7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #190: Featuring Laurie Keller

h1 October 24th, 2010 by jules

(Click to enlarge.)

I have so many picture books I want to post about here lately and not enough hours in the day. And I’m sitting on lots of art and several interviews and lots of features and such, but I simply have to post about Laurie Keller’s newest title today in celebration of the fact that she’ll be at a local bookstore tomorrow, and I’ll get to meet her. In person, that is. I cyber-met her in early 2009, and I immediately liked her. I knew I liked her books, but then she had to up and tell me about her adoration for Waiting for Guffman, what is quite possibly The Funniest Movie of All Time in my book (but maybe only tied with This Is Spinal Tap), so there you go. I liked her even more.

Good thing I love her new picture book title, too, so that I had a great excuse to ask her to visit again. Now, let me just say: As has probably already been made clear before here at 7-Imp (repeatedly), I have a somewhat dark sense of humor and I’m also just a contrarian at heart. Can’t help it. So, a book about smiling? Well, it’d normally want to make me punch something. Most likely. But only Laurie Keller could make one that would make me laugh outloud. And fall hard and fast for.

Meet Birdy. This is her book (Henry Holt, September 2010). She likes to smile, and she wants to tell you all about smiling. And encourage you to do so. Well, I’ll let her introduce herself…

“Hi! I’m Birdy and this is my dog, French Fry.”
(Click to enlarge.)

I can hear you now: She’s going to encourage me to smile? This will just make me feel stabby, Jules. But let me challenge you: Get this book and try NOT to fall hard for Birdy. Laurie is up to her usual smart tricks in this new title: Humor that manages to come across as both outloud-goofy and subtle at just the right moments (it’s little moments like Troy McSwooney and Birdy’s friend, Pearl, and her fist-bumps with the world that get me laughing); exuberant and colorful cartoon illustrations, rife with little details (and puns) you don’t want to miss and her spot-on, ballon-speak dialogue; and her warm, leap-off-the-page characters, full of life. The New York Times once referenced her “goofball genius” in their review of Arnie the Doughnut, and Kirkus once described her illustrations as “frenetic {and} postmodern.” Let’s be clear: There is no narrative thread here, but Keller didn’t intend that. It’s just as Publishers Weekly wrote: This is a “cheerful advice manual,” and our “redheaded optimist explains her philosophy. ‘I think the first person you see each day should look happy to see you,'” as we see Birdy staring in the mirror. Damn skippy, I say.

Laurie is sharing some spreads from the book this morning, as well as some early sketches, so I’m going to let her art speak for itself.

No worries: If you’re not smiling yet, her art will make you. (I myself can’t smile in the mornings till I’ve got coffee cup in hand.)

And did I mention the book closes with a mirror on the final page for you to practice your own smile? Just try to pry the book out of a child’s hands then.

{Note: To see the full spreads from which the illustrations come, click on each.}

(Click to enlarge.)

Some more of Laurie’s sketches: Click to enlarge each…

BIRDY’S SMILE BOOK. Copyright © 2010 by Laurie Keller. Published by Henry Holt, New York. Illustrations and sketches reproduced by permission of Keller.

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). Lunch, coffee, baklava, and warm hospitality from a friend early this week, complete with lots of good picture book discussions, as we’re both hopeless picture book nerds.

2). Purchasing a copy of my friend’s new CD and seeing that she thanked me in the CD insert. What a happy surprise.

3). Belated birthday cake with said friend. Hey, I might be over a month late, but I won’t forget the birthdays of my people. (To my credit, I was late in delivering cake, because everyone in my family kept getting sick. It’s better to celebrate one’s birthday all month anyway.)

4). Author/illustrator Sergio Ruzzier (whom I interviewed here in ’08) has asked folks for their top-ten favorite picture books. When he emailed me, I instantly got excited by the challenge, though it was difficult for me to narrow to ten. He has already posted Matthew Cordell’s list here. I love these kinds of discussions.

5). AND…these kinds of discussions. Those are students of children’s lit at Vanderbilt, discussing books. I love it, especially since what I’d love to do one day is teach children’s lit like that — to the folks who will be going out into the world to educate our children and putting books in their hands.

6). A very fun gift in the mail, which includes more picture book art for my walls. I need a framing fund. (But I’m hardly complaining. This is a good problem to have in life.)

