Archive for March, 2013

7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #324: Featuring Eliza Wheeler

h1 Sunday, March 31st, 2013

“She learns each seed by heart, all similar yet none the same.
‘Take care, my little ones,’ Miss Maple says, ‘for the world is big and you are small.'”

Happy Sunday. Happy Easter. Happy chocolate eggs.

I don’t want to go on and on right here about today’s featured artist, Eliza Wheeler, and her debut picture book, Miss Maple’s Seeds (Nancy Paulsen/Penguin)—which will be released this week—because she is visiting this morning to share sketches and art and tell us about her work. And I’m pleased she’s visiting and want to get right to it.

I’ll say this much, though, before I hand the breakfast table over to her: Her book is the story of Miss Maple, tiny enough to get around on a bluebird and whose home is in a maple tree. Miss Maple gathers “orphan seeds” that get lost during spring planting; she nurtures them in her home, even during the winter months; and she then sends them off “to find roots of their own.” It’s a tender story with a big heart about the care that goes into nurturing living things — as well as the notion that even the smallest of such life needs our attention. “Take care, my little ones, for the world is big and you are small” is her repeated refrain, as you can see above. Wheeler’s art is delicate and warm, and she has created a detailed miniature world for her protagonist; these are inviting landscapes for young readers.

Today, Eliza discusses the book, as well as shares sketches and art from other projects, including the cover art she did for Holly Black’s new novel, Doll Bones (McElderry Books/Simon and Schuster, May 2013). (I haven’t read this yet, but I’m definitely intrigued after Betsy Bird’s recent review.)

Let’s get to all the art, and I thank Eliza for visiting. Read the rest of this entry �

What I’m Up To at Kirkus This Week,
Plus What I Did Last Week,
Featuring Vali Mintzi and Brian Pinkney

h1 Friday, March 29th, 2013

“And everyone remembered Shiraz, too — the girl with a brave heart,
who had listened and had understood that when people are sad,
they do not always know how to ask for what they need.”
— One of Vali Mintzi’s illustrations from
Rita Jahanforuz’s
The Girl With a Brave Heart: A Tale from Tehran
(Barefoot Books, March 2013)

“Mama Nsoso spread her wings around her children. ‘Don’t worry, my babies,’
she said. ‘When morning comes, we will build an ilombe, a new house. It will have a
grass roof, mud walls, and a cozy nest inside. The wind will not blow in.
The rain will not drip in, and the dark night will not bother us.'”
— One of Brian Pinkney’s illustrations from
Janice N. Harrington’s
Busy-Busy Little Chick
(Farrar, Straus and Giroux, February 2013)

(Click to enlarge image)

If you follow picture books closely, you know there’s been a lot of talk lately about this book, pictured left, by Lemony Snicket and illustrated by Jon Klassen. The Dark will be released by Little, Brown next week, and I read an early copy a while ago.

And I really like it.

I wanted to write about it for Kirkus this week, yet I wanted to do something different. There have been already a handful of reviews of the book, and I wasn’t in the mood to hear myself yap about it.

I started thinking about what it must have been like to work as the editor on this story, so I contacted Susan Rich, the Little, Brown editor who worked on this one. My column this week is a Q&A with her, and it is here today.

I thank Susan for taking the time to chat with me about it, and next week I’ll have a bit more art from the book here at 7-Imp.

* * *

Last Thursday at Kirkus, I chatted with illustrator Brian Pinkney and author Janice N. Harrington, pictured below, about Busy-Busy Little Chick, their new collaboration from Farrar, Straus and Giroux, released in February. If you missed that Q&A, it’s here. Below are some illustrations from the book.

And last Friday, I wrote here about Rita Jahanforuz’s The Girl With a Brave Heart: A Tale from Tehran (Barefoot Books, March 2013), illustrated by Vali Mintzi. Below is one more illustration from the book. (And for those who want to see even more, I noticed that, if you click on the book’s cover here at the Barefoot site, you’ll see a slideshow of a few more spreads.)


