Okay, I’m gonna be straight-up honest with you right off the bat this morning: No stealthy April Fool’s joke is hiding ’round the corner here at 7-Imp today. I know of other bloggers with sneaky, winky plans, but … well, since blogging comes after things like my children and work, I’m lucky to produce normal, non-jokey posts on a fairly consistent basis. My co-author, Peter D. Sieruta, even had a great idea for me. But, while I consider myself a mildly to moderately clever human (who really appreciated his funny suggestion), I have a terrible poker face, y’all, and I always ruin the punch line anyway.
Glad we got that out of the way.
So, no kidding, my post today is one of those where I feature a student or debut illustrator, since it’s the first Sunday of the month. (March, WHERE’D YOU GO anyway? That March. So zippy-quick and tricky.) Today it’s the latter, a self-taught debut author/illustrator, who lives in Michigan. His name is Kenneth Kraegel, and he’s visiting today to say a bit about his first book. Now, this picture book, King Arthur’s Very Great Grandson, comes out in July of this year (Candlewick), so I apologize for showing you art from a book you can’t quite yet purchase or find on library shelves, but July will be here before you know it. Moving on then …
“Henry Alfred Grummorson was the great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandson of King Arthur, the noblest knight ever to wield a sword. . . .” opens this book — actually, right on the title page itself. (Kraegel doesn’t waste any time, does he?) On Henry’s sixth birthday, well … Kenneth tells us below what Henry is up to, so I’ll summarize by saying Henry wants to have a grand adventure. I don’t want to give away the entire story (and certainly not the ending), so I’ll just say he meets some grandiose creatures, indeed. Adventures? Not so much. Or at least not what he had planned. The Dragon, Cyclops, Griffin, and other “terrible monsters” he meets have something else in mind, and in the end, Henry gets a nice surprise — not to mention “[t]o his knowledge, not even the great King Arthur had accomplished as much in his first two days as a six-year-old.”
I like Kraegel’s art, some of which you can see here, primarily because he has a style all his own. (Incidentally, there’s something about the whole book that reminds me of a wonderfully funky mid-1980s picture book, though I can’t quite pinpoint what exactly it is. I’ll get back to you on that, as Joey Pigza would say.) These are detailed, textured images on spreads that are never too busy and with thickly-outlined, not-too-scary-yet-never-too-watered-down “terrible monsters” who steal the show. Once Henry’s adventure begins, too, which Kraegel gets right to on the second page, these illustrations don’t take no for an answer and they sprawl, using up every inch of space in the spreads. (And the endpapers are worth the price of admission alone, not to mention Henry’s greeting for each monster, as you can see above — things like “I AM COME!” and “LET US HAVE ADO!” as he challenges them to fights to “THE UTTERMOST!”)
I shall cease my babbling and give the cyber-floor to Kenneth, and I thank him for visiting today …
Kenneth: “My picture book, King Arthur’s Very Great Grandson, comes out this July from Candlewick Press. It is the story of Henry Alfred Grummorson, who is the great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandson of King Arthur. On the morning of his sixth birthday, he eats a large breakfast, mounts his trusty donkey, Knuckles, and goes out in search of knightly adventures. He encounters a Dragon, a Cyclops, and a Griffin, but, to his dismay, they all turn out to be friendly! Thirsty for real battle, he heads to the sea where he encounters the most fearsome of all beasts, the Leviathan….
Unintentionally, the story is partly autobiographical. As a teenager, I wished that the troubles of daily life would take on a physical form. Why couldn’t my awkwardness around girls be a knight in black armor that I met walking home from the bus? Or why couldn’t global poverty be an angry giant that I manage to conquer with my cunning and courage? It worked like that in Narnia. You fought it out, bravely struggled and overcame, and then there was a feast in your honor and you could kick back and take it easy.
before the watercolor was applied.”
One time on the beach, after finishing Don Quixote, I put the book down and grabbed a huge fallen tree branch and charged Lake Michigan for all I was worth. I tripped on a wave and sprained my neck pretty badly and went around for a week with my head tilted to one side. So, maybe I am not as capable of grappling with evil incarnate as I imagine myself to be. But I would still love to go galloping off on a donkey into the high mountains like Henry gets to do in the book.
