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1. A Visit with Don Tate …



 

Author-illustrator Don Tate, who visited 7-Imp for breakfast back in 2011, is back today to talk about his upcoming picture books. As it turns out, I had an opportunity to do one of those so-called cover reveals for his book Poet: The Remarkable Story of George Moses Horton of Chapel Hill, which will be on shelves from Peachtree in the Fall. (Yes, FALL! I know. Seems so far away.) And then it turned into an opportunity to ask him about the book (I read an early PDF version) and to show some spreads from it, and I’m all for that. Even better. To boot, Don is even sharing some images from another forthcoming book, written by Chris Barton, called The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch (Eerdmans), which I believe will be on shelves in April. So you’ll see that below too.

Poet is the story of George Moses Horton, the first African American poet to be published in the South. Horton’s story is a remarkable one, and Don talks a bit below about why. Let’s get right to it, especially so that we can see more of his art.

I thank him for visiting.

Jules: Can you talk a bit about your research for this one?

Don: I had so much fun researching Poet: The Remarkable Story of George Moses Horton. It was like putting together a puzzle. The first piece of the puzzle began with a simple “budget line,” as they say in the newspaper business: George Moses Horton was an enslaved poet in North Carolina, who became the first African American to be published in the South. Many poems protested slavery. In order to complete the puzzle, I did a lot of research.


“George loved words. …”
(Click to enlarge)

I began by reading Horton’s own autobiography. It’s a very short but detailed account of his life that was published as a prefix in his second book, The Poetical Works of George M. Horton. The book was published in 1845. The archaic language was tough to understand.

Here’s a sample (which is in the public domain):

…Nevertheless did I persevere with an indefatigable resolution, at the risk of success. But ah! the oppositions with which I contended are too tedious to relate, but not too formidable to surmount; and I verily believe that those obstacles had an auspicious tendency to waft me, as on pacific gales, above the storms of envy and the calumniating scourge of emulation, from which literary imagination often sinks beneath its dignity, and instruction languishes at the shrine of vanity. I reached the threatening heights of literature, and braved in a manner the clouds of disgust which reared in thunders under my feet. …

Okay.


“Then George found an old spelling book. It was tattered and some pages were missing, but it was enough to get him started. …”
(Click to enlarge)


“… George was now a full-time writer, but he was still not a free man.”
(Click to enlarge)

So first I had some deciphering to do. One of my best resources came from a researcher at the University of North Carolina’s Wilson’s Special Collections Library. I can’t emphasize how much researchers there helped me to tell this story. I’d ask a question, and they’d return an abundance of information and sources — about Horton’s life; the clothes people wore; images of the old campus; literacy in slave communities. I had way more information than needed, but it gave me the confidence to tell an accurate story. I also consulted with the Chapel Hill Historical Society and the North Carolina Museum of History, and I studied the poetry from his three books: The Poetical Works, The Hope of Liberty, and Naked Genius.


(Click to enlarge)


“Now it was too dangerous for George to write poems that protested slavery.
But he didn’t stop writing altogether. …”

(Click to enlarge)

Jules: Did you learn anything that surprised you?

Don: Yes. As mentioned in my Author’s Note, George Horton’s life and the things he accomplished as an enslaved man totally surprised me. Horton was likely the best paid poet of his Southern contemporaries, black or white. He made enough money from his poetry to pay his master for his time, which allowed him to live at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill as a full-time writer. He published two books while enslaved and delivered two commencement speeches to graduates. All of this happened a time when African-American literacy was discouraged, devalued, even outlawed. George’s life was full of surprises.


Don: “This was a sample image used to sell the dummy. I sketched the entire book roughly — but painted this one piece. In the end, I decided to go with a less polished-looking style. I felt the loose watercolor and line worked better.”
(Click to enlarge)

There was another thing that surprised me. Slavery was a peculiar institution, to say the least. But I was surprised to learn that many slave owners in North Carolina viewed their slaves as family members. Is that strange or what? Slaves were considered the property of their masters. They performed day-long, back-breaking work for no pay. Their diet was typically poor and their clothing inadequate. They could be whipped or even killed by their masters for any reason and with no recourse. Some way to treat a family member, huh?


Don: “Originally to be our title page image. But I realized much later that this image would not have been accurate. While George did work alongside his mother, singing songs in a tobacco field, he would have been a toddler. I scrapped this image.”
(Click to enlarge)


Don: “This was another title page sketch. Again, the tobacco field was not accurate.”
(Click to enlarge)

Jules: I like in your closing Author’s Note that you talk about why you wanted to do this book — that you once were adamant about focusing on “contemporary stories relevant to young readers today,” especially given that “whenever the topic of black history came up, it was always in relation to slavery, about how black people were once the property of white people ….” Yet you were moved to tell this story anyway. Can you talk a bit here about why?

Don: As a young child, I was often embarrassed when the topic of slavery came up at school. There were many reasons for that, but mainly it seemed that when it came to the history of African Americans, slavery was the only thing ever mentioned. White kids sometimes made jokes about slavery. Black kids insulted each other by saying mean things like: “You look like Kunta Kente,” who was a character from the movie Roots. If someone got called Kunta, a fight was on! That’s sad when you consider what Kunta Kente went through in his lifetime. He was actually a hero.


Don: “This was the original opening illustration for the book. However, I questioned the race of the church congregation. Would George have worshipped with an all-black congregation? Or would he have worshiped together with the whites, but separate? Both scenarios could have been possible; we just don’t know. One of my sources, a curator at the Historic Hope Plantation in North Carolina. advised going with the all-black congregation. North Carolina had one of the largest free black populations in the colonies. It was more likely that he was inspired at church services
while hearing a free black preacher read the Bible.”

(Click to enlarge)

Because of those negative childhood memories, when I first got into the publishing industry, I promised myself that I would not illustrate stories about slavery, that I’d focus on telling other stories of my people. So what changed all of that? It was a journey.

I’m a dad and husband. I’m a provider. First and foremost, it’s my job to earn a living for my family. If I was going to become a published author, I figured that writing stories about apples didn’t make sense if oranges were in higher demand. Know what I mean? So for my first book, I wrote a story about a former slave who became a famed folk artist. I could have written a story about a contemporary African American child who . . . I don’t know, enjoys skateboarding and playing basketball. Which one do you think would have sold quicker?


Don: “This was one of my favorite images from my original book dummy. It portrays a couple reading one of George Horton’s love poems. We decided to nix this one,
opting to show George reciting a poem while a student wrote it out.”

(Click to enlarge)

But here’s the thing: When I wrote that first book, It Jes’ Happened [art here at 7-Imp], and I studied the narratives of other enslaved African American people, I fell in love with their stories of resilience. Slavery, civil rights, “issue” books? Why not? My people have overcome mountainous obstacles. These are stories that everyone can appreciate and relate to — not only African American children. Inspired, I decided that I wanted to focus my career on telling these important stories.

Hope’s Gift (Penguin, 2012), written by Kelly Starling Lyons, was another in that journey for me. It’s the fictionalized story of an enslaved family. The book celebrates the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation.

Next up is a story that I illustrated, written by Chris Barton. It is called The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch (Eerdmans). It tells the story of a young man who in ten years went from teenage field hand to United States Congressman. The story is set during slavery and ends during Reconstruction, the era following the Civil War.

This book also presented many challenges. Reconstruction, which promised bright opportunities, was often a dangerous and deadly time for African Americans, who were basically reenslaved under new laws. Chris Barton dealt with the challenging subject matter honestly, and so did I. Some of the images in the book, like a KKK church-burning and others will generate a lot of discussion. Here are a few images from The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch.


(Click to enlarge)


“… Fellow former slaves reveled in the promises of freedom –
family, faith, free labor, land, education.
John Roy wanted to be part of that.”

(Click to enlarge)


(Click to enlarge)


“… Back home, white terrorists burned black schools and black churches.
They armed themselves on Election Day to keep blacks away.
They even committed murder.”

(Click to enlarge)

Jules: What’s next for you?

Don: A lot! Currently I’m illustrating a second book for Chris Barton called Whoosh! Lonnie Johnson’s Super Stream of Ideas (Charlesbridge, 2016). It’s the story of the creator of the Super Soaker squirt gun. I’m also creating thumbnail sketches for a book written by Michael Mahin called . . . get ready for it: Stalebread Charlie and the Razzy Dazzy Spasm Band (Penguin, TBD). Whew! I thought I’d never be able to remember that name. But guess what? I can’t forget it! Next up is another book that I wrote that I’m not ready to talk about. It will be published by Charlesbridge and is out to my editor. I expect revision notes soon. I’m very excited about that project.

* * * * * * *

All images here are used by permission of Don Tate, and the illustrations from Poet are used by permission of Peachtree.

1 Comments on A Visit with Don Tate …, last added: 1/26/2015
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2. 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #416: Featuring Peter Carnavas



 

Today’s picture book is an import. Peter Carnavas’ Jessica’s Box was initially published in Australia back in 2008, but Kane Miller will bring it to U.S. shelves in March.

When we first meet Jessica, her mind is racing. It’s “too busy for sleep. Her thoughts were already with tomorrow.” And that’s because tomorrow will be her first day of school, and she’s eager to make new friends. When she shows up, she brings with her a big cardboard box. By lunchtime, though her box is neglected at first, curious children gather ’round, and Jessica reaches into her box to pull out a stuffed toy bear. The reaction Jessica wants isn’t exactly the one she’s met with: Some students laugh at her, and others ignore her. The next day, Jessica brings cupcakes. Needless to say, the treats are met with enthusiasm, but they’re consumed and forgotten. “Not even a thank you?” Jessica wonders.

Jessica keeps trying, yet she reaches the point of mild despair: “She just wanted to disappear.” So, she puts the box on her head one day. And a boy approaches and befriends her; he thinks she’s playing hide-and-seek. Later at home, when she tells her family she’s finally made a friend, her Grandpa says, “You must have had something very special in your box today.” Jessica smiles and responds, “I did.” (I read this at a bookstore story time yesterday—the story really seemed to get everyone’s attention—and found myself asking the children, “what was in her box?” “Her head,” one child said, which made me laugh.)

I love this sweet, but never saccharine, tale. Jessica’s family at home is warm and loving, yet they never coddle or overprotect her, letting her come to realizations about friendship on her own. In one particularly lovely spread, it was “Dad’s turn to talk to Jessica that night,” and the next illustration shows them outside together (Jessica on his shoulders), just looking into the sky: “They didn’t say very much.” Sometimes silence is best.

And, as you can see from the illustrations (which are somewhat reminiscent to me of the artwork of Ole Könnecke), rendered with a sunny, warm palette, Jessica is in a wheelchair. Yet the story isn’t some huge “issue” story about her having to overcome her disability or some such. Her lack of friends has nothing to do, in fact, with that, and never once does her wheelchair come up in conversation. I suppose one could argue that is why she’s nervous about school, but many children do, indeed, get apprehensive about the first day, wheelchair or not.

