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1. Written and Drawn by Liniers

I never want to pander [to] or patronize kids. They aren’t idiots.
They’re just below eye level.”


This morning over at Kirkus, I talk to Argentine cartoonist Ricardo Siri, otherwise known as Liniers. We talk about a few things, including his newest book, Written and Drawn by Henrietta.

That link will be here soon.

Until tomorrow …

* * * * * * *

Photo of Liniers taken by Nora Lezano and used by his permission.

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2. Boo! Before Breakfast

“Later Leo would not be able to say where the idea came from. He threw the bed sheet over himself and flew at the thief, who was so frightened he dropped all the salad forks. Leo chased the man into a closet, then slammed the door shut
and locked him inside. It was very well done.”

(Click to enlarge spread)


Over at BookPage, I’ve got a review of Mac Barnett’s Leo: A Ghost Story (Chronicle, August 2015), illustrated by Christian Robinson. That review is here.

And I’ve got a bit of art from the book here today. The only thing these spreads today are missing is the wonderful character of Jane, but you’ll just have to find a copy yourself so you can meet her. Oh, wait! She’s in the bottom right corner of this image:



I think this is one of the year’s best picture books thus far. Definitely a favorite for me.



“This is Leo. Most people cannot see him.”
(Click to enlarge spread)


“But you can. Leo is a ghost.”
(Click to enlarge spread)


“The family called in a scientist, a clergyman, and a psychic to get rid of the ghost.
But they should have saved their money: Leo knew he was unwanted.
He said goodbye to his home and left.”

(Click to enlarge spread –
please note the colors are a bit off in this spread)


“‘I have been a house ghost all my life,’ Leo thought. ‘Maybe I would like being
a roaming ghost for a while.’ So Leo roamed.”

(Click to enlarge spread –
please note the colors are a bit off in this spread)



* * * * * * *

LEO: A GHOST STORY. Copyright © 2015 by Mac Barnett. Illustrations copyright © 2015 by Christian Robinson. Images reproduced by permission of the publisher, Chronicle Books, San Francisco.

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3. 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #447: Featuring Simona Ciraolo


“I’d had my suspicions for a while that someone had replaced my sister with a girl who looked a lot like her. It had to be! …” Thus opens the new book from author-illustrator Simona Ciraolo (who brought us last year’s Hug Me), Whatever Happened to My Sister? This will be on shelves, come November, from Flying Eye Books. It’s the story of a young girl whose teenage sister is keeping her distance, as teenage sisters are wont to do. The girl, however, is filled with confusion and sorrow, given that they used to play together closely. “I am rather observant,” the girl notes, “yet the moment of the switch must have passed me by.”

There’s a real tender pain here as we follow the girl watching her sister, the latter fully engaged in typical teen activities (listening to music, watching television, hanging with her friends). The younger one tries to engage her sister yet can’t — and eventually she is moved to tears and hides behind the living room couch. But fear not: Her older sister finds her and they spend time together.

There’s humor here, as well as hurt feelings. The family cat brings some comic relief, for one. Ciraolo’s characters are expressive and her palette, intriguing. The colors are fairly limited, but this serves the story well. The bright oranges are fitting for the intense moments of either frustration or loneliness, and the final spread—where the two girls sit and talk on the couch—are washed in a brilliant, intense red. As always, I’ve got some spreads here to show you (sans the text, in this case) so that you can see for yourself.

Enjoy the art!

“I’d had my suspicions for a while that someone had replaced my sister
with a girl who looked a lot like her. It had to be!”

(Click bottom image to see spread in its entirety)


“My sister was never so tall. Did it happen overnight? I am rather observant,
yet the moment of the switch must have passed me by.”

(Click to enlarge)


“I suppose there were the signs. She’d been incredibly boring on several occasions
but I guess I didn’t give it much thought …”

(Click to enlarge)


“… at least until I noticed her sense of fashion had gone.
This new sister showed no interest in pretty things.”

(Click to enlarge)


WHATEVER HAPPENED TO MY SISTER? Copyright © 2015 by Simona Ciraolo. Illustrations used by permission of the publisher, Flying Eye Books, New York.

* * *

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) The care that Flying Eye Books puts into the production of their books.

2) Exploding Kittens, the card game, has arrived — and it’s like it was made EXPRESSLY for my daughters.

3) The girls and I are reading Anne of Green Gables aloud (first time for each of us), and it’s a HOOT.

4) Solutions that work.

5) Kindnesses extended to me.

6) Helping hands.

7) This has been a good listen.

What are YOUR kicks this week?

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4. What I’m Doing at Kirkus This Week,Plus What I Did Last Week, FeaturingJayme McGowan, Victoria Turnbull, & Phoebe Wahl

“Where I lead, Oscar follows.”
– From Victoria Turnbull’s
The Sea Tiger
(Click to enlarge)


“‘Shhh,’ said Sonya’s papa. ‘What might seem unfair to you
might make sense to a fox.’ And he told her a story. …”
– From Phoebe Wahl’s
Sonya’s Chickens
(Click to enlarge)


– From Jayme McGowna’s One Bear Extraordinaire


This morning over at Kirkus, I peek at some Fall 2015 picture book releases and how in many of them, you’ll be greeting old friends. That link is here.

* * *

Last week I wrote here about the picture books of three newcomers, so I’ve got art (and, in some cases, preliminary images) from each book today. Those books are Jayme McGowan’s One Bear Extraordinaire (Abrams, September 2015), Victoria Turnbull’s The Sea Tiger (Candlewick, October 2015), and Phoebe Wahl’s Sonya’s Chickens (Tundra, August 2015).

Enjoy the art!


From The Sea Tiger:


“We go to extraordinary places.”
[Text here is different from the way it appears in the final copy.]

(Click to enlarge)



From Sonya’s Chickens:


(Click each early sketch to enlarge)


Final art: “The floor of the coop was frosted with feathers, and Sonya cried out as she counted not three, but two frightened chickens cowering in the rafters above. The third was nowhere to be seen. Sonya burst into tears. Before she knew it,
strong arms scooped her up and she cried into her papa’s beard.”

(Click to enlarge)



From One Bear Extraordinaire:


Bear sketch



Campfire sketch
(Click to enlarge)


Final art
(Click either image to see spread in its entirety)


Final art
(Click either image to see spread in its entirety)


Final art
(Click either image to see spread in its entirety)


Final art: “‘We’ve got ourselves a singer!’ Bear said. …”
(Click to enlarge)



* * * * * * *

ONE BEAR EXTRAORDINAIRE. Copyright © 2015 by Jayme McGowan. Published by Abrams, New York. All images reproduced by permission of Jayme McGowan.

THE SEA TIGER. Copyright © 2014 by Victoria Turnbull. Illustrations reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.

SONYA’S CHICKENS. Copyright © 2015 by Phoebe Wahl. Published by Tundra Books, a division of Penguin Random House, New York. All images reproduced by permission of Phoebe Wahl.

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5. My Rambling Thoughts Well After Breakfast

Big thanks to Nick Patton for having me as a guest over at his place, The Picturebooking Podcast, this week.

He and I chat about blogging and why precisely those of us who do it do it, and we talk about 7-Imp and picture books.

AND lots of other stuff.

The link is here.

It was a pleasure to chat with him, and I appreciate the invitation to do so.

Until tomorrow …


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6. Seven Questions Over Breakfast with Daniel Miyares

Author and illustrator Daniel Miyares—whose most recent picture book is Float, published by Simon & Schuster in June (and the subject of my Kirkus column here)—visits for breakfast this morning. Normally, he tells me, he has merely a hot cup of Earl Grey tea with a splash of milk in the fabulous mug his wife gave him, pictured below. (“She gets me,” he adds.) If he’s taking the time to sit down and eat in the mornings, he says, he goes with biscuits. “I grew up in South Carolina,” he tells me. “It’s kind of a requirement.”

Hey, I’m in Tennessee and get this, so biscuits and tea it is.

Daniel is relatively new to picture books, at least in the grand scheme of things, and I thank him for visiting today to tell me and my readers more about his career, his books thus far, and what’s next on his plate.

Let’s get right to it.

* * * * * * *

Daniel’s breakfast mug-of-choice

Jules: Are you an illustrator or author/illustrator?

Daniel: Author/Illustrator, but my entry point into a story idea is usually the visual narrative.


(Click to enlarge spread)


(Click to enlarge spread)


Spreads and cover from Float (Simon & Schuster, June 2015);
Visit this 2015 7-Imp post for sketches from the book

(Click each to enlarge)


Jules: Can you list your books-to-date? (If there are too many books to list here, please list your five most recent illustrated titles or the ones that are most prominent in your mind, for whatever reason.)

Daniel: I’ve illustrated: Waking Up Is Hard To Do (Imagine Publishing, 2010) and Bambino and Mr. Twain (Charlesbridge Publishing, 2012).

As author/illustrator: Pardon Me! (Simon & Schuster, 2014), Float (Simon & Schuster, 2015) and Bring Me A Rock! (to be published by Simon & Schuster, Summer of 2016)

Jules: What is your usual medium?


Spreads and cover from Pardon Me! (Simon & Schuster, 2014);
Click here to see early sketches and development work from the book

(Click each to enlarge)


Daniel: I use inks, watercolors, gouache, acrylics, and digital tools to build my images.

Jules: If you have illustrated for various age ranges (such as, both picture books and early reader books OR, say, picture books and chapter books), can you briefly discuss the differences, if any, in illustrating for one age group to another?


(Click to enlarge)


Daniel: I’ve gotten to try a variety of book-type projects. I’ve made picture books, did a novel cover, and when I was first starting out I got to illustrate some serial books for the Kansas City Star newspaper. No matter who the book audience is, I try to use the same approach to visual storytelling. The principles of design and timing speak to all age groups, I think. I have learned, however, that young children have an easier time appreciating where a story wants to take them. Something about getting older dulls our ability to imagine and tolerate the absurd. I’ve found that in the picture books I make I can paint what something feels like and not just what it looks like. Sometimes to tell a proper story you need the freedom to break with truth and reality. Kids get that in a big way.

Jules: Where are your stompin’ grounds?

Daniel: I live in the middle of the map as they say, the city of Overland Park, Kansas. It’s just south of Kansas City.

Daniel, age four

Jules: Can you briefly tell me about your road to publication?

Daniel: My first book gig was a collaboration with Singer/Songwriter Neil Sedaka. He was working with Imagine Publishing to bring some re-works of his hit songs to life as picture books. The first one they wanted to do was Waking Up Is Hard To Do [pictured below]. It was 2009. I had just finished building a portfolio with my artist rep (Studio Goodwin Sturges), when they said there may be an opportunity for me, but … you would need to do a sample piece for the story on spec. It wasn’t like I had another project going on at the time, so I said sure. I’m assuming they had a handful of other artists contending for the book as well. We went a few rounds on the samples to define my take on the story, and in the end I got to do the book. For a young illustrator, it was like jumping off the end of the pier to learn how to swim. The stakes felt high. The deadlines were tight. I learned so much about who I was as a book maker, as well as who I might want to be going forward. Also, I realized just how amazing of a creative family I had in my Studio Goodwin Sturges partners. They really gave me an education on the nuts and bolts of bookmaking.

Neil was a force. I really admire his passion for music and passing that on to his grandchildren. You could tell he was totally smitten by them. Before I knew it he was on the Today show talking about our book with Kathie Lee and Hoda.


