7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #386: Featuring Brian Floca

h1 June 15th, 2014 by jules

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“The seal’s coat was silvery brown. She was eight feet long—as long as a long surfboard—and she weighed twelve hundred pounds — as much as fifteen Labrador retrievers. The people of Christchurch knew there was something very special about her. She was strong and powerful and regal — like Elizabeth, the Queen of England. And so they named her, Elizabeth, Queen of the Seas.”
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Good morning, all. First up, it’s Father’s Day, so happy Father’s Day to you dad-readers out there. And happy Father’s Day to all the father figures in our lives. (It just so happens that I wrote here on Friday about some great picture books about fathers — and even some grandfathers can be spotted in some of those pages.)

This morning, Caldecott medalist Brian Floca is sharing some sketches from his latest illustrated book, Lynne Cox’s Elizabeth, Queen of the Seas (Schwartz & Wade, May 2014), and I’ve got some art from the book as well. And, since Atheneum Books for Young Readers just re-issued (in early June) Brian’s Five Trucks (pictured left), originally released back in 1999 by DK Publishing, I’ve got some art from that as well. And Brian has some early sketches from that book to share, too.

Lynne’s Elizabeth, Queen of the Seas opens with an Author’s Note about how Lynne once traveled to New Zealand (she is a world-renowned long-distance swimmer and writer and headed there to swim some lakes near Mount Cook), and it was there that she met a boy named Michael, standing along the Avon River near the city of Christchurch, who asked her if she was looking for Elizabeth. When she asked who it was that they meant, the boy explained that Elizabeth was an elephant seal, and both the boy and his sister told Lynne the story of the “Queen of the Seas.”

That story is the tale of this sunny picture book: Elizabeth lived not on the beach in New Zealand, but in the shallow waters of the Avon River in the city. The townsfolk named her after the Queen of England, and a young boy (named Michael, of course!) would frequently look for her and call out her name. Often, she’d manage to hoist herself up onto the road in town, Lynne writes, which caused great consternation for residents, as she’d already caused a traffic mishap or two. Volunteers decided to haul her out to the beach, where she belonged. Eventually, she returned, only to be taken back to the shore yet again by a boat crew. Yet she made the long journey back, once again, to the Avon River.

Floca’s palette, as you can see below after the sketches (as well as above), consists of warm greens, blues, and yellows, and Lynne’s storytelling is just as bright — it’s an entertaining story (and even closes with “Some Facts About Southern Elephant Seals Like Elizabeth”). It’s a loving story of community, and it’s also funny: As Sarah Harrison Smith wrote at the New York Times, “there’s something inherently funny in seeing commuters gawp and swerve around the huge, regal mammal.”

Five Trucks is, essentially, an informational book for children (calling all those children, boys and girls alike, who obsess over things that go vroom!) that describes the five airport vehicles typically seen on runways. Floca brings readers a diverse crew of men and women who work the trucks, and the spare, simple text makes this one a great beginning reader: “Floca offers a book that’s simple enough for a two-year-old (prime age for the young truck enthusiast), without being boring or simple-minded,” wrote Booklist.

Below are sketches and some final art from each book. Enjoy …


Some sketches from Elizabeth, Queen of the Seas:



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Various “welcome home” sketches
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Endpaper ideas
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Some final art from Elizabeth, Queen of the Seas:


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Some sketches from Five Trucks:


Brian: “A sketchbook drawing of airport trucks, done when I got to Logan too early
for a flight in 1996 (!) and the genesis of the book.”

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Brian: “Some photos of airport workings that I took when I got onto the tarmac at Logan to get some reference for the drawings. (In 1996, all you had to do to get on the tarmac with a camera and questions was find the right person,
explain your intentions, and ask.)”


