7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #321: Featuring Charles Vess

h1 March 10th, 2013 by jules

“…The other cats gathered in their circle, only this time, instead of calling up cat dreams, they had a dying girl in the middle of them. Lillian wasn’t aware of any of this. She was falling up into a bright tunnel of light, which was an odd experience,
because she’d never fallen up before. She hadn’t even known it was possible.”

I admit I’m not thoroughly familiar with his work (I’m primarily familiar with his picture book collaborations with Neil Gaiman), but every time I see a book illustrated by Charles Vess, I remember how I’d like to showcase some of his art here at 7-Imp. Well, better late than never. I finally am today.

Vess has illustrated the latest from Charles de Lint, The Cats of Tanglewood Forest, a novel for children released by Little, Brown this past week. A beautifully designed book, it tells the story of Lillian Kindred, a young girl who lives with her aunt near Tanglewood Forest, filled with wild cats, and who wakes from a forest nap one day to discover she’s been turned into a kitten. The magical cats of the forest have performed this feat, all in lieu of Lillian dying of a snakebite. Lillian is returned to human form, thanks to the magical Old Mother Possum, and then discovers that, as a result, her aunt has perished. Thus begins Lillian’s journey to right things, a complicated journey that involves meeting a whole cast of mysterious characters from the forest and tons of twists and turns (a rather “twisty story,” Kirkus calls it). All of this is wrapped up in classic folktale motifs, giving the story a very traditional feel, and includes Native American characters and motifs as well.

Vess’ illustrations are lithe, lavish, and detailed, some positively glowing from the page. (His use of light is striking.) His landscapes are nearly breathtaking, and he captures tension between characters well, with elegant lines and deep earth tones all throughout.

Here are some more illustrations from the novel. I’ll let the art speak for itself. Enjoy.

“Lillian dug her claws deeper into the branch.
‘Come on now, kitty,’ he went on. ‘Why are you hiding up there?’
‘I–I’m not a cat,’ Lillian finally managed. ‘I’m a girl.’
‘Sure you are.'”

“She’d crossed by these stepping-stones a hundred times—but that was always in her human form, with her longer legs. Even with her agile cat body, she slipped on the last rock and would have fallen into the creek if T.H. hadn’t snapped her up by the nape of her neck. She shivered for a moment, imagining the worst as she hung from his teeth, but he only set her down on the ground, safe and dry.”

“‘I’m not going to be eaten by a bear,’ Lillian said, feigning a courage that she didn’t feel. ‘Seems like it to me,’ Davy said, ‘which makes me wonder why Aunt Nancy’s sending you to them. I used to think she had a soft spot for you and your aunt.'”

“She set off again, following the ridge, picking her way around the stone outcrops and tree roots. And while it made little sense, she kept catching glimpses of
the red fox sneaking along behind her.”

THE CATS OF TANGLEWOOD FOREST. Copyright © 2013 by Charles de Lint. Illustrations copyright © 2013 by Charles Vess. Little, Brown and Company, 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 * * *

I’m going to keep it brief this week (if you haven’t noticed already from my short write-up above). Lordhavemercy, I probably sound like a hypochondriac at this point, but I got sick again this week (round two) and have been fighting this nonsense all. week. long. Still am, in fact.

Two happy things:

This made me laugh …

Thanks to Phil Nel for that link.

Also, I’ve seen an early copy of this book and very much enjoyed it (more on that later), and I like to see a good book trailer, so I’m sharing it here:

One more thing, a quick note of interest: Did you know that the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival, founded and organized by author James Kennedy, just wrapped up its second successful season? If you want to see all the movies received this year and/or are interested in next year’s film festival, here’s more info.

I’m sorry I don’t have more for you dear Imps this morning. I’m going to get back to my hot tea. (Now. I don’t even like hot tea. I want to like it, and I constantly try to like it, but I just don’t. But I need it for my throat, and I don’t even crave coffee when I’m sick. Yes, you read that correctly. I haven’t had coffee in about a week. I am not even making this up for one second. Or even two.)

What are YOUR kicks this week?

25 comments to “7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #321: Featuring Charles Vess”

  1. Cats!
    More cats!
    Thank you. 🙂

    Jules: Sending you another round of healthy vibes. Rest up. Heal thyself. 🙂

    In chronological order:
    1) Being in the recording studio and singing on a demo for a new musical
    2) Film audition – This audition was a truly wonderful experience, worth multiple kicks!
    3) Playing Sabina in The Skin of Our Teeth by Thornton Wilder!
    4) Performed in a musical yesterday (Saturday)
    5) Submitted two original short plays to a festival
    6) The publication of an interactive YA book on which I sang. I’m very happy to have had that opportunity. Let me know if you want the link to get the book and/or hear the music…!
    7) Seizing opportunities and CREATING opportunities.

