7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #415: Featuring Steven Weinberg

h1 January 18th, 2015 by jules

Every now and then here at 7-Imp, I like to link back to this 2008 post I wrote with my friend and librarian extraordinaire (and current Caldecott committee member!) Adrienne Furness, and I always like to add books to our Straight Talk About the Food Chain bibliography. (There’s no actual bibliography — just one in my head.) Rex Finds an Egg! Egg! Egg!—the debut picture book from Steven Weinberg, who is visiting 7-Imp today—would be a great addition to the list. The book will be on shelves in late February from Margaret K. McElderry Books.

The story is of a very energetic young dinosaur, who thinks he’s found an egg. You can see his reaction pictured below. He runs for his life in the next moment, because a volcano has just exploded. Rather he does this: “Run. Run! RUN!” (The wonderfully spastic text is filled with a lot of these monosyllabic moments.) Rex takes his discovery and attempts to find a quiet spot, but there are many obstacles in his way: A cliff and other dinosaurs (including a pterodactyl). Look closely at his surroundings, and you’re likely to see another volcano, ready to blow up and out. (This is the Mesozoic Era after all. Things were probably very rarely quiet and soothing.)

After one particularly active explosion, his “egg” flies away. When it lands and doesn’t break, he discovers—thanks to another smaller dinosaur who’s been following his trail all the while—it’s really a rock. And then comes the kicker, the funny, rather twisted, and deliciously dark ending, which … well, I’M SORRY, but I can’t give it away if you want to read this for yourself. (This isn’t a review blog, so dems the breaks, and I don’t want to spoil your reading experience.) The key word above is “deliciously.” A dinosaur’s gotta eat.

This is a funny story, especially that ending. (Just when you think you’re reading yet one more picture book about a happily-ever-after friendship, Weinberg throws you a curve ball.) And Rex is a lovable protagonist (despite the ending). He isn’t the sharpest tool in the tool box, but he has an infectious and rambunctious energy. Weinberg’s lines are relaxed, and his palette is eye-opening, to say the least. “Using garish colors and a thick, red crayon for the scribbly linework,” the Kirkus review writes, “Weinberg crafts a mad cartoonist’s vision of a prehistoric setting that, seemingly on the verge of shaking apart at any moment, ratchets Rex’s flight into a giddy scramble.”

Steven is visiting this morning to talk about his work (in his own words) and share some art and preliminary images. I thank him for visiting (and I can’t wait to see what he does next)!

Steven in the studio
(Click to enlarge)


On Debuting a Picture Book …


It’s really exciting to think this book began somewhere on my many trips to the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, growing up in D.C. I loved staring up at the dinosaur skeletons and those murals where, magically, every living thing happens to be out at that exact same moment. Flash forward twenty-some years to me in my studio having the idea for Rex.



Through all the drafts of writing and drawing, I’ve had my agent Marcia Wernick (Wernick & Pratt), editor Ruta Rimas, and designer Lauren Rille at Margaret K. McElderry Books (Simon & Schuster) helping me shape it all. They’re an all-star team. So basically, having this as my debut picture book is kind of a blur. A really really really exciting blur.

“First first first sketch of opening spread …”
(Click to enlarge)


“First go at final art. [It] pretty much stayed the same all the way through.”
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“The kind of notes that editor Ruta and I made on the first dummy of the sketches.”
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“And at some point, months and months later, I made the final.”
(Click to enlarge)


On Other Work …


Up until now, I’ve been a real jack-of-all trades illustrator. For one reason or another, I’ve ended up doing a lot of work for bars: murals, posters for events, tee shirts, and even hand-painting their signs.

I moved up to the Catskills from Brooklyn just over a year ago with my wife, Casey Scieszka. We opened the Spruceton Inn [pictured below], a nine-room inn with a bar. Casey really runs all of that, day-to-day, while I work on new books and such. Though I have discovered I’m something of a carpenter! I built our bar and the booth in there, plus a whole lot of tables, all from reclaimed wood in our barn.

(Click to enlarge)


Since moving up here, I’ve also been doing a weekly (often animated) cartoon all about being a Brooklyn-artist-turned-Catskills-artist for the art site hyperallergic.com.