This one’s a gentle story, quiet and wise. It’s a keeper.



JESSICA’S BOX. First American Edition 2015. Text and illustrations © 2008 Peter Carnavas. Published by Kane Miller, Tulsa, OK. Illustration reproduced by permission of the publisher.

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 forced this song I heard this week on all my music-lovin’ friends, because I immediately fell in love with it (and only listened to it about seven HUNDRED times).

2) New music from Laura Marling:

3) I don’t normally re-watch TV shows, but we re-watched season two of House of Cards, because season three will be here soon. And it’s so good. And on my second watch, I saw all new things to appreciate about the direction of and writing and acting in this show.

4) This panel discussion this past week went well, and it was wonderful to talk about this topic with Sharon Draper.

5) Thoughtful gifts from thoughtful friends.

6) A story time yesterday with very responsive children and their parents — and some great, brand-new picture books, including Jessica’s Box, which everyone seemed to really like.

7) The ALA Youth Media Awards will be announced a week from tomorrow!

What are YOUR kicks this week?

10 Comments on 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #416: Featuring Peter Carnavas, last added: 1/26/2015
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3. What I’m Doing at Kirkus This Week,Plus What I Did Last Week,Featuring E. B. Lewis and Benny Andrews


“It’s a peaceful spring and summer in Huntsville in 1963, but not elsewhere in Alabama. More than a thousand black children gather for a nonviolent protest in a Birmingham park. They are met with gushing fire hoses and snarling dogs. …
Two hundred thousand people march for freedom in Washington,D.C.
Dr. King gives a speech, echoing the dream that black children and
white children will join hands in peace. It’s on television, nationwide.”
– From Hester Bass’
Seeds of Freedom, illustrated by E. B. Lewis
(Click to enlarge)


 


“When Benny’s military service was over, the government offered to pay his college tuition. He moved to Chicago to attend art school. It was the biggest city he had ever seen, full of many different kinds of people, towering buildings, and—best of all—museums. Benny could spend an entire day looking at art if he wanted.
He’d never felt so free.”
– From Kathleen Benson’s
Draw What You See,
illustrated with paintings by Benny Andrews
(Click to enlarge and see full text)


 

This morning over at Kirkus, I’ve got some good, new picture books for very young readers. That link will be here soon.

* * *

Last week I wrote here about Hester Bass’ Seeds of Freedom: The Peaceful Integration of Huntsville, Alabama (Candlewick, January 2015), illustrated by E. B. Lewis, as well as Kathleen Benson’s Draw What You See: The Life and Art of Benny Andrews (Clarion, January 2015), which is illustrated with some of Andrews’ paintings. Today, I’m following up with a bit of art from each book.

Enjoy.


 

From Seeds of Freedom:


 


“A girl carries paper pictures of her feet because she won’t be allowed to try on shoes. A boy wants to read but cannot use the public library. And a family tries to eat in a restaurant, but the owner locks the door in their faces. …”
(Click to enlarge and see full text)


 



 

From Draw What You See:


 


“Benny was inspired by the people around him, and people were what he wanted to draw. He especially liked making paintings of the jazz musicians
in the city’s many clubs and cafés. …”
(Click to enlarge)


 


“After art school, Benny moved to New York City and became a working artist.
He had so many stories to tell. …”
(Click to enlarg)


 


* * * * * * *

DRAW WHAT YOU SEE: THE LIFE AND ART OF BENNY ANDREWS. Text copyright © 2015 by Kathleen Benson. Art copyright © The Estate of Benny Andrews/Licensed by VAGA, New York, New York. Illustrations reproduced by permission of the publisher, Clarion Books, Boston.

SEEDS OF FREEDOM. Text copyright © 2015 by Hester Bass. Illustrations copyright © 2015 by E. B. Lewis. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.

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4. Finding Spring with Carin Berger

In Finding Spring, a little bear named Maurice strikes off on his own in search of Spring, instead of hibernating. It is a story about seeking and about the magic of discovery. It is about those empowering childhood adventures that I remember so vividly – those moments of exploration without an adult supervising. It is also about the elusiveness of that which we seek and the happy accidental discoveries along the way.”

* * *

This morning over at Kirkus, I chat with author-illustrator Carin Berger about her new picture book, Finding Spring (out on shelves next week). Carin has actually already visited 7-Imp to talk about the book, over a year ago, but more on that next week — when she’ll share a bit of art from the book over here.

That Q&A at Kirkus will be here later this morning.

Until tomorrow …

* * * * * * *

Photo of Carin used with her permission.

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5. A Peek at Nicole Tadgell’s Drawing Table




“As the tea cooled down, their conversation heated up. … [T]hey weren’t afraid to
stand up for their beliefs. In fact, they loved a good fight!”
– Rough sketch, final sketch, and final art (without text)

(Click second image to enlarge)

Illustrator Nicole Tadgell (pictured left) is visiting 7-Imp (for a third time — you can check the archives for her previous visits) to share artwork and early sketches from Suzanne Slade’s Friends for Freedom: The Story of Susan B. Anthony & Frederick Douglass. This book was released back in September (Charlesbridge), but better late than never.

Slade’s story, rife with source notes and an impressive Selected Bibliography at the book’s close, describes the friendship between the two legends. Everything about this was scandalous for the times: “It wasn’t proper for women to be friends with men,” Slade writes. “You weren’t supposed to be friends with someone whose skin was a different color than yours.” But their friendship endured for over 45 years. She even highlights their 1869 public argument when the Fifteenth Amendment gave black men, but not women, the right to vote. While Slade emphasizes their passion for civil rights and social justice, the heart of the book is their friendship, during both good and bad times.

Nicole’s delicate watercolors, as the Booklist review notes, bring readers a good deal of historical context for Slade’s words. Today, Nicole shares some preliminary images and a bit of final art from the book. “It is interesting to look at the journey from rough pencils to finished art,” she tells me. “Often things change dramatically, but the spirit of the scene stays the same. I really love how this book turned out! I feel that I’ve helped bring two historical figures to life for kids to learn and hopefully inspire them to read further about how both Frederick Douglass and Susan B. Anthony helped change America –- in part, by simply being friends.”

I thank her for sharing. …




“… Susan and Frederick didn’t care what others said ….
They were friends, no matter what.”
– Rough sketch, final sketch, and final art

(Click first two to enlarge)


“In 1861 Susan and Frederick headed to New York’s capital, Albany, to speak out against slavery. More than one hundred people signed a petition to keep them out of the city. ‘Those radicals will cause riots!’ they cried. …”
– A close-up of a spread in progress

(Click to enlarge)


“Their friendship lasted when tempers flared.”
– A close-up of a spread in progress

(Click to enlarge)


“No one thought Susan and Frederick would become friends.
But it’s a good thing they did. …”
– A close-up of a spread in progress

(Click to enlarge)



Cover as a work-in-progress
(Click each to enlarge)



 

* * * * * * *

FRIENDS FOR FREEDOM: THE STORY OF SUSAN B. ANTHONY & FREDERICK DOUGLASS. Copyright © 2014 by Suzanne Slade. Illustrations copyright © 2014 by Nicole Tadgell. Published by Charlesbridge, Watertown, MA. All images here are reproduced by permission of Nicole Tadgell.

4 Comments on A Peek at Nicole Tadgell’s Drawing Table, last added: 1/22/2015
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6. 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #415: Featuring Steven Weinberg

Every now and then here at 7-Imp, I like to link back to this 2008 post I wrote with my friend and librarian extraordinaire (and current Caldecott committee member!) Adrienne Furness, and I always like to add books to our Straight Talk About the Food Chain bibliography. (There’s no actual bibliography — just one in my head.) Rex Finds an Egg! Egg! Egg!—the debut picture book from Steven Weinberg, who is visiting 7-Imp today—would be a great addition to the list. The book will be on shelves in late February from Margaret K. McElderry Books.

The story is of a very energetic young dinosaur, who thinks he’s found an egg. You can see his reaction pictured below. He runs for his life in the next moment, because a volcano has just exploded. Rather he does this: “Run. Run! RUN!” (The wonderfully spastic text is filled with a lot of these monosyllabic moments.) Rex takes his discovery and attempts to find a quiet spot, but there are many obstacles in his way: A cliff and other dinosaurs (including a pterodactyl). Look closely at his surroundings, and you’re likely to see another volcano, ready to blow up and out. (This is the Mesozoic Era after all. Things were probably very rarely quiet and soothing.)

After one particularly active explosion, his “egg” flies away. When it lands and doesn’t break, he discovers—thanks to another smaller dinosaur who’s been following his trail all the while—it’s really a rock. And then comes the kicker, the funny, rather twisted, and deliciously dark ending, which … well, I’M SORRY, but I can’t give it away if you want to read this for yourself. (This isn’t a review blog, so dems the breaks, and I don’t want to spoil your reading experience.) The key word above is “deliciously.” A dinosaur’s gotta eat.

This is a funny story, especially that ending. (Just when you think you’re reading yet one more picture book about a happily-ever-after friendship, Weinberg throws you a curve ball.) And Rex is a lovable protagonist (despite the ending). He isn’t the sharpest tool in the tool box, but he has an infectious and rambunctious energy. Weinberg’s lines are relaxed, and his palette is eye-opening, to say the least. “Using garish colors and a thick, red crayon for the scribbly linework,” the Kirkus review writes, “Weinberg crafts a mad cartoonist’s vision of a prehistoric setting that, seemingly on the verge of shaking apart at any moment, ratchets Rex’s flight into a giddy scramble.”

Steven is visiting this morning to talk about his work (in his own words) and share some art and preliminary images. I thank him for visiting (and I can’t wait to see what he does next)!


Steven in the studio
(Click to enlarge)


 

On Debuting a Picture Book …


 

It’s really exciting to think this book began somewhere on my many trips to the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, growing up in D.C. I loved staring up at the dinosaur skeletons and those murals where, magically, every living thing happens to be out at that exact same moment. Flash forward twenty-some years to me in my studio having the idea for Rex.

 



 

Through all the drafts of writing and drawing, I’ve had my agent Marcia Wernick (Wernick & Pratt), editor Ruta Rimas, and designer Lauren Rille at Margaret K. McElderry Books (Simon & Schuster) helping me shape it all. They’re an all-star team. So basically, having this as my debut picture book is kind of a blur. A really really really exciting blur.


“First first first sketch of opening spread …”
(Click to enlarge)



 


“First go at final art. [It] pretty much stayed the same all the way through.”
(Click to enlarge)


 


“The kind of notes that editor Ruta and I made on the first dummy of the sketches.”
(Click to enlarge)


 


“And at some point, months and months later, I made the final.”
(Click to enlarge)


 

On Other Work …


 

Up until now, I’ve been a real jack-of-all trades illustrator. For one reason or another, I’ve ended up doing a lot of work for bars: murals, posters for events, tee shirts, and even hand-painting their signs.