(Click to enlarge spread)


It was a wild first adventure as a book illustrator. Pretty soon after that, I started to feel the pull to tell my own stories.

Jules: Can you please point readers to your web site and/or blog?

Daniel: danielmiyares.comm or on Instagram @danielmiyaresdoodles — and on Twitter @danielmiyares.

Jules: If you do school visits, tell me what they’re like.

Daniel: I try to tailor my presentations to the audiences.

If it’s a large school-assembly kind of situation, I’ll do a slide show and discussion that starts with when I knew I wanted to be an artist (at about age four).

I also like to share what I think an Author/Illustrator really does. No matter what the age group is, if I ask what an Author/Illustrator does, I get the same answer: “They write the words and draw the pictures.” Technically, they’re right, but I’m convinced there’s a lot more fun and adventure in it than that. To prove it, I share an example of a three sentence story that I wrote for a children’s book class I taught a while back at the Kansas City Art Institute. First I share it with just the words and I ask if it’s a good story. Usually I get a resounding NO! Sometimes I get a boo or two. (Kid-honesty is the best.)



Next, I share the same story again, except I’ve added some rough sketches to it. This time I usually get belly laughs and cheers. Really I just want to share that words and pictures don’t have to be serious, intimidating business. Telling stories can be a lot of fun.


(Click each to enlarge)


I also do readings of my books. The kids are usually so respectful and well-mannered. I invite them to take part in the readings. They help me figure out what’s going to happen next or shout out questions or suggestions. I’ve learned so much about my books through those interactions. Secretly, my goal is to get them whipped up over a story. I want the students to have as much joy and excitement as possible around the reading experience.

My finale is usually a live drawing demo. I make the wild claim to the crowd that it’s possible to make any animal in the world out of basic shapes. Mostly they don’t believe me, so I ask for a shape suggestion from the audience. I draw that on the pad of paper. Then I ask for the animal. If all works out, we end up with some pretty fun stylized animal drawings. As time allows, I’ll get some other brave souls up there to convert shapes into animals, too.

For smaller groups (like the size of one classroom), I’ll change it up to be more hands-on. I like having an activity where we make something together. If they’re on the older side, I break out the three-sentence story assignment for them. It’s a lot of fun, plus I like leaving things behind that they can keep working on or do again in their own way with their teachers.



Daniel’s That-Neighbor-Kid series

Jules: If you teach illustration, by chance, tell me how that influences your work as an illustrator.

Daniel: When I’ve had the opportunity to teach classes, I’m always amazed at how much I grow personally. There’s something about taking on the responsibility of helping others connect dots that inevitably leads to my own dot-connecting.

I was teaching a children’s book class at the same time I was working on Float. When we covered basic principles, like pacing and composition, I would bring in-progress art from my book to speak to. They enjoyed talking about real world examples, and I got some straightforward feedback on how things read. There’s a wonderful accountability that goes along with being transparent.

Also, the student’s passion and curiosity for art and design is infectious. It’s really hard to replicate that energy outside of a classroom.


Cover art for Leah Pileggi’s Prisoner 88 (Charlesbridge, 2013)
(Click to enlarge)


Jules: Any new titles/projects you might be working on now that you can tell me about?

Daniel: I just wrapped up the art on my next book with Simon & Schuster. It’s called Bring Me A Rock! It will be released Summer of 2016. It’s about a megalomaniac insect king on a power trip and the little bug who saves the day.


(Click each to enlarge)


Also, I am in the middle of illustrating a new book that Kwame Alexander wrote for North South, called Surf’s Up.


(Click to enlarge cover)


Mmm. Coffee.Okay, we’ve got our eggs, and it’s time to get a bit more detailed with six questions over breakfast. I thank Daniel again for visiting 7-Imp.

1. Jules: What exactly is your process when you are illustrating a book? You can start wherever you’d like when answering: getting initial ideas, starting to illustrate, or even what it’s like under deadline, etc. Do you outline a great deal of the book before you illustrate or just let your muse lead you on and see where you end up?


: In describing my process, I have to mention Uri Shulevitz’s book Writing With Pictures. A friend turned me onto it when I was building my first book concepts as an author/illustrator. In the second paragraph of the first chapter, Uri says, “A picture book says in words only what pictures cannot show.”

This simple idea helped the tumblers fall into place for me. Don’t let your words try and do what your pictures are doing and vice versa. The magic for me is that space in between word and image. Now when I’m working on a book idea, I do rough loose thumbnail drawings and write at the same time. I also like drawing and writing quickly so nothing is too precious in early stages.


Dummy and final spread from Float
(Click final art to enlarge)


Dummy and final spread
(Click final art to enlarge)


Dummy and final spread
(Click final art to enlarge)


My ideas for stories come from all over the place. I wish I had a clean formula for generating a great idea. As best as I can tell, I usually start with a personal struggle or anxiety. I know that doesn’t sound very uplifting, but I believe that if you can show real human struggle and how it’s overcome or redeemed, people will connect to it.

Float was a different one for me. I didn’t start with an idea at all. I was flying home from my aunt’s funeral, and on the plane I did a small drawing of a boy floating a paper boat in a puddle. As I looked at it I wondered what happened just before that moment — and I drew it. Then I wondered what happened after and I drew that. I went on like this until I found the beginning and end of the story. It felt like carving something out of stone. The plot line was in there already; I just needed to knock off what didn’t belong to uncover it.


Dummy and final spread
(Click final art to enlarge)


Dummy and final spread
(Click final art to enlarge)


Dummy and final spread
(Click final art to enlarge)


When it comes to making art, I usually always make a quick rough sketch to start from. I try not to overdraw my sketches. Many times I’ve fallen in love with a drawing that says it all and then proceeded to choke the life out of a finished painting of it. Now I try to let my sketches give me the energy and spirit I want in my finished piece but not take it too far. I think I have the best outcomes and the most fun when I make some discoveries in my finished paintings.

I use a variety of media. I use inks, watercolors, gouache, acrylics, and digital tools. I paint the elements for my pieces separately and compile them digitally. It allows me to focus on mark-making, edges, and surface texture in a free way. So, for instance, in Float I painted most of the backgrounds with inks and watercolors wet into wet. I wanted it to feel rain-soaked throughout, but for the little boy I cut shapes out of some of my hand-painted textures on the computer. You know how rain slickers are kind of stiff and have those harsh distinct creases in them? It seemed like a fun contrast to those deep, washy, rolling neutral greys.


Dummy and final spread
(Click final art to enlarge)


Dummy and final spread
(Click final art to enlarge)


Aside from the hours upon hours holed up in my studio drawing and painting, making books for me has to be a team sport. The collaborations with my reps, editors, and design partners have truly helped to make my books the best they can be. I hope I never feel like I’ve got it all figured out.

2. Jules: Describe your studio or usual work space.


: My workspace now is a studio/office in the lower level of my house. We moved in not too long ago, and I’m thrilled to have a separate room set aside to make stuff in. Up until now, our finished attic doubled as our bedroom and studio. My wife is some kind of saint for putting up with all those late nights.

I like painting on this old reclaimed library table a friend of mine gave me when I first moved to Kansas City many years ago. Painting flat suits my love of wet media. Since I use digital tools, too, I like to be just a chair-swivel away from my Mac.


(Click to enlarge)


I have realized that when I’m cooking up ideas for stories and concepting new projects, being out and about works well for me. I spend lots of time in coffee shops and libraries with my sketchbooks.


(Click to enlarge)


3. Jules: As a book-lover, it interests me: What books or authors and/or illustrators influenced you as an early reader?


: Shel Silverstein really ignited my imagination as a kid. In the third grade, I had a teacher read to us from A Light In the Attic. I couldn’t believe we were allowed to read things like that in school. It seemed unfair, like we were getting to skip our school lessons.

Later on, it was Mark Twain’s short stories that got me. And poetry — Langston Hughes, E.E. Cummings, and the imagist poets. I quickly saw that language could evoke the most visceral of feelings.


Spreads and cover from Bambino and Mr. Twain
(Charlesbridge Publishing, 2012)

(Click spreads to enlarge)


4. Jules: If you could have three (living) authors or illustrators—whom you have not yet met—over for coffee or a glass of rich, red wine, whom would you choose? (Some people cheat and list deceased authors/illustrators. I won’t tell.)

Daniel: Ok, as long as it’s between us. Let’s see … I might have to do both living and non.

William Joyce — I’d love to throw around book ideas with him. I don’t know him at all, but he seems like a great idea man.

Alice and Martin Provensen — I’m rather intrigued with how the collaboration worked, but really because The Glorious Flight is one of my all time faves.

Lynd Ward — Because his drawings are ridiculous! Maybe we could’ve drawn together. A friend pointed me toward The Silver Pony, and I can’t stop going back to it.


(Click to enlarge)


5. Jules: What is currently in rotation on your iPod or loaded in your CD player? Do you listen to music while you create books?

Daniel: I do listen to tunes when I work. Currently I’ve got Dave Brubeck, R.E.M., Sam Cooke, The Cure, Spoon, Dr. Dog. …



6. Jules: What’s one thing that most people don’t know about you?

Daniel: I’m a huge John Cusack fan. Whenever he does a new movie—good, bad, or horrible—I have to see it.


Daniel: “A friend of mine recently saw Float
and made me a plush paper boat.”


7. Jules: Is there something you wish interviewers would ask you — but never do? Feel free to ask and respond here.

Daniel: I usually don’t get asked about my family, but they’re so much a part of what I do. My wife and I [pictured below] have a six-year-old daughter, named Stella, and a three-year-old son, named Sam. I didn’t grow up dreaming about making picture books. After my daughter was born, it started to make a lot of sense to me. Seeing the world through my children’s eyes has been a real privilege. I never expected they would have such an impact on my creative pursuits. Plus, they constantly remind me of what’s important in life. If left to my own devices, I worry I would be all work and no play. They keep me in a healthy balance.



* * * The Pivot Questionnaire * * *

Jules: What is your favorite word?

Daniel: “Quietude.”

Jules: What is your least favorite word?

Daniel: “BOGO” (not the deal, just the acronym).

Jules: What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally?

Daniel: Good art, films, poetry, the fam, drawing just because, down time.

Jules: What turns you off?

Daniel: Doing the same things over and over and small-mindedness.

Jules: What is your favorite curse word? (optional)

Daniel: Does “poop” count? In my house, it counts.

Jules: What sound or noise do you love?

Daniel: Belly laughs.

Jules: What sound or noise do you hate?

Daniel: Silent cries. (You know, those out-of-breath kid-cries, where it takes the sound a minute to catch up to the face.)

Jules: What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?

Daniel: Teacher.

Jules: What profession would you not like to do?

Daniel: Accountant. (No offense. It just ain’t me.)

Jules: If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?

Daniel: “Welcome.”

All images are used by permission of Daniel Miyares.

The spiffy and slightly sinister gentleman introducing the Pivot Questionnaire is Alfred, copyright © 2009 Matt Phelan.

