Free as the wind through the trees…”
(Click to super-size spread.)
Things are coming up Very Rock-And-Roll at 7-Imp this morning. I knew I wanted to feature some art from Gary Golio’s vibrant new picture book biography of the young Jimi Hendrix, Jimi Sounds Like a Rainbow (Clarion Books, October 2010), illustrated by Javaka Steptoe. And then at the last moment, I remembered the late Melissa Duke Mooney’s The ABCs of Rock, published by Tricycle Press in October — and with illustrations from Print Mafia. Lucky for me, I was able to get spreads from each to share with readers this morning. So. Are you ready to rock?
Am I a colossal nerd for just typing “are you ready to rock?” Yes. I am.
How about: Are you ready to go to eleven, which is one louder? There we go. Spinal Tap references, speaking of hard-core rock-and-roll, make everything better.
I really love Golio’s biography of the boy Hendrix. You may have heard or read about it on NPR in October. Golio writes with vivid lyricism and imagery about the young Hendrix, who lived in a boarding house in Seattle with his father in the mid ’50s. He and his father didn’t have much money, but the young Jimmy had one devoted parent, two steadfast friends (“they never teased him about his worn-out clothes and wild hair, the way some kids did”), a love for music and art, and a bustling imagination: “With every sound,” Golio writes, when describing how Jimmy and his friends would visit the nearby lake, “a color glowed in Jimmy’s mind. Blue was the whoosh of cool water, splashing over rocks. Orange and red, the crackling of a campfire. Green, the rustle of a thousand leaves.” It was after he finally got his own guitar that he determined to “paint the world” with the “rainbow of sounds at his fingertips.”
See? Can’t you tell with just that one lovely excerpt how Golio infuses the text with a lyricism that just…well, sings? And Javaka Steptoe’s artwork? Now, I’m biased. I’ve always been a big fan of his mixed-media collages. But truly, his artwork in this one is a force of nature. In a fascinating illustrator’s note, he talks about the research that went into his illustrations. As in, he did more than just pick up a book to read about Hendrix, he says. He walked the streets of Jimi’s hometown (Jimmy became “Jimi” in 1966 when music manager Chas Chandler took him to England), talked to folks who knew him, “even fingered an electric guitar once or twice,” and much more. He also notes—I love this—how he used plywood found at The RE Store in Ballard, a Seattle neighborhood, in his art. He also writes: “I thought about the depth and texture of his music, so I layered and used bright colors.”
Indeed. Take a look:
to make music while you sang?”
(Click to enlarge spread.)
The story of Nashville publicist and musician Melissa Duke Mooney—her inspiration for The ABCs of Rock (quite possibly, the coolest ABC book there is) and her sudden death in 2009—is told here in a recent article in The Nashville Scene. Sad story, given how loved she was and what a vibrant life she clearly led, not to mention how terribly sudden her death was. I’m always happy to shine the light on local authors and illustrators, and this is no exception.
This picture book verges on a hipster coffee-table book, in the words of The Nashville Scene, but older, music-crazed children will certainly dig it. And many, many adults. The art—rock-and-roll poster-style images in a book almost the same size as a vinyl LP—was created by the silkscreen design shop Print Mafia, based in Bowling Green, Kentucky (the work of Jim Madison and Connie Collingsworth, who have been making rock posters since 1997 and design without computers). “Print Mafia’s lurid illustrations in fuchsia, electric green, and hot yellow,” writes Publishers Weekly, “perfectly suit letter T’s Talking Heads and letter C’s the Clash — borrowing straight from these bands’ cover art and concert poster aesthetics; the designs imitate the DIY style of pasteup and photocopier art, with a dash of Roy Lichtenstein.”
There’s a little bit of everything here: R.E.M, The White Stripes, Nirvana, The Velvet Underground, Fleetwood Mac, Bob Dylan, and more. The book closes with “art notes” that explain Print Mafia’s design and illustration choices for each musician/band. (I’ve included those notes under the Go-Go’s and ZZ Top images below.)
This book—wait for it—rocks. Enjoy these illustrations:
he pictures Ford’s Eliminator coupe hot rod.
That car is an inescapable part of their image.”
Before I get to my kicks: Here’s Jimi, live in 1967.
Now, wait a second. You just think you’re busy and don’t have time to watch it, but if you take a few moments to do so, you will be rewarded. “After all the jacks are in their boxes / And the clowns have all gone to bed / You can hear happiness staggering on down the street / Footprints dressed in red / And the wind whispers Mary.” Evidently, at the time he wrote this, it was for his girlfriend who had just left, whose middle name was Mary. (It’s not about marijuana, or Mary Jane, as some people suspect.) Anyway. Brilliant. Enjoy.
THE ABCs OF ROCK. Copyright © 2010 by Melissa Duke Mooney. Illustrations copyright © 2010 by Print Mafia. Published by Tricycle Press, New York.