7). Lots of my friends right now are either pregnant or having babies. Is it something in the water, as they say? But all these babies are happy and healthy and beautiful, as are the parents. This is kick-worthy, indeed.

BONUS: Congratulations to the Society of Illustrators’ award recipients in the category of 2010 Original Art. Remember this post? (Hint: See book cover pictured above.) This year’s gold medal winner, Renata Liwska, was recognized for her illustrations in The Quiet Book. I whole-heartedly agree with this decision! Here’s more info on the awards (Celebrating the Fine Art of Children’s Book Illustration).

18 comments to “7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #190: Featuring Laurie Keller”

  1. Whoa. Birdy’s dog’s name is French Fry. Tarie likes this. And fist bumps with the world?! A mirror on the last page? Interesting!

    Jules, I love love love your first kick. And your second kick is so cool!

    My kicks:

    1. Blue mushrooms in the forests of the Philippines. They are probably poisonous. But, oh well. They are prettyyyyyyy.

    2. Hosted a dinner party for the very first time. =D =D =D Girl friends and wine. YAY!

    3. A package of awesome children’s books from Malaysia, sent to me by their editor.

    4. I love it when people ask me, “Why children’s books?” Wow, they have no idea what they are getting into when they start that conversation with me. LOL.

    5. Remember when my sister-in-law had a miscarriage? =( She was able to get pregnant again right away and my niece was born last week. I am an aunt! I am an aunt!

    6. I’m thinking the very first book I’ll read to my niece will be The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. It’s not too early, right? =D

    7. Freedom and independence.

  2. A real kicky week all right, which means I am too exhausted to kick today.

    1. NYC trip down memory lane. Saw the apartment where my late husband and I first had a real date.

    2. Walked all around Greenwich Village with an old and dear friend.

    3. Walked the High Line in NY under an almost full moon.

    4;. May have sold four new books, though it’s never counted till the contracts come.

    5. Wrote another 2,000 words on my new novel, though time will tell if they are 2,000 GOOD words.

    6. Won an award for MY UNCLE EMILY, the Carol Otis Hurst award.

    7. Sat in on a “Branding” meeting for the DINOSAUR books with the the always-adorable Mark Teague and lots of Scholastic folk.

    8. Gave a speech about writing graphic novels with Mike Cavallero,illustrator of my book FOILED.

    9. Went clothes shopping with daughter Heidi. We shopped, we bought, we scored!

    10. Saw a meteorite (fireball variety) in the almost-midnight sky and would have doubted my eyes but my friend illustrator Bob Marstall saw it, too. We both said, “WOW! Did you see that?” at the exact same moment. Magic.

  3. Fun stuff today, Jules!

    My kicks:
    1. Superb premiere at Harvard on Tuesday — aside from Lolly Robinson’s absence, it couldn’t have gone better!
    2. Nice screening and discussion at UMass Dartmouth on Wednesday. Next stop: NYPL on November 2!
    3. Meeting Julian, my good friends Alexander and Brandy Danner’s baby
    4. Looking forward to attending the Keene State Children’s Literature Festival on Saturday the 30th
    5. Practicing bone-chilling cackles with my soon-to-be witch of a daughter (I love Halloween!)
    6. Raking leaves into massive piles and then watching the wind pummel them apart
    7. Rediscovering this poem from long ago:

    the dinosaur feast
    by steven withrow

    if only they had known
    the little lizard

    would grow so large
    with powerful jaws

    and lashing tail
    they may not have

    taunted it so
    but we will never know

  4. Lovely, fun book about smiling…and the rain scene is exactly what I woke up to this morning.
    Jules, wouldn’t teaching kidlit be fabulous? Have to find The Quiet Book as well.
    Tarie, dinner, wine and friends, the best kind of evening. Congrats on becoming an aunt.
    Jane, when I read how many words you have writtenn in a day, I am inspired.
    Steven, Ilove the poems you share here.
    My Kicks:
    1. Hallowe’en Festival and grand girls 2 and 3.
    2. The fourth grader who told me I have a big imagination. But I felt sad when he added he had none. Told him he did have one.
    3. Remenber the award and $ I recieved last spring? They started the remodel of the library that I want. Trying to create a “library cafe.”
    4. My writing group met this week.
    5.Pie and tea w/ my husband,
    6. Oregon Ducks are number 1(I’m not a big sports fan but I live in Duck country.)
    7. Fall colors. Hoping the rainand wind won’t demolish.
    Have a great week.

