written by Susana López, is the First American Edition (released early this year from Kane Miller) of La mejor familia del mundo, first published in Spain in 2008. It tells the story of a young girl who is adopted from an orphanage into a loving family. Before she meets them—and too nervous to sleep—this half-glass-full child imagines what they could be like. Will they be a family of pastry chefs? Pirates? Tiger trainers? Astronauts? Each, she determines, would be the best family in the world. Turns out the Pérez family lives a life not as exhilarating as that of training wild animals or flying through space, and Carlota, the young girl, immediately sees how extraordinary ordinary can be — and that she actually gets what she had wished for all along.

Writes Kirkus, “The warmth of Wensell’s illustrations matches the gentle narrative, a modern fairy tale. This Spanish import does not seek to explain anything about the adoption process, thus rendering it nicely universal. It distinguishes itself further from other books on the topic by posing a preschool-age child as its protagonist, rather than a child adopted as an infant.” Booklist states, “the artwork glows with warmth and light. Showing different scenes from different angles, the handsome illustrations have a certain elegance of composition, combined with undeniable child appeal in characterization.”

Here are some more spreads. Enjoy.

“She’d live in a pastry shop! She’d spend every day surrounded by cakes, pastries, cookies and chocolates. She’d write messages in the frosting and lick the icing from the cakes. She’d have chocolate pastries for breakfast, lunch, afternoon snack and dinner. Yes, a family of pastry chefs would be the best family in the world!”
(Click to enlarge — P.S.: This image is just for Jama.)

“…maybe, what if, the best family in the world was . . . a family of pirates! She’d live on a pirate ship! She’d sail the seven seas, decorate flags with skulls and crossbones and look for treasure troves of gold doubloons…”
(Click to enlarge spread.)

“Leonor, Carlota’s new mother, works for the post office. She isn’t a pastry chef,
but sometimes on her way home from work,
she brings Carlota a pastry for an afternoon snack.”

(Click to enlarge.)

“Roberto, Carlota’s new father, is an insurance agent. He isn’t a pirate,
but he loves digging for buried treasure in the vacant lot next door.”

(Click to enlarge.)

THE BEST FAMILY IN THE WORLD. Text copyright © 2008 by Susana López. Illustrations copyright © 2008 by Ulises Wensell. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Kane Miller, Tulsa, OK. (First American Edition 2010).

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 * * *

1). I know I sound like a broken record, but I think I’ve maybe possibly perhaps said here before that reading with my girls is My Best Thing Ever in life. Well, there’s nothing like falling head over heels into a series. I actually had never read the Spiderwick books but knew enough to know my first grader, in particular, would probably dig them, so we read the first book in under an hour and then ran to the library—thirty minutes before they closed on Friday—to get the next four. And our kickin’ children’s librarian is going to keep her eye out for the Field Guide for us. Such fun! {Illustration re-posted here
from my October ’09 interview with Tony and Angela DiTerlizzi.}

2). The whole site from which this link comes is funny enough, but that particular description of the evil that is glitter made me laugh so hard I nearly hurt myself.

3). Oh, and this. Warning: Not for the easily-offended-by-colorful-language. But also made me laugh outloud very hard. Thanks to Eisha (who else?) for the link.

4). I got to meet British author Liz Kessler, hear her speak at a Nashville bookstore, and watch my first grader get addicted in no time flat to her Emily Windsnap series. Bonus: I also got to meet someone from Candlewick, the folks who will be publishing our book in 2012. Unfortunately, since my four-year-old got ill this week, I didn’t get to attend a lunch with Liz and said Candlewick rep (and other book-lovers) the following day, all the more reason I was glad to have driven out to hear Liz the day prior.

5). Four-year-old is no longer sick.

6). Cristiana!

7). My two new favorite songs of the week, “High Time Baby” by The Greenhornes and “Nobody Gets Me Down” by T-Model Ford. Actually, you can type in both over at Grooveshark and listen to them in their entirety for free, if you’re so inclined to hear some great tune-age. (Or you can hear “Nobody Gets Me Down” at T-Model’s MySpace site, too. His bio there is a good read, too.)

BONUS #1: The family decision to cover my husband’s birthday cake this year with ganache instead of frosting. Mmm.

BONUS #2: I’ve started this wonderful book below. (Well, so far it’s wonderful, and I don’t expect it to go downhill.) Below the cover image is an excerpt, written by Parravano, from the Overview to Part One, in honor of my kick #1.

