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1. 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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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. 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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4. 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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5. Musicality


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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. Los Angeles Times Book Prize graphic novel nominees announced

chast.jpg

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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8. 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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9. Five Gay Picture-Book Prodigies and the Difference They’ve Made

depaola cover art

From the March/April 2015 cover by Tomie dePaola.

Andy Manley, a Scottish theater artist, travels the world putting on shows for children. In 2014, he was in New York doing My House, a “mostly wordless solo piece co-starring a cardboard box and a wayward melon,” according to the New York Times. That one was designed for youngsters eighteen months to three years old.

“Do you have kids?” the Times reporter asked. “No,” Manley replied, “I’m gay.”

Two thoughts occur. First, being gay is less and less a barrier to fatherhood. But in any case it’s a rare father who, qua father, has Manley’s playful imagination, his creative reach: in sum, his ability to think big on a small child’s level.

That’s what a number of gay picture-book creators — distinctively, perhaps — have been doing for the past sixty years or so. Maurice Sendak, Arnold Lobel, James Marshall, Remy Charlip, and Tomie dePaola differ in just about every outward way, from the look and content of their books to the course of their lives and careers. But open the covers of those books and you’ll find tenderness, wit, and imagination as a common bond — qualities that they have in common with the unfettered young.

 

Maurice Sendak (1928–2012)

Sendak drew feelings — first and last, the feelings of small children. Over the years his subjects ranged from nursery-rhyme characters to life in a Polish shtetl to heroic nudes and portrait heads, but his work is grounded in 
the life force of the young, girls and boys alike.

AHoleIsToDig_straightenedUnisexism, or gender equivalence, showed its face — maybe for the first time on record — in A Hole Is to Dig (1952), where Sendak’s drawings illustrate Ruth Krauss’s collection of kids’ off-the-cuff definitions. Along with “A hole is to dig,” in multiple embodiments, we find the indelible “Eyebrows are to go over your eyes” and “The world is to have something to stand on.”

Think of that! On his first try, Sendak had girls and boys doing what each was “supposed” to do. Krauss, a progressive thinker, pointed out that young kids didn’t behave that way and, according to Sendak, he made a few changes to eliminate the stereotypes. Altogether, he did more than that: there are no sex roles whatever in the pair-ups or group scenes, and no pat tableaux as a consequence. In an independent jacket drawing, moreover, one little boy holds a bouquet of flowers for another to sniff.

A Hole Is to Dig, small but mighty, liberated little girls from dolls-and-doilies more than ten years before Betty Friedan’s Feminine Mystique touched off the second wave of American feminism — and, along the way, freed little boys from being he-men.

very far awayNow, a small boy could be desolate, feel rejected. In Very Far Away (1957), the second book Sendak himself wrote, Martin heads away from home, in an outsize cowboy hat, when his mother is too busy with the baby to answer his questions. His encounters with an old horse, an English sparrow, and a cat are fanciful, whimsical — and unrewarding. Martin heads home: maybe now Mama has time for him. Or he’ll count cars, and wait.

Martin, a timorous tyke depicted in a scratchy line and a light, almost neutral wash, is the first of the M-named Sendak surrogates.

His successor, the fierce and unrepentant Max of Where the Wild Things Are (1963), returns home after working his will over the Wild Things and finds his supper awaiting him, reassuringly, “still hot.” The illustration is at once vintage Neverland and, in the play of emotions across Max’s face, high cartoon drama.

Coming next: cartoons as an extension of child life.

in-the-night-kitchenMickey, the dream-traveler of In the Night Kitchen (1970), flies off, out of his nightclothes, into a graphic panorama of Sendak’s 1930s New York City childhood. Oliver Hardy triplets appear as the Sunshine Bakers and mix Mickey into the cake they’re baking; he pops out, molds the dough into a plane, plunges to the bottom of the milk bottle…and rises to the top where (in homage to King Kong atop the Empire State), he cries “COCK-A-DOODLE DOO,” his own little penis proudly on display. Time to return to bed, more than satisfied: sated.

Power trip, wet dream, whatever: Sendak had something to crow about, however he chose. By that time, he had illustrated the endearing Little Bear books and created the larky Nutshell Library. He’d become a world celebrity and won just about every possible award. On the domestic front, he was settled in with Eugene Glynn, a psychoanalyst, who would be his life partner.

The AIDS epidemic, in the early 1980s, was painful for Sendak, as it was for other gay men, and like many of them, he became more open about his sexuality. Those agonizing times, emotional and political, had creative issue in We Are All in the Dumps with Jack and Guy (1993), a virtual mural of social protest, panel by panel. An echo of Dickens in the backwash of Ronald Reagan.

