7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #275: Featuring Kenneth Kraegel

h1 April 1st, 2012 by jules

“High in the branches of a massive chestnut tree, Henry found the grim Griffin. He held out his sword and cried: ‘AHA, STRANGE BIRD! I AM COME! AND AT LAST I HAVE FOUND A WORTHY OPPONENT! NOW UNSHEATHE YOUR CLAWS AND LET US HAVE ADO!’ And to Henry’s delight, the formidable beast agreed . . .”

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.”

“There in the roiling waters, Henry caught a glimpse of a truly enormous beast just below the surface. He cleared his throat, gathered together his six years of manhood, and shouted: ‘READY YOURSELF, MONSTER, AND I SHALL HAVE ADO WITH YOU! FOR I AM HENRY ALFRED GRUMMORSON, THE GREAT-GREAT-GREAT-GREAT-GREAT-GREAT-GREAT-GRANDSON OF ARTHUR, KING OF BRITAIN!'”

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.

Kenneth: “[This is] a merged photo of one of the spreads
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.

* * *

Thanks again to Kenneth for visiting. You can see more art at Kenneth’s site, as well as his blog. And, hey, look! A trailer with a tiny bit more art:

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.

* * * Jules’ Kicks * * *

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:

“‘Ah,’ said Prince Charles. ‘I’ve often heard animals speak. Plants too. It’s all a matter of noticing, isn’t it? The richness of our lives depends on what we are willing to notice and what we are willing to believe. Of course, I get crucified in the press for talking to my plants, but it’s awfully rude not to talk back to anyone who speaks to you, isn’t it?'”

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.)


I have met that guy many times in my life.

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?

BONUS #2: National Poetry Month in the so-called kidlitosphere. Jama Rattigan has the low-down. And look what she’s planning.

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?

20 comments to “7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #275: Featuring Kenneth Kraegel”

  1. King Arthur’s Great Great Grandson looks like a very fun book.
    Jules, sorry you had a grumbly week. Hope things are on an upswing. Glad that you’re loving Laini’s book.
    My kicks:
    2. Guest blogger at Nerdy Book Club blog today in honor of National Poetry Month.
    3. Wrote a “slice of life” post fot 31 days in March.
    4. Poetry postcards go out this week.
    5. Writing Fibonnaci poems w/ kinders.
    6. Finally listening to The Lightning Thief.
    7. Good friends.
    Have a great week.

  2. Not sure what happened to kick 1. I am writing mother first weekend of spring break at friends in Idaho.

  3. Jone, what is writing mother? It sounds awesome and powerful, whatever it is! Looking forward to the poetry postcards, as always …

    What a great post you wrote (love the sand-in-the-ears story). Here it is, for others who may wanna read it: http://nerdybookclub.wordpress.com/2012/04/01/poetry-mentors/

  4. Jules, thanks for all the wonderful art and music (assuming wonder here, will come listen to later, but I believe you, always.) Yay, Jone, for slice of life posts, Fibonnaci poems, and poetry postcards! I’m going to leave kicks to others today, but just wanted to urge you to write that poem for your brother, Jules. It will be amazing enough.


    And I hope this new week will be less bumbling and grumbly for you!

    Jone, Fibonacci poems with kinders? Whoa.

    Jeannine, hi!


    1. Reading Ethnic Literary Traditions in American Children’s Literature edited by Michelle Pagni Stewart and Yvonne Atkinson and learning A LOT.

    2. My blogging workshop is over and one of the blogs it produced is particularly promising. It’s about Filipino comic books!

    3. Talented singers. Talented dancers. Talented producers. Amazing songs. Amazing performances.

    4. Fashion.

    5. My best friend Isaac.

    6. Avatar: The Legend of Korra!!!!!!!

    7. A group of 12 to 14-year-old Filipino kids just created a type of plastic that dissolves in water. Um, what have I been doing with my life???

  6. Good morning, Imps! I hope April brings good things to all of you.

    Hi there, Kenneth, Henry, Knuckles, the Dragon, and especially the Griffin. I enjoy gryphons. 🙂

    Jules: I hope this new week + new month are grumble-free for you. Ivan is in my to-read stack.

    Jama: Happy National Poetry Month! Enjoy the poetry and the soup.

    Jone: Have fun writing, blogging, and creating!

    Hi Jeannine. Wishing you well.

    Tarie: Sounds like you had a fun and entertaining week.

    My kicks for the past week:
    1) Visits
    2) Rest
    3) The rehabilitation of a frog
    4) Television
    5) Finds
    6) Auditions
    7) Upcoming events

  7. What a fun book! I love the action and movement conveyed in the illustrations. And how much of Henry Alfred Grummorson’s big personality shines through a small character (in comparison to all those monsters).

    Jules – sorry for the grumbly week, hope this next one is much better. And that Lost in the Trees album. Wow. Just wow. Powerful powerful stuff.

    Glad you and your girls liked The One and Only Ivan – I cried too – lovely lovely book.

    That National Grammar poster by Adam Gustavson is awesome. I think I need a framed copy, as I have met that guy as well. 😉

    Jone – Happy Poetry Month! And great post at Nerdy Book Club! Eagerly awaiting my poetry postcard!

    Tarie – hooray for the blogging workshop being a success!

    LW – good luck on any upcoming auditions! And the rehabilitation of a frog sounds like my kind of kick!

