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1. A litttle Q & A

A big thank you to Joanna Marple of Miss Marple's Musings for interviewing me on her wonderful blog last week. Here's a link to our full conversation, where I talk a bit about the makings of City Cat, and share some sneak peeks of the art from my upcoming book, Nana in the City.

Thanks again for having me, Joanna! 

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2. The Horn Book likes City Cat!

Many thanks to reviewer Sarah Ellis for such a kind and thoughtful writeup of CITY CAT in the Jan./Feb. issue of The Horn Book~

Horn Book Magazine:
"A small smoky-gray cat follows a family on its trip through Europe. She hitches rides, stows away on boats, cadges food, and invites herself behind the scenes. As is the way of cats, she makes herself supremely comfortable wherever she is, whether bathing in a Parisian fountain or picking her way across the roof of Gaudí’s Casa Batlló in Barcelona. Castillo’s drawings capture both the grandeur of great cities and their human dynamism as people cycle, shop, work, rush, parade, dress up, and even play the tuba. In each picture, we look for the family, and the family looks for the cat. Banks’s text is confident and rhythmic, dotted with rhymes and half-rhymes that bounce off the tongue. “She sits on piers with perked-up ears / and gazes out to sea.” The words pass the read-it-again test with flying colors. A well-traveled child, armchair or otherwise, will spot Big Ben and the Eiffel Tower. For all the rest, an appended spread, both child- and cat-oriented, identifies the cities and the sights, and a map lets us trace the family’s eight-city journey." —sarah ellis (Jan/Feb issue)

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3. Happy 2014, friends!

Wishing you a BRIGHT and COLORFUL new year! xo~L

illustration from forthcoming book, NANA IN THE CITY; Clarion/HMH, fall 2014

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4. Travelers’ Tails

It was a total surprise to discover that CITY CAT had been reviewed in the New York Times a couple weeks ago... and fantastic review to boot! Here is a snippet:

"Banks’s verse narrative is as elegant and lithe as her subject, full of poetic descriptions and playful, sophisticated vocabulary. 

“City cat, strutting down the boulevards,
taking in the city sights.
The skyline, pulsing, bathed in light.
An obelisk, a graceful arch,
a gilded bridge, a sprawling park.” 
Castillo, who has worked with Banks before, on “That’s Papa’s Way” (2009), creates illustrations that are a good match for the author’s evocative language. Her street scenes, with all their architectural detail, have the intentionally rough, textural look of lino prints, and her palette is an attractive and fashionable combination of rich neutrals and bright reds and mustard yellows. In all, “City Cat” may appeal as much to parents as to children, but there’s no harm in that. One advantage human travelers have over beasts: If you have to pack a suitcase, you can make room in it for this book as a reminder of why it is we go sightseeing in the first place. 

Many thanks to Sarah Harrison Smith for such a lovely, thoughtful write up!

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5. CITY CAT gets around

My new book City Cat, written by the wonderful Kate Banks, is now finally out in the world! (I began this project back in 2009, so it's been a long long wait :)) We are to happy to have received a number of kind reviews over the last few weeks, including a surprise write-up from The New York Times (more on that in another post)!

Here's what everyone had to say:

Kirkus Reviews: 
"A black cat serves as European tour guide for child readers in this offering from Banks and Castillo. The cat and a family of travelers begin in Rome. Outstanding backmatter later tells readers that the famed Coliseum is home to over 200 stray cats that are protected by Roman law. But before reaching the informational paratext, readers follow the cat from one European locale to another, right alongside the family on holiday. The family seems almost superfluous, even intrusive to the cat’s adventure. First, the cat stows away in the back of the family’s car and ends up in Marseille, and it then goes on to Barcelona and five other destinations before returning to Rome. Banks’ graceful writing describes the sites visited through sensory detail, while Castillo’s soft, yet detailed art deftly fills in narrative gaps by showing how the cat gets from place to place. Some legs of the journey may seem a bit implausible, and it’s quite coincidental that the cat and the family keep turning up in the same places. By book’s end, the nod to the child asleep in his bed and the cat “curled up in a statue’s arm” nearby feels rather forced. Nevertheless, the art presents a veritable feast for the eyes from page to page, and Banks’ narrative is characteristically well-paced and lyrical. A lovely, if unlikely, feline journey." (Picture book. 4-8)

