7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #189: Featuring Chris McKimmie

h1 October 17th, 2010 by jules

I love the (as I’ve once described it) funky, free-form, Chagall-esque, kaleidoscopic mixed-media illustrations of Australian author and illustrator Chris McKimmie. His art is probably not for everyone, but it’s definitely for me.

Back in 2008, I covered another of McKimmie’s titles. If you want to read that here, you might get a good sense of what his art is like. (Let me tell you that about 99.9999998% of the time when I’m blogging, writing, etc., I am beating myself up over my words—not sufficient enough, I think to myself, to describe what I’m thinking or feeling, and self-deprecation is my good friend—but, dang, I like that little 2008 review I wrote, as I re-read it now. I think it nails that book, if I may say so myself. I guess maybe occasionally I make sense.)

This new title from McKimmie, Two Peas in a Pod (from Allen & Unwin in Australia, and I’m not clear on the publication date, though I think it was published in May over the pond) tells us the story of two good friends, Marvin, a.k.a. “Marvellous,” and Violet, who have “lived together in Raven Street since dinosaur time. Almost.”

One day, however, Violet moves away (“We are going to the moon,” she tells Marvellous), and suddenly she is gone. “What could I do? What about me?” Marvellous asks in one spread, both funny and heart-breaking (but I won’t give the illustration away). And then we see this:

Poor Marvellous, huh?

Things turn around for our bummed-out protagonist, though, when his mom (wait, make that “mum” — this is Australia, after all) announces to him that she’s purchased a Koala Airlines ticket and that they’re going to visit Violet. And a grand time is had: They head straight to the beach; the next day, they go to the wildflowers and check out the shapes in the clouds; and…


…”On the last day of my visit we went to the beach with our kites.
The sun was setting into the ocean.”

When you get right down to it, this is a story that, to be sure, is told in book after book in this world (make that The Enduring Power of True Friends), but I say that McKimmie’s tale stands out — his striking, raw, and colorful llustrations, dancing with energy and sometimes chaos (when necessary) and fanciful to an extreme. And, as noted in the 2008 review of Maisie Moo, I like McKimmie’s writing style, authentically capturing a child’s way of thinking (“It was just about the end of winter and I had almost put Violet in with the forgets, when one morning Mum woke me up”).

It’s another tale worth checking out, especially fellow picture book nerds who like to see what other countries are producing.

TWO PEAS IN A POD. Copyright © 2010 by Chris McKimmie. Images reproduced by permission of the publisher, Allen & Unwin, Australia.

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). Very thoughtful gifts from very thoughtful long-distance friends, including some coffee, some chocolates, some good reading material, and tarot cards (or more like a spoof of a tarot card deck) as only Edward Gorey could make them. {I like, for instance, how one is instructed to “stand in the center of a sparsely-furnished room…and fling the pack into the air” in order to get your first five cards and determine your fortune. You are also instructed to “rely on your own temerity and ‘imagination of disaster’ (Henry James) to gain the full meanings of the cards…”}

My people are so good to me, gifting me with such treats.

2). My favorite find from our Disney World trip was in “Japan” at Epcot and cost a grand total of $5.70: Two postcards all decked out with the Alice art of Japanese designer Shinzi Katoh (pictured here on this cup and plate, which I now covet). One says: “Alice in a funny world. The white rabbit tempted Alice to open the door and continue into the funny world. There are many good-natured friends. Gradually, she forgot about reality. Can she return home safely?”

LOVE. IT.

3). You know when you see a friend and you talk and talk and feel like you could keep talking forever and the time passes so swiftly and you don’t even notice? Yeah. That. I got to have coffee with Sara Lewis Holmes last week, who was here for the Southern Festival of Books. The only reason I don’t have a pic of us is because three hours of catching up seemed like only about one, and then suddenly we realized the time and she had to run off. It was a lovely visit with her.

At the Festival, I also got to see Kerry Madden again and finally meet Shadra Strickland (pictured here), who has visited the blog several times.

