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1. What I’m Doing at Kirkus This Week,Plus What I Did Last Week, Featuring Lauren Castillo

“I run to my dad. I’m really bawling. ‘I’m not for sale, am I? You wouldn’t sell me, would you?’ My dad drops the garden chair he’s holding. ‘Not for a million, trillion dollars,’ he says. ‘Not ever, ever, ever.’ He wipes my nose.
Suddenly my mom’s there and we are all hugging at once.”
– Sketch, line art, and final art from Eve Bunting’s
Yard Sale,
illustrated by Lauren Castillo

(Click each to enlarge)


This morning over at Kirkus, I write about a Belgian import, Jan De Kinder’s Red (Eerdmans, March 2015). That is here.

* * *

Since I wrote last week (here) about Eve Bunting’s Yard Sale (Candlewick, April 2015), illustrated by Lauren Castillo, I’ve got some art from the book, as well as some of Lauren’s early sketches and line art for some of the spreads.


From the sketchbooks



Early version of opening spread
(Click to enlarge)


Sketch, line art, and final art: “Today there are a lot of people walking around our front yard, picking up things, asking the price, though Mom and Dad
already put prices on them.”

(Click each to enlarge)


Sketch and line art
(Click each to enlarge)


Sketch, line art, and final art: “I suddenly see a man loading my bike into the back of his truck. I rush over to him and grab one of the wheels. I’m really angry. ‘You can’t take this,’ I say, pulling on it. “It’s mine.’ ‘Oh!’ The man looks surprised, but he sets the bike on the grass. ‘I’m sorry. I just bought it. Was it not meant to be for sale?'”
(Click each to enlarge)


Sketch and line art
(Click each to enlarge)



* * * * * * *

YARD SALE. Text copyright © 2015 by Eve Bunting. Illustrations copyright © 2015 by Lauren Castillo. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA. Sketches and line art reproduced by permission of Lauren Castillo.

4 Comments on What I’m Doing at Kirkus This Week,Plus What I Did Last Week, Featuring Lauren Castillo, last added: 4/18/2015
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2. 50 Objects and 50 Books with Paul B. Janeczko

Whenever I think about a new anthology project, I always look for two things. First of all, I want the project to be original. I never want an anthology to be seen as ‘just another Janeczko collection.’ Secondly, I always want my readers to reach a little when they read the poems in my collections.”

* * *

Today over at Kirkus I talk to poet Paul B. Janeczko, whose newest collaboration with illustrator Chris Raschka, The Death of the Hat: A Brief History of Poetry in 50 Objects, marks his 50th book.

That link is here.

Until tomorrow …


Photo of Janeczko used by permission of Candlewick Press.

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3. Bob Shea and Ballet Cat Before Breakfast

Pictured above is a sketch of the stars of Bob Shea’s new early reader series, Ballet Cat. That’s Ballet Cat herself and her best friend, Sparkle Pony.

Ballet Cat: The Totally Secret Secret (Disney-Hyperion) hits shelves early next month. Shea, one of the funniest authors in the field today, captures well the dynamics of play when one friend is a bit more domineering than the other. (I relate all too well. When I was little, it was Daring Donna across the street, who’d try to get me to leap from the playground swing and grab on to the pole on the other side of the swingset.) All’s well that ends well with these two best friends, but things are tenuous for a while there while Sparkle Pony admits that he isn’t fond of ballet, the one thing that Ballet Cat enjoys the most. The text is minimal; the illustrations, uncluttered; the humor, distinctive; and the comic timing, spot-on. Shea captures expressive body language in both characters with simple and bold lines, and he plays with font size to add humor and meaning.

Bob is here today to share some images from the original Ballet Cat pitch (it’s remarkable, as you can see below, how much the story was pared down for what readers hold in their hands), some early sketches, and some final art. We also talk a bit below about the very funny Dinosaur Vs. Mommy (also Disney-Hyperion), which was released last month.

I thank him for visiting.


Jules: Please tell me this is going to be a series. It’s going to be a series, right?

I just read the back cover, which says, indeed, it’ll be a series, so now my question is: When will the next one be out?


Final art
(Click each spread to enlarge)


Bob: It is going to be a series. My publisher mentioned something about at least twenty titles.

Or was it two to start and we’ll see how it goes?

Yes, two.


From the first pitch of Ballet Cat
(Click each to enlarge)


The second book is out next February. Leap, Butter Bear, Leap! is about a reluctant Ballerina Bear who refuses to do the super-high leaps that make ballet so much fun. After a lot of stalling, Ballet Cat finds the real problem and sorts it out with the power of ballet.

It’s been a big hit at school visits.

Jules: Isn’t this your first early reader series (officially)? You did illustrate one by Charise Mericle Harper, yes? Any challenges in going from picture books to the controlled vocabulary of “early readers”?

Bob: I did illustrate a series called Wedgieman for Charise Mericle Harper, but this is my first solo outing.

You know, you really get a lot more latitude with the language in picture books, but it’s a different animal. I don’t think of it as a picture book with more pages. It’s a moment these characters are sharing. The focus is on the characters, their personalities, and the way the interaction plays out. So the whole 48-page book can take place over the course of a ten-minute conversation. There’s more of an opportunity to let a joke play out and make the best use of the timings and beats of the story.

As far as the simpler language goes, that’s not really a problem. Not for me anyway. I write something kid-friendly like, “My goodness, Ballet Cat. Those resplendent pearls give you an air of gravitas! Let’s use calculus to determine the speed and change of your leaps at various intervals! What a conundrum!” said Differential Dog.

My editor, Steph Lurie, will make a suggestion like, “My goodness, Ballet Cat. Your pearls are very nice. I wonder how high you leap?” said Math Dog.

So that helps.

More from the first pitch of Ballet Cat
(Click each to enlarge)


Jules: I love how Goat appears in Dinosaur Vs. Mommy. How’s Goat doin’? Is he still ridding the world of crime with acts of cloven justice? Will we see him and maybe even Unicorn in future books? Can we humans get some Goat PJs, too?

Bob: Goat is doing well, thanks.

I’m working on some more Goat and Unicorn stories now. I’d love to exploit the popularity of the first book and crank out a second-rate sequel in a bald-faced cash grab, but the aforementioned editor, Steph Lurie, has this idea stuck in her head about making something “good.”

I don’t think she understands how bad I want—no, NEED—a new camera.

The popularity of Unicorn Thinks he’s Pretty Great really took me by surprise. Not to put too fine a point on it, but I handed in the final art and thought, “Well, that career tangent was fun, back to graphic design.” I underestimated how many people have a unicorn in their lives and could relate to the story.

There are no plans for Goat PJs at this time.

Jules: This may be my favorite Dinosaur Vs. book yet. Do you have a bunch of Dinosaur Vs. rejected book ideas, by chance?

Also, this is not a question, but I make everyone I meet in children’s lit watch this, because it makes me laugh so hard:



Bob: Thanks, Julie. You’re my favorite person yet.

I do have a bunch of rejected ideas — and piles and piles of ideas from kids. The one that stands out is Dinosaur vs. Milking a Franchise, which amounts to not much more than forty pages of me signing checks to my mortgage company and saving for my son’s college education. It got pretty far into the acquisition process, but ultimately they went with Dinosaur vs. Mommy.

It’s difficult for authors when publishers insist on making things that people might actually like and not phony-baloney things that have no value beyond my personal amusement.



Jules: What’s next for you?

Bob: Currently, I’m working on a book for Hyperion, called The Scariest Book Ever, which teaches kids about hyperbole and disappointment.

I’m also working on an early graphic novel and a chapter book. Neither book is sold. I’m just mentioning it to jinx myself and never actually finish.

I’m trying to find excuses to work with some of my kid-lit chums, like Zach Ohora and Drew Daywalt. We’ll probably get something going after they get back from vacation or wherever they went. They haven’t returned my calls, emails, DMs, texts, and hand-written letters on personalized stationary, since I mentioned the word collaboration.

* * *

Thanks again to Bob for visiting. I hope his friends return his calls.

Here are some early sketches from Ballet Cat.


* * * * * * *

BALLET CAT: THE TOTALLY SECRET SECRET. Copyright © 2015 by Bob Shea. Published by Disney-Hyperion, New York. All images here reproduced by permission of Bob Shea.

4 Comments on Bob Shea and Ballet Cat Before Breakfast, last added: 4/14/2015
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4. 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #427: Featuring Barney Saltzberg

(Click to enlarge)


I’ve got a review over at BookPage of Barney Saltzberg’s Inside This Book (are three books), released by Abrams Appleseed this month. That is over here if you’d like to read about the book, and here at 7-Imp today I share a bit of art from the book.

(Click to enlarge)


INSIDE THIS BOOK (ARE THREE BOOKS). Copyright © 2015 by Barney Saltzberg. All images here reproduced by permission of the publisher, Abrams Appleseed, New York.

* * *

Note for any new readers: 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks is a weekly meeting ground for taking some time to reflect on Seven(ish) Exceptionally Fabulous, Beautiful, Interesting, Hilarious, or Otherwise Positive Noteworthy Things from the past week, whether book-related or not, that happened to you. New kickers are always welcome.

* * * Jules’ Kicks * * *

1) I traveled again this week, this time for work. And the best kick of all is that, since I was in her neck of the woods, I got to meet up with the kicker you all know and love so well, Moira Swiatkowski. I’m so glad she was willing to travel to Boston to meet me.

2) In fact, we ended up meeting up at Boston’s Kidlit Drink Night, where I got to meet a lot of nice people — and I got to see one of the editors at Candlewick who worked on Wild Things!

3) It was lovely to see my co-workers in Concord, Mass. We all work virtually from our respective homes, so to see all of them in person once a year is always fun.

4) It was even better to come home to my family.

5) Though it was cold and sleeting in Boston, it’s most definitely Spring in Tennessee.

6) NPR has a First Listen for both Villagers’ new CD, as well as Lowland Hum’s.

7) Have I mentioned how brilliant Laura Marling’s new CD is? (I may very well have. If I’m being redundant, sorry! Big fan here.) One of her best (and most accessible) yet.



What are YOUR kicks this week?

