7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #326: Featuring Elisa Kleven

h1 April 14th, 2013 by jules

As evidenced by today’s post, I’m still in the celebrate-Spring mode. (For those of you Imp readers who still have snow, I share this in an attempt to warm you.) And I can’t think of a better way to celebrate than by featuring author/illustrator Elisa Kleven’s newest picture book, Glasswings: A Butterfly’s Story (to be released by Dial this week), which Kirkus calls a “joyously optimistic book.” And Elisa’s visiting today to say a bit about it and share lots of art, as well as a few early sketches.

This is the story of Claire, who is a Glasswing butterfly (Elisa opens the book with an informative note on these types of butterflies and how they pollinate), whose “wings, as clear as windows, let the world shine through.” After a sudden gust of wind carries her away from her family, she ends up in the city, lonesome and frightened. While on the look-out for some flowers, she befriends a pigeon, an ant, and a ladybug. Her friends show her an empty lot, a community garden where the people of the town are clearly trying to create a spot of beauty in a world of concrete. Claire is in her element, of course, and daily she pollinates the flowers, while her friends stick around and do their part, too, to help the flowers grow and the garden thrive. She still dreams of her family and is eventually reunited, but during her stay she takes on the glow of her surroundings, the vivid colors reflecting in her clear wings. It’s a tale of exuberance, the story of not only the cultivation of a garden and small ecosystem in an urban setting, but also the story of the cultivation of friendships and the pleasures of a community working harmoniously toward a common goal.

And who better to tell such a story than Elisa? Her mixed media collage art here is teeming with life and rich with texture and details (as always). I’d rather let the art speak for itself, and she shares plenty of it today, so let’s get to Elisa now. I thank her for stopping by today.

* * *

Elisa: The first time I saw a photo of a Glasswing butterfly, a bright yellow flower shining through its transparent wings, the image flew right into my imagination, where it stayed, coming out from time to time in doodles or scribbled story ideas.

As I researched Glasswings, I learned some enchanting things about them: They are, for example, known affectionately as “Espejitos” or “Little Mirrors” in the Latin American countries where they’re found. And, like other butterflies, they are able to migrate long distances and are instrumental in keeping flowers alive and well through pollination.

My fascination with Glasswings’ intriguing combination of fragility and sturdiness, fluidity (their wings change color and shape with every shifting movement), and productivity eventually inspired my butterfly character, Claire. Though clear, light, and airy, Claire is also a great force for change in the concrete city in which she finds herself lost. Even at her most vulnerable, homesick, and invisible (her wings “as gray as the sidewalk”), Claire remains true to herself as a creature who loves and needs flowers and beauty. And in so doing, she transforms both herself back into a flowery butterfly — and the empty lot she’s made her new home into an oasis for all to enjoy.

Cover sketch
(Click to enlarge)

One last detail about the creation of Glasswings: A Butterfly’s Story: While I worked on it, I was inspired by these words from the great Polish poet, Czesław Miłosz: “To whom do we tell what happened on earth, for whom do we place everywhere huge mirrors in hope they will be filled up and stay so?”

I like to think that Glasswing butterflies tell their stories with their mirror-like wings, collaborating not only with the flowers they pollinate but with everything around them.

“Claire was a Glasswing butterfly.
Her wings, as clear as windows, let the world shine through.”

(Click to enlarge)

“When she swooped down low to the forest floor she seemed as feathery green as the ferns. And when she fluttered among the flowers, sipping nectar,
Claire looked like a flower, too.”

(Click to enlarge)

“‘Claire, we can’t see you!’ her family called. ‘Here I am!’ said Claire, but she was lost in the swirling clouds. On and on she tumbled, scared and lonely.
Finally the wind let her go.”

(Click to enlarge)

Early sketch and final art:
“She fluttered down to a strange new world, a city of concrete and corners.”

(Click each to enlarge)

“‘I hope I’ll find some flowers here,’ Claire said hungrily.
‘And I hope that my family will find
(Click to enlarge)

Sketch and final art:
“Claire looked around for a spot of color. Up above she saw three big ones, lined up in a row. ‘Oh!’ said the ladybug. ‘You’re as read as me, now!’ ‘And now you’re as yellow as a taxi!’ cried the pigeon. ‘And now you’re as green as a soda can!’ the ant exclaimed. ‘Are you a magic butterfly?’ ‘I wish,’ said Claire.
‘I’d fly right home. But I don’t know the way.'”

