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Our vision for this blog is pretty simple: we're going to talk about the books we read. We read lots of different kinds of books: picture books for toddlers, memoirs, young adult fiction, graphic novels, Man Booker Prize-winning high-art metafiction, whatever.
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1. 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #398: Featuring Ninja Cat Vs. Angel Cat

Hi, dear kickers. The illustrations I had planned to share today aren’t up, because I had some issues with the image files. Well, most of the images are fine, but two of them are not, so I’ll just wait. I’ll get that fixed soon (I hope) and post about the book another day.

But since posting without images is just not something I can tolerate here at 7-Imp, I’m sharing a piece of art my 10-year-old made. She and her sister are all the time drawing ninja cats, and this particular image cracks me up. It’s the age-old narrative of good vs. evil. This time it’s Ninja Cat vs. Angel Cat. Who will win?

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 * * *

Forgive me for this super short post, but I’m going to let kicks 1 to 7 be sleep. Sleep when you really need it. I’ve had a long, busy day, and I’m going to put myself to bed.

But please do tell me: What are YOUR kicks this week? I always enjoy reading them.

10 Comments on 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #398: Featuring Ninja Cat Vs. Angel Cat, last added: 9/22/2014
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2. What I’m Doing at Kirkus This Week, Plus What I DidLast Week, Featuring Qin Leng and Frank Morrison


“Melba and her music trotted around the globe, dazzling audiences and making headlines in Europe, the Middle East, and Asia. All her life, Melba kept composing and arranging music, kept making her trombone sing. Spread the word!
Melba Doretta Liston was something special.”

(Click to enlarge spread)


“Ojiichan played every morning. From his study, the clear, bright notes would drift upstairs, through the shoji screen doors to where Hana slept on sweet-smelling tatami mats, and coax her awake as gently as sunshine.”
(Click to enlarge spread)


 

Today over at Kirkus, I write about an utterly charming picture book import from the UK, The Storm Whale by Benji Davies. That is here.

* * *

Since last week I wrote here about Chieri Uegaki’s Hana Hashimoto, Sixth Violin (Kids Can Press, August 2014), illustrated by Qin Leng, and Little Melba and Her Big Trombone (Lee & Low, April 2014), written by Katheryn Russell-Brown and illustrated by Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe Award winner Frank Morrison, I’m following up with some art from each book today.

Enjoy. …

 

From Hana Hashimoto, Sixth Violin


 


“Ojiichan usually played classical pieces by Mozart or Mendelssohn or Bach.
But in the indigo evenings, while Hana and her brothers ate ice cream and oranges, Ojiichan would sit on the veranda and play requests. Hana always asked for a song about a crow cawing for her seven chicks. Whenever Ojiichan played it,
Hana would feel a shiver of happy-sadness ripple through her.”

(Click to enlarge spread)


“The day of the talent show arrived and the school auditorium thrummed with excitement. Backstage, Hana waited with a walloping heart. A dozen acts, including five other violinists, had already gone before her. Finally, Hana heard
the master of ceremonies call her name.”

(Click to enlarge spread)


“As Hana walked onto the stage, her violin tucked under her arm and bow gripped tight in her hand, an oceanic roar filled her ears. Things seemed to be moving in slow motion, and for one dizzy moment, Hana thought, ‘Kenji and Koji were right. This is going to be a disaster.’ She wished she could turn into a grain of rice
and disappear into a crack between the floorboards.”

(Click to enlarge spread)


“As Hana continued to play all the special sounds she had practiced, the air around her came alive with buzzing bees … and lowing cows … and squeaking mice …
and croaking frogs. Finally, as the last sound effect trailed away, Hana tucked her bow and violin under her arm. ‘And that,’ she said to the audience, ‘is how I play the violin.’ Then she took a great big bow.”

(Click to enlarge spread)



 

From Little Melba and Her Big Trombone


 


“Spread the word! Little Melba Doretta Liston was something special. The year she was born was 1926. The place was Kansas City, where you could reach out and feel the music. The avenues were lined with jazz clubs, street bands, and folks harmonizing on every corner. All the hot music makers made sure they had a gig in KC.”
(Click to enlarge spread)


“Notes stirred and rhythms bubbled all through Melba’s home. She couldn’t get enough. Music was always on her mind. She daydreamed about beats and lyrics.
Music was on Melba’s mind at night too, when she should have been fast asleep.”

(Click to enlarge spread)


“In high school Melba joined Alma Hightower’s famous after-school music club.
Melba quickly became the star player in the club’s band, The Melodic Dots. The other club members struggled to keep up with Melba. Jealous boys called her bad names. She tried not to care, but way down deep the names hurt. Melba used her horn
to turn all those hurt feelings into soulful music.”

(Click to enlarge spread and see text)



 

* * * * * * *

HANA HASHIMOTO, SIXTH VIOLIN. Text copyright © 2014 by Chieri Uegaki. Illustrations copyright © 2014 by Qin Leng. Spreads reproduced by permission of the publisher, Kids Can Press, Toronto.

LITTLE MELBA AND HER BIG TROMBONE. Copyright © 2014 by Katheryn Russell-Brown. Illustrations copyright © 2014 Frank Morrison. Spreads reproduced by permission of the publisher, Lee & Low Books, New York.

4 Comments on What I’m Doing at Kirkus This Week, Plus What I DidLast Week, Featuring Qin Leng and Frank Morrison, last added: 9/21/2014
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3. Firebird: A Chat withMisty Copeland and Christopher Myers

Ballet is so rigorous and formally precise. I spent a lot of time watching videos of ballet and going to see Misty dance specifically, because as precise as ballet is, the specificity of her art was most important to me. I wanted not just to capture the excitement of ballet, but the thrill of watching Misty perform those precision moves, the artistry that she brings to it.”

 

Today over at Kirkus, I talk with Misty Copeland and Christopher Myers (pictured above), the creators of Firebird, a picture book released by Putnam this month. That’s Chris quoted above, who is talking about Misty’s work as the second African American soloist in the history of the American Ballet Theatre.

That link will be here soon, and next week here at 7-Imp, I’ll have some artwork from the book.

* * * * * * *

Photos used with permission. Photo of Misty taken by Gregg Delman.

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4. A Conversation withNorwegian Author-Illustrator, Stian Hole


“‘Listen! The sea has so many voices,’ Anna whispers. ‘It sounds like a heavenly choir humming. A song about crabs, eels, and sea urchins cooing in the deep.’”
– From
Anna’s Heaven
(Click to enlarge spread)

This month, I reviewed Stian Hole’s Anna’s Heaven, released by Eerdman’s in September, for BookPage. That review is here.

You all know I like to follow up reviews with art from the books I write about, if possible, but for this one I also decided to chat with the award-winning illustrator himself (pictured here) about this book, what’s next for him, how picture books differ in the U.S. and overseas, and more. In fact, he poses a question to readers below (regarding U.S. publishing), if anyone is so inclined to weigh in.

The chat today includes art from Anna’s Heaven, as well as a couple of older picture book titles of Stian’s, published here in the States. Stian also shares images from a forthcoming book, which will also be published here.

Let’s get right to it, and I thank him for visiting.

* * * * * * *

Jules: Your photocollage work is beguiling. I imagine you always on the look-out for vintage photographs and vintage books. Am I right? Where do you typically find source material?

Stian: Yes, I am a collector of bits and pieces that I move around and try to put together. That is what I do for a living. Like in a theater, I have a huge prop stock. By the way, have you noticed all the things theatre and picturebooks have in common?

Some years ago I used to search libraries and second-hand bookshops. Now, databases and collections on the internet have opened up new possibilities. Isn´t it amazing what people out there collect?

Most of the time I find something other than what I am looking for, though. So, more and more often I take a walk instead and use the camera on my cell phone.

Jules: Yes, in Uri Shulevitz’s Writing with Pictures, he says that a picture book is closer to theater and film—silent films, in particular—than other kinds of books. Fascinating.

I love that you honor open endings in your picture books. Americans, it seems, get sort of twitchy sometimes about open endings. What do you think are some of the biggest differences between children’s book publishing here in the States and overseas?

Stian: Your question is interesting, but too big for me to answer, I am afraid. Hmm, I will try to find a way …

I wonder why someone would feel insecure about open endings in children´s literature. Life isn´t always a safe place, so why should it be in picture books? Wouldn´t it be a fraud to tell children that life is always sweet? Anyway, I think kids already know it isn´t so. I believe picture books are a quiet—and safe—meeting place for wonder and reflection. Picture books are often read by adults and children together, and they give a valuable opportunity for thoughts, conversation, and mind-traveling for people of different ages. It is a magic place for opening secret doors, for listening and sharpening your senses.

Anyway, I believe what is scary in life becomes less scary when you speak with someone about it.


“‘Or she’s visiting someone she hasn’t seen for a while,’ Anna says.
‘I bet she’s wearing her new dress, the one from Spain.’”
– From
Anna’s Heaven
(Click to see spread in its entirety)

It is a good thing when books travel. I wish more books could travel across borders. When I follow my books around, I sometimes get small glimpses of other cultures´ traditions and views on children´s literature. I love to meet people that think differently than I do. It makes me think.

One difference I have noticed across the Atlantic sea, though, is that for some reason I don´t quite understand there is sometimes—or rather in some places in the U.S.—a reluctance of skin, nakedness, and sexuality in children´s and young adults´ books. The U.S. is the only country who has asked me to put more clothes on the characters in my images or else they will not publish them. I once had to remove a boy that was peeing, for some reason. Not even the Arabic countries asked me to do that.

So, I try to turn my head upside-down and look at Nordic picturebooks from the other side of the sea. But I find it difficult to see oneself. Can someone of your readers help me? Anyway, I must say that my publisher in the U.S. has always been thorough and honest with me, and I must pay tribute to them for publishing my weird books.




Some illustrations from Stian’s next book to be published in the U.S.,
Nightguard with poems by Synne Lea

Jules: I don’t have an answer for that, but perhaps some blog readers will weigh in with some thoughts.

Did anything in particular from your life inspire Anna’s Heaven?

Stian: I usually only have a starting point when I start working on a story. That is all I have; the rest is a strange journey, sometimes fragile and frustrating, sometimes sweet and joy-filled.

In this case, I saw a girl hanging upside-down in a swing and remembered doing the same thing as a boy. It made me stop and think that I still want to do that as an author and illustrator: to turn things upside-down and see the world from another angle! So I realized it was something I had to investigate further.


