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1. I have an interview up on Mommikin  — ‘Creative Moms...



I have an interview up on Mommikin  — ‘Creative Moms Unite!’ —…lotsa mutual inspiration going on at this site, I recommend a thorough perusal.



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2. Peek-a-WHO Sells 1 Million Copies

The popular children’s board book Peek-a-WHO by Nina Laden has sold more than 1 million copies.

The book has been out for 15 years and sales have increased incrementally every year. Last year, the book sold more than 150,000 copies.

“Word of mouth generated sales from the beginning, and they remained stable for six or eight years,” stated Chronicle Books Editor Victoria Rock. “Then the numbers took a big leap, and I think that had to do with the fact that the Internet and social media came more into play. People began reviewing the book online, and word of mouth travels much faster that way.”

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3. The Mural Artwork is Done - Phew!



Because of World Book Day, I'm out visiting schools all this week (all over the place as usual) but, luckily, I just managed to get my mural artwork finished first. It was a skin-of-the-teeth thing - I didn't sign it off until 7pm last Friday night. 

I'm enjoying being out and about again, as I have been locked at my computer for ages. The artwork stage has taken 3 weeks, working really long days mostly, but it is finally done. Hurrah! Below are the various sections, travelling around the walls anti-clockwise (ie from right to left), viewing what will be floor-to-ceiling once it's installed (though the emptier sections will be obscured by furniture):


There were so many different jobs to do and of course much of it took longer than expected - I think it's because I underestimated just how many individual characters and little objects I could cram into the huge space. Luckily, Wakefield Libraries have been absolutely LOVELY and said they will pay me for the time I've actually spent on it, rather than what I originally quoted them.  


Every one of the new, high-res scans that John did of the various animals, books, trees etc had to be individually matched to their position on the low-res template I created earlier, re-sized to fit and then laboriously cut off the children's white, background paper in Photoshop.


Each component also had to have it's 'levels' balanced, to match the weight of the rest of the design, and then have extra colour added, so it was punchy enough. I even had to subtly go over some of the children's pencil outlines in Photoshop, thickening them up where they were too spindly. 

And that's without all the graphic elements I had to draw for the background, like the distant forest and the various kinds of grasses and bushes. 


Because I had to create the artwork in 6 sections (to keep the file sizes from blowing the brain of my computer), I also had the job of making sure the different sections joined accurately. That was a bit of a nightmare to be honest, as one millimetre's inaccuracy at each joint would obviously add up, and then the error would also be multiplied by 4, because of the artwork being 25% of the actual size. Yikes.


I was very good at remembering to 'save' all the time, not just to the computer, but also to an external hard drive, just in case any of the files decided to corrupt along the way. I got away without 'losing' anything, which is a great relief.


Then, just when I thought it was all finished, I realised I had forgotten the area of 'bleed' beneath the library's computer table! I had remembered to continue the design behind the bookshelves, so I don't know why I forgot the table. Tired I guess.

The colour boosting was the last job. I wanted to keep the mark-making from the children's colouring, so I made my final artwork translucent, then created a layer beneath the design, where I 'scribbled' half-opacity colour, so the effect was subtle and blended seamless with the children's coloured pencils. It was time consuming, but was worth it, as the boost made a huge difference. Look at the difference between the section above and part of the same section, before the extra colour:



Notice too, in some places I had to do extra tricksy things with the colour in Photoshop: look at the original colour of the desk, immediately above, then the colour it ended up.

Did you notice by the way, in the 2nd section from the beginning, I left my 'signature' on the computer screen? Sneaky huh? 
Actually, I suspect that most of this area will be obscured by book-bags, but I only really put it in as an after-thought.


The next stage is a final chat to the printer who will be transferring my design to wallpaper, ready to paste onto the walls. I'm a little concerned about how on earth we will manage to get things to line up where they are supposed to, what with crooked walls and wonky ceilings. For instance, all the creatures' feet, which need to be on the level with the tops of the bookshelves. 

I am crossing fingers it all works out okay, as there isn't much I can do about that side of things.

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4. Paper Module | 001

IMG_0371

Module 001 | I have made paper spheres using square modules, but I wondered what would happen if the modules were rectangular. I was able to make a sphere with a rectangular module as shown in the image above. It takes 30 modules to create a sphere as shown above.

m001

Module 01 | the proportion of a small playing card (1.25 in x 1.75 inches).