(Click each to enlarge; Note: This second image is not the final art)

“‘Stay with us, then,’ the pigeon suggested. ‘No butterflies ever visit us,’ said the ladybug. ‘They just pass overhead, on their way to somewhere else.’ ‘Would you like something to eat?’ asked the ant, offering Claire a tortilla crumb. ‘Thanks, but I only eat nectar,’ said Claire. ‘From flowers.’ ‘Flowers?’ asked the pigeon.”
(Click to enlarge)

“‘What are flowers?’ asked the ant. ‘I know what flowers are!’ said the ladybug, flapping her wings. ‘I ate some tasty aphids on some flowers just this morning.
Follow me, I’ll show you.'”

(Click to enlarge)

“A family of Glasswings was fluttering near. ‘Look at that big patch of color!’ they cried. ‘Look at that flowery butterfly! She looks just like our …
Claire! We’ve been looking for you!'”

(Click to enlarge)

GLASSWINGS: A BUTTERFLY’S STORY. Copyright © 2013 by Elisa Kleven. Published by Dial Books for Young Readers, New York. All images here reproduced with permission of Elisa Kleven.

* * * * * * *

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) The way Elisa’s artwork always wakes my brain up.

2) Spring.

3) Delicious meals cooked by talented friends.

4) Meeting people in person whose work I admire.

5) My strong, resilient, and kind friends. (Hello, Brain Trust.)

6) Cocoa pancakes. For dinner even. You know you wanna make some.

7) Look. Sam covers a jazz/blues classic (for a show I don’t watch, so I’m glad they released this video so that I can hear her). I love what she does with the percussion at the end of the cover. I always love what Sam does with percussion.

BONUS: Evidently, Sam’s new CD will be released “soon.”

28 comments to “7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #326: Featuring Elisa Kleven”

  1. I’ll have to check back on a better screen. These look beautiful.
    I’ll give one kick, NYC

  2. Love Elisa Kleven, and this book looks fantastic in every way. Thanks for sharing it, Jules, and for your background thoughts, Elisa.

  3. Good Sunday morning Jules and Elisa:
    We still have snow-covered ground here; another little bit falling last night to blanket the roofs again. So you can imagine how exciting and delightful your book is to me. I had never heard of Glasswing butterflies until today. I am so excited to see it in real life. It looks so splendidly happy.

    Jules: So glad you have had some delicious meals cooked by friends. I love to cook for my friends.

    My kicks:
    1. Sunshine today
    2. Despite the snow my spring bulbs are coming up.
    3. Never lost power during the sleet storm
    4. Moira’s sketches
    5. New picture books
    6. Doggy snores
    7. Long slow walks with Xena

  4. Glass wing butterflies, what a divine creature. Eliza, I love your art especially looking up to the sky with skyscrapers.
    Jules, friends, food, and fun always a great combo.
    Hi Moira and Jill.
    Margie, doggy snores, love them too.
    My kicks:
    1.Grandgirl week. Oldest is spending the night and going to school with me on Thursday.
    2. Manuscript feedback.
    3. First week of school after spring break, complete! It was long!
    4. Reading
    5. Poetry.
    6. Sunbreaks
    7. Phone call with cousin.
    Have a great week.

  5. Fly-by posting (like a butterfly!) on the way to a very full day that I’m very much looking forward to – thank you, opportunities!

    1) Musical. I was thrilled and honored to be performing with people who are awesome in front of a sold-out crowd!
    2) Making the right decision. Trusting my gut, always.
    3) Sharing a piece of my WIP screenplay with other screenwriters and playwrights.
    4) Filming
    5) ADR
    6) Music
    7) Calm

    Jules: Brain Trust by Christopher Golden and Rick Hautala = awesome book. 🙂 One of the Jenna Blake thrillers!

  6. Hello, Kickers!

    Really like the look of Elisa’s art. It strikes me as very, how you say… Parisienne? And I like two auxiliary things about Claire — not sure that either is intentional, but: (a) she seems to be a Jersey girl, having blown across the Hudson from what look like the Palisades; and (b) her name is a pun — niiiiiice and subtle!

    (And I’d never heard of glasswings, either, so thank you for that addition!)

    Oh, Jules, thanks so much for posting that “Makin’ Whoopee” video — I hadn’t known about it (and likewise don’t watch the show) (and I liked the video as a video, too). I did a post on that song a little while ago; if I think of it later today I need to shoehorn this video into an update.

    (This week we saw — and loved — an American Masters special on Carol Burnette, which explained that ear-tugging thing she always did. I think Sam may use percussion the same way — as a respectful but fun sort of gesture in the direction of her past.)

    Hi there, Moira and Jill!

