7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #724: Featuring Stephen T. Johnson
and Romana Romanyshyn & Andriy Lesiv

h1 January 3rd, 2021 by jules

— From Romana Romanyshyn and Andriy Lesiv’s Sound: Shhh … Bang … POP … BOOM!


— From Stephen T. Johnson’s Music Is …


Who’s up for exploring the world of sound with me today? I’ve got two 2020 picture books here — Stephen T. Johnson’s Music Is … (Paula Wiseman Books/Simon & Schuster, October 2020) and Romana Romanyshyn’s and Andriy Lesiv’s Sound: Shhh … Bang … Pop … BOOM! (Handprint, October 2020). The latter was originally published in Ukraine and is translated by Vitaly Chernetsky.

Music Is … is an accordion-fold book that presents musical genres – from classical to pop with a variety of musical styles in between. Johnson (1996 Caldecott Honoree) boldly defines, in one sentence, each genre on full-bleed spreads that depict dynamic, vividly colored illustrations of instruments for making music (a turntable for the hip-hop spread) and symbolic images (a red barn on the country spread): “Latin is … a kalediscope of passion and emotions that can heat the floor under your feet and expand your mind with color.” Under the genre’s definition is a tune of sorts, some with lyrics and many of them onomatopoeic by nature — some “MOO-CHA” and “ZUM-BA”s for Latin; “Flip-flop, be-bop, dunk-fizz, plunk-quiz” for jazz; and “Pee-a-knee-see, see-see-me-o” for classical. There is a bright orange line that runs throughout the spreads featuring the genres, connecting all the musical styles and providing a kind of sonic rhythm for the book as a whole.

When you are done reading about the musical genres, you literally unfold the book to read what is on the other side of the accordion fold — supplemental information and an author’s note. The supplemental material includes more details about each genre, the instruments typically used, and examples of each style. There are also quotes from distinguished musicians of each genre (Dolly Parton, Ozzy Osbourne, DJ Kool Herc, etc.). The book also includes an extensive bibliography. In Johnson’s author’s note, he emphasizes that music is, “at least for me, about play,” adding that play is the “heartbeat of this book” and was its impetus. That exuberant sense of play is undoubtedly expressed here in both the energetic, lively illustrations and the poetic, vigorous text. It’s a completely accessible book for music-lovers (of all ages), and it’s abundantly fun to explore, especially given the book’s accordion format (pictured below).

Sound: Shhh … Bang … Pop … BOOM! comes from collaborators Romana Romanyshyn and Andriy Lesiv. (In 2015, guest poster Oksana Lushchevska wrote here at 7-Imp about Romanyshyn’s and Lesiv’s The War that Changed Rondo.) This is a playful visual exploration of all things aural (but also, as you will soon read, the absence of aural) — from the inner workings of an ear to the meaning of decibels and herz; to musical instruments; to what voice means (“We all have our unique ways of sounding”); to the sounds our bodies, our homes, our cities, nature, and animals make; and much more. There is even a spread, following one devoted to the sounds we speak (languages), all about how “languages are not just about sounds. You can also understand another person in silence.” (Yay! says this former sign language intepreter.)

One thing I love about this book is that it’s many things at once: science, philosophy, and — given the occasionally lyrical, evocative text — poetry. The final spreads touch upon the need for humans to sometimes “spend time in silence, completely turning off the noise.” As you can see, Romanyshyn and Lesiv provide a wide-ranging view of sound. The palette, popping with neon colors, is a delight, and the compositions are eye-catching; there’s a lot to pore over here, and visually the pair keeps us on our toes. I love how the School Library Journal review notes: “This book is a deliberate visual project, as much an experiment in graphic design as a representation of its subject.”

Below are some spreads from each book, and Stephen even shares a couple of work-in-progress images from his. Many thanks to him for sharing.

* * *


From Stephen T. Johnson’s Music Is …


Title page spread
(Click to enlarge)


“CLASSICAL is … soft harmonies of butterfly wings fluttering on a whispering breeze
or distant rolling thunder that gives rise to a loud thunderous boom! …”

(Click spread to enlarge;
click here to read the book’s backmatter on classical music)


“JAZZ is … sophisticated rhythms that go up and down,
move left and move right, then jump high and swing low. …”

(Click spread to enlarge)


“COUNTRY is … poignant stories of home, mama,
pickup trucks, and apple pie. …”

(Click spread to enlarge;
click here to read the book’s backmatter on country music)


“ELECTRONICA is … liquid sound cascading over an endless sea
of happy, neon-colored faces. …”

(Click spread to enlarge)


Stephen: “These are two working book dummies displayed on my studio floor, midway through creating the book. Seen here are the front and backside of the accordion for the larger book dummy and a pocket size version below right.
By the way, it unfolds to a little over 23 feet!”

(Click image to enlarge)


Stephen: “These are pen-and-ink and wash drawings.”
(Click image to enlarge)


Stephen: “This shows the book’s accordion format.”
(Click image to enlarge)


From Romana Romanyshyn and Andriy Lesiv’s
Sound: Shhh … Bang … POP … BOOM!