“I don’t think it’s an accident that so much adult-child book-sharing forms and takes place within a circle, or that so many picture books open to a size that facilitates one. That circle, so private and intimate, is a place apart from the demands and stresses of daily life, a sanctuary in and from which the child can explore the many worlds offered in picture books. Despite all of our society’s technological advances, it still just takes one child, one book, and one reader to create this unique space, to work this everyday magic.”

What are YOUR kicks this week?

24 comments to “7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #184: Featuring Ulises Wensell”

  1. Fly-by posting, as I just got home.

  2. Fly-by posting, as I just got home.

    Here, I see tigers!
    Here, I see SPIDERWICK!
    Such things make me smile.

    My kicks from the past week:
    1) Double holiday
    2) Double new year
    3) Film shoot! (So far, I’ve completed 1 of the 5 days I’m called, and can’t wait to go back.)
    4) Remembered
    5) Things which are worthwhile
    6) I have an audition Sunday afternoon
    7) I have an audition Monday evening


  3. Yes! I want to belong to a family of pastry chefs! LOVE the yummy spread. Thanks so much, mrs. b! And “tickling the tips of cubs’ whiskers”? The book looks wonderful.

    That glitter thing was too funny — so so true! And the hot air balloon piece really woke me up :D. McSweeney’s is the best (Eisha was my official McSweeney’s pimp a couple years ago). Necklace of ears = love it! And yay for Ada feeling better and chocolate ganache birthday cakes :9.

    Break a leg on your auditions, LW!!

    Couple of kicks:

    One good book leading to many more. After reading Paris in the Spring with Picasso, I’m excited about reading as much as I can about Stein’s coterie.

    Len surprised me with white roses, sushi, dumplings, and mochi yesterday. Just because.

    A friend who’s been ill for years (baffling the doctors at Johns Hopkins) is finally starting to feel better. We celebrated with Nutella and coconut pudding.

    Cooler weather, fall is coming!

    Started the Herculean task of paring down my books. I decided the answer was not to get more shelves (don’t have room anyway), but to be more selective about what to keep. Decisions, decisions.

    Hood River bing cherries. The absolute best.

    Watching French movies all summer. Enjoyed biopics of George Sand and Edith Piaf.

    Have a good week, everyone!

  4. Jules, I will be spending more time at Christiana’s blog. I love her idea of the more international flare for books in the library. So glad your daughter is feeling And you have given me an idea for Christmas w/the Suttonbook.
    LW, bre a gleg and fly by dropping. Fun.
    My kicks:
    1 Doing the marshmallow project with students thanks to A Year of Reading blog post by Franki who did it in her library. (google Ted talk and marshmallow project).
    2. The weather, that soon to be fall feel.
    3. My husband’s 60th bday and the surprise party.
    4. The granddaughter’s playfulness at the party.Everyone enjoyed them.
    5. Working on having Matt Holm in our school district this spring. Yay for Babymouse.
    6. Re-reading a letter I wrote from France when I was 16 and thought spelling “time” looked better as “tyme”.
    7. Almost a month w/o coffee and pop.
    Have a great week.

  5. LW: meant “break a leg”. Keyboard tricked me.

  6. Little Willow, BREAK A LEG on auditions, and I’m so glad you’re enjoying the film shoot. I hope your birthday week was great.

    Jama, did you watch the Edith Piaf bio with Marion Cotillard? Didn’t she play her, or am I off? I think she is such a great actress. …Such great news about your friend, and if anyone is deserving of such beautiful surprises as you got from your husband, it’s you. I’m totally about to email you about your paring-down-books kick, as I need a support group.

    Jone, the Sutton/Parravano book is great thus far, and I love the very IDEA of the book. (Not a bunch of how-to’s for families who don’t read but for parents who are already book-lovers yet need some guidance with children’s lit.) Happy birthday to your husband! And kudos to the idea of Matt speaking to the kids.

  7. Jules, ooh, ganache yum. And I’ve never really gotten around to the Spiderwick books before, even though they’re so pretty, so will look in the library next time I’m there.

    Your kicks always sounds so glamorous, Little Willow, what with the filming and all! Enjoy your auditions!

    Jama, those presents sound like the perfect things to get as a surprise. And I’m glad for your friend!

    Jone, the tyme/time thing is hilarious.