I hope my readers feel that way, too. Wonder is what I want to convey. As a kid, books really opened me up to worlds full of possibility and promise. Their effect on me continues to this day. I am very grateful that I encountered those books and hope to make my own small contribution with this book.
Many thanks to the effervescent Jules, for allowing me this opportunity. I have been reading her wonderful blog for some time now and am delighted to actually be on it.“
KING ARTHUR’S VERY GREAT GRANDSON. Copyright © 2012 by Kenneth Kraegel. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA. (Note: I read an uncorrected proof of this book.)
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. New kickers are always welcome.
I had a rather bumbling, grumbly week (no foolin’), lacking any grace whatsoever on my part, but here were the kicks from it, nonetheless …
1) I like what Kenneth had to say about our troubles taking on a physical form. (And, dude. He called me “effervescent.” I blush, ’cause that’s a descriptor I can get behind and hope I live up to.)
2) Andrew Bird’s new CD is really excellent, and I may have listened to it about 107 times this week. And then I stumbled upon him covering a Townes Van Zandt song (below). I just love that song, and his cover is wonderful:
“In the night forlorn / When the morning’s born / And the morning shines / With the lights of love / You will miss sunrise / If you close your eyes / And that would break / My heart in two.”
Ah. That’s flat-out lovely, but Andrew Bird singing it is even better (almost as good as Emmylou singing it).
3) The other CD I’ve been wearing out this week is the one pictured below, A Church That Fits Our Needs by Lost in the Trees. The band is led by Ari Picker. This, their second CD (their debut was a favorite of mine from 2010), is a song cycle of sorts, written in tribute to Ari’s mother, an artist who had many troubles in her lifetime and ended it in 2009. (That’s her picture on the CD cover.) That may not sound kicky, but this CD is a thing of beauty, I tell you, particularly the way Ari (who studied film scoring at Berklee, I believe) arranges these songs. The strings (o! the strings!) are especially gorgeous. Case in point: You can hear “Icy River” at this link. Though it could very well break your heart (you’ve been warned), tell me this: Just how beautiful is that melody? Also, lyrically? “Don’t you ever dare think she was weak-hearted.” Powerful. Cue goosebumps.
There’s also “Golden Eyelids,” the second song below, which damn near takes my breath away:
Also, I can hardly put into words how beautiful I think it is that he created this for her. “I wanted to give my mother a space to become all the things I think she deserved to be and wanted to be,” he has said, “and all the beautiful things in her that didn’t quite shine while she was alive.” I mean, just … just … MOMENT OF SILENCE please for what he has done. And if I had talent for creating music or writing fiction, I’d want to do the same for my brother’s beautiful life. I’d settle for just writing an amazing poem, thanks very much, but alas …. I don’t have that actual talent.
Normally, I buy music via iTunes anymore, but I actually ordered this physical CD to hold in my hands. I almost feel like his mother deserved that, the absolute full attention of us listeners, as odd as that may sound.
4) My girls and I read Katherine Applegate’s The One and Only Ivan this week, and we really enjoyed it. We had to huddle and cry in the middle. And we laughed. And we fell for the characters. And we just didn’t want to see it end. I know that Rachel (who kicked about it weeks ago) would join me in recommending it to anyone wanting a great book.
5) One of my kicks this week is this moment below—my favorite part of the book—from Polly Horvath’s Mr. and Mrs. Bunny: Detectives Extraordinaire!, illustrated by Sophie Blackall. (It’s from this post this week.) So, I shall re-post it here:
6) I also love how detailed Adam Gustavson was in his interview responses this week, and I love this image below so much, I also re-post it here. (If you want to see it up close, you’re gonna have to click on it to enlarge it.)
7) I am finally reading Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone and like it so much that I’m not sure how I’ve gotten any work done this week. When not doing absolutely necessary things, such as the stuff that pays the bills or feeding my children or sleeping or showering, I’ve had my head in this book.
BONUS #1: Hunger Games coloring book! Who knew?
ONE LAST NOTE: May Earl Scruggs rest in peace.
I mean, seriously, if you watch anything today, watch these guys on their banjos. I love the commenter at that YouTube link who wrote, “We all know the first thing God said to Earl was ‘hey, can you do a little Fogggy Mountain Breakdown for me?'”
What are YOUR kicks this week?