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7. 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #446: Featuring Marc Boutavant

“‘You must tell me honestly if you’re getting angry,’ he went on.
‘It would be too bad if you didn’t tell me, squirrel. It would be insulting.'”
– From
The Day No ONe Was Angry


Title page art from Edmond, the Moonlit Party


Want to join me this morning, dear Imps, in looking at some artwork from French illustrator Marc Boutavant? I’m looking at two new books, in particular, here — Astrid Desbordes’ Edmond, The Moonlit Party, which was originally published in France two years ago but came to American shelves in June, thanks to Enchanted Lion Books, as well as Toon Tellegen’s The Day No One Was Angry. I believe Toon’s stories originally published in 2002, and this is the First American Edition from Gecko Press (March 2015).

Edmond, the Moonlit Party, translated by Claudia Zoe Bedrick, is the enchanting story of a squirrel who lives in a tree also populated by an owl and a bear (his neighbors, that is). Edmond is shy, so he spends time alone, making nut jam and being “an amazing pompom maker.” He makes things like pompom hats in “no more than a day or two.” It’s very fun to spot his pompom creations, and the character himself is quirky and funny in such a way that is never too precious or cloying. His neighbor, the owl, likes to dress in disguises and eventually invites him to the party bear throws — and Edmond comes out of his shell. The story is laugh-out-loud funny in spots, and Boutavant’s illustrations are a perfect fit here, Leonard Marcus describing them in the New York Times as “a stylish retro-Pop brew with winsome notes of Takashi Murakami and Richard Scarry.” Yes. That.

The Day No One Was Angry is quite unlike any other story collection you’ll read this year — and different from the way many American books would handle such a thing. Here, Tellegen explores anger in 12 stories featuring a variety of creatures. The stories are funny and bizarre and thought-provoking — sometimes all three at once. Think: An elephant who argues with himself for having climbed a tree (and fallen, as he suspected he might). Or think: A lobster who sells anger door-to-door from his suitcase. (“I’m the lobster. Can I interest you in some anger?”) It’s an intriguing collection of stories and worlds apart from your typical story set.

Here’s a bit of art from each book so that you can see for yourself. …

[Pictured above left is a spot illustration from “The Hedgehog” from Tellegen’s The Day No One Was Angry.]


From The Day No One Was Angry:



“The hedgehog was sitting under the rose bush, thinking of all the things he’d been. I’ve been joyful, he thought. On the squirrel’s birthday, for instance,
when I danced with the cricket. …”


“The shrew sat at the table and tasted the cake the squirrel put in front of him. ‘Squirrel,’ he said, after two bites, ‘I think this really will make you angry,
but I have to tell you: I don’t like this cake. …'”



From Edmond, the Moonlit Party:


(Click either image to see spread in its entirety)


(Click either image to see spread in its entirety)


(Click either image to see spread in its entirety)



THE DAY NO ONE WAS ANGRY. First American edition published in 2015 by Gecko Press, and all illustrations here used by their permission.

EDMOND, THE MOONLIT PARTY. First published in 2015 by Enchanted Lion Books, and all illustrations here used by their permission.

* * *

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) Well, this is so wonderful for obvious reasons.

2) I didn’t think it could be possible to like Lily Tomlin even more than I already did, but then I listened to her Fresh Air interview


3) I’m driving a bit more these days, and I’m getting caught up on podcasts, both long-time favorites and brand-new delights. I’m sorry to the environment, but my ears and brain are happy.

4) My girls and I are reading this below, and it is very funny. We are racing through it, because we can’t put it down.

5) Invitations.

6) My middle-schooler continues to like her new school — and especially that the library opened this week.

7) Re-discovering old CDs and songs, such as Crowded House’s “Nails in My Feet.” Those guys and their lyrics. So good.

What are YOUR kicks this week?

4 Comments on 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #446: Featuring Marc Boutavant, last added: 8/23/2015
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8. What I’m Doing at Kirkus This Week,Plus What I Did Last Week, Featuring Don Brown,Emily Carroll, Zack Giallongo, and Ben Hatke

– From Ben Hatke’s Little Robot


– From Ian Lendler’s The Stratford Zoo Midnight Revue Presents Romeo and Juliet, illustrated by Zack Giallongo


– From Marika McCoola’s Baba Yaga’s Assistant, illustrated by Emily Carroll


– From Don Brown’s Drowned City: Hurricane Katrina & New Orleans


This morning over at Kirkus, I’ve got three new picture books from debut author-illustrators. Good stuff, these books. That link will be here soon.

* * *

Last week, I had a graphic novel round-up, so I’m following up today here at 7-Imp with a bit of art from each book — Don Brown’s Drowned City: Hurricane Katrina & New Orleans (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, August 2015); Marika McCoola’s Baba Yaga’s Assistance, illustrated by Emily Carroll (Candlewick, August 2015); Ben Hatke’s Little Robot (First Second, September 2015); and Ian Lendler’s The Stratford Zoo Midnight Revue Presents Romeo and Juliet (First Second, September 2015), illustrated by Zack Giallongo. To boot, I’ve got a bit of art from last year’s The Stratford Zoo Midnight Revue Presents Macbeth.



From Baba Yaga’s Assistant:


(Click each to enlarge)



From Little Robot:



From Drowned City:


(Click either image to see spread in its entirety)


(Click each to enlarge)



From The Stratford Zoo Midnight Revue Presents
Romeo and Juliet


(Click each to enlarge)



From The Stratford Zoo Midnight Revue Presents


(Click each to enlarge)



* * * * * * *

BABA YAGA’S ASSISTANT. Text copyright © 2015 by Marika McCoola. Illustrations copyright © 2015 by Emily Carroll. Illustrations reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.

DROWNED CITY: HURRICANE KATRINA & NEW ORLEANS. Copyright © 2015 by Don Brown. Illustrations reproduced by permission of the publisher, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Boston.

LITTLE ROBOT. Copyright © 2015 by Ben Hatke. Illustrations published by permission of the publisher, First Second Books, New York.

THE STRATFORD ZOO MIDNIGHT REVUE PRESENTS MACBETH. Text copyright © 2014 by Ian Lendler. Illustrations copyright © 2015 by Zack Giallongo. Illustrations reproduced by permission of the publisher, First Second Books, New York.

THE STRATFORD ZOO MIDNIGHT REVUE PRESENTS ROMEO AND JULIET. Text copyright © 2015 by Ian Lendler. Illustrations copyright © 2015 by Zack Giallongo. Illustrations reproduced by permission of the publisher, First Second Books, New York.

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9. Katherine Applegate: My Kirkus Q&A

I don’t think there are many middle-grade children’s books that talk about the ‘working poor’ — about the stresses that come when parents juggle multiple low-paying jobs and there still isn’t enough food on the table or maybe even a place to call home. Children may not know what being ‘food insecure’ means, but they understand much more than we give them credit for, especially when it comes to money.”

* * *

Over at Kirkus today, I talk to author Katherine Applegate about her new middle-grade novel, Crenshaw (Feiwel and Friends), coming to shelves next month.

That conversation will be here soon.

Until tomorrow …

* * * * * * *

Photo of Katherine used by her permission.

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10. Keeping the Fires Stoked with Antoinette Portis

Early sketch and final art: “Hurry!”
(Click to enlarge spread)


Author-illustrator Antoinette Portis joins me this morning for a lovely, long chat before breakfast. Last month over at BookPage, I reviewed Antoinette’s newest picture book, Wait (Neal Porter Books/Roaring Brook Press, July 2015). That review is here.

Today, Antoinette talks all about the book and its evolution; her experience as a Sendak Fellow; the fine art of being content with discontent; her upcoming picture books (with art from each to share!); and much more. I thank her for visiting, and let’s get right to it.

[Please note that the colors in the larger versions of each image, should you choose to click on them, are slightly brighter than they appear in the book.]



Jules: Hi, Antoinette! I’m not going to ask you about how the story of Wait came to you, since you covered that in the Horn Book Q&A and the Q&A at Publishers Weekly. I do want to ask about this, which you typed to me in an email when we were chatting earlier:

I don’t think of myself as an illustrator per se, but a visual communicator or a visual storyteller. I generally don’t use drawing as a way to come up with ideas. I get ideas, and then I sketch them out to communicate them. I think my idea machine is on the language side of my brain. Then the drawing side kicks in and fleshes things out. It’s taken me a while to figure out that this is my particular process.

Is this something you discovered during the Sendak Fellowship, by chance? Or earlier?


Final art: “Hurry!”
(Click to enlarge spread)


Antoinette: When I was in art school, my best friend always carried around a sketchbook and drew everywhere she went. In high school, I used to carry around a sketchbook everywhere I went, but I wrote in it. Anyway, my friend’s dedicated drawing practice was a rebuke to me. I wasn’t going to be a poet. I was heading toward being a visual artist, so why didn’t I draw all time? I started carrying a sketchbook and drawing regularly. But mostly, I drew to learn how to see. It was more often a turning outward, not inward.

At the Sendak Fellowship, it seemed like my friend Rowboat Watkins, like my college friend, also used drawing to bring forth ideas. His hand told him stuff about his interior life. It looked like drawing was his connection to inspiration, to his internal idea factory.


Final art: “Hurry!”
(Click to enlarge spread)


That has always seemed like the way artistic process is supposed to work. It’s taken me a while to accept that there are different ways of getting ideas out and onto paper. So, I have gradually come to make peace with, and maybe even relish, my own process. (Judging it and rebelling against it did not prove to be helpful.)

So, I mostly use writing to generate ideas. It doesn’t matter which comes first, words or image, because my books are going to have both. The two strands, at the finish, are going to synthesize into a whole.

Once I immerse myself in the drawing phase, the writing part of me shuts up and I get into that flow where visual ideas just seem to show up of their own accord. Working on Wait, the pictures start thickening up: visual motifs, subtext, foreshadowing, color all started to add little tiles of meaning, like building a mosaic.


Final art: “Wait.”
(Click to enlarge spread)


Each small detail serves the overarching theme, and the whole adds up, one hopes, to a piece of visual literature.

That’s what I’m striving for anyway. It’s a frigging thrilling goal. What picture books are capable of—the endless possibilities—lights my brain on fire.

Jules: Yes, it’s that “seamlessness” of text and art that Sendak once spoke of. Such a unique art form, these picture books.

I am not going to pry into your time with Sendak at the Fellowship, but may I ask about a piece of advice that he gave you that really sticks with you?


Final art: “Wait. Hurry!”
(Click either image to see spread in its entirety)


Antoinette: Maurice talked a lot about making books that had depth and meaning. He thought every book that gets published should matter, should say something children need to hear. He charged us with carrying on his mission — making books that authentically reflect the experience of being human.

So, no pressure. No pressure at all.

I guess what struck me the most about Maurice is that he was the living embodiment of what was great about his books. He was openhearted, deep, funny, honest, poetic, iconoclastic. When you met him in person, you saw that you had already met him in his books.

He wanted us, with him, to fan the flames of rebellion against blandness. He expressed his despair over the growing tendency among publishers—as more and more houses become divisions of giant, publicly traded media conglomerates—to regard books as mere consumer products that exist only to help the bottom line and increase shareholder value.


Final art: “Wait.”
(Click to enlarge)


I’m certainly glad this isn’t universally true. I’m glad there are true believers out there, passionate about making great books.

It was an amazing experience to have Maurice as a friend. He was someone you could laugh and cry with, usually both in the same conversation.