  2. Sorry to hear you’re sick again, Jules! Maybe your poor immune system hadn’t bounced back from last time. And to have your body reject coffee at this time of need is just cruel. Hope you’re feeling better soon!

    The artwork is lovely as always. Very magical looking!

    LW your final kick sums up most of your kicks each week! And I would love a link to hear your music!

    I have had a busy week!

    1. My journal paper I was working on last year and submitted a revised version of at Christmas has been accepted! Very exciting to see hard work paid off
    2. We are replacing our shower with a bath/shower, which didn’t seem like a huge chore but has been more complicated than expected. But phase one, shower going out and bath going in, was successfully achieved yesterday!
    3. Having my older niece whisper to me that the sleeping baby was her little sister, and watch her tuck in her blanket and pat her – super cute
    4. Hanging out with my dad who came to town to visit the new arrival (and the rest of us)
    5. Spending ten minutes mandarin juice taste testing for scientists at work. What a yummy way to help out science.
    6. Fun night out with work colleagues on the annual pub crawl (a fun social event for drinkers and non-drinkers alike). I even won a commerative t-shirt in a game of buzz word bingo (using up a list of scary government buzzwords)
    7. Baked a delicious pear and almond cake today.

  3. I interviewed Charles Vess for the newspaper a few years back. He’s a very nice guy, who has the coolest little studio in a small town near the very western point of VA.

    And of course he is an Amazing talent!!

  4. Lovely art this morning.
    Jules, bah to illness, get well soon.
    LW, good luck on your two plays.
    Emmaco, PETA and almond cake, ummm…
    My kicks:
    1. Hanging bird houses.
    2. Sunshine.
    3. Oldest grand girl telling me about the 19th century.
    4. Slice of Life Story Challenge Month long writing.
    5. One day writing retreat today.
    6. Poetry postcard project.
    7. Family Library Night success.

  5. Little Willow, you had one slammin’ WEEK, my friend. I highly recommend everyone take Little Willow up on kick #6, ’cause I’ve heard it and it’s crazy fun to hear her sing. And, LW, did you submit two MORE short plays? You are a writing machine. The recording studio and film audition sound particularly thrilling.

    Emmaco, congrats on the journal paper! So glad you got to see family and taste-test only yummy things. Pear and almond cake sounds especially delicious. You always have good baked goods at your place.

    Hi, Tom. I was surprised to read he lived in Virginia. I don’t know why I thought all these years he was British.

    Jone, I say this every year, but I wanna go to your Family Library Night. Good luck at the writing retreat today. May all the right words flow from your fingers.

  6. Lovely, lovely artwork today. Thanks for the post. Feel better soon Jules!

  7. Hi, Lori! Thanks!

  8. Hello, Kickers!

    Wowza, Jules — great art selections today. And I love the sound of the story, too… this is one I may have to look up at the library! (I found a 10-page excerpt — actually a 20-page, 10-SPREAD excerpt — at the tor.com site. Bottle witch — say what?!?) I love the way some of the illustrations extend outside the frame, as though the tree limbs and vines continued to grow after the art was committed to the page.

    That Sellers-as-Olivier-as-Richard III-as-John-Paul-George-and-Ringo video cracked, me, UP. (I found that there’s also a blooper version of that skit on YouTube.)

    LW: You mentioned Skin of Our Teeth a Sunday or two ago and I had an OMG moment. (That play is quite possibly my favorite play EVER — and I’ve never seen it performed, only read (and re-read) the script.) I thought then, but wasn’t about to say out loud, “Please let LW be playing Sabina…!” Wouldn’t be at all surprised to learn that you had a lot of fun with the role. To my knowledge, Lesley Ann Warren never played Sabina but her aura always seemed to be perfect for it, too.

    emmaco: BUZZ WORD BINGO! Not sure if I should be more jealous of you for that, or for the mandarin juice taste-testing.

    Hi, Tom!

    Sounds like a wonderful week, jone. No idea how old your oldest grandgirl is, but that little history lesson might’ve been the peak for me.

    My kicks:

    1. Reimagining-driven revisions.
    2. Saw Argo and really, really liked it. (I don’t care if it took liberties with events as they *sniff* Truly Happened. Good story-telling is as good story-telling does.)
    3. Finally found a source (www.petclassics.com) for good custom indoor pet ramps. Pretty expensive but we think it’ll be worth it.
    4. Just learned this week about songdrop.com — a place to build playlists from multiple online sources, including YouTube, Soundcloud, etc.
    5. Multiple reminders this week of the great relationships I’ve had with my niece and nephews.
    6. Please tell me y’all already know about The Pulp-O-Mizer.
    7. Chinese takeout from this place a good 15-20 minutes’ (one-way) drive from here. Sooooooooo worth it.

    Have a great week everyone.

    P.S. to Jules: please feel better soon!

