7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #391: Featuring Barbara McClintock

h1 July 20th, 2014 by jules

Author-illustrator Barbara McClintock is here today to talk about creating the artwork for Beverly Donofrio’s Where’s Mommy?, released in March by Schwartz & Wade, which Kirkus calls “irresistible.” This is a companion book to Mary and the Mouse, the Mouse and Mary, released back in ’07. Those of you familiar with the first title will know that Maria is Mary’s daughter, and Mouse Mouse is Mouse’s daughter. In this new book, Maria and Mouse Mouse are (separately) looking for their mothers, their experiences and goings-on fully parallel, as McClintock gives us a peek into each one’s home and surroundings.

Soon, Barbara will also see the release of another 2014 illustrated title, Jim Aylesworth’s My Grandfather’s Coat (Scholastic), which has already received two starred reviews. (Barbara also discusses below some other new projects. Fans of Adèle & Simon will be happy.) I haven’t seen My Grandfather’s Coat yet, but maybe she can come back to talk about it, especially since she’s also interested in talking further about the March Leave Your Sleep exhibit at the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, as well as the Leave Your Sleep Carnegie Hall concert (back in April), which had, in Barbara’s words, “images from the book projected big as a barn behind the stage. Maybe [we can have] a discussion about ways picture books extend beyond their printed avatars.” (If you’re not familiar with Leave Your Sleep—with Natalie Merchant—you can visit this 2012 7-Imp post.)

I’d love to discuss those things, but for now, let’s look at Where’s Mommy?

I thank Barbara for sharing …

Barbara: Hi there, Jules! Great to be back at 7-Imp!

Thanks for inviting me to talk about Where’s Mommy? I had the great pleasure of working with Lee Wade, Rachael Cole, Stephanie Pitts, and Anne Schwartz again for round two of the mouse/girl adventure.

Where’s Mommy? is a definite nod to The Borrowers by Mary Norton. The Borrowers was one of my favorite books when I was growing up. I wished with all my might when I was little that I’d had my very own tiny family living under my bedroom floor, going about their life with furnishings poached from forgotten small stuff under the couch or lost in the back corner of cluttered kitchen drawers.

Beth and Joe Krush’s fluid black and white illustrations for The Borrowers were—and still are—enthralling. The Krushes really had their drawing chops down. Their loose, sketchy illustration style jumps out of a solid background in highly-skilled, realistic drawings. Love it!

The secret friendship, the risk of discovery, the parallel worlds — it’s all there in Where’s Mommy? with whiskers and tails added. I had a lot of fun thinking of all the modern household debris that would make perfect furnishings for a comfy contemporary mouse house. Just imagine what little midnight visitors to a recycling bin would find, making good use out of plastic berry containers and caps and bottles and used-up toothpaste tubes. And I now know where my missing set of ear buds might be.

Where’s Mommy? is a step away from my usual style. I was excited about mixing up the visual pacing by using very simple, minimal images along with those complex drawings that invite hunting for details. I relied on watercolor more than cross-hatch to get effects like that light-glowing-through-clear-plastic thing goin’ on in Mouse Mouse’s kitchen. The word balloons hearken back to my girlhood obsession with drawing comics, and I am over-the-moon thrilled with Chris Costello’s gorgeous hand lettering in the balloons throughout the book and on the front cover.

(Click to enlarge)

There was a vibrant conversation between Lee, Rachael, Anne and me about the dummy and elements in the sketches and finished art. We were definitely a team finding our way to making the book as engaging, energetic, and fun as possible.

“Sketches taped up on my studio wall”
(Click to enlarge)

I began the art for Where’s Mommy? right after I finished art for Leave Your Sleep, the last book I worked on to completion with my beloved editor Frances Foster. I’m so very lucky to have known Frances and worked with her on five and a half books. She was universally loved by her authors, illustrators, and anyone who worked with her. She was intensely involved with every aspect of my creative process, always available, always there for me. I’d send Frances an email at 11:30 at night and get an email back 15 minutes later. Her husband Tony referred to her weekends as “work ends.”