Another thing I learned, something that Maurice wasn’t consciously trying to teach us, was that all artists have to deal with their own sense of failing to meet their internal artistic standards. I may wish I could make a book as great as Where the Wild Things Are, but Maurice wished he could etch like Rembrandt, write a symphony like Mozart or a novel like Herman Melville. The man had seriously high standards. It made me realize that having goals far beyond what you can achieve is useful. Those goals lay out plenty of road ahead to travel.


Final art: “Hurry!”
(Click to enlarge)


With these thoughts on my mind, the day after I left the Fellowship I was in New York at the big Matisse retrospective at MoMA. There I saw a famous conceptual artist whose own retrospective I’d seen in L.A. before I left for the Fellowship. I went up to tell the artist how much I loved his work. He was standing in front of a quintessential Matisse etching—just a few casual, perfectly-placed black lines on cream paper—and there was a luscious plate of fruit. He tipped his head toward the etching and said, “Doesn’t it make you want to kill yourself?” I said, “I saw your show in L.A. and it made me want to kill myself!”

He laughed.


Final art: “Wait.”
(Click to enlarge)


So, there you go. What hope was there for me, lowly struggler, if my idols aren’t satisfied with their work?

We all think: If only I were Maurice Sendak or Mr. World Famous Conceptual Artist, then I’d be content.

But, no, you wouldn’t be.

You’d be wishing, always, to be more, to do more.

So, I am learning to be content with discontent. It keeps the fires stoked. There’s so much still to learn.


Final art: “Hurry!”
(Click to enlarge)


Jules: That makes a lot of sense to me. I feel like I push myself in that way—I often think in my head of the person I’d like most to impress when I’m working on a project—but I figured I was being too hard on myself with my high standards. This is a good way to look at it.

I always like to hear stories about how generous and open Sendak was, because I think right before he died he got a bad rap sometimes in the press. He was portrayed as a grouch. Now, I never met him, and he was sometimes publicly grumbly about publishing trends, but in his career, he helped open doors for so many young, up-and-coming artists. And he had so much respect for children and their emotional lives. I see these things as very generous.

Okay, to the book, specifically! Can you talk about the drafts you went through? We can see here in the images you’ve sent that the story began back in 2010 and was once called But …, right? Can you talk about the story’s evolution?


Final spread in book
(Click to enlarge)


Antoinette: Wait kind of wobbled into existence, as most of my books do. I’d seen this moment happen — a little boy pulling away from his rushing mom to look at something interesting and being kind of yanked back on course. And I knew it had the makings of a picture book.

But the idea didn’t come with a built-in ending. Some ideas come with an arc, like Froodle. I knew what the crisis point was, so I knew where the story was headed.


From the 2010 dummy
(Click middle images to enlarge)


But Wait felt more like Not A Box — episodic, more like a straight line than an arc. They’re both about the perpetual back and forth between adult and child.

So with Wait, the tricky part was coming up with an ending. I wanted to end on a moment of connection. I wanted to honor those moments as a parent when you slow down and let your child show you how to just be.

I first dummied it up as But…. Grammar provided a perfect analogy — a child’s agenda is a subordinate clause. I worked on various iterations in my writing group. The But… version showed the mom rushing, but only the boy spoke. Another version had the mom saying, “Let’s keep moving,” “Mommy’s in a hurry,” etc.

I played around with different variations until it was clear to me that the mom should say only “hurry” and the boy should say “wait.” The counterpoint of the two verbs emphasized the tug of war between them.


From the 2011 dummy
(Click all but first image to enlarge)


Back to the issue of the ending: The funny thing is, as a writer, I had thoroughly put myself inside the head of the child. Kids take it for granted that they are tugged around the world without rhyme or reason. That’s just the way life is. So, I had two versions of an ending, both from inside that context. In one, the mom, in her rushing, drops her watch and the boy is the one who notices it and saves the day. In the other, the boy picks a dandelion out of a sidewalk crack and gives it to his mom and she stops for a moment before rushing on. Neither of those versions got a go-ahead.

But I took good advice from smart people who spurred me to come up with a more dramatic ending. They asked questions that are important for a storyteller to ask: Where is the mom rushing off to? Why is she in such a hurry?

So, duh, I needed to show the immediate goal the mom was rushing toward, so that her stopping had more impact. When I knew where she was going, I could build clues into the illustrations that hint at what the “ticking clock” of the story is: catching the train. And then I knew that the last thing the boy notices had to be something worth missing a train for. A double rainbow, something rare and remarkable.


Early comp work
(Click first seven images to enlarge)


Figuring this all out was a lesson in story-building.

Maybe it will be easier next time.

p.s. I feel like I earned the right to use a double rainbow — after a storm, one arched over my house. Nature gave it to me. And a gift like that, you gotta use.

I just saw on Facebook that you teach a class on picture books. Can I ask where? It seems like one could learn a lot from teaching.


Part of dummy, as presented to Neal Porter in 2012
(Click to enlarge)


Jules: Oh, I teach one course for the The University of Tennessee’s Information Sciences program (library school), and it’s a grad course on picture books. My official title is Lecturer. I don’t have a doctorate (yet?), and I am not even a part-time teacher. I just teach this one course for now. Needless to say, I love it. It looks at picture books in a curricular light (meaning, one week we’ll talk about good poetry picture books; then, nonfiction; then, folktales; then, international books, etc.), and it’s not, say, all about the art of the picture book. But I do open the course by talking about how we define picture books and how they work. I enjoy it.

And, yes, I learn a lot from teaching.

Have you ever taught?

As for the shape your story ended up taking, all I can say is that it’s just right. Also, every time I hear picture book authors talk about their craft, it amazes me anyone can ever get a picture book written. That sounds so goofy and over-earnest, and I guess I’m being hyperbolic. But I had to write one for a grad course once (fiction), and it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. It’s such a difficult thing to shape a story right and then craft the words. (This makes it all the more frustrating when you hear the average person on the street talk about how easy it must be.) I doubt many picture books arrive fully-formed in any author’s mind. And I think it’s fascinating to see the path to how an author or author-illustrator got there (like you’re sharing here today), even if what matters in the end is the final product, of course.


Part of dummy, as presented to Neal Porter in 2012
(Click to enlarge)


Antoinette: Are you thinking of getting or in the process of getting a PhD? That sounds intense. A lot more intense than making a picture book.

I was just at the SCBWI conference, and there was a lot of talk about people who don’t write picture books thinking they’re simplistic and easy to write. It definitely takes more time to write a novel than a picture book, but it doesn’t mean picture books are a breeze. They can be as deep, complex, and nuanced as any form of art. Just in an extremely economical way. There’s a quote that seems apropos (it’s been attributed to many writers, but apparently originated with Blaise Pascal): “I would have written a shorter letter, but I did not have the time.”

Picture book-making gets intense when a project isn’t working. Or when it was working and then one little revision makes the whole thing fall apart. I’ve come to recognize that as part of the creative process. I noticed this phenomenon when I worked at Disney as well. You hit a glitch and all the work you’ve done so far seems wasted, suddenly irrelevant. But you struggle through to a solution that brings the whole thing to fruition, usually in a different way than you anticipated. Like you might have to ditch something that seemed absolutely essential at the beginning of the process.


Part of dummy, as presented to Neal Porter in 2012
(Click to enlarge)


Then there are the ideas that just don’t take you all the way there. The problem is, midway through the tangle, you don’t know if the idea is inherently unsuitable, or you just haven’t yet figured out how to make it work. You don’t know whether to press on or push the eject button. That’s why a writer’s group is so great. When you feel discouraged, having someone say, “Keep going, you’ve almost got it” makes the difference between a stack of abandoned, dead-end versions and a book that works.

Some ideas I have had to chuck for now, hoping I’ll be better equipped to take them on someday. I heard Neil Gaiman speak once and he said he had the idea for The Graveyard Book years before he wrote it. He felt he wasn’t a good enough writer at the time to be able to do the idea justice. But he learned and grew as a writer, and one day he was ready. And how wonderful that book is!

I’ve never taught, though managing creative people for many years sometimes felt like teaching. Doing these interviews has been a learning experience. I’ve been driven to take vague feelings, musings, and half-formed intuitions and form then into cogent thoughts. Even if no one else learns anything from what I’ve said, I did! I imagine teaching is like that. You don’t even know what you know until you start articulating it as a lesson plan. We take our own life and work experience for granted. It’s just wallpaper. But when you start really looking at that wallpaper, it comes to life. You can pluck those roses right out of there and share them with someone else.


Part of dummy, as presented to Neal Porter in 2012
(Click to enlarge)


Jules: I used to think I’d want to teach full-time in some sort of postsecondary setting (college or university, etc.), but now I’m not sure I’d want to do that full-time. I still have to think about that. I think that would determine if I ever got a PhD (to answer your question).

Yes, teaching forces us to articulate these thoughts wandering around our heads, and that is always good.

Can you talk a bit more about working at Disney? If I knew that, I failed to remember. What did you do there?



Part of dummy, as presented to Neal Porter in 2012
(Click first image to enlarge)


Antoinette: I freelanced at Disney Consumer Products (DCP) for three days, working on an ad for the Pediatric Aids Foundation for which Disney was doing a charity event. There were so many acronyms, private lingo, and meetings; I kind of thought Disney was a cult.

I’d definitely seen the power Disney movies exert over little girls. My daughter was four when The Little Mermaid came out. If we were in Target, she could spot that teal and purple packaging from 200 yards away, and then … the whining! the begging!

I ended up working there full-time on the Disney licensing business. A business I’d never heard of — I thought Disney made everything they sold. I figured I’d be at Disney maybe a year, tops, but I stayed almost nine.

My boss hired me and other designers whose tastes she trusted with the goal of elevating the design standard of licensed products. And we did that. I was able to hire such talented people, and they astonished me every day. Some days my mouth hurt from smiling so much.


Playing with textures for Wait: Foggy city


It’s hard to explain what I did there, because like me when I started there, nobody knows what licensing is.

Skip this paragraph if you don’t care what licensing is (I don’t blame you): Certain product manufacturers pay a fee to intellectual property developers, like animation studios (or children’s book authors) to use that IP on their products. All the products you see outside the Disney parks and the Disney Store are designed, manufactured, and distributed by licensees, not by Disney itself. So, for every Disney movie for which there will be consumer products, Disney makes a source book, called a style guide, for all the licensees to use. The intention is that all the product out there will have a unified look and reflect the film faithfully. No more weird stuff out there like the Mickey Mouse dolls from the ’30s that looked like giant rats.


Early sketches for Wait


Disney provides character art, graphic design themes and elements, color palettes, etc., all approved by the filmmakers. It’s easy to understand that Disney would want the characters on tee shirts to be accurate renditions of the characters you see in the movie, but that same attention extended to graphic elements too. E.g., if Snow White was framed in flowers on a dress bodice, then the flowers had to be based on flowers from the film, drawn in the style of art in which the film was drawn. You couldn’t put Eyvind Earle’s Sleeping Beauty flowers with Snow White or vice versa. Verboten. (My boss was the first one to suggest that perhaps all the princesses could be grouped together, but that idea was vetoed. Disney wasn’t ready to loosen the reins that much. But it did happen eventually, as you can see.)


Playing with textures for Wait: Dry brush


I managed one of several teams of designers and illustrators, who made style guides for new films. We got to work with animation from the beginning of the film’s development. The illustrators, called character artists at Disney, learned from the animators how to draw the characters on model. They ended up knowing the characters’ personalities so well they could draw situations and interactions that weren’t in the movie, but felt true to the movie. The designers got to see all the development reference the animators and background artists were using: color stories, props, design elements, and the design influences of the film’s art direction.