  9. Jes, she’s 8 abd usually begins many conversations with “did you know that…”

  10. Very intriguing story, beautiful art. Thanks. I think I’ll check out the book.

    SO sorry you are ill again. And I laughed at your tea/coffee confessional!

    My kicks:
    1. our new foster baby is thriving and is SO darn cute. 3 weeks on Tuesday.
    2. my hubby rearranged our Little’s bedroom so we can hang up his interactive world map. Really cool.
    3. found orange polka dot sheets for same Little’s orange bedroom this week (GO HomeGoods!). He is thrilled as he’s been wanting orange sheets since we redid his room a couple of years ago.
    4. an afternoon to myself (well, with baby sleeping upstairs) to read this blog, drink strong tea (!) and eat brie on toast with tomatoe, wash kitchen floor…
    5. Hubby and Little are going to in-laws for Easter while I stay home with the foster baby – I wish I was going, but I’m thrilled they are.
    6. this is an un-kick sort of – really behind on my own blog and I’m whining about it.
    7. attended 2 lovely events yesterday with the fam for my uncle’s 80th birthday – what a great life he’s lived. It is good to get re-inspired
    8. just ordered the new Flavia de Luce – CAN’T WAIT to get it and indulge!

    Happy, Happy everyone.

  11. The Cats of Tanglewood Forest feels like a classic book re-found. Like that and the illustration with fox wrapped around girl’s feet. Reminds me of an old childhood movie fave of mine, “The Three Lives of Thomasina” — dark woods, mysterious cats, animal magic and lots of DRAMA.) Thanks for sharing moody cats and art with us.
    Thomasina trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tRgNrsktPfo

    Jules – Sellers/Richard III’s HDN, lol. Hadn’t seen that before. Will watch for “if you want to see a whale” as I always, always want to see one. And hey Jules, take care of yourself. (!)

    LW – Busy girl. Yes, please: the link.

    emmaco – journal, bath tub and bingo successes. sounds like a good week.

    Tom – insight. thx.

    jone – hope you enjoyed your writing retreat today.

    Lori – hi.

    JES – driven revisions of any kind are reasons to celebrate. Congrats. And omg, that Pulp-O-Mizer site is fabulous. I just did whipped out a poster for my mom’s retired-teachers’ BUNCO night (tomorrow) and it’s hysterical. thx

    Allison – love that you call your little one Little. yea, for orange polka dot sheets.

    My kicks:
    1. speaking of whales… This is grey whale migration month along California coast. Rarely-sighted (here) blue whales have joined the same route for some as-yet-unexplained reason. So cool! And a pod of 15 killer whales was also spotted off our waters today; they are usually found a lot further north in colder h2O. hmmm. It’s a whale party I think! Go Whales Go.

    2. Reading “Splendors & Glooms” and really enjoying it. Dickens-ish orphans, a magic puppet theater, fiery curses, London fog, privileged girl trapped in tragic life. Good stuff.

    3. IN-N-OUT (ordered extraordinary grilled cheese off “the secret menu”.)

    4. watching son throw discus/shot put at track meet this week.

    non-kick 5. Went to see “OZ”; which had a fine moment or two (smokey OZ wizard-face effect and its backstory), but otherwise kind of a 3-D mess. Cringe; poor actors, misdirected.

    6. apple/carrot/ginger juice. Getting into it.

    7. Return of “Smash” and “Walking Dead” mid-series continuations.

    Have a good week kickers and others.

  12. John, oh, I could get lost in that pulp web site for HOURS. Hey, we watched Argo the other night, too, followed by Flight. Loved Argo. Not so sure what all the raving was about Flight. I found it painfully-done in spots.

    Jone: Eight is a great age. I kinda want to freeze it sometimes.

    Allison, congrats on the foster baby, and I’m glad you found time for yourself and Brie, the best cheese EVER. Good luck getting caught up at your blog, but know your readers will wait patiently for you, too.

    Denise, I’m enjoying The Walking Dead, too, though I’ve never seen Smash. I have read such a string of bad reviews about Oz that I decided not to spend the money on it (at least not a theatre-viewing), though I wasn’t sold on the trailer anyway. I’ve also read repeatedly that … well, in Esme Codell’s words (her public FB status): “I can’t really believe it was even made in 2013, way more sexist than anything Dorothy ever showed up in in 1939.”

    P.S. I think kick #4 is extra cool, Denise. And I hope you see lots of whales.

  13. Also, Denise:

    Thanks for that video (The Three Lives of Thomasina). I wonder if I can find that film for my girls? They’d DIG it. I’ll check Netflix.