7 Comments on 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #427: Featuring Barney Saltzberg, last added: 4/12/2015
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5. What I’m Doing at Kirkus This Week,Plus What I Did Last Week,Featuring Marianne Dubuc and Gillian Tyler

– Spread from Michael Rosen’s The Bus Is for Us!,
illustrated by Gillian Tyler

(Click to enlarge)


“This is the first time I’m taking the bus by myself.”
– Spread from Marianne Dubuc’s
The Bus Ride
(Click to enlarge)


This morning over at Kirkus, I write about Eve Bunting’s Yard Sale, illustrated by Lauren Castillo. That will be here soon.

* * *

Since I wrote here last week about Michael Rosen’s The Bus Is for Us! (Candlewick, April 2014), illustrated by Gillian Tyler, as well as Marianne Dubuc’s The Bus Ride (Kids Can Press, March 2015), I’ve got art from each book today.



Art from The Bus Is for Us!:


(Click to enlarge)



Art from The Bus Ride:


“‘Oh! What pretty flowers! Thank you very much, Miss.'”
(Click to enlarge)


“Luckily, Mom packed two cookies.”
(Click to enlarge)


“Yikes! I can’t see a thing!”
(Click to enlarge)



* * * * * * *

THE BUS IS FOR US. Text copyright © 2015 by Michael Rosen. Illustrations copyright © 2015 by Gillian Tyler. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA on behalf of Walker Books, London.

BUS RIDE. Copyright © 2014 by Marianne Dubuc. English translation © 2015 by Kids Can Press, Tonawanda, NY. Spreads reproduced by permission of the publisher.

1 Comments on What I’m Doing at Kirkus This Week,Plus What I Did Last Week,Featuring Marianne Dubuc and Gillian Tyler, last added: 4/13/2015
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6. Sketches & Art from Rafael López and Renée Kurilla

“… time for a big, floppy / green-leaf umbrella …”
– From Margarita Engle’s
illustrated by Renée Kurilla


“At carnivals, she listened / to the rattling beat / of towering / dancers / on stilts.”
– From Margarita Engle’s
Drum Dream Girl,
illustrated by Rafael López

(Click to enlarge)


Last week over at Kirkus, I talked here with Margarita Engle and Rafael López about Drum Dream Girl: How One Girl’s Courage Changed Music (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, March 2015). Today, I’m following up with some early sketches and final art from Rafael.

And since Margarita also saw the release last month of Orangutanka: A Story in Poems (Henry Holt), illustrated by Renée Kurilla, I’ve got some sketches and art from Renée as well. Tanka is an ancient Japanese poetry, consisting of five lines, and in this entertaining picture book, Margarita tells the story of an orangutan who refuses to nap. A great choice for National Poetry Month (this month) and an excellent writing prompt for children, Kirkus calls it a “playful and instructive introduction to a little-known form of verse,” and School Library Journal describes it as a “sprightly introduction to orangutans through nimble wordplay.” Renée’s spirited illustrations, rendered via pencil and ink and colored digitally, are alive with movement and color.

Enjoy the art!


Art & sketches from Drum Dream Girl:


Early cover sketches
(Click each to enlarge)


“On an island of music / in a city of drumbeats /
the drum dream girl / dreamed …”

(Click to enlarge)


Early sketch
(Click to enlarge)


“But everyone / on the island of music / in the city of drumbeats /
believed that only boys / should play drums …”

(Click to enlarge)


” … so the drum dream girl / had to keep dreaming / quiet/
secret / drumbeat / dreams.”

(Click each to enlarge)


Early sketch
(Click to enlarge)


“When she walked under / wind-wavy palm trees / in a flower-bright park / she heard the whir of parrot wings / the clack of woodpecker beaks / the dancing tap /
of her own footsteps / and the comforting pat / of her own heartbeat.”

(Click to enlarge)


“At home, her fingertips / rolled out their own /
dreamy drum rhythm / on tables and chairs …”

(Click to enlarge)


“… the brave drum dream girl / dared to play / tall conga drums /
bongó drums / and big, round, silvery / moon-bright timbales.”
(Click to enlarge)


“… but their father said only boys / should play drums.”
(Click to enlarge)


“So the drum dream girl / had to keep dreaming / and drumming / alone …”
(Click to enlarge)


Early sketch
(Click to enlarge)


(Click to enlarge)


(Click to enlarge)



Art & sketches from Orangutanka:


Title page art
(Click each to enlarge)


“papa / is too massive / for treetops—
his great weight makes/ low branches waltz slowly”

(Click each to enlarge)


(Click each to enlarge)


“riding happily / on mama’s soft, furry back / curious baby /
watches the dazzling fruit feast / and discovers butterflies”

(Click each to enlarge)



“safe in a treetop / with brave, gentle old grandma /
sister has a chance / to glance down at the children /
who dance like orangutans!”

(Click each to enlarge)


(Click each to enlarge)



* * * * * * *

DRUM DREAM GIRL. Copyright © 2015 by Margarita Engle. Illustrations copyright © 2015 by Rafael López. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Boston. Images here reproduced by permission of Rafael López.

ORANGUTANKA. Copyright © 2015 by Margarita Engle. Illustrations copyright © 2015 by Renée Kurilla. Published by Henry Holt and Company, New York. Images here reproduced by permission of Renée Kurilla.

4 Comments on Sketches & Art from Rafael López and Renée Kurilla, last added: 4/10/2015
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7. Won’t You Come Join the Discussion?


On April 15, Parnassus Books here in Nashville will host a roundtable discussion on early literacy at Ensworth School. As you can see from the image above, I’ll be participating in the discussion with author Rosemary Wells, as well as teacher and Calling Caldecott blogger Robin Smith and librarian Sarah Martin. Executive Director of Book’em, Melissa Spradlin, will moderate the discussion.

Here are all the details you need, if you’re interested in attending!

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8. 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #426: Featuring The Mad Hatter


I’m typing this on Saturday night, and we’ve just returned from a week-long vacation to New York City. I’m pretty worn out, and since I took (most of) the week off from blogging, I’ve got no art today. Since I can’t NOT have images, though, here’s a photo of me and my girls at the Alice statue in Central Park. I figured that was mighty fitting, given the banner at this blog, though I apologize that he’s in the shadows a bit here.

So, my kicks from the week are legion: Being able to take a vacation to begin with; Central Park; Times Square; Lady Liberty (I have this weird phobia of giant iconic monuments, but she was far away enough on the ferry to not frighten me with her ginormous-ness); a Broadway show; a little girl who was sick for just one day (not a kick that she was sick, but it’s a kick that she wasn’t sick for multiple days); the graciousness of Brian Floca, Sophie Blackall, Edward Hemingway, and John Bemelmans Marciano in allowing us to visit their studio; seeing an old friend; the Met; the planetarium; the library lions; and much more. The biggest kick of all is that it was my girls’ first time to NYC.

Oh, and I ended up in a segment (as in, made an utter fool of myself, but hey, why not?) on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon as my family and I walked past 30 Rock. Given that I’m a huge SNL fan, it was neat to be one degree removed (or however that works) from Fallon, though my secret wish to see SNL’s Kyle Mooney on the streets, filming one of his bizarre short videos, was left unfulfilled. Oh, and I brushed past Kate McKinnon in 30 Rock. WHY DIDN’T I ASK FOR A PHOTO? Oof.

Good to be home, too.

What are YOUR kicks this week?

10 Comments on 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #426: Featuring The Mad Hatter, last added: 4/6/2015
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9. What I’m Doing at Kirkus This Week,Plus What I Did Last Week,Featuring Holly Clifton-Brown and Laura Cornell

– From Miriam B. Schiffer’s Stella Brings the Family,
illustrated by Holly Clifton-Brown


“Heather also has two mommies: Mama Jane and Mama Kate.”
From Lesléa Newman’s Heather Has Two Mommies,
illustrated by Laura Cornell

(Click to enlarge spread)


Today over at Kirkus, I’ve got two new and quite wonderful picture books — both about bus rides. They are totally worth the ticket. (I can’t resist that weak pun. Forgive me.)

That link is here.

* * *

Last week, I wrote here about the birthday edition of Lesléa Newman’s Heather Has Two Mommies (Candlewick, March 2015), illustrated by Laura Cornell, as well as Miriam B. Schiffer’s Stella Brings the Family, with art from British illustrator Holly Clifton-Brown and coming in May from Chronicle Books. So, today I have some spreads from each book.



“Stella dashed to her cubby and raced to her spot.
Mrs. Abbott had a surprise for the class!”

(Click to see spread in its entirety)


“‘We’re going to have a celebration for Mother’s Day,’ she said …”
(Click second image to see spread in its entirety)


“… Stella worked harder than everyone.”
(Click second image to see spread in its entirety)


“The big day arrived! …”
(Click to enlarge)



* * *


“One day, Mama Kate and Mama Jane tell Heather that they have a surprise for her. …”
(Click to enlarge spread)



(Original cover)


* * * * * * *

HEATHER HAS TWO MOMMIES. Text copyright © 1989, 2000, 2009, 2015 by Leslea Newman. Illustrations copyright © 2015 by Laura Cornell. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.

STELLA BRINGS THE FAMILY. Copyright © 2015 by Miriam B. Schiffer. Illustrations copyright © 2015 by Holly Clifton-Brown. Illustrations reproduced by permission of the publisher, Chronicle Books, San Francisco.

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10. Margarita Engle and Rafael López on Drum Dream Girl

Today over at Kirkus, I talk with award-winning author and illustrator duo, Margarita Engle and Rafael López, pictured above, who have collaborated on a beautiful new picture book biography, called Drum Dream Girl (Houghton Mifflin, March 2015). Oh my, it’s gorgeous.

That Q&A is here, and I will have some art and early sketches from it next week here at 7-Imp.

p.s. My 2011 “breakfast” interview with Rafael is one of my favorites.

* * * * * * *

Photos of Ms. Engle and Mr. López used by their permission.

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11. 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #425: FeaturingUp-and-Coming Illustrator, Haejin Park


On the first Sunday of each month, I like to feature student or debut illustrators, but I’m doing things a bit early right now. I’m taking a tiny bit of a blog break this week, and since this means I will be posting on only a couple of days and also traveling, it would be harder to feature a student next Sunday. So, today it is.

Her name is Haejin Park, and she’s very close to graduating in Illustration at RISD. She talks about her work below, and she shares some art as well. (Most, but not all of it, is in watercolors.)

