7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #237: Featuring Alison Friend

h1 September 18th, 2011 by jules

Today, I’m featuring an illustrator whose latest picture book title I haven’t seen yet. It comes out in October, and I don’t have an early copy, but a) I like what I see and b) it’s written by Phyllis Root, and boy howdy and howdy boy does she have a great track record with picture books. So, it’s with confidence that I say: I bet this book is goooood. If I’m wrong, one of my readers can come back later and scold me. I guess.

The book I speak of is called Scrawny Cat (Candlewick), and its illustrations come from Alison Friend, who lives and works in Sheffield, England. Alison, who previously worked in greeting cards, illustrated her first picture book in 2010, Maxine Kumin’s What Color Is Caesar?, also published by Candlewick.

Evidently, Scrawny Cat is about a feline who used to belong to someone who loved him, but who now just hears a lot of “get out of here!”s. As you can see from the post’s opening illustration, the cat becomes a sailor cat, and I hear he finds a kindred soul at the end of his journey. (As you can also see below, a big, growl’y dog chases Scrawny Cat, poor thing. Looks like he’s got it rough for a while there, so I’m glad to hear about that kindred soul.) The book’s trailer is here.

Alison’s here today to share some illustrations from the book, as well as some early sketches and roughs. She tells me that Phyllis’s manuscript was a pleasure to illustrate. I thank her for visiting, and those of you wanting to see more from Alison can do so here at her site or here at her blog.


Interior spot illustrations



Two final images from the book


Early cover ideas






Early sketches




More early sketches
(Click each to enlarge)



Color roughs
(Click each to enlarge)

* * *

SCRAWNY CAT. Text copyright © 2011 by Phyllis Root. Illustrations copyright © 2011 by Alison Friend. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.

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 really could just stop here with this kick, as in this could be kicks one through seven: Laura Marling’s new CD, A Creature I Don’t Know, is absolutely stunning. Sweetmotherofmary, I marvel at these songs and at Marling’s abundant talent. I really would just like to stop time, like with one of those gold Twilight Zone sundial pendant thingies, and only listen to this CD over and over and over and have nothing else to do. Here she is performing “Sophia” live in WNYC’s studios for Spinning on Air:

But it was really hard to pick, so here are the other ones she sang.

2) This live performance from Villagers is also wonderful.

3) But for some good old-fashioned indie garage rock, I discovered the band Girls, too.

4) The September issue of The Bluegrass Special is up!

5) I got to chaperone a field trip for my kindergartner’s class this week. I was assigned to a group of staggeringly adorable children. I also got to read to my kindergartner’s class recently, as well as talk to them about what liberrrrrrians do. I am super kicky-grateful my job allows me the flexible scheduling to do this kind of stuff.

6) I made mixed CDs for friends who moved into a new home. I went a little crazy and made them a pack ‘o’ four mixed CDs. I was inspired by the theme, songs about home. I had fun making the songlists. Here’s one song I put on the mix (“Just a one-room country shack / Gonna lie here on my back…”), Dave Rawlings and Gillian Welch with some folks from Old Crow Medicine Show:

I wish I’d been in that room, but I WILL SEE THEM IN DECEMBER. And I am yelling that in happiness.

7) Last but not least, I’m glad Alison stopped by today. Incidentally, she is a Laura Marling fan, too. This means she is one of my people.

What are YOUR kicks this week?

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22 comments to “7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #237: Featuring Alison Friend”

  1. Thanks for the kicks, Jules. Love Scrawny Cat!

    My kicks:
    1. A 17th-century-farm fall festival in Bristol, RI
    2. At which a huggable rooster named Ambassador rocked out to folk music
    3. And a trio of turkey toughs frightened small children
    4. Meanwhile…”somewhere the world is always new”
    5. As an affiliation against all verse-aversion grows:
    http://poetryadvocates.wordpress.com/about/
    6. “because growth comes not from conflict, but from calm”
    7. And I revised a poem:

    Nasty Characters
    By Steven Withrow

    Look—
    If I had to be
    Locked in a book,
    I’d like to be trapped
    With crooked Captain
    Hook.

