7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #319: Featuring You Byun

h1 February 24th, 2013 by jules

“He surprised her with lovely things.”
(Click to enlarge slightly)

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.

“Once there was a girl named Melody, and she had a very special friend …”
(Click to enlarge slightly)

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.”

(Click to enlarge slightly)

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.

* * * Jules’ Kicks * * *

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.)

3) I love this, author/illustrator Oliver Jeffers weighing in on Sendak at The Guardian. Here’s an excerpt:

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.

4) I read this interview with Rufus and Martha Wainwright this week at Vulture, and I laughed at the Rufus (who else?) “Come on, folks, can’t we have just one sequined shirt or something?” moment.

5) Enjoyed reading this with my girls and want to explore more of Ipcar’s books. (This was originally published in 1969.)

5½) Loved this essay on essays, as Adrienne Furness put it, by Phillip Lopate. It’s also about doubt, who is my good, good friend:

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.

7) Samantha Crain’s brand-new CD is really, really good, and I wore it out all week. You can hear the first song, one of the best on the CD, here.

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.

14 comments to “7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #319: Featuring You Byun”

  1. Thanks for another superb post, Jules. Love Byun’s art, and the Niblings logo.

    Here’s a poem I wrote after our recent nor’easter in New England:

    Blizzard Country
    By Steven Withrow

    A white place you’ve come to,
    After a midnight’s freeze.
    Rest your head on a hedgerow.
    Sleep where you please.

    Throw on a warmth’s worth,
    A lamby balm of snow.
    Your hammock a hummock of earth,
    A hillock your pillow.

    The cold begins to close.
    The wood’s edge fades by degrees.
    Your shadow now a hollow
    Under the ghosted trees.

    © 2013 Steven Withrow, all rights reserved

  2. Sunshine illustrations by Byun brightened my grey Sunday.
    Jules, the illustration of Niibblings makes me smile.
    Steve, the second stanza, lovely. I have missed the snow this winter.
    My kicks:
    1. Starting Sunday morning here.
    2. Saturday morning walk.
    3. The response to the Poetry Postcard Project. Do you want a postcard?
    4. Silver Linings Playbook.
    5. Book club tonight. Author of how Georgia Became O’Keefe joining us for dinner.
    6. Impromptu pie rendezvous with daughter and grandgirl Friday night.
    7. Reading.
    Have a great week.

  3. A giant cat and a spiral staircase? I like!

    Good morning, Imps!

    Jules: Enjoy your time with your family!

    Steven: Hope you and yours are safe and sound. And warm.

    Jone: Have fun at the book club!

    My kicks from the past week, in chronological order:
    1) Play reading
    2) Musical reading
    3) Musical workshop
    4) Screenings
    5) Rehearsal and preparation
    6) Audition
    7) Meeting

  4. Love that cat – the cover is especially enticing – who wouldn’t want a best friend like that?

    Jules – listening to Smanatha Crain now, what a unique voice. Will have to check out those books. I’m almost done with Libba Bray’s Beauty Queens, reading it to see if it’s a good choice for a younger friend.

    Jone – Yes, please to wanting a poetry postcard! Jealous of your book club tonight.

    My kicks this week include some from the week before too:
    1) Mardi Gras party at work 2 weeks ago, a fellow native and I ordered King Cakes flown in and had coffee with chicory too.
    2) Made red velvet cupcakes with white chocolate chips for valentine’s day.
    3) Got a case dismissed, state conceded my motions. (That doesn’t happen all that often, so it’s a fun win.)
    4) Made chicken with artichoke hearts and capers for dinner last night, yum, artichoke hearts.
    5) Consistently hitting the gym.
    6) Found the perfect pair of shiny black flats.
    7) The Oscars are tonight! I love watching to see what people are wearing, and to see who has the best acceptance speeches.
    7.5) Soccer later. Always a kick for me, every week. 🙂
    7.6) Starting to plan for a vacation in April. Something to look forward to.

    Have a week filled with lovely dreams everyone!

  5. Jules, thank you so much for featuring You Byun! Cute and whimsical, yet deep illustrations are my favorite!


    1. Watched Psy (of “Gangnam Style” fame) perform live.

    2. My mother’s beauty.

    3. Every Sunday evening my family and I go out to drink bubble tea and play Monopoly Deal together.

    4. Helped a good friend go shopping today. I acted as her stylist and a salesperson complimented me on my outfit for the day.

    5. New friends. (Hmmm, this is often a kick from me.)

    6. I was talking to an author about getting a PhD in children’s literature in Hong Kong and one of my students overheard and misunderstood and thought I was leaving soon. She looked genuinely devastated when she asked me, “You’re leaving?” Man. that hit my heart really hard.

    7. I made a Harlem Shake video with some of my students! Posted it on my “Into the Wardrobe” blog!

  6. OMG OMG bonus kick: This week a student of mine told me, “I only started reading books when you became my teacher.”

    Man, the weekend is too long. I want to see my babiessssss.