Just to give you one small glimpse into our process of working with the animation studio, one task was to translate the character colors into PMS colors (a universal color system for printing and products) for the style guide. For example, for Hercules, the filmmakers chose a grayed mauve for Megara’s dress. We asked permission (this was like asking the Pope if you could get divorced) to brighten it up to a more kid-friendly shade, since the idea was for little girls around the world to be trotting off to bed in their irresistibly appealing mauve Megara nightgowns and mauve Megara slippers. We were granted this and other never-before-given dispensations, as it became more and more apparent that 1.) a Disney movie was not just a movie but a business franchise, and 2.) The Consumer Products team could be trusted to apply good sense and good taste.


Playing with textures for Wait: Pencil


So, we made style guides, these big thick binders full of art and design elements, and sent them to our licensees. They took the art, and to differentiate their products from the other licensees’, would rejigger it and get creative with it — sometimes in very scary ways that we would try to fix.

My first project there was The Lion King. The licensees were all worried about the movie, because there was no princess. Mattel fretted that they couldn’t make dolls with long flowing locks. It shocked everyone when the movie was the biggest success Disney had had to date. The people heading the studio trusted my boss, so we had more leeway to break out of the traditional way of doing things than anyone had before. For example, all character art previous to The Lion King was drawn in blue pencil and then inked with a thick and thin brush line, like old-school animations cells. When I proposed using different art styles for the character art, the old guard muttered under their breath that it could not be done. But when we showed the producer of The Lion King an illustration of Simba in a rough woodcut style, he was delighted. So that door opened. And we brought in African flag colors and African tribal design motifs from textiles and art, even though there were no humans or evidence of humans in the movie. But those design elements made the design richer and more interesting, and the Studio went with it.


Playing with textures for Wait: Rubbing mesh


There were thousands and thousands of products (stuffed animals, toys, clothing, bedding, games, sippy cups, etc. etc. hauled around in red wagons and deposited in our offices, and my team looked at every single one of them. The character artists and designers both gave notes in triplicate on the forms attached to each item. I had one designer, who’d worked on choosing the colors for the L.A. Olympics, just working on advising the licensees about their color choices. It was surreal. We all took it super seriously, but at the same time were aware of the absurdity of it all. It was an epic feat of micro-management. Needless to say, not all the licensees were fans of the process.

It was funny to work in a serious place of business, at a Fortune 100 company, where everyone had to think like a child. What would a child want? Would a child enjoy playing with this toy? We would be in a meeting with Mattel, at this huge imposing conference table, discussing with utmost seriousness the amount of glitter on Dancing Esmeralda’s skirt. (Glitter appeared to be an occupational hazard of working at Mattel. Executives in suits with glitter on their cheeks!) Or fifteen grownups would be sitting around shooting little arrows at each other from Hercules action figures.

The job was stressful and fun at the same time.


Playing with textures for Wait: Stamps for brownstone


Until it was stressful and not fun. I eventually became a VP. I was proud of achieving that, but then my job was all business. For some execs, business is their creative medium. Not me. I longed to be alone and make work with my own two hands. No meetings to go over sales reports or develop business strategies or to build consensus on those strategies. No group brainstorming sessions. No one was going to storm my brain but me.

I’m glad I stopped liking my job, because otherwise I would still be there. I wouldn’t have this new career that suits my nature so well. As an art student, the idea of a life spent alone in a studio agonizing over the left-hand corner of a painting filled me with despair. Now that’s my idea of heaven!

Jules: That’s intense. And the copious amounts of glitter! (I once heard glitter referred to as the herpes of library story times, and it always makes me laugh when I think of it. There’s a bit of off-color humor before breakfast.)

I could talk to you all day, but I should wrap this up, since you a have life – and a busy and art-filled one at that.

My last question: What are you working on now? Anything you’re allowed to talk about?

Antoinette: The Red Hat, a book written by David Teague that I illustrated, is coming out in December. It was surprisingly liberating to only have the pictures to worry about! It’s about a lonely boy, who struggles to connect with a girl who lives in the tower next door. The tone is kind of magic realism, set in a modern day city.


(Click all but cover to enlarge)


I’m excited about my next book with Neal Porter, Best Frints in the Whole Universe. Two best frints on an alien planet struggle to maintain their frintship through trials of their own making. (Just like friends on planet earth.)

When I was around 10 and had my first fight with a friend, I went home and announced to my dad that Debbie and I were done, finito. He told me that the mark of a real friendship is if you can have a fight and still be friends.


(Click each spread to enlarge)


The whole situation instantly turned around for me. I had no idea that friends fought. I knew siblings did (I had four of the beasts), but the idea that someone you weren’t related to could get mad at you but still love you seemed impossible. And then—Dad wisdom—it wasn’t impossible. I don’t remember how Debbie and I made up. Probably I just went over to her house and started playing with her like nothing happened. In any case, we were great friends and shared imaginary adventures for years. We built rafts that sailed across seas of cement, lived in bush caves, hunted wooly mammoths with pointy sticks, wove floor mats out of iris leaves, and dyed cloth with berries. We shoved gardenia petals behind our ears for perfume.


(Click each spread to enlarge)


My aliens, Omek and Yelfred, do not put gardenia petals behind their ears. They don’t have ears.

Frints is a real shift in tone from Wait. It’s funny. There’s an ironic narrator and two alien guys who behave like my brothers did — always competing, often fighting, and sometimes using their teeth (and not their words) to vent their anger. But there is a happy ending. Apparently, there is forgiveness on planet Boborp, just like here on planet Earth.


(Click first image to see spread in its entirety)


Jules: Thanks so much for visiting today, Antoinette!


* * * * * * *

WAIT. Copyright © 2015 by Antoinette Portis. Published by Neal Porter Books/Roaring Brook Press, New York. All images here reproduced by permission of Antoinette Portis.

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11. 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #445: Featuring Matt Phelan

Matt: “[This is a] key moment from the book
that didn’t change much from the sketch dummy.”

(Click each image—dummy and final art—to enlarge)


Good morning, all. Matt Phelan is visiting 7-Imp today to share some sketches and art from Michelle Knudsen’s Marilyn’s Monster, which was published by Candlewick in March of this year. It’s the story of a young girl waiting patiently for her monster; some of her classmates have them, you see, but Marilyn knows that your monster is supposed to find you. So she “tried to be the kind of girl no monster could resist.” Things don’t go as Marilyn quite expects them to, but I’ll leave that for you to discover if you read this on your own.

It’s a story with a lot of heart, and as the Publishers Weekly review puts it, “it’s a warm, gently funny reminder to chase down one’s dreams, rather than waiting for them to appear on the doorstep.” I love to see Matt’s sketches and to hear him talk about the progression of the artwork for the book, and I thank him for visiting today. Let’s get right to it. …


Matt: “I signed on to illustrate Marilyn’s Monster in 2012 but still had to complete Bluffton, Miss Emily, and Druthers before officially working on the book. The lead time was spent filling this sketch book with random monsters. It served as both a warm-up exercise and casting call for possible monsters to use in the book.”


Matt: “These are all character studies and media tests. I also try to establish the tone for the illustrations in these early tests. When working with another author, establishing the correct tone or ‘key’ for the story is probably the most important early step.”
(Click last image to enlarge)


Matt: “It was somewhere during the sketch dummy phase that it was decided to re-design Marilyn’s Monster. I had been drawing him almost like a younger sibling,
but we decided that Marilyn’s friend should be closer to her age and size.”


Initial thumbnail sketches
(Click to enlarge)


Pages from the sketch dummy
(Click each to enlarge)


Final art: “‘Maybe I’m better off without a monster,’
she told her friend Deborah at school. ‘They seem like a lot of work.’
‘Hmm,’ said Deborah. She didn’t really seem to agree.”

(Click to enlarge)


Matt: “With Marilyn, I discovered that my studio is just long enough to be able to spread out the paintings on the floor for a final check. I did sweep first.”
(Click to enlarge)


Matt: “I’m a huge fan of Michelle’s Library Lion (who isn’t?) and Kevin Hawkes’ perfect drawings for that book. When the text for Marilyn’s Monster mentioned looking behind the stone lions at the library, I couldn’t resist this tip of the hat.”


Matt: “On tour with Michelle Knudsen! Although I’ve illustrated books for many authors, Marilyn’s Monster was the first time that I was actually friends with the author before the book. During the making of it, Michelle and I stuck to the traditional ‘separation of author and illustrator’ rule, for the most part. It did allow me to think of it
as ‘the book’ and not ‘my friend’s book.'”



MARILYN’S MONSTER. Text copyright © 2015 by Michelle Knudsen. Illustrations copyright © 2015 by Matt Phelan. Published by Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA. All images here reproduced by permission of Matt Phelan.

* * *

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 * * *

Sorry to skip my kicks, dear Imps, but I have an ill parent, and so I’ve been at my parents’ home for a couple of days. And right now I just need to catch up on sleep. In sort of a pressing way. It might even be a tiny miracle this post is up, but I’m glad it is — because I like Michelle’s writing in the book and like seeing Matt’s art.

Please do tell me, though, what YOUR kicks are this week.

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12. What I’m Doing at Kirkus This Week, Plus What I Did Last Week, Featuring Hanmin Kim & Genjirou Mita


“The leopard ran with loud, heavy steps.
– From Hanmin Kim’s
Tiptoe Tapirs


Cover art from Nankichi Niimi’s Gon, The Little Fox,
illustrated by Genjirou Mita

(Click to enlarge)


This morning over at Kirkus, I’ve got a graphic novel round-up. That link will be here soon.

* * *

Today I’ve got some art from the two Asian imports I wrote about here last week — Hanmin Kim’s Tiptoe Tapirs, originally published in Korea but coming to shelves in October from Holiday House, as well as Nankichi Niimi’s Gon, The Little Fox (Museyon, May 2015), illustrated by Genjirou Mita and originally published in 1969.



From Tiptoe Tapirs:


“The leopard ran with loud, heavy steps. THUD, THUD, THUD.
Tapir ran with soft, silent steps. Hush, hush, hush.”

(Click to enlarge spread)


(Click to enlarge spread)



From Gon, The Little Fox:



“This is a story I heard in my childhood.
It was told to me by an old man named Mohei who lived in my village …”


“… Then, he saw a human doing something in the middle of the stream.
Gon hid in the deep part of the grass
and quietly snuck up to look.”


“… The eel made a squeaking sound and coiled around Gon’s neck. …”


“About ten days went by. While Gon was passing behind the house of a farmer called Yasuke, he saw Yasuke’s wife blackening her teeth in the shadow of a fig tree.”


“…’Who in the world threw sardines into my house?’ he mumbled.”


“Gon hid and remained still by the side of the path.
The voices were coming closer to him. …”



* * * * * * *

GON, THE LITTLE FOX. Copyright © 1969 by Nankichi Niimi and Genjirou Mita. English edition published by Museyon, Inc., New York. Illustrations reproduced by permission of the publisher.

TIPTOE TAPIRS. Copyright © 2013 by Hanmin Kim. English translation copyright © by Sera Lee. Illustrations used by permission of Holiday House.