    My kicks this week:

    1) Saw The Hunger Games. Went with a friend who hadn’t read the books (I have), and we both equally loved the movie, which was nice.
    2) Read “How I Live Now” by Meg Rosoff and enjoyed it.
    3) Read “Shadowed Summer” by Saundra Mitchell, really enjoyed it.
    4) Re-reading, some 10 years later, “Rebel Heart, The Scandalous Life Jane Digby” by Mary S. Lovell, and really loving it and Jane Digby all over again. Always nice to read about women who followed their dreams/passions and didn’t care one whit for what others thought about them.
    5) The restorative power of lavender bubble baths.
    6) Getting up and watching the sunrise.
    7) Those moments in life where you have to let go and step off the ledge, not knowing if you’re going to catch yourself or fall on your face, but knowing you have to do it anyway? Don’t know yet if I’m falling on my face or not, but pretty damn happy to have stepped off the ledge.

    Have a wonderful, magical, soaring week everyone!

  8. I love to see the many million diffent takes on what the sea looks like to different artist.
    Here are my kicks:
    1.Discovering Moragan Spurlock’s Failure Club.
    which I like to listen to in the studio while doing my own “failing”.
    2.Doing a drawing of a rock from memory that my sister recognized as our rock.
    3. Sister Betty, for reminding us that we all end up in the belly of the whale from time to time.
    4. The Community Fair. I love my community.
    5.The return of Little League season!
    6.Ode to Joy played on the recorder by third graders.
    7. Jesus Christ Superstar cd performed by the Indigo Girls and friends.
    Have a great week everyone!

  9. I pre-ordered two ‘grandson books’. One for Charley who was asked by his mother observing the shredded pansies, as to why the pansies had to die – answered, ‘they’re British, mom.’

  10. Hello Kickers and Jules 🙂

    There is so much beauty here this week in illustration, in song, in thought.

    I am listening to the glorious Lost in the Trees as I write- I am not a music person so I love coming here to find gorgeous songs.

    My one and only kick is that a huge volunteer project ended this weekend. I napped most of this afternoon and am feeling so excited to have time back in my days to focus on other things that I love.

    More next week and happy week to you all!

  11. Jules, I think the IPad was playing an April Fool joke on me with “writing mother”. I was trying to say I was writing from Idaho. Lol.

    The Fibonacci poems are with words not syllables with kinders.

  12. Wonderful interview with Kenneth Kraegel. So glad you like the book as much as I do. I think Ken is a very special author/illustrator whose works are full of pathos. Here’s to many more amazing books, Ken!

  13. Hi, Jeannine!

    Tarie, can you show us the blog about Filipino comic books? Neato. And good work, you.

    Little Willow, is this a frog you knew well? Break a leg, as always, on any and all auditions.

    Rachel, hubba whoa to your last kick. And do you know I haven’t even read The Hunger Games trilogy yet. I wanna. I really do.

    Moira, love that drawing. I think you should stop by 7-Imp and showcase your work. (I’ll email you.)

    Stacey, congrats on finishing your project. I hope that nap was good. I know what you mean about having more time for other stuff — I just finished a freelance writing assignment that ate up most of my week. … Happy week to you, too!

    Jone, hee.

    Hear, hear to more books from Kenneth ….

  14. I LOVE this book – can’t wait til it is published. My almost-6-year-old will love it! Maybe for his birthday (late). Thanks for giving us an early glimpse, and the chance to know and love Kenneth early. How sweet is he? Plus gorgeous illustrations!

    My kicks:
    1. The poem you had a link to To Happiness by Carl Dennis from your last week’s 7 kicks

    2. Reading Virginia Lee Burton A Life in Art by Barbara Elleman

    3. 2 uninterupted hours at Starbucks to work on the YA novel that I’m editing while my husband worked my shift at my son’s preschool (!!!)

    4. Getting inspired yet again by Frida Kahlo reading Frida by Jonah Winter, illustrations by Ana Juan (really, really nice illustrations!) and having my son say casually when he saw the book ‘Oh yeah, that’s Frida’.

    5. Having my 5-year-old son read me The Lorax in bed again this morning.

    Can’t wait for your next posting. While I don’t know you, hard to imagine you have a week as lacking in grace as you claim. Wishing for more grace for you anyway!

  15. Rachel: Kudos to you for daring to take that step. I hope the journey ahead is AWESOME for you.

    Rachel AND Jules: Thanks on all/both counts! The little frog is so cute. Keep sending him healing thoughts, please!

    Moira: Thanks for giving Ode to Joy a new spin.

    Froggy: Oh, the poor flowers. 😉

    Stacey: Congrats on the completion of the project, and thanks to you and others like you who are devoted to volunteerism!

    Hi, RAH! Hi, Allison!

    I got two acting offers today! Check the kicks list next Sunday to see what happens…

  16. For anyone interested:

    OMG!!! Komiks!

    The new blog on Filipino comics. =D

  17. Daughter of Smoke and Bone ate a few days of my life when I read it. It’s one of those where I just never quite knew where it was going and so could not stop reading.

  18. Allison, so glad you liked that poem. Good luck with your editing, and I wanna read that Virginia Lee Burton book.


    Tarie, thanks! Will explore.

    Adrienne: Word.

  19. […] up, do you all remember this book? Well, here’s the book’s brave protagonist, thanks to author/illustrator Kenneth […]

  20. […] over Kirkus, I talk with author-illustrator Kenneth Kraegel about his new picture book, Green Pants (Candlewick, March […]

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