    I haven’t been here with kicks for weeks and weeks, but in between the busyness have had some great times, eg

    1. The most exciting thing I’ve done since the last list was going to the Globe in London to see the Merry Wives of Windsor. It was fantastic sitting in the theatre watching a play that was popular hundreds of years ago (even with the odd anacronistic plance going overhead). And the play itself was great fun!
    2. Brambling season! Blackberries for yummy crumble obtained and eaten.
    3. While we cycled to get blackberries a couple of weeks back, we heard bagpiping in the middle of nowhere. A colleague later told me she’d seen a man in shorts and a t-shirt playing bagpipes in a nearby quiet layby that afternoon. And to add to the randomness, one farm’s field appeared to be filled by tents and a juggling school.
    4. On the long weekend, we visited Whipsnade zoo, which is a large openish zoo that seems to take London Zoo’s animals that need more space. We were there before the little rhino was born, but had a great time walking around the nicely laid out grounds that had free range wallabies and mara hopping around the place.
    5. After struggling (as usual) to find shoes that fit, had the brain wave that sling back heels would probably fit as they are able to be tightened, ordered a paif off the internet and they fit fine.
    6. Spontaneous picnic today to take advantage of the sunny weather. So relaxing to be the only people on the grounds of an old manor house, and watch the clouds skip across the sky. Also, more blackberries.
    7. A noisy webcam conversation with sisters, partners and my niece (who continues to be disapproving of my giant head on the computer screen) this morning. Nice way to start the day!

  8. Jama: Yum to bing cherries and the book Springtime In Paris w/ Picasso. Sounds fabulous. Msht go and research it. BTW, Carmen T. Bernier-Grand is in the midst of a new children’s book on Picasso.

  9. Happy fall, everyone!

    Work is calling me, so I’ll have to rush a bit, but I missed kicking last week and didn’t want to miss out again.

    Jules, so glad Ada is feeling better. LOVE T-Model Ford (you do have excellent musical taste, since he’s not exactly a household word). I have several of his CD’s if you want me to make you copies.
    LW, you will BRING IT to those auditions! Congrats in advance!
    Jama, if that was the Marion Cotillard movie about Piaf, she certainly deserved the Academy Award for her performance (amazing), although the movie depressed me for days afterward. I love biopics and just watched a good one about Walt Whitman.
    Jone, I love that fall feel also — what a beautiful season.
    Emmaco, such wonderful kicks — I could actually see the countryside with the bagpiper and the juggling school. Wonderful.

    My kicks:
    1) Spending time with my ill friend, who just started chemo. Her strength and positive attitude is going to get her through this.
    2) Planning a trip to Asheville, North Carolina with my boyfriend for the end of October. We’ve never been there, but I’ve heard it’s beautiful. If anyone has been, would love to get some insider tips about places to see, restaurants, etc.
    3) Attending a 21st century version of “Macbeth” last weekend in the beautiful woods of Orinda, here in N. CA, and having dinner with our new friends before the play.
    4) Getting a package in the mail.
    5) Unexpectedly getting to see this Celtic group in concert last weekend and talking with them after the show. Cilette has a beautiful voice.
    6) Having dinner with an old friend last week.
    7) This handy website, which provides those elusive customer service phone numbers that you can’t find on the company web page: http://gethuman.com/

    Have a happy week, all!

  10. What a sweet book The Best Family… looks to be!

    (Just out of curiosity, when an illustrated title moves across language borders, do publishers bring the original artwork with it? or commission new?)

    Jules, thank you for continuing to share with us Eisha’s unique… sensibilities, let’s say. The McSweeney’s piece is a classic!

    And Oooooommmmmgeeee, ganache… I made a hazelnut dessert with a ganache shell one Christmas and I don’t think anyone who ate it, including me, had any idea that it had any other ingredients. 🙂

    Little Willow, completely woot-worthy kicks as always. Please assure us that you have broken at least one leg. (And may I just say, your kicks always are masterpieces of concision, indirection, mystery, and hope.) (This is a GOOD thing. :))

    I would LOVE to set aside a season to watch French movies, jama. What a great idea. Am going to start softening up The Missus to introduce her to the idea. (These things must be done DEL-icately…)

    A little disappointed you corrected that aside to Little Willow, jone. I really wanted “bre a gleg and fly by dropping” to be some sort of Gaelic well-wishing.

    When I read your kicks, emmaco, I sometimes must remind myself that you live in a real-world place and not a fairy tale. Man in undies playing bagpipes. Juggling school. Free-range wallabies. And, as a topper, a giant head. I think I may have glimpsed you once in the background of a Tenniel drawing.


    * concision,
    * indirection,
    * mystery, and
    * hope
    * 7-Imp, where a commenter can say something like, “BTW, Carmen T. Bernier-Grand is in the midst of a new children’s book on Picasso” and nobody will even blink. That “BTW” just slays me.
    * surprising music
    * surprising thunder (I’m a sucker for a sudden rush of pounding pulse)

    Have a great week, everybody!