I thank her for visiting.

* * *

Hello! I am a senior, studying Illustration at Rhode Island School of Design. I am graduating in two months, and I am hoping to become a children’s book illustrator.

My favorite medium is watercolor, and I can say it will be for my life. It requires an attention and patience, but I love the special texture it makes. My first art teacher was a watercolor artist, so I remember exploring with it a lot when I was young. Also, I recently started using crayons, color pencils, and markers to create different marks.



Colors and patterns are important things that motivate me to keep working. My work is very colorful and happy, and I want the audience to feel cheerful and delightful by looking at my work. I like to draw people and objects in a whimsical way that belong in my illustration world.

I grew up with my grandparents in a suburban area in South Korea, because my parents were both working. I didn’t get a lot of chances to read or write as a child — but grew up hearing a lot of folk tales and stories from older people in the town.



Because of my background, the books and stories I grew up with are very different than American students. I try to read and study children’s books, and one of my favorite place to do that is the children’s book section in Athenaeum Library in Providence.

Surprisingly, I also enjoy writing children’s books, and I have lots of stories to tell. Most of my work is story-based, and I think they all come up from my personal experiences. I try to go out and also explore a lot of things to get inspired.



Right now, I love going to school, and I am enjoying my precious time at RISD.

My plan is to move to New York City and find an opportunity and talk to art directors for illustration and publishing. It is a bit scary to me right now, but I really feel passionate about my illustrations and style. One day, I want to be a full-time freelance illustrator, busy with multiple projects.



[Pictured below are some peeks into Haejin’s sketchbooks.]


(Click to enlarge)


(Click to enlarge)


(Click to enlarge)



All artwork here is used by permission of Haejin Park.

* * *

Note for any new readers: 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks is a weekly meeting ground for taking some time to reflect on Seven(ish) Exceptionally Fabulous, Beautiful, Interesting, Hilarious, or Otherwise Positive Noteworthy Things from the past week, whether book-related or not, that happened to you. New kickers are always welcome.

* * * Jules’ Kicks * * *

I am getting ready to travel and take a bit of a break tomorrow, which means I have some packing to do — and some work to do in advance of my trip. For that reason, I’ll keep it short today. (My suitcase is givin’ me the ol’ skunk eye.) I’ll have to tell you about my trip when I return!

What are YOUR kicks this week?

10 Comments on 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #425: FeaturingUp-and-Coming Illustrator, Haejin Park, last added: 3/29/2015
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12. What I’m Doing at Kirkus This Week,Plus What I Did Last Week, Featuring Sibylle Delacroix

“Jenny is feeling out of sorts, but she doesn’t want to talk about it.
She just wants to be loved.”

(Click image to see spread in its entirety)


This morning at Kirkus, I weight in on the anniversary edition of Heather Has Two Mommies, as well as a couple of Heather’s descendants. That link will be here soon.

* * *

Last week I wrote here about an import originally published in Quebec in 2013, Sibylle Delacroix’s Prickly Jenny (Owlkids Books, March 2015), so today I’m following up with some art from the book.


“There’s nothing but ice cream for dessert,
and Jenny says she wants nothing to do with it.”

(Click image to see spread in its entirety)


“Wait … Is that a smile, Jenny?”
(Click image to see spread in its entirety)


“Jenny doesn’t know what she wants today.
But tomorrow, when she’s bigger, it will get better.”

(Click image to see spread in its entirety)



* * * * * * *

PRICKLY JENNY. Copyright © 2013 Bayard éditions. Published in North America in 2015 by Owlkids Books Inc. Illustrations reproduced by permission of the publisher.

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13. Jay Hosler and Sentient Beetles Before Breakfast

Here’s a book I’ve been wanting to blog about for a while, Jay Hosler’s Last of the Sandwalkers (First Second, April 2015). If you haven’t seen an early copy of this book, you’re in for a treat, especially if you love science and/or graphic novels. That’s because it’s a graphic novel created by a biology professor/entomologist and cartoonist, and it tells the story of Lucy, a beetle (a “sandwalker”), who loves to explore and investigate. She lives in a community of beetles, which includes a group of elders who harbor a secret about the world beyond the palm tree in the desert where they live. Lucy, who puts the spunk in spunky, heads out into the wild world to discover its secrets, even breaking the rules to do so — and learns that beetles aren’t the only creatures in the world.

This is an entertaining story that packs in a lot of science — but also much more. As the Publishers Weekly review notes, Hosler “mingles themes of family, forgiveness, and freedom of ideas, and even manages to make big-eyed, mandibled crawlers emotive without getting too cartoony.” There’s a lot of adventure packed into this graphic novel.

First Second invited Jay, pictured above, to visit a small handful of blogs and share, at each one, an original drawing, as well as beetle facts. An original drawing. I just couldn’t say no, given that 7-Imp is, for all intents and purposes, an art blog. And I’m happy to post about the book, given it’ll be a big hit, in particular, with children who love to read about science (but not limited to just them, by any means). Pictured above is the Bark Beetle. They’re characters in the book, but below are all kinds of fun facts about them, straight from Jay:

Character Name: The Bark Beetle Gang
Species: Dendroctonus ponderosae
Length: 5 mm
Color: Black
Habitat: Pine forests
Superpower: Giant killer

Imagine a bowl of rice attacking a big, mature ponderosa pine tree and killing it. That would be pretty impressive for a bowl of rice. Now imagine that this was an outbreak of killer rice and the little buggers went on to destroy 70,000 square miles of pine forests. This is precisely what is happening in the western United Stets and Canada, except the culprit isn’t rice, but rice grain-sized bark beetles.

Now, to be fair, despite the devastation, these little beetles aren’t mustache-twirling villains. They’re actually a normal part of a healthy pine forest ecosystem. Bark beetles live on and in pine trees. They lay their eggs under the bark and consume both living and dead tissue in the trees. The trees fight back by secreting toxins or resin to kill the beetles, but bark beetles typically only attack weak or dying trees that can’t put up much of a fight. Consequently, bark beetles play an important role in removing older, less healthy trees form a forest and making it easier for younger, stronger trees to take their place. Unfortunately, this delicate balance has recently been upset, and there has been a massive outbreak of bark beetles that has overwhelmed healthy, as well as more susceptible, trees. The result is a devastating loss of forest. There are number of possible reasons for this outbreak, but climate change seems to be playing a significant role.

Over the last several years, rising warming global temperatures have made summers drier and winters milder in the western U.S. and Canada. These changes have a cascading effect. Drier summers and an increasing number of droughts have weakened more pine trees and made them susceptible to attack by bark beetles. In addition, milder winters have allowed the bark beetle to reproduce more frequently and spread into new forests full of trees that have not evolved defenses against their attacks. As a result, bark beetles are on the most wanted list of insect pests and are only one of two beetle species to have their genome sequence. The hope is that the more scientists know about their behavior and genetics, the more likely they will be to find a means of controlling the outbreak.

In Last of the Sandwalker, our intrepid band of beetle scientists meets an insipid band of bark beetles during their first foray into the wild. These little pests make a nuisance of themselves, but our heroes soon learn that their bark is much worse than their bite.

Many thanks to Jay for the drawing. If you want to see even more from the book, here’s the list of blogs he’ll be visiting in the next couple of weeks.

* * * * * * *

The Bark Beetle drawing is copyright © 2015 Jay Hosler.

Photo of Jay taken by Lisa Hosler and used by his permission.

4 Comments on Jay Hosler and Sentient Beetles Before Breakfast, last added: 3/25/2015
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14. Oksana Lushchevska: An International Collaboration

What a treat I have for readers today, especially those of you who, like me, enjoy following international picture books. In fact, next week is the Bologna Children’s Book Fair in Italy (how I wish I were going!), so the timing of this post is particularly good.

Today, I welcome Oksana Lushchevska, a PhD student in Reading, Writing, Children’s Literature, and Digital Literacy in the Department of Language and Literacy Education at The University of Georgia. She is contributing a guest post on contemporary Ukrainian children’s literature. Oksana’s doctoral research is focused on international children’s literature, and she also translates picture books from Ukraine into the English language, some of which have been awarded the Bologna Ragazzi Award. She also works with a private publishing house in Ukraine, creating bilingual picture books for children.

Oksana reached out to me to see if she could write here at 7-Imp about Ukrainian picture books. “I strongly believe that contemporary Ukrainian children’s literature might be of interest in the U. S.,” she told me, “especially bilingual picturebooks and award-winning translations.”

I was so pleased she contacted me; I’m glad to have met her, if only online; and I am grateful she is contributing this post today, especially since it’s filled with art. She calls this piece “Contemporary Ukrainian Children’s Picturebooks: Why Shouldn’t We Welcome Them?” Let’s get right to it …

* * *

Oksana: First of all, I am very thankful to Jules for this wonderful opportunity to introduce contemporary Ukrainian picturebooks on her marvelous blog, which I’ve been following for quite a while. To briefly introduce myself, I’d say that I can surely call myself a children’s literature enthusiast, and my involvement in children’s literature is multifold. I must admit that all my activities often divide my daily routines into two parts: my “Ukrainian” phase of the day and my “American” phase of the day (because of the seven-hour time difference). It is sometimes really challenging, but is also very interesting!

I am currently a third-year PhD student at the University of Georgia, researching and studying U.S. and international children’s literature. Together with my academic advisor, Dr. Jennifer Graff, I am serving as a columnist for the “How Does That Translate” column. Additionally, I regularly contribute to the IBBY European Newsletter, which focuses on contemporary Ukrainian children’s literature. From time to time, I am doing children’s book reviews for Bookbird, WOW, JoLLE, the WGRCLC Blog, and several Ukrainian literary websites.

Three years ago, my friend Valentyna Vzdulska, a Ukrainian children’s book author, and I co-established Kazkarka, a blog about children’s literature written in the Ukrainian language. A year ago, I initiated a Kickstarter project, A Step Ahead: Becoming Global with Bilingual Ukrainian-English Picturebooks, and I cherish the incomparable experience that I am gaining from it!

In my spare time, I write my own children’s books in the Ukrainian language and translate contemporary Ukrainian children’s literature into English. Also, from time to time, I work on interviews with international children’s book writers.

