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