    Margie: here’s to rotten weather shielded from the elements.

    jone: “It was long!” says so much in so few words. It rings with the sort of truth that we usually hear only from kids. 🙂

    Hi, LW. Yay for gut-trusting!

    1. The biggest this week you already know about, Jules — I found that childhood science book I couldn’t remember per last Sunday’s 7 Kicks post, and was hence driving me crazy. (Lots of pictures from it online, here and elsewhere. And, happily for me, a lot of copies are floating around for sale — well-thumbed all, apparently, which testifies to its popularity.)
    2. Related to that, I’ve also started to learn quite a bit about that book’s author (with a librarian’s generous online-chat help). Working up to a full-blown blog post about her and her work (including THE book, of course!).
    3. Via good old-fashioned Netflix DVD, saw The Osterman Weekend for the first time in many years. Somewhat dated but we enjoyed it a lot.
    4. I’m having to relocate my work office about 10 yards to the north to make way for some general office renovation. This is the first time I’ll be in a different office in 20 years, and since I’m something of a packrat — tedious though packing + unpacking is — I’ve had the chance to see how strangely… energetic I was back then, a simpler time with many fewer distractions. (I’m givin’ you the stinkeye, Internet!)
    5. Vicarious travel thrill: my sister’s in Sao Paolo, Brazil, for work this week.
    6. Trembling on the brink of always-too-warm early Florida summer. (The kick is: not there yet.)
    7. Speaking of critters and natural history, The Oatmeal’s take on the mantis shrimp was pretty hilarious.

    Have a great week and many kicks, all!

  7. I had no idea about glass wing butterflies, and Elisa’s art is lovely, as ever.

    Little Willow, That sounds like an excellent week!

    My Kicks:
    1. I’ll second the Brain Trust.
    2. I started running this week, and I haven’t fallen apart. In fact, I feel good.
    3. I went to a two-day technology conference this week that was rejuvenating–partly because of the subject and partly because of the company.
    4. Due to the aforementioned conference, I had a couple fun lunches out with friends.
    5. I subbed for two storytimes this week. So fun!
    6. Yesterday, I baked some Mocha White Chocolate Chip Cookies, which taste just as excellent as they sound.
    7. It is Sunday, and I have not yet had cause to take a shower and have been lounging around in my pjs. Best way to spend a Sunday, I say.

  8. The first daffodil, times seven.
    This art is dizzyingly beautiful.

  9. What a beautiful book! I love Elisa’s stories and pictures. I cannot wait to have this book in my home to read. Here there is still snow on the ground with predictions of even more to fall this week. I need her book to bring some spring into this house. Thanks for the interview, it has put some spring into my heart.

  10. I LOVE Elisa’s work–so luminous and inspiring! Thanks for the lovely breath of springtime Jules, and thanks Elisa for creating such a magical book. I’m looking forward to owning this one!

  11. I am looking forward to reading this lovely book. Thanks for all the beautiful art and background information. I have never seen a glasswing but the photo alone blew me away.
    My kicks:
    1. Grilled cheese sandwiches
    2. Being inspired by illustrations to make a new quilt
    3. Peonies poking through the warming soil
    4. Finally figuring out how to cook with sourdough starter
    5. Watching new readers become fluent and confident
    6. Finishing two big projects
    7. Being up to date on all my reading

  12. Hi, Moira!

    Jill, my pleasure.

    Margie, flowers blooming anyway? I love that. Hope you get warm weather soon, but I also hope you can find lots of good in the snowy weather you have. (Before we know it, it’ll be a crazy hot summer, probably no matter where we live.) … And what’s been your most favorite new PB?

    Jone, I love the word “sunbreak.” And I hope the ms feedback was very helpful and that you’re still forging ahead.

    LW! Kicks #1 and #3 — super exciting!

    John, thanks for pointing out that fun fact about the name Claire. I had wondered … OH I LOVE KICK #2! And, oh, I saw kick #7 earlier this week, thanks to a friend, and I laughed so hard. Then I promptly showed it to my 9-year-old, whose sense of humor is … well, THAT.

    Adrienne: All good things in your week. All are good. Lounging in PJs, good friends, good food. Cookies. Learning new things. Good, robust exercise. Every week should be that balanced.

    Tricia: That is kicky, indeed.

    H, Lauren! And hi to Susan too!

    Robin, also a good week, but I’d think that kick #5 would just HAVE to trump all the others. Such a wonderful thing.

  13. Jules, it is thought that the word “sun break” is unique to the Pacific Northwest. I actually got to walk Buster during one such sunbreak today. Bonus.

  14. Beauty! Thank you , thank you!

    Elisa Klevin’s work is just beauty, even on books that I haven’t been that crazy about.

