What I’m Doing at Kirkus This Week, Plus What I Did Last Week, Featuring Kathryn Brown, Bonnie Christensen, Marc Burckhardt, & John Hendrix
(In Other Words, Lots of Picture-Book Goodness for Fellow Picture-Book Nerds)

h1 June 3rd, 2011 by jules

“The next morning, the chair was empty.”
— From Patricia Rusch Hyatt’s
The Quite Contrary Man,
illustrated by Kathryn Brown (Abrams, May 2011)

(Click spread to enlarge)

That’s one of my favorite picture book spreads from 2011. Yes, indeedy, it is.

This morning over at Kirkus I will be discussing the wonderful beginning reader series from TOON Books (a Candlewick imprint), which has been going strong since 2008. There are two new 2011 TOON titles, and this morning I briefly discuss the latest one. The link is here.

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Last week, I talked about some new picture book biographies. The link is here, if you missed it. Today is when I show you some artwork from each of those titles here at 7-Imp, and I’m going to throw in, at the bottom, some spreads from a book I wanted to mention last week, yet didn’t have the room to mention: Marissa Moss’s Nurse, Soldier, Spy: The Story of Sarah Edmonds, a Civil War Hero (Abrams, March 2011), illustrated by John Hendrix. More on that in a moment.

But, first, here are some illustrations to pore over. Remember, to read about them, hit last week’s Kirkus column. Below is the artwork only. Oh! But also: Bonnie Christensen, who visited me for breakfast here in 2009, not only shares some artwork below from her picture book biography of Andy Warhol, but she talks a bit about it, as well as discusses her process for creating the art. Incidentally, Bonnie also had the opportunity years ago, while working in New York theatre, to perform with Warhol “superstars” Taylor Mead, Viva, and Ultra Violet in The Rites of Spring, written and directed by Taylor Mead, at the Actors Studio. Bonnie addresses that below, too. Bonus!


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From Patricia Rusch Hyatt’s
The Quite Contrary Man: A True American Tale,
illustrated by Kathryn Brown (Abrams, May 2011)

“‘That beard’s a disgrace. It’s a sin!’ the churchgoers cried. The preacher scolded Beard Palmer from the pulpit: ‘Why do you go around looking like the Devil? You must shave and cut your hair.’ ‘No, I will not!’ said Beard Palmer. He knew every one of the two hundred and three Bible verses about beards by heart…”
(Click on image to see entire spread from which it comes.)

“Early one weekday morning, when the sun was just winking over nearby Bald Hill, Beard Palmer left his farm and walked on foot to the market with a basketful of cucumbers. Suddenly, tall shadows fell across his path. Four neighbors blocked his way, brandishing barber’s shears, a water basin, soap for lather, and a razor. ‘We’re going to give you a shave, or else!’ they shouted. Beard Palmer punched, kicked, and bit. He overturned the water basin, broke the shears, and flung the razor in the grass. The attackers ran off without cutting a single hair.”
(Click on image to see entire spread from which it comes.)

“His family visited him every day. Thomas carried his papa’s suppers to jail in a wooden bucket. Beard Palmer gave him letters to carry out under the crumpled napkins. The letters were to the editor of the local newspaper. They told how badly prisoners were treated in jail: ‘We have no blankets,’ Beard Palmer wrote,
‘and we are beset with mice and fleas.'”

(Click on image to see entire spread from which it comes.)

* * *

From Bonnie Christensen’s
Fabulous! A Portrait of Andy Warhol
(Christy Ottaviano Books/Henry Holt, May 2011)

Bonnie: The artwork was a complicated process. I wanted to create a sense of Warhol’s work, so I started with black and white photos which I collaged. As you can see, the figures are drawn, then cut out and collaged onto the photo backgrounds. Black and white photocopies of the collages were then made and transferred to canvas using an acrylic medium process that no one understands when I explain it. There are many steps and lots of blogs describing exactly how it’s done. The final step is washing/scrubbing the photocopy paper off the canvas to reveal the b&w ink. I then hung my paintings out to dry, and it struck me as odd, so I took a photo.