  5. Tarie, congrats on aunt-hood! That is great news for you and especially for your sister. Lovely lovely news, indeed.

    And why not children’s lit? Right? Right!

    Jane, I doubt you can beat meteorites, NYC, and a great award like that. Congrats! As you know, I like FOILED and will be posting about it soon. You and Mike are mighty patient with me.

    Steven, so glad the screenings went well. My first-grader is gonna be a witch, too. And, like Jone, I love it when you come here and share poems.

    Jone, LIBRARY CAFE! WOOT! Will you be my librarian? I think we have the threat of rain today, too. Normally, I love rain, but I don’t want these Fall colors to go away either. …Pie and tea: Mmm.

  6. Love Birdy. I imagine her voice like what’s-er-name’s, the one in the “Marcel the Shell” video — the way she sort of skips from one fun/interesting topic to another seems very Marcel-like too.

    Just curious: do you have any idea what media Laurie Keller used in making the book? It looks like those pages might have been, umm, assemblages (?) — overlays of fabric and such — as well as pencil/ink/watercolor.

    Jules, THANK YOU for linking to Natasha B’s site. After you’d mentioned her in an earlier post, I downloaded her Cheap Escape CD; I’ve listened to it several times since then, but could never remember where the heck I’d heard of her. I figured it must’ve been via NPR or someplace like that… Finding out that it came from you, though, makes sense — it turns out I was pretty close. 🙂

    The Vanderbilt kids’-books blog is very cool!

    Tarie, #5 is wonderful news — congratulations!

    Jealous about your having seen a fireball meteorite, jane. That’d be in my top-ten lifetime experiences. (I have no idea how common they are, the answer to which will tell you if I lead a dull or an interesting life. :))

    Thanks for another nice poem, Steven. This one would have been guaranteed to make my long-ago dinosaur-loving self have second thoughts, ha.

    jone: so glad you’ve got some good fall colors! My mother and stepdad just got back from their annual fall vacation in Maine — she said that the weather up there had been so dry all summer that everything went from green to brown (and then gone) with little color change.

    Kicks, in no special order:

    * We had our at-least-10-years-old living-room and hall carpet pulled up this week, replaced with wooden floors. Despite how freaked out The Pooch seems to be (and we hope she’ll get over it because she’s confined herself almost entirely to the still-carpeted bedoom), it really does make a huge improvement in looks and (we think) “liveability.”

    * Surprises (GOOD ones) in the work-in-progress.

    * Neil Gaiman’s modest proposal for a new tradition, for which he’s enlisting anyone who’s interested: that we give each other scary books during Hallowe’en week. Yes!

    * 7-Imp co-founder Eisha has coordinated a new exhibit at Cornell’s Kroch Library, of book- and word-related works by artist Werner Pfeiffer. It looks fabuloso!

    * If you read far enough along in this NPR transcript, you’ll learn the words to the “Dick Van Dyke Show” theme song. Yes: the WORDS.

    * A quote from Sen. Al Franken: “Their bumper sticker… it’s one word: ‘No.’… Our bumper sticker has — it’s just way too many words. And it says, ‘Continued on next bumper ­sticker.'” Ha!

    * City parks.

  7. Zzzzzzzipping by 7-Imp to see fun picture book (!) and have it (and everyone’s kicks) make me smile :- ) on this Sunday morning. Thank you Jules and Laurie Keller.

    My kicks:

    1.) Today is “ghost flying day” at Chez Doyen. Our homemade GHOSTS of white-kitchen trash bags with marker-drawn faces and cheese-cloth shrouds will be hoisted way, way, way up between the palm trees with fishing line. Takes all day, but it is worth it to see the kids stop and look up and point. Ooooo scary.

    2.) Image research on the internet. It’s amazing to me that you can type in, I dunno, “child standing in door eating apple” and 50 photos will show up in a split second. I mentioned this to writer friend Barbara Bottner and she told me how author/illustrators used to go to some photo-file stash in the main library in NYC and sift through the hundreds of pics by hand. It would take a field trip and a whole day… How spoiled, we are now.

