7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #208: Featuring Il Sung Na,
February 27th, 2011 by jules
C.S.W. Rand, Peter Brown, and Aaron Zenz
(In Which There Are Cute Fluffy Bunny Sightings and
It Becomes Very Clear That I’m Ready for Spring Already)
Their ears touch and noses twitch, and they know what to do.”
This post is probably the closest you’ll ever see to me talking about Cute Fluffy Bunnies in children’s book illustration, but quite clearly I’m ready for spring. All featured books today include bunnies of the fluffy and, quite possibly, cute variety (depending on your definition of “cute,” I guess). And I like all these bunnies, oh yes I do.
I’ve previously featured at 7-Imp the work of Korean illustrator Il Sung Na—at this 2009 post, to be exact—who now lives and works in London. The second spread above is his. I’ve got more spreads this morning from his new book. He just ups the ante on beauty with each book, huh? But more on him in a second. First up is Big Bunny (from which that top illustration comes), written by mother-daughter duo Betseygail Rand (daughter) and Colleen Rand (mother) — and illustrated by Colleen, who goes by “C.S.W. Rand” in the illustration credit.
This came from Tricycle Press this past January. Evidently, the author’s day job is professor of mathematics, and the mama’s day job is production photographer for a professional dance company and instructor of a life drawing class.
This is an oddball little book. (Remember, in my brain’s world, this is a compliment.) It’s the story of a bunny, born in the spring “along with all the other Easter bunnies,” who grows hugely huge. She loves being big until it comes time to paint eggs and she realizes she’s too big to do so. The eggs break when she picks them up, and then to pour salt on an already open wound, she inadvertently sits on some Easter baskets. She hops away. Her peeps (sorry — couldn’t resist that) are sad, and they … get this … they sit in a circle, as depicted in the illustration opening this post, and communicate in this very odd, sort of communal manner in which they touch ears, twitch their noses, and read one another’s minds. Or so it seems. And what do they determine during this, their first psychic, mind-meld gathering? That they need to find Big Bunny and bring her home. (Well, “they know what to do” is how it’s worded, and MAN do I wish it were that easy to figure things out in life, but I digress.) And I don’t want to give away the entire story here. I’ll just add that the rather retro, minimalist art made me take a second look at the book—I’m going to show you some spreads here and let the art speak for itself—and that it looks like, I dunno, some lost 1940s Little Golden Book. That’s all. And also that I tend to fall hard and fall fast for stories about misfits. And—at the risk of sounding ungrateful for the here and the now, which I know I should be grateful for—lordhavemercy, I’m ready right at this moment for the warm, spring’y world depicted in this book.
They close their eyes and sleep.”
And, as for Il Sung Na’s beautiful new picture book title, Snow Rabbit, Spring Rabbit: A Book of Changing Seasons (Alfred A. Knopf, January 2011), I’m going to quote heavily here the experts — in this case, The New York Times, who covered it just this week:
“Whimsy” is a word that runs rampant in the description of children’s literature, but Il Sung Na’s picture books certainly merit the label. “Snow Rabbit, Spring Rabbit” is the latest of Na’s deceptively simple storybooks…where a straightforward tale of nature or nighttime is elevated by distinctive illustration into a somewhat more enchanted realm than that of mere snowfall and frozen dirt…. Using a combination of painted oils, ink drawings and digital manipulation, Na’s depiction of nature includes unexpected flourishes…. Each page’s pictures advance the spare text, which is geared toward toddlers and young preschoolers, though the visuals may yet inspire an artistically minded kindergartner….
This is about a rabbit who observes how other animals cope with winter. The book closes with the arrival of spring. And that’s that, text-wise. It’s the art that will blow you away. Na’s very textured, patterned artwork is the kind of art you want to take your time with and pore over with your favorite wee child. The patterns, layers, swirls, overlays, details, colors — it’s all worth looking closely at. It’s beautiful through and through, and again, I will let the art speak for itself, as in check out those turtle shells and woolly coats below, speaking of patterns. You can click each spread to supersize…
SNOW RABBIT, SPRING RABBIT: A BOOK OF CHANGING SEASONS. Copyright © 2010 by Il Sung Na. First American Edition copyright © 2011. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Alfred A. Knopf, New York.