  14. And it’s there! And I’ve added. Will have to watch *with* the girls!

  15. Jules: How are you feeling now? I hope you rested today and that you can slide the rating up the scale from “ick” to at LEAST “feeling better” if not “feeling back to normal.” Thank you again for listening to my demo. Keep nudging/reminding me to record more tracks, okay? Yes, I submitted two more plays. They were very, very short, fitting in the parameters of that particular project. I plan to write some more tonight. I am ALWAYS happy in a recording studio, always, just like in a theatre, just BEING there and having that opportunity makes me happy. Being able to work with talented people on worthy material makes it even better.

    emmaco: Congratulations on your journal paper! Woo hoo! Let us know when it’s published so we can have a virtual celebration. I love orange juice. Apple juice, too.

    emmaco (continued) and Denise: Email me and I’ll send you a link to the singing stuff!

    jone: Thank you! Enjoy the retreat, the writing, the sunshine, the poetry (always) and the family (always!)

    JES: Yay! I really like The Skin of Our Teeth, too. It’s so interesting, and layered, and memorable. Sabina is SUCH a cool role. I was over the moon to have the opportunity to play her. While researching the role, I discovered Lizabeth Scott’s casting story (visit her Wikipedia page for the details) and I was tickled by that, because she’s in one of my favorite film noir pictures, The Strange Love of Martha Ivers. I had a great conversation week before last with someone who was reading The Master of Disguise, and as we discussed the real events vs. the film, that led to a discussion of truth vs. entertainment, book vs. movie, and other great debates.

    Yay, Allison and family. Just yay.

    Denise: Kudos to your son! Please tell the whales that I said hello. Have you heard Megan Hilty sing I’m Not Afraid of Anything from Jason Robert Brown’s Songs for a New World? YouTube-search it. I have that song on my to-learn list, and hearing her perform it just encouraged me to bump it up the list.

  16. Little Willow, if I don’t feel better tomorrow, it’s to the doc for me (after my 7-year-old gets her tooth pulled, which she is TERRIFIED about), ’cause I am really sick of being sick, that’s for sure. I know I have it good in this life and I’m very thankful for my general good health, but I’m not used to not going-going-going. And it’s frustrating, oh-so frustrating.

    I will gladly nudge you to record more tracks. All we Imps can. And kudos to you on the writing!

  17. Jules: Let us know how you’re doing, please. Hugs all around.

  18. Beautiful pictures!
    Happy Monday all!
    Get well soon, Jules!
    Hooray for exclamation points!

  19. Hi, Moira! It’s a rainy Monday here, but I love a rainy day, in fact. Happy new-week to you.

    Hugs back atcha, LW.

  20. Happy Monday – hope you feel better soon Jules!

    Oh my, the artwork and the storyline of this one just grabbed me. This is definitely on my “to buy” list.

    Denise – I loved The Three Lives of Thomasina as well, lots of drama and mystery! So cool about the whales, I am hoping to see some in April when on vacation.

    LW – congrats and yay!

    emmaco – that pear and almond cake sounds amazing. Congrats on the t-shirt!

    jone – hanging birdhouses sounds lovely, and saturday was a perfect sunny day to be outdoors.

    JES – I need to see Argo. I love your kick number 5 – what lucky nieces and nephews you have!

    Allison – so happy the foster baby is doing well, and how cool to find orange polka dot sheets.

    I am late late late, this week, so my quick kicks:

    1) Saturday sunshine
    2) Season 4 of The West Wing
    3) Bought some juggling balls for the office for de-stressing moments, others are using them too.
    4) Coffee with a friend.
    5) Walks with Cole.
    6) Going out for boiled crawfish Saturday night, I was feeling homesick.
    7) Scored a goal in yesterday’s soccer game! I got a perfect pass from my teammate, it was smoother than I would’ve ever believed. Very fun game.

    Have a great week everyone!

  21. LW: Boy, Lizabeth Scott was a beauty. I can easily see her as Sabina, too, but had NO idea about that casting experience so thanks for the heads-up. All things to those who wait, hmm?

    Denise: go whales! (I just hope that blue-whales thing isn’t a symptom of something disturbing.) Had never heard of Splendors and Glooms but it looks wonderful (as much as a Dickensian threatened-orphan dark-magic thriller can be, haha).

    Hi, Rachel — I’m trying (and largely failing) to imagine the introduction of juggling balls into my own workplace. I think the idea of excessively reducing stress might be frowned upon… the public by and large does NOT seem to like the idea of municipal-government employees enjoying themselves at work!

  22. Rachel, April will be here soon, and you’ll get that vacation. Congrats on the game, and …. hmm … juggling balls. Good idea! I might copy you for my own little home “office.”

    Have a good week!

  23. Beautiful – remind me of illustrations from my childhood (the 80s!) – love the colour.
    Jules, I hope you feel better soon.

  24. Thanks, Jess!

  25. we just bought Cats of Tanglewood Forest for our kids’ department — saw it reviewed somewhere– gorgeous book! HOPE you are feeling much better by now–Spring has begun! (even tho we just had snow)

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