“‘You can spell kayak forward or backward and it’s the same word,’ Anna says.
‘Like
redder.’ ‘And Anna,’ Dad says. ‘Hurry up now or we’ll be late.’ Even though she is looking away, Anna notices that her father is restless. She can feel it in the air, in the grass, in the scar on her knee, in the mole on her neck, and in every hair on her head. Anna knows that her dad gets restless when he is not looking forward to something.”
– Opening spread from
Anna’s Heaven
(Click to see spread in its entirety)

Along the way, many things inspired me — memories, personal experiences, and lots of influences from different people. When I work on a story, I always keep an alert eye and ear for things I might use in the story. Not only pieces for the illustrations, but also words, feelings, and incidents. Anything. Often I find something else than what I was looking for, things that catch my attention but probably don´t belong in the story. Nevertheless, I pick them up, write it down, and sometimes use it later in another story. You know, people like me are collectors and researchers. One of my favourite authors, Peter Høeg from Denmark, once said, “I am a scientist. I investigate my heart.”


“‘Now I’m ready. Hurry up, Dad. We’ve got to go or we’ll be late.’”
– Final spread from
Anna’s Heaven
(Click to see spread in its entirety)

Jules: How much do the illustrations, as you’re working on them, inform the text — if at all? (Or vice versa.)

Stian: In picturebooks, the images and the text should not say quite the same. It is the dialogue between them that is the engine of the picturebook. The third hub is the reader. The author should strive to open up the story, so different readers can add thoughts and help co-write the book. Books do not work without readers.




More illustrations from Nightguard

Jules: What are you reading now?

Stian: I am always reading. Right now, I’m reading A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Antony Marra. And poetry in the evening before sleep.

Many of the American classics have had an impact on my artistic life — J. D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye, Edgar Lee Masters´ Spoon River Anthology, Fitzgerald´s The Great Gatsby. I must also mention the Canadian writer Alice Munro´s short-stories, among many others.

Jules: On that note, what picture books have you loved lately? Or whose work have you seen that you think deserves some love and attention?

Stian: I just read The Rules of Summer by Shaun Tan from Australia. I love his work. The same with Isol (Argentina), Beatrice Alemagna (Italy), and Kitty Crowther (Belgium).


…”‘How do you feel about starting school? Do you have butterflies in your tummy?’
Auntie Borghild asks. ‘I’m scared,’ Garmann answers,
wondering how butterflies get into your stomach.”


…”Suddenly, she wakes with a start and adjusts her dentures. Garmann asks, ‘Were you ever a child?’ Auntie Borghild thinks for a while. A dragonfly hovers in the air.
Then she smiles and speaks. ‘Yes, a hundred and fifty years ago,’
she says, and laughs so hard she shakes.”


“‘Are you going to die soon?’ Garmann asks. … ‘Are you scared?’ Garmann asks.
Auntie Borghild nods slowly. She takes a hairbrush from her bag and runs it through her silver-grey hair, which glistens in the sun. ‘Yes, Garmann, I’m scared of leaving you.
But the big garden could be exciting.’”


…”When you die, you travel in the great starry wagon in the sky, thinks Garmann,
but first of all you have to be buried.”

[Pictured above are illustrations and the cover from Garmann's Summer,
released by Eerdmans in 2008, but originally published in Norway in 2006.
Click each image above to enlarge and read the full text.]

Jules: What do you, as an artist, find most challenging and satisfying in the creative processes you employ?

Stian: That is a good question. I often feel that reading and writing stories have something important in common. They makes me feel like I live multiple lives. I am thankful for that. It is very satisfying to live parallel lives, since only one life can feel so short. I am also grateful whenever art open doors inside me, to rooms and places that I have not visited for a while or maybe never been. Sometimes art open the doors all the way to my heart.

But sometimes when I am daydreaming, falling down the rabbit hole, floating inside a bubble, working on a story, I get afraid that I am not present enough in reality. Then I promise myself to hug and tell my wife and my boys that I love them when they come home from school and work. These things feel so important in my life, but hard to explain — does it make sense to you?


…”‘Do you think we can see God out there?’ she asks. ‘If we’re patient, maybe,’
Garmann answers, pretending to adjust a telescope. ‘Hello, Planet Earth! This is Comrade Yuri Gagarin, the first man in space. I can’t see God up here,’ he says, disguising his voice. ‘Hello, Ground Control heer. That’s probably because
you don’t know what you’re looking for!’ Johanna laughs…”


…”When it rains, water drips through a crack in the spaceship, and Garmann and Johanna snuggle up so they don’t get wet. They can sit like that for a long time without speaking. Sometimes they ask each other riddles: ‘If you say my name, I have disappeared.
Who am I?’ Garmann says. All they can hear is the wind rushing through the treetops and a woodpecker a long distance away. Johanna shrugs. ‘Silence,’ Garmann says.”

[Pictured above are spreads and the cover from Garmann's Secret,
released by Eerdmans in 2011, but originally published in Norway in 2010.
Click each image above to enlarge and read the full text.]

Jules: Yes, that makes sense to me. Art is taking you outside of yourself. My favorite singer-songwriter/musician, Sam Phillips, has this lyric in one of her songs (called “Lever Pulled Down”):

I’m a lever pulled down / I’m a flipped switch / I’m a lever pulled down / from the fire in the air / … and I’ll give my life for the lightning in our dreams …

I think that’s what you mean. Perhaps.

(I wish I could link to the song, but it’s one of her rare tracks and not online.)

p.s. I have a Sam Phillips lyric for EVERYTHING in life.

So, what’s next for you?

Stian: Soccer. All three boys are playing matches this weekend, and I will be there. On Sunday, I am goalkeeper when the Norwegian author´s team meets the Italian author´s team. They have come all the way to Oslo.

Then there will be new stories to write. Always. I hope the next book will be a love story. I want all my books to be love stories.

* * * * * * *

Photo of Stian Hole taken by Jo Michael.

All artwork here is used by permission of Stian Hole and Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, Grand Rapids, Michigan.

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5. 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #397: Featuring David Biedrzycki

Hello, dear kickers. Today I have some artwork from author-illustrator David Biedrzycki, whose has a brand-new picture book out from Charlesbridge, Breaking News: Bear Alert (Charlesbridge, September 2014). It’s the story—in the style of a breaking-news, this-just-in television report—of two very curious bears who make their way into a busy town. It’s a fun story, and David has a handful of spreads from it to share today, as well as a few early sketches. The Kirkus review for this one notes that David’s Adobe Photoshop illustrations are “bold and playful, appropriately reminiscent of vintage Hanna-Barbera and a good match for the slapstick story,” while the Publishers Weekly review adds that David’s book “comically exploits our cultures of distraction and surveillance.” (They make an excellent point.)

The cover’s so entertaining that I’m opening this post with it, though I normally open with artwork (well, non-cover artwork).

While David’s here, he’s also sharing some other artwork, so let’s get right to it, shall we? To read more about the books from which these images come and more about David and his work, you can visit his site here.


 

Sketches and final art from
Breaking News: Bear Alert
(Charlesbridge, September 2014)

(Click on each piece of final art to enlarge and see in more detail)



 

















 

From the Me and My Dragon books
(Charlesbridge)

(You can click on most of these to enlarge and see in more detail)


 







 

From the Ace Lacewing books
(Charlesbridge)

(Click on each image to enlarge and see in more detail)


 






All artwork is used with permission of David Biedrzycki.

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) A weekend with no big plans, which is good for relaxing and reading.

2) Good food and good conversations with friends this week.

3) I love the first song on this First Listen from Shara Worden, who evidently goes by the name My Brightest Diamond. (New to me, but I love all the sounds in that first tune.)

4) You gotta admit this is funny.

5) Picture books are always a kick for me, but I enjoyed two in particular this week: Joyce Sidman’s Winter Bees & Other Poems of the the Cold, illustrated by Rick Allen (see some beautiful spreads here!), and Jen Bryant’s The Right Word: Roget and his Thesaurus, illustrated by Melissa Sweet. Melissa shared some images from that book back in July (here), but this week I saw the hardback. MY GOODNESS, it’s gorgeous.

6) A friend recommended a BBC drama called Happy Valley, and my husband and I watched the whole first season in a few days. (Granted, there are only six episodes. Also I’m a hopeless night owl.) The acting is particularly wonderful, though it’s also intense and difficult to watch in spots.

7) I’m learning a Chopin piece on piano this week.

What are YOUR kicks this week?

10 Comments on 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #397: Featuring David Biedrzycki, last added: 9/14/2014
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6. What I’m Doing at Kirkus This Week,Plus What I Did Last Week, Featuring Bagram Ibatoulline

Today at Kirkus, I write about two picture books, Chieri Uegaki’s Hana Hashimoto, Sixth Violin, illustrated by Qin Leng, and Little Melba and Her Big Trombone, written by Katheryn Russell-Brown and illustrated by Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe Award winner Frank Morrison. That link will be here soon.

* * *

Last week, I wrote here about two wonderful new books for budding, young photographers, Susan Goldman Rubin’s Stand There! She Shouted: The Invincible Photographer Julia Margaret Cameron, illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline, and Ruth Thomson’s Photos Framed: A Fresh Look at the World’s Most Memorable Photographs. I’ve got a bit of art from Ibatoulline today.


“…Julia Margaret thrilled at the work of the Old Masters, especially Raphael, and his paintings of angels and the Madonna. The pictures made a lasting impression on her,
and later she directly borrowed some of their compositions for her photographs.”

(Click to enlarge and see full text)


“…Rather than showing Annie’s whole figure, Julia Margaret had taken a close-up of her face and shoulders. Annie is lit by daylight shining through the
glass roof of the chicken coop.”

(Click to enlarge and see full text)

Until Sunday …

* * * * * * *

STAND THERE! SHE SHOUTED. Text copyright © 2014 by Susan Goldman Rubin. Illustrations copyright © 2014 by Bagram Ibatoulline. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.

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7. The Birds and the Bees


Joyce Sidman’s “Winter Bees,”
illustrated by Rick Allen

(Click to enlarge)


David Elliott’s “The Hummingbird,”
illustrated by Becca Stadtlander

(Click to enlarge)


 

Last week at Kirkus, I wrote here about two new picture book poetry collections — On the Wing by David Elliott and illustrated by newcomer Becca Stadtlander and, coming in November from Joyce Sidman, Winter Bees & Other Poems of the the Cold, illustrated by Rick Allen.

I’ve got art from each today.