BIG BUNNY. Text copyright © 2011 by Betseygail Rand and Colleen Rand. Illustrations © 2011 by C.S.W. Rand. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Tricycle Press, New York.
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.
I think this is a really necessary week to focus on some kicks, dear readers. It’s been a loss’y kind of week. I know. I just made up that adjective and should actually consult a thesaurus sometimes. My apologies for not being more eloquent. I got news that a really beautiful, brilliant artist and mother I used to know in East Tennessee lost her fight against breast cancer; nightmarishly, my nephew’s newborn son, one of a set of twins, died from SIDS early this week after just a mere six weeks in this world; and the kidlitosphere is reeling from the loss of YA author L.K. Madigan. Rest in peace, Kim, Levi, and Lisa. I don’t mean to bring the room down when we tend to celebrate on these Sunday mornings, but sometimes, just because you can, you want to mark these moments in time and space with a moment of reverent silence.
And then you want to count your blessings, as they say, and kick back and notice the big and little things that bring joy, which I’m glad you all join me weekly in doing here at this spot in cyberspace — for many reasons, but mostly because none of us really knows how long we have on this brilliant ball of ice and fire hanging out in space. (Ack! Also NOT ELOQUENT, but let’s just carry on…)
1). Ask me how much I love this story: My friend’s two young boys (very close to my girls’ ages) were having breakfast, and the seven-year-old said, “black holes blow my mind.” And his younger brother, all of four years old, said, “you know what blows my mind? Love.” Where do I even begin? I laughed outloud—a veritable HOOT—when I read that. Best laugh of the week, in fact. As I told my friend, it’s like Carl Sagan meets John Lennon at a breakfast bar. Over mimosas. So perfect.
2). Finished Voyage of the Dawn Treader with the six-year-old. I’ll always remember reading the end of that book myself and how it gave me chills—the Sea People, the very end of the world and its smooth green slope, the vanishing of Reepicheep, the girl under the water that Lucy saw—and so reading it to her was, quite frankly, magical and made me feel all warm and tingly inside.
3). More Elbow! Here! Another performance! New song from the upcoming CD! At The Guardian! I’m using those exclamation marks just for Guy Garvey. Have I mentioned he’s a genius? I am deeply in love with the brief, burbly piano moments in that song.
Also, on the subject of music, I had this documentary, The White Stripes Under Great White Northern Lights, in the ‘ol Netflix queueueueue for the longest time. It just so happens that I finally watched it last week, and I didn’t even plan that timing, given their recent calling-it-quits. (Sniff.) It was good. Meg White actually spoke a few words, too.
Also: Yesterday would have been The Man in Black’s 79th birthday. In honor:
Still haven’t carved out time to listen to this, as I don’t want to be distracted by anything else and have been busy (what’s new?), but I’m looking forward to it, as The Low Anthem is pretty much all I’ve been listening to all week, when I’ve had time to listen to tune-age.
Finally, here’s a musical treat for you: If you go here, you can hear many good songs about sunlight. I have This Thing for sun stuff, but also one of my very favorite songs, Delta Spirit’s “Ode to Sunshine,” is there (song #2) and is only one play button away for you wonderful people. Turn it up. Really. I know you’re probably all, Jules is ALL THE TIME running her mouth about music and I’m all the time skimming all her jibber-jabber musical nonsense and videos and music links and she’s probably just rambling about Sam Phillips, who is the Indisputable Queen of All Music, again anyway, but you really DO want to turn that song up loudly. It’s. so. good.
3½). If you saw my post from Friday about The Gruffalo and The Lost Thing and tonight’s Oscars, you may be happy to know that you can see all of The Lost Thing—yes, the short film in its entirety—at this link. I watched it yesterday and found it quite moving. Thanks to Dan Santat for the tip. I hope it’s still view-able there today when this post goes live.