JIMI: SOUNDS LIKE A RAINBOW by Gary Golio, illustrations by Javaka Steptoe (c) 2010. Used by permission Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.
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.
Everything above my kicks here is so stinkin’ cool—what with Jimi, all the music, the two great books, the kickin’ art—that I hardly feel worthy here. As in, that will be a tough act to follow. But try valiantly I shall.
1). This month’s Nashville Kidlit Drink Night was lovely. It’s always nice when a bunch of folks show up, but—due to holiday crazy-ness, I assume—only about six of us were there. With a smaller group, we were all at one table and could hear one another and had a good time talking books over some food and coffee-with-Bailey’s. (I opted out of the cognac. I’m ultimately a wuss.) Plus, I got to meet local author Kristin O’Donnell Tubb for the first time and look forward to reading her book.
2). Speaking of the wind whispering someone’s name, this is for when you’re missing someone this holiday season:
Observant watchers may note the Sam Sightings in that video, amongst all the vintage ornaments. If you blink, you’ll miss her. She’s considerably media-shy, which makes it challenging to be a fan sometimes, but I’m stubborn.
3). The new issue of The Bluegrass Special is out. I’m flattered that they, as mentioned before, include one of my 7-Imp posts every month. This month’s issue is full to the brim with holiday goodness, including this. Satchmo. Just perfect. It’s worth it just to hear him chuckle after the reindeer show up:
But go see their Table of Contents for that and much more.
4). I received a really gorgeous copy of Amy Novesky’s Me, Frida, illustrated by David Díaz, that includes a limited-edition print from the book and an early manuscript (with notes) from the author. I don’t know how it is I deserve such lovely surprises in the mail.
5). Something about taking walks in the cold is a kick. If I’m just making my way from Point A to Point B, it makes me actively angry to walk in cold weather. I should probably always live in the South. I mean, I don’t go around punching people, but I hunch my shoulders against the chill, grimace, and generally mutter new and inspired obscenities to myself. (I mean to tell you that really cold weather gets me downright visionary about new, creative curses.) But when I opt to actually take a walk in the park and brave that cold whispering wind so that I can get away and slow down and think, something about the way it pushes me onward is a good thing.
6). You know the wildly popular Llama Lllama books, right? (These.) After we joked about it, my friend actually wrote a rough text for Llama Llama, Where’s Osama? Think I should send it to my agent? (“Llama Llama, Where’s Osama? / Find him for your friend Obama / Because Llama’s patriotic / Request does not seem idiotic / Llama Llama seeks Osama / Looks in Phoenix; Yokohama / Osama isn’t either place / Llama makes an angry face…”)
7). You know My Very Favorite Thing Ever (with my usual hyperbole aside), right? Reading to my girls. It’s an assumed kick every week. But I’m particularly excited about our new and current reads. Pippi Longstocking (pictured right), which absolutely delights my offspring. (Naturally. It’s the coffee-loving PIPPI. She is a hoot and a holler. What child wouldn’t love her tales?) And Adam Gidwitz’s A Tale Dark and Grimm. HUBBA WHOA to this book, my friends. And I mean, hubba hubba whoa. It’s goofy. Wry and winky. Funny. Also, dark and terrifying in spots. (See the blood on Gretel’s sword on the cover below? GIDWITZ IS NOT EVEN FOR ONE SECOND FOOLIN’ AROUND IN THE SLIGHTEST.) As I read this to her, the almost-seven-year-old looks at me with veneration and wonder, as if to say, could there be a more perfect book for me?
(Interested parties can read Betsy Bird’s interview with the author here, in which he likens horror films to fairy tales for adults. Yes, fairy tales, I tell you.)
BONUS: To get myself in the mood for this very rock-and-roll vibe here today, I indulged in some rock myself while composing this post: This Zeppelin cover, which I really like. Turn it up, man. (See the tiny play button right next to “The Ocean” and the artist’s name?); Nicole Atkins (I don’t have much longer to wait for her sophomore CD, and I heart the cover, as pictured at this link—scroll down a bit to see it—which also features some tune-age); Sleigh Bells’s “Infinity Guitars,” my new favorite angry/loud song; and Tame Impala. Also, not so much rock-and-roll as funky and weird and wonderful and hard to categorize is the band Dark Dark Dark, who very much do their own thing, thanks very much:
BONUS: My friend, Jill, who just gets it.
As I type this on Saturday, I’m preparing to head on over with my daughters to my friend’s for a sleep-over. Yes, my wee, hyper daughters will have a sleep-over (their first) with my friend’s daughter, and I’m gonna crash, too — that is, pizza, wine, and Netflix for the mamas after the wee ones go to sleep. This is the best kick of the current moment, as being with a good friend is just what I want to do right now. See you when I return.