I moved up to the Catskills from Brooklyn just over a year ago with my wife, Casey Scieszka. We opened the Spruceton Inn [pictured below], a nine-room inn with a bar. Casey really runs all of that, day-to-day, while I work on new books and such. Though I have discovered I’m something of a carpenter! I built our bar and the booth in there, plus a whole lot of tables, all from reclaimed wood in our barn.


(Click to enlarge)


 

Since moving up here, I’ve also been doing a weekly (often animated) cartoon all about being a Brooklyn-artist-turned-Catskills-artist for the art site hyperallergic.com.

 



 

That’s been a really fun way to keep track of this crazy move and make sure I never stop drawing. Here’s my most recent one all about a recent trip to Montreal with some restauranteur friends.

 



 

And I’ve been watercolor-painting up a storm since moving to the mountains. I have great views right from my studio and will be showing a bunch of these down in NYC next month.


(Click to enlarge)


 

On Influences …


 

I really like cartoons. And still cannot get enough of The Simpsons and anything Looney Tunes. I love the dynamism of all that and love the challenge of getting picture books (which of course are inherently static) to feel like they have the same amount of energy.

I also lucked out, and my mom is a children’s librarian. So, growing up, I remember spending hours in libraries and then getting to take home as many picture books as I wanted. I loved eating up new books and also making my parents re-read and re-read books, like Judith Viorst’s Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. (I’m the middle kid, so there’s a lot to be terrible about.)

 



 

I also happen to have a pretty cool father-in-law: Jon Scieszka. He’s been a huge supporter of Rex from the get-go. My jaw is still kind of dropped from the first time I showed him a dummy of Rex, and he said “Dammit! I wish I’d thought of this!” He’s also a good check on making sure everything I do has the kind of manic energy I would have wanted as a kid.

 

On What’s Next …


 

I’m finishing up final art for my next book with Simon & Schuster, called You Must Be This Tall. It’s the classic story of two snakes who want to ride a roller coaster, but one of them isn’t tall enough. As someone who grew up as a younger brother, it’s a concept near and dear to my heart. That one will come out next Spring, and then they have me for another one after that too.



 

Rex is officially out on February 24th, and I’m just really excited to get out and start doing events for it from then on. It’s really fun to write and draw books in my studio — but even more fun to read the final product with kids. I’m also really pretty good at drawing dinosaurs, so I kind of can’t wait to just go to schools and see how long I can just draw dinos on command.

You can follow me on Twitter and Instagram as @Steven_Draws. And most everything else is on my site at StevenWeinbergStudio.com.

Here are more images from Rex:


“First go at the underwater spread. Thought it could be best at two moments.”
(Click to enlarge)



 


“Then, realizing it could be a great moment to slow things down and show off the underwater world, I re-did it as one spread. (Not shown: time spent watching underwater dinosaur documentaries on YouTube
and sketching these insane looking guys from that.)”

(Click to enlarge)


 


“The final ….”
(Click to enlarge)


 


“First go [of pterodactyl spread].
Have action going right to left, which is a little counterintuitive.”

(Click to enlarge)


 


“The final. (Changed the orientation and made the pterodactyl bigger and
more dramatic. Just more fun fun fun.)”

(Click to enlarge)


 

REX FINDS AN EGG! EGG! EGG! Copyright © 2015 by Steven Weinberg. Margaret K. McElderry Books, New York. All images here are reproduced by permission of Steven Weinberg.

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) Well, this is very funny.

2) Last week, I wrote that I had submitted an essay I hoped would be well-received. It was well-received! Whew.

3) A weekend (this one) with no big plans and pretty much no busy-ness.

4) I’ll be speaking at this event at the Nashville Public Library (but hosted by Parnassus Books) this week. I’m looking forward to it.

5) Oh, and I’ll be doing a Twitter chat about Caldecott contenders on Tuesday, January 27, at 7:30pm with the librarians at Metro Nashville Public Schools. I’m excited about that too, because as I’ve said before here at 7-Imp, school librarians are my jam.

6) A surprise copy of Uptown Special sitting on my desk on Monday morning. “Don’t believe me just watch.” (Here’s where I’d post a video of me, I dunno, dancing or something, but I don’t have the smooth moves for that great song. I just sort of balter when it comes on.)

7) These words of wisdom. (Just say no to small talk.)

 

What are YOUR kicks this week?

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7. What I’m Doing at Kirkus This Week,Plus What I Did Last Week, Featuring Dahlov Ipcar,Ronni Solbert, and Leonard Weisgard


“The Snowshoe Rabbit, white as white,
Runs over the snow in the bright moonlight …”
– Spread from Margaret Wise Brown’s
The Golden Bunny,
illustrated by Leonard Weisgard

(Click to enlarge)


“On his dream-sea tall ships sail,
And a great black whale meets a great white whale.”
– Spread from Dahlov Ipcar’s
Black and White
(Click to enlarge)

This morning over at Kirkus, I’ve got two good, brand-new nonfiction picture books — Hester Bass’ Seeds of Freedom: The Peaceful Integration of Huntsville, Alabama, illustrated by E. B. Lewis, and Kathleen Benson’s Draw What You See: The Life and Art of Benny Andrews, which includes the paintings of Andrews. That link will be here soon.

* * *

Last week, I wrote here about some picture book reissues, including Dahlov Ipcar’s Black and White, originally published in 1963 with a new edition coming from Flying Eye Books this April; Margaret Wise Brown’s The Golden Bunny, illustrated by Leonard Weisgard and originally released in 1953 (out on shelves again this month, thanks to Golden Books); Jean Merrill’s The Elephant Who Liked to Smash Small Cars (pictured left), illustrated by Ronni Solbert, originally released in 1964, and coming to shelves in March from The New York Children’s Collection; Peter Spier’s The Book of Jonah, originally published in 1985 and coming to shelves again at the end of this month from Doubleday; and Chris Van Allsburg’s Just a Dream, which turns 25 this year. An anniversary edition will be released by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in March.

I’ve got art today from three of these books.

Enjoy!


 

From Jean Merrill’s The Elephant Who
Liked to Smash Small Cars
,
illustrated by Ronni Solbert:


 



(Click either image to see spread in its entirety)


 



(Click either image to see spread in its entirety)


 


“One day, a car salesman opened a car store on the road where the elephant lived.
The man had a lot of small cars to sell.”

(Click to enlarge)


 



 

From Margaret Wise Brown’s The Golden Bunny,
illustrated by Leonard Weisgard:


 


Illustration from the story “The Golden Bunny”;
click to enlarge and read text


 



Illustration from the story “Here Comes a Baby”;
click first image to see spread enlarged and in its entirety (and to read the text)


 



 

From Dahlov Ipcar’s Black and White:


 


“The little black dog and the little white dog
Went in their houses and said good night.
They climbed in their beds and they curled up tight.
The night outside grew dark and deep,
And each dreamed a dream when he fell asleep.”

(Click to enlarge)


 


“The little black dog / all curled up tight
Dreamed a dream / of a jungle night.
In the dark jungle / of his dream
Big black elephants / ford a stream.”

(Click to enlarge)


 


“Black-and-white zebras and antelopes graze
Through the long, hot jungle days.”

(Click to enlarge)


 



 

* * * * * * *

BLACK AND WHITE. Copyright © 1963 by Dahlov Ipar. First Flying Eye Books edition © 2015 Flying Eye Books. Illustrations reproduced by permission of the publisher.

THE ELEPHANT WHO LIKED TO SMASH SMALL CARS. Copyright © 1964 by Jean Merrill. Illustrations © 1964 by Ronni Solbert. 2015 edition published by the New York Review Children’s Collection, New York. Illustrations reproduced by permission of the publisher.

THE GOLDEN BUNNY. Copyright © 1953 by Random House LLC. 2015 edition published by Golden Books, New York. Illustrations reproduced by permission of the publisher.

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8. A Peek at Pat Cummings’ Process


Early thumbnail
(Click to enlarge)


 


Pat: “This is the scene when Beauty has returned home, overstayed her visit, and has
a bad dream about the Beast dying in the castle garden, because she’s broken her promise. The round symbol repeated on the base of her bed is her family motif that I wanted to suggest one of the west African Adinkra symbols.”

(Click to enlarge)


 

I’m following up today at 7-Imp with some art from H. Chuku Lee’s Beauty and the Beast, illustrated by Pat Cummings and published by Amistad/HarperCollins earlier in 2014. I talked with them both at Kirkus last week (here) about this book, and as always, I wanted to be sure to share some images from it. I thank Pat for sharing some final art, as well as for including some early thumbnails and other preliminary images (plus a bit of explanation as to what the images are).

Enjoy. …


 

Pat’s Initial Thumbnails for the Opening Spread
(Click each to enlarge):


 





 

Experimenting with Medium
(Click each to enlarge):


 



Pat: “Initially, I thought I’d do the art in black and white [pencil],
referencing the Cocteau film.” (See last week’s Q&A for an explanation.)


Pat: “I planned to use color in the way that
old photos were retouched with pastels.”


Pat: “Then I thought I’d try to do the book digitally.”


Final version in watercolor, gouache, and pencil


 

Some Final Spreads
(Click each to enlarge):


 


Pat: “The architecture of the Beast’s castle is based on buildings by the Dogon tribe in Mali, West Africa. I tried to add windows and elements that would suggest eyes or fangs but what I realllllly wanted to do was to make the handrail on the stairs a serpent. I had painted it that way, scales and all, and it got nixed as too scary. Much later, after I had finished the book, I saw an image in a book about Cocteau that showed a serpent-handled stairway I think he used in another movie.”


Pat: “This is the first time the Beast appears in full. He’s often depicted as a boar or a lion-like creature, but I wanted him to look more human — like the prince he was,
but after a run-in with a bad fairy.”


Pat: “On Beauty’s return to the castle, she can’t find the Beast, so she wanders from room to room, morning till evening, looking for him. One of the elements that resonated with me in the Cocteau film was the use of objects like candle sconces to show that Beauty was constantly surrounded by unseen attendants.
She was always being watched.”

* * * * * * *

BEAUTY AND THE BEAST. Copyright © 2014 by H. Chuku Lee. Illustrations copyright © 2014 by Pat Cummings. Published by Amistad/HarperCollins, New York. All images here reproduced by permission of Pat Cummings.