What if? | This is my favorite question and so I began building with the modules to see what else besides a sphere could be created and came up with a paper vase.

m001-vase

M001 | Side View

m001-vase_top

M001 | Top View

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5. Hamantaschen

A festive Jewish holiday
We celebrate today,
When children dress in costumes
And much merriment holds sway.

An evil man named Haman
Tried to have the Jews all killed.
The king, whose wife was Jewish,
Saw that deed was unfulfilled.

Since Haman wore a certain hat
Triangular in shape,
We eat three-cornered cakes to honor
Our too-close escape.

Called hamantaschen, they’re delish
And filled with fruit or “mun”
(Which translates into poppy seeds,
And that’s my favorite one).

The Purim story’s read each year
And Haman’s name is booed,
But afterwards we nosh,
With lots of hamantaschen chewed.

Commemorating history
With something we can taste
Takes a little of the bitter
And with sweetness it’s replaced.

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6. Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry. Rachel Joyce. 2012. Random House. 320 pages. [Source: Library]

The novel opens with Harold Fry receiving a letter in the mail from a former friend, Queenie Hennessy; it is a goodbye letter. Though they haven't seen each other in decades, she wanted to tell him that she was dying of cancer. He's shocked, to put it mildly. Though in all honesty he doesn't think of her all that often, now that her letter is in his hands, he is remembering the woman he once worked with and what she once did for him. He writes a reply and prepares to mail it, but, on his way to the mailbox, it doesn't seem enough, not nearly enough. His reply is so short and inadequate. So after a brief conversation with a stranger about cancer, he decides to have a little faith and embark on a pilgrimage. He will walk to see Queenie in her hospice home. In his mind, logical or not, he's connected the two: walking and healing. He'll do the walking, but will it work?

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry is a character-driven, journey-focused read. From start to finish, readers are given a unique opportunity to walk with Harold Fry, to really get inside his head and understand him inside and out. It's a bit of a mystery as well. Since readers learn things about Harold chapter by chapter by chapter. The book is very much about Harold making sense of Harold: that is Harold coming to know himself better, of making peace if you will with the past and present.

I liked the book very much for the chance to get to know Harold and even his wife. (At first, his wife thinks he's CRAZY. Crazy for thinking up the idea, crazier still for acting on it. It just does not make any sense at all to her. WHY WALK OVER 500 MILES TO SEE A FORMER COWORKER YOU HAVEN'T SEEN IN TWO DECADES?!

It was a very pleasant read. Harold meets people every single day of his walk, and the book is a book of conversations.

It is set in England.


© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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7. Shay & Ivy: More Than Just a Princess Picture Book: Kickstarter

Sheena McFeely hopes to raise $8,000 on Kickstarter to create a book called Shay & Ivy: More Than Just a Princess. She is working with freelance illustrator Casie Trace and branding expert Manny Johnson on this children’s book.

The funds will be used to cover the costs of producing the book and developing an app version. The app edition will feature interactive videos done in both American Sign Language and English. We’ve embedded a video about the project above.

Here’s more from the Kickstarter page: “At the end of day if a child wants to be a princess. that’s alright. If a child wants to be more than just a princess, that’s great too. As long you follow your heart, do not give in to society’s pressures in being someone else, and be truly the happiest of all. That’s the goal of this book – to spark girls and even boys’ imaginations to go beyond a kingdom or an aisle to define themselves.”

Welcome to our Kickstarter Publishing Project of the Week, a feature exploring how authors and publishers are using the fundraising site to raise money for book projects. If you want to start your own project, check out How To Use Kickstarter to Fund Your Publishing Project.

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8. Review: ALL-NEW HAWKEYE…Ready…Aim…Run

ALL-NEW HAWKEYE #1

All-New Hawkeye (2015-) 001-000

 

Storytellers: Jeff Lemire, Ramon Perez

Colors: Ian Herring, Ramon Perez

Letters: Joe Sabino

Publisher: Marvel

 

 

Jeff Lemire’s works have been very hit or miss for me. Sweet Tooth is a book that I still adore. His work on Green Arrow was solid, but his Constantine issues felt rushed or cut short. When Marvel announced that he would launch a new volume of Hawkeye with artist Ramon Perez, it definitely got me curious about All-New Hawkeye #1.

