7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #257: Featuring David Ezra Stein

h1 November 27th, 2011 by jules

Deer Dear Grandmouse, Today is Thursday. You left three days ago and
I mouse you. Mama said, Why don’t I write you a letter to say hello, so I am.

Meet Mouserella. I love this above illustration of her. It’s somehow both moving and funny in its honest pathos. (I’m not sure how that works, as calling it “funny” just makes me sound cruel. The poor creature misses her grandmother somethin’ fierce. But maybe I think it’s also ADORABLE, which it clearly is, and somehow that adorable-ness makes me laugh in a with-Mouserella, not an at-Mouserella, way.)

David Ezra Stein’s Love, Mouserella—released in September from Nancy Paulsen Books/Penguin and recently named a Kirkus Best Children’s Book of 2011—is told from the point of view of young Mouserella, who is not happy about her grandmother’s departure. She takes her mother’s advice and writes a letter to her Grandmouse, giving her a recap of what’s gone on since she left for the country (including an exciting loss of electricity in their home, making this one of two memorable picture book blackouts this year). She also fills her letter with the types of meandering details to which young children pay great attention. (“I don’t know what to write . . .” she starts. “Guess what? My beaded belt is almost done now.”) In fact, the entire book captures so accurately the train of thought of young children — er, creatures. “Mama says we won’t come see you till the leaf falls off our oak tree,” she writes at the book’s close, Stein nailing the ways in which really young children mark time (there’s also “till….me and Ernie go to school”). She also sends along things like a pack of ketchup, a picture of herself smooching the camera, and lots of doodles and drawings.

Stein uses a cheery pastel palette on this one, and the book is vertically oriented, as if to open up like a letter one receives in the mail. Indeed, the spreads are marked with lines, as if Mouserella is writing on school notebook paper.

This is a sweetly endearing book, primarily given the lovable, energetic (despite that opening illustration) protagonist; she even stamps the title page with her exuberant personality with notes like “SEND CHEESE.” The same page also notes that the art for this one was created “using watercolor, stencils, water-soluble crayon, pencil, two paws, and one brain.”

David’s here this morning to share some development art and talk about the evolution of the book — and its charming protagonist. I thank him for stopping by.

* * *

The book began with the idea of a young mouse taking an imaginary trip to see her Grandmouse. She goes on a train from city to country. Grandmouse has written her a letter, which serves as a guide for what she’ll do on the trip.

(Click to enlarge)

(Click to enlarge)

Somewhere along the way, I realized Mouserella wanted to tell me her story. She wanted to be the one writing the letter, and thus the book came into its own.

My first sketches are always gestural. After drawing it all out in black and white, I began to look for a style.

(Click to enlarge)

Finally, I painted this mouse. I loved the technique and the pizazz of the mouse.

I tried to repeat the style for another piece:

[At the top of the post is] one of the first pieces of art that actually appears in the book.

David also made a sort of comic to introduce the book, and I’ve broken it up into its four parts here — for easy viewing. (You can click anywhere on any of the four images to see the comic in its entirety.) I love the moment, which must be surreal for any author, when his own character barges in and takes over to make her voice loud and clear:

* * * * * * *

LOVE, MOUSERELLA. © 2011 by David Ezra Stein. Published by Nancy Paulsen Books, a division of Penguin Young Readers Group, New York, NY. All Images reproduced by permission of David Ezra Stein.

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 * * *

Well, I’m happy David visited today. First and foremost. But also…

1) A friend gave me free passes to a screening of Hugo this week, and it was a breathtaking and beautiful film. (And I was so, so relieved about this, given my love for the book.)

2) I enjoyed two days of doing no work and doing no blogging and doing no freelance writing. While I enjoyed lounging around and while I’m hardly so type-A that I don’t know how to relax, I also rather missed … well, all the stuff I mentioned. I’ve always been the type of person who creates work for herself if there is none and is always doing seven projects at once, so yeah. Anyway. I guess I like to be busy.