Publishers Weekly: 
"Banks’s verse sees some of the great cities of Europe through the travels of an independent black cat. Making her way by cat, boat, bike, and bus, City Cat romps through the Coliseum, nestles under one of Notre Dame’s gargoyles, and pads across the Bridge of Sighs. The scenery described isn’t pinned to a specific location: “City Cat is on the run from the morning mist/ and the baffled sun hidden by the fog./ She squints into a smoky sky/ and sees a tower rising high.” It’s up to Castillo, who illustrated Banks’s That’s Papa’s Way, to supply the missing information, drawing what’s visible in the fog: Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament. In the absence of a character to know more deeply or a narrative to tie the book together, the meticulously drawn spreads take center stage. Castillo takes no shortcuts, drafting each city’s distinctive architecture in soft, pleasing lines. Though there are parallels with Banks’s The Cat Who Walked Across France, this feline isn’t trying to get home; she’s happy to wander Europe’s plazas and cathedral squares, and to have readers trail along." Ages 3–7. (Nov.)
School Library Journal: 
"City Cat travels through Europe, paralleling a human family’s vacation. Rhyming verse follows the stray as she hitches rides and wanders through Italy, France, Spain, England, the Netherlands, and Germany. Flags dot the various spreads, giving clues to the locations, which are further described in the endnotes. Lyrical verse follows an interesting rhyming scheme and incorporates rich vocabulary, and lush illustrations capture the atmosphere of each location with plenty of details to invite close study. Children will enjoy the fanciful adventures of this intrepid feline as she explores rooftops, bridges, and ancient ruins, especially when compared to the rather boring, grounded meanderings of the human tourists. However, not much happens in the story and the connection between the cat and the family is not clear. Overall, this is a pretty book for armchair travelers and cat lovers." –Suzanne Myers Harold, formerly at Multnomah County Library System, Portland, OR (Dec.)

Thanks to Kirkus,  PW, and SLJ for the nice write-ups!

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6. The Original Art 2013

Great news! My new book CITY CAT was selected to be a part of this years Original Art Show at the Society of Illustrators. It's such an honor to have my art hanging in the exhibition, alongside THIS amazing roster of illustrators. Thanks so much to the awesome jury for including CITY CAT in the show. If you are in the NY area, please come join me at the opening reception this Thursday evening, October 24th. Details are here. Hope to see you!!

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Happy July, friends! I've recently set up shop at Society6. I now have art prints, t-shirts, pillows, phone cases, laptop skins, stationary, tote bags and more for sale... Pretty exciting! Please check out my little store if you'd like, and feel free to spread the word : )

~ Studio Castillo on Society6 ~

I hope that you are all having an enjoyable summer! xo~L

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8. Melvin joins the book club!

Exciting news for MELVIN! He joined the Scholastic Book Club's May '13 Honeybee list. Picking out books from the Scholastic Book Club catalog was so thrilling when I was in elementary school. I feel extremely honored to have my book available in this collection. Thank you, Scholastic!

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9. Silent Auction time!

One of my favorite booky events of the year is tomorrow evening! If you're in the NYC area, come out to the Jacob Javits Center for the 19th Annual Children's Book Art Silent Auction at BookExpo America! Bid on some great original art to raise money for the ABFFE (click on the link for all the deets). Above is a peek at my soggy little donation : )

Hope to see you there, friends!

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10. Exciting SPUNKY news!

Just found out that SPUNKY TELLS ALL is a nominee for the 2014 Beverly Cleary Children’s Choice Award!! You can view the 7 books that were nominated right here. Hooray for Spunky!

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11. a page full of nana's

Sketches for NANA IN THE CITY; Clarion books; Coming Fall 2014

I've just begun character studies for my next (3rd) book as author, Nana in the City, about a boy who travels to the city to visit his nana and needs a little convincing about why the city is a good place (for a nana) to live. I'm looking forward to jumping in to final art this spring!

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12. Happy Valentine's Day!

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13. Cobble Hill drawing

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14. New year, new sketchbook

 sketches around Union Square: 1/3/2013

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15. Happy New Year's Eve from NYC!