No age range is indicated on the jacket, nor should there be. Sendak was no longer making the “kiddie books” that, he often grumbled, got no respect. But early childhood was still home ground. In a late press photo, the grizzled Sendak is seen snuggling up to a Wild Thing, his protector now.

 

Arnold Lobel (1933–1987)

With Lobel, less and less became more and more.

His first assignment, as an aspiring illustrator, was to draw a salmon for a Science I Can Read Book — the editor had spotted a realistic drawing of a cricket in his art-school portfolio.

That salmon swam, and Lobel’s career was launched. Science and history easy readers came to his hand; he took on stories of everyday childhood rigors by Charlotte Zolotow and Judith Viorst. But factual or fancy-free, his work had an identity of its own.

giant john photoBooks of his own came almost perforce. First, cartoonish stories: happy-go-lucky blends of the lovable and the ridiculous. Giant John (1964) sets out into the world to earn some money after he and his mother eat their last two potato chips. At a friendly castle, he’s a BIG help…until fairy music sets him a-dancing and the castle walls come tumbling down. Never fear: John rebuilds, after his fashion, and departs with gold and glory. He “promised to visit often and kissed the king and queen and princess and dog good-bye.” A GIANT display of affection, indeed.

With the success of his work, Lobel had less need to illustrate books by others, and more time to spend on books of his own, which quickly became more diverse and substantial, even traditional, in nature. Cartooning wouldn’t do: the illustration had to have the resonance of art.

You’d think Lobel would have taken to folklore, in high demand at the time, but he didn’t — with one exception, Hansel and Gretel (1971). In the galaxy of H & Gs, Lobel’s stands as the modest, intimate one: more the tale of two babes abandoned in the woods than the story of a brother and sister victimized by an evil stepmother.

It’s a motif that turns up repeatedly in Lobel’s work. A pair of children appears, for example, in many of his illustrations for Jack Prelutsky’s collection of monitory verses, Nightmares (1976) — a pair of small, imperiled children, helplessness incarnate, the nonsexist embodiment of Hansel and Gretel. Sometimes the boy is larger and leading, sometimes the roles are reversed.

frogandtoad1Frog and Toad Are Friends (1970): is there a more satisfying, more puzzling title in children’s lit? Friends pal around, have misunderstandings, make up; but a frog and a toad — strange. Lobel had watched frogs and toads and noticed their differences. He’d also learned that toads will overwinter in the city without ill effects; but you can’t coop up a frog. So we have energetic, adventurous Frog and his best friend and opposite number Toad, something of a sluggard and a bumbler. All told, an odd, appealing couple.

At a later, savvier time, a gay couple. Through a wide lens, the designation fits: Frog and Toad jousting, in what are essentially two-character skits, could be two old loving, teasing, mutually indulgent mates. Or they could simply be humanized animals in the tradition of Beatrix Potter et al., mimicking human behavior. Lobel may have thought of them as gay, or they may have developed as they did because he was gay.

Does it matter? Besides four additional Frog and Toad books, Lobel produced five other I Can Reads during the same years — individual books with no less individuality, perhaps more. The character studies Owl at Home (1975), Grasshopper on the Road (1978), and Uncle Elephant (1981) also reflect Lobel’s sensitivity to animal ways, and are also aptly titled. Those three idiosyncratic bachelors might well be gay, too.

One thing we know for certain: the more identities — ethnic, religious, racial, sexual — the richer life is for all.

 

James Marshall (1942–1992) & Remy Charlip (1929–2012)

No two author-illustrators could be more different than James Marshall and Remy Charlip. That’s just the point.

Marshall was an accidental illustrator. Texas born and bred, he was on track to be a professional violist, then injured his hand, took up teaching…and, as the origin story goes, lucked into picture books. Lying in a hammock one summer day, sketchpad in hand, he overheard the battling George and Martha, in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? on his sister’s TV, and — voilà! — conjured up the fondly parrying hippo couple of that name.

georgemartha_larger_colorfixedThe seven George and Martha books owe their acclaim to many factors. The spare illustration is flat-out brilliant, as the delicate line delineating the hippos’ bulk, a funny thing in itself, morphs into one sharp-witted, space-teasing composition after another. Take “Split Pea Soup,” the very first story. Martha keeps serving it to George, George keeps eating it reluctantly…until he doesn’t, and pours the remains of his bowl into his loafers under the dining table. The scene is tricky to picture, and a hoot as done: wit distilled to a pea-green pour.

