A Wealth of Water Before Breakfast

h1 April 5th, 2011 by jules


(Click to enlarge spread.)

Here is illustrator Katherine Tillotson, getting ready to make some art. Her most recent illustrated title, written by poet, novelist, and teacher George Ella Lyon, involved paste paper, and so to the stove Katherine headed. I failed to ask Katherine (I blame not-enough-coffee that day) what it was like to read Lyon’s text for the first time and how exciting it must have been to be the illustrator assigned to it. I like Lyon’s work; she had me at this title (for grown-ups) from 1997, and she’s penned many picture books, including last year’s Schneider Family Book Award winner, The Pirate of Kindergarten, illustrated by Lynne Avril.

Described by Publishers Weekly as a “lyrical and bighearted outpouring,” this new title—All the Water in the World, released in March from Atheneum—takes a look at where water comes from and how vital it is, taking a pit stop in “far away / …a different day,” a place with dry grasses, dirt, and dust, a place waiting for “an open gate / in a wall of clouds / for rain sweet and loud / to fill the well / and start the stream.” In fact, it’s the vigorous spread opening this post that follows those two parched, brown spreads. If that doesn’t wake you up impossibly before breakfast, I don’t know what will.

With warmth and a bit of a drawl (a “honey” here and a “honey” there, directly addressed at the reader, ’cause, hey, Lyon is from Kentucky), readers not only learn about the water cycle, but are also reminded not to waste it: “Keep it clear, keep it clean…” Booklist writes in their starred review, “Lots of picture books introduce young children to the water cycle, but few have such an infectious beat and eye-catching illustrations as this title, which begs to be read aloud,” adding that Tillotson’s “beautifully composed, atmospheric digital illustrations” have a kinetic energy about them.

Booklist also noted that Tillotson’s spreads in this book have the “richly patterned and textured look of paint-and-paper collage.” That would be because, as Katherine shows me below, she started out with collage. Here she is for a brief visit to share a bit more about how she rendered these illustrations. I thank her for stopping by.

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Katherine: The final art for All the Water was collaged from hand-patterned papers. Among these are patterned paste papers. Paste paper is a 400-year-old technique for hand-patterning paper. Over the years these papers were most often used as endpapers. I cook up a recipe of flour and water and then add color. Once applied to the paper you can stamp, drag, sponge and comb patterns into the paste. Very messy and very fun.


Many of the other papers in the collages were hand-splattered. More fun making messes!

All this came together in the computer, where I cut and pasted and arranged until we were all happy with the compositions.


(Cover art)


“This wet wonder / means grow / means life will flow / through tigers / through trees.”
(Click to enlarge spread.)

* * * * * * *

ALL THE WATER IN THE WORLD. Text copyright © 2011 by George Ella Lyon. Illustrations copyright © 2011 by Katherine Tillotson. Published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers, New York. All images reproduced by permission of the illustrator.

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14 comments to “A Wealth of Water Before Breakfast”

  1. Oooh, thank you, thank you for this.
    I always wonder how the heck people combine computer/hand-done art, and I guess scanning takes place… or something? But just seeing a soupçon of the process is very, very cool.


  2. Oooooh. This blog will have me buying far more children’s books than I can afford! Thanks for the background info and insights. Lovely stuff!


  3. This is beautiful! I love when artists think outside the box (and get messy too!) Thanks for sharing!


  4. I want so bad to rub my fingers over the patterns and textures. I know it would come as a shock to my fingertips to find smooth paper instead.


  5. Wow, Katherine, I am LOVING these! Just look at that first spread, it is like a dream.


  6. I love the way animals seem to be hiding everywhere in Katherine’s work. And how the little planes make the whole page seem so vivid!


  7. Jules,

    I picked up a copy of this book recently. I love the way the lyrical text and art work together. It’s a stunning picture book! I enjoyed reading about Katherine’s artistic process.

    Happy National Poetry Month!


  8. Thank you! Reading these comments makes me very happy. This book is close to my heart.


  9. Hi Katherine, Saw your water book at Ann’s. I thought was great. She has a few of your other books. Mary


  10. Since I write about a world with no water, I’m definitely on the same page with Ms. Tillotson. Her book would be a good primer for kids who need next to be taught that the multinational corporations around the world are busy buying up water rights. It’s quiet, but it’s happening.


  11. Katherine quietly creates wild and wonderful art using her unique technique of messy beginning and meticulous finishing. Brava, KT! XXX


  12. These pictures are so alive! Beautiful.


  13. Oh, Katherine, this is gorgeous! What a striking cover. And I love the picture of you in the kitchen, cooking up art.


  14. [...] Katherine Tillotson (April 5, 2011), pictured cooking paste above, at the release of George Ella Lyon’s All the Water in the [...]


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