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It has been a good summer here at Wilder Farm. I’m starting the final art for my book FLIGHT SCHOOL. What fun it is to create.
I’m also very excited to be working on a new non fiction book about baby animals. It feels like the culmination of a life long passion for watching animal behavior and drawing animals. Here is a sneak peak at a few of the sketches.
Many of the animals depicted in this book are inspired directly from animals I’ve watched – the Grizzly cubs my parents photographed in Yellowstone, a baby giraffe I met behind scenes at the wildlife park just a few hours after his birth, a baby orangutan I watched and sketched, raccoon kits that lived in our backyard… I’m fascinated with the ways animals have adapted to raise their young, so I love doing the research for this book.
I’m also gearing up for the release of my next book – RED HAT. Yes, it is a follow on to RED SLED. I’ll be posting more about that soon. I’m very excited about this book. And to celebrate it’s release I’m trying to get all my friends and family to wear their red hats and send me a photo. I’ll be posting more about this on my website soon – but just to entice you – here is a photo of my parrot, Beatrix putting on her red hat. Her grandmama is currently knitting and embroidering several more hats, so more photos to follow.
I’m excited to be working on a new story called FLIGHT SCHOOL. It’s a whimsical tale featuring an irrepressible penguin. I’m still in the early stages of the creative process so will wait till later to share more story details, but wanted to share this video of me drawing penguins. I often create my characters by drawing animals from life – observing how they move, noticing small details of their features.
Then slowly, as I keep drawing, my imagination takes over.
Yippee – I JUST finished all the final art for my book – HOW BIG WERE DINOSAURS? — coming out with Roaring Brook Press next year. It’s always a grand feeling to finish a book, especially one like this which has been a few of years in the making. This book was a long journey, but what fun to work on a topic that I’ve been interested in since I was about 4 years old. During all the hours I spent on this, I couldn’t help but think how thankful I was to be sitting at my easel drawing dinosaurs for another book–something I did a lot of when I was little girl and dreamed of being able to do for a living someday. I still have to pinch myself that it’s all real.
For the past several years we’ve had a pair of Phoebes nesting in our woodshed. They’ve just started on this year’s nest! Here are a few pictures from last Thursday (May 3rd):
(Click on the images to see them a bit larger.)
Creating BIRD TALK was the culmination of a life-long passion for watching and drawing birds.
From an early age I was exposed to birds in an intense way. My grandparents were ornithologists (scientists who studied birds) and lived in an old farmhouse filled with a menagerie of owls, hawks, and eagles. We studied hawks on the marsh in the early mornings and raised a variety of orphaned or injured birds. Some grew strong and were released back to the wild. Others stayed for a lifetime. One bird in particular was a favorite of my grandmother’s, who worked for years to breed endangered golden eagles in captivity. Each spring the eagle called sharply, and my grandmother responded by bringing sticks. Then together they built a nest. She observed her eagle so carefully; she could practically talk to it. I grew up watching this intimate relationship between ornothologist and bird, and developed a huge respect for how complex and diverse bird communication skills are.
As my grandparents worked on their research with birds of prey, I found my own area of interest. I recorded songbirds in the mornings before school so I could learn to identify them by their calls. At night, I lay in bed and listened to the screeching of rescued barn owlets, who liked to roost on the top of my grandmother’s refrigerator. One summer, when a storm took a tree snag down, I rescued several baby starlings that were nested in its trunk. I kept one of them and was tickled when it soon began to mimic the calls of my parakeet.
My parents were wildlife photographers and we watched many birds in the wild as well. In the spring before dawn, we hiked the high desert and listened to Sage Grouse boom. Their ritual performance made me laugh—I thought their puffed up chests and inflated air sacs looked like hard-boiled eggs.
But my favorite memory was canoeing alongside Western Grebes as they danced on water for their annual spring mating ritual.