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Brian: “A sketch showing the fuel truck, [which didn’t make] the cut (too few pages) …”
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Sketches from an early draft of the book
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Brian: “A sketch for the new cover …”
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Some final art from Five Trucks:


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ELIZABETH, QUEEN OF THE SEAS. Copyright © 2014 by Lynne Cox. Illustrations copyright © 2014 by Brian Floca. Published by Schwartz & Wade Books, New York. Illustrations reproduced by permission of the publisher, and all sketches reproduced by permission of Brian Floca.

FIVE TRUCKS. Copyright © 1999 by Brian Floca. 2014 edition published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers, New York. Illustrations reproduced by permission of the publisher, and all sketches reproduced by permission of Brian Floca.

* * * * * * *

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) Right here, author David Sedaris says the following about bookstores:

Maybe I’m out of touch, but I’d rather go to an actual shop — preferably a small one — than to a harshly lit superstore, or, worse still, a website. I don’t want to buy my books and my toilet paper and my clothing all under the same roof. I want beauty in my life. I want charm. I want contact with actual people. It is, for me, a large part of what makes life worth living.

2) This:


Oh, the great WHIMSY. But I fall for it very hard, especially those lyrics.

3) Thus far, it’s been an absolute pleasure to read this prose outloud to my daughters, and we’re getting to the juicy-good parts:

4) Ditto for this. (We’re reading about four novels at once right now. Probably a bad habit.) This isn’t new, and it took us a while to get to it, but heavens, it is fun to read aloud:

This made me laugh, especially since Eisha always says my middle name is Hyperbole. It comes right after a pretty annoying adult excessively flatters the Incorrigibles at a party (with regard to their appearance):

As you may know, complimentary remarks of this type are all too often made by well-meaning adults to children who are, to be frank, perfectly ordinary-looking. This practice of overstating the case is called hyperbole. Hyperbole is usually harmless, but in some cases it has been known to precipitate unnecessary wars as well as a painful gaseous condition called stock market bubbles. For safety’s sake, then, hyperbole should be used with restraint and only by those with the proper literary training.

5) We’re watching season two of Orange Is the New Black. I thought season one was good, but season two … well, it’s remarkable. I am struck at each episode by all that Jenji Kohan gets away with. (This is a good thing.) And I am struck by how she has made so popular a show that tells the stories of underprivileged, incarcerated women, who are black, white, and about every other shade in between — and she pulls this off in a culture that seems most of the time to value young, white, middle- to upper-class, size-two women.

6) Oh, and I’m reading this right now. More on this book soon, but it’s definitely a kick:

7) I’m sorry if I sound like Annoying Braggy Parent here, but I love love love the simple design here of my ten-year-old’s ninja cat:

BONUS (and best kick) for Father’s Day: My husband. My girls are very lucky to have him for a father.

What are YOUR kicks this week?

13 comments to “7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #386: Featuring Brian Floca”

  1. Good Morning Imps!
    Great to see Brian’s pictures here today. I especially like the way he handles the water Elizabeth is swimming in. And the comment about a book idea starting in 1996 gives some insight into the slow turning wheels of the publishing world.
    Jules – I have a black belt in hyberbole but it’s probably for the best that I don’t work in finance.
    We’re watching OITNB too. I think season 2 is better as well. To be fair, it probably would never have been made if the protagonist wasn’t a white, upper middle class, size 2 “beauty”. She is Jenji Kohan’s foot in the door to tell the “other” great stories.
    1. I got an illustration into the ICON (Illustration Conference) gallery show at the Land Gallery in Portland, Oregon! I’m already pretty excited to go, now even more so.
    2. Youth Baseball season ended with a couple of great playoff games. I’m glad my son got to be on a team with such a nice group of kids.
    3. Warm days
    4. Rainy days
    5. My wonderful husband who is out to breakfast with the kids right now.
    6. My wonderful father that taught me not to boast, so I’ll leave it at that.
    7. All the love I got when I posted good news on Facebook.

    Have a Super, Awesome, Fantastic, Grand Week!!!