“In the beginning it may have been quiet.
But then it became loud. The universe filled with sounds.”

(Click to enlarge and see spread in its entirety)


“Sound is usually invisible. But it attracts our attention,
we listen for it — and then, we hear it.”

(Click spread to enlarge and read text in its entirety)


“There are so many different sounds:
loud and soft, high and low, familiar and new.”

(Click spread to enlarge and read text in its entirety)


“In the sea of unknown and unknown sounds,
we look for order and harmony. This is how music is born.”

(Click spread to enlarge and read text in its entirety)


“There are countless instruments that can be used to create music …”
(Click spread to enlarge and read text in its entirety)


“We all have our unique ways of sounding. This is our voice. …”
(Click spread to enlarge and read text in its entirety)


MUSIC IS … © 2020 by Stephen T. Johnson. Illustrations reproduced by permission of the publisher, Paula Wiseman/Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, New York. Preliminary images reproduced by permission of Stephen T. Johnson.

SOUND: SHHH … BANG … POP … BOOM! Original text and illustrations copyright © 2017 by Vydavnytstvo Staroho Leva Ltd. Translation by Vitaly Chernetsky © 2017 Vydavnytstvo Staroho Leva Ltd. First published in the United States in 2020 by Chronicle Books LLC. Illustrations reproduced by permission of Chronicle Books, San Francisco.

* * * Jules’s Kicks * * *

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) Reading this poem.

2) My sixteen-year-old daughter sewed me a Pokko for Christmas!



3) Whenever I hear something gross I’d rather not think about, I sing a song I made up called “Kitties on Rainbows, Eating Cupcakes.” (That’s the extent of the lyrics.) For Christmas, my fifteen-year-old daughter made me a drawing of kitties on rainbows, eating cupcakes.

4) This is excellent, and the animation is gorgeous:



5) Eisha (who co-founded this blog with me) was in town, and we got to see each other the masked, socially distanced way.

6) I was sad to hear about the death of Tony Rice, but I’m grateful he was here and made the music he did.

7) The coronavirus made its way to one of my good friends and one of my favorite people on the planet (who is sooo careful — hardly goes out and is always masked), but she recovered just fine. I hope all of you reading this are staying safe and healthy.

BONUS: From December 14, 2020, to January 6, 2021, the Illustrators Wall from the Bologna Children’s Book Fair is available online in a special “Season’s Greetings Edition” — with 800 participants from five continents. Head here to see all the art.

What are YOUR kicks this week? Oh, and happy 2021 to all!

4 comments to “7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #724: Featuring Stephen T. Johnson
and Romana Romanyshyn & Andriy Lesiv”

  1. Hi Imps! Hi Stephen, Romana, and Andriy! Happy New Year! Three cheers for good music, good art, and good times.

    Hi Jules! Here’s to kitties on rainbows, eating cupcakes. Indeed. So glad that you got to see Eisha. Wolfwalkers sounds and looks lovely. Sending healthy thoughts to your friend.

    My kicks:
    1) Movies
    2) Music
    3) Motivation
    4) Moments
    5) Minutes
    6) Memories
    7) Momentos

  2. Little Willow, you know I love your alliterative kicks — and all of them evocative and lovely. Happy 2021 to you!

  3. Hi Imps! Happy New Year!

    Love the illustrations and books this week, especially since I just watched Soul, seems so synchronous and delightful.

    Jules – Those illustrations at the Illustrators Wall from the Bologna Children’s Book Fair are simply incredible. I saw your post last night right before bed and went down a rabbit hole of imagination. Had to make myself stop, still haven’t seen them all yet. Your daughter is so talented! Hi to Eisha! And so glad your friend recovered and is doing well.

    Little Willow – the musicality of your kicks this week is on point! Movies, Music, Minutes, Moments, and Memories are my favorites.

    My kicks this week:
    1) Starting the morning with yoga. Trying to get better about doing a regular practice this year.
    2) NYE for me and Daisy. French 75s, the soundtrack for A Simple Favor and a 550 piece puzzle. Plus phone calls and texts with friends.
    3) Going down an internet rabbit hole looking for photos and videos of Petal Drop LA from 2016, and finding their installation in 2019 “Dandelion” which was a creation of a dandelion wish factory.
    4) Late to it, but loving the series Better Things.
    5) Binged The Flight Attendant and really loved it.
    6) Black eyed peas and collard greens on New Years Day for luck in 2021.
    7) Sunshine today after a rain all day and night yesterday.
    7.5) Walks and fun with Daisy.
    BONUS – finding various artists from the illustrators wall on Instagram. Jules – @iccaston1 has lots of animals, and lots of cats. (I will have to get Apple tv to watch Wolf Walkers.)

    Wishing all of you a happy and hopeful 2021!

  4. Rachel, I keep hearing that I need to see Soul. Must do that. … Glad you had a happy new year. I have heard good things about Better Things and The Flight Attendant. We watched Ted Lasso, and I looooved it (and I’m not a big sports person).

    Happy yoga. Hugs to Daisy. Happy 2021!

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