Archive for April, 2010

Poetry Friday-a-Bit-Early: Laughing So Loud

h1 Thursday, April 29th, 2010

Ah. Poetry Friday, I’ve missed you. Well, I hosted a couple weeks ago, but it still feels like forever since I’ve simply shared a poem I read and loved.

And that’s what I’m doing today. And this will be short and sweet. I’ll let the poem speak for itself. Except to say, quite simply, that I’m edging forty. Surprisingly to me, it’s challenging my previously-held beliefs that I Won’t Mind Getting Older, and it’s been making me feel restless. Making me stare at young ones in their twenties and wanting to pull them aside on the street and whisper to them: Be sure you live it up. Wield passion. Laugh loud and undiminished (as David Gray once wrote). Read the rest of this entry �

Paying attention and expecting the best with Mimi

h1 Wednesday, April 28th, 2010

“…It was a splendid performance. The crowd threw gifts of food at the man—chicken bones, tomatoes, eggs—which made beautiful patterns on his coat. ‘ART,’ the man cried, pulling a drumstick out of his sleeve, ‘is anything!…'”
(Click to enlarge spread.)

It makes me very happy when Shelley Jackson makes a children’s book, though I’m only familiar with her illustrations for 2007’s The Chicken-Chasing Queen of Lamar County by Janice N. Harrington. But, really. That was enough right there. What a most excellent book. Jackson’s out with a brand-new one she’s both written and illustrated, Mimi’s Dada Catifesto. It was released in April by Houghton Mifflin, and I know, I know: I featured a Houghton Mifflin book last week (and then before that), and I try to mix things up here at the ‘ol blawg in the way of different publishers, but they’ve got some great books this Spring.

This book is a force of nature is what it is. Kirkus has described it as no less than “completely spectac-
ular” and the artwork as “dazzling.” And I’d have to say I agree with them, which is why I’m excited to show you some art from it today.

What this book is, other than entirely entertaining and razzle-dazzling illustrated, as we’ve already established, is an introduction to dadaism. The Mimi of the book’s title is a cat who finally meets her human mate at the book’s close — or who finally gets a bowl of milk and becomes a genius or who teaches a pigeon something about art or have you misplaced your mustachios, madam? (This is dadaism we’re talkin’ about here.)

Mimi is a poor alley cat, living in the very tall hat (with two cockroaches living in the brim) that “blew off a rich man’s head. I was lucky he had a big head.” There are many cats in Zurich, Mimi tells us, and many artists but few artistic cats. Mimi’s best bud, Laszlo, a “cynical old pigeon,” tells Mimi to get a human already, but Mimi sneers: “Humans? Noisy things who can’t even lick their own toes…Do I look like a cat who comes running to whoever coos Kitty, kitty? For a cat with the soul of an artist, only an artist will do.”

Move over, Max. There’s an art-lovin’ feline in town. Read the rest of this entry �

One Impossible (Or Maybe Not-So) Treasure
Hunt Before Breakfast with Artist Scott Teplin

h1 Tuesday, April 27th, 2010

This is artist Scott Teplin. Or his alter ego. “From when I was sixteen until Sept. 11, 2001,” he told me, “I used to wear insane disguises (wigs, black-eye makeup, prosthetic pimples, bandaids, cotton stuffed in cheeks, weird eye twitches, etc…) for driver’s license photos. Wisconsin, Washington, and NY. After 9/11, it pretty much had to stop, unfortunately.” This picture makes me laugh so hard that it’s making up for the fact that I haven’t had my coffee-with-Bailey’s yet. But I will soon, as Scott’s here to have some with me. And chat. More on that in a second.

If you saw Betsy Bird’s March review of The Clock Without a Face, to be released in early May from McSweeney’s, you know that she called this “the world’s weirdest book.” To this I say: Word. Word up. Coming from her (and from me, too), this is a compliment.