4). The inaugural Nashville Kidlit Drink Night went well, and I got to meet the nicest folks. I also got some neat news that night regarding the book Betsy, Peter, and I are writing, but I won’t discuss that yet, so as not to jinx it.

5). The Nashville Kidlit Drink Night conversation at the table at which I was seated most of the night naturally turned to this, and this smart lady next to me (soon to be a published picture book author and who also teaches art) said that she sees a picture book as, amongst other things, a “limited edition print that everyone can afford.” BRILLIANT, yes? I wanted to hug her. Two of us squealed and grabbed pen and paper to quote her.

6). It was also mind-blowing to find out 7-Imp was included on a local children’s-lit professor’s mid-term exam. Hubba whoa, people. HUBBA WHOA.

7). My baby turned five years old this week.

BONUS and related to kick #5: It’s been heartening to hear the many conversations swirling around that New York Times article, trying to tell us the picture book is dead. I would also like to point out the following things, which celebrate picture books and illustration, so take that, sensationalistic journalism:

  • The Brooklyn Public Library has a new exhibition, “Drawn in Brooklyn,” which showcases the work of some 30 local (to Brooklyn) children’s book illustrators, many of whom have been featured here at 7-Imp before. Check this out. Or this, which says, “There are more children’s book illustrators living in Brooklyn than anywhere else in the world.”
  • Check out this photo from the opening of “Drawn in Brooklyn.” These illustrators hardly look to me as if the picture book is dying.

(Photo credit: Al Pereira; Click to enlarge the image and play Spot the Illustrator.)

  • Here is author/illustrator Sergio Ruzzier’s post about his contribution to the Brooklyn exhibit.
  • My wonderful friend sent me a copy of this, which includes an article about how major exhibits of children’s picture book art reveals “a trend and a softening of long-held views about collecting illustration” and which includes a quote from Zora Charles, who says children’s books are the “basis of our culture.” Damn skippy, I say.

Okay, I’m done now. Carry on. What are YOUR kicks this week?

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14 comments to “7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #189: Featuring Chris McKimmie”

  1. Chris McKinnie’s word choice.Enough said. I am in awe. Love the illutrations too.
    Jules, isn’t kidlit drink night fun? In Portland ours started after the blogging conference and its still going strong. Can’t believe your baby is 5.
    My kicks:
    1. Missed last week because I was at the Fall Writing Retreat which was fabulous. Such comraderie and wonderful presentations.
    2. Finished Catching Fire and am reading Mockingjay.
    3. Watching oldest grandgirl sing a song about Christopher Columbus and tell the story about him.
    4.The weather is amazing and it feels like fall.
    5. We have over 100 NFPB nominated for the CYBILS.
    6. Discovered green tea chai.
    7. Got my copy of the anthology from the Haiku Society of America with my haiku in it.
    Have a great week.


  2. Great post today, Jules!

    My kicks:
    1. Yesterday’s Rhode Island Festival of Children’s Books & Authors: Willems, Gantos, Lester, Feiffer (x2), Macaulay, Van Allsburg, Kibuishi, Balliett, and Teague!
    2. Our big film premiere at Harvard on Tuesday the 19th!
    3. Knuffle Bunny Free!
    4. The Annotated Charlotte’s Web!
    5. Documentary about Grant Morrison!
    6. Overuse of exclamation points!
    7. A climbing rhyme with a tiny bit of Valerie Worth:

    BEFORE
    By Steven Withrow

    Before we go,
    let us slowly
    compose ourselves,
    like toy shelves kept
    by elves, or pins
    pointed in a
    cushion, like poems.


  3. My Kicks:
    1. Chatting with Mo Willems, Jon Scieszka, and Ted Delaney about THE LIBRARY OF THE YOUNG MIND during its preview in Nashville last Saturday.
    2. Ripping the NYT article with the three of them….but also being happy about the buzz it caused.
    3. Reading aloud “Your Question for Author Here” from GUYS READ FUNNY BUSINESS aloud with my undergrad students. We needed humor after the midterm!
    4. KidLit Drink night in Nashville. Only sad part was the frustration with Patterson House. Won’t be going there again…..too many other great bars in our city.
    5. Chatting with Jewell Parker Rhodes about NINTH WARD; a beautiful book by a beautiful author.
    6. Starting to read AMERICAN FREAK SHOW by my chum Willie Geist. Not, not, not a book for kiddos….but hilarious reading for those news junkies who are very open-minded.
    7. Two days of a “fall break” in the hills of Tennessee. Glorious!