3) On one of those lounge-y, do-nothing nights, I decided to kick back in the comfy living room chair I am usually too busy to kick back in and stream the documentary Man on Wire, about which I had heard good stuff. It’s the story of Philippe Petit (the subject of this beautiful Caldecott winner). And it is so unbelievable the INCREDIBLE BALLS this man has that I was muttering audibly to no one else in the living room incredulous things which involve curse words I can’t repeat here, as well as a few “but, no! SERIOUSLY?”s here and “but no no no way ARE YOU %&*!# KIDDING ME?”s there.

I mean, at one point, as he stood on that wire between the Twin Towers with a 55-pound balancing pole, HE LOOKED DOWN. And he was SMILING AND JUNK while DOING KNEE SALUTES at over 1,300 feet. Amazing. Stupid. Brilliant. Arrogant. Bold. CRAZY AS BALLZ. Just…just….just… mind-blowing. I mean, if I even had the grace to be a wire walker (if you only knew how implausible this is, you’d be laughing as hard as I am right now), I’d still be all, “oops, the one time I’d slip up would be now, while I’m 1,368 feet up in the air.”

I didn’t determine it the best documentary I’d ever seen, by any means. I mean, it was okay. This isn’t necessarily a kick, I guess. It’s just noteworthy, I suppose, what balls of steel this man has. That is all.

I’ve said “balls” in one form or fashion about three times now. Make that four. Sorry. I’m classy like that today.

4) I love all the art Rafael López shared at 7-Imp on Wednesday. He even gave me permission to use his sun on this page of the site, ’cause I love me some good sun images.

5) My friends. And my Circle of Word Lovers.

6) The health and happiness of my children, whom I find neat and interesting and enjoy talking to.

7) Well, this just says it all:

I hope it’s okay to share this image, which I saw on Facebook. It comes from Old Made Good in Nashville, which has great stuff, such as this and these. Actually, I’m not sure if they created this poster or were just sharing it. Facebook Confusion!

Anyway. What are YOUR kicks this week?

18 comments to “7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #257: Featuring David Ezra Stein”

  1. How wonderful that the small boy at the school visit and then Mouserella began talking to David Ezra Stein who–importantly—listened to what each had to say. I look forward to reading the whole letter (book); it seems a nice combo of sweetness and pizzazz.

    Jules – I’m writing this at midnight PST, having just returned from a screening of HUGO. Yes, wasn’t it beautiful, nostalgic and moving? Funny… this week turned out to be film-history week for me. We saw Cirque du Soleil’s IRIS at the Kodak Theater yesterday, and it too had George Melies footage incorporated into the performance, and similar stylized costuming and acting. I enjoyed both IRIS and HUGO immensely, and back-to-back, even better.

    RE: Man on a Wire. The spectacle of the wire walk was mind-blowing. But wasn’t it sad how Petit let the fame of that crossing go to his head and didn’t really acknowledge his crew, his girlfriend or co-conspirators who risked jail time for the trespassing and vandalism required for his feat? I mean, they financially, figuratively and literally supported him—practicing, engineering, rigging the wire, filming the walk. And then he hogged the accolades. And years later, having lost most those friends, he discounted the same group AGAIN during the filming of the documentary. It was fascinating to watch that repeated failure play out. Made me wonder if the big balls, tight focus and huge ego it took to do the walk predestined Petit’s downfall as a person. I felt bad for him and his old crew as well. Still, gasp, those last 15 minutes are thrilling.