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9. Seven Questions Over Shots with Nick Bruel



 

Author-illustrator Nick Bruel is serious about breakfast. When I ask him what pretend-breakfast-of choice we’ll pretend-have over pretend-coffee this morning, his answer is detailed (right after my own breakfast-lovin’ heart):

Choice? Well, the finest breakfast dish I ever had was an oatmeal crème brulee from a hotel somewhere in Miami. It was dessert; it was breakfast; it was oatmeal; it was sugary; it was delicious, and I’ve never had anything like it since. But my typical breakfast of choice is some nice, fresh, untoasted sourdough bread and a quality olive oil for dipping. I especially like a mushroom-roasted garlic oil that comes from a shop in Tarrytown, NY.

Years ago when I traveled in China, my favorite breakfast dish was what Westerners here call congee, which is a hot rice porridge accompanied by at least half a dozen small dishes filled with assorted items, like egg or pickle or vegetables. You scoop out some of the hot rice mush into your bowl and add whatever you feel like from the smaller dishes. If you do it right, it can be delightful.

I have a lot to say about breakfast. I like breakfast.

Nick’s Bad Kitty, one of children’s literature’s most refreshingly naughty characters, appeared ten years ago—”Bruel’s little black star is perhaps the hammiest, most expressive feline ever captured in watercolors,” wrote Kirkus at the character’s debut—and it’s safe to say things haven’t been the same for Bruel since. Bad Kitty’s adventures began with a picture book, which then turned into a bestselling chapter book series.

But Nick started out with picture books and returns to them, in part, this year with the release this month of A Wonderful Year (our purple friend above comes from this story), already the recipient of a handful of positive reviews, some starred.

Nick talks about that new book, and much more below, and I thank him for visiting. As you’ll read, we may have a few shots with our coffee. (What? I’m up for just about anything.)

* * * * * * *

Jules: Are you an illustrator or author/illustrator?

Nick: Both. So there.

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.)

Nick: Bad Kitty – blah, blah, blah. But I will give particular shout out to Bad Kitty: Drawn To Trouble and the upcoming Bad Kitty: Puppy’s Big Day.

Who Is Melvin Bubble?

Bob and Otto, written by my father, Robert O. Bruel.

Little Red Bird.

The upcoming A Wonderful Year –- possibly my best book.

 





 

Jules: What is your usual medium?

Nick: Pencil, ink, watercolor, gouache, and stress.

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?

[Pictured left: The first-ever painting of Bad Kitty.]

Nick: The different challenges between making books for these particular age ranges have less to do with the illustrations and more with the writing. When writing picture books, I have to pace my story to fit into those exact 32 or 40 page measurements. When writing the chapter books, I can just go hog wild and keep writing the story until I think it’s done.

As for the art — interestingly, the picture books and the chapter books both take me an equal amount of time to illustrate. The picture books are much shorter but are painted in color. The Bad Kitty chapter books may all be illustrated monochromatically, but some of those beasts are as much as 160 pages long, almost all of them fully illustrated.

Jules: Where are your stompin’ grounds?

Nick (pictured right in first grade): Until recently, we lived in bucolic Tarrytown, NY. Now we live in equally bucolic Briarcliff Manor, NY. And if that name sounds at all familiar, then, yes, the name of the insane asylum where all the mayhem takes place in the second season of American Horror Story is “Briarcliff Manor.”

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

Nick: I worked at a children’s bookstore in NYC called Books Of Wonder for over seven years. The store’s still there. During my evenings, I spent all my time creating and selling cartoons to various magazines and trade journals. About halfway through my tenure at BOW, I began to combine my interests and create my own kid book manuscripts. A regular customer named Jennie Dunham was curious about my work and eventually became my agent. A former store manager named Schuyler Hooke recommended me to a friend of his, who happened to be the great Neal Porter, who had just started the then fledgling Roaring Brook. And the rest, as they say, is history.


Nick’s first book, published in 2004

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

Nick: www.nickbruel.com. But Bad Kitty herself has a wonderful site my publisher Macmillan created at www.badkittybooks.com.

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

Nick: Because my books target a pretty wide age range, I get to talk to lots of different age groups. For the most part, I like to conduct an exercise on how to come up with story ideas, which I cater to each grade level. For 5th graders, I like to conduct what I call a “cartooning symposium” that’s really an exercise on overcoming writer’s block. When the rare opportunity arises for me to speak to middle schoolers, I like to give a talk on criticism and censorship.

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

Nick: I will have five brand new titles that I’ve both written and illustrated coming out in 2015. Crazy, right? In January, the newest Bad Kitty chapter books comes out, which will be Bad Kitty: Puppy’s Big Day, the first chapter book to feature Puppy.

In May will be some new Bad Kitty stuff. First, a picture/chapter/activity book titled Bad Kitty Makes Comics, my instruction manual on how kids can make their own comics with Bad Kitty and Strange Kitty as their guides.

At the same time will come the first Bad Kitty early readers, Bad Kitty Does Not Like Dogs and Bad Kitty Does Not Like Candy. These two books may represent the opening salvo of what may become the next Bad Kitty series.

Lastly, on the same day as the release of Puppy’s Big Day will come my first non-Bad Kitty book in many years, A Wonderful Year. [Some spreads are pictured below.] This concept behind this book came to me when I woke up one morning contemplating what I might have done if I was asked to do my own Nutshell Library. The book will be four short stories in one picture book, each story set in one of the seasons of the year. Each story will be independent of each other, but none of them could really exist without the other three. When kids ask me what my favorite book may be, I always tell them that I don’t have a favorite. And I don’t. But having said that, A Wonderful Year may indeed be my best book.

 


(Click to enlarge)


 


(Click to enlarge)


 



(Click either image to see spread in its entirety)

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

Nick

: My process is pretty similar for all of my books, but I’ll describe it specific to how I make the chapter books.

First I take a shower. Seriously. Some of my best ideas come to me while hot water is pouring onto my head. The shower is just a great place for me to focus my thoughts.

Once inspiration has hit me and I’ve dried off, I like to put all of my early thoughts on paper. These really will be random thoughts, and they may not even take a linear shape in the form of a story.


Rough drawing: Creating a page for the upcoming Bad Kitty Goes To The Vet,
to be released in January 2016

(Click to enlarge)

Once I do have a story in mind, I will go to the computer and type out a detailed outline. The typical Bad Kitty chapter book outline is around 5-6 pages, single spaced. I like to describe outlines as being like maps for the story itself. Every now and then, you like to get into a car knowing exactly where you’re going and how to get there — point A to point B to point C … and so on. But every now and then you get sidetracked or lost or just feel like going off-road for a bit. That’s okay. Most maps delineate multiple routes.

Next, I go back to pen and paper. I have to. Because my books are so heavily illustrated and because I firmly believe that illustrations tell a story just as much as words do, I start writing and sketching at the same time. This 160-page mess of hand-drawn and hand-written pages doesn’t even represent the manuscript because …


Kitty, penciled and inked
(Click to enlarge)

Next I take all of those loose sketches and make clean, penciled illustrations on hot pressed Arches watercolor pages. I use the hot pressed stuff after Jerry Pinkney suggested it to me, because the smooth texture works will with pen and ink. (This will not be the first big name I drop. Everyone can drink their first shot now.)

Once everything has been penciled, I scan all of the pages individually. Once scanned, I create a computer design file where I combine all of my words and pictures for submission, because THIS file will be the manuscript, the book dummy.

It all sounds like a complex process, but I have it so streamlined now that it all goes pretty smoothly.


Final art
(Click to enlarge)

Once my editor has give me the green light to finish the artwork, I outline all of my penciled pages with good ol’ fashioned crow quill pen (a Gilliott 1290, to be specific) and ink. After the ink’s dried, I paint everything except for Kitty in watercolor paints. Kitty, I paint with gouache. That’s because gouache is solid and opaque. I could never get that deep, even [the] black in Kitty, by painting her with watercolors. Also, painting her with a different medium helps her to stand out from her background.


Dummy of cover for first Bad Kitty book

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

Nick

: If you’ve ever seen the last scene of Blair Witch Project, then you’ve seen my studio office. I gave up a long time ago trying to be tidy with my workspace. It’s just a filthy mess of papers and loose paint tubes and pens and cat hair. All I need is one can of spilled motor oil, and I think I could apply to the government to label my office as a superfund site.

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


Nick

: One guy that few people remember, but everyone should, is Jack Kent. He was one of the rare breed of children’s book creators who also had his own syndicated comic strip in the newspapers for years.

I remember his work well from when I was a kid and admire him greatly to this day, even though almost none of his books remain in print. There’s No Such Thing as a Dragon I believe is still in print. But everyone should look in their libraries for Joey and Silly Goose and Socks For Supper to see what smart, simply-executed pictures look like. I would love to see his work re-discovered.

I’m also a great admirer of my good friend Jules Feiffer. (Take another shot.) His multi-faceted career in cartooning and children’s books and theatre and novels is the kind of career I would most like to emulate.

I honestly think that Bark, George is the closest thing we have to a perfect picture book in this generation.

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.)

Nick: This is a bit of a problem for me, because I’ve met a lot of my heroes already — not because of what I do now, but because of what I used to do. Working as a bookseller, like I did, gave me the opportunity to meet tons of great talent. I had several discussions with Shel Silverstein, who was a regular customer. (Take a shot.) I spoke at great length once with Maurice Sendak (shot). Lane Smith lived, literally, next door to the store. I’ve already met pretty much everyone. (You know what to do.) But a few more people do come to mind.

I’m a huge fan of Cynthia Rylant. I think her Mr. Putter and Tabby series is the finest “I Can Read” series out there for kids. I’ve met the illustrator, Arthur Howard, several times and told him as much. I think she really has the knack for writing for children, as evidenced by all of her marvelous books and series. I would love to sit and have lunch with her someday.

I owe a great deal to Lois Ehlert. When I was first writing Bad Kitty, I was stumped as to what to use for “x” in alphabet of vegetables that’s in that book. My last resort was to “borrow” what Ehlert did for her sublime Eating The Alphabet, which was to use “xigua.” I could not have completed that first Bad Kitty book without that filling in that one letter. I’ve often said that if I ever get the opportunity to meet Lois Ehlert, I owe her a nice box of chocolates.



 

Lastly, I’m going to cheat and invoke a deceased artist: Dick King-Smith. I was given the lovely opportunity to illustrate five of his shorter novels a few years ago. I leaped on this opportunity, because I really wanted to share cover credits with him. And I very much wanted these books to be an opportunity to meet him. But, alas, he died shortly after the final book, Clever Duck, came out. I do regret not having made more of an effort to contact him, if only by mail.

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?

Nick: When I’m writing, I can’t listen to ANYTHING. When writing, I need to be inside something as close to a sensory deprivation tank as I can get. Even the smallest distraction can really throw me off my game.

But when I’m illustrating, anything goes. My recent habit, oddly enough, has been to watch—but, really, listen to—Netflix. I love British mysteries, because they’re paced slowly, and you can listen to them like you would a radio drama and not feel like you’re missing anything. Poirot has been great. My most recent obsession has been Midsomer Murders. Good stuff!