    Heroes—
    They’re boring.
    I find myself snoring
    Or downright
    Ignoring those
    Zeroes.

    In short,
    If a plotter
    Gives me Harry Potter,
    I’d rather resort
    To Lord Vol-de-
    Mort.

    Best,
    In a pinch,
    Is the Grinch
    Or the wickedest
    Witch of the
    West.

    Still,
    Stick me in a tale,
    Like Jonah in a whale.
    I’m Jack—and my Jill
    Is Cruella de
    Vil!

    ©2011 by Steven Withrow, all rights reserved


  2. Steven, your very kicks form a poem in a way. I want to meet that rooster. Also, I’m all for nasty characters. Thanks, as always, for dropping off a poem.


  3. Thanks, Jules. That should have been “18th-century-farm” (got my centuries kerfuffled).

    And I finished this new poem this morning (a bit of blank-verse sensible nonsense):

    A Word of Warning
    By Steven Withrow

    Nothing a gerbil tells you will amount
    To more than gab. From the pulpit of her playwheel
    She will prophesy the end of days,
    Or postulate a new testament of rodents,
    Her Latin name rodens, the gnawing one,
    Eye for an eye, incisor for incisor,
    But nothing a gerbil tells you’s more than blab.

    She’ll tug you toward her ministering cage,
    Her cartoon voice, a strange attractor. Still,
    You’re well within your rights to slump away,
    To hum from the hymnal “Life Breathes Life Anew”
    And follow solace low beneath your bed
    Where dumb dust bunnies form and congregate
    In understated multiples of one.

    ©2011 Steven Withrow, all rights reserved


  4. Scrawny Cat sort of reminds me of my cats next door that we feed. Thanks to Alison for sharing the early sketches. I am think I need to use this entry (or perhaps others) about how ilustrators create for a book.
    Jules, how fun to chaperone on a field trip and to talk about liberrrrrrians do.
    Steven, I must know more about Poetry Advocates.
    My kicks:
    1. Listening to my friend’s blues band last night with friends. Great music and great time.
    2. Watching the Vaux Swifts head into the chimney at Chapman School. 2-4 thousand roost in their nightly on their migration south.
    3. Lunch Bunch Book Club started. They are listening to me read from my ARC of Bigger than a Breadbox.
    4. And it’s not just girls, but some boys as well.
    5. Grandgirl one surprised her half sister by reading from her Diary of a Wimpy Kid book. She’s getting it (just started first grade).
    6. Made graham cracker pie this AM.
    7.Dancing last night.
    Have a great week.


  5. Hi, Alison! Welcome to 7-Imp.

    Hello, Scrawny Cat! I would feed you if I had cat food. And if you were real.

    Jules: I love the original Twilight Zone, but I haven’t seen many of the episodes from the 80s run. It sounds like I would like that episode. Thanks for sharing Laura Marling’s live performance video. Kudos to her. Have we discussed Sarah Harmer? I think you might like her voice, if you like Laura’s. I really liked her guitar work in Sophia. Thanks. Enjoy the munchkins and the music.

    Steven: Three cheers for the rockin’ rooster!

    Also, Tinker Bell rules.

    Jone: Yay for dancing, and reading, and lunching.

    My kicks for the past week:
    1) The play
    2) Truth
    3) Listening
    4) Stretching
    5) Testing
    6) Learning
    7) Knowing


  6. Steven, would love to be a fly on the wall of your brain when you get these poem ideas.

    Jone, dancing is king. How is Laurel’s book? Haven’t read it yet. Will you save some pie for me?

    Little Willow, I not only know you’d feed Scrawny Cat, but I thought of you as I did this post, due to your cat love. … And, yes, how about that guitar work? I’ve heard the name Sarah Harmer but will have to explore further. … Break a leg on your kick #1. What play is it?


  7. Yea for Scrawny Cat! (and other felines of dubious first impressions.) I love his forlorn expression on the cover. Awww. And how fun to see Alison’s “audition sketches” for the seafarin’ lady and the would-be Scrawny Cats.