Read the rest of this entry �

The Best Kind of Do-Over Before Breakfast

h1 Thursday, March 28th, 2013

“But then she clenched her jaw.
‘Not on my watch, buster!’ said Ol’ Mama Squirrel.
She scooped up her babies and went to raise the alarm.”

(Final spread from book — click to enlarge)

I’m not talking here about my own do-over (though I often wish for those on the days when the coffee seems to brew slower than normal and it takes me a bit longer to acclimate to the day). I’m talking instead about author/illustrator and Caldecott Honor winner David Ezra Stein — who, you may remember, visited me with quiche in 2008. (May the heavens bless him for that quiche, even if it was cyber-only for me.) He’s here today to share early sketches from his latest picture book, Ol’ Mama Squirrel (Nancy Paulsen Books/Penguin, March 2013), which Publishers Weekly calls a “rousing and rowdy readaloud” and Kirkus, an “effervescent tale [brimming] with humor and vibrant characterization.”

You’ll see many sketches here this morning, because it turns out that David, in his words, “did the art for the book over again to get to the way it is now. I redesigned the character and then redid the dummy and then redid the art!”


This is the story of a mama squirrel, who “had raised many babies.” Ol’ Mama Squirrel knows that there’s “no shortage of creatures that would love to snack on a baby squirrel,” but she’s fierce and she’s not going to allow that to happen. “Chook, chook, chook,” she shrieks at approaching cats, dogs, owls, and such. She even extends her chook-chook-chooking to the least likely of predators — kites, airplanes, and the man who prunes the tree where she and her babes make their home. But when a bear approaches one day and scoffs at Ol’ Mama Squirrel’s attempts to fend off the danger he poses, well … I can’t give the whole story away, but suffice it to say that it takes a village, as they say. Read the rest of this entry �

Author/Illustrator Lita Judge on Creative Blitzes

h1 Tuesday, March 26th, 2013

(Click to enlarge)

Yes, creative blitzes are even possible before breakfast. Maybe even before coffee, but then that might be stretching it.

Author/illustrator Lita Judge is visiting me for some cyber-coffee this morning to talk about what happens when she gets such creative inspirations — for one, her latest picture book. Just out from Atheneum earlier this month was Red Hat, what Lita calls her “companion piece” to 2011’s exuberant and adventurous Red Sled (also from Atheneum). (If you didn’t see Red Sled in 2011, I’m clutching my heart dramatically and hoping you’ll go read about it here, ’cause it’s a picture-book joy is what it is, and Kirkus named it one of their Best Picture Books of 2011. Ah, 2011 was a pretty good picture-book year, wasn’t it? Oh, and remember when Lita visited me for breakfast in 2011 and her JAW-DROPPINGLY gorgeous studio? I enjoyed that interview. But I digress.)

Read the rest of this entry �

7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #323: Featuring Leslie Evans

h1 Sunday, March 24th, 2013

“Crab apple, too, is short and wide,
its fragrant flowers small and white.”

Like a lot of folks right now in this country, I’m eager for warmer weather and some Spring. And since this past week marked the first official day of Spring, I can’t help but share some art today from Spring Blossoms (Charlesbridge, February 2013), written by author and poet Carole Gerber and illustrated by Leslie Evans. And Leslie’s popping in today to say a bit about the illustrations.

This picture book comes from the two women who also created Winter Trees and Leaf Jumpers, as Leslie mentions below. In fact, Winter Trees was featured here at 7-Imp way back in 2008.

In Spring Blossoms, readers follow two young girls and a dog through Gerber’s rhyming text as they celebrate Spring “bursting out all over” and the warm weather. The girls are running and playing outdoors, admiring the trees’ blossoms. They stop to appreciate what they see, including white dogwoods, crab apples, white pines, red maples, and more.

Evans renders these illustrations in linoleum block prints with watercolor, collage, and some digital work. Here she is to say a bit more about it:

Read the rest of this entry �

What I’m Up To at Kirkus This Week,
Plus What I Did Last Week, Featuring Jeff Newman

h1 Friday, March 22nd, 2013

Early art for Phoebe & Digger
(Click to enlarge)

Final art for Phoebe & Digger
(Click to enlarge)

This week over at Kirkus, I take a look at a picture book import, Rita Jahanforuz’s The Girl With a Brave Heart, illustrated by Vali Mintzi and originally published in Hebrew — but brought this March to American bookshelves by Barefoot Books. That link is here.