*sketch from my upcoming book, Nana in the City
Wishing everyone a very happy, healthy and creative new year!
Love, Lauren

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16. Happy Holidays

Happy Holidays from Brooklyn, friends! 

Wishing you and your loved ones peace and joy this holiday season. Here's to a most wonderful new year~

Much love,

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17. 100 Titles for Reading & Sharing

I was thrilled to find out that HAPPY LIKE SOCCER has been selected for The New York Public Library's 100 Titles for Reading & Sharing 2012 list!

 Thanks so much to the NYPL Committee for including our book!!

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18. Let it Snow!

I'm really excited to be part of the group exhibition Let it Snow! at the Bruce Museum in Greenwich, CT! The show is now open, and will run through most of the winter. If you are near Greenwich, stop by and check out the art and books. As a part of this exhibition, the museum will also be running programs for teachers, parents and kids between now and Feb. 24, 2013. Hooray for snow!

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19. Come join the party!

NY friends— Hope to see you at BookCourt this Saturday! Come eat some h'orderves, drink some wine, and jump start your holiday shopping : )

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20. THE READER on 7-imp

Character studies, sketches & final art from THE READER on the very awesome Seven Impossible Things blog. Many thanks to Jules Danielson for this nice post!

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21. Three cheers for

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22. THE READER Blog Tour!

Today is DAY 1 of a two week long blog tour for THE READER. First stop, the awesome illustration blog Pen & Oink, where I talk book making process!

Here's the full two week tour schedule, if you'd like to follow along:

Monday, November 5: Pen & Oink  and A Mom’s Take

Tuesday, November 6: Mouse Grows, Mouse Learns

Wednesday, November 7: Susan Heim on Parenting

Thursday, November 8: 5 Minutes for Books

Friday, November 9: The Children’s Book Review

Monday, November 12: Media Darlings

Tuesday, November 13: Kid Lit Frenzy

Wednesday, November 14: Cracking the Cover

Thursday, November 15: Adventures in Mommydom

Friday, November 16: Momma Drama

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23. The Original Art 2012

I'm honored to have two of my books represented in this years Original Art Show at the Society of Illustrators. Thanks so much to the awesome jury for their selection of HAPPY LIKE SOCCER and THE READER! This Thursday evening, October 25th, is the opening reception -- probably my favorite industry event of the year. Here are the details if you'd like to attend. Hope to see you there!!

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24. The Reader gets an "A"!

Entertainment Weekly reviewed THE READER, and they give it an "A".  Thanks so much to EW editor Abby West for such a lovely write-up!!

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25. Pub week for The Reader!

This Tuesday my latest book, THE READER, hit shelves. Hooray!! I've been waiting a long while for this one to come out. I had such a fantastic time illustrating Amy Hest's sweet story. And really, there is nothing I like to draw more than dogs, snowscapes, and teeny children :)

Our publishing house threw an amazing luncheon to celebrate the release of the book on Tuesday. Delicious food, wine and fantastic company. How wonderful to be able to gather together with all the people who put their hearts in to this project, and toast to the special day. It certainly isn't often I take time to celebrate my book releases. I should do it more :) When I arrived home Tuesday evening, this beautiful bouquet was waiting at my doorstep. Thank you ACP for everything you have done to make this a successful and memorable launch!

And here is a fantastic review that just came in from Booklist:

"The reader" is a small boy, all bundled up for the cold conditions outside. He has a brown shaggy dog, a red sled, a small suitcase, and the snow-covered world at his fingertips. Hest's quiet, lyrical prose matches the stillness of the landscape, as she describes the reader's journey: "Up and up he climbs, tilting in the wind, pulling in the blowing storm." The little dog, who has bounded ahead, waits patiently at the top of the hill for his boy to join him. Once there ("the hill is very, very tall. The top is far, far away"), boy and dog make snow angels and a "snow dog" and snack on toast. Finally, the reader clicks open the mysterious suitcase, which contains not just any book, but "the very best book," titled Two Good Friends. Perfect. This sweet story is beautifully imagined by Castillo, as her boldly outlined, colorful characters pop against the brilliance of a total whiteout. Share this with other pint-size readers who understand the joy of reading, anytime, anyplace.  —Ann Kelley, Booklist Aug 2012 

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