    My turkey-day kicks:
    1. Taking family to see Cirque du Soleil’s IRIS: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mWn-Zsw7hr4&feature=relmfu

    2. HUGO on the screen with lots of my favorite things: film-making, toys that move, books to the ceiling, clockworks, invention and compassion.
    3. Soft, white bread, dinner rolls. (Ah,Thanksgiving; an excuse to refrain from multigrain.)
    4. The soon-to-be-released Lytro “light field camera”; photography will never be the same: http://www.lytro.com/living-pictures#living-pictures/282?&_suid=901 (click anywhere on a photo and focus shifts.)
    5. Witnessing a “green flash” at sunset. http://www.webexhibits.org/causesofcolor/13D.html
    6. The carrot/apple/curry soup my 16-yr-old son fixed for Thanksgiving.
    7. Good ole family stories that we all laugh at every time they’re told.

    Have a good week all.

  2. So glad to hear HUGO is excellent! I ‘m taking the boy & his best friend to see it in the next week and so wanted it to live up to our collection expectations. Huzzah! My kicks:

    1. Mexican food for Thanksgiving! We are not big turkey fans and it was just the three of us and the enchiladas were fab. The parade was also great.

    2. Trans Siberian Orchestra last night in Seattle. AMAZING! My son was thrilled to pieces – this is a holiday tradition for us and they do not disappoint.

    3. Just got word that THE MAP OF MY DEAD PILOTS (my book) is a Booklist Editor’s Choice for Best Books of 2011. Wowsers. Didn’t expect this at all and it’s so great to be noticed by librarians!

    4. Speaking of which – Liz wrote the kind of review at A Chair, A Fireplace, A Tea Cozy that authors dream about. She got my book, really got it, and that is the best sort of reader to find.

    5. Enough about my book – what about books for Ballou High School’s library?! The Guys Lit Wire holiday book fair continues and we are so happy with the books folks have bought thus far. They have only 4 books for each student at Ballou and that is so disheartening. They need more books, and they need folks like us to buy them. See the whole entry (with Powells wish list link) here:


    6. HEMINGWAY’S BOAT – totally lives up to the hype.

    7. Winter winds are blowing as I type this; I love this time of year, absolutely positively love it.

    Have the best week ever you guys, good wishes all around.

  3. I am really looking forward to seeing Mouserella, and David’s story about making the book makes me want to see it even more.

    My kicks:
    1. The number of times Jules included the word “balls” in her kicks. (I felt a combination of what Jules and Denise felt about Man on a Wire, incidentally. Part of me wonders what it’s like to throw youself into such a feat, and part of me is like, “Let me never be that man.”)
    2. I saw three movies this week: The Descendants, The Muppets, and Hugo. All were excellent.
    3. Thanksgiving dinner at my house was lovely. I didn’t get stressed out about anything and managed to enjoy myself. Sometimes I can get a little uptight about entertaining, overworrying it all.
    4. I’ve given up overworrying a lot of things over the last couple weeks, it seems. I hope that sticks around.
    5. My dear friends and family (who I should have mentioned at NUMBER ONE, right?) who make my life interesting and fun and worthwhile.
    6. I’ve been watching season one of Modern Family, which I am totally late to the game on, but WOW that show makes me laugh. Laughter, in general, should be a kick. It’s amazing to me how something really good and funny can turn a day around.
    7. Such as this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MKTh7zBIcrM&feature=youtube_gdata_player:

  4. Denise and Adrienne, re Philippe: YES. I mean, dude at the end crying? Crying so hard he could hardly speak? Just sad. That clearly screamed: Broken friendship. Yes, I totally saw that, which is why I made sure to type “arrogant.” ‘Cause you get that vibe from him.

    Denise, wow, to the green flash. The link you shared says it’s rare to see one. And I have never even heard of it. … So glad you had a good holiday with your family AND soft dinner rolls. I looked down at our meal on Thursday and realized it was 99% carbs and starches, but ah well. It was good. …. And, man, IRIS looks soooo good. I’ve never ever seen a Cirque show.

    Colleen, CONGRATS on the Booklist news! That is excellent. And I love your idea of a Thanksgiving dinner. We’re not turkey people either, so we went meatless this year. …Haven’t heard of Hemingway’s Boat, but it sounds good.