Transferred collages hanging out to dry

The final step is painting with oil and oil pastel.

“While he was sick, Andy’s bed was in the middle of the dining room.
Glamorous celebrities and superheroes kept him company…”
(Click image to see other side of spread and read the text.)

“In college, Andy studied art and invented his own drawing style. He also learned that paintings aren’t just decoration. Paintings can make people mad, make them ask questions, make them see things differently. Why Pick on Me?, Andy’s painting of a boy picking his nose, did all those things and was rejected from a major art exhibit. Andy put the painting in another show,
and people flocked to see it because of the controversy.”

“Just out of art school, Andy Warhol boarded a night train in Pittsburgh. He carried his portfolio of drawings and two hundred dollars. ‘You will do something
Great! Crazy! Terrific!’ his mother predicted…”
(Click image to see other side of spread and read the text.)

It was a lot of fun, and I particularly loved making the ‘faux’ Warhols that you see throughout the book. The Dick Tracy painting on the jacket has a dialogue balloon that says, ‘Among other disguises she poses as a clarinet play. Goes by the name Emily and has a wicked sense of humor.’ This is a precise description of my daughter, just automatic writing to fill the balloon. Didn’t even notice it until a friend pointed it out. And it worked well, because I hide the name ‘Emily’ on the jackets of all my books.

“Andy made thirty-two paintings, one for each kind of Campbell’s Soup. A fine art gallery in Los Angeles showed them all lined up side by side. They caused a sensation. Andy was on his way as a fine artist…”

{As for} the Warhol connection, I {once} worked at the New York Shakespeare Festival in New York and met Taylor Mead when he was in a show I was working. I also had an observership at the Actors Studio, and Taylor was putting together a play (as in, ‘let’s do a play’). Viva and Ultra Violet and Michael J. Pollard were in it, along with a son of ‘the’ Whitney family. My role was to impersonate both Katharine Hepburn and James Cagney before being carried off stage by the Whitney dressed as a body builder. I was in a flowing evening gown. The Studio was packed, and we all had a great time. Just wish I had a photo! I later ran into Taylor at Elaine’s, and he invited me to be in another play in which I was to be an outer space bird that swooped to earth and grabbed up garbage. For some strange reason, this show never seemed to materialize.

* * *

From Gary Golio’s
When Bob Met Woody:
The Story of the Young Bob Dylan
illustrated by Marc Burckhardt (Little, Brown, May 2011)

“After hearing a record by Odetta—a young folksinger with a voice like a wildcat—he traded in his electric guitar for an acoustic. When a café owner asked his name during an audition, he suddenly answered, ‘Bob—Bob Dylan,’ after his favorite poet.
He was starting a new life, with a new name.”

(Click to enlarge)

“Bob hitchhiked to New York in January 1961. The city lay frozen under a foot of snow, and Bob didn’t know a soul. He was nineteen years old.”
(Click to enlarge)

“So Bob did what came naturally. He sang Woody’s songs while Woody sat and listened, his eyes sparkling. Promising to come back, Bob left that day with a card from Woody that read, ‘Ain’t dead yet.'”
(Click to enlarge)

{Note: For more on this book, you really don’t want to miss Jama Rattigan’s excellent post.}

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As mentioned above, here’s one more recent picture book biography, released in March by Abrams, Marissa Moss’s Nurse, Soldier, Spy: The Story of Sarah Edmonds, a Civil War Hero (Abrams, March 2011), illustrated by John Hendrix. Didn’t make it in my Kirkus column last week, but I can share some spreads from it here today at 7-Imp.

This biography tells the story of a Civil War heroine who assumes the identity of a man in order to fight. In fact, when Sarah was only nineteen years old, “she had already been dressing as a man for three years. Originally, she had cut her brown wavy hair and put on pants to escape a marriage arranged by her parents.” Damn skippy. That’s one way to do it! Moss continues:

She had run away, crossing the border from Canada into the United States, trading a bridal gown for trousers, trading countries, without one single regret. Once she discovered the freedom of taking big strides unhindered by heavy skirts, and the freedom to travel when and where she wanted, she couldn’t put a dress back on.