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

Nick: Even people who know me personally don’t necessarily know that I am half Chinese. My father is Belgian (hence, “Bruel”), but my mother was born in Shanghai. I don’t think my Chinese upbringing comes through in my work much. But it’s certainly a part of my personal life.

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

Nick: “What’s one thing that most people don’t know about you?”

Oh, wait. Never mind.

* * * The Pivot Questionnaire * * *

Jules: What is your favorite word?

Nick: “Roofer,” as in someone who builds and repairs roofs. There is just no elegant way to say that word out loud.

Jules: What is your least favorite word?

Nick: “Republican.”

Did I just get myself into trouble?

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

Nick: Solitude. I love my little family. But I also really love being alone.

Jules: What turns you off?

Nick: Interruptions.

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

Nick: “#@%&*!” I’ve used this word-that’s-not-really-a-word in several of my books. You’d be amazed by how many angry emails, judgmental blog posts, and outraged Amazon reviews I’ve received because of this “word.” They only encourage me to use it again and again. And I have.

Jules: What sound or noise do you love?

Nick: My daughter’s laughter.

Jules: What sound or noise do you hate?

Nick: My daughter’s complaints.

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

Nick: My wife Carina always says I could have been an actor. That might have been fun.

Jules: What profession would you not like to do?

Nick: I’ve never been a waiter. I honestly don’t think it’s a job I could physically sustain. I feel the same way about cab drivers.

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

Nick: “Hi, Nick. Feel like another go around?”

 

All images are used by permission of Nick Bruel.

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

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10. Coming Soon in Nashville …


(Click to enlarge)

Here’s a quick note to share this upcoming event from Parnassus Books. Author Sharon Draper will be in town to engage in this panel discussion, sponsored by Parnassus but taking place at the Nashville Public Library, about diversity in children’s literature. I’ll be participating in the discussion, and there’s more information here at Parnassus’ site, including details about my fellow panelists, Kristin Bernet and Dean Schneider.

For those in and near middle Tennessee, I hope you can make it!

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11. 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #414: Featuring April Pulley Sayre


“Raindrops reflect.”
(Click to enlarge slightly)

I’m having a very BookPage week here at 7-Imp. (There was this post and then this post.)

One more today! I reviewed April Pulley Sayre’s newest picture book, Raindrops Roll. That review is here, and today I’ve got some spreads from this beautiful book.

Enjoy.

 


“Rain is coming. You can feel it in the air.”
(Click to enlarge)


“Rain waters … and washes … and weighs down.”
(Click to enlarge)



 

RAINDROPS ROLL. Copyright © 2015 by April Pulley Sayre. Published by Beach Lane Books, New York. All images here are reproduced by permission of April Pulley Sayre.

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

* * * Jules’ Kicks * * *

1) A really thoughtful surprise for my girls from a friend.

2) An anniversary.

3) Birdman.

4) Finishing a writing assignment. Here’s hoping it’s well-received!

5) Spiked shakes.

6) Mailbox letters from friends.

7) Good stationery.

 

What are YOUR kicks this week?

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12. Hopping in the Wayback Machine(Though I Promise Not to Smash It) …



 

Today over at Kirkus, I’m thinking about early-2015 picture book reissues, which include Peter Spier, Margaret Wise Brown & Leonard Weisgard, Chris Van Allsburg, Dahlov Ipcar, and the impish story pictured above, originally published in 1964.

That is here.

Until Sunday …

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13. A Chat with H. Chuku Lee and Pat Cummings …



 

These two. If I were only half as cool as they are …

Go see for yourself. That’s H. Chuku Lee (left) and Pat Cummings (right). We talk at Kirkus today about their 2014 picture book collaboration, Beauty and the Beast, which Chuku wrote and Pat illustrated. They’re a husband-and-wife team, and here’s hoping Chuku ends up writing more; this was his children’s book debut, though he has had a long and distinguished career in journalism. (Actually, he told me, though there wasn’t room for it in the Q&A over there, that he is developing several ideas for other stories, so that’s good news.)

Pat, as you’ll read over there, has illustrated over 30 books in her career and also teaches illustration at Pratt Institute. I’ve wanted to interview her for years now, and I really enjoyed this Q&A. Next week here at 7-Imp, she’ll share some art from the book.

The Q&A is here.

* * * * * * *

Photos of H. Chuku Lee and Pat Cummings used with their permission.

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14. A Bear, a Truck, an Unreliable Narrator,and Julia Sarcone-Roach (a Few Hours After Breakfast)




 

Author-illustrator Julia Sarcone-Roach is visiting 7-Imp today, you all, and it’s pretty much made my day.

Over at BookPage, I reviewed her newest picture book, The Bear Ate Your Sandwich, released just this week. The review is here, if you want to know my thoughts (I’m quite smitten with this book), and if you want to know more about the story.

Julia shares here at 7-Imp some spreads from the book, some dummy pages, and some behind-the-scenes peeks, too. She created the illustrations using acrylic paints and pencil, and I could stare at them all day. The colors, o! the colors!

Enjoy.



 

Early Sketches and Final Art:


 



Early sketch and final spread: “By now I think you know what happened to your sandwich. But you may not know how it happened.
So let me tell you. It all started with the bear.”

(Click each image to enlarge)


 



Early sketch and final spread: “The morning air was warm and bright when the bear stepped out of his den. He stretched and sniffed. The scent of ripe berries drifted toward him and led to a wonderful discovery.”
(Click each to enlarge)


 



Early sketch and final spread:”By the time the bear opened his eyes, the buzzing had become a rumbling. He was being quickly swept along like a leaf in a great river.
The forest disappeared in the distance and high cliffs rose up around him.”

(Click each to enlarge)


 



(Click either image to see spread in its entirety)


 


“There it was. Your beautiful and delicious sandwich. All alone. He waited to make sure no one saw him (not even the sandwich) before he made his move.”
(Click to enlarge)


 

More Behind the Scenes …


 



Bear sketches
(Click to enlarge)


 


(Click to enlarge)


 


Julia: “The back cover has a mysterious shadow looming over a sandwich.
Before painting, I set up some lighting studies. For accuracy’s sake, I staged it with
a real lunchbox, and of course I used a real bear.”

(Click to enlarge)


 


Back cover sketch


Julia: “This is my assistant Holly, who is in charge of naps and biting.”


 



 

* * * * * * *

THE BEAR ATE YOUR SANDWICH. Copyright © 2015 by Julia Sarcone-Roach. Published by Alfred A. Knopf, New York. All images here are reproduced by permission of Julia Sarcone-Roach.

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15. Last Stop on Market Street:A Visit with Matt de la Peña & Christian Robinson


 
There’s a brand-new picture book in this brand-new year that I like an awful lot. It’s Matt de la Peña’s Last Stop on Market Street, illustrated by Christian Robinson (pictured above), and I’ve reviewed it for BookPage.

That review is here, and I like the book so much that I wanted to follow up here at 7-Imp with some art and preliminary images from Christian, as well as some words from Matt (pictured right) about the book.

So, all of that is below—Matt’s responses to a small handful of questions I sent him and Christian’s behind-the-scenes images—and I thank both of them for sharing.

Let’s get right to it. … (Oh, and if you read the review over at BookPage, you’ll see some spreads from the book there, too!)

Jules: Can you talk about how this story came to be?

Matt: A few years ago, Steve Malk (my agent) sent me a link to some art by Christian, saying, “You gotta check this guy out. He’s incredible.” This was before Steve had even signed Christian. Steve has impeccable taste, so I was excited. But when I clicked on the links, I was blown away. The work was so fun. And expressive. And quirky. But what struck me most was the depth. The soul. There was one piece that especially moved me. It was a boy on a bus with his grandmother.


Nana and CJ
(Click to enlarge)


(Click to enlarge)


Exploring CJ’s character
(Click to enlarge)

Fast forward a year and Jennifer Besser at Putnam bought the book based on that one piece by Christian and a pitch from me. The story I wrote began from a very personal place for both of us. Christian rode the bus with his Nana throughout his childhood. My Mexican grandma was the matriarch of my own family. And I had a lot of experience riding the bus, too — especially during my five years in Los Angeles when I naively bought a stolen used car from a nice old man with a cane and an eye patch (true story!) and was left car-less in a city where there are three times more cars than people.


(Click to enlarge)


(Click to enlarge)

As I began writing the story, though, I quickly realized the heartbeat of the book was Nana. And the depth of even the briefest human interaction. And the hidden beauty of the city. Sometimes we have to be taught how to see the world. About a year ago, I was lucky enough to meet Christian’s real Nana. She was beautiful. And she had so much dignity. It made this book take on even more meaning for me.


(Click to enlarge)

Sadly, my Mexican grandma passed before the release of Last Stop. So I won’t ever get to send her a copy. This makes me sad. But I guess Nana would tell me to remember all the great moments I did have with my grandma. And maybe I’ll be lucky enough to read Last Stop in front of Christian’s grandma one day. That would be pretty cool.

Jules: Yes, Christian said it’s a very personal story for you both (and that he’s ecstatic to have recently sent his Nana copies of the book).


Nana studies
(Click to enlarge)


(Click to enlarge)


Dedication page
(Click to enlarge)

Matt: I’d also like to express my greatest hope for the book. I hope folks don’t view this as a book that should be set aside for diverse readers. I hope folks view Last Stop as a book for all readers.

 


(Click to enlarge)


…”‘How come we always gotta go here after church?’ CJ said.
‘Miguel and Colby never have to go nowhere.’
‘I feel sorry for those boys,’ she told him.
‘They’ll never get a chance to meet Bobo or the Sunglass Man.
And I hear Trixie got herself a brand-new hat.’” …

(Click to enlarge and see full text)

Jules: As I noted in my BookPage review, I do love how the book touches on issues of class without being didactic about it.

Matt: I set out to write a story featuring diverse characters that has nothing to do with diversity. Also, I guess my goal in all my work (including my YA novels) is to render moments of grace and dignity that exist on the “wrong side of the tracks.”


(Click to enlarge)


(Click to enlarge)

Jules: So, unlike most picture books, you knew who your illustrator would be as you wrote this text.

Matt: I know editors often want to keep writers and illustrators apart, but I feel this story really benefited from the fact that I knew Christian was going to the illustrator. I printed out his piece with the boy on the bus with his grandma and had it next to me as I wrote the story. That piece set the tone, I think. I just followed it into the story.


(Click to enlarge)


(Click to enlarge)


(Click to enlarge)


(Click to enlarge)

Jules: This is your second picture book. And a very different one from the first one, which was nonfiction. What were the challenges, if any, in writing your first fiction picture book text?