To have had such access to her inventive, brilliant mind was a a rare and precious gift. I still feel a deep sense of grief and loss, even feeling lost, but she was ready to take flight and leave all of us with her legacy and the memory of her elegance, wit, and genius.

Sketches and final art:
“If Maria’s parents knew there were mice in the house, they’d get a cat.”

(Click each to enlarge)


Sketches and final art:
“Have you seen Mom?”

(Click each to enlarge)

I’m working on finished art for Adèle & Simon in China at the moment. This was the last project Frances and I worked on together; we’d gotten to the sketch stage. Simon Boughton is my new editor on this book. He’s enthusiastically cheering me on with the book and is also being amazingly sensitive to honoring Frances’ vision and work on this book. I can’t imagine how tricky that must be, and I admire his tact and am grateful for his belief in my work. The book is really in place, but I admit to missing hearing Frances’ voice and reading her emails as I’m drawing crowded market streets in Hong Kong or coloring a scene of the desert near Dunhuang. My partner David Johnson encourages me to “channel my inner Frances” — not quite the same as actually being in contact with her, but it is a comfort nonetheless.

Sketches and final art:
“Where’s Mom?”

(Click each to enlarge)


Sketches and final art:
“Guess who!”

(Click each to enlarge)

Adèle & Simon in China, by the way, is looking FABULOUS! My son Larson DiFiori is getting his PhD in Chinese philosophy and ancient Chinese language studies at Brown and has been at my elbow as my go-to guy to answer questions — or put me in touch with people who can answer questions about China that come up as I’m working on the book. Plus he and David pop into my studio from time to time wearing funny hats and make me laugh. What could be better than that?

“Hey, what’s this? It’s my son Larson, wearing a klondike hat in my studio!
He just popped in while I was working to offer some comic relief.”

AND … there’s more! I’m also working on Emma and Julia Love Ballet with the wonderful, dear Dianne Hess at Scholastic Press. Emma and Julia shows a day in the life of Emma, a young girl who dreams of being a ballet dancer, and Julia, a professional ballet dancer. They both have breakfast, go to lessons, and are ultimately at the same evening dance performance — Emma in the audience and Julia on stage. They meet back stage after the performance, Emma with her dreams of the future and Julia with encouragement and the memory of her early dreams. I wrote the book thinking of my sister who loved ballet as a girl. I’m having a blast drawing and photographing dancers at a local ballet school, as well as drawing and inking the final artwork. Dianne, like Frances, is that rare breed of marvelous editors who is always there, always supportive and caring. This will be our ninth book together. Holy Cow, time flies!

My Grandfather’s Coat, written by Jim Aylesworth and edited by Dianne Hess for Scholastic Press, comes out this fall. Stay tuned!

Here’s a promiscuous hodge-podge of work-in-progress/process pics [from Where’s Mommy?]:

“Working on spread of family at beginning of book. Why not have a Goya poster on the wall? I was fascinated by this painting as a child, and if I stop to think about it now,
it’s a little weird and scary. So I don’t stop to think about it!”


“Studio chaos!”


“Inked 1st page spread”




“Cover idea”



“Finding the perfect Maria-yelling-‘Mommy!’-head”


“Various failed attempts to get the right inked drawing of Maria yelling”


“At last — got the inked Maria head and everything else down!”




“One of many dummies/revised dummies”


“Another dummy”


“Three little dummies”


“Early napkin sketch of mouse household objects”


“Things for Maria’s room”


“Cut-out, reassembled drawings for cover”


“Early sketchbook drawings”


“The end result”


WHERE’S MOMMY? Copyright © 2014 by Beverly Donofrio. Illustrations © 2014 by Barbara McClintock. Published by Schwartz & Wade Books, New York. All images here reproduced by permission of Barbara McClintock.

* * * * * * *

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 * * *

My kicks one through seven this week will be that I saw Hurray for the Riff Raff live in Nashville a second time this year. They always put on a highly entertaining show.

And it always makes me happy to see Barbara’s artwork. (And this recent Wild Things! post reminded me that I wanted to share some of her artwork here.)