My immediate thought after finishing the opening chapter is that there isn’t much to go on in the first issue. The story recalls events from Clint Barton and his brother Barney’s childhood as on-the-run orphans. These events are interwoven with Clint and Kate Bishop currently invading a hidden Hydra fortress in search of the evil organization’s latest ultimate weapon. While the opening chapter definitely doesn’t lack substance, it does however leave a lot to the imagination as far as where the story is going in this arc.

There are two groups of people this book is for; fans of Lemire/Perez, and fans of anyone ever using the Hawkeye name. Just like the previous volume, while the book is called Hawkeye, it could have just as easily been called Hawkeyes, and that should tell you the value readers get in the book. If for some reason you missed the Fraction/Aja run on Hawkeye, don’t worry Lemire’s story is quite fresh and welcoming to new readers. Because of the book’s subtlety and elegance, All-New Hawkeye might put off those who expect mega Avengers scale battles in their comics, but those readers most likely never got on board with Fraction’s run either. Also, don’t worry that the last issue of Fraction’s run hasn’t come out yet, this one stands on its own.

Ultimately, All-New Hawkeye #1 is just flat out fun to read. The flashbacks of Clint and Barney growing up are gorgeous. Ramon Perez’s watercolors present an interesting dichotomy when compared to Ian Herring’s more traditional color work in the book, but both are solid and don’t stray far from what made Hawkeye one of Marvel’s most unique titles. Jeff Lemire is no stranger to writing archers, and it looks as though he’s going to infuse needed depth into Clint Barton’s upbringings, while taking anyone who has carried the name Hawkeye along for the ride. For an opening issue, the book could have used a little more setup. Based on the stellar watercolor work and witty banter between Clint and Kate; we liked All-New Hawkeye, but it still has a little bit to prove before we love it.

If you pick up one Jeff Lemire book this week, make it Descender from Image Comics. Should you find yourself with an extra $4 then give All-New Hawkeye a shot.


Tell us what you thought of Hawkeye here or @bouncingsoul217 

As always with Marvel, first come first served.

Marvel.com/Redeem

code: TMA7S7Y6PUVS

 

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9. The Diversity Gap in Children’s Publishing, 2015

This February, the Cooperative Children’s Book Center (CCBC) released its statistics on the number of children’s books by and about people of color published in 2014. The issue of diversity in children’s books received a record amount of media coverage last year, in large part due to the success of the We Need Diverse Books campaign. Many people were anxious to know if the yearly CCBC statistics would reflect momentum of the movement.

The biggest takeaway from the new statistics was positive: in 2014 the number of books by/about people of color jumped to 14% (up from 10% in 2013) of the 3,000 to 3,500 books the CCBC reviews each year. Though not as high as it should be, the number shows definite improvement.

But looking at this number alone doesn’t show the whole story. In 2012, we kicked off our infographic series with information about the diversity gap in children’s books. Here is the updated infographic, which reflects statistics through 2014:

Diversity Gap in Children's Books Infographic 2015
Diversity Gap in Children’s Books Infographic 2015 – click for larger image

Some observations based on the CCBC data and our infographic:

  1. One good year is not a guarantee of long-term change. Although the statistics for 2014 were the highest they have ever been since the CCBC started keeping track in 1994, the key question is whether or not this momentum will be maintained. The second-highest year, 2008, hit 12%, but was followed by a decrease to 11% in 2009, and then down to 10% in 2010, where it stayed until 2014. In addition, one good year does not erase 20 bad years: the total average still hovers around 10%. It will take a sustained effort to push the average above 10% and truly move the needle.
  1. The increase predates 2014’s big changes. The founding of We Need Diverse Books and last year’s burst of media coverage certainly brought the issue of diversity to the forefront, but they did not cause this particular increase. It takes several years to move a book from acquisition to publication. The books released in 2014 would have been acquired in 2012 or earlier—long before Walter Dean Myers’ New York Times editorial, which many credit with reigniting awareness of the diversity issue. This could mean that publishers were making a concerted effort to diversify their lists before 2014, and it was a happy accident that last year’s increase in demand coincided with an actual increase in supply. Or it could mean that 2014’s increase was just a blip on the publishing radar and not part of a larger trend.
  1. Creators of color are still heavily underrepresented. For the first time in 2014, the CCBC released more detailed statistics. They categorized books as “about,” “by and about,” or “by but not about” people of color. Based on those numbers, we can also calculate the number of books that are “about but not by.” The chart below compares the number of books “about but not by” people of color (blue) with the number of books “by and about” (red) people of color.
    Graph: books by and about vs. about but not by
    Original data taken from the Cooperative Children’s Book Center: http://ccbc.education.wisc.edu/books/2014statistics.asp