Enjoy.

 

From Winter Bees & Other Poems of the Cold


 


“Dream of the Tundra Swan” spread
(Click to enlarge)


“Vole in Winter” spread
(Click to enlarge)



 

From On the Wing


 


“The Cardinal”
(Click to enlarge)

* * * * * * *

ON THE WING. Text copyright © 2014 by David Elliott. Illustrations copyright © 2014 by Rebecca Stadtlander. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.

WINTER BEES & OTHER POEMS OF THE COLD. Text copyright © 2014 by Joyce Sidman. Illustrations copyright © 2014 by Rick Allen. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Boston.

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8. A Spotlight on Smaller Publishers, Featuring Artwork from Gusti, Elisa Gutiérrez, and Trina Schart Hyman



Above: An illustration from Jorge Bucay’s The King and the Magician,
illustrated by Gusti; Elisa Gutiérrez’s

Letter Lunch;
and Eric Kimmel’s Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins,
illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman

Today’s featured picture books really have nothing in common but for two things: 1) I’ve been meaning to feature them for a while now, and 2) they all come from smaller publishers.

Let’s just get right to it. …

First up is Elisa Gutiérrez’s Letter Lunch, which was released by Owlkids in March. Gutiérrez is a graphic designer and illustrator, now living in Canada but originally from Mexico City. Letter Lunch, an inventive wordless tale, is the story of two friends collecting letters for alphabet soup after they realize on the very first spread that only the letter “C” is on their kitchen shelves. They head out into a lush, green garden; they head to the bustling market; and eventually they find themselves on top of a mountain. When they get back to their kitchen, they find their vowels in the form of spices and finally chow down. Gutiérrez lays the story out as if a comic, using panels and pacing everything just right. The letters boldly stand out in these textured cut-paper collage and mixed media illustrations. Kirkus calls this one “pleasingly fresh.”



(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)


 



(Click either image to see spread in its entirety)


 



 

[Note: Owlkids has a resource available online for this book, which includes a behind-the-scenes look at the artwork. That can be accessed here.]

Next up: Did you know that back in July Holiday House released the 25th anniversary edition of Eric Kimmel’s Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins, illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman? This one was a 1990 Caldecott Honor Book. If you’re not familiar with the story, it recounts Hershel of Ostropol’s adventures in outwitting the goblins (on the first night of Hanukkah) who haunt the synagogue at the top of the hill in the village where Hershel intends to celebrate and partake in some tasty potato latkes. This anniversary edition includes an Afterword from the author and a note from John Briggs of Holiday House. Briggs tells the story of Trina writing to Eric to say:

One of the reasons I enjoyed working on this book—aside from the fact that it’s a great story—is that you really know how to write for the artist. You, and Dylan Thomas, and Charles Dickens. You know just what to put in, and more important, what to leave out.

(My two favorite parts about this letter? Trina goes on to say: “I think I drew [Hershel] just right. I may have even fallen in love with him.” And John writes that later Eric said, “This is what she wrote to me when I was nobody from nowhere and she was one of the gods.”)

Let us take a moment to appreciate Trina’s goblins:


“On the following nights other goblins came. One had six heads. One had three eyes.
All were terrible and fierce. They growled and roared and changed themselves into horrible shapes. They tried to stop Hershel from lighting the Hanukkah candles.
But Hershel fooled them all.”

(Click to enlarge)

Last, we have Jorge Bucay’s The King and the Magician, illustrated by Gusti. This comes from Abbeville Publishing Group and was released early this month in the U.S. (It was first published in Spain in 2011.) Both author and illustrator are from Argentina, though Gusti now lives and works in Barcelona. This one’s a modern fairy tale about a power-hungry king who vows to kill the kingdom’s Magician, since he is more loved and respected by all. The king’s plan is to host a grand party and ask the Magician if he can tell the future. If he answers yes, the king plans to ask him to prove his great wizardry skills by predicting the day of the Magician’s own death. (And, no matter his response, the king plans to kill him.) The clever magician, though, tells him that he will die the same day as his King. From that point forward, the King (vulnerable himself — note the teddy bear in hand) never leaves the Magician’s side, and his character changes as well … but I can’t give away the entire story, should you want to read it for yourself (though you’ll get a sense in the illustrations below). This one is all about unexpected journeys (“It’s as if Machiavelli had been turned upside down and given a good shake,” notes the Kirkus review), and it’s a satisfying original fairy tale. The illustrations are particularly beautiful. See for yourself:


“Alarmed, the King sent his soldiers and spies to investigate the rumors. When his troops returned, they reported that not only could the Magician foresee the future, even worse, he was a wise and caring man, admired and loved by all.”
(Click to enlarge spread)


“Suddenly, silence filled the royal hall. After a moment, the Magician looked directly at the King and said: ‘I can not tell Your Highness the exact date, but I do know the Magician of this kingdom will die the exact same day as his King.’ At this, the guests stood silent. Gradually, the sound of murmurs started spreading through the hall.”
(Click to enlarge spread)


“Days, weeks, and months went by. Each morning, the King went to the Magician’s room for advice, and each morning the King told the Magician to stay one more day to help him with yet another matter. The Magician was amused by all the care and attention he received from his royal host, even if he got tired of waiting for the King’s guards to inspect the garden for any danger every time he wanted to go out for fresh air.”
(Click to enlarge spread)


“More and more, the King came to value the guidance of the Magician. Without even realizing it, the King started relying on the old man’s opinion for everything. That is how the King’s once-feared enemy became his most valued advisor. The more time the King spent with the Magician, the more just, fair, and wise he became. The King turned into a respected leader, now truly beloved by all in his realm.”
(Click to enlarge spread)



 

Happy reading!

* * * * * * *

LETTER LUNCH. Copyright © 2014 by Elisa Gutiérrez. Published by Owlkids, Berkeley, CA. Illustrations used by permission of the publisher.

HERSHEL AND THE HANUKKAH GOBLINS. Text copyright © 1985 by Eric A. Kimmel. Illustrations © 1989 by Trina Schart Hyman. Artwork used by permission of Holiday House.

THE KING AND THE MAGICIAN. Copyright © 2011 Océano Travesía. English translation copyright © 2014 by Abbeville Press, New York. Illustrations used by permission of the publisher.

3 Comments on A Spotlight on Smaller Publishers, Featuring Artwork from Gusti, Elisa Gutiérrez, and Trina Schart Hyman, last added: 9/9/2014
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9. 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #396: FeaturingUp-and-Coming Illustrator, Esmé Shapiro


(Click to enlarge)

I always look forward to the first Sunday of every month here at 7-Imp, since that’s when I feature student or recently graduated illustrators, and today is no exception. I’m happy to introduce you to Esmé Shapiro, a recent grad. Let’s just get right to it, since she says a bit below and shares even more artwork.

I thank her for visiting.

(Please note that all of the images below are at Esmé’s site, as well as her Tumblr presence, and you can also read further at those cyberspace stops about the ideas behind the images. For instance, the above is an illustration for a story she wrote, called “Carmella Chameleon.”)

Esmé: Hello! I’m Esmé Shapiro. I just graduated in May from the Rhode Island School of Design with my BFA in Illustration. Now I am a freelance illustrator living on a tree-lined block in Brooklyn, New York, with my puppy, Chebini.

I grew up amongst the palm trees of Los Angeles in a little oasis of a neighborhood called Laurel Canyon, which is where old Hollywood stars and directors used to build their hunting lodges. When I was a little girl, I would imagine I was a starlet from the 1920s and dress up in long gowns to go on long hikes through the cactus-studded hills. Laurel Canyon cultivated my interest in the styles and stories from the past and my love of nature, and I believe that you can see that in my work.


I tend to work very small, especially now that I have moved into a tiny Brooklyn apartment. Sometimes people are very surprised when they see how small a painting actually is in real life. I usually work on mat board with tons of layered gouache and watercolor. I spend a lot of time preparing for the image, but when it comes to the actual act of painting, I work really fast. It’s like the painting already exists, and it’s up to my right hand to create it. It’s a lot of pressure on my hand, but I think it handles it well.



(Click to enlarge)


 


(Click to enlarge)


 

I have a big book shoved next to my pillow of all the projects I would like to do, and the list goes on for what seems like forever. Of course, my biggest dream is to see one of my children’s books published, but there are a lot of other projects too. I would also like to design children’s textiles, art-direct animations, build a giant dome to live in, paint huge murals, illustrate for all types of magazines, build a giant pink zebra, and then eventually a miniature pink zebra.


(Click to enlarge)


 

All artwork is used with permission of Esmé Shapiro.

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) Esmé’s bit about the pink zebras made my 8-year-old laugh very hard. (Me too.)

2) I just ordered some sheet music (“easy” piano, since I’m still learning) for The Beatles and Chopin.

3) Fionn Regan.

4) My oh my, this book is good:

5) I love picking up my girls from school every day, ’cause that’s our time to talk and read together and discuss the day. I’m grateful for the kind of job that allows for that (er, jobs, rather).

6) It’s Blaine Danielson’s birthday …

7) … which means there is cake, and what a wonder is cake.

BONUS: It’s really great to hear from folks who are reading Wild Things.

What are YOUR kicks this week?

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10. What I’m Doing at Kirkus This Week



 

Yesterday at Kirkus, I wrote here about two beautiful new picture book poetry collections, one by David Elliott and illustrated by newcomer Becca Stadtlander and another coming soon from Joyce Sidman and illustrated by Rick Allen. (Sidman’s is pictured above.) Next week here at 7-Imp, I’ll have art from each book.

Today, I write about two new nonfiction books for the budding photographers in your life — Susan Goldman Rubin’s Stand There! She Shouted: The Invincible Photographer Julia Margaret Cameron, illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline, and Ruth Thomson’s Photos Framed: A Fresh Look at the World’s Most Memorable Photographs. That link will be here soon.

Until Sunday …

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11. A Mermaid Sighting



 

Have you noticed a particular blog tour goin’ on this week? Author-illustrator Ben Hatke (I wrote here about and then followed up with art here from his newest picture book, Julia’s House for Lost Creatures) is makin’ the rounds and talking about his bestiary of lost creatures. This is the kind of art-filled blog tour I can get behind. If you want to see all his creatures from this week, they’re listed at this link.

Today, I’m hosting the mermaid.