Matt: I was lucky enough to work with Kadir Nelson on a book titled, A Nation’s Hope: the Story of Boxing Legend Joe Louis. My first book. With Kadir Nelson. Pretty crazy. One of the illustrations from that book hangs over my desk. Surprisingly, the process wasn’t that different, though. In both cases, fiction and non-fiction, you have to find the heartbeat of the character. Story comes from that place for me. CJ feels as true to me as Joe Louis.

Jules: What’s next for you?

Matt: Thanks so much for asking. The paperback version of my latest YA novel, The Living, comes out in early January. And the sequel to The Living, The Hunted, comes out in May. It’s only a two-book series, so The Hunted ends the story. I’m currently working on another YA and two brand-new picture books.

Also, it’s been an honor to answer your questions. We YA authors never get a chance to be on 7-Imp!

Jules: True, since I write primarily about picture books and illustration now, though I do read my YA novels too (when I’m not blogging)!

Thanks again for visiting, Matt. …

[Note for those who want to see more from Christian: He’s visited 7-Imp several times, but here’s the art-filled 2012 7-Imp interview.]



 

Early Cover Tests and Sketches
from Christian:


 









(Click to enlarge)


 


(Click to enlarge)


 



Final cover
(Click each to enlarge)


 

Sharing the Book
(Photos from Christian):


 


(Click to enlarge)


 


(Click to enlarge)


 


(Click to enlarge)


 

* * * * * * *

LAST STOP ON MARKET STREET. Copyright © 2015 by Matt de la Peña. Illustrations © 2015 by Christian Robinson. Published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons, New York. All images from LAST MARKET are reproduced by permission of Christian Robinson.

Photo of Matt de la Peña used by his permission.

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16. 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #413: FeaturingUp-and-Coming Illustrator, Esther Lui


Crazy Like a Fox, 2014


 

It’s the first Sunday of the month—the first one of 2015, of course, and Happy New Year to all!—which means a student or debut illustrator here at 7-Imp. Today, I’ve got a recent graduate. Her name is Esther Lui, her website is here, and she’s here to tell us a bit about her work, as well as share some art.

I thank her for visiting. Oh, and she does comics, too! (This one will take care of my nightmares for a while. HOO HA.)


Circus, 2014

Esther: Hi! I’m Esther Lui. I graduated with a degree in Illustration from RISD last May and am currently working as a textile designer and illustrator in my hometown of Philadelphia.

When I was little, I spent all of my spare time reading. I think at one point I was going through ten books a week! That’s where my love of narrative started. But rather than writing, I ended up expressing my own stories through pictures instead.


Llama Wrangler!, 2013

Because I view a lot of my illustrations as stand-alone stories, I try to fit in as much detail as possible. That way, the viewer can really get immersed in the world I created and wonder about what the characters are like and what’s going to happen to them.

I usually work with a mix of traditional and digital media techniques. I like the physicality of a drawing on paper, and on the computer I can freely experiment with different colors and textures. It’s a good fit for me, because I don’t like having a messy palette.


Dirty Secrets, 2013


 

Right now, I’m working on some personal projects of stories that I’ve wanted to work on for a while. I really enjoy the process of it, because sometimes in the middle, the piece will take a very different direction that what I first intended – and it becomes even better as a result!

 


The Herbarium, 2013


 


The Magnolia Room, 2013


 


Summer Flowers, 2013


 


What Liesel Thinks of Horses, 2014


 


Cover illustration for Ray Bradbury’s “All Summer in a Day,” 2014


 

All artwork here is used by permission of Esther Lui.

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) We didn’t watch Fargo, the T.V. series, when it first came out this year, but I kept seeing it on year-end best-of lists (from critics I trust), so we watched it. And boy howdy, is it good — especially the acting.

2) I can’t get over how good this song from Blake Mills is:

3) Finishing this book with my girls:

4) Finishing a galley with my girls of Jeanne Birdsall’s The Penderwicks in Spring (coming in March).

4½) The girls wanted to RE-READ the Penderwick books, one to three, before starting the galley AND they had never read the Joey Pigza books (though I had) AND the one pictured above was the last Joey book, as I understand it, so it was a lot of Joey and a lot of the Penderwicks for the past month or so AND this was a good, good thing.

5) I’m reading Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See, and that man can turn. a. phrase.

6) I knew that Kate Berube, once featured here at 7-Imp as an up-and-coming illustrator, had a good year, but I was extra-happy to see on Facebook that she landed four book contracts this year. Given that one of her 2014 resolutions was to get one book contract, I’d say she’s doing well! Congratulations to her!

7) I got to see friends visiting town for the holidays (including Eisha, who co-founded 7-Imp with me back in the day). This was lovely.

BONUS #1: At the time of this writing, it’s 29 days and 9 hours till the ALA Youth Media Awards!

BONUS #2: Llama-wranglers!

 

What are YOUR kicks this week?

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17. What I’m Doing at Kirkus This Week,Plus What I Did Last Week,Featuring Deirdre Gill and John Hendrix


Illustration from Deirdre Gill’s Outside
(Click to enlarge)


 


Illustration from John Hendrix’s
Shooting at the Stars: The Christmas Truce of 1914


 

Today over at Kirkus, I write about some good things that happened in 2014 in the realm of picture books. That link will be here soon.

* * *

Since last week I chatted with John Hendrix (here) about Shooting at the Stars: The Christmas Truce of 1914 (Abrams, October 2014), I’ve got some art from the book today. I also wrote last week about some snow books (here), so I’ve also got some art from Deirdre Gill’s Outside (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, October 2014).

Enjoy the art, and until Sunday …


 

From Deirdre Gill’s Outside:


 


“Inside, a boy has nothing to do.”
(Click to enlarge spread)


 


“… and bigger …”
(Click to enlarge spread)


 



 

From John Hendrix’s Shooting at the Stars:
The Christmas Truce of 1914
:


 



(Click either image to see spread in its entirety)


 


“… After the sun went down, we decided to chance a fire outside the bunker, but when we stepped outdoors we heard the sounds of singing! …”
(Click to enlarge spread)


 


“Not only were they singing as loud as they could—it sounded like ‘Silent Night’—but all along their line, tiny Christmas trees lit with candles and lanterns had appeared. Several of our boys suggested taking shots at the trees, but most of us
were just glad the Germans weren’t busy trying to shoot us.
We all wondered where they got all those little trees!”

(Click to enlarge spread)


 


“… One of their officers poked his head up, saw the jam,
and then stood right up, waving at us! …”

(Click to enlarge spread)


 


“We all met along a small ditch in the center of No Man’s Land. The first thing we did was bury our fellow soldiers who had been killed. They were everywhere at our feet.
It took some time to finish the grim task. …”

(Click to enlarge spread)


 


“I can hardly describe to you what it was like here. We were talking with men we were trying to kill just the day before! A few of the lads had brought pocket cameras from home, so they took pictures together. I traded buttons off of my field coat with a German soldier named Karl for his belt buckle.”
(Click to enlarge spread)


 



“There was also much trading of biscuits and puddings — we had our fill. There were two Germans in such a good mood they started kicking around an old biscuit tin like a football, using two battered tree stumps as a goal. Karl said to me,
‘Why can’t we just go home — and have peace?’”

(Click top image to see spread in its entirety)


 


“We spent most of the afternoon out there. It was such a beautiful day. As the evening came, we made our way back to the trenches. Many returned with souvenirs like I did. Everyone was jealous of Bruce Coy, who traded his helmet for a German one with a pointy top — they call them “Pickelhaubes.” We sat up on the edge of our trench and laughed together. It felt like I was back at school.”
(Click to enlarge spread)


 


(Click to enlarge spread)


 



 

* * * * * * *

OUTSIDE. Copyright © 2014 by Deirdre Gill. Illustrations reproduced by permission of the publisher, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Boston.

SHOOTING AT THE STARS: THE CHRISTMAS TRUCE OF 1914. Copyright © 2014 by John Hendrix. Published by Abrams Books, New York. Illustrations reproduced by permission of John Hendrix.

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18. Seven Questions Over Breakfast with David Roberts

photo taken by Lynn Roberts MaloneyI couldn’t let 2014 go by without posting this interview with British author-illustrator David Roberts. I’ve enjoyed his books over the years, but he also provided spot illustrations for Wild Things! Acts of Mischief in Children’s Literature, the book I wrote with Betsy Bird and the late Peter D. Sieruta, which was released in August of this year (Candlewick Press). David filled our book with a set of very entertaining startled bunnies, one pictured above (it’s hard to pick a favorite, but she may be it), and he also did the cover art, the image at the very bottom of this Q&A.

So, it’s the very last day of the year, but I managed to get this interview in here just in time.

As you’ll read below, David has illustrated more than 150 books (picture books and beyond), some—but not all—originally published in the UK and then released here in the States, thanks to publishers like Abrams and Candlewick. I appreciate David taking the time to talk about his work this morning and share some art. For breakfast, he told me that every Friday he has breakfast at Joe’s Kitchen near where he lives in South London: poached eggs on brown toast with bacon and tomatoes. He also said he’d always make room for a Danish pastry, but I’m all about the toast this morning (with coffee, of course), even if it’s not Friday, so we’ll have that while we chat.

Without further ado, here’s David …

* * * * * * *

Jules: Are you an illustrator or author/illustrator?

David: Both. I have written and illustrated two books and illustrated more than 150.


Illustration from Carolyn Crimi’s
Dear Tabby (HarperCollins, 2011)

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.)


David:

[Ed. Note: You can see a selected bibliography here at David’s site.]

 


David: “Me and Andrea enjoy our favourite cakes in Chez Snooty Pa Toot
(from
Happy Birthday, Madame Chapeau

)” …
(Click to enlarge)

Jules: What is your usual medium?

David: Watercolour, ink, pen, pencil, crayon, pastel, anything that comes to hand.

 


(Click 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?

David: I have illustrated for very young children with books like Dirty Bertie, Jack and the Flumflum Tree, and The Troll. I’ve also illustrated for young adult readers with books like The Boy Who Kicked Pigs, the Tales of Terror series, and Tinder.




(Click each image to enlarge)

I’d say I never really think too hard about the age that the book is aimed at. It’s always the individual response to that piece of text, but the main difference would be that for picture books you are telling the story through the images, whereas for fiction it is more about creating an atmosphere.


Above: “Thirteen flaming vicars” from Tom Baker’s
The Boy Who Kicked Pigs (Faber and Faber, 1999)


 


Illustration from Chris Priestley’s Tales of Terror

series
(Click to enlarge)

Jules: Where are your stompin’ grounds?

David: South London and Liverpool, my hometown.



Illustration from and cover of Andrea Beaty’s
Iggy Peck, Architect


(Abrams, 2007)

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

David: Hated school, apart from art. Hair washer, shelf-stacker, egg-fryer, film extra, coffee-maker, milliner, fashion, illustrator, children’s books — Hooray! Got there in the end!



Illustration from and cover of Janet S. Wong’s
The Dumpster Diver


(Candlewick, 2007)

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

David: www.davidrobertsillustration.com; www.davidrobertsillustration.tumblr.com.


