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Today’s featured picture book is the work of a debut artist. You Byun grew up in the United States, Japan, and Korea and studied at the School of Visual Arts in New York City. Evidently, her work was awarded an SCBWI Illustrators’ Portfolio Award, as well as the Tomie dePaola Illustration Award.
Dream Friends (Nancy Paulsen/Penguin, February) tells the story of Melody, a young girl living in a new neighborhood and feeling very shy about making new friends. Readers don’t learn this till about, say, a third of the way into the book, though; before that we’re treated to her night-time romps with her “dream friend,” a giant white cat in a red bow tie, pretty much her only companion. In her dream landscape, she climbs a giant tower to meet the creature. They fly through the air over flowers as giant as the cat; he surprises her with gifts; they play games and see fireworks; and more. This happens nightly.
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Since she’s too bashful on the playground to introduce herself, she tries everything she can to coax the cat out of her dreams. It’s a funny sequence, this part of the book: She sets out a line of cupcakes that lead to the ladder of the tower (which leads to the bed where she sleeps), and she tries to smoosh his ginormous feline self through a door. All her stubborn attempts fail. Eventually, she does make a (human) friend and even gets to share her night-time companion, but I won’t give the entire story away.
Every review I’ve read of this picture book thus far makes particular mention of Byun’s distinctive artistic style, and perhaps you can see why in the few illustrations I have here today. The palette here is sunny, mostly pastels but with splashes of darker hues. Byun used ink and watercolors, manipulated digitally, to pull it all together. “It [reminds] me of the classic Goodnight Moon,” wrote Michael Agger at the New York Times in early February, “with its haunting, twilight-inflected color scheme.”
Agger also adds:
[T]his book could easily be billed as My First Acid Trip. In a good way! The drawings in this picture book debut enchant and enthrall and linger in the mind.
Did you catch my mistake? Yes, it’s the classic one of applying adult logic to a children’s book. I imagine most kids won’t give the fantasia of Dream Friends a second thought. Why wouldn’t a girl romp with an enormous cat in the night? Why wouldn’t fish fly in formation through a moonlit sky?
Indeed. The whole adventure is trippy, slightly surreal (well, to us grown-ups): Think cupcake- and donut-shaped fireworks, dancing on flowers, bowls of shooting stars, a bedroom that’s become a dreamscape-forest, birds who look upholstered, the girl napping on the monumental cat in the mushroom-filled forest. And more. It’s what the Publishers Weekly review calls “a diminutive paradise.”
I think Byun is definitely an illustrator to watch. There’s a lot more art here at her site.
DREAM FRIENDS. Copyright © 2013 by You Byun. Published by Nancy Paulsen Books/Penguin, New York. Illustrations used with permission of the publisher.
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) Did you know that last Sunday’s kicks conversation continued for a while there with the authors and illustrator of last Sunday’s featured book weighing in on their favorite Beatles and their favorite songs by The Beatles? Neat. I had missed that for a bit there, as it happened mid-week. (Hey, go weigh in with your favorite song, if you’re so inclined, and we can continue talkin’ Beatles!)
2) I sure do love our new Niblings art, created by Megan Montague Cash, and I’m glad that Betsy, Travis, and Phil were willing to collaborate with me. (If you are wondering what the actual WHAT I’m talking about, it’s all explained in this post.)
I refrain from calling them children’s books because that implies I write them specifically for children. I don’t. I write them for myself. And for everyone.
I recently watched an interview between Maurice Sendak and the US comedian Stephen Colbert and realised that Sendak and I share this trait in common. And it was then that I became conscious of something I’d probably known for a long time. Sendak was trying to satisfy himself. He was telling these stories, as much a way to make sense of the world around him as anything else. He was using them as a poet uses poetry and a painter uses paint. He was making art that ultimately transcended himself and neat classification.
5) Enjoyed reading this with my girls and want to explore more of Ipcar’s books. (This was originally published in 1969.)
Doubt is my boon companion, the faithful St. Bernard ever at my side. Whether writing essays or just going about daily life, I am constantly second-guessing myself. My mind is filled with ‘yes, buts,’ ‘so whats?’ and other skeptical rejoinders. I am forever monitoring myself for traces of folly, insensitivity, arrogance, false humility, cruelty, stupidity, immaturity and, guess what, I keep finding examples. Age has not made me wiser, except maybe in retrospect.
6) A friend sent me an audio file of Nick Cave’s “The Flesh Made Word.”
“Art had the power to insulate me from the mundanity of the world.” YES. That.
BONUS KICKS: I finished the very beautiful YA novel, The Whole Stupid Way We Are by N. Griffin, as well as That Night, an Alice McDermott novel I’d not read before. (She’s my very favorite writer for grown-ups. Oh, how I long for her to release a new novel!)
[Edited on 2/27/13: I had a small mention here of the FABULOUS Alabama Shakes performance on a February SNL episode, but there is malware attached to the NBC link, it turns out, so it's bye-bye to that link. Sorry, dear Imps.]
NOTE: Because I know many of you are school librarians, I was told about this opportunity to get a free author visit: Jan Brett is donating a school visit to the school or library that has the most parents, teachers, librarians, friends, or supporters who “like” her page on Facebook. Here’s the page, if you’re interested in your school or library getting involved — especially if you’re a school or library who can’t typically afford author visits.
What are YOUR kicks this week? My family and I are out of town this weekend, but I’ll be back either later tonight or tomorrow to read your ever-interesting kicks.