    In every category except Latino, more books are being published about characters from a particular culture by someone who is not from that culture than by someone who is. This disparity is most dramatic when it comes to books with African/African American content, of which only 39% were by African Americans.

    In 2014, there were 393 books published about people of color, of which 225 (57%) were by people who were not from the culture about which they wrote or which they illustrated.

    It’s disconcerting that more than half the books about people of color were created by cultural outsiders. Realistically, these 2014 Stats: Books by or about people of colornumbers likely mean that there are more white creators speaking for people of color than people of color speaking for themselves. This problem may stem from a long history in which people of color have been overlooked to tell their own stories in favor of white voices. Authors and illustrators of color have a right to be wary of an industry in which they are still underrepresented, even among books about their own cultures.

    This also raises questions about quality and cultural authenticity. Who is checking to make sure diverse books are culturally accurate and do not reinforce stereotypes? Are cultural consultants being routinely employed to check for accuracy? Are reviewers equipped to consider questions of cultural accuracy in reviews? Given that more diverse books are being created by cultural outsiders than insiders, these questions must be answered.

    It’s worth celebrating that the number of authors and illustrators of color went up by 23% in 2014, but this does not lessen the urgent need to find ways to bring more talented creators of color into the publishing fold.

  2. Some authors and illustrators of color have more freedom than others. For the first time in 2014, the CCBC also released statistics citing the number of published books by creators of color that did not have significant cultural content. This statistic is a measure of the freedom that people of color have to write or illustrate topics other than their own cultures. As the numbers show, this level of freedom varies greatly from culture to culture:
    Books by creators of color with no significant cultural content
    Original data taken from the Cooperative Children’s Book Center: http://ccbc.education.wisc.edu/books/2014statistics.asp

    Why are Asian/Pacific American creators so much more free to create books without significant cultural content? Perhaps it is because they don’t have the same pressure to create books that will be eligible for certain awards. Latino and African American authors and illustrators often work with the prospect of the Pura Belpré Award and the Coretta Scott King Award (respectively) looming over them. These awards can sell thousands of copies of a book—no small drop in the bucket, even for a major publisher. For a book to be eligible for either award, it must be both by a person from the culture and contain significant cultural content. So Latino and African American creators may feel pressured to create Belpré- or King-eligible books instead of books without cultural content. These may also be the books that publishers are most likely to acquire. While awards also exist for Asian Pacific American and Native American literature, they carry less weight in terms of sales.

    Or, perhaps, Asian American creators don’t feel this freedom at all, and the numbers aren’t telling the whole story.

Conclusion: What the CCBC numbers tell us are that things are looking up, but there is a lot of work left to be done. No one set of statistics tells the whole story, but the CCBC numbers offer a baseline for tracking the progress that has been made, and shows us how far we still have to go.

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10. Selfie Sweepstakes Reviews: Drawbridges Open and Close

DrawbridgesDrawbridges Open and Close; by Patrick T. McBriarty; illus. by Johanna H. Kim. Curly Press, 2014. 40pp. ISBN 978-1-941216-02-6. $15.95

Gr. K-3. I was glad I had read this book prior to my recent visit to Ft. Lauderdale, where everybody gets around by car, negotiating a host of drawbridges back and forth across the Intracoastal Waterway. Although the book opens (heh) confusingly with “Next to the drawbridge is a bridge house,” it then settles into a clear and nicely-patterned account of the six steps taken (by the Scarryesque Bridge Tender Todd, a fox) to open the bridge for passing boats and then the six to close it so that street traffic may resume. Coloring is vibrant without being over-lavish; the drawing of the all-animal cast is a little awkward but that of the bridge and boats and vehicles is neatly-lined, and the cutaway diagrams that show how the bridge works are excellently informative. One terrific spread shows the open bridge, the passing boats and the impatient cars from an amazing bird’s-eye-view. Perhaps the focus is a bit narrow, and it’s not said how generalizable the information is (do all drawbridges work this way?) but children with an eye for the way things work will be happy with this picture book. R.S.

