See that little girl above and the look on her face? That is not only how I feel in the mornings before I’ve had the life-blood that is coffee (apparently, I’m a cliché of a coffee-drinker), but it’s also what happens when you have a pet raptor and they wake you up very early and reject the breakfast you put out for them.
And this young girl would know. Or well … she hopes to know. Her story, George O’Connor’s If I Had a Raptor (Candlewick, May 2014), is written entirely in this subjunctive mood (“if I had a raptor …” — not when). That is, we never find out if she actually gets one (though who knew raptors were so similar to cats in every way?).
O’Connor is well-known for his series of graphic novels from First Second Books about the gods and goddesses of Greek mythology — and mighty good books they are. (Here’s my 2011 Kirkus Q&A with him.) But he’s also written and illustrated picture books, and this is his latest.
“If I had a raptor, I’d want to get her as a baby, when she’s all teensy and tiny and funny and fluffy,” the girl tells us right off the bat. She’s thought long and hard about this, and she freely imagines her life with this new pet. There’s a lot of humor in the pet-owner relationship here, and O’Connor makes both the girl and the raptor thoroughly lovable and even downright adorable without being too saccharine about it. The Publishers Weekly review writes: “A master cartoonist who strikes an ideal balance between visual sophistication and warmth, O’Connor … does wonderful things with the gap between the hopes and dreams of the narrator, a small girl with wonderfully expressive pigtails, and the reality of pet ownership.”
It’s true, and one gets the sense that O’Connor had some serious fun making these pencil and watercolor drawings (with a bit of what he calls “digital tweakery”). There is a looseness and energy to his line drawings that really make these cartoons kick.
Here are a couple of spreads …
(Click to enlarge spread)
IF I HAD A RAPTOR. Copyright © 2014 by George O’Connor. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.
Photo (below) of M.T. Anderson is used with his permission.
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) It’s been wonderful to see the responses to the ongoing push for diversity in children’s literature. This booklist at School Library Journal? YES.
2) And this photo from M. T. Anderson? One of my favorite responses to the diversity meme:
3) A friend sent me this Billy Collins poem, which I’d not read before — “On Turning Ten.” (I have a ten-year-old, so … well.)
Interesting that he chooses ten. Normally, you read so much about how pivotal age twelve is (and twelve’s inherent anxieties are well-represented in children’s literature).
4) As of this week, my co-author and I are finally, fully, unimpeachably done with our work on the book—all permissions, all re-writes, EVERYthing—which is coming out in August.
5) Willie Watson:
7) It’s Mother’s Day, and I’m grateful for my daughters. And I’m grateful for all the people in my life who have mothered me.
Two items of note. I shall use the rock-and-roll hands:
This year marks the 95th annual celebration of Children’s Book Week, the longest-running national literacy initiative in the country. It’s this week!
Here’s the low-down.
You all know how I love picture books, yes? You know how much I love the Museum for even existing, yes? So, I get excited to read about this every year. And what a line-up for 2014!
Congratulations to the following people (as categorized by the honor/award they’ll be receiving):
- Bridge (individuals who have found inspired ways to bring the art of the picture book to larger audiences through work in other fields) — Françoise Mouly, publisher and editorial director for TOON Books, comics for young children, and art editor of The New Yorker;
- Artist (lifelong innovation in the field) — Jerry Pinkney, Caldecott medalist and illustrator of over 100 children’s books;
- Angel (whose generous resources are crucial to making picture book art exhibitions, education programs, and related projects a reality) — Reach Out and Read, represented by Brian Gallagher and Dr. Perri Klass, tireless promoters of early literacy and school readiness, as exemplified through the Reach Out and Read program established in thousands of pediatric exam rooms nationwide;
- Mentor (editors, designers, and educators who champion the art form) — Henrietta Smith, influential children’s librarian, scholar, and author and leading advocate for quality and diversity in children’s literature.
Finally, what is happening in Nigeria is incredibly disturbing and belongs no where near anything remotely resembling the word “kicks,” but I do like this image that author-illustrator Micah Player created, and I urge you to share it. (It was created for sharing.) It seems almost futile in such horrific circumstances to merely share an image, but you know … it’s something.