Here’s Ben …

Ben: Mermaids: Rarely seen, the most likely evidence of a nearby mermaid is a sad, lilting song heard among the waves in rocky harbors. Mermaids tend toward solitude, moonlit nights, and rainy days. Of all the creatures that show up at Julia’s crowded doorstep, the mermaid is perhaps the most unlikely. Mermaids do drag unwitting sailors into the cold depths of the sea, but not nearly so often as you might think.

Mermaids make fairly peaceable houseguests; they are quiet, and if you enjoy their melancholy melodies they can be quite easy to live with. They are very hard on plumbing, though, shedding scales and seaweed-like hair into the drains, and in a domestic situation they require a lot of water. Expect your water bill to triple (at least) and make sure you are on friendly terms with your local plumber.

My very favorite mermaid story of all is called The Animal Family. It’s a beautiful book by Randall Jarrell and masterfully illustrated by Maurice Sendak. Not only is The Animal Family my favorite mermaid story, but it’s one of my all-time favorite books.

* * * * * * *

All images here (with the exception of the book cover) used by permission of Ben Hatke.

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12. Flora’s Back!A Visit with Author-Illustrator Molly Idle



Early sketch and final spread
(Click second image to enlarge)


 

Just the other day author-illustrator Aaron Becker visited to talk about his new picture book (Quest), which is a follow-up to one that won a Caldecott Honor early this year (Journey).

So then it occurred to me (I swear I don’t plan these things, as in I’m not that organized) that I’d love to invite author-illustrator Molly Idle to do the same. Molly also received a Caldecott Honor early this year for Flora and the Flamingo, and she sees the release at the end of this month of a follow-up picture book about the same character (Flora, that is), Flora and the Penguin (Chronicle Books).

And I had this idea just yesterday, I think it was, so I’m glad Molly was able to roll with this and send me images and interview responses so quickly. I figured I’d ask her the same things I asked Aaron (with the exception of questions that pertain specifically to their books, of course).

Flora and the Penguin is (like Aaron’s book) another wordless tale. This one is entertaining, too — the charm and cheer and grace that was on every page of Flora and the Flamingo is here again. This time, Flora is dancing partners with a penguin. At least she tries to skate with him on the ice, though he’s mighty distracted by some fish. And the color palette! O! The palette! You’ll see what I mean in some of the final spreads pictured below.

Let’s get right to it, and I thank Molly for visiting. (For those of you who want even more, remember that Molly visited 7-Imp here in 2013.)

Jules: You’ve probably already discussed elsewhere what it was like to get the Caldecott call, so I apologize if this is redundant, but hey, what was it like to get the Caldecott call?


“My scribbly sketchbook with the first notes for Flora and the Penguin”


(Click to enlarge)

Molly: Are you kidding?! It was AWESOME! I knew that somebody was going to be getting a call that morning, but when it was my phone that rang at 4:30 a.m., you coulda knocked me over with a feather! I remember stammering my thanks to a roomful of happy, laughing, cheering people on the other end of the line, while standing in my kitchen in my jammies. When I hung up the phone and put it down, I just stood there for a moment. Then, I picked up the phone again and thumbed through to “recent calls” — just to be sure I hadn’t imagined the whole thing. I turned around, still holding the phone, and there was my husband standing there in the kitchen, grinning at me and saying, “Well?” I just nodded, grinning back, and finally I said, “I won.” And he laughed and said, “Phew! Well that’s good, because I hate to think they’d call and wake you up just to tell you you hadn’t!”

Then, all was happy pandemonium at our house.


Early sketch: Flora with her skates
(Click to enlarge)


Sketch: “Thinking about the ‘sit spin’ and how a penguin would manage it …”
(Click to enlarge)


Sketch: “Playing with opposites — x’s and o’s …”
(Click to enlarge)



Sample sketches: “Playing with poses for flaps that would have worked
like the ones in
Flamingo (up and down) …”


Sketch: “… but I wanted to be able to move these two far apart and then back together. The ‘flamingo flaps’ wouldn’t do that.”
(Click to enlarge)

Jules: How’d you deal with the pressure of creating both a sequel and a sophomore picture book when the success of your debut was so huge? This is assuming you felt stress. Perhaps you did not.

Molly: Did I feel stress? Yes! Absolutely, but not on this book. I had already finished the artwork for Flora and the Penguin by this time last year, so for me there was only the pressure that my art director and editor and I were applying to ourselves to make this book a good book. And that was plenty.


“This scribble is what I jotted down when I got the idea
to use double-sided, horizontal flaps.”

After Flora and the Flamingo won the Caldecott Honor, though, I felt a huge sense of outside expectation, which of course was totally only in my own mind. It’s not as if I started receiving emails saying, “Dear Ms. Idle: Your next book better measure up … or else.” But I felt a weird sort of weight of uncertainty. Could I measure up against myself? And what did that even mean? And I sort of seized up creatively. I just froze. So, it was really lucky that I had a huge pile of work waiting to be done. Seriously. Because the only way to get work done is to do it. Sitting frozen wouldn’t make my deadlines disappear. And through working, that paralyzing fear of expectation slowly started to diminish.

I have a fortune cookie fortune on my desk that says “Action is worry’s worst enemy.” That’s not really a fortune, is it? But I think it’s a truism. The best way to deal with it—whatever “it” is—is to work through it.



” … So I tried it out. And it worked! With the flap anchored toward the center of the book and images printed on both sides,
they could skate back and forth across the page.”
(Click each to enlarge)

Jules: Do you want to talk a bit about working with the designers and such at Chronicle? How much input do you have on the book’s overall design?

Molly: Do I want to talk about working with the folks at Chronicle? “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.”

I love the folks at Chronicle. They are dedicated to making wonderful, beautiful, different books. And to do that, they pay attention to the smallest details. I’m a believer that the smallest details often make the biggest differences. I’ve been so fortunate to work with art directors, editors, and designers that believe that too. We share a love of simple, elegant design. We also share a love of ego-less collaboration. Whoever has the best idea, it doesn’t matter who thinks of it — that should be the path taken. So there aren’t really rigidly defined boundaries in how we divvy up design. My art director will make editorial notes; I’ll design a different way to engineer a gatefold or flap; my editor will make color palette suggestions. There’s a lot of overlap. There’s a lot of trust. I like that.


“Now that I knew how the movement would work,
I started sketching/choreographing their story …”
(Click to enlarge)


“Even on the pages that don’t involve movement of flaps, I like to make sure that the movement flows between one pose and the next,
so I take them apart and overlay them.”
(Click to enlarge)


“Then I use the old-school, traditional animation technique of flipping between drawings to make sure they move smoothly.”
(Click the play button)


“Then I lay them back out in the dummy.”
(Click to enlarge)

Jules: Are there specific experiences that formed the essential bases, the fundamental building blocks, of your artistic vision? Books, movies, artists, events, images, anything else, etc.?

Molly: I grew up in a theatrical family with an eye to making movies, so films and plays play a major role in my bookmaking process. My favorite movies have always been the old Technicolor films of the ’40s and ’50s. These days, most films are shot on location, but in those days most everything was filmed in the controlled environment of a sound stage. A sort of handcrafted, hyper-real, bright and shiny reality. I like that sort of perfectly staged feeling.

I also like blackbox theatre. Plays in a blackbox use minimal sets and props. They rely on the actors to convey the story and the imagination of the audience to fill in the surroundings.

When I’m laying out a book, I think of it as if I’m staging a play or a film. Scene by scene, shot by shot.


“We were searching for just the right blue—not too icy, not too warm—in Pantone …”


 



 

“… and in Prismacolor.”


 


“Once we figure out the palette, I make myself a cheat sheet
so that I remember what colors I layered and in what order.”
(Click to enlarge)

Jules: What do you, as an artist, find most challenging and satisfying in the creative processes you employ?

Molly I think the thing I find most challenging and most satisfying in my creative process is the initial uncovering of the entire story. There’s nothing for it but to sit down and start working it out on paper. Page by page. And, for me, it is hard work. The easiest thing for me to do is to sit down and make nice lines and connect those nice lines to make nice drawings. I’ve been at it long enough now to know that anytime I sit down at my drawing board, I can turn out a pretty nice drawing. Muscle memory –like riding a bike.

But to make those lines into drawings that connect in a new and meaningful way, to make a story worth telling — that’s a whole other thing. And I feel as though I am just learning to ride without my training wheels.



Two pieces in progress …
(Click each to enlarge)

Jules: Okay, I’ve gotten lately to where I simply love to ask people: What are you reading now?

Molly Okay, this is going to sound awful, but I am not reading anything for myself right now. I can’t pick up a book and read a chapter and then put it down and come back to it later. I’m a binge reader. I like to sit down and devour a book in one sitting.

That said, I’ve been so busy with work and family that I haven’t had time to take a day off to read in a few months, so my TBR stack is reaching to tottering heights! But I do read with my boys every night, and we’re working our way through Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (one of my personal faves). We also just finished rereading Jedi Academy (one of their personal faves).



Some final spreads
(Click each to enlarge)

Jules: On that note, what picture books have you loved lately? Or whose work have you seen that you think deserves some love and attention?

Molly Oh my, there have been a lot of good picture books out lately, and a bunch more coming out soon! But I shall confine my list to a few that are already out and that made me feel ridiculously happy. The kind of book you finish, hug to your chest, and open and read again.

Hooray for Hat by Brian Won. This book had me grinning from the moment I opened it.

Sparky! by Jenny Offill and Chris Appelhans. There is so much to love about this book. There’s a raw sort of openness to the text and the sincere yet deadpan expressions. And don’t even get me started on the gorgeous limited color palette. Love it!


The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt and Oliver Jeffers. I bet everyone mentions this one, right? And for good reason! I could read it over and over. Which is good, because it is one of the most requested, “just one more!” bedtime reads in our house.

Number One Sam by Greg Pizzoli. This is just one of those stories that is just perfect. Simple. And perfect.

The Mermaid and the Shoe by K. G. Campbell. Keith’s art is so beautiful that it makes my heart hurt. *wistful sigh*



Jules: What’s next for you? Anything in the works that you can talk about now?

Molly: Right now I am working on the third Flora book, Flora and the Peacocks. Yes, peacocks. Plural. All the Flora books are about exploring different aspects of friendship. The first was about making a friend. The second is about what happens when two friends want different things. The third is about groups of three. Three can be tricky. So often someone ends up feeling left out. I’m looking forward to exploring that dynamic — and all those fabulous feathers!

* * * * * * *

FLORA AND THE PENGUIN. Copyright © 2014 by Molly Idle. Published by Chronicle Books, San Francisco. All images here (with the exception of book covers) used by permission of Molly Idle.