    Adrienne, I saw that video earlier (did you send it to me? Ah, the sensory overload of modern life), and when he rattles off his reasons to do comedy and says he can do “crazy characters,” I laughed the hardest. I gotta see Modern Family, I really do. … So glad your Thanksgiving was good and warm and full of friends.

  5. I embedded everyone’s videos to make it easier for others to see — and ’cause they’re both so good. Hope that’s okay.

  6. Must. have. Mouserella, what a darling story especially his inspiration.
    Jules, Hugo and Man on a Wire are on my to see lists.
    Denise, the new camera looks interesting and the soup sounds divine.
    Colleen, congrats on your book making the Best Book Choice.
    Adrienne, time with famiy is the best.
    My kicks:
    1. Thanksgiving with family.
    2. Time with oldest grandgirl.
    3. Chuck being safe after interrupting a robbery at our house. (and nothing was taken as well).
    4. Time off.
    5. Talking to long distant family/friends on Thursday.
    6. Crazy midnight shopping with daughter and her older stepdaughters on Thanksgiving.
    7. Writing at an awesome loval library.
    Have a great week.

  7. Jone, robbery? Oh no. Thank goodness Chuck is safe. Did anyone nab the intruder?

  8. Thanks to David Ezra Stein for sharing so much backstory. I particularly enjoy seeing that, while some of his initial sketches are done with the aid of a computer, the finished art is done in conventional media. It’s much richer and more expressive than most computer art and, I’ll bet, more fun to create.
    Keep up the great work!

  9. David Ezra Stein clearly gives in way too easily under pressure from assertive small-animal protagonists. I recommend desensitization therapy, starting with a five-pound Yorkshire Terrier and working his way up. Until then, I hope the picture-book world will continue to reap the benefits of DES’s own unassertiveness. Mouserella looks sweet-and-funny as heck!

    Total thumbs up on Man on Wire. And yeah, Jules, that moment when his (ex-)friend fell apart pretty much had me unglued, too. In general, re: the stunt itself, I loved all the heist-movie derring-do surrounding it — the odd cast of misfit characters, the guys hiding from the night security guards, the one member of the team tasked with shooting the line across the gap in the first place…

    LOVED that poster.

    As usual, Denise, when I read your kicks I think: Yeah. I can see those being MY kicks, too! Well, except maybe Cirque du Soleil, the appeal of which has always, er, gone over my head.

    CONGRATULATIONS, Colleen! (And can I just say, the book does look amazing.)

    Hadn’t seen the Gervais/Neeson bit before, Adriienne — thanks. What a HOOT!

    Ditto what Jules said about your robbery “kick,” jone. So good to see you turning it INTO a kick.

    Some kicks from me:

    1. Thanksgiving (the holiday and the act and just the very notion — hence, now that I think about it, the weekly Sunday kicks here).
    2. News that (knock on wood) my brother and I shall become great-uncles in May.
    3. Saw Super 8 last night, finally. Enjoyed every minute of it, for all kinds of reasons. Loved the blend of E.T. and Stand By Me, mixed with a completely plausible cast of characters and funny, tender romance.
    4. Having Christmas shopping completely out of the way for my NJ family, for the first time in, er, forever. (It helps that it’s a great gift, if I say so myself.)
    5. We’re getting close to the end of the home improvements we’ll be able to afford for a while. I am sooooo sick of having workers and tools and ladders and dust and tarps around the house. And at the same time sooooo happy with how it all looks.
    6. Linda Ronstadt’s version of “Crazy.”
    7. The turkey sandwich which at the moment whispers sweet plaintive entreaties in my direction. It longs for the dark bliss of obliteration, and I am about to ease its pain.

    Have a great week, everyone!

  10. Great interview! This book looks so tender, lovely and funny. Can’t wait to get it.

  11. I feel sad for Mouserella. Why can’t she and Grandmouse live together? :o( But that’s a great comic introducing the book!