    More importantly, I’ve been a changed human being since I was introduced to “Lion and the Little Red Bird” some years ago.

    I think this book is going to my niece in NYC RIGHT away! OK, I’m back, I just pre-ordered on Amazon.

    My Kicks:
    1. early planning for my Little’s 7th birthday party in May

    2. watching’ Tootsie’ this weekend with my hubby – he had never seen it!

    3. 2 new pairs of pajamas

    4. baseball season started this past week – Gooooooooooooo Red Sox!

    5. family dinner with darling life-long friend visiting from Florida and her 3-y-o ADORABLE daughter

    6. watching our 7 week old baby girl talk to the hanging toys on her activity gym mat

    7. started working with 5th graders in the school library once a week – they are something else!!!

    Have a wonderful week!

  15. Allison, wouldn’t it be great to see Tootsie again, I’m now thinking. Happy early birthday to the 7-year-old (to be). I love The Lion and the Little Red Bird, too. I made felt board characters for it once and told it to children via a felt board. It’s a great story for adapting to that.

    Have a good week!

  16. Oooh, *to read*!

  17. lovely!!

  18. I think it’s so lovely that Elisa’s book is about MY FAVE butterflies!! I think glasswings are amazing. Kudos for ORIGINAL stories; may the Muse continue to stick around!

    Meanwhile, I’ll third the Brain Trust. ☺

  19. Thanks Jules, for another beautiful, beautifully written piece. Always such an honor to appear on Seven Imp. So nice to have an opportunity to share my inspirations and sketches. Thanks everyone for your thoughtful, fun comments and kicks, as well! Great to be part of this online community of book lovers.

  20. p.s. Jules, I meant YOUR beautifulness, not mine. I love it that you understand my stories and characters so well and express your thoughts about them so clearly and warmly, and with such Jules-y style.

  21. Thank you again, Elisa, for sharing your beautiful butterflies!

    Jules: Spring. Strength. Admiration. Yes to all. And thank you – The performance was so much fun. The kind of thing I aspire to do every day of my life.

    Margie: Glad that your power is okay. Sunshine = yay!

    Jone: Enjoy the visit!

    JES: I’m so glad that you found the book! That’s fantastic! Good luck with the work relocation. Carol Burnett rules. Thanks. I’ve always trusted my gut.

    Adrienne: Jammin’ on a Sunday, you were.

    Hi Tricia, Susan, and Lauren!

    Robin: Yum! I’m a strict vegetarian, but I love cheese too much to go vegan.

    Allison: Happy (early) birthday to your munchkin, and hello to the other munchkin!

    Tanita! Hello!

  22. Hi Little Willow. You’re very welcome, and thanks for your comments. Do you have another name I might know you by?

  23. Hello, Deborah and Lori and Tanita.

    Elisa, it was my pleasure!

  24. I am a librarian and have always loved Elisa’s books. These lovely illustrations are a real treat, especially today. I live outside of Boston and we have been viewing some terrible images yesterday and today. Thank you.

  25. I can tell already that Glasswings is my book. Mine, mine, mine. Oh wait, I guess that the fact that there are copies available means I can share.

    Kicks for the week:
    1. I fourth the Brain Trust.
    2. On vacation, I got a break from hills to run along flat paths that led me by the waterfront and past the old town fort.
    3. Speaking of running, I am grateful for the running community. I never thought I’d be a part of it, but I am.
    4. While on the aforementioned vacation, I opted not to bring my guitar, but forgot that my cousin had one. So, I got to play guitar after all.
    5. The Fort Vancouver Community Library is stunning.
    6. Quiet, that book about introverts in a noisy world, finally came in for me at the library.
    7. My new, highly-reflective for night running jacket is bright luna moth green, which is appropriate, as luna moths are nocturnal creatures.

  26. Kathy, that’s good to hear.

    Farida, I want to read that book, too. I’m glad your vacation was good and included a kick-ass library.

  27. Librarian Kathy, I’m very glad that my pictures could counterbalance the terrible images a bit. Thanks for your kind words — they (and everyone else’s) mean a lot to me. Take care, and may light drive out the darkness, as MLK reminded us.

  28. Hi and thanks!
    I got my book, a day before the official release (as well as the one I sent my niece in NYC!). It is so beautiful! I read it to 3 kindergarten classes today and they were all entranced, except one boy with special needs who kept announcing “this book is BORING!” !!! Noone seemed to mind and by the end he was excited that Claire is reunited with her family and stays to tend the garden.

    Jules – I LOVE the felt board idea for ‘The Lion and the Little Red Bird’.

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