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13. One Breathtaking Quest Before Breakfast:A Visit with Author-Illustrator Aaron Becker


(Click to enlarge)

Pictured here is Aaron Becker’s sketch of the rhino that is embossed on the cover of Quest (Candlewick, August 2014), the second picture book in what Aaron calls the Journey trilogy. The trilogy began with last year’s Journey, which was awarded a Caldecott Honor.

I’ve told this story before, but my own journey with Journey began back in 2012 when Aaron left a comment here at 7-Imp, I clicked on his hyperlinked name, and I visited his website. I believe I muttered “whoa” a lot here at my desk at 7-Imp Central. (It was, most likely, more like “whoa, DUDE,” but that makes me sound way less professional, doesn’t it?) I asked him if he’d like to visit the blog, which resulted in this post a year before Journey came out (oh, and then this fun breakfast interview in 2013). Then, when it finally was released, I ended up blurbing it, which is something I don’t do on a regular basis, but I loved the book. When the book got a Caldecott Honor, I cheered loudly down here in Tennessee. And now … well, to see Quest finally on shelves is a bit thrilling if you’re a Journey fan.

Quest brings back to readers the boy and the girl of the previous tale, who embark one rainy day on a journey to save a king who has been captured. He surprises the children in the park, handing them a map and swearing them to secrecy, while setting them to the task of finding six magic crayons that will eventually free his kingdom from darker forces now in control. The Kirkus review notes that Becker’s storytelling here in the world he created with last year’s book is even more ambitious. I’ve read the book multiple times and see some new detail in each read, and I also love the bits of humor. (For one, during a glorious underwater scene, the purple bird from Journey can be seen with his own scuba tank. Becker is never one to miss details.)

It’s another wonderful (in the truest sense of the word) wordless tale. It’s breathtaking, thrilling, and epic all at once. At this Candlewick Q&A, Aaron goes into detail about how he creates his art; it involves computer 3D models of each element of the world he’s created. Today here at 7-Imp, he chats with me a bit and shares some preliminary images (dummy images, early cover art, etc.) And I thank him for visiting.

p.s. Don’t miss Matthew Winner’s August podcast conversation with Becker.

* * * * * * *


Original pitch image for Quest
(Click to enlarge)

Jules: You’ve probably already discussed elsewhere what it was like to get the Caldecott call, so I apologize if this is redundant, but hey, what was it like to get the Caldecott call?

Aaron: I’ve had people tell me not to read anything on the internet about one’s book, but because I’m so new to this, I just can’t help myself. It’s exciting! So, I had read all of these blogs leading up to the Caldecott announcements saying how Journey was a major contender. So when the call came, I saw that it was from Philadelphia, and I had a pretty good idea who might be on the other end. That said, it was still a total thrill, and I think the more time that passes, the better I understand just how amazingly fortunate I’ve been.


Early cover sketch for Quest
(Click to enlarge)


Original cover concept
(Click to enlarge)


Color cover sketch
(Click to enlarge)


Final cover

Jules: How’d you deal with the pressure of creating both a sequel and a sophomore picture book when the success of your debut was so huge? This is assuming you felt stress. Perhaps you did not.

Aaron: Because the artwork for Journey was completed a full year and a half before it published, I had plenty of time to work on a follow-up before I had any idea that Journey was going to be so well-received. Well, I had your blurb, but you know … I didn’t want to just rest on my laurels, so I went ahead and developed the idea for an entire trilogy. The artwork for Quest was finished in early June of 2013, a few months before Journey published!

That said, I did feel some pressure when working on the series’ finale (Return, due Fall 2016) — not so much because of the success of its predecessor, but because I knew it had to do justice to the character arcs I had been developing. Like Quest, it had to have its own beginning, middle, and end, but unlike the second book, it also had to finish the entire tale. I spent probably nine or ten months on the story alone and am just now starting to finish the artwork for it.


Mosaic sketch

Jules: Ah, I see. I had planned on asking if work on the third book in the trilogy has already begun.

Aaron: After much wrangling, the story is DONE. But the artwork awaits. My family and I are headed to Spain for the school year, and Candlewick has agreed to ship me all of my supplies to finish the artwork right on the Mediterranean. How cool is that?!

Jules: I’d have to say severely cool.

Do you want to talk a bit about working with the designers and such at Candlewick? (I know from experience how wonderful they are.) How much input do you have on the book’s overall design?





Dummy sketches
(Click each to enlarge)

Aaron: Maryellen Hanley is the designer that I work with at Candlewick. At this point, I defer to her on major design decisions around the book design, because I’ve learned she’s far more talented than I am. And smarter. Because there’s no text to flow into the images, most of the other design decisions come down to compositional issues that I deal with during the editing process. Sometimes she has ideas for where to go on a particular spread, but I find that I’m much more picky about those types of things. Usually, if I give it a few weeks, I realize that she’s right, but on some occasions, if I still feel strongly about whatever it is I’m trying to communicate, I stick to my original idea.


Watercolor prep — 3D and final sketch
(Click to enlarge)


Final — 3D and watercolor
(Click to enlarge)

Jules: Are there specific experiences that formed the essential bases, the fundamental building blocks, of your artistic vision? Books, movies, artists, events, images, anything else, etc….? (I love to pull out this question for my favorite artists, but if you think it’s too broad of a query, feel free to say so or skip.)

Aaron: I think from a story perspective the Journey series is quite autobiographical, especially if you think in terms of metaphors. I always used drawing as a means of escape and a tool with which to figure out life. I also think there’s going to be a bit of Star Wars in anything I do, just because I was summarily brainwashed by that film when I was three. “Trilogy,” anyone?

Jules: What do you, as an artist, find most challenging and satisfying in the creative processes you employ?

[Ed. Note: Pictured left is a painting from Anders Zorn, which served as a reference piece for Aaron on this book.]

Aaron Easily, by far, the most challenging thing is to find emotional resonance in a story. Crafting the logic of a story takes work, but there’s something completely subjective and amorphous about locating the heart of a tale. The problem is, if you rely on formulas to generate sympathy for your characters, the story becomes, well … formulaic. So the only way I’ve found is to work and work and work, and then when you’re done, keep working. So when you do finally “get it,” yes, it’s very, very satisfying. I still remember when, after about nine months of wrangling, I called my editor, Mary Lee Donovan, with the final draft for Journey’s closing chapter (Return), and we read through the sketches over phone/email — and the sense of it having landed was almost tangible. At the very least, it certainly was audible!

Jules: Okay, I’ve gotten lately to where I simply love to ask people: What are you reading now?

Aaron Spanish language books. I have a lot to learn, and it’s funny, because my brain has become so wired to focus only on book-making, that it’s almost like a jolt of caffeine to use it for something else like learning a new language. Well, new to me anyway! I’m working with a tutor this week, and at some point during the lesson she asked me to say my phone number in Spanish, and while I could remember how to say the numbers, I couldn’t remember my ACTUAL PHONE NUMBER. That was how much my brain was exploding.




Reference materials for Quest:
A Central Park underpass, a temple, and Copenhagen’s Little Mermaid statue
(Click each to enlarge)

Jules: On that note, what picture books have you loved lately? Or whose work have you seen that you think deserves some love and attention?

Aaron I am still talking about Quentin Blake’s work on the late Russell Hoban’s Rosie’s Magic Horse. There’s something just utterly delightful and freeing about his penmanship and the story itself. I’m also very impressed by Benjamin Chaud’s The Bear’s Song and Aleksandra Mizielińska’s Mamoko series. And on a trip to L.A. recently, I met Drew Daywalt for the first time and realized that there’s a good reason why The Day the Crayons Quit is so popular — the author is an incredibly wonderful and sharp-witted guy. I think we’re going to see a lot more from him.

Jules: Oh yes, my daughters are deeply in love with those Mamoko books by Mizielińska and Daniel Mizieliński. They even turned the word “Mamoko” into its own song, and those books go everywhere in the car with them. And the Maps book from last year? It’s exquisite. I hated that in 2013 I didn’t write about that book, but at least we’re giving it some attention now. (Better late than never.)


Last question, since you have a big journey ahead of you (no pun intended): Do you know enough about the future to know what will be post-trilogy, as in any plans/ideas already in the works that you can talk about?

Aaron: I have several ideas in the works, but I have the feeling I’ll find something in Spain that will plant a seed or two. In particular, Southern Spain, where we’ll be living, is known for its Moorish influences, so I’m pretty sure I’ll be in my version of architectural heaven.

* * * * * * *

QUEST. Copyright © 2014 by Aaron Becker. Published by Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.

All artwork and images are used with permission of Aaron Becker.

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14. 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #395: Featuring Bruce Eric Kaplan

Okay, you all. I just gotta write about another Bruce Eric Kaplan picture book, because whenever he writes and illustrates a new one, I’m reminded how wonderfully weird and refreshing they are. I see a lot of picture books on a regular basis, you see, and some of them start to blur together in my vision, but when one of his shows up, I know I’m likely in for a laugh.

Let me back up first. Kaplan is a cartoonist, whose work regularly appears in the The New Yorker, and since he’s known for his darker humor, his picture books have a touch of that as well (which means, of course, I’m going to be drawn to them). Dark humor in picture books is an easy thing to get wrong, though, yet Kaplan hasn’t made a misstep yet. At least, not in my book anyway. His debut picture book was 2010′s Monsters Eat Whiny Children, featured here at 7-Imp, and this was followed last year by Cousin Irv from Mars, which I wrote about here at Kirkus (and followed up here with art).

The new one, Meaniehead, came out in June (Simon & Schuster) and features more of his dark, hyperbolic humor and wry (and wise) observations on childhood. Henry and Eve are siblings who are experiencing an ugly new phase (as you can see above), involving lots of arguing. One day, an argument over an action figure (“There’s nothing sillier than fighting about what belongs to whom, but no kids and even fewer adults know that”) leads to a broken lamp, a wrecked bedroom, and the destruction of the house, the neighborhood, the local toy store, the library, the pizza place, the beauty parlor, the park, and all the town’s buildings, really. After a snack break, the intensive arguing continues until … well, I can’t give it all away, but some Texas football teams get involved …


… and in the end the world explodes.

That’s a Bruce Eric Kaplan book for you. Though you can never expect a moral with his books (thank goodness), there is some remorse, post-apocalypse. Best of all, he seems to really get those intense childhood fights. (My late brother and I grew up to be the best of friends, but boy howdy did we have some doozies when we were younger. I remember an argument over macaroni that is best not discussed.)