Overleaf, George and Martha are sitting together at the table, close together, over a plate of chocolate chip cookies. Martha has caught him out: why didn’t he tell her he hated the split pea soup? “I didn’t want to hurt your feelings.” Back and forth, that’s the theme of the stories as a whole. The delicacy of the hippos’ feelings accords with the delicacy of the line, and it, too, contrasts with their bulk. Just any old animals, conventionally drawn, wouldn’t have done at all.

Once started, Marshall cultivated his talents and spread wicked glee in one high-colored, high-energy series after another. Top grades go, though, to the kindly camp of Miss Nelson and class.

Remy Charlip, on the other hand, was a serial initiator; an adventurer.

The son of immigrant New Yorkers, he studied art at Cooper Union, helped found the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, and — before filling his resume with performing, choreographing, and teaching stints — produced a picture book, Dress Up and Let’s Have a Party (1956), that’s also a performance, an improvisation.

Decked out in his mother’s pots and pans while she bakes a cake, John is inspired to ask his friends to come to his party in costume — and we wait with him to see what they’ll be wearing when, at the turn of the page, they come through the door. No dullards here: a carton on the street turns Hans into a special delivery package; a ball of string makes Vera a meatball covered with spaghetti. The final surprise comes when John carries in the cake, with the single word happy visible. In Charlip territory, nothing is all spelled out.

With Dress Up in his pocket, he got deeply into theater for young children — and for the rest of his life picture books and children’s theater figured in his career as corresponding “narrative forms.”

Every picture book was different from the others, its style chosen — 
conceived — to suit the subject matter. For The Dead Bird (1958), a brief text Charlip had plucked from a Margaret Wise Brown collection, he painted deep-toned primitivist tableaux. 
Fortunately (1964), the exuberant 
tale that seesaws between good and bad fortune, joggles accordingly between hot carnival colors and stark black-and-white. Each turn of the page — theater, to Charlip — brings a startling new composition, a new storytelling move.

charlip_arm in armArm in Arm (1969) brought Charlip’s genius for verbal play and pictorial invention to a peak. Verbal play and pictorial invention conjoined: “Two octopuses got married and walked down the aisle arm in arm in arm in arm in arm…” is exemplified by a fluorescent couple, long tentacles entwined, who could have come out of the Beatles flick Yellow Submarine.

Among the equivocal cartoons, visual puns, and other antic embodiments of the endless tales and other echolalia is many a rainbow — this, more than ten years before the AIDS epidemic and the gay community’s adoption of the rainbow flag as its emblem. Was Charlip a prophet, a visionary, a herald? When Arm in Arm was reissued in 1997, in a partially re-designed edition, it was out-and-proud: the white cover and endpapers became rainbow-hued all over, and Charlip himself appears on the last page in a rainbow-striped sweater.

 

Tomie dePaola (b. 1934)

Tomie dePaola, that most mild-
mannered of creative personalities, took the bull by the horns — gently, of course.

nana upstairs first ed_fixed2First, there was lots of freelance illustration; dePaola was a thoroughgoing pro. And there’d always be, along with the imperishable Strega Nona (1975), many other books of a folkish or religious nature. But dePaola was not long in addressing childhood joys and woes — foremost, the joys and woes of his own childhood.

Nana Upstairs & Nana Downstairs (1973), about his feeble great-grandmother and his bustling grandmother, came out at a time when the decline and death of a grandparent was a going topic in picture books, and endures when others have long vanished. For one, it’s not a demonstration model, it’s life — you couldn’t make this stuff up.

For Tommy, at four, Nana Upstairs, largely confined to her bed, is a fine companion, even a playmate and co-conspirator. On his visits they share candy mints from her sewing box and talk away about the Little People in the room’s shadowy recesses — sitting side-by-side, Nana Upstairs tied for safety into a big Morris chair, Tommy tied in his chair, too, at his own insistence. How, then, will he cope with her death? In a still, echoing picture, Tommy, who’s been told, rushes upstairs to Nana Upstairs’s room: “The bed was empty.” You may cry, too.

Oliver Button Is a Sissy (1979) is a spunky book about a spunky little boy with gay signifiers, Tommy/Tomie by another name. Oliver, in short, likes to do things that boys aren’t supposed to do — like reading and drawing pictures, even playing with paper dolls and dressing up, singing and dancing. No baseball for him, no kind of ball. So he’s sent to dancing school “for exercise,” and he thrives. Even when he’s tormented by the other boys for his tap shoes (and has to be rescued by the girls), he persists — and at the local talent show, he’s a star.