In this post, I would like to present five contemporary Ukrainian picturebooks. These books might effectively foster global awareness and visual literacy, broaden cultural horizons, and provide social messages with “a high degree of cultural authenticity” (Markus, 2010, p. 50). They might also serve as a set of quality titles to start communication about similarities and differences between cultures via both vibrant verbal and visual narratives.

Perhaps, the strongest picturebook that features the Ukrainian landscape is A Tale about an Old Lion, written by a popular Ukrainian poet, Marjana Savka, and illustrated by Volodymyr Shtanko. A Tale about an Old Lion is a “postcard” of the “cultural” capital of Ukraine — the city of Lviv. The main character of this book is an Old Lion who settles on a mansard of the City Hall, which is home to the City Council and is one of the most cherished symbols in Lviv. From his perch there, the Lion admires picturesque views of the Old City. Since the weather is often rainy in Lviv, the Old Lion’s ceiling starts to leak. He needs immediate assistance with its major repairs and maintenance. His friends—a Crocodile, Elephant, and Giraffe—come to Lviv to help. On their way, the guests get into a number of misfortunes and turbulences, but in the end, the Mayor of the city welcomes all of them and invites them to enjoy Lviv. The story’s ending offers a verbal invitation to tourists all over the world to come to Lviv and see with their own eyes the welcoming atmosphere of an ancient city:

Tell me, have you still not heard of the city of Lviv?
Hurry right now to book hundreds of tickets indeed.
Invite all your relatives and closest friends,
Come to Lviv soon, come to our land!
This is a city where you’re bound to be lucky,
Poets and singers think it’s just ducky!
There are squares, and cobblestones, shiny tram tracks,
And on the oldest mansard, the Lion still lives,
He drinks some tea and smokes a pipe,
And books for children he happily writes!

A Tale about an Old Lion offers not only vivid views of the city and the layouts of its famous landscapes, but also warm colors in the illustrations, brown and yellow, that depict a unique authentic state of both the old and contemporary Lviv. Since the city is often known as “the city of coffee” with its numerous coffee houses and pastry shops, this particular color palette is the best choice to recreate the aroma of the city.

(Click each image to enlarge)

A Tale about an Old Lion was published in Lviv in 2011 by the Old Lion Publishing House. The book was awarded the Best Book of the Year Award and was included in the White Raven Online Catalogue, 2012.

The bilingual picturebook “Монетка”/A Coin is written by Ania Chromova and illustrated by Anna Sarvira. This playful story offers the universal experiences of a child: activities during daycare and relationships with parents and friends. When Romko receives a coin from his mother, he takes it to his daycare. Unfortunately, Romko has a hole in his pocket, and he losses the coin without noticing. At first he gets upset, but not for long, since he acquires something much more valuable — a rewarding communication with his father, who helps him to understand that humor and imagination can be essential to overcoming misfortune. While A Tale about an Old Lion represents Lviv, “Монетка”/A Coin recreates some geographical and cultural must-see places in Kyiv, the official capital of Ukraine. This book provides a vibrant visual experience that moves readers through the pages of an unfolding story. Additionally, it is important to mention that this book was published as part of the project A Step Ahead: Becoming Global with Bilingual Ukrainian-English Picturebooks, which is an on-going bilingual picturebook project that provides some important possibilities for literacy practices and developing global awareness. With the emphasis on two languages, this book provides advantages to learn from/about Ukrainian children’s literature, to familiarize readers with the Ukrainian language, to use this literature in educational settings and Ukrainian immigrant communities, and to assist Ukrainian readers in learning the English language. It also contributes to the body of bilingual picturebooks that offer a joyful reading experience.

… “‘It looks like a dried apricot!’ said Romko. ‘It also clanks.
Mommy, may I take it to the daycare?'”

(Click to enlarge spread)


… “‘It’s not magical, daddy. It’s not magical!
It’s holey!’ Romko grew angry. …”

(Click to enlarge spread)


“‘I can put the Earth in it. Or, the entire Ukraine. Together with the Dnipro River!'” …
(Click to enlarge spread)


Another book that was published through this project is a picturebook Скільки?/How many?, a poem written by Halyna Kyrpa and illustrated by Olha Havrylova.


(Click to enlarge cover)


The text of this poem raises many philosophical questions and might stimulate deep critical thinking:

Скільки у сонця промінчиків? / How many rays does the sun have?
А скільки хмарок у небі? / And how many clouds are in the sky?
А скільки піщинок на березі річки? / How many grains of sand are there on a riverbank?
А скільки хвиль у Дніпра? / And how many waves are in the Dnipro River?


“How many rays does the sun have?”
(Click to enlarge spread)


“And how many clouds are in the sky?”
(Click to enlarge spread)


“And how many waves are in the Dnipro River?”
(Click to enlarge spread)


Both “Монетка”/A Coin and Скільки?/How Many? were published in Kyiv in 2014 and 2015 by Bratske Publishers. Скільки?/How Many? is recommended by the Ukrainian “Critic’s Rating.”

A traditional Ukrainian folk tale, The Mitten, designed by Art Studio Agrafka (Andriy Lesiv and Romana Romanyshyn), is—to put it in Martin Salisbury and Morag Styles’ words (2012)—“‘the unique art’ of picturebooks” (p. 50). The story about a mitten is primarily known in the U.S. due to Jan Brett’s version.

A Ukrainian version of The Mitten was retold and recorded in the 19th century. It is a cumulative folktale that tells the story of how an old man loses his mitten in the forest and how a number of animals try to fit in it. Lesiv and Romanyshyn’s The Mitten not only has full-color illustrations, but also represents the meaningful and thoughtful process of creating a book as a cultural artifact. The designers masterfully reinterpret the traditional story and offer an adorable example of synthesis between text and image. Page by page, they demonstrate a number of design variations to introduce the artistic merits of contemporary Ukrainian illustrators and the printing technology available in Ukraine. The Mitten can generate a broad and “an effective cultural message” (Marcus, 2010, p. 49), while revealing a new version of a well-known folktale for English-speaking communities.


(Click each image to enlarge)


This picturebook was published by the Navchal’na Knyha – Bohdan Publishing House. It was included in the White Raven Catalogue, 2013 and was given an award by Biennial of Illustration Bratislava (BIB).


Another picturebook by Romana Romanyshyn and Andriv Lesiv, Stars and Poppy Seeds, narrates the story of a young girl, Dora, who is interested in mathematics. She is the daughter of well-known mathematicians, and she inherits her parents’ enthusiasm for figures and numbers. Dora counts everything around her: real and imagined animals, grains of rice, beads on her mother’s necklace, stars in the sky, and even poppy seeds. Figures are always in her head. While admiring the Milky Way, Dora plans to count all the particles of stardust. However, she finds this task to be impossible. Dora is upset, but her mother explains that to achieve any dream, one needs to handle challenging tasks by accomplishing small steps. Romanyshyn and Lesiv’s illustrations of mathematical, geometrical, and astronomical features connect readers with science, while emphasizing the humanities as well. Stars and Poppy Seeds was awarded the Bologna Ragazzi Award 2014 in the category of Opera Prima. It is translated into four languages (French, Korean, Spanish, and English). It was published in 2014 by the Old Lion Publishing House.


“Dora strove to count everything around her. …”
(Click to enlarge spread)


“During a walk in the park, Dora counted the leaves, dandelions, stones,
ants moving every which way, the buttons on coats of passersby,
and even the holes in those buttons.”

(Click to enlarge spread)


“… Looking at the Milky Way, Dora imagined the stardust and
strove to count each of its particles.”

(Click to enlarge spread)


In a nutshell, these are five selected Ukrainian picturebooks that I wanted to share with enthusiasts of children’s literature, but there are many, many others! Additionally, I want to say that the English translations of the texts of these picturebooks are available. Starting in the summer of 2013, I co-translated these picturebooks, together with Michael M. Naydan, a professor at Pennsylvania State University, and cherish a wish that one day these books will be published in the U.S. and reach U.S. readers.

In her article “Where Worlds Meet,” Maria Machado (2011) reinterprets the possibility of building and extending an understanding of humankind by touching on the marvelous diversity between cultures (p. 397). She believes that representing the art of literature created all over the world will provide opportunities to cross borders, to meet neighbors, to get to know different people, and to see a variety of landscapes. Moreover, it will offer the possibility of fueling readers with unknown languages and authentic reflections of their otherness. Machado raises the question: “… why not meet otherness through what otherness creates?” (p. 398). Indeed, I believe that the best way to represent the rich experiences of voices from many countries is to translate and read what is created and written in them. In this scope, contemporary picturebooks for children from Ukraine not only represent creative approaches and perspectives of Ukrainian authors and artists, but invite readers to enjoy many exciting literary journeys. Today, Ukrainian children’s literature strives to claim its place on the international stage, so why shouldn’t we welcome it?


  • Khromova, A. (2015). “Монетка”/A coin. Kyiv, Ukraine: Bratske Publishers.
  • Kyrpa, H. (2014). Скільки?/How many? Kyiv, Ukraine: Bratske Publishers.
  • Machado, A.M. (2010). “Where worlds meet.” In Shelby Wolf et al. (Eds.), Handbook of research on children’s and young adult literature (pp. 397-403). New York, NY: Routledge.
  • Marcus, L. S. (2010). “Outside over where?: Foreign picture books and the dream of global awareness.” The Horn Book, 86(6), 45.
  • Romanyshyn, R., & Lesiv, A. (2012). The mitten. Ternopil, Ukraine: Navchal’na Knyha – Bohdan.
  • Romanyshyn, R., & Lesiv, A. (2014) Stars and poppy seeds. Lviv, Ukraine: Old Lion Publishing House.
  • Savka, M. (2011). A tale of old lion. Lviv, Ukraine: Old Lion Publishing House.

2 Comments on Oksana Lushchevska: An International Collaboration, last added: 3/24/2015
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15. 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #424: Featuring C. G. Esperanza

“With her trunk she grabbed a brush and joined my little game.”