MEANIEHEAD. Copyright © 2014 by Bruce Eric Kaplan. Illustrations used by permission of the publisher, Simon & Schuster, 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) I might have to listen to this great conversation with poet Marie Howe multiple times. This is excellent on so many levels.

2) I took my girls this weekend to this Coretta Scott King event at the Nashville Public Library, and they got to take writing and art workshops — and I finally got to meet in person R. Gregory Christie.

3) Reading about this smart idea (putting a social worker on staff at a D.C. library to work with homeless patrons) led me to this podcast. It’s from the Dallas Public Library; it’s about homelessness; and it’s hosted by a young man who is himself homeless. I’m on episode three at this point; so far, it’s interesting stuff.

4) It’s lovely to see Dolly Parton’s book program (which is FABULOUS) get some national love and attention.

5) I got a good stack of new novels at the bookstore today. On that note …

6) Bubble bath. Reading. Bye! (Sorry to kick #7.)

What are YOUR kicks this week?

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15. What I’m Doing at Kirkus This Week,Plus What I Did Last Week, Featuring Michael Emberley


” … which is exasperating boys like YOU.”
(Click to enlarge)


 

This morning over at Kirkus, I’m doing something entirely different. I’m chatting with author Kekla Magoon about her upcoming YA novel, How It Went Down. Why is someone who always writes about picture books and illustration doing that? Because the events in Ferguson have weighed heavy on my mind, as they have for many. More about this great novel and my chat with Kekla are here.

Last week I wrote about Barbara Bottner’s Miss Brooks’ Story Nook (where tales are told and ogres are welcome!), published by Random House in August and illustrated by Michael Emberley. That link is here.

Today, I’m following up with some sketches from Emberley and art from the book. Michael tells me he typically does hundreds of sketches for each book. These below are just some. You can click on nearly every sketch below to see it larger and in more detail.

Michael has even more about the book, including more sketches, at this page of his site.

Until Sunday …



 

Sketches


 


















 

Some Final Illustrations


 



(Click second image to see spread in its entirety)


 



(Click second image to see spread in its entirety)


 



(Click second image to see spread in its entirety)


 

* * * * * * *

MISS BROOKS’ STORY NOOK (WHERE TALES ARE TOLD AND OGRES ARE WELCOME!). Text copyright © 2014 by Barbara Bottner. Illustrations copyright © 2014 by Michael Emberley. Published by Alfred A. Knopf, New York, NY. All sketches and art here reproduced by permission of Michael Emberley.

3 Comments on What I’m Doing at Kirkus This Week,Plus What I Did Last Week, Featuring Michael Emberley, last added: 8/29/2014
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16. Early Sketches and Outtakes and Art and Suchfrom Peter Brown (Who is Not Really a Monster)



 

That’s right. Despite photographic evidence from last week, Peter Brown is not actually a monster.

Since I chatted (here) last week with Peter about his newest book, My Teacher Is a Monster! (No, I am Not.), published by Little, Brown, I’m following up today with some images he sent — some final art from the book but also early sketches, an outtake, etc. The early sketch above cracks. me. up.

Enjoy …


Final art: “Bobby had a big problem at school. Her name was Ms. Kirby. …”
(Click to enlarge)


 


Final art: “Bobby spent his free time in the park, trying to forget his teacher problems. But one Saturday morning, on the way to his favorite spot,
Bobby found a terrible surprise.”

(Click to enlarge)


 



 


Early versions
(Click second image to enlarge)



 


Final spread: “Bobby wanted to run! He wanted to hide!
But he knew that would only make things worse.”

(Click to enlarge spread)


 


Outtake
(Click to enlarge)


 


Early spread
(Click to enlarge)


 



 

* * * * * * *

MY TEACHER IS A MONSTER! (NO, I AM NOT.) Copyright © 2014 by Peter Brown. Published by Little, Brown and Company, New York. All images here produced by permission of Peter Brown.

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17. Seven Questions Over Breakfast with Mike Curato



 

Debut author-illustrator Mike Curato is visiting for breakfast this morning to share lots of art and talk about his new book, Little Elliot, Big City (which I think actually comes out today — I swear I don’t plan these things, but I just get lucky with my timing sometimes). Clearly, based on the sketch of Elliot above, we must have cupcakes for breakfast. Actually, Mike agrees, when I ask him what he’d like on his plate. “If I could choose whatever I wanted without consequence,” he told me, “I’m sure I’d start off my morning with a cupcake. (Aren’t muffins just really boring cupcakes anyway?)” He went on to say that he usually starts his day with something a bit healthier, but I’m all for this cupcake plan (healthy schmealthy), so let’s just DO IT.

Little Elliot tells the story of a tiny (cupcake-loving) elephant, who heads intrepidly into the big city and eventually makes a new friend. Booklist praises Mike’s “almost cinematic artwork,” and the Kirkus review notes “the meticulous beauty” of the illustrations. Mike’s here today to show us some of that, as well as some other illustrations. I’ll get the cupcakes and coffee out, and I thank him for visiting.

* * * * * * *

Jules: Are you an illustrator or author/illustrator?

Mike: Both!

While thinking about this question, I started wondering if I should just go by “storyteller,” since I love to tell stories whether it’s visual, written, or spoken. But then people might roll their eyes if I say that, so let’s stick with Illustrator/Author.


An animated GIF showing Mike’s process;
this is a spread from
Little Elliot, Big City

Jules: Can you list your books-to-date?

Mike: My very first book, Little Elliot, Big City, comes out August 26th. It’s the first in a three-book series with Henry Holt Books for Young Readers (Macmillan), starring my favorite polka-dotted elephant.



Books of Wonder’s storefront window
(Click to enlarge)


 

Also, before that I illustrated a self-published book called Mabel McNabb and the Most Boring Day Ever by Amy Jones [pictured below].

 




Jules: What is your usual medium?

Mike: Usually, I draw in graphite-on-paper, then scan and color in Photoshop. For a super detailed explanation, click here.

Jules: Where are your stompin’ grounds?

Mike: I currently live in Brooklyn, NY. I actually grew up in the NYC suburbs, then went to college upstate at Syracuse, then lived in Seattle for ten years, and I just moved here last November. I think what I like most about Brooklyn is that you could throw a kneaded eraser and you’d hit two or three illustrators.


(Click to enlarge)

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

Mike: You mean aside from wanting to do this forever?

Well, in 2012 I attended my first SCBWI Winter Conference here in NYC. I entered the portfolio show and won. Everyone was smitten with Elliot, who appeared throughout my portfolio. The week after was filled with emails and calls from agents and publishers. I signed with Brenda Bowen, a literary agent at Greenburger (who is now officially my favorite strawberry blonde person). I worked on a manuscript for several months. We took it to several houses, and then it went to auction. I signed with Holt for a three-book deal and have been blessed to be able to work with my editor, Laura Godwin.


(Click to enlarge)


(Click to enlarge)

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

Mike: You can see my portfolio at www.MikeCurato.com.
You can read my blog at mikecurato.wordpress.com/.

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

Mike: I just had my very first school visit this July at a preschool on the Lower East Side. In addition to reading Little Elliot, Big City, we wrote our own Elliot story: “Elliot woke up. Elliot ate breakfast. Elliot brushed his teeth. Elliot went to the beach. Elliot ate ice cream.” The kids told me what to draw in each scene, and some details were quite interesting. It was super fun, and I can’t wait to do it again!


(Click to enlarge)


(Click to enlarge)



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

Mike: I just finished the second book in the Little Elliot series, Little Elliot, Big Family, which comes out Fall 2015. Soon I’ll start working on the third, and I honestly have no idea what it’s going to be about yet.

Meanwhile, there are two projects I just agreed to illustrate, but I can’t talk about them just yet. (Eep! I can’t wait to shout them from the rooftops!)

I have also been working on an idea for a YA graphic novel, but it will be some time before it’s ready to be shown to anybody.

Mmm. Coffee.Okay, I’ve got coffee and more cupcakes, and it’s time to get a bit more detailed with seven questions over breakfast. I thank Mike 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?

Mike

: DANCE. My “process” isn’t sequential. I jump back and forth between writing and illustrating, almost like a dance. Doing one will inspire the other, or sometimes when I’m feeling stuck, I’ll switch to get back in the rhythm. So, I start with sketches, then do some writing, then back and forth.


(Click to enlarge)


(Click to enlarge)

KEEP IT LOOSE. The initial dummy is very loose. The sketches just show enough to convey what is going on in the spread; that way I don’t get too hung up on the details. However, I did start out both Little Elliot, Big City and Little Elliot, Big Family with one finished piece of art that I made before the book deal.

RESEARCH. When you’re illustrating a non-abstract scene, you need reference materials. Little Elliot is set in the late 1930s/early ’40s, so I had to do my homework on the look and feel of the time period. One of my favorite parts of the research was going to the MTA archives to look at photos of the subway and then going to the MTA museum to see vintage subway cars. (High-fives to my fellow history nerds!)


(Click to enlarge)


(Click to enlarge)

DRAW, DRAW, DRAW. Once my thumbnails are approved and I have all the reference materials I need, I create a detailed comp for each spread. Sometimes I’ll create a mock-up by stitching together all of my reference materials in Photoshop. I check in with the editor one more time with the comps before taking everything to finish, giving me a window to make adjustments to the drawings. Once all adjustments are made, based on feedback, I will finish the drawing.

COLOR. After I scan, I touch up anything that sticks out, then start coloring. Each color is a separate layer in Photoshop with different opacities, almost like a glazing technique one would use in painting.


(Click to enlarge)


(Click to enlarge)

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

Mike

: I have a workroom in my apartment. It’s a pretty easy commute! It’s spacious (by New York standards) and gets good light. I love being there.


Mike: “Let there be light!”
(Click to enlarge)


Mike: “The wall to the right houses some illustrations by friends (and artists I WANT to be friends with). I made that picture of a cat when I was four. The image of Elliot above the desk appears in Little Elliot, Big Family.”


(Click to enlarge)


Mike: “Books and flatfiles of drawings and books and art supplies and books.”
(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?

Mike

: My Mom says that my favorite books when I was little were The Little Red Caboose and The Poky Little Puppy. She used to read to me all the time from a Golden Book compilation entitled Tibor Gergely’s Great Big Book of Bedtime Stories, which I still have and I still love. I think Gergely’s work still influences me today. I also loved Richard Scarry’s What Do People Do All Day?, Dr. Seuss’ The Cat in the Hat and Green Eggs and Ham, and Mabel Watt’s Hiram’s Red Shirt (illustrated by Aurelius Battaglia?).