    I had a scrawny cat – his name was Twiggy. My little brother and I rescued him from stoning in a puddle by some Mean Boys; poor kitten. He had a broken tail that healed crooked and he never fully recovered from runt-hood; but we loved him anyway. And it was hysterical to see him padding alongside with our huge, brawny Maine Coon cat; they were the Laurel and Hardy of housecats. : – ) Alison, Phyllis, thanks for the memory.

    It also it did make me think of the indomitable Smelly Cat; hey, it’s not his fault.
    See rousing rendition at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W7jlGRq8xZ4&feature=related

    Jules – Manning’s voice in the line about being wounded gave me chills; she’s definitely “an old soul”. Isn’t kindergarten magical? Enjoy it now, ‘cause it goes by so friggin’ fast. (And hey,I’m always amazed by all that liberrrrrrians do.)

    Stephen – What a fun poem! I’d rather resort to Lord Vol-de-Mort as well.

    jone – I’m stunned by the vision of 4,000 swifts swarming into a chimney. (!) Very cool.

    LW – Yea for the play. And the rest of your inspiring “ings”.

    My kick this week:
    #1– I’m going to the Tim Burton exhibit this afternoon! Really looking forward to the grim, quirky wonderfulness of his early sketches, movie costumes, storyboards and the black light not-so-merry- go-round he created for the exhibit.

    Here’s a short, weird-cute trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cupjd89EFXs

    And if you’re not close to a city where the exhibit is coming, here’s a news clip with a peek inside (sorry for the upfront ad): http://abclocal.go.com/kabc/video?id=8153307

    #2—Setting my sights.
    #3—Learning a new useful word.
    #4—Discovering that if I order a large coffee+a cup of ice at Starbucks, it costs less and drinks 3x more than ordering Iced Coffee. Go figure.

    #5—When I found out this week that my 16-year-old had never watched “Sound of Music” (!) I was like ”OMG! How can that be true?! I am such a neglectful mother!” He rolled his eyes and informed me,” Mom, in my film class, no matter what classic film the teacher shows us from Citizen Kane to Brazil to Spirited Away – I’ve seen it. I’m like Mr. Film. I think you’re excused for skipping over Sound of Music.” (Still I’m going to cue it up for him this week. Ha!)

    Have a good week my fellow Kickers.


  8. Oops! Attribution typo; make that “Marling’s voice”…


  9. Denise, that Laura. It must hurt to walk around with that much talent. Even the line “I’m wounded by dust” is stellar, not to mention (as you did) the way she sings it.

    Have fun at the exhibit, and thanks for sharing links with us. … Do you know that The Sound of Music used to give me the strangest dreams/night terrors/I don’t know what to call them — as a child, that is. It’s very difficult to describe, but something about it did (probably the Nazi storyline). I still, to this day, don’t like big, cold stone things, ’cause something about the movie made me feel like, as I was falling asleep, that my body was turning to stone. Oddly enough, my five-year-old told me just last night that she had a terrible dream she was turning to stone, either à la my old dreams (genetic?) or Sylvester. Who knows.

    Good gracious, more information than you need to know about the neuroses of my childhood. … I hope you enjoying watching it with your son. “Mr. Film” — I love it. I wish I’d had a film class.

    (I should be sure to add: I still like the movie and have fond memories of it.)

    May we ask what your new useful word is?


  10. brumous – adj., abounding with fog or mist.


  11. Dang! I’m at the Coffee Bean and the system timed-me-out before I could finish…

    It was really a series of word discoveries… I needed a word that meant misty or foggy (which I’d already used.) Came across ‘brumous’ (misty) which lead me to ‘brume’ (fog — from the French) which lead me to word before it in dictionary ‘brumby’ (a wild horse) and the word after it ‘brummagem’ (spurious or falsely showy — from a town in England renowned for counterfeit coins). And I thought, “Well! I’ve been neglecting the ‘brum’ section of the English language; there’s some good stuff there.”