That’s been a really fun way to keep track of this crazy move and make sure I never stop drawing. Here’s my most recent one all about a recent trip to Montreal with some restauranteur friends.



And I’ve been watercolor-painting up a storm since moving to the mountains. I have great views right from my studio and will be showing a bunch of these down in NYC next month.

(Click to enlarge)


On Influences …


I really like cartoons. And still cannot get enough of The Simpsons and anything Looney Tunes. I love the dynamism of all that and love the challenge of getting picture books (which of course are inherently static) to feel like they have the same amount of energy.

I also lucked out, and my mom is a children’s librarian. So, growing up, I remember spending hours in libraries and then getting to take home as many picture books as I wanted. I loved eating up new books and also making my parents re-read and re-read books, like Judith Viorst’s Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. (I’m the middle kid, so there’s a lot to be terrible about.)



I also happen to have a pretty cool father-in-law: Jon Scieszka. He’s been a huge supporter of Rex from the get-go. My jaw is still kind of dropped from the first time I showed him a dummy of Rex, and he said “Dammit! I wish I’d thought of this!” He’s also a good check on making sure everything I do has the kind of manic energy I would have wanted as a kid.


On What’s Next …


I’m finishing up final art for my next book with Simon & Schuster, called You Must Be This Tall. It’s the classic story of two snakes who want to ride a roller coaster, but one of them isn’t tall enough. As someone who grew up as a younger brother, it’s a concept near and dear to my heart. That one will come out next Spring, and then they have me for another one after that too.


Rex is officially out on February 24th, and I’m just really excited to get out and start doing events for it from then on. It’s really fun to write and draw books in my studio — but even more fun to read the final product with kids. I’m also really pretty good at drawing dinosaurs, so I kind of can’t wait to just go to schools and see how long I can just draw dinos on command.

You can follow me on Twitter and Instagram as @Steven_Draws. And most everything else is on my site at StevenWeinbergStudio.com.

Here are more images from Rex:

“First go at the underwater spread. Thought it could be best at two moments.”
(Click to enlarge)


“Then, realizing it could be a great moment to slow things down and show off the underwater world, I re-did it as one spread. (Not shown: time spent watching underwater dinosaur documentaries on YouTube
and sketching these insane looking guys from that.)”

(Click to enlarge)


“The final ….”
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“First go [of pterodactyl spread].
Have action going right to left, which is a little counterintuitive.”

(Click to enlarge)


“The final. (Changed the orientation and made the pterodactyl bigger and
more dramatic. Just more fun fun fun.)”

(Click to enlarge)


REX FINDS AN EGG! EGG! EGG! Copyright © 2015 by Steven Weinberg. Margaret K. McElderry Books, New York. All images here are reproduced by permission of Steven Weinberg.

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) Well, this is very funny.

2) Last week, I wrote that I had submitted an essay I hoped would be well-received. It was well-received! Whew.

3) A weekend (this one) with no big plans and pretty much no busy-ness.

4) I’ll be speaking at this event at the Nashville Public Library (but hosted by Parnassus Books) this week. I’m looking forward to it.

5) Oh, and I’ll be doing a Twitter chat about Caldecott contenders on Tuesday, January 27, at 7:30pm with the librarians at Metro Nashville Public Schools. I’m excited about that too, because as I’ve said before here at 7-Imp, school librarians are my jam.

6) A surprise copy of Uptown Special sitting on my desk on Monday morning. “Don’t believe me just watch.” (Here’s where I’d post a video of me, I dunno, dancing or something, but I don’t have the smooth moves for that great song. I just sort of balter when it comes on.)

7) These words of wisdom. (Just say no to small talk.)


What are YOUR kicks this week?

8 comments to “7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #415: Featuring Steven Weinberg”

  1. Oh… I’m excited to ‘meet’ Rex. He looks super fun!

    Jules- So glad that your essay was well received! Can’t wait till we can all read it!

