7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #187: Featuring Sophie Blackall

h1 October 3rd, 2010 by jules

“I looked out at the falling leaves and made a silent wish for winter to come and go quickly without bringing any snow. Mama touched my hair. ‘I’ll tell you one thing. This baby sure loves itself some pecan pie…'”

Well, I finally followed up on something I promised I’d try to do in my Caldecott-ramblings post, and that would be contact illustrator Sophie Blackall to see if she wanted to share some images and possibly some sketches from her latest illustrated picture book titles, Jacqueline Woodson’s Pecan Pie Baby and Rukhsana Khan’s Big Red Lollipop. In fact, as you all know, I like to feature student illustrators or those brand-spankin’-new to the field on the first Sunday of each month, but I’m breakin’ the rules today, since I promised this a couple weeks ago and can finally deliver.

The image opening this post (though the version that ends up in the book is slightly different) is from Woodson’s Pecan Pie Baby (G. P. Putnam’s Sons), which will be released this month. I’ve had an F & G for a while now, this new addition to your baby-about-to-be-in-the-house picture book collection. It’s about a young girl and her pregnant mother. The fact that Gia, the girl, refers to the impending brother or sister as “the ding-dang baby” gives you an idea of how she feels about it all. Telling Gia that the baby will probably arrive “by the time the first snow’s on the ground,” Gia wishes for a dry winter. She also decides the baby is merely a copycat, since her mother is craving pecan pie, something Gia and her mother both love and often share together. As the leaves fall from the trees and the days get shorter, the little girl’s anxiety builds to a dramatic moment at the dining room table one evening, eventually telling her mother she’s going to miss her “whole, whole life, before . . . before the . . . ding-dang baby.”

It’s a sweet (but not cloying) and engaging domestic drama, made all the more so by Sophie’s illustrations, rendered in Chinese ink and watercolor. “Blackall’s…stylized ink and watercolor images,” writes Publishers Weekly, “with their muted colors and slightly flattened perspectives, have a strong sense of style and calming warmth.” Sophie knows how to ramp up the emotion while still keeping us feeling cozy at the same time. Below are some more spreads from the book (without text), followed by sketches in some instances.

“Just as summer started leaving us and the leaving brought all those colors to the trees, Mama pulled out my winter clothes…”

“By the time it was jacket weather, everyone was talking about that baby! ‘You want a boy or a girl?’ my friend Juna asked in the school yard…”

“At school, my teacher read a book about a girl who was going to become a big sister, and when she finished reading it,
everybody looked at

“When my cousin came to visit with her new baby, she put the wiggly thing in my lap and said, ‘You sure are ready to be a big sister, aren’t you?’ ‘Not really,’ I said, handing the crying baby back to her.”

And below are some illustrations, as well as sketches, from Khan’s Big Red Lollipop (Penguin), released in March of this year, which the School Library Journal review called “gorgeous to the eye.”

It’s been a while since I’ve read this one (and it was a library copy, so I’m going off memory here), but it’s a well-crafted tale of sibling rivalry. Or, as the Publishers Weekly review notes, it’s about more than that. It’s actually about “the hard-won lessons emerging from clashes of identity and assimilation.” The book features a Pakistani family, who have different traditions swirling around birthday celebrations. After Rubina, the young protagonist, gets invited to a classmate’s birthday party and is told by her mother that she must bring along her younger sister, she’s humiliated and mortified at the thought. The book deals with what happens when she follows her mother’s wishes. “Dynamic visual design distinguishes this tale of sibling conflict in an immigrant family,” writes Kirkus. Below are some images and sketches from this title. Enjoy.

“I’m so excited I run all the way home from school.”

“Then one day Sana comes home waving an invitation. ‘Ami! I’ve been invited to a birthday party! There’s going to be games and toys and cake and ice cream!
Can I go?'”

PECAN PIE BABY. Copyright © 2010 by Jacqueline Woodson. Illustration copyright © 2010 by Sophie Blackall. Published by G. P. Putnam’s Sons, New York. Reproduced by permission of the illustrator.

BIG RED LOLLIPOP. Copyright © 2010 by Rukhsana Khan. Illustration copyright © 2010 by Sophie Blackall. Published by Penguin, New York. Reproduced by permission of the illustrator.

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). Field trips with the first grader on beautiful Autumn days.

2). Though I grumbled about it impatiently at first, I grew to love HBO’s Carnivàle, all finished up on DVD this week. This is the show once described as “the perfect show for those who thought Twin Peaks was too accessible.” (HA.) It’s definitely like no other show I’ve ever seen.

3). The notion of a Nashville Kidlit Drink Night, à la the New York City ones. More on this later. Wish I’d thought of it myself. It’s an idea whose time has come.

4). My daughter’s teacher consistently sends her home with the BEST picture books for reading homework. Whew.

5). New (sorta) music from Sam.

6). A thoughtful gift from a thoughtful friend.

7). This is for the dog-lovers amongst us:

What are YOUR kicks this week?

