Catching Up with Cordell

h1 July 23rd, 2013 by jules

Pictured above is author/illustrator Matthew Cordell’s contribution to Peter Reynolds’ International Dot Day.

Matt’s had a busy year, what with several illustrated picture book releases. I thought I’d give 7-Imp readers a sneak peek inside a few of them, as well as some ALA drawings. (I’ll explain below.) Let’s get to it.

The latest picture book is What Floats in a Moat? (Simon & Schuster, July 2013), written by Lynne Berry (who is evidently from middle Tennessee, just like Yours Truly) and all about … well, the displacement of water. Yep, it’s fun with physics — with what Publishers Weekly in their starred review calls “eccentric and loveable” characters. Archimedes, the Greek physicist who experimented with and discovered the displacement of water, doesn’t appear in the story (though, as you can see below, he’s in the closing Author’s Note), but there is a goat named Archie. He and his friend, Skinny the Hen, are trying to get across a moat. The Kirkus review for the book praises Matt’s very funny and entertaining illustrations. In fact, I wish I had the book’s most colorful spread here to show you — where the hen and goat realize that their barrel of a boat both sank and floated. This spread made me laugh outloud, but here’s some other art from the book:








“‘Heave, heave, heave-UMPH!
The barrel, with goat, splashed into the moat—“

(Click to enlarge)


Tiffany Strelitz Haber’s Ollie and Claire was released in April by Philomel and tells the story of two dogs. Ollie and Claire do just about everything together, but when Claire starts to feel bored and yearns for an adventure, she figures she’ll embark on a journey and that Ollie won’t mind if she heads out — that is, until she starts to feel tremendous guilt for leaving him. I won’t give away the ending, should you want to read this yourself or with your favorite child, but here are some of what Publishers Weekly calls Matt’s “typically energetic pencil-and-watercolor artwork”:


Title page illustration


“Ollie and Claire were a tightly knit pair, like hot buttered biscuits and jam.”
(Click to enlarge)


“Dinner each night: bologna on white, promptly at 7:15.
But Claire was aware that she needed a change.”


“I’m bored with this ho-hum routine.”


“Claire started dreaming of pirate-ship sightings and meeting a mermaid or two.
‘Ollie won’t mind if I leave him behind—this is nothing he
ever would do.'”
(Click to enlarge)


“…he said ‘I can’t play for a couple of days…
I’ve got to take care of some stuff.'”


“She penned him a note. I’m so sorry, she wrote. And maybe you aren’t aware.
But I’m going away, and I’ll miss you each day…”



Endpaper images

And Tamera Will Wissinger’s Gone Fishing: A Novel in Verse was also released earlier this year (March, Houghton Mifflin). This is Wissinger’s debut book and includes a wide variety of poetry, all telling the story of one boy’s day of fishing. This one was met with good reviews, all around. Here are some of Matt’s interior images from the book:


“Dark night. / Flashlight. / Dad and I hunt worms tonight. …”


“For fishing tomorrow / it’s just us two. … /
Just Dad and me. / Fishing.”


“This princess doll does not belong!”


“Finally, Lucy completed her / Packing — at /
Last we are all on the / Road to the lake. …”


From a poem for two voices, “I See Something”


From the free verse poem, “Crossing the Lake”


“Send me a fish that is lively and long. / One that is sturdy, stupendous, and strong. …”


“Grandpa! Mom! We have a big surprise!
We’ve brought a feast—can you believe your eyes? …”


From a poem for three voices, “We Love Fishing”

Finally, just for fun:

Matt tells me he did a bunch of stream-of-consciousness pen and ink drawings at the recent ALA Annual in Chicago, drawings he then distributed at his book signings. “The ones attached here are some of my favorites,” he added.

Oh, how I love these. Enjoy!









* * * * * * *

All artwork is © 2013 by Matthew Cordell and used with his permission.

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14 comments to “Catching Up with Cordell”

  1. So happy to see Matthew Cordell at Seven Impossible Things again! I actually first learned about his work here thanks to your feature on his book Another Brother, and I have been a devotee ever since. His work has everything in it that I’ve always enjoyed getting lost in since childhood. Love the all around playfulness there both in the life of his characters/settings, but also the marks & the free manner that he throws them down. Scratch my head a lot trying to figure out how Matthew makes it look so easy (…does it really come that easy or do you do you go through multiple drawings until you hit what you’re after? ). Especially enjoy the stream-of-consciousness drawings. Am partial to the mystery of the girl with umbrella, the frog family outing (baby frog in arm almost looks like a chicken), and the bicycle rider with his eyeball at full tilt angst!


  2. Tim, when I saw your art, I figured you’d probably be a fan of Matt’s, too.

    I really love the ALA drawings, too. I always like taking a peek at what’s on Cordell’s desk. Should have asked him what he’s working on next.


  3. …though I do know that he’s collaborating with Phil Stead (as he mentioned here).


  4. Tim! Thanks so much for checking out all this stuff and for your very kind and thoughtful words. As you now know, I am equally smitten with your drawings, so it’s really great to hear all that stuff, man! As far as works-in-progress, I’m having a ton of fun illustrating a forthcoming picture book by Mr. Philip C. Stead with the great Neal Porter at the helm. It’s called SPECIAL DELIVERY. Can’t wait to show this one off. And I’m also in the middle of illustrating a third “Pickle Juice” book by Julie Sternberg and a third “Justin Case” book by Rachel Vail. Oh… and we have a 5-week-old baby here in the mix too. Whew!


  5. And, but of course, thank you so much, Jules, for having me over again! Always a thrill turning up here on 7-Imp.


  6. What charming and funny and lovely art! I so appreciate the peek into MC’s new work! As usual, the art deserves careful appreciation as well as laugh-out-loud enjoyment. Thanks Jules!
    My Little is so interested in science – can’t wait to read him What Floats in a Moat.


  7. Such talent! I loved Gone Fishing and can’t wait to see the others! My third graders last year loved his work and I am sure the new class will too! I LOVE the dot and the International Dot Day project!


  8. Cool, I look forward to adjusting my budget to keep up with your prolific output Matthew! And congrats on the addition to your family.


  9. FAB-U-LOUS!!! I love ALL of it. Some pieces remind me a bit of the wonderful William Steig and others a bit like Quentin Blake — but still distinctly your own, of course. Congratulations, Matt, and thanks for sharing, Jules. Btw, I just realized Matt illustrated TOOT TOOT ZOOM!, another terrific book (Phyllis Root is one of my favorite authors).


  10. Phyllis Root is one of my favorite picture book authors, too, Linda. Dang, she’s good. I got to interview her back in the day.


  11. Could have named the post, The Incredible Lightness of Cordell. Super energy in his work!


  12. Thanks so much, y’all, for visiting, viewing, and for taking time to leave such kind comments!


  13. And now 7-Imp is teaching me science! I had no idea why some boats float and others don’t. Nice.


  14. It is, indeed, a wonderful science picture book.


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