7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #216: Featuring Sergio Ruzzier

h1 April 24th, 2011 by jules

{Edited to Add, Sunday evening: Quick announcement to say that Sergio has been invited to spend a month with Maurice Sendak as part of the Sendak Fellowship, which I believe is in its second year. I didn’t mention that in this post this morning, as I thought it was not-to-be-announced yet, and Sergio himself is too modest to mention it, I think I can safely say. But it turns out it’s okay to announce it, so here I am celebrating Sergio’s good—and well-deserved—news. I believe the fellowship starts in the Fall, and it means Sergio will find himself in Connecticut, sitting next to Maurice Sendak, talking about books, learning from the master himself. Author/illustrator Paul Schmid discussed his experience as a Sendak Fellow here at this fairly recent post, if anyone would like to read more about the experience.}

We’re being greeted this Easter Sunday by Eve Bunting’s and Sergio Ruzzier’s Little Elephant from Tweak Tweak (Clarion Books). I think if I could pinch that elephant’s cheeks, I would. (This is a sentence I never thought I’d type in life.)

Since it’s Easter today, I wonder if I’ll be kickin’ it alone. I hope, where ever you may be, that you’re enjoying chocolate or marshallows or hard-boiled eggs or candy robin eggs or Peeps or dark chocolate bunnies or jelly beans — but just not all at once. I also hope you get to hunt for an egg or two. Preferably the kind with treats hidden inside.

Author/illustrator Sergio Ruzzier is here today, as mentioned, not only to share his Easter egg up there with us, but also to give us a sneak peek into his latest illustrated title, Tweak Tweak, written by none other than the esteemed Eve Bunting, who has written over two hundred children’s books in her career, including Smoky Night, the winner of the 1995 Caldecott Medal, illustrated by David Díaz.

I thought Tweak Tweak was already out, but I see its official release date is May. Ack! This is what I get for being generally disorganized with the stacks of picture books that surround me. I don’t mean to sound all taunting with a book you can’t get your hands on yet, but you won’t have to wait long. Not to mention it’ll also be worth the wait. I was eager to see it myself, as a fan of both Bunting and Ruzzier, and it truly delivers.

Tweak Tweak tells the story of a young elephant with his mother. As they head out for a walk one sunny day, Mama Elephant tells Little Elephant to hold on to her tail and tweak it twice for any questions. Well, Little Elephant is very curious and Mama’s tail gets lots of tugging. (When I first read it, my own young daughters were with me and there was lots—and I mean lots—of loud laughter at each tweak. Little Elephant’s abundant curiosity will surely resonate with the youngest of readers/listeners.) Little Elephant sees a whole host of creatures on their walk and wants to know if he can perform the same tasks as these animals. For instance:


“Yes, my little elephant?”

“Mama? What is that?

“That is a frog.”

“What is he doing?”

“He’s jumping.”

“Can I jump?”

Understand, mind you, that last sentence gets its own spread, and we see Little Elephant leaping—in his own mind anyway—through the air, complete with a huge smile and some frightened frogs beneath him. (Cue more loud laughs from the young children.)

This goes on, with satisfying repetition, until the tables are turned, as they head home and Mama gets to tug on Little Elephant’s tail. (“Tweak, tweak! ‘Do you know the way back, my little elephant?’ ‘Yes, Mama. I remember.'”)

As Booklist has noted, the heart of this story is the affectionate relationship between Mama and Little Elephant. It’s tender and sweet, but never cloying. And the way in which Bunting has constructed the text is spot-on. The Horn Book review has noted the “elegant repeating structure” of her text. This is important. A clumsier author attempting this type of thing might end up giving the reader dull lists. Bunting wraps this all in a graceful rhythm of sorts that pulls the reader along with a real energy.

And it’s a delight, as a fan of Ruzzier’s work, to see this title. Now, you all know I never resort to merely the word “cute” to describe a children’s book (note my pledge on this page of the blog), so I won’t say that Little Elephant is that. But I will say he is ADORABLE. (Note my cheek-pinching proclivity up there at the post’s introduction.) I can spout off a long list of qualities to Ruzzier’s illustration work that I like, but “adorable” isn’t often one of them. But this? This is the most adorable I’ve ever seen one of his characters — as a wide-eyed, curious, wee elephant should be. Really. I want to scoop Little Elephant up in my arms and hug his sweet neck. I believe it was (once again) the Horn Book review of Tweak Tweak that noted Ruzzier’s offbeat style, hands down my favorite thing about his work. It really works here with Bunting’s text. And there’s so much joy and humor in his illustrations here that it’s infectious. There’s also comfort and warmth, what with his round lines (particularly with Mama and Little Elephant).