As an adult I sketched the birds I watched and noted their calls and behaviors, piecing together what those calls meant. I read everything I could find about how and why birds communicate. And I wanted to create a book that explored this fascinating topic for young readers. With the illustrations for Bird Talk, I wanted to create a visual record of the exquisite forms of bird communication. What fascinates me most about bird communications isn’t just how they sing, but how they dance, strut, boom, and bob to make their meanings clear. The most rewarding
Please check out this article on The Secret Language of Birds in BookPage: http://bookpage.com/interview/the-secret-language-of-birds
If you’ve ever wondered—or tried to explain—what birds are saying as they flit about in trees or preen on their perches, help is here: Lita Judge’s new book, Bird Talk: What Birds Are Saying and Why, is a wonderfully illustrated compendium of bird behavior and communication for young readers.
BIRD TALK will be released on March 13th!
“Talk about joy rides…It’s a perfect book for reading aloud, especially by expressive readers who can do justice to a walk in the snow: Scrinch scrunch scrinch scrunch scrinch scrunch.”
“.. a delightful winter book for very young readers. Each double-page spread features a serene snowscape bathed in moonlight, the perfect foil for the explosive humor of the animals’ antics.”
“Just the right blend of danger and delight, this book is perfect for a wintry night.”
San Francisco Chronicle
“It’s strikingly original and totally inspired.”
“As with many a treasured children’s book, the details are left to the fertile young imagination…the book is exactly what a book about sledding should be: pure fun.”
“Parents and kids will enjoy this sweet, energy-filled tale.”
“Like the red sled’s riders, young readers will be pleading, AGAIN!”
Newburyport News, Newburyport, MA
“A delicate, beautiful book about the wonder of winter and play.”
Winter Indie List
“This is my new favorite snow book! The minimal text highlighted with fun sound effects is complemented by beautiful art…In this sweet and wonderful picture book, Judge successfully captures all of the joy of a great sled ride.”
(Written by Dave) Lots of our friends have commented on the short video that Lita and I created for Red Sled, so I wanted to post it to the blog and mention a bit about how we produced this. So first, here’s the video:
When Lita and I work together on these types of things, she does all the story-boarding and then I produce something quickly to get started from and then we tweak and change things until it feels right. There are many, many iterations of tweaks and changes. To get the right feel for the animation we did a lot of experimentation. We used Adobe After Effects CS5 (mac version) for the whole thing and for the animation. Here’s what the project looks like in After Effects:
We had various ideas for the music but then I saw a snippet of Prokoviev’s Romeo and Juliet on Pianopedia. It wasn’t quite long enough so I made up the rest and recorded it and it seemed to set the right mood.
There are many video settings, and I’m not sure if I went down the optimal path, but I find it quite helpful when other people post their settings, so here’s what I did. I made the “master” copy at 1280 x 720 pixels, 29.97 frames per second, using Apple QuickTime mov format. This created a 230 MB file for just over a minute of video. Then I compressed the file using Adobe Media Encoder to an MP4 format, still 1280 x 720, but now more like 20 MB. Then I upload that to YouTube where it gets compressed again into whatever format they use.
We hope you like the video!
I was just interviewed on a fantastic blog called Seven Impossible Things before Breakfast and one of the questions was, “Is there something you wish interviewers would ask you — but never do? Feel free to ask and respond here.” So here’s what I asked and answered.
Question: Tell me about your muses
My favorite muse is my cat, Pu. She is the inspiration behind many of my characters!
And then there is the grizzly bear I grew up watching with my parents (they are wildlife photographers). I knew someday I’d have to do a story with this bear.
Since the bear lives out in the wilds of Montana Pu finds it necessary to supervise my projects.
If you’re interested in the art and creators of picture books please read this blog. It’s the best one out there. Thanks to Jules Danielson for creating and working so hard on such an awesome blog for us all to enjoy!
I feel a like I stepped off a 1000 foot cliff at the beginning of this year and began a dreadful impersonation of humpty dumpty. Some of you may have heard I was laid low, very low, with an autoimmune illness, a complication from a bad case of mono that actually began last year. I’m still battling to regain strength, but a loving husband, caring friends, good doctors, and a bitter dose of chemo drugs applied every week have begun to put the pieces back together. Like humpty, I’ll never be quite the same, as I am reminded each and every week I face down that last bit – the chemo, and struggle to get my joints moving, my hands working, and my feet walking, but I am beginning see bigger and bigger pieces of my old self shining through the rubble. I’ll never be smooth and flawless, my scars will forever show, but perhaps all this time and energy spent gluing back my health will make me stronger in a way, autoimmune illness and all. I’ve had an awful lot of time to think about life and art in the last 9 months. I see that I spent the first 40 years racing through life, always trying to get somewhere faster. I was impatient with myself and burned through energy like it was an endless resource. But a little wisdom has seeped in over the many months I’ve had to lie flat on my back mostly, and I appreciate every small gift that life has to offer.