* * *

Last week, I wrote about Tricia Springstubb’s Phoebe & Digger, illustrated by Jeff Newman and to be released by Candlewick next week. If you missed it, it’s here. Today, Jeff shares a few early sketches and pieces of early art (including the one above, paired with a final spread from the book).

Enjoy. Read the rest of this entry �

Interrupting a Busy-Busy Author
and a Busy-Busy Illustrator for a Chat …

h1 Thursday, March 21st, 2013

This morning over at Kirkus, I’ve got a joint Q&A. Author Janice N. Harrington and illustrator Brian Pinkney talk with me about Busy-Busy Little Chick, their new collaboration from Farrar, Straus and Giroux (released last month).

Harrington’s story is based on a fable told by the Nkundo people of Central Africa, and she talks to me about the research that went into the book, while Pinkney weighs in on his artistic choices for the book’s vibrant illustrations.

That link is here. Next week here at 7-Imp, I’ll follow up with some (more) illustrations from the book.

Until tomorrow …

* * * * * * *

BUSY-BUSY LITTLE CHICK. Text copyright © 2013 by Janice N. Harrington. Illustrations copyright © 2013 by Brian Pinkney. Illustration above reproduced by permission of the publisher, Farrar Straus Giroux, New York.

Seven Questions Over Breakfast with Lauren Stringer

h1 Tuesday, March 19th, 2013

(Click to enlarge)

I love it. The above sketch, that is.

It’s one of author/illustrator Lauren Stringer’s early sketches from her newest picture book, which she both wrote and illustrated, When Stravinsky Met Nijinsky: Two Artists, Their Ballet and One Extraordinary Riot, released by Harcourt in early March.

Have you seen this book? I recommend it, particularly for those who love the arts. It tells the true story of two early-20th century artists—the composer Igor Stravinsky and the danseur and choreographer Vaslav Nijinsky—who both yearn to make “something different and new” and who eventually collaborate on a ballet (The Rite of Spring), which revolutionizes music and dance. And causes a riot, no less, as the book’s delicious sub-title tells you. Stringer’s writing teems with reverence for the artists and tells a well-paced story with tension and exuberance. The brightly-colored illustrations swirl, swoop, and dip and, as Publishers Weekly writes, make music and dance “entertaining and joyous,” bringing this momentous meeting of minds to life for young readers. Read the rest of this entry �

7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #322: Featuring Vladimir Radunsky

h1 Sunday, March 17th, 2013

“Everywhere Albert went he would think and think. One of Albert’s favorite thinking places was his little sailboat. He loved to let his mind wander
as the wind blew him across the water.”

(Click to enlarge)

Above is my favorite spread from Jennifer Berne’s On a Beam of Light: A Story of Albert Einstein, illustrated by Vladimir Radunksy, which will be released by Chronicle Books in April. (You gotta click on the image itself to enlarge this one so that you can really take it in and appreciate the color and scope.) Note the subtitle and how it clearly tells readers this isn’t your typical picture book biography. It’s “a story” of this remarkable man’s life. Read the rest of this entry �

What I’m Up To at Kirkus This Week,
Plus What I Did Last Week, Featuring Don Brown

h1 Friday, March 15th, 2013

“Covering forty miles a day for a week of hard riding on horseback, he was rain soaked, windblown, and frozen. The trip was nothing like selling books.
It would be the easiest part of his adventure.”

(Click to enlarge this early sketch from Henry and the Cannons)

This week in my Kirkus column? Tricia Springstubb’s Phoebe & Digger, illustrated by Jeff Newman. That link is here.

* * *

Last week I wrote here about Don Brown’s Henry and the Cannons: An Extraordinary True Story of the American Revolution (Roaring Brook, January 2013). Today Don is sharing some early sketches (one is above) and final art from the book.

Enjoy. Read the rest of this entry �