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.)

Mike: Since moving to Brooklyn, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting so many amazing illustrators, but I have yet to meet this handful of heroes. (Okay, okay. I know I’m only supposed to choose three, but who do you expect me to cut from this list?)

Chris Van Allsburg, Ian Falconer, Peter McCarty, and Renata Liwska.

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?

Mike: I often listen to music while I’m illustrating (or I have a movie playing in the background). While working on the latest book, I listened to a lot of Fiona Apple (The Idler Wheel), Robyn (Bodyrock), Mark Ronson (Record Collection), Gossip (A Joyful Noise), MS MR (Secondhand Rapture), and everything/anything by Vampire Weekend and Rufus Wainwright. I’m also really into soundtracks such as Amélie, Chicago, Pride & Prejudice, Sleepless in Seattle, and Pina. And when I really want to burn the midnight oil, I usually default to either my ’80s pop or ’90s grunge playlists. Oh, and Weezer’s Blue Album is always playing at some point when I make art. It’s a tradition that my former college studio-mates and I share.

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

Mike: One thing I must confess is that I was not a voracious reader in my teens. I’m not sure what happened, but once I grew out of picture books, the idea of reading seemed like such a chore. It was cutting into my drawing and TV time! Thank goodness for comic books. They are pretty much all I read from the ages of 12 to 15. I was very passionate about my X-Men collection from then into my early 20s. I did dream about making my own picture books when I was very young, but for the duration of middle and high school, I aspired to be a comic book artist. Though my interest in classic superheroes has diminished, I am hoping to break into graphic novels one day.

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

Mike: One question I’d like to hear is: “Aside from other children’s books, is there anything that influences your work?” And the answer would be: “YES!”

I am really inspired by film. Good cinematography, like picture books, can tell a story with very few words. My favorite movies (and picture books) have both amazing imagery and compelling narrative. Movies like Amélie, The Last Emperor, American Beauty, Inception, Marie Antoinette, The Royal Tenenbaums, and Lord of the Rings are not only riveting stories; everything is also visually stunning. There is attention to detail in every scene. Every object is carefully placed — and the color adjusted to convey the feeling in the atmosphere. The framing of each scene is dynamic and directs the eye. I could watch any of these on mute and just revel in their beauty. I try to take the visual lessons I learn from films like these and apply them to my work.



 

* * * The Pivot Questionnaire * * *

Jules: What is your favorite word?

Mike: “Cake.”

Jules: What is your least favorite word?

Mike: “Literally.” When it’s misused.

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

Mike: See: What is your favorite word?

Jules: What turns you off?

Mike: Celery.

7-Imp: What is your favorite curse word? (optional)

Mike: I couldn’t possibly choose one.

Jules: What sound or noise do you love?

Mike:

Jules: What sound or noise do you hate?

Mike:

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

Mike: Maybe acting. Or ice cream-taste-tester. (That’s a thing, right?)

Jules: What profession would you not like to do?

Mike: Anything involving customer service. Been there. Done that. Next.

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

Mike: “Don’t worry. You can still keep making books.”


All artwork and images are used with permission of Mike Curato.

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

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18. 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #394: Featuring Julie Morstad


“When Julia was very little, she had a splendid meal of sole meunière. And that was that. Julia fell in love with French food. She loved to eat French food.
And she especially loved to cook it.”

(Click to enlarge)


 

I think this is the first time I’ve featured the illustrations of Julie Morstad here at 7-Imp (oh wait, I have some of her art here from back in 2012). I always like to see her artwork, and her latest illustrated picture book is Kyo Maclear’s Julia, Child, released by Tundra Books in July.

The book is pure fiction. As Maclear writes in an opening note:

While the story contains no true knowledge of (the real) Julia Child and should be taken with a grain of salt and perhaps even a generous pat of butter, we hope that you will find something here to savor.

It tells the story of Julia and her friend Simca. Simca would be French cookbook and author Simone Beck, who once worked and wrote with Child (Mastering the Art of French Cooking).

This book imagines a childhood friendship and two girls who work to bring cheer and imagination into the lives of the adults around them with their cooking. Noting that “too many grown-ups … did not know how to have a marvelous time,” they set out to create recipes for them. It works for the poor, tired, harried adults — until they begin to argue. The girls then decide to make smaller portions for the grown-ups, “just enough to feed the sensible children from whom these senseless grown-ups grew.” The cookbook they create here? Mastering the Art of Childhood.

Morstad used gouache, ink, and Photoshop to create the illustrations. Oh! And don’t miss Jama Rattigan’s July chat with author Kyo Maclear here at her site, Jama’s Alphabet Soup.

Here’s a bit more art. Enjoy.


“On weekends, she and her friend Simca would shop at the market
and gather new ideas and recipes.”

(Click to enlarge)


 


“But together they took cooking and baking classes, and practiced and practiced.
And learned a few tricks.”

(Click to enlarge)


 


“…They cooked extra slowly to bring out the flavor of not hurrying. They used delicate spices so that worries would disappear and wonders would rise to the surface.”
(Click to enlarge)


 


“As the savory scent of cooking waited through the streets, a curious crowd began to gather. Soon, all sorts of big, busy people wanted a place at the table.”
(Click to enlarge)


 


(Click to enlarge)

JULIA, CHILD. Text copyright © 2014 by Kyo Maclear. Illustrations copyright © 2014 by Julie Morstad. Illustrations used by permission of the publisher, Tundra Books, Toronto, Ontario.

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) Julie Morstad illustrated one of my favorite CDs EVER.

2) My husband’s been working hard, doing some much-needed maintenance on 7-Imp. Whew. It’s still here, and thank goodness he knows his tech stuff.

3) As I’m typing, I’m listening to All Songs 24/7, and they are currently playing a wonderful Broken Bells song I’ve never heard.

4) Sam Phillips sent her fans a new song this week. Well, it was created last year, but anyway, it’s downloadable here now. Only Sam could make a song about a rock beautiful.

5) Visiting Little Willow’s site!

6) Getting to hear Jon Scieszka speak in Nashville this week. Also this this this this this this. Every word of this. YES. I wish every teacher and librarian in the country would read that.

7) This write-up about Sonya Hartnett, one of my favorite writers.

What are YOUR kicks this week?

9 Comments on 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #394: Featuring Julie Morstad, last added: 8/24/2014
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19. Nervous Children and Magic Pencils Before Breakfast


“‘No!’ said Joe.”
Spread from Anthony Browne’s What If …?
(Click to enlarge)


 

Over at BookPage, I’ve got a review of Anthony Browne’s What If …?, published by Candlewick this month. This was evidently first published last year but sees its U.S. release this year. That is here, and I’m following up with a bit of art from the book today at 7-Imp.

I’ve also got a spread from Browne’s The Little Bear Book, which was originally published in 1988 but re-released by Candlewick this year.

Enjoy …


 

Art from What If …?



(Click second image to see spread in its entirety and in more detail)


 



 

Art from The Little Bear Book


 



(Click either image to see spread in its entirety)


 



 

* * * * * * *

THE LITTLE BEAR BOOK. Copyright © 1988 by Brun Ltd. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA on behalf of Walker Books, London.

WHAT IF…?. Copyright © 2013 by AET Browne. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.

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20. So hard to narrow …



 

I’m guest-blogging over at BookPage today, who asked me about my favorite new illustrators. Needless to say, I loved this challenge.

It’s here.

Thanks to BookPage for having me!

0 Comments on So hard to narrow … as of 8/13/2014 3:32:00 PM
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21. Seven Questions Over Breakfast with Birgitta Sif

Yesterday I did a guest blog post at BookPage, talking about my favorite new illustrators. That is, those illustrators who have come to prominence in the past couple of years. I snuck author-illustrator Birgitta Sif onto my list, and today she visits for breakfast.

Here’s what I wrote at BookPage:

“Hailing from Iceland (but currently living in Sweden) is author-illustrator Birgitta Sif. Her debut, Oliver

(2012), is the picture book I’d point to that most accurately gets what it is to be an introvert. And Frances Dean Who Loved to Dance and Dance, coming at the end of August, pretty much nails shyness. And Sif executes it all with style and warmth.”

Yep. That. I think she’s one to watch, and below she talks about what else she’s done, beyond Oliver and Frances Dean, as well as what’s next for her. Best of all, she shares some art and sketches.

As for what we’re going to pretend-eat while we pretend to sit across an actual table from one another (though I really super-bad wish I were in Sweden right now), Birgitta says, “I would say a scone with apricot marmalade and a perfectly hot cup of coffee. Or on fancy days, Nutella-filled aebleskiver with strawberries. Mmm. Those are yum. But truth be told, on most mornings I’m lucky to grab a quick piece of toast and and lukewarm coffee. A 2.5-year-old and 6-month-old keep me on my toes from very early in the morning to night.”

Let’s dream big and go for the Nutella-filled aebleskiver with strawberries.

I thank Birgitta for visiting!

* * * * * * *

Jules: Are you an illustrator or author/illustrator?

Birgitta: Both. But perhaps illustrator/author, English not being my first language. I’m from Iceland. But I’d say perhaps pictures are my first language.



– From Sue Monroe’s The Magnificent Moon Hare (Egmont Books, 2013)

Jules: Can you list your books-to-date?

Birgitta: Oliver (illustrator/author), Frances Dean Who Loved to Dance and Dance (illustrator/author), [Sue Monroe's] The Magnificent Moon Hare (illustrator, chapter book series), Miss Hazeltine’s Home for Shy and Fearful Cats (illustrator — forthcoming), Where Our Feet Go (illustrator/author — forthcoming).

Jules: What is your usual medium?

Birgitta: Pencil. It’s my favourite tool. Then digital colouring.

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?

Birgitta: I worked also on a series called The Magnificent Moon Hare, which were chapter books for children. I think in that particular case, when having so much more text and perhaps story, the illustrations play a different role. They are aiding or punctuating the story. Picture books are creating worlds with pictures and text, hand in hand. But there are exceptions to this, of course.


Jules: Where are your stompin’ grounds?

Birgitta: Currently, we live just outside of Gothenburg, Sweden. But I am originally from Iceland. We are a bit of a traveling family. We love to adventure and show our little girls the world.