This morning at 7-Imp, I welcome artist C. G. Esperanza (Charles, pictured right), whose newest book is from Sky Pony Press. Red, Yellow, Blue (And a Dash of White, Too!), a promising author-illustrator debut, was released this month. Charles has previously illustrated Tania Grossinger’s Jackie and Me: A Very Special Friendship (Sky Pony Press, 2013), a story that is partly about famed baseball player Jackie Robinson, and he lives in the South Bronx. He tells me and 7-Imp readers more about himself below, and we get to take a look at some more art from Red, Yellow, Blue (And a Dash of White, Too!), as well as some early sketches from the book and a few of his other portfolio pieces.

I thank him for visiting.

P.S. If you want to read Charles’ thoughts on why picture books are the new Hip Hop, head over to his piece at Afropunk



Jules: Can you talk about the seeds of this story, Red, Yellow, Blue … and how the story came to you?

Charles: I actually thought of the story back in my art school days, when I realized a lot of my non-artistic friends didn’t know the primary colors and how to make secondary colors. So I decided to make a picture book about the primary colors that would be cool enough for adults to read and would perhaps inspire people to express themselves artistically. I decided to design the main character after my sister Crystal, who was seven years old at the time, after I saw her running around the house with her gigantic afro and writing her name on everything in crayon. For the first version I created in Eric Velasquez’s picture book class, I used her as a model. Since then, I’ve revised the story multiple times — and added her big blue elephant friend, Elebooyah.

(Click to see spread in its entirety)

“Like a PINK dinosaur that can bite!”
(Click to enlarge spread)

“BLOOO BLOB BLUB! This mix made a muddy GREENISH GRAY
Like an ugly mud monster!
GRAAAAH is all he could say.”
(Click to enlarge spread)

Jules: You live in the South Bronx, yes? How do you think the Bronx has influenced your work, if at all?

Charles: I do live in the South Bronx. So does most of my family. For a long time I was ashamed of being from there. I didn’t learn to appreciate it till I met people in college from around the world, who had never been there before and were fascinated that I was from there. I became more interested in the history of these neighborhoods. They were once filled with beautiful mansions owned by the famous Tiffany heirs — and meadows that were demolished, burned, vandalized, and now rebuilt. I couldn’t help but let it all inspire me! My art is influenced by the hand-painted Bodega signs; the beautiful, vintage, abandoned architecture covered with colorful burners; the colorful bottles that sit on top of the old Puerto Rican dude’s Piragua cart; and all of the other untold stories waiting to be told.

Early sketches from Red, Yellow, Blue …
(Click each to enlarge)


Early cover
(Click to enlarge)

Jules: Who are some artists/illustrators who inspire you?

Charles: Jerry Pinkney’s amazing drawings full of imagination and color; Kadir Nelson’s stylized, powerful expression; Adam Rex’s edgy, whimsical characters; and Ezra Jack Keats’ gritty, simplistic, yet complex execution and ability to see the world through a different perspective all inspired and shaped my voice as a picture book illustrator.

Nelson Mandela, a 2012 piece from the Paint It Black series
(Click to enlarge)

Jules: What else inspires you?

Charles: There’s something inspirational about things like a dirty ice cream truck loudly playing a slightly warped, melodic tune, as children chase it down the street, or a beautifully sculpted statue, decorated with bird droppings, that really gets me going. The undiscovered beauty of something that is ugly or imperfect. I like to see the potential and emphasize its beauty.

(Click to enlarge)

Jules: Explain how you’re a “Visual Emcee,” as mentioned in the AfroPunk piece.

Charles: I once had a vision of Sam I am and Will I am eating green eggs and ham and then BAM! Hip Hop and street art were the fists of a Bronx-born spawn; with one fist the message was shouted and with the other it was drawn. Nothing Gold can stay, especially when it turns Green. So Hip Hop and Street art parted ways at the seams. Or at least that’s how it seems, until you take another look! I’ve brought Rhythmic poetry and Art back together in Picture Books!

Jules: I see at your blog that your father is West Indian and your mother is Puerto Rican. Do you think that (or they) influence your work in any way?

Charles: My parents are very Americanized, so they never really introduced me to their native cultures. But Heriberta, my grandmother who grew up in Borinquen, definitely inspires me. Her chairs are decorated with the finest wood-carved rococo designs and floral patterns on the cushions. Her wardrobe is filled with art nouveau textiles and pastel colors. She’s always loved collecting dolls and listening to Celia Cruz. She’s also very funny!

Percy Julian, a 2012 piece from the Paint It Black series
(Click to enlarge)

Jules: When did you know you wanted to illustrate picture books? What are the biggest joys of it for you? The biggest challenges?

Charles: Fortunately, I met Eric Velasquez while taking his Picture Book Illustration class. He reintroduced (or, in some cases, introduced) many of the students in his class to Jerry Pinkney’s, Shel Silverstein, David Wiesner, and E.B. Lewis. But it was after I saw Eric’s work in the book The Rain Stomper [by Addie Boswell] that I knew this was something I wanted to pursue.



The greatest joy of making picture books is making books that change people’s perspectives on what a children’s book should be. Also, being able to tell stories is great. The biggest challenge I’ve faced is trying to do things the way I want, while still pleasing my mentors, editors, peers etc. Thankfully, they all seem to love what I’ve done so far!

Jules: Any new projects you can talk about and/or anything you’re really eager to do next?

Charles: The boom bap beat in my head continues to loop, just waiting for a new rhythmic stanza that tells a story everyone can enjoy. I am having discussions with a couple of popular rappers about possibly collaborating on a fun story, using hip hop style rhymes that speak to the new generation of kids who love hip hop — and the older generation that loved Dr. Seuss and Slick Rick.

– From Tania Grossinger’s
Jackie and Me: A Very Special Friendship

(Sky Pony Press, 2013)
(Click to enlarge)

Jules: Anything else you want to add? What’d I forget to ask you?

Charles: I am very honored to contribute my voice to the amazing culture of picture books and to be talking about my work on Seven Imp! I consider this blog to be the best for discovering how awesome picture books can be. I hope to inspire everyone, especially people in the Bronx, where few are exposed to the visual arts. Also, I would love to adapt Red, Yellow, Blue (And a Dash of White, Too!) into a film. So, if Alejandro Jodorowsky or Ben Zeitlin are reading this, call me!

(Click to enlarge photo of Charles)

RED, YELLOW, BLUE (AND A DASH OF WHITE, TOO!) Copyright © 2015 by Charles George Esperanza. Published by Sky Pony Press, New York. All images here reproduced by permission of Charles.

Photos of Charles taken by Manny Sy and used by Charles’ permission.

* * *

Note for any new readers: 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks is a weekly meeting ground for taking some time to reflect on Seven(ish) Exceptionally Fabulous, Beautiful, Interesting, Hilarious, or Otherwise Positive Noteworthy Things from the past week, whether book-related or not, that happened to you. New kickers are always welcome.

* * * Jules’ Kicks * * *

1) I appreciate Charles’ kind words, and his art woke me RIGHT UP before I even had coffee.

2) Starting a project I should have started a good while ago.

3) My girls and I are reading Alice Hoffman’s Nightbird. We are enjoying it, and check out the beautiful cover art from Sophie Blackall:

4) Laura Marling’s South X lullaby at NPR.

5) Laura’s new CD is playing in its entirety here, and it’s good stuff.

6) We saw Song of the Sea on the big screen. Holy WOW, such beautiful animation.

7) We also saw What We Do in the Shadows. So funny, this movie.

What are YOUR kicks this week?

10 Comments on 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #424: Featuring C. G. Esperanza, last added: 3/22/2015
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16. What I’m Doing at Kirkus This Week, Plus What I DidLast Week, Featuring Jon Agee and Brooke Kerrigan

“There once lived three fishermen: Peter, Santiago, and Ahab. They were tough.
They were as salty as the bottom of a pretzel bag. They were as weathered as a twisted stick of driftwood. Yes, these three were fishermen through and through.
Which is not to say that they didn’t sometimes dream of things
other than fish, knotted nets, and saltwater.”
– From Colleen Sydor’s
Fishermen Through & Through,
illustrated by Brooke Kerrigan

(Click to enlarge spread)


– From Jon Agee’s It’s Only Stanley
(Click to enlarge spread)


Today over at Kirkus, I’ve got a picture book import, called Prickly Jenny. That link is here.

* * *

Last week, since I wrote (here) about Jon Agee’s It’s Only Stanley (Dial, March 2015) and Colleen Sydor’s Fishermen Through & Through, illustrated by Brooke Kerrigan (Red Deer Press, originally released in 2014), I’ve got some spreads from each book. (The spreads from Fishermen Through & Through are sans text.)



– From It’s Only Stanley
(Click to enlarge spread)



“… The white lobster stared back with equal wonder, for never in its life had it seen anything quite like these three strange creatures with neither shells nor scales.
– From

Fishermen Through & Through
(Click to enlarge spread)


“Blow me down. What were they to do?”
(Click to enlarge spread)


“… All three stood silently trying to imagine life without the sea. …”
(Click to enlarge spread)



* * * * * * *

FISHERMEN THROUGH & THROUGH. Copyright © 2014 by Colleen Sydor. Illustrations copyright © 2014 by Brooke Kerrigan. Illustrations reproduced by permission of the publisher, Red Deer Press, Ontario.

IT’S ONLY STANLEY. Copyright © 2015 by Jon Agee. Illustrations reproduced by permission of the publisher, Dial Books for Young Readers, New York.

1 Comments on What I’m Doing at Kirkus This Week, Plus What I DidLast Week, Featuring Jon Agee and Brooke Kerrigan, last added: 3/22/2015
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17. A Conversation with Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

It’s really hard for me to say where this story came from. It’s not like any of my other novels. I was researching first-person accounts of World War II and the homefront in England, and the child evacuations always interested me, but Ada herself seemed to spring out of nowhere — and then Susan, and then Jamie. I had arguments with Jamie in my dreams. This one was somehow buried in my subconscious.”

* * *

I’ll get back to picture books tomorrow, but over at Kirkus today I talk to author Kimberly Brubaker Bradley about her newest children’s novel, The War That Saved My Life.

That link is here.

Until tomorrow …


Photo of Kimberly taken by Katie Bradley and used by permission of the author.