16 comments to “7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #187: Featuring Sophie Blackall”

  1. Love her work, and wait till you see what she’s doing for TWINSPIRATION, a book of twin poems which J.Patrick Lewis (a twin) and I (grandmother of twins) have written together. Then pictures are both unusual, charming, and stunning. Yeah Sophie!


  2. Sophie’s amazing!

    My kicks:
    1. Reading Maria Tatar’s ENCHANTED HUNTERS
    2. Speaking at Roger Williams University about narrative and “how to write comics as a poet”
    3. Walking with my daughter to raise money to support Hasbro Children’s Hospital in Providence
    4. Rediscovering my love for Irish folk music
    5. Planning film screenings in Princeton, NJ; Little Rock, AR; Madison, WI; Minneapolis, MN; Victoria, BC; and elsewhere
    6. Screening Saturday, Oct. 9, at the Southern Festival of Books in Nashville, TN, with Mo Willems and Jon Scieszka
    7. And writing this poem:

    By Steven Withrow

    Those southpaw snippers never make the cut.
    They clip and slice as nice as any righty,
    But the fact remains they always ride the bench.
    There’s something of the mighty underdog
    About those unsung rookies overlooked
    By every scout, and all they need is one
    Chop at the plate to prove beyond a doubt
    They won’t strike out. Instead, they bide their time
    With grace, while righty fans sneer, sinister,
    And boo. How do the ambidextrous test
    Their heft? Left out, left over, left alone,
    They still could split the team and field their own,
    Decide it scissors, paper, fist, or stone,
    The only just and right way left to go.

    Copyright 2010 by Steven Withrow. All rights reserved.

  3. I LOVE Sophie Blackall’s work! I really want to read Pecan Pie Baby.

    By the way, the family in Big Red Lollipop is from Pakistan, not India. =D

    Pecan pie. Mmm. Lollipops. Mmm.

    Jules, woot woot woot woot for your third and fourth kicks!

    My kick this week:

    Still my younger brothers JP and Brian. They just left for Uzbekistan for the World Poomsae Championships. Their Korean coach (who’s the number one poomsae coach in the world really) called them the glory of the Philippines. * tear *

  4. Jane, can’t wait to see it.

    Steven, thanks, as always, for coming here to share poetry. Love the very subject of this one. Congrats on all those screenings.

    Tarie, thanks for the Pakistani correction. I will fix that in a sec! And WHOA about that comment on your brothers! Wow just wow.

  5. Hi there, Sophie! Thanks for sharing your art with us. The cover of Big Red Lollipop caught my eye.

    Kicks from last week:
    1) Callback for a film
    2) Audition for a feature film
    3) Visiting with friends who live much too far away
    4) When Rose Wakes by Christopher Golden now available in bookstores everywhere!
    5) Considering the possibilities
    6) Knee-highs and tights
    7) Celebrating the accomplishments of friends

    Today’s going to be a busy day. Hopefully, all goes well. I’ll save those items for next week’s kicklist.

    Jules: That video is fun. I saw it earlier this week and sent it to a friend who loves dogs as much as I love cats.

    Steven: Kudos and congrats to you and your daughter for walking the walk.

    Tarie: Wowza! Go, boys, go!

  6. Back from Scotland and excited to find all the new treasures in the bookshop.

    One of the greatest kicks is to come back and have 3 weeks worth of 7-imp postings to catch up on!

    I also loved Sophie’s illustrations from ‘Red Butterfly’ and Rukhasan’s story ‘The Roses in My Carpets’.

    So many special kicks I can’t keep it to 7 so forgive me and I hope someday you will have a chance to make them some of your kicks.

    *Wandering among the Mackrie Standing Stones on a misty morning thinking of Mollie Hunter’s ‘The Walking Stones’

    *Sitting on the beach under Castle Tioram and falling in love with the place. Looking across to Eilean Shona and planning my next trip.

    *Driving over the Bealach Na Ba Pass to Applecross listing to Dougie Maclean and everyone in the car belting out the chorus ~
    “But I am ready for the storm, yes, sir, ready
    I am ready for the storm,
    I’m ready for the storm”

    *Walking through a forest above Applecross imagining all my favorite Tam Lin stories ~ the beautiful picture book by Jane Yolen, ‘The Perilous Gard’ by Elizabeth Marie Pope and ‘An Earthly Knight’ by Janet McNaughton

    *Watching the tide bring the seaweed to life

    *Sitting behind a rock with the wind howling as I watched the seals and wondered if the selkie king would come ashore.

    * Discovering Edradour Cream Liquor and walking back down through the woods past the Black Spout waterfall.

    *Watching the pure joy on my husband’s face as he played the Old Course in St. Andrews

    *Having a friend stop the car in Glen Loth. We stood and listened to the stillness of the mountain air.

  7. Little Willow, enjoy the busy day. When are the callbacks and auditions? Break a leg!

    Cath, holy moly, your trip sounds as if it was wonderful! I don’t know where to begin, but I must say that Edradour Cream liquor sounds delectable. Sounds like the trip of a lifetime. So glad you enjoyed it!