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

Birgitta: I started as a designer for a newspaper in the mountains of a small town named Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Then I interned for Candlewick Press and moved on to work in the children’s book art department in NYC (HarperCollins and Henry Holt and Co.). Finally, I jumped oceans to England to try my heart at a masters degree in Children’s Book Illustration at the Cambridge School of Art. At our final degree show in London, I was offered an amazing chance to work with Walker Books, UK, and they have been lovely!


(Click to enlarge)


(Click to enlarge)

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

Birgitta: www.birgittasif.com; Instagram: www.instagram.com/birgittasif; Facebook: www.facebook.com/birgittasif.illustration.


(Click to enlarge)


(Click to enlarge)


“Oliver felt a bit different.”
(Click to enlarge)


“The next day, as he was playing tennis on his own . . .”
(Click to enlarge)


Sketches and illustrations from Oliver

(Candlewick, 2012)

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

Birgitta: I recently did an illustration for a new book Amnesty International is publishing called, What is Freedom? I’m really so honored to be part of such an incredible project. My book Oliver is also endorsed by Amnesty International, which makes working with them again even more amazing.

And currently, I’m also working on a new book with Knopf, Random House, called Where Our Feet Go. It’s really exciting, and I’m thrilled to be working with the great people at Knopf.


From Miss Hazeltine’s Home for Shy and Fearful Cats (forthcoming)
(Click to enlarge)

Mmm. Coffee.Okay, I’ve got more coffee (a perfectly hot cup), and it’s time to get a bit more detailed with six questions over breakfast. I thank Birgitta 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?

Birgitta

: I’m still learning as I go and developing new ways to do things. But I usually start with doodling, and a main idea evolves from that. And when I feel the doodles start to make some sort of sense together, I start adding text. And then I add more doodles to make it all come together — and more text, like layers upon layer, oftentimes erasing or taking out just as often as adding. It’s like one of those sliding puzzles, each piece moving opens up new possibilities, but you hope that after sliding it around and around, a beautiful story will emerge.


(Click to enlarge)


(Click to enlarge)


(Click to enlarge)


“When no one was around, she would feel the wind and dance …
and hear the singing of the birds and dance and dance and dance.”

(Click to enlarge)



Sketches and final art from
Frances Dean Who Loved to Dance and Dance


(Candlewick, August 2014)

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

Birgitta

: I work in the living room. I have a little corner there where my desk faces out to our yard, filled with trees and birds. Being a mamma to two little girls means that I need to grab moments whenever I can. I often work when they are playing, but I do most of my work at night when they’ve both gone to bed and the quiet fills the house.



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

Birgitta

: Growing up in the U.S. and in Scandinavia, I had a variety of different kinds of books. But I did love reading Roald Dahl — a little bit of mischief in his books. And many of Astrid Lindgren’s books.

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.)

Birgitta: Halldór Laxness, an Icelandic author (I named my second daughter after one of his books, a beautiful story with a strong female character, Salka); Astrid Lindgren; and Bill Peet.


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?

Birgitta: Ásgeir Trausti, or anything swing or folk or even a bit of ’50s, although I often have the Icelandic radio on. I love having Icelandic on in the background. It makes me feel less far away from home.

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

Birgitta: I taught wood carving to residents at a nursing home in Reykjavík.


(Click to enlarge)

* * * The Pivot Questionnaire * * *

Jules: What is your favorite word?

Birgitta: “Bergmál.” It means “echo” in English, but in Icelandic it translates to “the talking of the mountains.” Icelandic has a lot of beautiful words.

Jules: What is your least favorite word?

Birgitta: “No.”

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

Birgitta: Sleep.

Jules: What turns you off?

Birgitta: No sleep.

7-Imp: What is your favorite curse word? (optional)

Birgitta: “Andskotinn.” I don’t curse in English, only occasionally in Icelandic.

Jules: What sound or noise do you love?

Birgitta: My girls’ laughter or the soft sound of their sleep.

Jules: What sound or noise do you hate?

Birgitta: Honking of horns.

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

Birgitta: Toy-maker.

Jules: What profession would you not like to do?

Birgitta: Being a suit.

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

Birgitta: “You’ve been loved.” Or: “Oh, hi Birgitta! I’m a big fan!”

* * * * * * *

All other artwork and images are used with permission of Birgitta Sif.

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

3 Comments on Seven Questions Over Breakfast with Birgitta Sif, last added: 8/14/2014
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22. What I’m Doing at Kirkus This Week,Plus What I Did Last Week,Featuring Leo & Diane Dillon and Liniers



 

Today over at Kirkus, I write about a new collaboration from J. Patrick Lewis and Gary Kelley, Harlem Hellfighters.

That will be here soon.

* * *

Last week, I chatted (here) with Diane Dillon, and I also wrote (here) about Liniers’ What There Is Before There Is Anything There (Groundwood, September 2014).

Today I have art from that book (pictured right), as well as the last book Diane and Leo Dillon did together (pictured above), If Kids Ran the World (Blue Sky Press/Scholastic, August 2014).

Enjoy …


 

Art from What There Is
Before There Is Anything There


 



(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)


 



 

Art from If Kids Ran the World
(without text)


 


“Maybe we’d run the world in a big tree house,
and everybody would be welcome.
We’d take care of the most important things.”

(Click to enlarge)



 


“We know people are hungry, so all over the world, everyone would have enough to eat. The food would taste delicious, and it would make people healthy and strong.
Kids who had extra food would help bring it to people who needed it.”

(Click to enlarge)


 


“And that’s why, if kids ran the world,
we’d make it a wonderful place for everyone to live.”

(Click to enlarge)


 



 

* * * * * * *

WHAT THERE IS BEFORE THERE IS ANYTHING THERE. Text and illustrations copyright © 2006 by Liniers. First published in English in 2014 by Groundwood Books. English translation copyright © 2014 by Elisa Amado. Illustration reproduced by permission of the publisher.

Illustrations from IF KIDS RAN THE WORLD © 2014 by Leo & Diane Dillon. Used with permission from The Blue Sky Press/Scholastic.

1 Comments on What I’m Doing at Kirkus This Week,Plus What I Did Last Week,Featuring Leo & Diane Dillon and Liniers, last added: 8/15/2014
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23. 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #393: Featuring Christopher Weyant



 

Over at BookPage, I’ve written a review of Anna Kang’s You Are (Not) Small (Two Lions, August 2014), illustrated by her husband, Christopher Weyant. So, I’m sending you over there today to read about it, but I’ve got a bit art here at 7-Imp today to go with it.

The review is here.

Enjoy the art …





 



 

YOU ARE (NOT) SMALL. Text copyright © 2014 by Anna Kang. Illustrations © 2014 by Christopher Weyant. Illustrations used by permission of the publisher, Two Lions, 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) I got to Skype in yesterday to The Book Beat’s special book launch (in Oak Park, Michigan) for the late Peter D. Sieruta, one of my co-authors on Wild Things. Here’s a photo, courtesy of Rhonda Gowler Greene on Twitter, of Betsy (who was there) talking to Video Me at the launch:

 



 

2) Snowpiercer! WHOA. It is very good.

3) The Giver wasn’t half-bad either. It was interesting to see so soon after having read it to my girls.

4) Speaking of, my girls and I are reading some good novels again. (We had a dry spell for a while there.)

5) I love this idea, this book, and this smart, smart teacher.

6) Educating my girls in the way of The Beatles.

7) Wild Things got a starred Booklist review (though it’s not published yet). That was so lovely to see.

What are YOUR kicks this week?

6 Comments on 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #393: Featuring Christopher Weyant, last added: 8/18/2014
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24. What I’m Doing at Kirkus and BookPage This Week,Plus What I Did Last Week, Featuring Gary Kelley


“Dismissed by much of white America as ‘darkies playing soldiers,’ porters, butlers, hotel doormen, elevator operators—2,000 strong—volunteered for the cause.”


 

Today over at Kirkus, I’m shining the spotlight on Barbara Bottner’s Miss Brooks’ Story Nook (where tales are told and ogres are welcome!), illustrated by Michael Emberley. That link will be here soon.

Also, yesterday at BookPage my interview with author-illustrator Cece Bell went up, as well as my review of El Deafo, her graphic novel. That is all linked here. And remember: I featured art from El Deafo back in June. That’s here.

* * *

Last week, I wrote here about J. Patrick Lewis’ Harlem Hellfighters (Creative Editions, August 2014), illustrated by Gary Kelley. And guess what? I saw yesterday that it up and won an Original Art Award from the Society of Illustrators. See here for more information and the other winners.

I have some art from this book today. Enjoy.





 


“Somewhere in the mid-Atlantic fog of history, two dark ships passed in the night …”


 


“The Harlem Hellfighters defined courage, / none more than red cap Albany porter / Henry Johnson …”


 


“Relieved from trench duty, Jim Europe found a modest farmhouse
in a remote hamlet alive with birdsong. …”


 


“Three days later, / the first black man ever to be given / a public funeral in the city of New York / rolled through the streets of Harlem / past a delirium of mourners. /
In black armbands, the Hellfighters / marched last, their hushed instruments /
at their sides.”


 



 

* * * * * * *

HARLEM HELLFIGHTERS. Copyright © 2014 by J. Patrick Lewis. Illustrations © 2014 by Gary Kelley. Illustrations used by permission of the publisher, Creative Editions, Mankato, Minnesota.

0 Comments on What I’m Doing at Kirkus and BookPage This Week,Plus What I Did Last Week, Featuring Gary Kelley as of 8/22/2014 4:11:00 AM
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25. Peter Brown is a Monster Before Breakfast …

Well, not really, even if he’s illustrated himself as one here.

First up, sorry for my silence this week, but the blog has been undergoing some much-needed maintenance. As my husband put it, there are something like 28,000 images in one folder where my site is hosted, and “I can’t believe that your site hasn’t already had a fit and gone boom.” (Notice his wording, and that’s because I always have to request that he explain this tech stuff as if I’m two years old.)

Okay. Where was I? … Yes, today I’m chatting with author-illustrator Peter Brown over at Kirkus. And that’s because I think his brand-new picture book, My Teacher is a Monster! (No, I Am Not.), is very funny. (Given the book’s title, you can see now why he has illustrated himself in such a manner.)

So, we chat—the link is here—and then next week at 7-Imp I’ll follow up with some sketches and art and even deleted scenes from Peter.

Until tomorrow …

* * * * * * *

Illustration of Peter Brown copyright © 2014 and used by his permission.

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