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13. In the Canyon with Ashley Wolff


Author-illustrator Ashley Wolff is visiting today to share some sketches and art from Liz Garton Scanlon’s In the Canyon, published by Beach Lane this month. (Pictured above is an early sketch.) Liz and I talked about this book, as well as her new middle-grade novel, at Kirkus last week.

Ashley also shares here today some pictures of a hike she took. Here’s what she told me:

[It’s a] real-life hike from rim to river to rim my sister and I took in April of 2014. It’s a really long haul, and both rangers and signs like [the one below] discourage anyone from trying to do it in one day, but we are two, stubborn Wolff women. We started down the South Kaibab Trail before 7 a.m. and returned to the rim after 8 p.m. — 16 miles round trip and a mile’s elevation gain and loss. We didn’t take enough water or food, so at the little store at Phantom Ranch we begged a $10 off the nice attendant, a guy named Bob. We bought all the salty snacks he had, and then he handed us a SASE. Naturally, we mailed him back a $20!

The sketches [below] include a series from very roughest to finish, my main character before I found a model, and some sketches of the lovely Willa. She is also the niece of Daniel Handler and Lisa Brown.

I thank Ashley for sharing art today. Enjoy!


Early sketches
(Click each to enlarge)


The progression of a spread:
“Now here’s a tiny slice of shade, a yummy lunch, some lemonade,
and a lizard, still as sand, his head all speckled, body tan.”

(Click all but second image to enlarge)


“Here’s a little hidey-hole, home to sneaky squirrel or vole.”
Ashley: “[This is a scan] from before the final art revisions. This spread changed in one significant way: I removed the Gila Monster lurking in the upper left, as there was concern children might mistake that for a vole.
Other than that, it is much the same.”

(Click to enlarge)


Final art: “Here’s a footstep, dusty red,
another one, and more ahead …”

(Click to enlarge spread)


Final art: “Here’s the dark, and here’s the shine,
and here’s the moon—it’s like it’s mine!—
to tuck inside me, way down deep …”

(Click to enlarge spread)


(Click each to enlarge)



* * * * * * *

IN THE CANYON. Copyright © 2015 by Liz Garton Scanlon. Illustrations © 2015 by Ashley Wolff. Images here used by permission of Ashley Wolff. Final spreads used by permission of the publisher, Beach Lane Books, New York.

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14. 8 at 7-Imp: A Visit from Elisha Cooper


Author-illustrator Elisha Cooper is classin’ up the ol’ blog today with a visit to talk about his newest picture book, 8: An Animal Alphabet (Orchard Books/Scholastic, July 2015).

This is my kind of alphabet book, I tell you what. It’s filled with lovely Elisha-Cooper surprises. (First things first: When you get a copy, remove the dustjacket if you can.) As you’ll read below from Elisha, for each letter of the alphabet he’s painted animals whose names begin with that letter. And on each page, one animal is pictured eight times, and it’s the reader’s job to find those animals. The back of the book includes two glorious “Did you know?” spreads that lay out fun facts about each animal in the book. There’s a bit of additional info there, too, but I’ll leave that for you to discover.

It’s a beautifully designed book, and if you like to see Elisha’s graceful watercolors as much as I do, you’re in for a treat with this one. His composition choices on these spreads are superb. It’s a truly outstanding alphabet book and has garnered a big pile of starred reviews already.

Here’s more from Elisha about the book, and I thank him for visiting.

Elisha: This book had a roundabout beginning. It probably started with me taking my daughters to swim at the outdoor pool over on Carmine Street, here in Greenwich Village. There’s a beautiful Keith Haring mural on the wall next to the pool, and that led me to painting some animal murals for the children’s room at our local library …



… which led me to painting some animals on the walls of my editor’s kids’ bedroom wall, which led to me and him saying to each other, “We should do a book of big —— animals!” (There was a swear word in that sentence.) But beyond that, we didn’t really have a way “into” the book, except for the big —— animals, and we were stumped until the day my editor said to me, on my way out of his office at Scholastic, “What’s your favorite number?”

So, 8. In college my football number was 8 …



… which I thought was a good number for a small wide receiver. Now I just like how it looks, its symmetry. Chubby — and pretty.

But something struck me, there in the doorway at Scholastic, when I said the number “8.” A way “into” the book. The idea that on each letter page, one animal is pictured 8 times. That’s it! That’s the book. So, for the A page there’s an alligator, an aardvark, an armadillo, etc. — and also 8 ants.


(Click to enlarge spread)


Which makes this book an alphabet book, but also a finding book and maybe a curious book, too, as it has a “Did You Know?” section in the back. (Hello, librarians!)

This book took a lot of fun research, from poring through reference books like Smithsonian’s Animal


(Click to enlarge photo)


… to going up to the Natural History Museum and drawing the stuffed animals in their dioramas. Then I played around with layouts, seeing how various animals fit together on the page:


(Click to enlarge photo)


I also did a bunch of practice sketching. Then, I painted …


(Click to enlarge)


… until the wall above my desk in our apartment was covered in animals.


(Click to enlarge)


Last part. The cover for 8 took forever. I kept screwing it up. After the first sketch I did …


(Click to enlarge)


… there were many false-starts and roundabout ideas that came to dead-ends:


(Click each to enlarge)


Most of those versions are ripped up now and probably in Fresh Kills Landfill in Staten Island.

Making books is messy.


(Click second image to see spread in its entirety)


* * * * * * * *

8: AN ANIMAL ALPHABET. Copyright © 2015 by Elisha Cooper. Published by Orchard Books, an imprint of Scholastic, Inc., New York. All images here reproduced by permission of Elisha Cooper.

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15. 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #444: Featuring Ekua Holmes

“I was just six when I dragged / my first bag down a row of cotton.”
(Click to enlarge spread and read poem, “Delta Blues,” in its entirety)


I’ve got two spreads today from Carole Boston Weatherford’s new biography in verse of Fannie Lou Hamer, called Voice of Freedom (Candlewick, August 2015). The book is illustrated by Ekua Holmes, who is new to picture books but is a working fine artist. Her collage pieces in this book are simply exquisite.

In free verse, Weatherford tells the story of activist Fannie Lou Hamer, who was known as the voice of the civil rights movement and fought for voting rights for African Americans and racial equality. Weatherford takes readers from her childhood in the Mississippi Delta all the way to her lifelong service award in 1976 from the Congressional Black Caucus. In between—and with great reverence and passion for her subject matter—Weatherford touches upon Hamer’s many accomplishments, including Mississippi’s Freedom Summer, her establishment of grassroots Head-Start programs, her work for the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, her appearance at the 1964 Democratic National Convention in New Jersey, and her efforts toward the passing of the Voting Rights Act.

There are many moving and quite powerful moments here. In a poem called “Black Power,” Weatherford writes:

I mourned whites who died for freedom.
I have lived long enough to know
that no race has a corner on decency.
I feel sorry for anybody that could let hate wrap them up.
Ain’t no such thing as I can hate anybody
and hope to see God’s face.
Out of one blood God made all nations.

After Hamer’s own struggles to vote, due to the unfair literacy tests many African Americans were given, she ran for Congress in the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party. “I meant to prove,” Weatherford writes, “that anyone, / black or white, rich or poor, / could get involved in American politics. / I cast my first vote for myself.

Gives me goosebumps, I tell you. Hamer’s story is an incredible one.

Also incredible is the art. Holmes’ textured, patterned collages offer up a visual feast for one’s eyes. I wish I could show you every spread in the book, but if you go find a copy on library or bookstore shelves, you won’t be disappointed.

Here’s another spread below. And here’s her website with lots more art.


“… Once, my father managed to buy a wagon, plow, three mules—
Ella, Bird, and Henry—and two cows, Mullen and Della.
But a white neighbor poisoned the livestock. …”

(Click to enlarge spread and read poem, “Fair,” in its entirety)


VOICE OF FREEDOM. Text copyright © 2015 by Carole Boston Weatherford. Illustrations copyright © 2015 by Ekua Holmes. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.

* * *

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) My picture book grad course is over. I’ve got lots of grading this weekend (which is why I’m tragically behind on all email having nothing to do with teaching), but I enjoyed teaching it.

2) My girls and I read Little Women this summer. It was my first time, too. (No, really.)

3) And then we watched the 1994 movie adaptation, and my, that was well-cast.

4) School has begun. I’ll miss more time with them, but I’ll also have quiet days once again for getting work done.

5) The oldest is in middle school (and a brand-new school), and the school thus far is really great.


7) This!

7½) Also this great interview, and I like Rebecca’s new book an awful lot.

Bonus) This beautifully written post.

What are YOUR kicks this week?

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16. What I’m Doing at Kirkus (and Chapter 16) This Week, Plus What I Did Last Week,Featuring Shane Evans and James Ransome

“We worked together a lot. But we played a lot, too. We really loved to go fishing. Sometimes I would complain when I didn’t get a bite right away,
but my granddaddy always said, ‘Patience, son, patience.'”
– From
Granddaddy’s Turn
(Click to enlarge spread)


“As long as Lillian still has a pulse, she is going to vote—and so she keeps on climbing, keeps on seeing, this time the second march from Selma.
This march also ends on the bridge, in a prayer ….”
– From
Lillian’s Right to Vote
(Click to enlarge spread)


This morning over at Kirkus, I write about two new Asian picture book imports. That link will be here soon.

Also, over here at Chapter 16, I talk to Deanna Caswell, the author of Beach House (Chronicle, May 2015), illustrated by Amy June Bates.

* * *

Last week I wrote here about two new picture books that celebrate the 50th anniversary of the historic Voting Rights Act — Michael S. Bandy’s and Eric Stein’s Granddaddy’s Turn: A Journey to the Ballot Box (Candlewick, July 2015), illustrated by James E. Ransome, and Jonah Winter’s Lillian’s Right to Vote: A Celebration of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (Schwartz & Wade, July 2015), illustrated by Shane W. Evans.

Today I’ve got a bit of art from each book. Enjoy.


From Granddaddy’s Turn:


“When we finally go to the front of the line, my granddaddy proudly signed a paper and was handed a ballot. He clutched the ballot to his chest and said, ‘Son, this is the happiest day of my life.’ I took the camera from him and said, ‘Smile, Granddaddy.’ ‘Now, come on—let’s go vote,’ he said.”
Click to enlarge spread)



From Lillian’s Right to Vote:


“… Lillian sees her great-great-grandparents Elijah and Sarah.
They are standing side by side on an auction block. …”

(Click to enlarge spread)


“For Lillian sees the funeral procession for a man named Jimmie Lee Jackson,
a twenty-six-year-old shot by a policeman over
nothing more than taking part in a peaceful protest. …”

(Click to enlarge spread)

* * * * * * *

GRANDDADDY’S TURN. Text copyright © 2015 by Michael S. Bandy and Eric Stein. Illustrations copyright © 2015 by James E. Ransome. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.

LILLIAN’S RIGHT TO VOTE. Text copyright © 2015 by Jonah Winter. Illustrations copyright © 2015 by Shane W. Evans. Illustration reproduced by permission of the publisher, Schwartz & Wade Books, New York.

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17. Catching Up with Liz Garton Scanlon

It became clear to me that [my character’s] family had religious traditions and that she was going to be reckoning with the comfort and the challenges of those traditions as part of her coming-of-age. Then, as Paul fleshed out as a science kid, I realized that faith and science were going to get to play off of each other, which I thought was awesome (and daunting). I worried that readers on ‘either side’ would be offended, but I really believe that discussions around religion and science are way too polarized, so it felt both true and worth it to look at them in a true and blurrier way.”