4). Thanks to a suggestion from the honorable Jama Rattigan, I decided to secure illustrator Carin Bramsen’s permission to put the opening image from this post on the “about” page of the blog. See? Scroll down to the explanation of “kicks,” and there you will see the image. Perfect, huh? Big ‘ol thanks to both Jama and Carin.
5). When your Blog Ramblings Because You’re Just a Nerd Who Can’t Help But Talk About Picture Books are noticed and appreciated. That’s a huge kick.
6). 7-Imp has its own domain now: sevenimpossiblethings.org. No need for folks to re-direct links or what-have-you. If you type that in, it still brings you here to blaine.org. It’s just easier to say “sevenimpossiblethings dot org” now, as opposed to the more cumbersome “blaine-dot-org-slash-etc…” mouthful.
7). Last but far from least: 7-Imp has a new mad tea party image to add to the collection! As a 7-Imp reader, thanking me for my regular blog posts, which was terrifically kind of him, author/illustrator Aaron Zenz sent to me—out of the blue—this piece of original art, which made my mailbox very happy:
Now, it deserves a bit of explanation as a mad tea party image: Aaron’s newest book, which came out this month from Walker Books (Bloomsbury), is for the very wee’est of folks in your life. (Pictured left and below are some illustrations from the book.) It’s called Chuckling Ducklings and Baby Animal Friends, and I mean to tell you that the big, colorful illustrations with the very round, warm, comforting lines will make the babies in your life go ooh and aah and gasp and gurgle and smile all big and toothlessly and such. The book features baby animals and their wee baby-animal names (I can’t stop saying “wee,” can I?), and Aaron goes from domesticated animals (starting out with a puppy, a kitten, and a bunny) to wood animals (fawn) to farm animals (duckling, piglet, lamb, colt, filly, cubs of every kind) to pond animals (tadpole) to birds (eyas, eaglet, cygnet, squab) to ocean animals (whelp, elver) to you-name-it and much, much more in between. The spare, rhyming text is just right for your wee story-time read-aloud for the youngest of listeners or for a parent-child lap-sit read, and everything about the large, uncluttered colored pencil illustrations is gentle and soft-focus, full of cheer. Your lap-sitters will take in these images with big, happy eyes.
So. Above in this one-of-a-kind, I have to say, mad tea party image is the wee-version of each of the mad tea party participants (minus Alice, of course): The March Leveret, the Dor-Pinky (yes, baby mice can be called many things, as I understand it, but “pinky” is one), and … well, no Mad Hatter, but a Mad “Spatter,” a spat being—as you can see in the image—a young oyster. Normally, spats don’t sport hats, but this is a Mad Spatter. At least it’ll be easy for him to escape decapitation from the Queen of Hearts, seeing as how, um, he has no actual head.
The image is now forever in the header on this page of the site.
Right? Right! I can say with confidence I have no other mad tea party image quite like that one. And I’m happy to have one from someone whose art is geared toward the very wee’est readers of the world. (Some publisher needs to come along and make a board book out of Chuckling Ducklings, I say.)
Here are some illustrations from the book, which I went bugging Aaron for, and I thank him for sharing and especially for the new mad tea party art.
Note for the very observant: When Aaron stopped by 7-Imp in September 2009, he shared some of the sample art he was using for his Chuckling Ducklings pitches. The art style, he tells me, changed quite a bit in the end, which is evident if you go back and look at that post.
BONUS KICK: I survived a roach encounter—while typing THIS VERY EXACT POST—which was horrifying (given that merely spotting a roach from precisely seven miles away is horrifying to me) and which we will not speak further of.
SWEET HEAVENLY CUTE FLUFFY BUNNIES IN MOTORCYCLE SIDECARS (I’m not sure where that exclamation came from — just came out), this is a novella of a post. I swear that I’ll make next week’s super short. What are YOUR kicks this week?
2011 Children’s Book Week poster © 2011 and used with permission of Peter Brown.
All art from Aaron Zenz © 2011 and used with permission.