  7. Hello, Kickers!

    Love that crazy bowtied cat. You’re right, Jules (and why are we not surprised about THAT?): there’s no reason why this sort of fantasy has to “make sense” in adult terms. Reminds me of a Miyazaki film (e.g. Spirited Away, Ponyo, etc.), in fact. (And I also like that you followed it up with a glancing reference to another night-time cat. Sort of a subliminal theme thing going on, hmm?)

    Thanks for the heads-up on Samantha Crain! Another rabbit hole…


    1. Finding a typo, regarding it non-judgmentally for a moment, suddenly realizing that if left uncorrected, it opened up a whole fascinating new plotline.
    2. Susan Cain’s Quiet. Very much loved this book on “the power of introversion” and happy to recommend it to Kickers (intro- or extroverts as it may be).
    3. Looong video call with my brother yesterday, happily free of tech snafus.
    4. Tea.
    5. Ballpoint pens which write smoothly and without ink-smearing the side of my hand. (Hard to come by for left-handers.)
    6. Mark Twain quote: “Good friends, good books, and a sleepy conscience: this is the ideal life.” (Still working on #3, fwiw.)
    7. Time-sink Sunday.

    Bonus kick: Tarie, you didn’t post a link to that Harlem Shake video but it was worth hunting down. CUTE!

  8. Byun’s images are lovely. I am a big fan of the dreamlike state and using one’s imagination to get through tough times. Beautiful, can’t wait to see more.
    Jules – Doubt likes to move into my house around this time of year. I think it’s the lack of sunlight. I count on the support of my friends and family to keep me from listening to its loud voice. I’m lucky to have many kind people around to keep me floating on hope.
    Steven – Our blizzard is finally being washed away by a gentle rain today.
    Jone – Mmmm pie
    LW – Sounds like a wonderful week. Keep on rockin’
    Rachel – I love the Oscars. I like to imagine what I would wear and say in an acceptance speech. Maybe I should make a movie first.
    Tari – What a fun week.
    JES – One time my left handed son told me writing was hard. I tried to help him come up with ideas about what he should write about. He stopped me to say, “No. Writing with the pencil is hard. It hurts my hand after a while.” hee hee


    1. I am reading and writing this from my computer at home instead of on the road or in the dark by the light of my phone. See blog post for what I’ve been up to. http://moiraswiatkowski.com/2013/02/24/hibernation/#comment-186
    2. I am celebrating my birthday on a quiet rainy Sunday and I couldn’t be happier.
    3. Girl Scout cookies
    4. Proud of my children who braved severe weather to try new things and are always willing to roll with the punches of hobbled together childcare during school vacation.
    5. music
    6. For the record, “Rocky Raccoon” is my favorite Beatles song.
    7. Friends, family and chocolate on my birthday.
    Have a great week all!

  9. Awww, thank you JES. I was afraid to post a link and have my comment eaten!

  10. I’m here. I’m here. Finally. Was traveling this weekend.

    Steven, that poem begs to be read aloud.

    Jone, how’d the book club go? And, as always, I want a postcard!

    Little Willow, I thought of you when I saw the giant cat. May I ask what musical?!

    Rachel, Samantha’s voice is one of my favorite things about her music. It’s truly captivating and capable of so much. But her songwriting? Dang, she’s good. My favorite, hands down, is “For the Miner.” … You ate well this week. Capers. Mmm. What’d you think of the Oscars? I watched them, too. Do you know where your vacation will be?

    Tarie: Your students are lucky to have you. (And I still gotta look up what the Harlem Shake is. I’m a pop culture moron.)

    John: I love your kick #1, and now I want to read Cain’s book. Thanks for the tip. And, oh, I’ve seen that opening-themes link before, too, and I know I’d dive in and never leave if I linger there! Oh my GOD, I watched so many sitcoms as a child. This is why I am making up for lost time now and reading more.

    Moira: HAPPY BIRTHDAY AGAIN! And I hate that I missed it yesterday. ROCKY RACCOON! I am cheering that. … Hope you continue to celebrate your birthday all. week. long.

  11. Rachel: That sounds like a tasty and busy week!

    Tarie: Your second kick is the sweetest thing. The sixth is high up there, too – and the bonus. You are touching lives!

    JES: Nice quote, Twain! Enjoy the accidental pathway opened up by the typo.

    Moira: Happy belated birthday! Thank you. If you ever draw a raccoon, please share it. 🙂

    Jules: Thank you for thinking of me when you see cats. Both of the musicals I participated in last week were new works – one an ongoing work-in-progress, the collaboration between two companies that I told you about, while the other was written by some talented folks I’ve worked with before who are submitting this new piece to a competition. Fingers crossed for them!

  12. Fingers always crossed for you, LW!

  13. I deleted the Harlem Shake video with my students because we made it out of ignorance and now I’m just ashamed of myself for the cultural appropriation. :o(

  14. LOVE! Great post, Jules 🙂

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