    BONUS KICK, ’cause I just realized I did this whole thing without any hyperlinks and that feels like a crime against nature: remember David Small’s Stitches, which Jules reviewed here last year? I just found a series of a half-dozen animations from the book on Vimeo. Zowie.

  11. Jill, I felt the whoosh of wind as you drove past me there in the comments thread.

    I wonder how long that Gethuman.com site will be allowed to exist before the companies in question file a lawsuit, claiming invasion of privacy? *cough*

  12. You people are too smart — it was indeed our girl Marion who played Edith in the movie I saw. Yes, it was depressing, but Marion was brilliant, and I keep wondering why I haven’t seen her in more films.

    Jone, I like your tricky keyboard. A gremlin lives in it, I think, and as Jess said, he’s Gaelic.

    Emmaco, I remember going blackberrying in Wimbledon Common a day or two before I got married :).

    Jill, there’s a bakery that makes a moustache cupcake called “The Selleck!”

  13. JES, mystery and hope are wonderful things.

    Jama, PLEASE tell me where to get those cupcakes! And don’t forget (I’m sure you won’t) that Tommy’s new show starts Sept. 24! Woot!

  14. I’m glad Ada is feeling better! My girl has a cold (it only took three days back at school, eh), but I’m hoping that by the way she’s singing merrily in the tub, she’ll be ready to go to school tomorrow. Hurrah for ganache, too.

    My kicks:

    1. First week of school means I have quiet time to think!

    2. Walking to school and walking home with my daughter (5 miles round trip).

    3. My rationalization to buy a snazzy pair of new hiking boots because of all the walking (10 months later and my sprained ankle’s still not completely healed).

    4. I don’t know if I mentioned this already, but based on the drawing my husband put on his ceramic travel mug, he has an upcoming art show at a local coffee shop.

    5. A good friend sent me a lovely frame-tale storytelling book.

    6. I have a couple of new songs to share.

    7. It’s nice to come home to a newly painted house.

    I’ve enjoyed reading everyone’s kicks, and hope we all have a good week.

  15. Jill, the cupcakes are actually called, “Slumdog Selleck,” and are made by a boutique cupcakery called Cynically Delicious (SF area). I learned about them at cakespy’s blog:


  16. Late to the party today. My son has started his Fall Baseball season and I spent the morning in the bleachers keeping score and cheering “Good eye!” and “Ya gotta piece of it!” (Baseball lingo makes me smile.)

    RE: ULISES WENSELL (is his first name Spanish for Ulysses? Cool.) That bakery scene just gleams with its sugarly glazes. And I’ve never seen a tan couch in a tan room look warmer or cozier; that “Carlota’s new mother” illustration makes me teary.

    Jules — The Sutton/Parravano book looks great. I wish I had an alternate universe of time where I could just READ. Right now I’m listening to Murakami’s “The Wind-up Bird” in my car, reading Kathleen Duey’s “Sacred Scars” in my house, with “Mockingjay” on deck… And every time I come to 7 Imp, my picture book list e-x-p-a-n-d-s.

    Glitter infestation: Ha-ha! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve yelled “Wait!” just a second too late as my sons have opened their confetti-glitter filled birthday cards from
    their grandma who LOVES glitter – and well, it’s still lurking deep in my carpeting.

    Lots of great kicks on a mid-day Sunday:

    Little Willow – Break-a-leg on your auditions! (Show biz lingo makes me smile too.)

    Jama – I have soiree in Paris dreams. In the meantime, I visit with you and others at literary blogs.

    Jone – love your ‘another tyme’ letter. And a month off the “feines” (coffee and cola) – you’re a stronger woman than I.

    emmaco – The Globe. (sigh) And the phrase “free range wallabies” made me laugh.

    Jill – spending time helping your friend through. Positive thoughts for you both.

    JES – always enjoy the way you write things. Glad you included the Stiches Vid link. Haunting book and … perhaps even more haunting with sound and music.

    Farida – Five miles w/daughter daily! Like Jone, you are a stronger woman than I. I’m impressed.

    My own kicks this week:

    1, (Back to baseball) My son went “3 for 3” with a stand-up triple.

    2. It is such a universal SHARED ANXIETY being a parent in the bleachers at a baseball game. You can always tell whose kid is up. There is one mom who holds her St. Christopher tight and prays.

    3. My Mom said earnestly, “Oh! I went to a great shoe sale: buy one – get one free!”
    And then, after about 30 seconds, she added “I meant pairs.” And we laughed and laughed.