One of David’s old Christmas cards

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

David: Very loud. Lots of “Urgh!” and “Yuck!” and “Blurgh!” and “Ew!’” and “Blah!” and ending with a triumphant “trump!”


The delinquent dogs from Jon Blake’s Stinky Finger’s House of Fun
(Hodder & Stoughton, 2005)

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

David: I’m really excited to be doing a fourth fairy tale book with my sister (Lynn Roberts). We’ve collaborated on Cinderella: An Art Deco Love Story, Rapunzel: A Groovy Fairy Tale, and Little Red: A Fizzingly Good Yarn [pictured below]. The new one will be our interpretation of the Sleeping Beauty story.



 

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

David

: I start by reading the text, and if it’s for a chapter book I will be looking for what I think will make an interesting illustration or scene to illustrate. Sometimes this might not necessarily be the most obvious.




Sketches and dummy images from Andrea Beaty’s
Happy Birthday, Madame Chapeau

(Abrams, September 2014)
(Click each to enlarge)

For a picture book, it’s working out the pagination, where the page turns should be, whether the text will be integrated in the image or kept separate, whether the text requires the illustration to tell more of the story than what is actually being said in the words. I’ll then plan the content, thinking very much about colour, composition, and style. I’ll usually get an image of how I want the book to look the first time I read the text. And although things can change slightly as I work through, often I stick to that original vision. I find inspiration from film, music, art, exhibitions, fabric, wallpaper, fashion. All of these can influence me in my work.


From Happy Birthday, Madame Chapeau


(Click to enlarge)

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

David

: I always used to work in a corner of my studio flat, but last year I moved and now have a whole room just to work from. One whole corner encompasses a floor-to-ceiling book case for all my own books and foreign editions, plus all the books I use for reference and inspiration. I then have a desk in front of a window to get the maximum light, which is always a complete chaotic mess. Behind me is a mirror, not because I’m vain but for working out facial expressions for my characters. I have lots of postcards, pictures, and objects — and a lovely grey plan chest to store all my paper and artwork. The walls are white and grey with grey carpet, and I have three maps on the wall of places that I’ve been to and adored — Scandinavia, Manhattan, and the Faroe Islands.


Cover art from the newest book in Alan MacDonald’s Angela Nicely series,
Puppy Love!

, coming in 2015

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

David

: Actually, I wasn’t a very confident reader as a child and I really struggled with it, but I loved stories and my older brother used to read to me at night, so I would always fall asleep with images of Fantastic Mr. Fox or James and the Giant Peach.


David’s vision of Dahl’s Mister Unsworth

I also loved Enid Blyton’s The Faraway Tree and Wishing-Chair series. The first book I felt confident enough to read myself was the first book I ever bought and remains my favourite to this day. It’s called A Hole is To Dig, written by Ruth Krauss and beautifully illustrated by Maurice Sendak.

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.)

David: I would love to have a glass of wine ‘in spirit’ with Edward Gorey, Charles Keeping and Errol Le Cain. Living and not yet met is very difficult [to answer], as I’ve met so many of my heroes over the years.


Above: The Lepidoctor from Mick Jackson’s
Ten Sorry Tales (Faber and Faber, 2005)

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?

David: Folk music is never far from my CD player, and The Roches, Sandy Denny, John Martyn, and Joni Mitchell are in constant rotation. I’ve been going through all of my Kate Bush albums, as I’ve just been to see her live performance (the first one in 35 years!). My recent new obsession is with Perfume Genius. I always work to music or the radio. My favourite channel is 6 Music on the BBC.


From Paul Fleischman’s The Dunderheads
(originally released in 2009 by Walker Books)

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

David: I went on a course to learn how to make Elizabethan ruffs.

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

David: Can you hula hoop?

And the answer is “Yes!”



 

* * * The Pivot Questionnaire * * *

Jules: What is your favorite word?

David: “Hooligan.”

Jules: What is your least favorite word?

David: “Dapper.”

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

David: Art, music, cake.

Jules: What turns you off?

David: Time.

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

David: “Oh, bother.”

Jules: What sound or noise do you love?

David: Walking on snow.

Jules: What sound or noise do you hate?

David: My own voice!

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

David: Bee-keeping. (They turn the roses into gold.)

Jules: What profession would you not like to do?

David: Chef.

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

David: “I knew you were coming, so I’ve baked a cake.”



 

All images are used by permission of David Roberts.

Photo of David taken by Lynn Roberts Maloney.

WILD THINGS!. Illustrations copyright © 2014 by David Roberts. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.

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

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19. The Many Sides of Santaand Some Art from Chuck Groenink



 

Last week at Kirkus, I chatted here with children’s book author and poet Bob Raczka, so today I’m following up with some of Chuck Groenink’s illustrations from Raczka’s Santa Clauses: Short Poems from the North Pole, released by Carolrhoda Books in September. Groenink, as I mentioned in the column last week, is from the Netherlands but now lives in New York. I highly recommend exploring the art at his site or even his tumblr. If you subscribe to the Horn Book, you’ll recognize him from the cover art of the current issue.

I’m tellin’ you what. We see lots of new holiday picture books every year, many easily forgettable, but I really like this one. I’d love to see a 2015 7-Imp interview with Groenink so that we can see way more art from him. Don’t you agree?

Enjoy the art.


“…Wishes blowing in / from my overfilled mailbox— / December’s first storm …”
(Click to enlarge spread)


 


“…The north wind and I / whistling to ‘Let It Snow!’ / on the radio.”
(Click to enlarge spread)


 


(Click to see spread in its entirety)


 



 

* * * * * * *

SANTA CLAUSES: SHORT POEMS FROM THE NORTH POLE. Copyright © 2014 by Bob Raczka. Illustrations copyright © 2014 by Chuck Groenink and reproduced by permission of the publisher, Carolrhoda Books.

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20. What I’m Doing at Kirkus This Week,Plus What I Did Last Week, Featuring Meilo So


“Blown by the wind, / water sails high. / Tumbling cloud plumes curl through the air. /
Soplada por el viento, / el agua se remonta. / Volutas nebulosas ruedan por el aire.”

(Click to enlarge spread)


 

This morning over at Kirkus, I write about some holiday picture books titles, what I think are some of the best of the season. It’s a Christmas miracle: LeUyen Pham has made me like “The Twelve Days of Christmas” again. That link will be here soon.

* * *

Last week, I wrote here about Pat Mora’s Water Rolls, Water Rises (Lee & Low, October 2014), illustrated by Meilo So. Today, I share some spreads from it.

Enjoy.


“Water rolls / onto the shore / under the sun, under the moon. /
El agua rueda / hacia la orilla / bajo el sol, bajo la luna.”

(Click to enlarge spread)


 


“In the murmur of marsh wind, / water slumbers on moss, / whispers soft songs far under frog feet. / En el viento susurrante de los pantanos, / el agua duerme sobre el musgo, / murmura suaves canciones bajo patitas de ranas.”
(Click to enlarge spread)


 


“Water burbles in springs, / gurgles and turns / down streams and rivers seeking the sea. / El agua burbujea en los manantiales, / borbotea y desciende /
por los arroyos y ríos buscando el mar.”

(Click to enlarge spread)


 



 

* * * * * * *

WATER ROLLS, WATER RISES. Copyright © 2014 by Pat Mora. Illustrations copyright © 2014 by Meilo So. Illustrations reproduced by permission of the publisher, Children’s Book Press, an imprint of Lee & Low Books, New York.

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21. 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #411: Featuring Christine Brailler


“The children were nestled all snug in their beds …”
(Click to enlarge)


 

I’m handing the site over this morning to artist Christine Brailler, pictured right, for something totally different — stained glass mosaics. (Have I ever posted about stained glass mosaics? I actually don’t think I have.) Last year, Christine released her first picture book (Brownian Bee Press), The Night Before Christmas. I read it last year, but did I post about it? Nope. I had intended to, but I got busy. When I contacted her about it this year, we decided better late than never. So, she visits today to talk about how she makes her mosaics and to share process images, as well as some photos of the stained glass pieces from the book.

Let’s get right to it. For those who are interested in even more information, Christine blogged here about her process from start to finish.

Christine: Before I discovered mosaics, I had always wanted to illustrate a children’s book but never felt very confident about my painting abilities. Once I found mosaics in 2005, I thought, what a unique idea it would be to illustrate a book with my mosaics. About six years ago on Christmas Eve, my family and I were reading “The Night Before Christmas,” as we always do, when suddenly I thought, “I would love to illustrate this book, personalize it with my family in it, and read it every year!” So, I began the process of designing and creating fifteen stained glass mosaics over the next four years.

The first thing I did was draw quick 2×3” thumbnail sketches, not thinking too much about it — really just getting the idea of it down, the side story of the cat, etc. Here’s one I did of the reindeer, which—don’t laugh—look much more like donkeys!



Some of my ideas changed dramatically, once I started the mosaic process, like eliminating the reindeer altogether when Santa is flying over the house. I simply couldn’t fit eight reindeer in the design, let alone one, since I wouldn’t be able to cut the glass tiny enough for all the detail that would require. I found such limitations to be a fun challenge — that is, for me to come up with something different, which often led to more creative choices and end results.

From there, I did hours and hours of research on pretty much every element in the book. For example, I didn’t know how to draw reindeer (as you can see), so I spent a lot of time looking at photos to find the qualities I wanted to express. In my notes, I wrote “joyful, playful, not dainty, sturdy and strong.” I found what I was looking for in images of reindeer races. What got me was that they run with their tongues hanging out, like dogs riding in a car with the top down – they look so happy! I knew I had to include that detail in my design.

I planned for an 8×10” book in the end, so I drew my final designs at 5×8”. (I draw more accurately when I draw small; don’t ask me why!) I do only a line drawing for the design and then work out all of the details, once I get to the glass cutting stage.

The preparation for the mosaic work goes like this: enlarge the design to the final mosaic size of 15×24”, tape down on cardboard (so I can move it if necessary), tape plastic wrap down over the design, and then tape fiberglass mesh down over the plastic wrap. I can see the design through the plastic wrap and will then glue the glass onto the mesh. The plastic wrap keeps the glass from being glued to the design underneath. This process allows me to make changes to the mosaic with ease, as opposed to trying to remove glass that has been glued to a board. And I made some major changes throughout, as you will see. In this image, you can see how it all works:


(Click to enlarge)

I don’t generally color my designs in advance, as I like to work with the glass to see what looks best together. Once I have the design taped down, I play with glass colors like this. The colors on the top are too harsh. The ones on the bottom are softer and much more appealing to me, so I went with those.