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18. Seven Questions Over Breakfast with Benji Davies

“Almost … asleep….”
– From Jory John’s
Goodnight Already! (Harper, December 2014)
(Click to enlarge)

“… But he said they must take the whale back to the sea, where it belonged.”
– From
The Storm Whale (Henry Holt, September 2014)
(Click to enlarge)

I always open my “breakfast” illustrator interviews with art — but usually just one image. I have two images today, though, from British illustrator Benji Davies, because I couldn’t pick.

The first image is from his latest illustrated book here in the States, Jory John’s Goodnight Already!, which was released at the tail end of last year.

And that second image? It’s from The Storm Whale, which Benji both wrote and illustrated and which was released last Fall here in the U.S. (2013 in the UK). I wrote about that book here at Kirkus last year, and I couldn’t get over then what a beautiful illustration the one above, in particular, is. (That happens also to be the U.S. cover for the book.) And I still can’t get over it. Scroll back up and take a moment to enlarge that illustration and soak it in. Ah.

So that’s why I have two Benji art moments up there.

Benji—who, as you will read below, has been making picture books and board books for years now—is here for breakfast this morning. “Definitely with eggs,” he told me. “Preferably Benedict.” How’d he know I can’t start my day without eggs? Also, not without coffee. So, I’ll get that brewin’ while I get the basics from him before we chat over breakfast.

I thank him for visiting. (And if you want more, there’s Matthew Winner’s February podcast with Benji.)

* * * * * * *

Jules: Are you an illustrator or author/illustrator?

Benji: Both at once and the latter by itself.

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

Benji: All books listed as published first in UK, unless shown.

The UK cover of The Storm Whale
(Click to enlarge)

As illustrator:

As illustrator — forthcoming:

As author-illustrator:

  • The Storm Whale — Simon & Schuster – August 2013 (U.S., September ’14, Henry Holt)

As author-illustrator — forthcoming:

Jules: What is your usual medium?

Benji: Predominantly digital—Photoshop, using a Wacom—but I always sketch and do roughs in ink or pencil and sometimes incorporate that into my digital work, too.

From the sketchbook
(Click each to enlarge)

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

Benji: I have dipped into illustrating for picture, board, and chapter books.

I most enjoy illustrating my own texts, though, I think. There is a freedom to it, and I also find it the most fulfilling thing to see something that is my own creation, has only my name on the cover, on a bookshelf. Its a very proud feeling to have that achievement.

Jules: Where are your stompin’ grounds?

Benji I live in a part of northeast London in the UK, called Walthamstow.

Illustrations from Linda Sarah’s On Sudden Hill, released last year
but coming to the U.S. in Fall 2015 (Henry Holt) as
Big Friends
(Click each to enlarge)

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

Benji: I have been working in children’s illustration, making books for nearly ten years. I also spent several years simultaneously working as an animation director, creating commercials and music videos, until a couple of years ago when I got my first author commission and decided it was time to give children’s publishing my full attention.

Front endpapers from The Storm Whale
(Click to enlarge)

Title page from The Storm Whale
(Click to enlarge)

“Noi lived with his dad and six cats by the sea.”
– From
The Storm Whale
(Click to enlarge)

“Every day, Noi’s dad left early for a long day’s work on his fishing boat. …”
(Click to enlarge)

“Noi did everything he could to make the whale feel at home. …”
(Click to enlarge)

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

Benji: benjidavies.com. Also twitter.com/Benji_Davies and facebook.com/benjidaviesdraws.

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

Benji: They’re fun to do, and its great to interact with the kids and explore their imaginations. It’s amazing how unusual and interesting some of their ideas can be, and I try to encourage them, especially the ones who think their ideas are bad or that they can’t draw. They are usually the ones who don’t come up with the obvious stuff, and I like that.

“The night was drawing in and it was growing dark. Noi was worried
that his dad would be angry about having a whale in the bath.”

(Click to enlarge)

“Noi knew it was the right thing to do, but it was hard to say goodbye.
He was glad his dad was there with him.”

(Click to enlarge)

“… he would see his friend again.”
(Click to enlarge)

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

Benji: Goodnight Already! came out in the U.S. in December. I created an image for a book idea that my wife (who is not a writer but a fashion designer) came up with about a bear who couldn’t sleep. HarperCollins picked up on the image and the title I had given it but had other ideas for the words. (They weren’t so keen on the story she had written.) They got Jory John on board and asked him to write a story based on the cover image, which remains essentially as I had created in the original sample. The brilliantly funny text he wrote was a perfect fit to the characters. So it had a kind of back-to-front start in life. (My wife was fine with it, by the way!)

Benji: “[This is a] birthday card for my editor at Harper.”
(Click to enlarge)

I’ve also recently completed artworking my second self-penned title. Its called Grandad’s Island and is about a little boy, called Syd, who discovers that when he goes up into the attic, his Grandad’s house becomes an old steam ship. It is also a story about losing his Grandad. I hope that it does this in a life-affirming way and could be empowering to a small child who reads it and has to deal with a similar situation to Syd. It’s already picked up several co-editions before publication, so that’s really exciting — and I hope it makes its way to the States soon.

(Click to enlarge cover)

I also have more in the works with Harper and Jory, an extension of the Goodnight Already! book into a series, and I’ve been working with Macmillan Children’s Books in the UK with an author called Elli Woollard on a really great book called The Giant of Jum.


Its been an intense and busy time the past 18 months, and I’m looking forward to things easing up slightly towards the second half of 2015, so I can get a bit of breathing space and get down to writing and planning new projects.

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

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


: When illustrating for another author, I usually read the text a couple of times and then straight-away jot down my initial visual response — to get an immediate feel for how the book could look and feel. These seeds make it right through into the final book in one way or another. They might change a lot, some hardly at all. When I look back, I can see all the cues I created and what they led to. I often have to push myself to divert from this course or things can get too cliché, [meaning] I’m not pushing things as imaginatively as I could be. I have to look at what I’m doing and self-critique and think, where else I can take things, strengthen the concepts, or even step away and come back. I think a lot of the real work happens in these gaps, and they’re really important. Subconsciously, the brain is chipping away at a solution, but also consciously I am thinking about an image I am working on while I’m walking down the street or doing something unrelated, re-thinking the colours and the compostion — things like that. If I’m still struggling, I find at that stage it’s best to show the work to someone else — maybe my wife. She’s only a couple of rooms away in her studio, but then I’ll maybe email the book’s art director and editor, so they can shape and push things.

Sketch from The Storm Whale
(Click to enlarge)

I go from loose ideas and sketches; to a full set of thumbnails, changes and re-thumbing; then full rough work, editorial changes to these before artworking; followed by colour tweaks and additional artworking. But all my books are different, and the process fluctuates. I like it like that. It keeps things interesting. I don’t like to be formal about it. Every project takes its own course.

An unused vignette from The Storm Whale
(Click to enlarge)

When I write my own text, a lot of the process is similar, but the story comes together much more haphazardly. I might generate sketches that inform the beginning of a story or re-visit old ideas and put new life into them, taking them somewhere else. Or I might take photographs and collect visual references, make notes in the middle of the night on my phone or when I’m travelling. Theres no set way, but all these things gradually weave together and inform a story that has grown from both words and pictures. They are totally intertwined. I think of my stories as films playing in me head, and I pull ‘shots’ or beats from this mental movie and arrange them on the page.

Rug that Benji created as part of Made By Node‘s curated Fair Trade project;
see more information here

(Click to enlarge)

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


: My studio is in the spare room of my house. I have two desks — one for drawing, one for computer work. I spend most of my time at the computer. I always wish I spent more time at the drawing table, which I mainly use for lightbox work.

(Click each image to enlarge)

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


: I still have some of my favourite books on the shelf here in the studio –- Frog and Toad by Arnold Lobel, The Tiger who came to Tea by Judith Kerr, The Little Grey Men by BB, Watership Down (actually, more the film than the book, which I read much later in my teens – I watched that film a hundred times, I still love it).

(Click to enlarge)

I also read all the Redwall books by Brian Jacques and lots of books by Dick King-Smith and Colin Dann. There’s a theme here – talking animals. When reading the Redwall books, I used to like to imagine them as hand-drawn animated films playing in my head as I read the words.

In terms of illustration, I loved anything highly detailed and intricate, books with cutaways of houses built inside tree stumps — that kind of thing. I loved visiting my local library after school. I found book illustration so absorbing; I would get into a cosy corner somewhere when I got home and just get lost in them.

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

Benji: I feel really lucky to have met and know a lot of my contemporaries and favourite artists, at least in the UK.

From the past: Tove Jansson. Present: Jon Klassen. Can I say an author-only too? Neil Gaiman. He seems very wise. I would probably not be able to speak.

(Click to enlarge)

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

Benji: I love listening to music, but equally I can go all day in silence and not realise.

I make soundtracks for a particular book and will collect together playlists, especially for my own author-illustrator work — tunes that help get my mind in the right mode of thought, emotionally or atmospherically. It can be anything and everything, but it tends to be more unusual electronic or classical stuff, or scores from films. Things that suit the mood of the project, so it often has to be really timeless or evocative to get the right tone.

I think I have quite a range of taste — from Led Zeppelin to Ryuichi Sakamoto. All sorts, really.

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

Benji: I hate aquariums. I blame Jaws.


(Click to enlarge)


* * * The Pivot Questionnaire * * *

Jules: What is your favorite word?

Benji: I’m terrible with favourites. No, really. I can’t pick one.

Jules: What is your least favorite word?

Benji: Oh no. See above.

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

Benji: The natural world doing its thing.

Jules: What turns you off?

Benji: Ignorance.

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

Benji: “Twonk.”

Jules: What sound or noise do you love?

Benji: Rain on the roof.

Jules: What sound or noise do you hate?

Benji: Cats fighting in the night.

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

Benji: Drummer.

Jules: What profession would you not like to do?

Benji: Cleaning windows on skyscrapers.

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

Benji: “Did you remember to turn off the iron?”

All images are used by permission of Benji Davies.

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

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19. Victoria Jamieson and Roller Girl

The issue of friendships ending was certainly central for me, and it was the concept I was most interested in exploring in the book. Although the details of the story are different, the heart of the issue—the pain of a slipping friendship—was from my own experience.”

* * *

Over at Kirkus today, I have a back-and-forth with author-illustrator Victoria Jamieson, pictured here, about her first graphic novel for children, Roller Girl, which will be on shelves next week — and which is really good.