  4. I’m back! Been absent from kicks several weeks after traveling almost to the ends of the earth to visit family and friends in Hawai’i. Bring those islands closer, I say.

    I love McKimmie’s work — definitely outside the traditional box, but as you say, Chagall-esque and Maira Kalmanish. Yes, my cup of tea! Looks like I’ll have to purchase his books because our library system doesn’t own any of his titles.

    LOVE the Alice cup and plate. What a great few weeks you’ve had with all the Nashville stuff and going to DW and all. Fun!

    Going to Hawai’i is my main kick, but here are a few more:

    The appearance, after a long absence, of our possum friend, Mr. Pampano.

    Fuzzy the fox sunning himself in the back yard this morning.

    Really good apple pie from Hill High Orchard Country Store.

    The “luxury” of reading books I don’t necessarily have to review (mostly foodie memoirs and essay collections). The only good part of long plane rides. . .

    Beautiful Fall days, like today. Perfection!

    Happy Week, everyone!


  5. Yes, Jone, it is fun, and I remember you all saying you have a Portland Kidlit Drink Night, too. Excellent. Congrats again on the anthology, Jone! Well-deserved. Glad you had a good time at the retreat.

    Steven, love that Annotated Charlotte’s Web and currently using it in my research/writing. I’m not entirely sure what a climbing rhyme is, but I like it.

    Hi, Ann! I can’t wait to read Ninth Ward. And ooo! American Freak Show sounds great. And, yes, Kidlit Drink Night was great, and so good to meet you.

    Jama, I knew you’d like that Alice tea cup. Fuzzy has the right idea, I think. Do you know that yesterday my cat-obsessed girls got to see their cousin, visiting from out-of-town, and their mother, who is a vet, showed up WITH A BABY—AS IN FOUR-WEEK-OLD—KITTEN. I nearly thought they would explode. Even though my brother’s family took the kitten back with them, I still think Ada’s Best Gift Ever was seeing a kitten like that. ….And I’m glad you read some books, Jama, that you didn’t turn around and write about, though we always love it when you do. (I know that feeling of obligation.) Glad your trip was great!


  6. Wow – love Chris McKimmie! Child-centric text and beautiful images. (Adding to wish list.)

    7 Impossibly Awesome Kicks:

    1/ Trip to pumpkin patch with family and friends. Corn maze, hay ride, pumpkin picking, farm animals, tire swing, massive troughs of dried corn to play in. Whoopee for fall!

    2/ Participating in the first Nashville Kidlit Drink Night and meeting amazing people who are obsessed with children’s books!

    3/ Pumpkin ice cream.

    4/ Classes went better than expected. Students loved making their melted plastic, Chihuly-esque sculptures.

    5/6yo son continues his cryptic, detailed illustrations that constantly amaze me, and 5yo daughter has totally taken off, no longer hampered by her training wheels.

    6/ Kids’ first BLT sandwich with our first big tomato from the garden (yes, it was late, and made with turkey “bacon,” but it was yum!).

    7/ Being quoted on my all-time-favorite-blog-and-source-of-information-and-entertainment-for-all-things-picture-book. Can’t get better than that!


  7. I love Chagall-esque illustrations. I think – with a paint brush in the right hand — this kind of emotive, impressionistic art really speaks to children. Obviously Chris McKimmie has one of those hands.

    It reminded me of a book I bought in France years ago called Le Chien Bleu. Which I “read” to my sons even though it was in French; we followed the powerful pictures.