Not long before, kids might have gotten a very different message from another reputable book. In William’s Doll (1972), written by Charlotte Zolotow and illustrated by William Pène du Bois, William is taunted by the other boys for wanting a baby doll to take care of. His father, like Oliver’s, is ready with a basketball, and William, unlike Oliver, has nothing against playing ball; he just wants a baby doll too. Leave it to grandmother: he needs the doll, which she gets him, “so that he can practice being a father.”

Not, in 1972, a gay father.

26 fairmount 1DePaola was a brand, and beloved, before he returned to the story of that budding song-and-dance man, in 26 Fairmount Avenue (1999), and, in Tomie’s childhood voice, carried it forward. The ensuing series is partly a documentary, taking in the 1939 World’s Fair, the March of Dimes, Pearl Harbor…It’s partly a family sitcom, with cameos for a host of Irish and Italian relatives. But in its naive, confiding way, it’s also an object lesson: Tomie, a born performer and artistic wunderkind, is encouraged at home and at school; on holidays and other occasions, he dresses as Mae West and the Farmer’s Wife; at five, he puts on his mother’s makeup. Never does a child tease him or an adult look askance. It’s OK.

He’s OK. You are, too.

But all is not hunky-dory. In the last book of the series, For the Duration (2009), dePaola revisits Oliver Button Is a Sissy, with a less sanguine, more realistic outcome. A group of older boys, his brother Buddy’s friends, call him a sissy and seize his beloved tap shoes — and Buddy does nothing to help him. It may even be Buddy, Tommy/Tomie comes to realize, who has egged them on. (Resentment? Envy?) The sympathetic principal will tackle the problem (discreetly), but, she suggests to Tommy, it would be better if he brought the tap shoes to school “in a paper bag or something…”

Complexity: addressed by dePaola with tenderness, wit, and imagination — as Sendak, Lobel, Marshall, and Charlip themselves did time and again. They were gay, talented, and gifted also with insight.

From the March/April 2015 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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

European politicians are paying attention to the animation industry.

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

10703546_10152315517657303_990558892077321488_n.jpg

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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12. 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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13. Lorax Thursday!



Lorax Thursday!



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14. 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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15. Comics Illustrator of the Week :: Amy Reeder

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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. Page Critique: Vagueness tends to deflate a mystery



If you would like to nominate your page for a future Page Critique, please enter it in this thread in the Forums.

First I'll present the page without comment, then I'll offer my thoughts and a redline. If you choose to offer your own thoughts on the page, please be exceedingly polite. We aim to be positive and helpful.

Random numbers were generated, and thanks to Justin McKean, whose page is below:
The taller stood near the third floor window, scanning the crowd of parade-goers lining the streets. He turned to the shorter and smiled.
“Bigger crowd, yes? Than last year?” the shorter said.
“Last year wasn't as big a deal. Oop – here we go.”
The shorter crossed to the window as well, standing carefully back from it. Outside the number 150 was blazoned on just about everything. One hundred fifty years since the Great Tomes revealing the Builders had been discovered.
A troupe of actors passed, playing out one of the Tome stories. The Tomes claimed an ancient enemy had chased the Builders across the sky and that they had died in a final stand, here, at the valley of Safehaven. Debate about the veracity of the texts shook academic halls for over a century.
The crowd roared. The King arrived, waving and laughing. Richard was in his sixth year as King. Kind, fair, savvy enough to throw a good party regularly, King Richard was the most popular monarch the realm of Safehaven had seen in generations.
The crowds' adulation continued but the King's laughter abruptly stopped because of the arrow which seemed to suddenly appear in his throat. He fell to his hands and knees, then began to get back up again, falling as a second arrow pierced his sternum. The crowd still screamed his name. It took another moment for the tone to change from praise to horror.
Authors sometimes have a tendency to want to create mystery by withholding information. This is a natural impulse, but it can be a very dangerous business.

In this case, while I am definitely intrigued by this world and this king who got rather abruptly shot with an arrow, I kept thinking, "Taller what? Shorter what?" Are these people? Gnomes? Squirrels?

It's so important to pick and choose what you decide to reveal and withhold. This scene would be no less mysterious if we had a better mental image of the people/gnomes/squirrels observing this action, and in fact it would perhaps even heighten the intrigue. Are these people in on the assassination? Are they horrified?