    Jules, here’s to your kick #6!!!

    My kicks:

    The other week was the Manila International Literary Festival and YA author Holly Thompson was there and I was so glad to be able to show her around a bit and introduce her to people and to Filipino food. (When are you guys visiting me???) At the festival I also met two Pulitzer Prize winners: Edward P. Jones and Junot Diaz. Junot Diaz kissed me. Twice!! Oh, and I delivered a presentation on the kidlitosphere at the festival. :o)

  12. Hello, Mouserella! Hellow, David Ezra Stein! I enjoyed the backstory. Thanks for sharing.

    Jules and Denise: I am so happy to hear that the film lives up the book! I really liked the book.

    Jules: Thank you for sharing that image/message to remind us all what’s really important, and what true fortune is.

    Colleen: Congratulations! I hope the book fair is a wild success.

    Adrienne: Improv with smart people with great timing makes me happy.

    Jone: Oh my goodness. I am glad that everyone is okay. How scary. Be safe!

    JES: Thumbs up for the song Crazy!

    Tarie: Rock on.

    My kicks for the past week, in no particular order:
    1) Rehearsals
    2) Catching up with people
    3) Taking care
    4) Preparing
    5) Cat-sitting!
    6) Days off
    7) Rest

  13. Hello everyone! I am glad to see kicks, foiled robberies (okay, one, but I’m trying to observe number agreement), happy book news items, and more. I am inside, snug and cozy, instead of outside, running in the rain. Yes, it’s Seattle Marathon Sunday! I *did* run on Thanksgiving morning for my own personal, non-organized Turkey Trot. That will be kick number one…

    1. Personal Turkey Trot
    2. A quiet house
    3. My daughter’s renderings of the Moomin characters
    4. Ditto for the characters of The Melendy Family, by Elizabeth Enright (paper-dolls on our mantelpiece)
    5. Friends, and the courage they send
    6. A wee needle-felted Christmas tree from a dear friend I’ve never met in person
    7. December is almost here

    Happy week, everyone! I look forward to seeing “Hugo”at a future date.

  14. I want to comment on all the kicks and add my own small joys, but just can’t work up the time and organization for such. But want to say that you, Jules, and your so-wonderful company give so much to be grateful for in this gratitude-giving season, so thank you. You’re such a great part of Sundays!

  15. YOU GUYS, I haven’t sat down once today — well, not since leaving my last comment, but a) we got a Christmas tree up and b) it was great to sit down and read the final kicks all at once.

    Hi, Tom. You’re still welcome at 7-Imp, you know. I hope one day we do that interview! (You’re always welcome.)

    John, every year I tell myself I’ll shop early and not, say, one week before Christmas, but it doesn’t often happen. I hope to make this year different. Congrats on getting some of yours done. Congrats on great-uncle’hood. You would be a kick-ass uncle, I just know this. … I gotta add Super 8 to the queueueuee. (Seriously, I’m not trying to be repetitive when I type it that way all the stinkin’ time, but I just never know where to stop or how to spell it.)

    Hi, Elisa!

    Tarie, congrats on presenting! And meeting such talented authors. I want you to be my host one day and introduce me to Filipino food.

    Little Willow, are you rehearsing for more than one show at once, as usual? Break a leg, as always.

    Farida, quiet. Ah. I echo your kick #5. I’m also eager to see December.

    Jeannine, well now. Thank you so much. Very kind to say.

  16. What a fabulous blog, Jules! Thanks so much for sharing Ezra Stein’s glorious book with us all. You have a new follower and keep up the fun, great work!

  17. […] David Ezra Stein (November 27, 2011) on Love, Mouserella (Nancy Paulsen Books/Penguin, September 2011), pictured above: “The book […]

  18. […] Before you go, you must check out 7 Imp’s wonderful interview with David Ezra Stein. […]

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