  8. I want to stare at the Big Red Lollipop…It made my mouth get tingly.

    1. The glare of summer is finally dimming in Texas
    2. The air is cool
    3. THe windows are open.
    4. I can hear the chickens clucking in my neighbors backyard.
    5. And the trickle of the little pond outside my window
    6. The oldest dog and the youngest cat are sleeping together at my feet.
    7. And in the midst of this serene moment, the squall of my teen’s discordant angst.

    Geez, life.

  9. I love Sophie’s work and how fun to see the drafts. It looks like everyone is having such great kicks today.
    Jules, if you start a kidlit drink Nashville, you will have so much fun. The Portland ones have been terrific. We have been doing them the 5th Friday of the month (not every month has a 5th Friday but it spreads them out in a great way.)
    My kicks:
    1. Listening to Keeper by Kathi Appelt and about having a heart attack over the tension. I sit in the driveway when I get home and wait until the chapter (or 2) ends.
    2. Fall
    3. Green Chai Tea.
    4. Cybils nominations are open. Have you nominated your favorite book?
    5. Watching oldest grandgirl enact the wicked with of the west and then Dorothy.
    6. The upcoming writing retreat next weekend.
    7. Adult read of the week: Shadow of the Wind. Fabulous!
    Have a great week.

  10. Lindsey,your kicks are altogether a sensory delight.

    Jone, have fun at that writing retreat. Haven’t read Keeper yet but look forward to it.

  11. Sophie Blackall’s illustrations have such fun details. I like the character running out of the map of her neighborhood. And that is really a BIG RED lollipop. Thanks for sharing a lick.

    Jules – I never caught an episode of Carnivale, but your kick reminded me that we never exchanged thoughts on The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus (which me thinks had a somewhat Carnivale feel to it.) And RE: your daughter’s picture book reading homework. I had to laugh and wonder if her teacher simply reads 7-Imp for great suggestions.

    Stephen – ah, Irish folk music. From cocky and gleeful — to the saddest songs on earth. And hey, do your “elsewhere” screenings include any on the west coast?

    Tarie – best of luck to your poomsae champs.

    Little Willow – Whoah, you are just racking up the auditions and callbacks! Good for you. (Where in the entertainment world are you NYC or LA?)

    Cath – I’m considering spending Christmas in Edinburgh. Your kicks made me lean toward that decision even more.

    Lindsey – serene moments + teens. Ha!

    Jone – Thanks for the Cybil reminder. Enjoy your retreat!

    My kicks:

    1. Presentation at children’s authors faire went well.

    2. Met and spoke with writers I have admired.

    3. The Cerritos Library is just the most amazing, well-thought out, beeoootiful place! I want to live in the children’s section – under the banyan tree.

    4. Saw two thought-provoking movies this week, both good for hours of discussion: Catfish (documentary about facebook friends) and Let Me In (about deep loneliness more than anything – even though it’s a vampire movie. Child actress Chloe Moretz gives a kick-ass performance yet again.)

    5. kept working even though my desk was a mess.

    6. kept working even though my sleep and schedule were askew.

    7. kept working.

    October is here! Enjoy the week everyone.

  12. That lollipop is breathtaking!

    Jules, that video is so much fun! And the autumn field trips sound fun too!

    Tarie – woot woot to your brothers!

    LW – keep us posted, and rock those auditions!

    Lindsey – love how much Kick 7 contrasts with 1-6!

    Jone – isn’t the fall sunshine the best?

    Steven – hooray for that walk with your daughter!

    Cath – your whole trip sounds amazing!

    Denise – loved 5, 6 and 7!

    My kicks:
    1. Scored the winning goal in my Sunday pick-up soccer game today! It was fun because everyone else is so much better than I am, but I’m scrappy, so it works out.
    2.Had to move offices at work this weekend for a section shift. Got almost all my pictures hung in the new office this afternoon, so decorating is almost done.
    3. Reading The Daily Coyote by Shreve Stockton. (She also has a website by the same name, which I love.)
    4. Dogsitting my sweet Caloi for 2 weeks started this weekend – yay!
    5.Long distance phone calls.
    6. Caloi sacked out and snoring on the bed.
    7. Kitty purring in my lap.

    Have a great week everyone!

  13. Denise, I’ve heard good things about that Facebook movie — actually, I just heard about it and liked the premise. So glad your presentation went well. And you keep on keepin’ on with your working.

    Rachel, the scrappy comment made me smile. Give that Caloi some sweet hugs.

  14. Sophie’s artwork is gorgeous! Thanks so much for posting.

  15. […] Downes’ (NY Times) “The Corner of Bitter and Sweet”; “7 Impossible Things before Breakfast” post (which includes Pecan Pie […]

  16. […] Pecan Pie Baby‘s images were found via “7 Impossible Things before Breakfast” and here is their review/interview on said book. The blog’s reference to Ruby’s Wish amid an […]

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