Going by “Frank Thompson,” she eventually joins the fighting, works as a nurse and soldier, and is sent, disguised as a free slave, to spy in a Confederate camp.

This book is a force of nature. “Hendrix’s…artwork is, as usual, a showstopper,” writes Publishers Weekly, “and his bold caricatures, dominated by midnight blues and sunset golds, convey Edmonds’s strength and determination; brief quotations in massive type streak across certain spreads, delivering emotional wallops… For her part, Moss…delivers a riveting narrative, making it clear that Edmonds was fighting for more than one kind of freedom.” As I’ve said before here at 7-Imp (he also visited here in ’09), it’s galvanic illustrations like John’s that make his career one I like to watch these days. He simply does not shy from drama, and I think PW‘s “showstopper” says it all.

And if only all picture book biographies could close with the source notes this one closes with: A truly informative and hardly indulgent (as they can sometimes be) Author’s Note and Artist’s Note; a glossary; the author’s bibliography; and the illustrator’s bibliography. (YES, the artist’s bibliography. Just so cool, that.) There are also photos of Sarah and an index. In Betsy Bird’s detailed review, she notes a basic timeline would make her even happier—yes, that would be ideal—but this is truly impressive closing matter in the book here.

Here are some spreads. Click each to enlarge. Enjoy.

“President Abraham Lincoln had just declared war on the Southern states seceding from the Union, and the new army needed men. When Frank Thompson saw a poster requesting recruits, he decided he would be one of them. Except Frank wasn’t his real name. In fact, Frank wasn’t a man. He was really Sarah Emma Edmonds.”

“Sarah’s ears burned red with shame. When the men left for basic training, the whole town of Flint, Michigan, saw them off. It was like a parade. Sarah cheered with
everyone else, but she wanted desperately to be one of those going, not one of those staying behind and waving handkerchiefs in a teary good-bye.”

“The other soldiers laughed at her small boots and called her ‘OUR LITTLE WOMAN!’ Frank laughed louder than the rest of them at the nickname. If only they knew!”

“Frank waited until the sun set, and then she headed toward the pickets, hoping she could slip by a soldier if he nodded off or got distracted. The only thing to hide her was the darkness. She hadn’t gone far, though, when a voice stopped her.
‘YOU, THERE!’ a thick-set officer called.”

* * * * * * *

THE QUITE CONTRARY MAN: A TRUE AMERICAN TALE. Copyright © 2011 by Patricia Rusch Hyatt. Illustrations copyright © 2011 by Kathryn Brown. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Abrams, New York, NY.

FABULOUS! A PORTRAIT OF ANDY WARHOL. Copyright © 2011 by Bonnie Christensen. Published by Christy Ottaviano Books/Henry Holt, New York, NY. Images reproduced by permission of Ms. Christensen.

WHEN BOB MET WOODY: THE STORY OF THE YOUNG BOB DYLAN. Copyright © 2011 by Gary Golio. Illustrations copyright © 2011 by Marc Burckhardt. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Little, Brown and Company, New York, NY.

NURSE, SOLDIER, SPY: THE STORY OF SARAH EDMONDS, A CIVIL WAR HERO. Copyright © 2011 by Marissa Moss. Illustrations copyright © 2011 by John Hendrix. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Abrams, New York, NY.

3 comments to “What I’m Doing at Kirkus This Week, Plus What I Did Last Week, Featuring Kathryn Brown, Bonnie Christensen, Marc Burckhardt, & John Hendrix
(In Other Words, Lots of Picture-Book Goodness for Fellow Picture-Book Nerds)

  1. Thanks for the link!

    I LOVE that beard book — must get my hands on a copy soon. Also need to see this Sarah Edmonds book to compare it with Carrie Jones’s version that also came out this year. Sarah’s such a fascinating person.

  2. I agree with Jama – and really interesting to learn about some less well-known (in the UK) figures, as well as the icons…

  3. this was cute

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