It feels like it was ages ago that I finished my upcoming book, Red Sled, but I just received my first copy of the book from my editor at Athenaeum. Turning through the pages reawakened the delight I had in creating this book and I am reminded and overwhelmed at what a gift it is to create my stories. I still feel like I’m that earnest little 4 year old who was so moved at seeing my first picture book. I was forever changed and sculpted by it. That first picture book not only fueled my imagination, it gave light to a lifelong passion for creating art. From the day I opened the very first book, I knew I wanted to make my own, even if I couldn’t imagine how I’d ever make that dream come true. Red Sled was a story that began long ago, around that time my imagination was first startled awake. In my childhood musings and daydreams the characters of this book kept me company. It took years for me to grab their abstract elements out of the ether and put them to paper. But I’m grateful for all the happy hours I spent chasing them down in the wandering paths of my imagination, before setting them down in just the way I would have loved as that 4 year old girl. Somewhere in this sore, achy body that little girl is smiling bright.
So I am very excited by the fact that Red Sled is soon to be coming out – November 1st to be exact! I wish I was fully recovered and could charge on ahead with life, working hard on new stories, and hitting the road to share this book with my readers. But for now, I must persevere with my treatment and embrace all the kindness that comes my way when readers reach out to me and send me well wishes. I hope readers find this book. It’s creation was such a celebration for me. And I was thrilled when my editor sent me the first review – a STARRED REVIEW from Kirkus!
Here it is:
Written by Lita Judge
(Atheneum; ISBN: 9781442420076; November 2011; Fall catalog p. 31)
Judge’s latest may be virtually wordless, but it packs a powerful visual punch that will stick with readers long after the final page is turned. At the end of a winter day, a child props the titular sled outside a cozy cabin. A bear finds it there and sets off to enjoy the ride of all rides, joined in turn by some other forest denizens. As each joins the ride, the animals’ positions change: The bear is on his back with the rabbit perched on his feet, then he is atop the moose’s antlers,
I hope everyone is having a good summer. Some of you may have noticed a lapse in my blog posting over the last several months. I’ve been taking a bit of a hiatus to recover for health reasons, but hope to be on the mend soon and look forward to being much more consistent with postings in the near future!
And I wanted to thank all of the students and teachers who have sent well wishes over the spring. Thank you. It means a lot to me!
We just posted a new Strange Creatures discussion guide on Lita’s web site.
It contains projects and activities for Vocabulary, Music, Art and Science, and includes an author interview. The guide was created by Tracie Vaughn Zimmer, a reading specialist and children’s author (visit her Web site here).
We’re back again after taking a brief blog break since the end of last year. We just received our first box of STRANGE CREATURES from the publisher and were psyched to see a nice review of STRANGE CREATURES in the Wall Street Journal this weekend. [WSJ Review]
And last week we heard that STRANGE CREATURES was picked as a featured elementary biography selection of the Junior Library Guild!
Here are a few things we picked out of the reviews so far:
“There’s much in Walter Rothschild’s story for a tyke to like, particularly the timid boy’s end run around his father’s ambitions, and Judge makes the most of the battle of wills in her humor-tinged watercolors. Wild animals pop up all over the swanky estate while portraits of ancestors glare down from their frames in disapproval of the family ado. A final note comments on Rothschild’s contribution to the burgeoning field of zoology and on the way collection practices and wildlife study have changed over the past century and a half. Primary-grade children who are encouraged (assigned?) to read a biography will find Rothschild to be one of the most engaging guys they’ve never heard of.” BCCB
“In richly colored paintings Ms. Judge shows readers … nautiluses and octopuses, lizards and kiwis, okapis from the Congo, capybaras from Colombia, and marabou storks.” WSJ
“Energetic, expressive paintings, many with unusual perspectives, fill the pages. Not surprisingly, the odd creatures that fascinated Walter are among the most engaging characters, like the giant lizard that peers out from Walter’s mother’s lily bed. Human characters are more sketchily drawn, which emphasizes Walter’s preoccupation with the natural world…“ Kirkus Reviews
“Judge’s picture-book biography of the shy genius may encourage readers to follow their own creative ideas…” School Library Journal
In anticipation of my new book, STRANGE CREATURES, which will be released in Feb 2011, I decided to focus a few of my upcoming blog entries on the process and challenges of writing and illustrating a non-fiction historical biography.