  12. Brummagem for falsely showy? Brilliant! I wanna use that word soon.


  13. Jules, I remember the golden sundial pendant from “A Little Peace and Quiet.” There were a handful of memorable new Twilight Zone episodes, and that was one of them.

    Kicks, in brief:
    1. I met some cool new people at KidLitCon, and got to hang out with some old friends, some for the first time.
    2. A “just because” out of the blue gift from my husband: a necklace with a model in silver of a serotonin molecule (created by Made with Molecules).
    3. When Scott Westerfeld gave the keynote speech at KidLitCon, I wished my map-making husband could have been there for it. Next month, we’ll be at Geek Girl Con, and it looks as if Westerfeld is going to give the same presentation.
    4. I had a good talk with my grandmother today.
    5. A Child’s Introduction to Greek Mythology is fun to read aloud.
    6. The bad news: coffee really does me in when it comes to running. The good news: tea seems to work even better as a stimulant.
    7. Julia Sweeney.

    Have a good week, everyone! –Farida


  14. OOOooo, a new book by Phyllis Root…I want to know that cat.

    Love the revised poem, Steven.

    So I walked down to the park by my house last night where 75,000 people were listening to Stevie Wonder. It was over the top fabulous and just when it couldn’t get anymore so, a man I didn’t know walked up to me and said, “Don’t you worry about what those people say. You are beautiful just the way you are.” And then he disappeared. Angels on earth, I think, because this very week “people” had been especially mean and troublesome. As I walked home in that stream of 75,000 people, I marveled how each one of our experiences had been so wildly different at the very same event. Life humbles me with its kicks

    Have a beautiful week, one and all.

    Laura, Gillian…thank you, Jules…your love of music brightens my evening,


  15. Oh, poor Scrawny Cat looks so forlorn – will definitely have to get several copies for the younger animal lovers I know!

    Flyby kicks tonight -
    1) Sleeping in on a rainy day.
    2) A snoring kitty.
    3) A happy dog.
    4) Coffee.
    5) Biscuits.
    6) Walking in the rain.
    7) A warm house to come to back to.

    Have a great week!


  16. Alison, your cat illustrations are just wonderful. BTW, I am Charlotte’s auntie, but even if I wasn’t, I’d still think your pics were just great. There’s something about cats isn’t there, and you’ve got it. Thanks, Wendy


  17. Farida, I’m glad you had fun at the conference and wish I could have hung out with you, too. How was Scott’s presentation?

    Lindsey, that story kicks ass. Also, I have a Stevie-Wonder-live recording from Bonnaroo last year on CD, and it kicks. I wish I could see him live one day. (I got the recording online — I wasn’t actually at that concert.)

    Rachel, those are cozy kicks. Have a great week.

    Hi, Wendy!


  18. Wow, I’m late. What great kicks!

    Steven–I absolutely adore the poem!

    My kicks:

    1. Starting a new novel
    2. Deutsch Klasse (German Class)
    3. Autumn’s approach–the chill in the air, the leaves, the darkening early…
    4. Speaking of Autumn…a really sad song by Andrew Peterson, “Three Days Before Autumn.” Sorry, I don’t have a link to it…
    5. Lord of the Rings…still amazed by it. Did you know that Pippin named his son Faramir? Sorry, geeky bit of trivia from the appendices.
    6. British comedy show, “Top Gear”
    7. I get to read The Red Badge of Courage for school! :-)

    Thanks for the kicks!


  19. I’m with you on #3, Hannah. What’s your new novel? Hope it’s a good read. I’ve never read The Red Badge of Courage. Should my library degree be revoked?


  20. My new novel…well, it’s one I’m writing. I’m a little less than a chapter long. It’s hard bringing in a brand new Main Character, not to mention setting, time, and feel! :-)

    Actually, it’s not like one of those ones like Lord of the Rings that you simply HAVE to read. Though it is a good book thus far. :-)


  21. Ooh, good luck! Exciting.


  22. [...] instance, a recent post on artist Alison Friend featured “behind the scenes” insights on how to make a book, [...]


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