That link will be here soon.

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

Until tomorrow …


Photo of Victoria taken by Herminio Jacome and used by permission of the author.

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20. What I’m Doing at Kirkus This Week,Plus What I Did Last Week,Featuring Eva Erikkson and Sydney Smith

– From JonArno Lawson’s Sidewalk Flowers,
illustrated by Sydney Smith

“Dad lifted me up so I’d be closer to the stars that were far, far away. ‘Some of them don’t even exist,’ he said. ‘They’ve gone out already.’ ‘But we can still see them,’ I said. ‘Yes, we can see their light,’ said Dad. ‘It may take several hundred years to arrive here.’ I looked at the stars that weren’t there. And Dad went on telling me their names and carrying me. ‘The Swan,’ he said. ‘The Harp. Big Dog.'”
– From Ulf Stark’s
When Dad Showed Me the Universe,
illustrated by Eva Erikkson

(Click to enlarge spread)


This morning over at Kirkus, I write about Michael Morpurgo’s Half a Man, illustrated by Gemma O’Callaghan, and J. Patrick Lewis’s The Wren and the Sparrow, illustrated by Yevgenia Nayberg. That link will be here soon.

* * *

Today I’ve got some art from JonArno Lawson’s Sidewalk Flowers, illustrated by Sydney Smith (Groundwood, March 2015), as well as Ulf Stark’s When Dad Showed Me the Universe, illustrated by the great Eva Eriksson (originally released in Sweden in 1998 but coming to American shelves later this year). I wrote about both books here at Kirkus last week and want to share some art today.

Don’t miss Philip Nel’s post on Sidewalk Flowers, and here Roger Sutton talks to Lawson.



Art from Sidewalk Flowers:


(Click either image to see spread in its entirety)


(Click either image to see spread in its entirety)


(Click either image to see spread in its entirety)


(Click to see cover in more detail)


Art from
When Dad Showed Me the Universe:



* * * * * * *

SIDEWALK FLOWERS. Copyright © 2015 by JonArno Lawson. Illustrations copyright © 2015 by Sydney Smith. Published by Groundwood Books, Toronto. Illustrations here reproduced by permission of the publisher.

WHEN DAD SHOWED ME THE UNIVERSE. English language edition © Gecko Press Ltd 2015. Illustrations here reproduced by permission of the publisher.

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21. 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #422: Featuring Kristof Devos

This morning, I’ve got some spreads from Pimm van Hest’s Weatherboy, illustrated by Kristof Devos. The book was first published last year in Belgium and Holland and has been translated from the Dutch by Clavis Publishing. It is on shelves this month, and pictured above is the cover art.

It’s the story of a boy whose moods dictate the weather: “When he was happy, the sun shone, and when he was sad, the clouds cried too.” Everyone starts to call him “Weatherboy” and make terrible demands upon him. When folks want warm weather for the beach, they hope for illness to beset him so that he’ll have a fever. If their sunflowers need rain, they ask him to cry. This makes him sad, which casts his village into a dark fog.

Feeling alone, even among his family, he leaves town. He finds a small house in a tree and lives there, alone. A boy who loves frost and snow heads out onto the ice one day and later meets Weatherboy. His presence makes Weatherboy happy. They have so much fun that “they didn’t even notice that the world was slowly thawing.” Afraid that his friend might leave, Weatherboy opens the refrigerator door to let cold fill their small house again. In the end, Weatherboy comes to the conclusion that he must tell his friend—and, really, all the world—to accept him just as he is. “This is who I am!” he says triumphantly as he floats along “golden rays of sunshine.”

“The little boy grew older and changed. And every day, the weather changed along with him. When he was happy, the sun shone, and when he was sad, the clouds cried too.
If he had an outburst of anger there was thunder and lightning, and when he sneezed suddenly the trees bent over and people were blown off their bikes.
Before long, everyone started calling him ‘Weatherboy.'”

(Click to enlarge)

And that’s the end of the story. It’s abrupt, and it remains to be seen how his friend will respond. But Weatherboy has done what he must do to find his own happiness. It’s a story that works on more than one level, and I’ve been thinking about it all week.

Below are some more of Kristof Devos’ beguiling spreads from the book (without the text). …

“At first, Weatherboy liked being able to influence the weather. But slowly that changed. Because everyone around him wanted something from him. ‘Can you make Weatherboy cry?’ someone would ask. ‘My sunflowers could use some rain.’ Or …
‘Does Weatherboy have a fever? It’ll be a perfect beach day!’ This made Weatherboy very sad and when that happened, the village disappeared into a dark and gloomy fog.”

(Click to enlarge)


“One afternoon Weatherboy was having lunch with his mother and father. ‘Darling, you are so quiet,’ his mother said. ‘Is something the matter?’ ‘Well…’ the boy said, and suddenly there were tears in his eyes. ‘Oh, darling! Can’t you hold your tears for just a little bit longer?’ Our clothes are drying outside!’ She left the table and ran into the garden. This made his father laugh out loud. Weatherboy’s tears of sadness became tears of anger. Through the kitchen window his father saw big hailstones falling on his vegetable garden. ‘Look what you did!’ he shouted angrily, and he ran out too. Weatherboy felt sadder and more alone than he ever had before.”
(Click to enlarge)


“That night in bed, Weatherboy made a decision. He didn’t want to stay a moment longer. The next morning, before the rooster crowed, he left home. He met a lot of people on his way. And it didn’t take long before they all were asking something of him. ‘I want sun!’ ‘I want cold!’ ‘I want snow!’ I want, I want, I want… Heat waves, rainbows, thunder, lightning, hail, storm, fog…. Everyone wanted something from him and they all wanted something different. After every disappointment he walked farther.
Farther and farther.”

(Click to enlarge)


“Day by day, Weatherboy became more unhappy and lonely. At first you could only tell by the snowflakes that whirled down around him. But eventually it affected the whole world. The temperature dropped below freezing, and it stayed there. Ditches, canals and rivers turned into ice, and even lakes and seas froze over. Weatherboy saw it happen, but he didn’t know what to do about it. He found a little house and lived there all by himself. At night he dreamed of sun and warmth.”
(Click either image to see spread in its entirety)


“Far away there lived a boy who just loved the frost and snow. Every morning when he opened the curtains his face lit up. He could do what he loved doing the most –
ice skating! Every day! He was on the ice from early morning till late at night.
But soon that wasn’t enough. He wanted to skate farther. Farther and farther.”

(Click to enlarge)


WEATHERBOY. Text copyright © 2014 by Pimm van Hest. Illustrations copyright © 2014 by Kristof Devos. Published by Clavis Publishing, New York. Illustrations reproduced by permission of Krisof Devos.

Note for any new readers: 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks is a weekly meeting ground for taking some time to reflect on Seven(ish) Exceptionally Fabulous, Beautiful, Interesting, Hilarious, or Otherwise Positive Noteworthy Things from the past week, whether book-related or not, that happened to you. New kickers are always welcome.

* * * Jules’ Kicks * * *

My big kick is that I’m in beautiful Asheville, North Carolina, right now to visit friends and talk about Wild Things at Malaprop’s Bookstore/Cafe. But do tell me …

What are YOUR kicks this week?

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22. A Visit with Darren Farrell

Author-illustrator Darren Farrell (or is it Shel Silverstein?) visits 7-Imp this morning to talk about his work and to give me a sneak-peek at his upcoming 2015 book, Stop Following Me, Moon! (pictured above). I asked him about his inspirations, and then he took it from there, as you’ll see below.

This is Darren’s third picture book, his most recent being last year’s Thank You, Octopus! from Dial Books, which the Horn Book described as a “hilarious nautical comedy of errors.” And never was there a weirder or more wonderful bedtime companion than Octopus. Bleep, blarp, bloop.

Let’s get right to it. I thank Shel Darren for visiting.

* * *

What inspires me? John Oliver, street art, Oliver Jeffers, hip hop, jazz, skate videos, Mo Willems, The Monster At The End Of This Book, heaps of yogurt, writing in a notebook while commuting on public transportation, hanging out with my family, the New York Times, church, and—right now—the color purple (not the book, although it is fabulous, but the actual color purple).

My original inspirations were Hong Kong artists Michael Lau and Eric So, mixed with the minimalist black and white work of Shel Silverstein. I set out to create odd characters who had a unique, asymmetrical design. I didn’t want them to be perfectly cute or perfectly symmetrical. And so I gravitated toward a design with one huge pink eye and one dot eye. To me that felt cool and strange and graphically strong. People I showed those early big eye characters to really seemed to like them, and so I kept working on that style. Originally, I intended to make black and white illustrations, where the only color was that big pink eye.

Darren: “A very early Doug-Dennis and the Flyaway Fib spread,
where he was still a wild haired human and before he turned into a colorful sheep.”

(Click to enlarge)

Darren: “Doug-Dennis as a colorful, cutie sheep
– still with the pink eye”

(Click to enlarge)

Ultimately, I began to explore color, and today color is one aspect of creating a book that I most enjoy. Honing a color palette, trying to tighten everything into a cohesive color theme — this is something I spend loads of time on, mostly because I do not know what I am doing and I just keep working until my eyes are happy.

For the opening endpaper of my latest book, Thank You, Octopus, I tried oodles of color combinations for the city and the sunset. I wanted four shades of the same color — with the buildings and trees reflecting the sky and blending into the it. I tried a chocolate city with a creamy sky, an all-pink city with a dark pink sky. So many different versions. I finally landed on a yellow city with a deep golden sky, and I just fell in love with it. From here, the gold worked its way into my Thank You, Octopus color palette and was used throughout the book.

Opening endpapers from Thank You, Octopus
(Click to enlarge)


My next book, Stop Following Me, Moon! [Dial, Winter 2015], has a grape-jelly color scheme with lots of plums, mauves, lavenders, and deep grayish purples.

Page from the beginning of Stop Following Me, Moon!
(Click to enlarge)

I also experimented with a new shading concept in Stop Following Me, Moon!, which was loosely inspired by vintage Missoni prints. I added bands and waves of shade to almost everything on each page. So the colors get several steps deeper as they move away from the moon. Usually, there are two waves on each item for three shades of deepening color.

The act of shading Stop Following Me, Moon! was for me almost an exercise in Zen meditation, as I made wave after wave of color and shadow.