  2. Hello everyone!
    Thanks, Jules, for sharing all of Brian’s art today. I can hardly wait to get my copy of Elizabeth Queen of the Seas. I know exactly what you mean about The Mysterious Howling; it takes awhile to get used to the language and rhythm of the events but once you do..wow! I have the Hansel & Gretel book on order. I think the Ninja Cat is super!
    Moira: You can’t beat warm days and rain. We desperately need it here.

    My kicks:
    1. Snow capped mountains
    2. Painted Canyon in North Dakota
    3. Courage
    4. Knowing your limits
    5. Sunday afternoon naps
    6. Sharing an adventure with Xena
    7. Walking with Xena

  3. Hi there. Love the work of Brian Floca. I think my great nephew would love Five Trucks.
    Jules, love all your kicks especially the one about reading The Incorrigible Children. I thought that was a great book.
    Moira, congrats on getting an illustration I to the ICON exhibit.
    My kicks, 1-7: being in SoCal to see my brother graduate from the Southern California Health Institute. He’s reinventing himself after 30 years in the space industry. It’s an all family weekend.
    Have a great week.

  4. Moira: Yes. That’s true about the character of Piper Chapman. In fact, Jenji did a Fresh Air interview where she says this — that the character was her “Trojan horse,” a way to sell the show in order to tell the stories of all the other women. You gotta hand it to her for that. That’s a clever way to go about it, given how Hollywood can be. …. And I’m so excited for your ICON score! SO, SO happy for you!

    Hi, Margie. Ninja Cat loves you back. Looking forward to reading your thoughts on Gaiman’s book.

    Jone: Congrats to your brother! Enjoy your trip, too.

  5. p.s. If anyone is interested, that song in my kicks comes from this children’s CD (or at least “family-friendly,” as they describe it). I see a purchase in my future: http://waltermartinmusic.com/. (My checkbook cries at me.)

  6. And I see the CD cover and insert were illustrated by Marcellus Hall (http://www.marcellushall.com/). It just gets better.

  7. Good morning, Imps! Happy Sunday to all, and happy holiday to all of the parents out there.

    Hello, Brian. I love the smile on Elizabeth’s face.

    Jules: Kudos to real bookstores everywhere, and yay for Whimsy. Hello to your girls, to the Ninja Cat, to the real cats, and to Nutsawoo!

    Moira, Moira! CONGRATULATIONS!!! I hope that the show is amazing. I’m so glad that you get to attend! So excited for you.

    Margie: I’ve never seen snow in person. True story.

    Jone: Congratulations to your brother.

    My week has been so full and memorable. Kicking it up in semi-chronological order:
    * My words and works were performed internationally – a myriad of pieces and genres, at unrelated festivals and venues – just so happened to be in the same week!
    * I booked and shot two very different projects, a comedy and a tragedy
    * Good stories
    * The unexpected(ly good)
    * Trusting
    * Being fearless
    * All the things

  8. Little Willow, your first kick is making me misty-eyed, FOR REAL. That is SO COOL. Congrats!

  9. Thanks, Jules!

  10. What a great story – I love the color palette too.

    Jules – that ninja cat is very cool. Will check out the music later this week.

    Moira – Congrats! I will try to go see the exhibit here in pdx.

    Margie – naps and walks with Xena, so nice.

    Jone – congrats to your brother, hope its been a great weekend.

    LW – Congrats on all the performances of your work! That is so awesome!

    My flyby kick – the 2 feral kitties I rescued are getting way more acclimated to people, so shouldn’t be a problem to find them homes. Jules, I am going to email you a video of kittens for your girls – they are funny.

    Have a great week all!

  11. Ooh, I’ll look for the email in a little bit. Thanks, Rachel!

  12. What a delightful surprise to see Elizabeth today! I have fond memories of her from my childhood when I would spend each car trip to my aunt and uncle’s house looking for Elizabeth along the banks of the river. The illustrations are just beautiful and instantly transported me back to those summer days.

  13. Ooh, Melissa. Neat. Do you still live in that area?

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