* * *

Over at Kirkus today, I talk to author Liz Garton Scanlon about her first middle-grade novel, The Great Good Summer (Beach Lane Books), released this May.

We also talk about her forthcoming picture book, In the Canyon (also Beach Lane Books), illustrated by Ashley Wolff and coming to shelves this month.

That conversation will be here soon.

Next week, I’ll have some art and early sketches from In the Canyon, thanks to Ashley.

Until tomorrow …

* * * * * * *

Photo of Liz used with her permission.

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18. A Visit with Artist Keith Mallett

“And let’s say one day when you were a little older,
you sat right down at a black piano and you commenced to play …”


There’s a new picture book biography on shelves, Jonah Winter’s How Jelly Roll Morton Invented Jazz (Neal Porter/Roaring Brook Press, June 2015), illustrated by Keith Mallett (pictured right). The book opens in a tremendously inviting way:

Here’s what could’ve happened if you were born a way down south in New Orleans, in the Land of Dreams a long, long time ago.

Let’s say you had a godmother, and she put a spell on you because she was a voodoo queen. …

Voodoo queen? Hoo boy, my attention is piqued.

Author and illustrator go on to lay out the musician’s early life and rise to fame, as well as his contributions to jazz. They address the whole who-invented-jazz conundrum—“And, to tell the truth of it, maybe Mister Jelly Roll didn’t invent jazz, not exactly, ’cause it took a lot of cooks to make that stew … but he sure did spread it around the towns”—and in an informative closing author’s note [“How Jelly Roll Morton (Might Have) Invented Jazz”], Winter goes into more detail about this and what distinguished Morton from his fellow musicians. Robin Smith captured the book well in the Horn Book’s review: “Much like jazz itself, Winter has created a book filled with ebbs and flows, rhythm and rhyme, darkness and light, shadow and sunshine.”

This is Mallett’s first picture book, though he’s been an artist and designer for more than thirty years. His acrylic paintings in this bio, bustling with energy and filled with beguiling shadows, are rich and reverent. He’s visiting today with some art (sans text) and early sketches from the book — and to talk a bit about his work. He even shares a bit of other art (not from this biography). I thank him for visiting.

* * *

Keith: From the time that I first saw Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are, I dreamed of illustrating a children’s book. But my career took me in a different direction. I became an artist working mainly in the fine art print industry. About ten years ago I was asked to illustrate a children’s book, but I realized the time it would take, so due to my busy schedule I had to decline.

Once I retired, I had plenty of time, so when Neal [Porter] reached out to me to illustrate Jonah Winter’s new book, I was thrilled.


“And let’s say that when you were a baby, your godmother brought you to an old saloon and set you down on top of the bar, which is not a place for a little baby. Let’s say that some trouble broke out, and she got arrested and thrown in jail,
and you got tossed in the can as well.”

(Click to enlarge spread)


When I first read Jonah’s unconventional manuscript, I felt a little intimidated. The script was beautifully written, kind of like a jazz riff with some linear storytelling, some rhyming, and even a bit of stream-of-consciousness thrown in. Both Neal and Jennifer [the art director] pointed out that, because the story was so unusual, I would have a lot more freedom with my interpretation. So I dove in.

“And let’s say you just wouldn’t stop crying unless all the roughnecks sharing your cell commenced to singing—’cause music was the only thing that calmed you down.”


Early sketch
(Click to enlarge)


Doing the research for Jelly Roll was fun. I loved reading about early New Orleans and the dawn of the Jazz Age. The Library of Congress was a great resource for the architecture of New Orleans at the turn of the century; I also scoured the Internet in search of the clothing styles of the late 1800s. Jennifer helped me understand the importance of accuracy in interpreting details, even as small as the style of an early New Orleans police badge.


Early sketch and final art: “… and you learned to play so well that soon you were playing with grown-ups, sneaking out when the evening sun went down, playing in bars, surrounded by lowlifes and dangerous people and folks who loved to hear you play,
and making more dollars a night than you knew what to do with.”

(Click each to enlarge)


I chose to do the book using acrylic paints because of their fast drying time. They allow you to quickly do numerous glazes and easily build up texture. I also like printing aquatint etchings on my press.

I’d love to do another book. It was fun illustrating this one.


“… and only one thing, just one thing in the world, could make the crying stop: And this is why and this is how a thing called JAZZ got invented by a man named Jelly Roll Morton. Leastwise, that’s what I thought I heard Mister Jelly Roll say. Sing it …”
(Click to enlarge spread)


Early sketch and final art: “If you’d been Jelly Roll Morton you would’ve known that the only way to rise up and fly away was one piano at a time. One piano note at a time you’d show the folks in New Orleans who was the best. You’d show the folks in
New Orleans how it was done—jazz, that is.”

(Click sketch to enlarge)



Above: One of Keith’s aquatint etchings


Above: One of Keith’s open edition fine art prints



* * * * * * *

HOW JELLY ROLL MORTON INVENTED JAZZ. Copyright © 2015 by Jonah Winter. Illustrations © 2015 by Keith Mallett. Published by Neal Porter Books/Roaring Brook Press, New York. All images here reproduced by permission of Keith Mallett and the publisher.

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19. Abby and the Really Truly Good Book

I pick up my kids every day from the school bus at 2:45, so within an already tight production schedule, I have a limited time each day to work. But that also means I have limited time to worry. When I’m working, I focus on making the best book possible for myself, my kids, and my editor. Beyond that, I don’t allow myself to think too much about how the book is going to be received, because those thoughts are so counter-productive to creative work.”

* * *

Over at Kirkus today, I talk to author-illustrator Abby Hanlon, pictured here, about her newest book, Dory and the Real True Friend (Dial, July 2015), which sees the return of one of my favorite characters. (Dory, of course.) That link will be here soon.

Last October (here), Abby and I talked about the first book, Dory Fantasmagory. It’s an art-filled post, my favorite kind of post.

Both of these books are the kind of funny that makes your sides hurt from all the laughing.

Next week, I’ll have some art from the new book, as well as some early sketches.

Until tomorrow …

* * * * * * *

Photo of Abby taken by Sophie Elbrick and used by her permission.

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20. What I’m Doing at Kirkus This Week,Plus What I Did Last Week, Featuring Julie Morstad

“…Finally, she steps onto the stage alone … and sprouts white wings, a swan.
She weaves the notes, the very air into a story. All those sitting see.
They stare—Anna is a bird in flight, a whim of wind and water.
Quiet feathers in a big loud world. Anna
is the swan.”
(Click to enlarge spread)


This morning over at Kirkus, I’ve got some French picture book imports. That link will be here soon.

* * *

Last week, I wrote here about Laurel Snyder’s Swan: The Life and Dance of Anna Pavlova, illustrated by Julie Morstad (Chronicle), coming to shelves in August 2015. Today, I’ve got some spreads from it.


“…The story unfolds. A sleeping beauty opens her eyes…”
(Click to enlarge spread)


“…and so does Anna. Her feet wake up!
Her skin prickles. There is a song, suddenly, inside her.”

(Click to enlarge spread)


(Click to enlarge cover)


* * * * * * *

SWAN: THE LIFE AND DANCE OF ANNA PAVLOVA. Copyright © 2015 by Laurel Snyder. Illustrations copyright © 2015 by Julie Morstad. Illustrations reproduced by permission of the publisher, Chronicle Books, San Francisco.

1 Comments on What I’m Doing at Kirkus This Week,Plus What I Did Last Week, Featuring Julie Morstad, last added: 7/24/2015
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21. 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #442: Featuring Beatrice Alemagna

“This morning I heard my sister says these words:
‘Oh, no!’ I thought. ‘She’s going to give Mom the most amazing present!’
I had to do something too. But what?”

(Click to enlarge spread)


Today I’ve got some illustrations from Beatrice Alemagna’s The Wonderful Fluffy Little Squishy. Originally published in France last year, it’s coming to American shelves in September from Enchanted Lion Books.

Look closely on the title page spread, and you’ll see a quote from Fifi Brindacier (a.k.a. Pippi Longstocking, as she’s known in France):

It’s best for young children to live an orderly life. Especially if they order it themselves.

I love this, and it’s the perfect fit for this story, in which a five-and-a-half-year-old girl named Edith (but her friends call her Eddie) sets out to find a fuzzy little squishy.


(Click to enlarge cover)


Eddie has overheard her sister talking about their mother’s birthday, while using the words “fuzzy—little—squishy.” Not to be outdone, Eddie heads out to find a spectacular present. She asks the baker for help — and then she heads to the florist, Mimi’s clothing shop, the antique dealer, and the butcher shop. After all, each of these friends (even the very grouchy butcher) has fluffy and/or little and/or squishy items in their shops. Just when she’s about to give up, she sees it — “an adorable little creature! … A true FLUFFY LITTLE SQUISHY, at last!” She’s found the present for her mother, and as it turns out, a fluffy little squishy has “a thousand uses.” (Anyone other librarians thinking how great it would be to pair this book with Charlotte Zolotow’s Mr. Rabbit and the Lovely Present, illustrated by Sendak?)

There’s a lot to like here, including Alemagna’s vivid mixed-media illustrations (or what appear to be mixed-media to me), as well as the cast of characters in Eddie’s community that she visits on her quest. Eddie leaps off the page in her neon pink jacket, and she brims with character. Best of all, she manages to find precisely what she’s looking for—rather, she manages to create just the gift she wants—-and this is especially triumphant, given that she says on the book’s first spread, “I don’t know how to do anything.” This is one girl’s journey of self-discovery — and along the way she picks up a bit of self-confidence to boot.

Here are some more of the colorful illustrations to pore over. …


“So off I ran to Mr. John the baker.
With all of his wonderful squishy things, he had to be able to help me.”

(Click to enlarge spread)


“I went to every shop in the neighborhood, but nobody knew anything.
In the center of town was Theo’s butcher shop. The big grump was my last hope.”

(Click to enlarge spread)



THE WONDERFUL FLUFFY LITTLE SQUISHY. Copyright © 2015 by Enchanted Lion for the English-language translation. Illustrations reproduced by permission Enchanted Lion, Brooklyn.

* * *

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) Picture book imports like this one.

2) Invitations.

3) A bit of home decluttering that really needed to happen.

4) New tracks from Laura Marling.

5) I got a late start to the show Veep, but my God, it’s funny.

6) A crisis averted and …

7) … the kindness of strangers.

What are YOUR kicks this week?

10 Comments on 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #442: Featuring Beatrice Alemagna, last added: 7/26/2015
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22. A Lisbeth-Zwerger Moment

“Every afternoon, as they were coming from school,
the children used to go and play in the Giant’s garden.
It was a large lovely garden, with soft green grass. …”


Because Lisbeth Zwerger has always been one of my favorite illustrators, including one of the artists who made me want to study children’s literature, and because seeing her artwork improves the very quality of my day (and yours, I hope), I have a bit of art today from Oscar Wilde’s The Selfish Giant, as illustrated by Zwerger.

Zwerger originally illustrated this story back in 1984, but Minedition has released a new edition (April of this year). In fact, it’s called a “mini-Minedition,” because the book has a tiny trim size.