As Betsy further explained, this is a treasure-hunt book, à la Kit Williams’s Masquerade, which was published in 1979 and which ended in scandal. No scandal here, though: Children’s book author Mac Barnett; long-time editor of the wonderful McSweeney’s, Eli Horowitz; children’s book author and illustrator Adam Rex; high-fashion jewelry designer Anna Sheffield; and visual artist Scott Teplin, who—as mentioned—is visiting 7-Imp this morning, all collaborated on this title, which tells the story of the mysterious Ternky Tower. (The two hairy-knuckled, fat-sneakered doormen of Ternky Towers, brought to us all by Adam Rex, are pictured here.) There has been a robbery on each floor, thirteen total, of the penthouse. Gus Twintig is still in his PJs when he gets the call from the great detective Roy Dodge: They now have thirteen cases to solve. “A crime spree,” Gus murmurs as he stares up at the tower. Gus is Roy’s assistant: “As anyone with a knowledge of detection knows, confidential assistants are essential to the crime-solving process. It’s simple, really: I have an eye for detail, and Dodge has a genius for figuring out what the details mean… {I}t is a detective’s job to help others, and a confidential assistant’s job to help with the helping.” Read the rest of this entry �

One Not-So Impossible Favor Before Breakfast

h1 Sunday, April 25th, 2010

Mmm. Coffee.Anyone want to tell me what you consider a) the best celebrity children’s book and b) the worst celebrity children’s book? It’s all in the name of research.

If you weigh in, I swear if we ever meet, I’ll buy you this cup of coffee here.

Thanks in advance.

Yours Truly,

P.S. Betsy Bird should be asking the same question tomorrow morning over at A Fuse #8 Production, if you’d rather leave a response there.

7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #164: Featuring Suzy Lee

h1 Sunday, April 25th, 2010

Today’s illustrator feature will be short and sweet, as these are images from a book I’ve already raved about here at 7-Imp. And that would be Suzy Lee’s new title, Mirror. Here’s what I wrote about it back in March:

In May, a book that the ultra-talented Suzy Lee (who you may remember visited me in 2008) created in 2003 (I believe) will be published here in the States by Seven Footer Press. It’s called Mirror, and it is beautiful and sad and funny and stunning in that Suzy-Lee way. I’m hoping to secure some illustrations from it to show you, but I had to mention it today, what with this mirror theme. (Also: I got a copy of it just today, and the world stopped spinning while I read it, another reason I have to yawp about it now.) This wordless wonder, all about a young girl playing with her mirror image, also demonstrates the Best Use Ever of the Space Eaten Up by the Necessary Binding of a Book and also More Brilliant Use of Symmetry in Illustrations. More on this later. God, I love Suzy Lee.

Read the rest of this entry �


h1 Thursday, April 22nd, 2010

“Pretending you’re invisible quiet / Lollipop quiet”
(Click to enlarge spread.)

It’s hard to say why a book about the wildly different types of quiet that fill a child’s day is so hysterical to me and why it’s one of my favorite picture books I’ve seen all year. And that’s because it’s really the subtlety in both the writing and illustrations that gets me. And expert, comedically-timed subtlety is hard to describe to another.

But let me back up a bit first and tell you what I’m talking about. I’m talking about Deborah Underwood’s The Quiet Book (released this month by Houghton Mifflin), illustrated by Canadian Renata Liwska and pictured here. Do you like how they’re being so quiet that they even have to whisper the author’s and illustrator’s name on the back cover (pictured at the bottom of this post)? And the book is exactly what I described above: A catalog of the many types of quiet in a wee one’s day, which Kirkus has described as “soothing and layered,” Booklist adding,
“{t}he most moving scenes leave space for imagining.” We all might expect “Sleeping sister quiet” and “Hide-and-seek quiet,” but it’s when Underwood and Liwska surprise us with something like this… Read the rest of this entry �

Seven Questions Over Breakfast with Peter Brown

h1 Tuesday, April 20th, 2010

So. I’ve been wanting to conduct this interview for a while. Author/illustrator Peter Brown is here to visit. He’s made several really good picture books and is on my illustrator-to-watch list, but here’s where he really outdid himself: Did you see last year’s The Curious Garden, published by Little, Brown in April? It’s what the New York Times called “a quietly marvelous picture book.” Betsy Bird called it “just about the perfect balance of message and text” in her detailed, as always, August 2009 review. It was one of my favorite picture books from last year, though I didn’t cover it at 7-Imp, so consider me making up for that today—plus some—with this interview. (In fact, in 2008, Peter stopped by to show us some early art from The Curious Garden, if fans of that title would like to go back and explore.)