 

[This review may be distributed freely and excerpted fairly; credit to “Read Roger, The Horn Book Inc., www.hbook.com.]

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The post Selfie Sweepstakes Reviews: Drawbridges Open and Close appeared first on The Horn Book.

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11. European Union To Publish Two Major Reports on Animation in 2015

European politicians are paying attention to the animation industry.

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12. Picture Book Rules

Ten commandments (or not!) for writing picture books.

https://henryherz.wordpress.com/2014/12/14/the-ten-commandments-of-picture-book-writing/

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13. The Krah -My Bristol show opening next week!

Not heard much from The Krah for a while so this was interesting.....


In the heart of Bristol's most bohemian district, next week I will be showing lots of my new surreal paintings in the Arts house in Stokes Croft.
 
'In my recent paintings I create pop-surreal images, my new paintings are a series of paintings focusing on revising ancient myths, giving them a contemporary twist in a surreal and Neo-mythological way. Inspired by old masters such as Hieronymus Bosch and William Holgarth.
Throughout art history from the ancient time till now, Art keeps reflecting humanity and some reoccurring themes such as religion, violence, sex and death are the most popular imagery in art history. I focus on subjects like them and many more creating complex illustrations that hide lots of different story's in each image. 

 


I am interested in the weird and the bizarre creating a visual freak show to entertain the viewer, hypnotising them as they become the explorers of my subconscious imaginarium.'


For all of you that will be attending the opening I will have lots of sketches, limited edition prints and publications that will be on sale just for the opening.

Hope to see you all there.

RSVP by replying to this email. For international subscribers and those who can’t make it to the show, please email hello@thekrah.com and request a pre-sales catalogue that will be released at approx 16:00 (UK Time) on March the 12th.

For entrance of additional guests, friends, colleagues, family and anybody that would like to come please get them to RSVP by emailing at hello@thekrah.com to get on the guest list.

Next week come to the opening of my Bristol solo show at the:
Arts House 108A Stokes Croft Bristol BS1 3RU

Opening on Thursday the 12th of March, the show will be on until Tuesday the 7th of April

view more of my work on my website: http://www.thekrah.com

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14. The Fallacy of Thinking on Your Feet

“You really need to be better at thinking on your feet. You were way too quiet in there.”

That’s the fun feedback I got from my boss after a very long “brainstorming” meeting. This was early in my career and I really let it get to me. For years after, I sweated meetings and routinely kicked myself if I hadn’t thrown out a handful of frenzied ideas along with the rest of the group.

I got over it. Eventually.

It took years to learn this about myself, but I finally realized and accepted that everyone doesn’t need to think at the same pace to be effective. I also learned that group brainstorming sessions are complete bullshit. Typically they become an exercise in everyone making sure the room knows how smart they are. I’ve never been part of an idea-vomiting party that resulted in a great solution. Usually they fizzle into an apathetic pile of half-baked concepts that nobody knows how to execute.

I used to listen to my colleagues whip up complex schemes on the fly and bat them around the table like wadded up pieces of paper. I could follow the conversation, but trying to get my own creativity operating in the melee was almost impossible. I had the confidence to speak, I just couldn’t think.

For a while I researched all kinds of articles online to see if I could change the way I operate. I was so sure that I was somehow inadequate. Sure enough, the Internet assured me that I was indeed totally lame because I couldn’t toss out fully-formed ideas like walnuts in a salad.

They made me feel like crap. The thing is, I’m a smart person. I’m a creative person. And one of my unique skills since childhood has been coming up with simple analogies for complex concepts. So it was pretty ridiculous that I was being shamed into feeling that I just couldn’t keep up and had to change.