“The Selfish Giant” is Oscar Wilde’s classic short story, first published in 1888 in Wilde’s own collection of original fairy tales, The Happy Prince and Other Tales. The story itself is a heavily didactic Christian allegory, all about a giant whose garden is visited by neighboring children, while the giant is away. The children play in the garden, unbeknownst to the stingy man (depicted as a very tall man in Zwerger’s version), and when he discovers them, he shoos them away — only to discover afterwards that his garden is dying. It’s a curious little fairy tale, and now I can’t help but think of Jacqueline Woodson’s Brown Girl Dreaming every time I read it. In her memoir, Woodson she writes about the impact this story made on her as a girl:

The first time my teacher reads the story to the class
I cry all afternoon, and am still crying
when my mother gets home from work that evening. …

(I hope that quote is accurate, as I loaned my copy of the book to a dear friend, but I am fairly certain, thanks to the internet, that the above is correct.)

Zwerger’s illustrations are restrained and lyrical and, as always, graceful. Here are a few more.

“The only people who were pleased were the Snow and the Frost. ‘Spring has forgotten this garden,’ they cried,’ so we will live here all the year round.’ The Snow covered up the grass with her great white cloak, and the Frost painted all the tree silver.
Then they invited the North Wind to stay with them, and he came. …”


“And when the people were going to market at twelve o’clock they found the Giant playing with the children in the most beautiful garden they had ever seen. …”


“And the child smiled on the Giant, and said to him, ‘You let me play once in your garden, today you shall come with me to my garden, which is Paradise.’
And when the children ran in that afternoon, they found the Giant lying dead
under the tree, all covered with white blossoms.”



* * * * * * *

THE SELFISH GIANT. Illustrations copyright © 1984 by Lisbeth Zwerger. English edition published 2015 by Michael Neugebauer Publishing Ltd., Hong Kong. Illustrations reproduced by permission of the publisher.

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23. What I’m Doing at Kirkus This Week, Plus What I DidLast Week, Featuring Marianne Dubuc and Olivier Tallec

“Who is in disguise?”
– From Olivier Tallec’s
Who Done It?
(Click to enlarge)


“Ambassadors from far and wide would also
travel long distances to pay tribute to him, king of the sheep.”
– From Olivier Tallec’s
Louis I: King of the Sheep
(Click to enlarge)


“It’s Monday, and Mr. Postmouse is starting his rounds. …”
– From Marianne Dubuc’s
Mr. Postmouse’s Rounds
(Click to enlarge)


Today over at Kirkus, I write about two new picture books about the 50th anniversary of the historic Voting Rights Acts of 1965. That link is here.

* * *

Today here at 7-Imp, I have some art from the three French imports I wrote about last week (here): Mr. Postmouse’s Rounds (Kids Can Press, August 2015), written and illustrated by Marianne Dubuc, as well as Louis I: King of the Sheep (Enchanted Lion, September 2015) and Who Done It? (Chronicle, October 2015), each written and illustrated by Olivier Tallec.

Enjoy the art. …


Art from Louis I, King of the Sheep:


(Click to enlarge)


“The first thing Louis I thought was that
to govern, a king should have a scepter.”

(Click to enlarge)


“Other than that, he would spend his time hunting,
chasing after deer, wild boards and, above all, lions.
But since there were no lions in his kingdom,
he would have them brought to him for his pleasure.”

(Click to enlarge)


(Click to enlarge cover)


Art from Mr. Postmouse’s Rounds:


“… Then it’s time for lunch. Mr. Postmouse stops at his friend
Mr. Dragon’s for some barbecue.”

(Click to enlarge)


“Mr. Postmouse lets nothing stand in the way of his deliveries.”
(Click to enlarge)


“… At the Penguins’ place, it’s winter all year long. Brrrrr!”

(Click to enlarge)



Art from Who Done It?:


“Who played with that mean cat?”
(Click to enlarge)


“Who ate all the jam?”
(Click to enlarge)



* * * * * * *

LOUIS I, KING OF THE SHEEP. First American edition published in 2015 by Enchanted Lion Books, Brooklyn. Translated from the French by Claudia Zoe Bedrick. Illustrations reproduced by permission of the publisher.

MR. POSTMOUSE’S ROUNDS. English translation © 2015 Kids Can Press. Illustrations reproduced by permission of the publisher, Kids Can Press, Toronto.

WHO DONE IT? Copyright © 2014 by Actes Sud, Paris. First published in the United States of America in 2015 by Chronicle Books, San Francisco. Illustrations reproduced by permission of the publisher.

2 Comments on What I’m Doing at Kirkus This Week, Plus What I DidLast Week, Featuring Marianne Dubuc and Olivier Tallec, last added: 8/1/2015
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24. The Return of Dory

Final art:
“That night my brain keeps waking me up with so many questions.”


Above: Early sketch


Today, author-illustrator Abby Hanlon shares some final art and early sketches from Dory and the Real True Friend (Dial, July 2015), which she and I talked about last week here at Kirkus.

Enjoy the art. …


Some Final Art:


“… tomorrow is the first day of school!
I tell Mary the big news
while we are playing our favorite game, exercise club.”


“There is somebody at my table who is stuck in a shirt.”


“I played school with all the monsters today. I was the teacher!”


“Without Mr. Nuggy, I’m on my own. And now Mary is so jealous of Rosabelle,
she is having a fit.”

(Click to enlarge)


“The next morning, I wake up early
because I need time to put on my outfit.”

(Click to enlarge)


“During circle time, I have to wait forever and forever for my turn to speak.
Everyone in this class has something to say!
(Click to enlarge)


“At lunch I can barely talk to Rosabelle
because George won’t stop talking about the hamster game.”

(Click to enlarge)


“‘Is she real in the same way Mary is real?’ asks Violet.”


“‘I will free Mr. Nuggy if you can get me what I want.’
‘Yes, anything,’ I say.”


“Along the way, many animals stop to greet us.”


“I clear a path through the forest by chopping down
little trees and branches with Rosabelle’s sword.”

(Click to enlarge)


“But with one ninja slash from me, and a squirt of lemon juice in the eye
from Rosabelle, Mrs. Gobble Gracker is blinded and her cape catches on fire.”

(Click to enlarge)


“… And lose.”


Some Early Sketches:


(Click to enlarge)


(Click to enlarge)


(Click to enlarge)


(Click to enlarge)


(Click to enlarge)


(Click to enlarge)


(Click to enlarge)



* * * * * * *

DORY AND THE REAL TRUE FRIEND. Copyright © 2015 by Abby Hanlon. Published by Dial Books for Young Readers, New York. All images here reproduced by permission of Abby Hanlon.

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25. 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #443: FeaturingUp-and-Coming Illustrator, Amanda Driscoll

“Together they battled sea monsters …
dodged icebergs …”

(Click to enlarge)


It’s the first Sunday of the month (welcome, August!), so I have a debut author-illustrator today. But she’s also local talent (local to 7-Imp Land, that is), and I always like to shine the spotlight when I can on local picture book-creators.

Amanda Driscoll’s first book, Duncan the Story Dragon (Knopf, June 2015), is the story of a dragon who loves to read. As you can probably guess, his problem is that, though his imagination catches fire when he reads, so do his books. Quite literally. All Duncan wants to do is finish a book. So many plots; so many questions. “I want to read those two wonderful words,” he says, “like the last sip of a chocolate milk shake … ‘The End.'” Eventually, Duncan finds a friend to read to him, but I won’t ruin the entire story for you.

Amanda is a graphic designer and artist and lives in Louisville, Kentucky. She’s here today to tell us more about herself, this debut picture book, and her work. I thank her for visiting.


On Duncan:

The Duncan story “spark” began long ago with my own love of reading. I remember as a child (and still today) being utterly transported by books. As a writer, I wanted to convey that feeling to kids. As an illustrator, I love visually interesting characters, and the image of a dragon lodged in my mind. Then one day, the two ideas merged and Duncan the fire-breathing, book-reading dragon was born. Once I had the character, the plot came easily. Sparks fly when you combine fire breath and flammable books!


Amanda: “A sketch of the original ‘early’ Duncan …”


Amanda: “The same page with the new Duncan character …”


Final spread: “After searching the entire countryside,
Duncan trudged back to this cottage.”

(Click to enlarge)


On the Illustrations:

I start with pencil sketches. First thumbnails, then larger, more detailed drawings. Once the sketch is finalized, I scan it and open it in Photoshop. I tweak it a bit, and then use the sketch as a background layer, applying color, texture, and line over top of it. I love working digitally, because corrections are so much easier. I have to admit, “undo” is a wonderful thing, and I use it liberally.

The process with Duncan was interesting, because the character changed a great deal (for the better) from my early sketches to the final dummy. Duncan began as a fairly traditional dragon, but transitioned into a more kid-friendly, child-like character. People often tell me they love his untied red high-top sneakers. So, of course, I wear red high-tops to my book signings. (Although I tie mine. I’m clumsy enough without untied shoes.)


Amanda: “A preliminary sketch for [a spread] …”


Amanda: “… then we decided a two-page spread would have more impact. …”


On Inspirations:

Story inspirations generally come from my children or from my own childhood. When I was a kid, if the sun was up, we were outside. Our imaginations transformed the world around us. I would love for my books to share some of that experience with today’s more electronically-connected generation. And although my kids are teenagers now, I frequently draw from the many memories of their younger years.

Regarding artists who inspire me, can I answer “everyone”? There are so many talented illustrators that it’s really difficult to narrow it down. I’m a big fan of Dan Santat and was thrilled Beekle won the Caldecott. It’s a beautiful book, and I love that he works digitally. I adore Patrice Barton’s expressive characters, texture, and line work. Marla Frazee’s talent is mind-boggling. I admire John Rocco, Jon Klassen, Loren Long, LeUyen Pham, Peter Brown, Peter Reynolds. … I could seriously go on for days.


“When Duncan read a book, the story came to life …”
(Click to enlarge)


On What’s Next:

I am currently illustrating my second book, Wally Does Not Want a Haircut, due out next summer from Knopf. It’s about a sheep who goes to great lengths to avoid his first shearing, which leads to some hair-raising situations. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.) This story was directly inspired by my exploits with my own children’s haircuts, or lack thereof. The humor is wacky, but it still has the warmth and heart that I strive for in all my stories. It’s been wonderful working with the same editor and art director as I did with Duncan.


“Duncan tried everything to keep his cool.
Really. Truly.”


(Click to enlarge)


What Else?

I hope my stories have a positive message sent in a subtle manner. Kids are smart. They can spot a preachy story a mile away. But if you can teach them with subtlety and humor, there’s value in that. I’m a huge believer in kindness and compassion, and I hope my characters always convey those morals.

DUNCAN THE STORY DRAGON. Copyright © 2015 by Amanda Driscoll. Published by Alfred A. Knopf, New York. All images reproduced by permission of Amanda Driscoll.

* * *

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 * * *

It’s been a looooong week—you know those weeks, right?—so my kick right now is that I’m going to take a bubble bath with a good novel. (I’m finally reading this one, after many, many years of both my husband and best friend telling me I should.) And that’s kick enough to make up for seven.

What are YOUR kicks this week? Please do tell.

8 Comments on 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #443: FeaturingUp-and-Coming Illustrator, Amanda Driscoll, last added: 8/3/2015
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