“Singular style” is a phrase we hear often in the world of illustration, and Peter, undoubtedly, has nailed his with his smooth, stylized, rather retro vibe, playful perspectives, frequent use of earth tones (except for that glorious, blooming garden in The Curious Garden), and tongue-in-cheek visual humor. With Peter’s picture book debut, The Flight of the Dodo, Publishers Weekly called him a promising new talent. Since then, he’s used his droll humor to bring us even more delights, including the precocious, offbeat, and endearing Chowder, the canine star of two of Peter’s titles. Read the rest of this entry �

7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #163: Featuring D.B. Johnson

h1 Sunday, April 18th, 2010

Here’s one of the many great things about featuring some spreads from D.B. Johnson’s newest title, Palazzo Inverso, this morning: I can post these images right-side-up or upside down. I could be hammered on, say, an entire bottle of Courvoisier and screw up the images, and they would still work. (I don’t know why I said that. I don’t even own any Courvoisier. Not to mention I would never Blog While Hammered. That sounds like a support group, doesn’t it? Oh, and not to mention I can’t remember the last time I was hammered. But isn’t “Courvoisier” fun to say?)

I am, arguably (but just maybe arguably), author/illustrator D.B. Johnson’s Biggest Fan. I have already made clear the many reasons why in my March 2009 interview with him. Or, as Daniel Pinkwater nailed it in his 2009 7-Imp interview, D.B. Johnson is a genius. ‘Nuf said.

Read the rest of this entry �

Poetry Friday is here this week…
And I’m posting one day early with Jeannine Atkins

h1 Thursday, April 15th, 2010

This is my first time hosting a Poetry Friday. Ever. Honestly, I’m rather embarrassed about this, that I haven’t done it yet, as I’m a big fan of the whole tradition. I truly and deeply always have wanted to host. Anyway. Better late than never, and I hope you all will acquaint yourselves with Mister Linky (dude, that’s his real name; I always thought someone make it up all jokey) at the bottom of the post and let all your Poetry Friday peeps know what you’re up to.

First things first, though: This morning, I’m celebrating Jeannine Atkins’ new title, Borrowed Names: Poems About Laura Ingalls Wilder, Madam C.J. Walker, Marie Curie, and Their Daughters, released by Henry Holt in March (and which, it was recently announced here, will be receiving a starred review in the May/June issue of the Horn Book, another starred review in a growing list of them). Now, here’s the thing: I’m still reading it. Since I’m doing my own writing myself these days, my reading rate (anything other than picture books) is fairly slow. I started Jeannine’s book and absolutely fell in love with it, but that didn’t mean my little windows of time in life in which to get things done didn’t preclude me from just devouring the book, as I was wont to do.

I have managed to finish the first part, though, all about Laura Ingalls Wilder and her spunky, independent, world-travelling daughter, Rose, who both encouraged her mother to write her life story and helped her shape the novel into what we read today. And it blew me away. It made me wonder and laugh and cry and have goosebumps and sometimes simply put the book down and think for about an hour (or two or three) and ponder my relationship with my own daughters and much more. It’s truly beautiful — masterfully-executed, never giving in to excessive sentimentality, and powerfully-felt.

Read the rest of this entry �

So, What Do You Call a Pack of Chimeras?*

h1 Tuesday, April 13th, 2010

“A dazzlement of Quetzalcoatls / An arch of rainbow snakes”
(Click to enlarge.)

I’m making a quick art stop this morning to show you some spreads from the beautiful new picture book from Jacqueline K. Ogburn and Italian illustrator Nicoletta Ceccoli, titled A Dignity of Dragons: Collective Nouns for Magical Beasts, to be released next month by Houghton Mifflin. I’ve got an early copy and contacted Nicoletta about sharing some art from it. (You may remember that she visited 7-Imp in 2008, and in fact, she shared in that post some spreads from this book, telling me at that time that the book was an interesting theme for her.)

The book is exactly what the sub-title tells you, a collection of clever, evocative terms Ogburn conjured up for over thirty magical beings — from kirin (“a judgment of”) to were-jaguars (“a slinking of”) to minotaurs (“an amazement of”) to thunderbirds (“a storm of”) to just about everything else under, over, around, and in between. Ceccoli’s art gives the book a dream-like, ethereal feel. Here’s the cover art: Read the rest of this entry �