Here’s how it works for me. I’m an observer, a sponge, a Bounty paper towel of things going on around me. So after I soak up everything in the room, I go away to a quiet place and wring myself out into a basin. It’s only after gaining true understanding of an issue that really juicy and effective ideas get compiled by my brain.

I still admire quick thinkers. It can be fun to watch, and I’ve worked with some truly genius people who could access their brains as quick as a Gmail search.

I’m not going to be that person. More importantly, that’s completely okay. I don’t have to be. You don’t have to be, if that’s not the way you operate.

Think about how you come up with your best ideas. How does it work? What do you do to make that happen? Because the path you took to get there is not going to work for someone else. In the end, the result is what matters. We need to teach our kids this little secret so they can confidently contribute to a team.

I’d love to hear how you operate. Toss it out there in the comments. NOW! Quick! You’re taking too long…

But seriously, I’d love to hear from you. Take your time.

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15. Comics Illustrator of the Week :: Amy Reeder

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tumblr_n1xjehkt671rdph80o10_r1_1280Madame_Xanadu_6

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tumblr_nc20isjuzu1rdph80o2_1280Harbinger_12-666x1024

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Amy Reeder is the co-creator, and artist of Rocket Girl, published by Image Comics(issue #6 hits the stands on May 6th). The other creator on the series, writer Brandon Montclare, was an early supporter of Reeder’s, helping her get her first gig at DC/Vertigo drawing Madame Xanadu. The two also collaborated on the original comics series, Halloween Eve.

Amy Reeder first cut her comics teeth with the original English language manga series Fool’s Gold from Tokypop.

Other credits include a collaboration with artist JH Williams on Batwoman, and various cover work, including a memorable run on Supergirl.

Interestingly, Reeder has gone from drawing digitally, to now drawing 100% by hand(minus the coloring). She decided to make the switch to traditional media, because she feels more in control, and says she can better see the “bigger picture” of her work.

You can learn a lot more about Reeder’s art, and benefit from some great tutorials like”Perspective in Storytelling” on her blog here.

For more comics related art, you can follow me on my website comicstavern.com - Andy Yates

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16. Cover Reveal (Not Final): THE FALL by James Preller

 

 

 

 

9780312643010 (2)

 

This is the image that will appear on the Advance Reader’s Copy (ARC) that goes out for review. In the words of my long-suffering editor, “It’s the most up to date. Not final, but fine to use now for your school visits.”

It’s a process, and I don’t steer the ship. In the simplest terms possible, I think that the author is responsible for the inside of the book, but that the cover is in the domain of the publisher. I have input, but mine is only one of many voices. They have a lot more experience at this sort of thing.

9780312547967So: trust, hope, collaboration, respect.

The book is for middle school readers. It falls somewhere in that Grades 5-9 category, probably best for 6-8. A good companion book for readers who enjoyed Bystander.

In an interview with Kirkus, I said this about the book to the charming Julie Danielson:

I have an ambitious hardcover coming out next year, titled The Fall (Macmillan, August 2015), in which I return to some of the themes first explored in Bystander. We’ve seen “the bully” become this vilified subcreature, and in most cases I don’t think that’s fair or accurate. Bullying is a verb, a behavior, not a label we can stick on people to define them—especially when we are talking about children. Walt Whitman wrote, “I am large, I contain multitudes.”The book is told in a journal format from the perspective of a boy who has participated in bullying—with tragic results—and now he’s got to own it. A good kid, I think, who failed to be his best self. To my surprise, the book ended up as almost a meditation on forgiveness, that most difficult of things. The opening sentence reads:

“Two weeks before Morgan Mallen threw herself off the water tower, I might have sent a message to her social media page that read, ‘Just die! die! die! No one cares about you anyway! (I’m just saying: It could have been me.)”

I was guided throughout my writing by a powerful quote from the great lawyer and activist Bryan Stevenson: “I’ve come to understand and to believe that each of us is more than the worst thing we’ve ever done.”

 

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17. Artist of the Day: Chris Youssef

Discover the work of Chris Youssef, Cartoon Brew's Artist of the Day!

