7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #629: Featuring Aaron Becker

h1 March 10th, 2019 by jules


At Kirkus several weeks ago, I wrote about a small handful of new board books I love, and one of them was Aaron Becker’s You Are Light (Candlewick). It will be on shelves at the end of this month. Here is that Kirkus column, if you’d like to read more about the book.

Today, Aaron visits to talk a bit about creating this book and to share some process images (as well as a bit of final art). I thank him for sharing.


Aaron: The book began as a physical mock-up. One x-acto blade cut at at time.



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Initially, the plan was to have the entire book made up of die-cuts, including the symbols in the middle. Candlewick tried their best to replicate my dummy as a mass-produced object, but there were a number of issues: durability, cost, even passing regulations for safety with the sharp edges of the shapes. Eventually, we settled on just using the ring of circles for the translucency and doing some watercolor for the symbols in the center, based on the shapes of the initial cuts.



(Click each above to enlarge)


I worked with Maryellen Hanley, my designer at Candlewick, to pick out the material we’d use for the translucent color. We settled on frosted acetate, which is sturdier than standard acetate, doesn’t take fingerprints, and gave a nice stained-glass feel to the book.


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Once we had the swatches picked out, I couldn’t help but put them together and see how they would work in tandem. The colors got richer and richer as they mixed together, and there’s nothing quite like looking at them through sunlight.



After two years of wrangling the production difficulties of the book, we finally had one to hold. I’m so thrilled how it turned out and am so grateful for my editor, Mary Lee, for believing in this crazy idea and championing it through at Candlewick.



The book is for all ages; the poem within is deceptively simple but can be interpreted many different ways, depending on how much you want to delve. I was curious about the relationship between light and life. The process of photosynthesis itself is just unbelievable; it’s literally the transformation of non-material sunlight into simple sugars. Which we eat. Which becomes us. So, literally, we are light-made material. That idea just blows my mind!


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You could also look at the book more spiritually as well. Actually, the very idea of the overlapping colors came to me while at a meditation retreat. I was walking back and forth in this great hall, trying to pay attention to my breath, when I found myself staring at the stained glass on either side of the hall. Maybe if I was truly meditating, I wouldn’t have thought of this book, but luckily, my mind was wandering and I came home and started cutting paper right away! The rest is history.


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A final spread from the book
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A final spread from the book (not in front of a window)
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A final spread from the book (not in front of a window)
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YOU ARE LIGHT. Copyright © 2019 by Aaron Becker. Illustrations reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA. All other images reproduced by permission of Aaron Becker.

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) Every time I see this book, I start humming Sam Phillips’ “Different Shades of Light”:

2) We are celebrating my oldest daughter’s birthday this week. Fifteen years old! She learns to drive this year. WHUT.

3) Friday night, I got to have a conversation at Parnassus Books with author Julie Berry about her spectacular new novel, Lovely War. She played the piano for us all! She even played a ragtime version of Beethoven’s Pathétique sonata.

4) The next day, I visited the Southeastern Young Adult Book Festival (SE-YA), very near to where I live (I didn’t have to drive into Nashville for once, though I’m always happy to), and heard a lot of talented authors speak.

5) At this festival, I got to meet author Ronald L. Smith, whom I interviewed at Kirkus back in 2015 when his debut novel, Hoodoo, was released (which eventually won him the John Steptoe New Talent Award). And he autographed my copy of this book with “my bones are shakin’.” This makes me happy, because I read this novel out loud to my daughters when it was first released, and we would laugh every time the protagonist would say something like “I was so scared my bones were shaking in my pants” (because it’s a wonderfully creepy supernatural Southern Gothic kind of plot) AND we even wrote an impromptu blues song (called — what else? — “My Bones Are Shakin’ in My Pants”), which we still sing pretty much ALL THE TIME in the Danielson household.

6) New album from Patty Griffin, whose music has meant a lot to me over multiple decades.

7) And J.S. Ondara’s new album is so good.



What are YOUR kicks this week?

7 comments to “7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #629: Featuring Aaron Becker”

  1. Good morning, Imps!

    Hi Aaron! Love the colors and the shapes and the light.

    Jules: Happy birthday to her! There’s no WAY she’s turning 15. I love that the novel inspired a silly song in your household. I like the strings in Different Shades of Light – Thanks for sharing!

    My kicks for the past week:
    1) Selected!
    2) Goose, the cat in Captain Marvel! She’s important to the story, and she’s adorable.
    3) Calendar
    4) Treats
    5) Count
    6) Steps
    7) Completed to-do lists

  2. What an absolutely gorgeous book. Just preordered copies for me and my nephews.

    Jules – I cannot believe your oldest is 15!! How did that happen so fast? Really want to hear the “My Bones are shaking” song. I love getting to live vicariously through you and all the cool panels you get to go to/moderate/participate in – this week sounds like it was a great one!

    LW – Love all your kicks, especially Kick 1!!!

    My kicks this week:
    1) Had a case resolve with a DA shaking my client’s hand and telling them “I’m proud of you.” That doesn’t happen very often and it was pretty great. I’m proud of client too.
    2) Several days of sunshine!
    3) Idris Elba on SNL
    4) This quote about Mary Elizabeth Lease, a woman described in 1900 as “a harridan in the eyes of her enemies, a goddess to her friends.”
    5) A Twitter thread by Rachel Syme recommending lots of biographies of glamorous women. I’ve bookmarked it to go back to.
    6) Reading “Courting Darkness” by Robin LaFevers
    7) Gave Daisy a big bone to enjoy out in the sunshine today, she was super happy about it, and enjoyed it for a bit, but when I went to check on her an hour later she had buried for later and we cannot find where she buried it! (She does that, buries her bones then forgets where she put them.)
    7.5) Going to see Captain Marvel later today!

    Have a great week Imps!

  3. LOVELY book – really! Enchanting. Great kicks.
    Mine: 1-7 survived a week with the 2 littles home in bed with colds and a flu virus. They are better.
    Happy Week!

  4. Alison – glad the littles are feeling better!

    LW – I loved Goose! And the whole movie. Perfect movie for Women’s History Month.

  5. Little Willow, congrats on selection. Since it ends in an exclamation mark, I assume it’s a good thing.

    Rachel: LOOOOVE that first kick. Also, yes to Idris on SNL. The PowerPoint skit cracked us UP. Corn bread. … I had to look up “harridan” but was happy to learn a new word.

    Allison: So glad everyone is feeling better. I hope you stay healthy too.

    Have a good week, you all!

  6. Aaron’s new book reminds of the beautiful chapel that Ellsworth Kelly did in Austin: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/08/t-magazine/ellsworth-kelly-austin-last-work.htmlhttps://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/08/t-magazine/ellsworth-kelly-austin-last-work.html

  7. Rob! Hi! That link doesn’t seem to be working. Can you re-type? In the meantime, I’ll try to use my library science degree to find it on the Web myself.

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