All-around it’s a winner. I’d put it in my top-ten list of 2011 picture book titles thus far. Undoubtedly. Here is Sergio to share three sets of roughs from the dummy, preparatory pencil drawings, and finals in pen and ink and watercolor. I thank him for visiting 7-Imp — again. (He visited me in ’08 for a breakfast interview and last year to talk about Hey, Rabbit!)

“‘Hold on to my tail, Little Elephant,’ Mama Elephant said. ‘Today we are going for a walk. If you want to ask me a question, tweak twice.'”

“‘Can I go swimming in the river?'”

“‘Can I sing like that?'”

TWEAK TWEAK. Text copyright © 2011 by Eve Bunting. Illustrations © 2011 by Sergio Ruzzier. Published by Clarion Books, Boston. Reproduced by permission of the illustrator.

* * * * * * *

Note for any new readers: 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). I am continually amazed by the kindness of the friends I’ve made through blogging. I received some really lovely, neato-skeeto (to channel my inner six-year-old there) gifts this week from friends/blog readers, people I haven’t even met in person (yet) but whom I consider good—and special—friends.

2). This children’s book festival, coming up in May in Knoxville, is going to be awfully fun. With, as you can see, a good line-up of authors and illustrators.

3). I’ve been so remiss—all on account of the huge writing deadline looming ahead of me and just General Too Busy-Ness—in not pointing out all the wonderful poetry posts going on in the kidlitosphere this April for National Poetry Month. There is so much goodness going on that the best thing I can do is send you to this link, which I linked to back at the beginning of the month. (I’m pretty sure it’s MotherReader we have to thank for that link.) If you have the time to catch the April posts of people like Jama Rattigan and Gregory K. Pincus (“30 Poets/30 Days” over at GottaBook), to name only two, I mean to tell you that you will be rewarded. These hard-working, talented bloggers with excellent taste are national treasures. They truly are. (Greg says that great logo there on the right came from artist and illustrator Mary Peterson.)

4). This Tiny Desk Concert from Pokey LaFarge is like a breath of fresh air.

5). This bootleg Elvis tune really made my week. You can listen to the performance by hitting the play button there at the bottom of that link.

I did not know Elvis even said words like that.

6). I find this about babies and mamas and invading cells really fascinating, and I hope that the “too dangerously beautiful idea” of science wins out. I do. (As I was typing that sentence, it made me think of Mason Jennings’ “Ballad for My One True Love,” in which he sings, “God bless the babies that sleep in you.” Such a heart-breaker of a song, just on account of its beauty. But I digress.)

7). This week, NPR premiered a video produced by Mason Jar Music, a cover of Blind Willie Johnson’s “Nobody’s Fault But Mine”, as performed by Abigail Washburn. It is here, and I lurv it. (That is, there is a video at that link, though I can’t get it to embed properly here.)

What are YOUR kicks this week? Anyone even around?

22 comments to “7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #216: Featuring Sergio Ruzzier”

  1. Happy Pesach! Happy Easter! Happy Spring!
    I am in LOVE with that picture of the elephant in the river, and I love the progression of the illustrator deciding how to portray the fish and the eel – too cute!

    In Revision-land this week, so I’m merely taking a break to make a pear tart, sing an Easter hymn to myself, and get back to work. xox

  2. Quick hop by to say Happy Easter to everyone!

    Thanks for the shout out; can’t believe we’re into the last week of Poetry Month already.

    LOVE elephants and this book looks SO adorable — I don’t have any hard and fast rules about the word, “cute,” so I’ll use it! The swimming spread is cute cute cute! The whole “tweak tweak” cue is brilliant, too.

    My big kick of the week is finally getting to meet an online writer friend in person. 🙂

    hop hop . . .