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18. Los Angeles Times Book Prize graphic novel nominees announced

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Awards season is barreling along now. And here are the nominees for the LA Times Book Prizes, which added a graphic novel category several years back. It’s a prestigious literary prize, and the winners over the years—Duncan the Wonder Dog, Finder, Today is the Last Day of the Rest of Your Life among them—have definitely lived up to the billing. This year’s five books chosen include what I would almost call the usual suspects for 2014:

 

The Chast and Tamaki books were THE graphic novels of 2014, and The Love Bunglers is a masterpiece. Arsene Schrauwen was much admired and deserves all the attention it gets. The Neyestani book doesn’t quite have the same profile, but it’s gotten a lot of recent ink and it’s also a pretty damn fine book.

In other words, good picks.

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19. Maestro Comes to SECRET WARS and CONTEST OF CHAMPIONS

One of the more obvious teasers run by Marvel in the build up to announce Secret Wars was Dale Keown’s image of Peter David’s Future Imperfect series. Back in 1992, David and George Perez told the tale of a dystopian future where an evil version of the Hulk, known as Maestro, laid waste to the heroes of the Marvel Universe in the Incredible Hulk: Future Imperfect mini series. While he was killed in the  series by the Hulk we know, the character has recently appeared in Spider-Man 2099. Today, Hollywood Reporter announced that a new Secret Wars tie-in would revisit the world of the Maestro.

Set to release on June 3, Future Imperfect by Peter David and artist Greg Land will tell a stand alone tale of the Maestro wreaking havoc on Battleworld. David has also promised a big surprise when readers find out who’s leading the charge against this out of control monster, “I will tell you this: there’s a character in the series referred to as ‘the boss,’ a person who oversees the battle against the Maestro. I feel pretty confident in saying that no-one will be able to guess that person’s identity until it’s revealed on the last page.”

An interior page from the book was also displayed and shows a female Red She-Hulk. Though the writer would not say if the character was Betty Ross as in the current Marvel U.

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It was also revealed today that the Maestro is officially the big boss of Marvel’s Contest of Champions mobile game. Currently available on iOS and Android the mobile fighter lets you build a team of heroes or villains as you fight through a tournament in the game’s own Battleworld. The game is free to download and actually is one of their more interesting titles for fighting boredom in convention lines.

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20. Book Review: The Boy Who Loved Rain by Gerard Kelly

From Goodreads:
They say that what you don't know can't hurt you. They're wrong.

David Dryden, pastor of a high-profile church in London, is admired for his emphasis on the Christian family.

But all is not well in his own family. He and his wife, Fiona, have been glossing over his son Colom's erratic behavior. Then, when a commitment to die is discovered in Colom's room after the suicide of a school friend, David finds himself out of his depth--and Fiona, in panic, takes Colom and flees.

A wonderful, intelligent, and searching novel about the toxic nature of secrets, and the possibility of starting again.
Writing
Kelly isn't just a fiction writer, he also writes poetry and non-fiction.  He's hugely prolific and his interest in poetry is evident throughout the book.  However, I'm not sure this is for the best.  I kept getting the feeling as I read that this was a first draft.  There was so much information provided and so much description that just didn't add to the story or to the quality of writing. I think it's full of great potential, but I didn't feel like it was as polished as it could have been.

Entertainment Value
Positives first: I loved reading a story where a family is Christian but the story isn't about their faith.  It plays a large role in the lives of the characters and certainly has an impact on the story, but it wasn't the central theme of the story and there wasn't a religious message to be gathered.  The characters were also nuanced and, for the most part, believable.

I did feel like a ton of description could have been taken out without hurting the novel and would have made it more fun to read.  I wanted to be engrossed because I feel like the plot has a huge amount of potential, but I just never got to a point where I overcame my apathy towards the characters.

Overall
There's definitely an audience for this book.  It will appeal to fans of women's literature and "ripped from the headlines" stories.  I also think it would be a great choice for readers of Christian fiction who want more than a story with a moral.  That said, it just wasn't for me.  I never really started to care for the characters and found myself bored at times.

Thanks to TLC for providing me with copy to review.

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21. Musicality


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22. Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My

Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My! Created for the Coral, Mint, Black and White Challenge at Spoonflower.com. Voting taking place here. © 2015 by Lisa Firke. All rights reserved.

Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My! Created for the Coral, Mint, Black and White Challenge at Spoonflower.com. Voting taking place here. © 2015 by Lisa Firke. All rights reserved.