STRANGE CREATURES is about Walter Rothschild and the museum that he created, and the bugs, butterflies and animals that he collected, starting from when he was just 7 years old! It seems logical to begin where the process begins – with the researching and gathering of information about my subject.
Very little has been written about Walter Rothschild. The challenge to bringing this character to life was to not only record the invaluable contributions to science that he made, but to honestly capture his eccentric charm and incredible will.
As an author I love the challenge of digging up interesting sources and uncovering the facts about my subject. To learn about Walter Rothschild I was able to travel to the museum that Walter created – now called The Natural History Museum at Tring — which is about an hour northwest of London. It was a fantastic adventure to travel to England. I viewed the public collection at the museum and then was fortunate enough to get an appointment with the Museum Manager and with the Director of Education. They generously opened up the world of Walter Rothschild to me.
I stepped into the museum archives, searched through old documents, photo albums, and the extensive collection that Walter left behind. I walked along the grounds of his family home, and thought about what it must have been like to be the son of a Lord, heir to a banking empire, but more interested in bugs, butterflies and the natural world.
(The two pictures above are of the Natural History Museum at Tring and the present day grounds around the former Rothschild Estate at Tring, which is now a school.)
Walter’s life was a contradiction of privilege and wealth alongside an overbearing amount of expectation that was placed on his young shoulders. And though few are alive who remembered Walter, I was even fortunate enough to speak to people who remembered family stories about him. These direct sources were invaluable in creating a story of the life of this complicated character. And since I’m also the illustrator, everything I learned and saw also went into the pictures in the book.
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Dave and I just got back from NY. What a fantastic trip! We went to hear the Battle of the Bands at the NY Public Library. My editor, Namrata, is the lead singer for the Effin’ G’s. What a blast!! It was a loud, raucous Friday night event in the belly of the library. All three bands (Effin G’s, Mr. McGregor, Tiger Beat) were terrific and did a fantastic job, but you’ll excuse me if I thought Nami was extraordinary. There are a few other recaps of the evening at the Fuse8 blog and here. I’m so lucky to have an editor with so many talents.
The next day, Dave and I did one of my favorite things – went to the Natural History Museum to draw dinosaur skeletons.
I’m working on my new book – How Big Were Dinosaurs? with Roaring Brook Press. The museum was pretty crowded, which is always a mixed blessing as it makes drawing more difficult, but I love seeing all the excited kids and adults exploring the wonders of the museum. So I embraced the crowds, and I did find some quiet corners to draw T-rex towering over all of our heads, tiny Protoceratops that were the size of border collies, the even smaller Psittacosaurus, and all my other favorites dinosaurs. This book is an exciting challenge because I want to break the myth that all dinosaurs were the size of skyscrapers and show how big they really were. There is no better way to learn than to draw the skeletons. A lifetime of daydreaming in front of dinosaurs skeletons has led to this latest project.
We love the fall! We’ve got the winter wood pile stacked. The maples, birches, blueberry bushes and ferns in the yard have all turned color. And before we know it, Columbus Day Weekend arrives and we’re again opening up our house and studio as part of the 15th Annual Monadnock Open Studio Art Tour. The Tour is on Oct 9th and 10th, from 10am to 5pm. During the last Art Tour there were 50 open studios with 58 artists participating. And it looks like the weather will be perfect this weekend!
Lita will have some of the original artwork from all her books and lots of studies and sketches (many for sale) along with various watercolor paintings she’s done over the last few years during our travels. And she’ll be signing books too! It’s quite a nice tour — below are a few pictures of Lita at work in her studio, and a beautiful barn in Hancock.