Where the Stop Following Me, Moon! mayhem begins
(Click to enlarge)

Stop Following Me, Moon! was inspired by a taxi ride in Seoul, South Korea. My wife, son, and I were riding home from dinner, and as we wound around one of Seoul’s elevated expressways, we kept watching the moon dodge in and out between the tall apartment buildings. My son was three at the time, and so we talked about how the moon was following us — and I watched his eyes as he kept searching for it while we drove along.

Darren: “A Seoul taxi. They come in silver, white, orange and fancy black ones,
which charge extra $$ for being extra fancy”

My son’s fascination stayed with me, and almost immediately what popped into my head was, wow, what is you don’t want the moon to be following you? I mean, who wants something following them around all night long!? And I just imagined this crazed bear out in the woods, running away from the moon and yelling these funny outbursts up at the moon in a hopeless effort to escape.

We get to see toward the end of the book how this bear feels when the moon actually does “listen” to him.

Stop Following Me, Moon! is a really nice and silly way to begin a discussion about how and why the moon follows you around all night long. It’s also a book about sharing, so hopefully it will generate good discussions about what it means to be a kind friend.

Here’s how a Stop Following Me, Moon! page comes together for me:

1. A rough pencil sketch. Here, we see the bear running almost directly into the camera, right through a picnic two beavers are having.

(Click to enlarge)

2. I block everything out in greys, full-size on my computer, and take measurements so that I know roughly how large everything needs to be.

(Click to enlarge)

3. I draw everything by hand—in pencil, item by item—and add everything to the page, based on the measurements I took earlier. And one by one, the grey items disappear — and the final pencils take their places.

(Click to enlarge)

4. I color.

(Click to enlarge)

5. I shade.

(Click to enlarge)

6. I refine the colors and fine-tune the shading and build on the artwork and the layout — until I am completely happy with everything right up until the very end. Here, I revised the hills and the shape of the bear and played with the colors and shading quite a bit.

(Click to enlarge)

7. I add the final type. Here, I swapped in a new line to help set up the story in a stronger way and give the bear’s dialogue slightly better pacing.

(Click to enlarge)

Speaking of type: When I make my type, I use a combination of hand and digital. First, I lay the words out in a chunky typeface to use as a guide. Then I hand-make all of the type. And last, I digitally fill the hand-made type with a color and take away my line work. What’s left is a hand-made type that sort of looks like it is cut out with scissors.

(Click to enlarge)

P.S. I’ve made an awesome new Letters for Kids over at The Rumpus. You can check out the first page of my four-page letter below. It’s hand-made by me, and it features my delicious recipe for Bulgogi (Korean BBQ), plus other stories and fun things I’ve experienced in Seoul. Head to The Rumpus and subscribe to Letters for Kids! It’s an exciting (and super affordable) program to join. You’ll receive two real live letters from two real live authors or illustrators each month. We’re talking real paper letters you can hold in your hand, delivered conveniently to that box your mail appears in (whatever that box is called, I can’t remember).

My letter goes out in March or April, so sign up soon!

(Click to enlarge)

And you can always check out more of my sketches, work, and ideas at darren-farrell.com.

By the way, I was so happy to read in Wild Things! that you are all big fans of the Shel Silverstein author photos. I made a vain attempt at Penguin allowing me to use this below with the subheading “My Shel Silverstein Years,” along with a regular photo that I guess read something like, “My Me Years.” Here’s the official Shel photo so you can see the side-by-side twin-ness. Uncanny, no?


* * * * * * *

All images here are reproduced by permission of Darren Farrell.

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23. A Peek into Roller Girl



Last week at Kirkus, I had a lovely conversation (here) with Victoria Jamieson about her graphic novel, Roller Girl (Dial, March 2015). Today, she shares some early sketches and final art (without text) from the book.



Sketches of book’s opening spread
(Click second image to enlarge)


(Click first image to enlarge)


“… At first I couldn’t tell what was going on –
just a bunch of skating, hitting, and falling.”


Early sketch: “‘Ooh, and Rainbow Bite takes a big hit in turn two!'”


Early sketch: “C’mon, it’s time to go, weirdo!”
(Click to enlarge)


“Everyone ready? On the track!”
(Click to enlarge)


“The jammer was obviously the most important player. She had to be fast.
And wily. She was the star — just like Rainbow Bite. …”


“‘Try this on! This looks cute!'”


“‘Let’s do this.'”


“… And a massive hit to Asteroid!
Braidy Punch just launched her way into orbit!”



* * * * * * *

ROLLER GIRL. Copyright © 2015 by Victoria Jamieson. Published by Dial, New York. All images here reproduced by permission of Victoria Jamieson.

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24. What I’m Doing at Kirkus This Week,Plus What I Did Last Week,Featuring Yevgenia Nayberg and Gemma O’Callaghan

“On a day that shamed the sky, people were herded into the center of the town and forced to hand over their musical instruments—wooden or metal, it made no difference—to the Tyrant’s guards who carelessly pitched them into wagons.”
– From
The Wren and the Sparrow
(Click spread to enlarge)

“I must have been about twelve when I first went to see him on my own in the Scilly Isles for my summer holiday, and by then the nightmares had gone. That’s not to say I wasn’t still apprehensive in those first few days after I arrived. But I was always happy to be there, happy just to get out of London. …”
– From
Half a Man
(Click spread to enlarge)


This morning over at Kirkus, I write about two new picture books — one from a smaller publisher that came out of nowhere and I really enjoy, as well as a brand-new picture book from the great Jon Agee. That link will be here soon.

* * *

Since I wrote here last week about J. Patrick Lewis’ The Wren and the Sparrow, illustrated by Yevgenia Nayberg, and Michael Morpurgo’s Half a Man, illustrated by Gemma O’Callaghan, I’ve got a bit of art (above and below) from each book today.

Until Sunday …


“After a while, when the war was over, I left the hospital and came home to Annie, home to Scilly. My dream had come true, I thought. But of course it hadn’t.
I soon found that out. Annie tried—tried her best. I tried too. We had a baby—
your mother, Michael—but Annie still wasn’t looking at me. …”
– From
Half a Man
(Click spread to enlarge)



(Click to enlarge cover)


* * * * * * *

HALF A MAN. Text copyright © 2014 by Michael Morpurgo. Illustrations copyright © 2014 by Gemma O’Callaghan. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA on behalf of Walker Books, London.

THE WREN AND THE SPARROW. Copyright © 2015 by J. Patrick Lewis. Illustrations copyright © 2015 by Yevgenia Nayberg. lllustration reproduced by permission of the publisher, Kar-Ben Publishing, Minneapolis.

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25. 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #423: Featuring Ed Young

– From Gary Golio’s Bird & Diz
(Click to enlarge spread)


“Should you be a vaporous smoke, I’ll lift you to touch the heavens.”
– From
Should You Be a River
(Click to enlarge spread)

It’s an Ed Young kind of day here at 7-Imp.

Over at BookPage, I have a review of Gary Golio’s Bird & Diz (Candlewick, March 2015), which Ed illustrated. That review is here. I’ve got some spreads from it here at 7-Imp today.

To boot, I’ve got some spreads from Ed’s Should You Be a River, which will be on shelves in mid-April from Little, Brown. This is a poem that, as he explains in the closing Author’s Note, Ed wrote two years after the death of his daughters’ mother, his late wife. Ed’s friend, photographer Sean Kernan, contributed his photography to the project, and the book is a series of collages with these photos as a base. Calligrapher Barbara Bash also contributed to the book (hand-lettered calligraphy).

The poem is, at turns, intense (“Should you be a waterfall, I’ll scream when you plunge”) and poignant (“Should you be a rain shower, I’ll be a gentle valley to receive you”). The Kirkus review describes it as “mystifying and ultimately uplifting.” It’s quite possibly a book that will appeal more to adults, but people of all ages should see Ed’s cut-paper collages in this one, breathtaking in spots.

I’ll just let the art speak for itself. Below are some more spreads. Enjoy.


“Two hearts—one heartbeat. You can’t even tell whose notes are whose!
But then Diz’s cheeks swell up, like a frog with glasses.
He points his trumpet and shoots out fireworks. Tag, Bird—you’re it!”
– From Gary Golio’s
Bird & Diz
(Click to enlarge spread)



“Should you be a great forest, I’ll caress your branches and make you sway.”
– From
Should You Be a River
(Click to enlarge spread)


“Should you be a breeze, I’ll be ripples dancing to your tunes.”
(Click to enlarge spread)


“Should you be a beach, I’ll build a fire to keep you warm.”
(Click to enlarge spread)


“Should you be a flame, I’ll hold you snugly in my hearth.”
(Click to enlarge spread)


(Click to enlarge cover)


BIRD & DIZ. Text copyright © 2015 by Gary Golio. Illustrations copyright © 2015 by Ed Young. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.

SHOULD YOU BE A RIVER. Copyright © 2015 by Ed Young. Illustrations reproduced by permission of the publisher, Little, Brown and Company, New York.

Note for any new readers: 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks is a weekly meeting ground for taking some time to reflect on Seven(ish) Exceptionally Fabulous, Beautiful, Interesting, Hilarious, or Otherwise Positive Noteworthy Things from the past week, whether book-related or not, that happened to you. New kickers are always welcome.

* * * Jules’ Kicks * * *

1) My oldest daughter turned eleven this week!

2) She is sweet and kind and clever and pretty much wonderful. She really loves the magnet I got her that says “YAY WEIRD,” if that gives you any idea how great she is. (Of course, I had to grab this one for myself.)

3) New music from Lowland Hum:

4) I visited Asheville last weekend to speak at Malaprop’s Bookstore, which was lovely. Asheville was where my late brother was living when he died, and it was wonderful to be there (and to see his best friend for the first time after about fifteen years). But it was also hard in some ways to be there again. That said, I’m grateful to have been once again in the city he loved.

5) Speaking of music, I bought a copy of a CD that I wore OUT back in high school (but hadn’t listened to since then), and it’s really wild to hear again and to still know all the words.

6) Playing Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue for my girls as we read the end of this book:

7) The way Jon Snow smiles at Ygritte when he sees her again (despite what happens afterwards) in Game of Thrones, season four.

What are YOUR kicks this week?

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