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23. Module | 002

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Module 002 | This is a variation of module 001 with a leaf shape cut out of the center of the module. The image above shows the top view.

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Module 002

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M002 | Vase

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Bottom Closed | I left the vase in the living room over night and when I saw it in the morning my daughter had made a new variation by closing the vase and turning it over.

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24. Good luck to Tom Spurgeon on his halfway cross country move

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Tom Spurgeon is relocating from New Mexico to Columbus, OH this week. I can only imagine how stressful that is—some tweets posts about a cancelled last minute comics sale show just one aspect of it. I think he said he had something like 75 boxes of comics…just having a lot of stuff makes moving traumatic, let alone moving in the middle of a winter which resembles the White Witch’s plans for Narnia. I know moving my least favorite thing in life. (I’ve only moved three times in my adult life. )

In Columbus Tom will be an even more important force in comics than his already formidable position as he spearheads the new Cartoon Crossroad Columbus event. Anyway, good luck to him!

(Photo via Facebook)

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25. Review: Big Con Job is a dark, meta, fandomy heist: and I can’t look away

BIGCONWritten by: Jimmy Palmiotti and Matt Brady

Art by: Dominike “Domo” Stanton

Colors by: Paul Little

Letters by: Jim Campbell

Publisher: Boom Studios

I came into Big Con Job #1 cold: Amanda Conner’s lively cover art shows a bunch of aging space-opera stars at a convention table. Their larger than life TV personas are depicted on banners that stretch high behind their real life counterparts; looming over the actual people behind the clearly much younger characters. The images overwhelm and diminish them. It’s a great piece of art because on first glance it has a self-aware, lighthearted look to it. After reading the issue, however, that cover takes on a much darker tone.

Palmiotti and Brady have created a group of characters instantly familiar to fans of comic books, science fiction and fantasy in general: aging TV stars wearily working the convention circuit to earn their daily bread. There’s the buxom, Princess Leia-like love interest to the pulpy, Captain Kirk-ish Buck Blaster in the aptly-named series ‘Treck Wars’. The pair look out into a sparse audience that has turned on them: asking accusatory, confrontational questions and demanding answers from the actors (Blaze Storm and Danny Dean) who obviously had very little input on their character’s development.

There’s nothing lighthearted about the look Big Con Job’s writing team provide into the hardscrabble lives of the increasingly obsolete actors. They can’t pay their rent and are getting evicted; they’re getting stiffed on promised appearance fees and drooled over by the invasive fans they must cater to. In one particularly gut-wrenching scene, Poach Brewster, the man behind the show’s Spock-esque scientist, breaks up with his younger partner. She’s a beautiful actress on the rise, and he knows his melancholia is holding her back. As he clutches her pillow to his face the next morning, I actually turned my face away from the panels. I keenly felt the anguish of these characters. I’m sure the recent loss of Leonard Nimoy added poignancy to Brewster’s story; thank goodness Nimoy had a rich artistic life post Star Trek.

Some intensely heartbreaking scenes are still to come. A warning: if you struggle with depression, or are just having a rough day, you might want to read this issue when the clouds disappear. But you should read it. I was shocked by the unexpected depth, not just of the plot but also of Dominike Stanton’s art. It seemed to subtlety change from page to page, morphing so the characters and settings matched the tone of the story. In the convention scenes, where the actors put on their best imitations of happiness and nostalgia, the art becomes rounder, and more stylized. When Dean and Brewster try to drink away their pain, the images seem to stretch slightly, giving them a more strung-out look.

It all lays the groundwork for a strange heist scheme, which name-checks the San Diego Comic Convention just before the book ends. Most heist narratives waste little time in defining the “why” of the robbery or con-job; it’s enough to know that money is at stake, or perhaps a loosely-sketched blackmail scenario. Not so in Big Con Job. The why is painful, understandable and relatable. Comic readers may not be washed up actors well-past their 15 minutes of fame, but they have loved the characters portrayed by those people. Have traveled with them in their hearts and minds to distant lands and planets; but will they follow them past the adventure scenes and epic battles through the dismal struggles of the real-world people behind the fame?  To see what likely-illegal schemes that desperation and tragedy can push a person to consider? For my part, I’m ready to watch this group break bad: I can’t look away.

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