Please drop in and visit in case you find yourself in our neck of the woods (we’re in Peterborough, NH — number 20 on the tour map — and the tour is also in Hancock, Dublin, Jaffrey, Harrisville, and a few other towns around Mt. Monadnock). Maps are available here. Monadnock Art / Friends of the Dublin Art Colony presents the Art Tour each October during the peak of the colorful foliage season in southwestern New Hampshire. The Tour is self-directed, and it’s free!
(Written by Dave) I’ve been a judge with the annual Cybils awards, which honor various categories of children’s books, since 2008. And I’m doing it again this year! The Cybils themselves started in 2006. Lita’s One Thousand Tracings was a finalist in non-fiction picture books in 2007.
Anybody can nominate a book (starting on October 1st), and all the books that are eligible, and deemed to be in the proper category, go to the first round judges. (Actually quite a few publishers fail to send us books so I usually get them through library loan.) Last year I was a 2nd round judge for Middle Grade/YA Nonfiction — we got to pick the one winning book from the group of finalists picked by the round 1 judges. Two years ago, I was a panelist (round 1 judge) for non-fiction picture books, and this year I’m a round 1 judge for the Middle Grade/YA Non-fiction category. I’m thinking a lot of books will be nominated this year — seems like the numbers go up every year — so I’ll be doing a lot of reading. Last year there were some great books in this category — but amazingly, the Sibert Award winner was not even a finalist. Of course the Cybils finalists are picked before the Sibert is announced, and the criteria are different (here is the Sibert criteria).
Anyway, I grabbed this list of all the round 1 and 2 judges for Middle Grade/YA Nonfiction from our panel organizer, Susan Thomsen at Chicken Spaghetti. It includes panelists’ Twitter feeds, marked with an @ — follow them and keep up with book news and conversation.
Panelists (Round I Judges):
Karen Ball, Mrs. B’s Favorites
Sarah Mulhern Gross, The Reading Zone @thereadingzone
David Judge, Adventures at Wilder Farm
Jessica Leader, Jessica Leader @JessicaLeader
Susan Thomsen, Chicken Spaghetti @C_Spaghetti
Judges (Round II):
Edi Campbell, Crazy Quilts @crazyquilts
René Colato Laínez, René Colato Laínez, La Bloga @renecolato
David Gutowski, Largehearted Boy @largeheartedboy
Colleen Mondor, Chasing Ray
The Center for the Book at the New Hampshire State Library will feature the work of Lita Judge at the National Book Festival in Washington, D.C. — here’s part of the press release from the New Hampshire State Library:
For Immediate Release
Contact: Mary Russell , 603-271-2866
September 20, 2010
Alongside representatives from all 50 states and the District of Columbia, the New Hampshire Center for the Book will promote the Granite State at the National Book Festival in Washington, D.C. on Saturday, Sept. 25, 2010.
In the festival’s Pavilion of the States, the New Hampshire Center for the Book will feature the book Born to be Giants: How Baby Dinosaurs Grew to Rule the World, written and illustrated by Lita Judge. The New Hampshire table will also provide information about visiting the Granite State and about our literary heritage. Lita Judge lives in Peterborough, New Hampshire. Her books have been chosen as Junior Library Guild selections, ALA Notable Books, Smithsonian Notable Books for Children, and have been nominated for various state book awards. Her book, Pennies for Elephants, won the New Hampshire Outstanding Work of Children’s Literature Award in 2009. You can learn more about Lita Judge at her website, http://www.litajudge.com.
More info is at the New Hampshire State Library website.
(Written by Dave) It was a humid 85° three days ago in New Hampshire, but last week Lita visited schools and libraries in Berlin, Gorham and Randolph, New Hampshire, and it snowed several inches — on April 28th! I haven’t been up that way for several years so I decided to come along.
On April 27th, Lita’s new book Born to be Giants was released, and she signed a few copies at the White Mountain Cafe and Bookstore in Gorham. Below is a picture of Lita with the first book store copy sold.
The community was so welcoming — there were signs for Lita all over:
The kids at Berlin Junior High School made a fantastic poetry circle, with poems written on the foot tracings, that emphasized what it’s like to be in other people’s shoes around the world. It was really well done!
This was Lita’s last group of March and April school visits. She did more than 40 presentations during the last three weeks of April. Here she’s in the Library at Berlin Junior High School.
And at the the Randolph Public Library — shown a beautiful drawing of a turtle.
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