I sure do love this illustration up above.
It’s the first Sunday of the month when I like to invite a student or brand-new illustrator over for morning coffee, and today 7-Imp welcomes debut author/illustrator Abby Hanlon. Abby is, as she tells you below, a former first-grade teacher.
Abby’s first picture book, Ralph Tells a Story, was released in August and chronicles the struggles of a young boy, who must write a story yet has no ideas. In his classroom, his teacher declares joyously that “stories are everywhere!” but it’s a no-go for him. With the prompting and enthusiasm of a friend (when Ralph declares that nothing happens to him, his classmate Daisy—in my favorite part—says, “Are you kidding? I’ve written a ton of stories about you!”) and after much angst, he finally comes to his own story idea. Kirkus called this one a promising debut and an “engaging mix of gentle behavior modeling and inventive story ideas that may well provide just the push needed to get some budding young writers off and running.”
I’d tell you more about Abby’s artistic style, but you can see plenty of it here today, including some illustrations from the book. I thank her for visiting. Be sure to check out the book’s endpapers below (my second favorite part of the book), which are the end results of Ralph’s inspiration.
Abby: I am thrilled to be here today at 7-Imp. Thank you so much to Julie, whose blog has been a critical connection for me to the inside world of children’s book illustrators. Only a few years ago, I embarked on the long journey of teaching myself to think visually. And until recently, I didn’t know a single other person who worked as an illustrator, so reading this blog has been an essential part of my learning process as I burn the midnight oil.
I used to be a first grade teacher, which is when I fell in love with children’s books. I loved reading aloud to my class, and I would get completely absorbed in a story — turning off all the lights and huddling together for the ghost story in Ira Sleeps Over, getting carried away by playing the role of Miss Viola Swamp with my ruler, or reading the cat’s lines in a berserk voice in the Cat In the Hat (and then being mortified when the principal walked in to observe. Do I keep doing the voice for … oh my god … 40 more pages?).
I always felt like I didn’t know a book until I read it to a class. Often, I would look though a book quickly, and think, this book is nothing special. But then I would read it to a class of six-year-olds, and it was like this whole secret world would open up to me. Their reactions to stories are powerful, and the discussions we would have after a good story allowed me to understand kids in a new way.
It wasn’t until I was a mom and home with my kids that I got to actually look at books. As a teacher, I was holding up books for the class and never had the time to sit down and read the pictures, as children do. Going to the library for me is serious business; I come out with a stack of 30 books, and then I go home and fight with my kids about which ones we are reading first.
When people ask me what my kids want for their birthday, I say children’s books that I secretly want. Nobody suspects.
My first book, Ralph Tells A Story (Amazon Children’s Publishing, which acquired my original publisher, Marshall Cavendish), came out in September. The book is about a little boy in his classroom who is struggling to write a story. I set out to create the book that I wished I had as a teacher – a book that would help my students find stories in the little events that make up their day. Humor is a great way to inspire kids, so I wanted to make a funny book that children could see themselves in.
I wanted to portray the pressure of a classroom, the insecurity of a young writer, and the temptation to distract oneself from a difficult task. I also tried to convey the joy of a classroom and the power of a class coming together. The book has been getting an incredible response from elementary school teachers who, just like me, feel that they need this book.
I thought of the story idea for Ralph Tells A Story before I could actually draw, so illustrating this book was a ridiculously tortuous, yet ultimately life-changing, experience. Writing and illustrating for kids is all I want to do, and I don’t know why it took me so long to figure that out.
RALPH TELLS A STORY. Copyright © 2012 by Abby Hanlon. Published by Amazon Children’s Publishing. Images reproduced by permission of Abby Hanlon.
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.
1) I’m grateful that my East Coast-friends, my family, and my co-author are all okay, in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.
2) That’s super nice what Abby had to say about 7-Imp. It always makes me happy to hear that people can use the blog as a resource of some sort.
3) I got to meet author/illustrator Jon Klassen this week in Nashville (pictured left).
4) Speaking of Klassen, the New York Times announced their Best Illustrated Children’s Books of 2012. I always look forward to this announcement every Fall. A handful of these books were featured here at 7-Imp this year. Travis Jonker has a wonderful, art-filled recap here at 100 Scope Notes.
5) I’ve got a new piece of Mad Tea Party art! This one was created by author/illustrator Steve Light, who will be visiting 7-Imp soon. I thank him so much for the contribution, which I’ll place permanently at the site later.
7) I mentioned last Sunday that we were heading out that night to see Noah Gundersen. He (and his sister who sang with him) were so good. You all, it was like an hour of holiness is what it was. I kinda felt sorry for the musician who followed him. It’s tough to sing after Noah, I’m sure. I’ve shared, I think, two Noah videos previously at 7-Imp, so I won’t be pushy and put another one here, but let me just say that he opened with this arrangement—“Poor Man’s Son” with “Down to the River to Pray”—which was OHMYGOD beautiful.
Speaking of musicians, I really like the music of Ben Sollee, and I like this performance even more. He ends it, as you can see below, with “PLEASE VOTE.” You are gonna go vote, right?
Tomorrow—tomorrow, I say!—our final manuscript revisions are due. So, it’s back to work for me, as Betsy and I continue to wrap stuff up. What are YOUR kicks this week?