And throughout this page, specificity would go a very long way. My thoughts below are only directional, the author alone knows what's really going on in this scene, but hopefully will illustrate how things can be improved with a bit more illustrative detail.
The taller man stood near the third floor window, scanning the crowd of parade-goers lining the streets. He turned to the shorter his colleague Igor and smiled.
“Bigger crowd than last year, yes? Than last year?Igor said, twirling his uneven mustache.
“Last year wasn't as big a deal. Oop... here we go.”
Igor crossed the dark room to peer out the window as well, standing carefully back from it. Outside, the number 150 was blazoned on just about everything banners, on signs, on balloons, and capes [be specific to create a better mental picture for the reader]. One hundred fifty years since the Great Tomes revealing the Builders had been discovered.
A troupe of actors passed, playing out one of the Tome storyies of the sky chaser ["one of the stories" is vague, better to be specific]. The Tomes claimed an ancient enemy had chased the Builders across the sky and that they had died in a final stand, here, at the valley of Safehaven. The actors, wearing flowing blue tunics, leaped and twirled in a pantomime of a race through the heavens. Debate about the veracity of the texts shook academic halls for over a century.
The crowd roared. The King had arrived, waving and laughing. Richard was in his sixth year as King. Kind, fair, savvy enough to throw a good party regularly, King Richard he was the most popular monarch the realm of Safehaven had seen in generations.
The crowds' adulation continued but tThe King's laughter abruptly stopped because of the when an arrow which seemed to suddenly appeared in his throat. He fell to his hands and knees, then began to get back up again, falling again as a second arrow pierced his sternum. The crowd still screamed his name. It took another moment for the tone to change from praise to horror.
The arrow still perhaps appears a bit too soon in the narrative and it might be better to have more setup on "taller" and "Igor" and Richard and what exactly is going on during this day, but this redline hopefully illustrates how replacing vagueness with specificity will give the reader a better chance at imagining the action and becoming invested in what happens.

Thanks again to Justin McKean, and if you'd like to have your page critiqued you can enter it here.

Art: Coronation of Nicholas II and Alexandra Fyodorovna by Laurits Tuxen

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18. Artist of the Day: Chris Youssef

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

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19. Rosie Revere, Engineer to Be Read in Space

Layout 1The Story Time from Space team (STFS) has selected Rosie Revere, Engineer for its next reading project.

This picture book was written by Andrea Beaty and illustrated by David Roberts. Abrams Books for Young Readers released it back in September 2013.

School Library Journal reports that it was chosen because the author gifted a copy to an astronaut named Alvin Drew. He then shared the book with educator Patricia Tribe. STFS will make a video with a recitation of this story available on its website in the fall of 2015.

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20. 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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21. Fiona & the Fog e-book review

fiona and the fog menu“One foggy morning, Fiona sat on her front stoop, wondering what to do with the day. ‘I’m bored. I wish something exciting would happen…'” With that, the fog snatches up Fiona’s scarf and leads her on a chase around a city’s environs (it’s unnamed but the skyline is San Francisco’s; makes sense given the fog).

Author William Poor wisely keeps the text of original e-book Fiona & the Fog (2014) fairly spare, leaving his stunning illustrations to tell most of the story. From his article on Medium.com: “A couple years ago, a design fad called ‘cinemagraphs’ swept the internet – these were still photographs in which portions of the image subtly moved. Imagine a still landscape photo with actual moving, drifting clouds, or a photo of a woman whose hair is waving slightly in the breeze.”

A design fad, maybe, but one that’s used to great effect here. The background photographs ground the story in real life (cartoonlike Fiona is sitting on a real stoop, standing on a real beach, exploring a real forest), while the moving images create an intriguing air of mystery — trees sway in the breeze, waves lap, a sea lion bobs in and out of the water, fog slowly fills the screen then lifts — that’s heightened by unexpected, almost surrealistic imagery: high in a tree, for example, a bicycle tire turns, and closer to the story’s climax a rope ladder reaches down from the sky.

fiona and the fog city

fiona and the fog rocks

Atmospheric background music by Ted Poor contributes to the zenlike mood, with gentle chord progressions and soothing nature sounds. It all works beautifully as an original e-book — that rare case where conventional picture book meets technology and the result is something fresh and harmonious.

Available for iPad (requires iOS 7.0 or later); $1.99. Recommended for primary and intermediate users.

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22. 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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23. 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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24. 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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25. Kiss Me I'm Irish

Kiss Me I'm Irish copy-01


It's Saint Patrick's Day Season and in honor of the holiday I made this little Irish Setter piece. He/she is available for sale at my online store. Just follow this link: Diane Sammet's Shop

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