    3. all the pumpkin-flavored goodies that this season inspires; like pumpkin flan.

    4. a harvest moon peaking through the clouds.

    5. rain on a skylight.

    6. friend’s once-in-a-lifetime creative arts experience that has clearly moved her.

    7. Olive (Emma Stone) and her parents’ (Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson) dialogue/delivery in film ‘Easy A’ just killed me. Classic wise-ass irony.
    Here’s an example that will be appreciated here:

    Olive: “I always thought that pretendng to lose my virginity would be more special. [beat] Judy Bloom should have prepared me for that.”


    Have a wonderful week-before-Halloween everyone!

  8. Denise, I gotta see ‘Easy A’.
    Just thought of another kik: Kidlit Con in Seattle next year, woot!

  9. Love the sketches! It’s great to see the thought process going on…

  10. Hello to all,

    Such wonderful kicks today! Jules, your kick #2 is very cool — I need to listen to Natasha’s latest.

    I don’t have a list of kicks today, because I’ve been almost a recluse with so much work lately. I’ll just make a plug for the movie “Red” which has an amazing cast and is so much fun to watch, especially Helen Mirren as a machine gun-toting CIA agent. “Secretariat” is good also. And I’m grateful for the rain we’re having and the fact that the S.F. Giants will be in the World Series! WOOT! Last but not least, I am looking forward to leaving for my trip to Asheville, N. Carolina this week!

    Tarie — congrats on becoming Aunt Tarie! Wonderful news. And I would love to see a blue mushroom, but not eat one.
    Jane — congrats on winning an award for your book!
    Steven — very exciting about the premiere of your film. I hope to see it soon.
    Jone — they just finished building a beautiful new library in a town near me, and this seems to be a very positive trend around here. Glad to hear about the remodel of your library.
    JES — I’m hoping for hardwood flooring in my house one of these years. I’m sure The Pooch will adjust, after doing a bit of slipping and sliding.
    Denise — such lovely, fall-related kicks!

    Happy Halloween to you all!

  11. Hey there, Laurie Keller! My friend read my copy of Birdy’s Smile Book just yesterday and loved it as much as I do. I’m a big advocate for smiling – sincerely – and being joyful. I’d love to do an audio version of Birdy’s Smile Book. I love Do Unto Otters because it has two of my favorite things: otters and the Golden Rule.

    Jules: Sounds like you had a happy week. Yay!

    Tarie: Congratulations to your sister-in-law and family! Kudos for hosting your first dinner party. Glad that it went well. Hurrah for freedom and independence.

    Jane: Have a restful day today. Congratulations on the writing, selling, sitting, and speaking.

    Steven: Happy almost Halloween to the little one!

    Jone: Imagination is a wonderful thing. Good luck with the library cafe!

    JES: I love the Dick Van Dyke show.

    Denise: Huzzah for all of the art and life around you.

    My kicks from the past week:
    1) Booked another short film!
    2) The show last night
    3) The screening (I’m still processing the fact that it was me up there)
    4 and 5) I had two auditions yesterday.
    6) I have an audition tomorrow
    7) Fun themed days last week

  12. John, thanks for that Gaiman link. LOVE. THAT. And I’m jealous of your wood floors. Would love to have some one day. Good luck to The Pooch in getting acclimated.

    Denise, pumpkin flan needs to be in my life. Really. I actually got a pumpkin-spiced coffee the other day, though I don’t normally like it, just for the want of something Fall-tasting. …And thanks for that Easy A trailer. I watched Emma Stone on SNL last night and wasn’t familiar with the movie. I love Patricia Clarkson (especially in Six Feet Under).

    Jone, aren’t you excited the conference will be near you?

    Hi, Aaron!

    Jill, new library! Exciting. Good luck with all the work, and I can’t wait to hear about the Asheville trip (and for you to meet Frank — hope you get to meet CJ, too??)…

    Little Willow, yes. Come to think of it, this book is very you. That’s a compliment, of course. Break a leg at the audition tomorrow. And congrats on #1!

  13. Oh Jules, (and all) if you like Patricia Clarkson you’ll really enjoy Easy A (she has a blast playing the free-spirited mom.)

    See this scene from movie: (ha-ha!)