  3. Tanita! Good luck with revisions. Happy Spring!

    Jama, I’m jealous of your friend. And happy Spring to you, too. “Cute” is fine. It’s when people describe children’s book as “cute” and then STOP that bugs me. I’ll say it now: Little Elephant is CUTE. There. I used the “c” word.

  4. Jules, love your cheeriness about your busy life, and your pointing people towards poetry. The little elephants, especially streaming through the river, made me smile. Tanita, I’m crazy about the friends and family who are coming here today, but felt so drawn to your way of spending the holiday. Quite perfect. Jama, I had such vicarious happiness that you got to have that visit. Someday that will be us.

    It’s misty in Massachusetts this morning and cool, but I collected some daffodils yesterday, shaking off snow, and they’re looking relieved to be in vases on my table. Bread’s rising. Chicken breasts need to be flip-flopped, breaded, and baked. The ends of green beans snipped, etc. If I don’t get distracted I’ll start baking Jama’s lemon bars, and three people are already bringing desserts. One gave me an option of bringing a cheesecake covered with peeps. I showed restraint and said her choice, but I’ll be racing to the window to see when she comes…

  5. Ooh, Jeannine. Your kicks are usually a feast of one’s senses, but they especially are today. And a cheesecake covered with peeps? One of the wonders of this earth whose existence hadn’t even crossed my mind. Also, I love snipping the ends of green beans. I don’t know why. And fresh green beans are so good. Mmm. I’ll be over in an hour.

  6. Jules,

    Just wanted to drop by to say Happy Easter to you and your family. I’m smiling at the moment because the sun is finally shining here.

  7. Ooh, so glad to see that Eve Bunting has a new book out. And the elephant is so playful!
    Jules and all, I hope today is a wonderful Easter and spring day.
    Yesterday was simply gorgeous in the Northwest. I spent a good hour out doors with my camera. Today there is a spring rain. My 20 Days=30 students is moving along, can’t believ it’s the last week and am sending out poetry cards this week.
    Today family gathers and I have a scallop potato recipe to try.

  8. Happy Easter to you and yours, too, Elaine.

    Jone, those poetry cards are always a wonderful treat. Hope the rain stops a bit for you all today. Do you get to see grandkids today?

  9. It just wouldn’t work for me to be Pokey K. Pincus, would it? No. No, I don’t think so.

    Thanks for including poetry and 30 Poets/30 Days as a Kick! For me, I’ve been enjoying http://www.symphonyofscience.com a lot of late. Good stuff (where science wins).

    Happy Easter to you and yours….

  10. But please, Greg? I think it has a certain ring to it.

    Ooh. Thanks for that link. I think that’s also something John E. Simpson would dig. Seriously dig.

  11. Oooh, I do dig Symphony of Science! (In 2010, I featured their Carl Sagan/Stephen Hawking mashup, “A Glorious Dawn,” in a post at my place. Even cribbed the post title from Sagan’s portion. :)) Thanks for the reminder… they’ve kept going, of course, and maybe it’s time for another cribbing!

    Despite some health and Internet issues early on, I had a great week as well.

    (Interestingly, I think my #1 kick of the last seven days — like yours, Jules — would have to be the people I’ve met online. Most bloggers come to think/believe that his or her commenters are the best, so I won’t try to convince you on that score. But I do have great commenters and readers.)

    Busy day for me today, though not in the traditional ways. (Believe it or not, we actually sorta forgot that this was Easter weekend. We’re traditional-foodless, and every place where we could stock up is closed. We may go out for pancakes or something for dinner; at least the name “IHOP” suggests the day’s traditions, ha.)

    Hope y’all have had a good week and an even better one coming up!

  12. Dang, I love his spread of the swimming elephant.

  13. I agree, Little Elephant swimming is just adorable! The book looks great!

    Happy Easter to all!

    Quick kicks:
    1) A freshly bathed, happy, clean, and clean-smelling dog.
    2) Two days of sunshine in a row!
    3) Lunch with a good friend.
    4) Finding the right present for same good friend.
    5) Making new friends.
    6) Gratitude.
    7) A slow morning drinking coffee with the dog.

    Hope everyone has a lovely day with family and friends!