    So here goes- my kicks for the week…

    1. Our roads are a sheet of ice this morning so we are all housebound. Perfect Sunday morning although fingers crossed that everyone stays safe!
    2. My mother in law had successful shoulder replacement surgery on Friday.
    3. I think my middle schooler is finally settling in to the new ‘social scene.’ I think…
    4. My hubby is making chicken parmesan for dinner tonight.
    5. Watching American Idol with the girls.
    6. Local macintosh apples still seem to be good.
    7. Reading a good book- The Magician’s LIe. I haven’t liked a lot of book endings lately so not ready to say I love it but so far, so good.

    Hope you are all having a great weekend!

  2. Hi Imps,
    Fly by…Am at a revision writing retreat. Thanks, Steve for bringing us Rex. Love to all you imps.

  3. Good morning, Steven, Rex, and Imps!

    You Must Be This Tall sounds funny, too. I am not that tall, so I find that sort of thing amusing.

    Jules: Congrats on your essay and your forthcoming appearances!

    Stacey: Sending healing thoughts to your mother–in-law.

    Jone: Have fun at the writing retreat!

    My kicks for the past week:
    1) Show
    2) Audition
    3) Preparation
    4) Bagels
    5) Cats
    6) Walking
    7) Movement

  4. Stacey, did you see SNL, by chance, last night? There was a great skit with Kevin Hart playing James Brown and some chicken parm. (You know how James Brown would call out his band members and ask them things like, “are you ready to dance?” or whatever. Well, he was taking lunch orders instead. “You want a chicken parm with mayo?” It was funny.) … Anyway, glad you have a quiet Sunday. I made tiny plans for today, and tomorrow my girls will probably spend the day off with my mother-in-law, since they don’t go to school, and my 9-year-old was just saying that she was looking forward to a weekend with NO plans. I SWEAR. They are such homebodies. …. I’ll have to look into The Magician’s Lie. … Enjoy your iced-in day!

    Hi, Jone! Have fun revising.

    Little Willow: So proud of your accomplishments lately — on stage (though I wish I could see it in person) and with your writing. Woot!

  5. Oh boy! I can’t wait wait wait for this book! Thanks for sharing all this information with us Steven.
    Jules: Glad your finished essay was well received. That Twitter chat should be fun.
    Stacey: Enjoy your ice bound day of reading!
    Jone: Continue to have fun at your retreat Jone.
    Little Willow: Bagels; warm bagels with cream cheese sound delightful to me right now

    My kicks:
    1. Unexpected book treats in the mail
    2. New books at the library
    3. Sunshine
    4. Warm fires
    5. Peppermint Patty Ice Cream Bars
    6. Walks with Xena
    7. Walks with Xena

    Have a wonderful week everyone.

  6. Such great energy in the illustrations! Can’t wait to see Rex!

    Jules – congrats on the essay, that link #1 was very funny! Have a wonderful relaxing weekend.

    Stacey – healing thoughts for your MIL, enjoy that chicken parm, and hope y’all stay warm and cozy.

    Hi Jone! – enjoy the writing retreat!

    LW – you are busy as ever, hope that cats and the walks are nice breaks for you.

    Margie – surprise book treats, sunshine, warm fires and walks with Xena – you had a good week!

    My quick kicks:
    1) I am a West Wing nerd, so this: http://www.buzzfeed.com/ellievhall/the-west-wing-cast-reunited-for-a-video-about-the-white-hous#.etezp7nn4
    2) Work dinner Friday night – great people, great fun.
    3) Connections that knock you off center and make you see the world with fresh eyes.
    4) A good friend got sad news, but the buried kick is how a network of friends can come together to help out in an emergency.
    5) Lunch and catch-up with a former professor, now friend – and there were oysters!
    6) Busy and good week of work.
    7) Daisy got a bath, and is now super soft, cuddly, and smells good.

    Sending wishes for a week full of love and hugs!

  7. Margie: Your kicks about books reminds me to ask: Are you going to Midwinter? I’m not, but if you are, I can live vicariously through you.

    Rachel: Ooh, kick #3 is intense. But good. We all gotta see the world with fresh eyes every now and then (I say on Sunday, which is my worst ennui day …. I guess ’cause it’s so close to Monday??)

    Have a good week, all!

  8. I am not going to Midwinter Jules. My travel is pretty limited now with caring for Xena. We will be living vicariously through others together. ☺

    I like seeing the world through fresh eyes Rachel.

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