  14. This book is too dear! Could there be a sweeter book? I don’t think so!


    1. Painting rooms PINK. (Which I did. With water-y, distemper-y stuff.)

    2. Wine spritzers. Best when painting rooms PINK.

    3. Loose-leaf tea.

    4. Thrift stores with good used book sections. Finding $2 paperbacks you’ve been meaning to read for ages, plus satin, bejweled pumps. Will read those books wearing those pumps, if nowhere else (they’re a bit small).

    5. Wrapping presents. Choosing ribbons and papers, cutting, folding, taping.

    6. Realizing that it looks like I’m having a baby girl by the first two posts, I’m not, though I’d like to one day. I just like pink.

    7. The first day in fall when it’s comfortable to wear a jaunty felt hat.

    8. Figuring out that someone is a friend of a friend of a friend.

    9. Central Park, now.

    10. Even after a gorgeous weekend, being very ready to sit down to one’s desk (inside!) and pound out good work on Monday morn.

  15. Denise, HA. Thank you. That was a funny scene.

    Hi, Sarah! Nice to cyber-meet you. Thanks for visiting. Those are some happy kicks. I think you covered all the five senses there. Well, not really, but I got the sense when I was done reading them that you had. Since I can’t go and see Central Park now down here in Tennessee, go see it one more time for me!….p.s. Yay for thrift stores…

  16. Jules,

    I LOVE “The Quiet Book.” Liwska definitely deserved that award!

    I’m a date late–as usual. I do have a good excuse. I had been without my computer for over a week. In addition, I’d been having problems with it for a few months. I have so much stuff to catch up on now.


    1. I got my computer back this morning! I hope the geek squad fixed everything for me. Time will tell. I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

    2. Mike and I spent Sunday with my daughter and her husband. I made lobster in a cognac cream sauce and Caesar salad for dinner. I also made mojitos. We watched the Patriots win.

    3. Professor Jonathan Turley asked me to be one of three guest bloggers on his law blog next week when he’s in Paris. You can read about that here–

    4. Looking forward to our reading council’s fall dinner meeting next week. We’re going to have a panel discussion with children’s authors and Illustrators Mary Newell DePalma, Scott Magoon, and Leo Landry.

    5. My husband cooked up a big pot of his version of Italian wedding soup for me this past weekend. It’s my favorite soup. It’s hearty and so tasty.

    I’m thinking of gettinga MacBook Air. Does anyone have one? If so, would you recommend I get one for myself?

  17. I really like Birdy’s Smile Book, and know someone I need to get it for….

    I am late this week too, there was an incident with a soccer ball and a shoelace and then all the rain and an adventure trying to find a good new place for brunch that made the day fly away fast yesterday….

    My big giant super-enormous kick for the week:

    Saw President Obama on Wednesday. In person. From only 50 feet away. Swoon. He is such an amazing and charismatic speaker and it was so fun to see all the families there too (a rally I was lucky enough to get a ticket to with friends). Pretty fun to be surrounded by a crowd of hopeful happy people!

    And then kick 2 would be my friends’ annual pumpkin carving party this past Saturday night. Vegan chili and cornbread, snacks, pumpkin carving, and lots of laughing.

    Jules – hooray for lunch with friends, and soooo cool to get thanked in your friend’s liner notes/insert!

    Tarie – Congrats on becoming an aunt!

    Jane – congrats on the award, and how awesome to see a fireball meteorite.

    Steven – love the cackle-practice, and the poem.

    Jone – pie and tea sounds lovely, and perfect to have in your library cafe.

    JES – LOVE wood floors. And your links that send me off into the internet for hours….

    Denise – those flying ghosts sound awesome.

    Jill – hope you have a lovely trip!

    LW – Sending you good luck wishes for those auditions!

    Sarah – hooray for thrift stores and wrapping pressents!

    Elaine – hooray for getting your computer back. And your dinner in kick 2 sounds AMAZING. Yum.

    Have a great week!

  18. Elaine, congrats on the guest-blogging! That sounds wonderful. Hope your computer stays well for you. If I knew anything about Macs, I’d try to advise, but I don’t. And so glad you got to see your daughter and her husband again.

    Rachel, Obama! I’d like to meet him. And pumpkin-carving parties! What did you carve into your pumpkin?

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