    4. Yoplait Boston Cream Pie yogurt.

    5. Working with my agent on my submission draft.

    6. There’s a big yellow converted school bus parked on the bluff street in front of my house. Painted sort of “1960s via Indonesia”. A brown dog is sitting in the driver’s seat looking very much in charge.

    7. The thing my son most wanted in his Back-to-School supplies was a ball of colorful rubber bands. I was tickled that such a simple thing still tickled him.

  17. See, Emmaco, with your kicks, we know we are guaranteed such things that we will, likely, not see in our own lives, such as free-range wallabies, old manor houses, random schools of jugglers, and the occasional bagpiper. I LOVE IT.

    I also love the Globe Theater and saw The Tempest there on my honeymoon — with Vanessa Redgrave as Prospero!

    Jill, so glad you saw your friend and that she’s feeling strong in the midst of her diagnosis. Oh, and I only know about T-Model Ford, due to NPR, which is my primary musical source. As for Asheville, you MUST eat at The Laughing Seed. I also have friends there I can hook you up with via email, and they’d be happy to give more suggestions, I’m sure. Let me know.

    John, no, usually I think they keep the illustrations for imports. They definitely did with this one. HA to what you said to emmaco! Emmaco and Tenniel: The perfect pairing! Or maybe Arthur Rackham. Love your kicks, John, and their Little Willow-like concision. (Do you think one week I’d EVER be able to pull that off?) And, ooo! Thanks for the Stitches link, which I’ll explore now.

    Jama, isn’t Marion in Nine, too? I believe she is, and it’s Movie Night for Mr. and Mrs. Danielson, and that’s in the queueueueueue tonight. She was also in Inception, which I saw recently — and, by the way, this cracks me up, speaking of. I may have shared that here before already; sorry if I’m being redundant.

    Farida, you need to hear a song by The Innocence Mission that Karen Peris wrote about walking her son home from school. I can even email it to you—legally and all that—since it was a free download off their site. I shall try to do so in a minute. …Hope your wee one feels better soon. Congrats to your husband! That is great.

  18. Denise, I waved as I passed you in cyberspace.

    I’m …just…just stuck on #6 and want you to write a story about it.

    Love the yogurt, rubber bands, shared parental anxiety, and laughing. The simple kicks are the best.

  19. p.s. John, have you read Stitches yet?

  20. For those who think the free range wallabies are funny, apparently there are actual non-zoo ones hopping around the UK as well, survivors of a past release. I think they’re up north somewhere. Cool, huh? I found them a bit ordinary and liked the mara 🙂

  21. PS yes the brambling day was a bit fairy tale-like, JES, like I had been sucked back in time or something. I would have been cranky not to have made it back home to my nice modern oven to make crumble with my blackberries if that was the case!

  22. emmaco, I confess that although I think “wallabies” is a funnier word than “mara,” the main reason I commented on the former is that I had no idea what the latter were. I have just seen their Wikipedia entry, and am now officially bemused. I liked this description of how their “societies” are organized into a form of what’s called a crèche system, with a pair of guardian adults caring for the entire colony of mara:

    If they spot danger, the young rush below ground into a burrow (usually dug by a burrowing owl), and the adults are left to run for it.

    Jill: Asheville! One of The Missus’s and my favorite places on earth, although we haven’t been able to get back up there for a few years now. Last time we stayed there was in a B&B called… the Wright House, I think. No idea if it’s still under the same management and still is any good, but we LOVED it. Our room was on the first floor and actually had its own little breakfast porch.

    Jules, nope, haven’t read Stitches yet. By the time I finish Tender Morsels, though, I’ll probably need a prescription for several months’ worth of P.G. Wodehouse before tackling David Small’s book!

  23. Ooh, I’m so glad you shared this book! A friend of mine just adopted a little boy from Taiwan THIS WEEK and I’m sure she’d love to have this in the collection. I’ll start off with her for my first kick!

    1. See above!
    2. My husband’s birthday is today, which means rich home-made chocolate cake. Yum!
    3. Another chocolate-related note, I tried my hand at home-made hot chocolate last night (with hand-whipped cream, too!). It was divine.
    4. Winning a plastic unicorn at the nickel arcade (it’s the little things).
    5. Finally getting to read the “Mirror Mirror” picture book, which I loved! I’ll need to buy a copy.
    6. Getting to meet an awesome debut author (Kiersten White on Saturday
    7. Finishing my homework for the weekend a day early, so I got Sunday off! So nice.

  24. Debbie, Isn’t Mirror Mirror great? Happy birthday to your husband!

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