It’s not that I didn’t have other kicks this week, but as usual, I’m typing past midnight (I’m a hopeless night owl), so I think I’ll hang it up for now.

But do tell: What are YOUR kicks this week?

10 comments to “7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #391: Featuring Barbara McClintock”

  1. Hello, Beverly! Hello, Imps! Look forward to reading everyone’s kick lists.

    1) Improvement
    2) Clarity
    3) Ranting
    4) Cleaning
    5) Clearing
    6) Book donation
    7) The right thing to do

  2. I love the behind the scenes of Beverly’s artwork. Thank you for that.
    Jules, will have the read the Wild Things post. Love the posts.
    LW: cleaning and clearing…makes you feel good, doesn’t it?
    My kicks:
    1. Sending off packages.
    2. Time with grandgirl.
    3. Grandgirl’s drama camp showcase. Sang songs from Disney movies in a hero and villain story line.
    4. Time with daughter.
    5. Books.
    6. Friends.
    7. Preparing for surgery. (Tomorrow on left rotator cuff).
    Have a great week.

  3. Jone: Sending you healthy, healing thoughts. Give your granddaughter a high five from me.

  4. Seven kicks right here in your post!
    1. Learning abut “Where’s Mommy?” which looks wonderful.
    2.Going back to your earlier post about McClintock.
    3. The studio shots with all that great work going on.
    4. the sketches of Maria shouting “mom!”
    5. all these preliminary sketches showing so much detail
    6. Dummies, too.
    7.Finals, of course.
    Thank you both!

  5. Wow, loved seeing the whole process this week, the early sketches, the inspirations, the studio visitors and the final work. And Barbara McClintock totally captures the warmth and detail of The Borrowers!

    Jules – so glad you had more concert fun!

    LW -cleaning and clearing are going on in my world too – little bit of synchronicity.

    Jone – sending you good wishes for surgery!

    My quick kicks:
    1) Painting & setting up the home office.
    2) A “summer cleaning” in the whole house that is still ongoing.
    3) Saw Typhoon 2 weeks ago – they were great!
    4) Saw Amos Lee in concert at the zoo this past Thursday & he was amazing!
    5) Softball team is on a winning streak!
    6) Garden is really producing zucchini & tomatoes are on their way.
    7) Having a beer with a visiting friend last night – always good to catch up with the people you don’t get to see regularly.

    Wishing everyone a happy, sunshine and music filled week!

  6. Hey gang!
    Just stopping by after a fun but exhausting couple of weeks. I was in Portland, OR for ICON and then came home to work and family and baseball tournaments.
    Here’s a link to my flickr album from my trip https://flickr.com/photos/10898160@N04/sets/72157645747968963
    And here’s a link to a video of a wall mural workshop I was a part of with some super nice and super talented illustrators http://youtu.be/DM_OEydRonU
    Sadly Jone and I did not meet up but I did get to Powells.
    PS. I love any story with a Maria.
    I’m gonna go crash now.

  7. Little Willow: Clarity. Oh-so good.

    Jone, best of luck with the surgery. I’ll be thinking of you!

    Oh, good, Katy. Glad you enjoyed the post!

    Rachel, you saw Typhoon? I’ve heard them. I like them. I’m jealous. Was it a great show? … Sounds like you had a good week.

    So glad you had fun, Moira! YAY! I shall look at your photos tomorrow.

    Have a good week, all.

  8. Completely charmed! Thank you for sharing. Also enjoyed Ms. McClintock’s website.
    Enjoyed catching up on other Kickers – glad to know everyone is doing well.
    Hope Jone’s surgery went well. Rotator cuffs – painful!
    No real kicks this week – too bogged down by jet lag and complications with our Tiny’s adoption.
    See you all next week!

  9. Allison, I’m sorry to hear about adoption complications. Hope this week is better.

  10. I love Barbara’s work and it’s such a treat to see a bit of her process unfold here. Thanks Jules and Barbara for putting this together.

Leave a Comment

Should you have trouble posting, please contact sevenimp_blaine@blaine.org. Thanks.