    I found a review of it (with pictures) on this lovely French children’s book blog:

    http://lisezjeunesse.canalblog.com/archives/2009/02/26/11215278.html

    And then! Following the thread (even though my high school French is tres rusty) I clicked on “beaux livres” on that blog and found this beautiful book of COLORS:

    http://www.editions-thierry-magnier.com/mini/quelles_couleurs/exposition.php

    Hit the double arrows >>to scroll through all the colors. Then click on L’ALBUM above. Each color actually has eight pages devoted to it in the book. Click on the peacock to see the all eight pages of Rose/Pink. Very cool. Well, very pink.

    Jules – Thanks for sharing Two Peas in a Pod today. I covet that Alice coffee cup.

    Jone – Missed you. I was in Portland last weekend, bad timing. Hope the retreat was wonderful.

    Stephen – Gotta love those exclamation points! Ha!

    Ann – Envy your viewing of kidlit documentary and having such fun chatting partners.

    jama – really enjoyed your Robert Louis Stevenson post on Friday.

    jessica – wonderful quote (permission to use it just in my life? – credited of course)

    Quick Kicks:

    1. My son had two great hits (a double & a triple) at baseball game this morning. Yea!

    2. The Quelles Couleurs book above (I just ordered it from amazon.france)

    3. Rain in So Cal in October! (fending off our usual fire season…)

    4. Two author friends had two separate book launches this week. Proud/happy for them.

    C’est tout. Bon semaine, mes amies!


  8. Fly-by posting! Hope all of the imps are happily kicking. Here’s my week in kicks:

    1) Last night, opening night. Performing. Performing with talented people in front of a packed house. Hearing the audience SINGING along with certain songs, and seeing them smiling – and even rising to their feet!
    2) 3) Coincidence and signs.
    4) Foley room + recording.
    5) A fun-filled audition.
    6) An easy background bit.
    7) A purple dress.


  9. We go together like the oo in moo. Love that! Such a cool book, another one to add to my must-buy list.

    Jules – Happy birthday to your littlest! The drink night sounds fun.

    Jone – congrats on the anthology! Hasn’t the weather been amazing?

    jama – How lucky to have a fox in your back yard!

    LW – sounds like an awesome opening night. Good luck on the lastest audition!

    My kicks:

    1. Last weekend I went to a wedding reception at an Oregon vineyard out towards the coast. It was beautiful, filled with great food, great friends, lots of wine, and much laughing and dancing!
    2. This incredible glorious sunshine-filled fall weather we’re having.
    3. A great two-week visit with my sort-of-half-pup, but really my baby, Caloi. So nice to have that fur-encased sweetness and patience and love around.
    4. Finally watched Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along-Blog. Love Nathan Fillion even more now. And of course love NPH.
    5. Two soccer games today, 1 outdoor, 1 indoor.
    6. Baking an apple cake this afternoon, made the house smell like fall.
    7. My Halloween costume is almost complete!

    Have a great week everyone!


  10. Jessica, I second the cheers for Kidlit Drink Night, kid-art, AND pumpkin ice cream.

    Denise, can you let us know how that Quelles Coleurs book is, after you read it? Thanks for the links. I love seeing international picture books.

    Little Willow, so glad the show is going well. And an audience SINGING ALONG is the best. Congrats!

    Rachel, mmm. Apple cake. And what’s your costume, if you don’t mind me asking. Kick #1 sounds like a blast.

    Have a good week, all!


  11. WOW…thank you for the kick in the pants. Chris McKimmie’s work is amazing. The simplicity and honesty is refreshing. No computer painting…thank you! I just ordered all 4 of his latest books.

    Just when I thought I’d never do another book…I am inspired to push on/reinvent/loosen up/let it flow freely.


  12. Jules,

    I’m going to be good ol’ mama-pitbull-grizzly-roguey SP from Alaska cuz she scares me. ; ) Really fun to study up on the Tina Fey impersonations to try to get the accent and mannerisms right. Should be fun!

    What are you going to be for Halloween?


  13. [...] Chris McKimmie featured over at SevenImp [...]


  14. well, thank you for those comments !
    Chris McKimmie


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