  14. Happy Easter, Pesach, and Spring! We went to 8 am Mass, and the New Testament reading had the passage from Corinthians, “Do you not know that a little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough? Clean out the old yeast so that you may be a new batch, as you really are unleavened.” I have been working with/wrestling with gluten free yeasted bread dough, so I had to smile when I heard it. I’ve just ordered some boxes of Better Batter gluten-free flour mix, of which I’ve heard splendid reviews.

    1. I found out that a childhood favorite album, The Simon Sisters Sing for Children (i.e. Carly and Lucy) has finally been issued on CD as “Sing Songs for Children.” Friends of mine sang their version of the poem “Pavanne For the Nursery” for my wedding.

    2. I am on the recovery end of sore throat, round two (Oh, how I hope).

    3. My family is going to California next week. We’re going to Disney Land for 2 days and Universal Studios for 1 day. Americana! I will report back with my anthropological findings.

    4. Easter dinner is a homemade pizza party at a friend’s house.

    5. My favorite part of the entire Narnia series: the toffee tree.

    6. The trillium have doubled. Yes, they have! This is thrilling news. I hope that by the time I return, they will have happily progressed and not been attacked by slugs.

    7. I appreciate my friends.

  15. Happy spring to all of the Imps! I hope you enjoyed whatever holiday(s) your household celebrates.

    Thanks for the sharing the smiling Little Elephant, Sergio and Jules. Welcome back to 7-Imp, Sergio. I love seeing the evolution of drawings from preliminary sketches to final versions.

    Tanita: Best of luck with revisions.

    JES, Jules, and Jama: Yay for the happy meetings.

    Jeannine: Have fun! The second paragraph of your kicks was certainly poetic.

    Elaine: Enjoy the sun! (with sunscreen!)

    Jone: Stay dry. Enjoy the family gathering and photos.

    Greg: Go science!

    Rachel (rm): Hug the puppy for me. Three cheers for gratitude.

    Farida: Have a fun and safe trip! Glad that you are feeling better.

    My kicks for the past week:
    1) Great news for friends
    2) Conversations
    3) I was offered a role in a webseries
    4) A musical I did last year has been revamped, with the new version having a staged reading next month, and they’ve asked me to reprise my role
    5) Blender
    6) Names
    7) Television

  16. I have one especially big kick for this week but it has to stay a secret for now (it’s more about my husband than me, but it’s still really great). Maybe I can share next week. We’ll see.

    So let’s see, what kicks do I have?
    1) I made hypoallergenic chocolate cupcakes (gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free!) and they’re delicious.
    2) I’m being bold and trying new things.
    3) Weather’s been gorgeous.
    4) I’m thisclose to being done with library school.
    5) My sister is living back in her home in town now (she’d had to take a room out of town because she had a job there, but she was able to put something together here instead yay! – her husband is in school here).
    6) Went for a gorgeous walk on the American Tobacco Trail last night.
    7) Aforementioned secret kick!

  17. Easter morning (well, afternoon) seems the perfect moment to slip back into 7-Imp after a few weeks away. And what a lovely terra cotta elephant Easter Egg to welcome me back. (I too love the swimming ellie pic – but in particular, the riverstones on the bottom; they are just the perfect pebbly colors, those tans, greys with bands of white. Yes.)

    Jules, so good to read your visceral enthusiasm on the screen; 7-Imp always seems such a friendly, happy, art-loving place where on can gush without being uncool. I’ve missed it, you and the kickers. Hey there tanita, jama, Jeannine, Elaine, jone (we have met in person!), fellow Angeleno Greg, JES, Rachel. S & S, Little Willow and Kimberly. Lotsa great kicks today. : – )

    My kicks will explain my absense:

    1. For Spring Break, my husband and I tried to withdraw as best we could from our internet, e-mail, facebook and blackberry addictions. Just to remember what ‘being offline’ felt like. I did suffer withdrawl and worried I was neglecting someone or missing out on whatever. But then, after a week or so, a subtle. serious appreciation for true down time returned to my psyche; the ‘off world’ exercise paid off.

    I know this seems a rather blasphemous discovery to share on a blog, but pulling away made me remember TIME is a precious commodity. And so, I am trying to return only to the blogs and e-mail and surfing that truly feeds my soul, research or makes me smile (like 7-Imp!)

    2. A spring break visit to my son at college. Stayed at an inn on the stormy Oregon coast, played cards, watched harbor seals, visited the aquarium in Newport and listen to college-age passions and dreams.

    3. Then hubby, high-school son and I went to Rome (I climbed to the top of St. Peter’s basilica’s cupola!), Pompeii and the Amalfi Coast.

    4. Decorating Easter Eggs with my family last night: hard-boiled eggs, six cups of vinegary bright-colored dye and a jumbo box of crayons. Max put on movie “Lord of the Rings” as background entertainment. The results, I suppose, were predictable: Son, Max created an ominous egg with a fiery cycops eye: “The Evil Egg of Sauron.” My husband melted a candle and with a toothpick emblazoned his egg with the Elvish-looking wax inscription “One Egg to Rule Them All.”
    And so it went. I hope the Easter Bunny is a J. R. R. Tolkien fan and wasn’t traumatized. Ha-ha!

    That’s it for me. It’s good to be back. Happy Spring everyone!

  18. Thanks to all for the kind comments! I am very glad the swimming spread is getting admirers, as I am especially fond of it. I did have a great time painting the pebbles, while thinking of Leo Lionni’s ones.

  19. John, I think IHOP on Easter is, indeed, perfect. I hope you got pancakes after all.

    Hi, Matt. Right! Isn’t it great?

    Rachel, thanks again for my cinnamon bread, and I hope you continue to get sunshine. AND have slow coffee-drinking mornings.

    Farida, I have some songs from those Simon sisters on my beloved Sesame Street “In Harmony” CD, which I also still own on vinyl from when I was but a wee, wee lass. ! Glad you’re feeling better; hope your daughter is, too. And I am eager to hear your anthropological findings from Disney Land.

    Little Willow, congrats on the web series! AND the musical. That is most excellent news.

    Kimberly, my, that is a cryptic secret, but sounds exciting. And I’ll have to look up the American Tobacco Trail. That is new to me.

    Denise, I am fascinated by your experiment and might have to try that one day in the future. I’m seriously, seriously flattered that you find 7-Imp worthy of your limited time. I mean, truly. I know how hard it is to keep up, and I find I have to do that, too. Only visit, that is, those blogs that give me what I need the most (and even then I get behind). ROME! My favorite place ever, but it’s not like I’ve been everywhere. Also, those Easter eggs ROCK. I was smiling as I read kick #4. That is truly kickin’.

    Sergio, thanks again for visiting (and I finally got the images in the right order!)….

  20. Love those pebbles, too. Just want to hold one in my hand (the one with the white stripe, I think). They’re so tactile and pleasantly curvy – like Baby Elephant.

    So many good things going on. I’d love to go to that festival in Knoxville. Pear tart sounds divine! I’m all for Rome and coffee and poetry, stormy coasts, and online friends, and I’m intrigued by Peeps cheesecake and the American Tobacco trail.

    My 7, in no particular order:

    1/ Easter picnic dinner a la Peter Rabbit: choux pastry nests stuffed with lettuce, carrots, green beans, roasted beets, radishes, cucumbers, and purple cabbage with dill dressing.

    2/ Carrot cake with cream cheese icing decorated with jelly beans.

    3/ Sweet friend who not only washed our dirty laundry at her house (she refused to let me do it!) when our washer broke, but also folded it and had her husband deliver it to our door. (Yes, we owe them big time!)

    4/ Finally finding sales receipt for washer and realizing it’s still under warrantee.

    5/ That 7 yo’s new hero is Brian Selznick.

    6/ Sunny 70 degree days.

    7/ Egg hunt, outdoor electric train exhibit, and balloon animals at the botanical/art museum.

    Have a great upcoming week, and Jules, thanks for these sweet images!

  21. Jules – so glad you liked the sin dawgs, this has been one of those winters that needed lots of cinnamon. : )

    Thanks for the Elvis link, now I want to go buy that album, just loved him singing that song. And some of those words, and his delivery of them, just had me cracking up!

  22. Jessica, SELZNICK! And your son, with excellent taste. Woot! And what a kickin’ picnic idea.

    Rachel, right! I immediately fell in love with that bootleg Elvis track. Funky.

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