(Click each to enlarge)


 

Deciding on colors for the quilt:


(Click to enlarge)

A big part of my process is printing out the design small and using it to play with a few different things: color, value, and andamento (the visual flow of the mosaic that is produced by how the glass is cut and how it is placed in the design). In this one, I worked on color and value:

On this one, I worked out how I wanted the reindeers’ blankets to be designed. I sometimes tweak a design at this stage, too; for instance, here I decided the tongue needed to be shorter.

In this example, I’m working out the andamento in the cat, the guitar, their clothing, and their faces. You can see the direction lines of how the glass will be laid, as well as shapes of the cuts.



 

In progress, working with my guides:



(Click each to enlarge)

The biggest part of making this book was to be able to include my family in it. I worked from photos of my husband, myself, our son, and our cat. My husband posed for all of the pages he was featured in and even posed for some of Santa’s body positions, so I could get them just right.








 

The process of creating our cat, Raymi:



Sometimes I wouldn’t have a photo of Raymi that matched what I wanted her to be doing, so I’d do a very extensive search online for a cat in the pose I wanted. Then I’d adapt it to her colors and markings.




When I finished all 15 of the mosaics, there were changes to be made. Some were minor, but others were huge. The interesting thing is that by the time I got to the final mosaic, it had been four years since I started and my technique had changed and improved. I needed the earlier mosaics to match the quality and style of the later ones. In this mosaic, I changed the wall from dark random pieces of glass to lighter, straight cut pieces and added a darker frame around the mosaic on the wall. Much better!



 

This one went through a lot of revisions:



(Click each to enlarge)

Other changes were a matter of aesthetics. I originally did the house grey, because I wanted it to be personal to us and our house is grey. It just looked so dull against the snow, so I changed it to brick. It was an additional 17 hours to change — but worth it.



(Click each to enlarge)

This change was a necessity – I had made Santa’s bag green in the fifth mosaic, but when I got to the ninth mosaic, I realized it wasn’t going to work, because the green bag was sitting right in front of the Christmas tree and was disappearing. This is downside to not planning out all of the designs in advance. So, I had to re-do the bag in both mosaics.



(Click each to enlarge)

Sometimes I’d get partway through an area, only to realize the colors weren’t working. Fortunately, I didn’t get too far before I decided this one didn’t work for me.



(Click each to enlarge)

Finally, I’m satisfied with the mosaics but there is still a lot to do. I have to cut the boards, attach hanging hardware, transfer the mosaics to the boards, grout them, finish the edges, and paint the backs. When I went to attach the mosaics to the boards, I found that they were too floppy and unmanageable, so I had to first apply glue to the backs of the mosaics and let them dry so that hey’d be rigid enough for me to hold onto without all the pieces of glass falling off.


(Click to enlarge)

Once they were glued to the boards, my favorite part was next, filling in all those gaps with grout. I spread the grout all over the mosaic and then wipe off the surface so that only the grout in between the glass remains.


(Click to enlarge)

I love grouting and seeing how the mosaic changes, how it becomes cohesive and complete — and even softens the mosaic. Here is a detail from one of the mosaics, before and after grouting.



(Click each to enlarge)

One of the last steps is finishing the edges of the mosaics with thinset to match the grout. [Ed. Note: This is pictured above in the photo of Christine that opens this post.]

I did it! Thanks so much for reading about my process.




Finished mosaics
(Click each to enlarge)


 

All images are copyright © 2013 by Christine Brailler and used by her 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) The girls are off from school for the holidays, and this always means more time to read together. We’re reading a handful of good novels right now.

2) I’ve graduated to Level Two in my piano lessons, meaning book two in the course I’m using. My teacher would veer from book one an awful lot in order to let me do what I wanted, so it’s been a while with book one, but now I’m moving on. It feels good to “graduate.”

3) I so super bad wish I could see this show.

4) Last Tango in Halifax.

5) A kicker shared his writing with me, and it was a pleasure to read it.

6) Last weekend we saw a stage production of A Christmas Carol, and it fake-snowed on us inside the theater at the end. (Well, it only snowed on some rows, so we had extra-great seats.)

7) My husband was in Portland this past week and snapped this picture of our book in Powell’s. That was fun to see.



 

What are YOUR kicks this week?

10 Comments on 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #411: Featuring Christine Brailler, last added: 12/21/2014
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22. What I’m Doing at Kirkus Today, the Snowy Version



 

And what are your favorite picture books about snow? Today in my Kirkus column I’ve got two new ones, one pictured above.

That link is here.

See you Sunday, and happy holidays to all …

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23. 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #412: Featuring John Alcorn


John Alcorn, Christmas card, 1958


 

Before 2015 gets here, I want to take some time today to tell you all about a book I really enjoyed this year, John Alcorn: Evolution by Design, edited by Stephen Alcorn and Marta Sironi, and published in 2013 by Moleskine. (I believe it was published here in the U.S. this past summer.) And, fortunately, I’ve got some art from it to share here at 7-Imp.

This is a beautifully-designed (book-lovers, take note) and quite comprehensive tribute to artist, designer, and children’s book illustrator John Alcorn, who died in 1992. (Back in 2012, I featured a bit of his children’s book illustrations.) Sironi, a researcher at the Centro APICE at Milan University, writes the book’s foreword, and the book’s opening piece, “Reflections on the Life and Art of My Father John Alcorn (1935-1992)” is from his son, Stephen Alcorn, also an artist and children’s book illustrator (whom I interviewed here in early 2010). In this opening piece, Stephen writes in detail about his father’s career and, with great reverence and a personal touch (the book also includes family photos), lays out the evolution of his father’s work. “At the time of writing,” he notes, “nearly a quarter of a century has gone by since my father’s passing, yet despite the passage of time, his work remains as culturally relevant today as the day it was created.”

The book is divided into four sections — the early years (“The Rise of the Merry Craftsman”), including Alcorn’s studies of abstract expressionism and representational art at Cooper Union, to his experiences at Push Pin Studios, to his apprenticeship with Lou Dorfsman; the “Sixties Heyday,” his experimentation with a more psychedelic style and his graphic design and book jacket work, a time during which most of his work was commissioned (and this section includes a piece on his children’s book work); his time in Italy during the 1970s, which includes discussions of his political satire and work for Federico Fellini (Alcorn designed the opening titles for several of his films); and, finally, Alcorn’s return to the States after he “was beginning to feel as if he had exhausted the creative challenges and professional opportunities Italy had to offer.”


Editorial illustration, “Florida’s Gulf Coast”;
Redbook, January 1966


 

The book, so elegantly designed, reproduces in color around 500 of Alcorn’s graphic compositions and illustrations, including children’s book illustrations, book jackets and slipcase designs, logos, magazine covers and editorial illustrations, drawings, paintings (some previously unpublished and some printed alongside preparatory drawings), portraits, advertisements (including early newspaper advertisements), poster designs (including political posters from the ’70s), and even billboards — this from an artist who worked in many mediums and styles. It is a treasure trove of information for fans of his design, typography, and illustration work, as well as anyone interested in illustration and visual communication.


Book jacket for Sam Ross’ The Tight Corner, New York, Farrar Straus & Cudahy, 1956


 

It’s a fascinating and thorough look at an artist who has played an important role in graphic design and advertising both here in the United States and in Europe.

Below are some more images from the book. …


Book jackets from 1969-1971


 


Editorial illustration, Redbook, ink and dyes on paper, c. 1969


 


Packaging design, Love Cosmetics, agency;
Menley & James, art director; Murray Jacobs, 1969


 


Alcorn’s illustration for Alan Aldridge’s The Beatles Illustrated Lyrics, 1969.
This, Alcorn’s first interpretation of “Eight Days a Week,” was considered
“too licentious” and was rejected. To see the second image, the one the publishers included in the book, click this image to enlarge it.


 


Advertisement, Master Charge, c. 1970


 



Book jackets, 1973-1977
(Click second image to enlarge and see spread in its entirety)


 


Book jacket, Richard Adams, La collina dei conigli;
pen, sepia ink and watercolor on paper, 1975


 


Click to enlarge spread, which includes an unpublished book jacket


 


Preparatory drawing for a Chekhov book jacket, 1974
(Click to enlarge and see final book jacket)


 


Illustration for the Art Institute of Pittsburgh, watercolor on paper, 1986


 


Rizzoli advertisement, pen and Indian ink on paper, 1975


 

JOHN ALCORN: EVOLUTION BY DESIGN. © 2013 Moleskine SpA. © 2013 Stephen Alcorn. © 2013 Università degli Studi di Milano, Centro Apice. Images reproduced by permission of the publisher, Moleskine SpA.

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) Two whole days with no work whatsoever! (The up side to freelance work you can do from home is your very flexible schedule, year-long; the down side is you don’t really get time off like other people during the holidays, but it’s hardly as if I’m complaining either, ’cause that year-long flexible schedule? I love it. A lot.)

2) Good novels.

3) Good novels that are good read-alouds.

4) Calendars. (Well, I can’t help it. Once a nerd, always a nerd.)

5) Toy purges with a nine- and ten-year old.

6) Ernest and Celestine!

7) That I have a family and a roof over our heads and food on our plates and warm blankets and good music to hear and good books to read and good art to see and warm cocoa. That about covers it. I’m grateful.

BONUS: My favorite gift? This album-sized limited edition print about one of my favorite songs ever:



 

What are YOUR kicks this week?

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24. Celebrating the Holidays with Art fromHelen Cann, Dave Horowitz, and LeUyen Pham


“On the tenth day of Christmas, / my true love gave to me / 10 lords a-leaping …”
(Click to enlarge spread)


 


“I am Grandfather Owl, / Keeper of skies. …”
(Click to enlarge spread and see poem in its entirety)


 


“Its Honeyky Hanukah, shaky my hand, / My candles are burning all over this land, /
To light the dark road for the man passing by, / It’s Honeyky Hanukah time.”

(Click to enlarge spread)


 

Since I wrote here last week at Kirkus about some of my favorite new holiday picture books, I’m celebrating today with some art from each book — and LeUyen Pham is sharing early sketches from her book.

Here’s what you’ll see: Art from LeUyen’s The Twelve Days of Christmas (Doubleday, September 2014); art by Helen Cann, who illustrated Manger (Eerdmans, September 2014) with poems selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins; and art from Woody Guthrie’s Honeyky Hanukah (Doubleday, September 2014), illustrated by Dave Horowitz.

P.S. Wanna hear the Klezmatics sing Woody’s “Honeyky Hanukah”? It’s here.

Enjoy the art!



 

From Honeyky Hanukah:


 


“Its Honeyky Hanukah, makes me feel glad, /
This box for Mother and this box for Dad, /
For sister and brother, nice ribbons I’ll tie, / It’s Honeyky Hanukah time.”

(Click to enlarge spread)


 



 

From Manger:


 


“…I’ve never seen a baby / or so much golden light.”
(Click to enlarge spread and see poem in its entirety)


 


“‘I’ll shed / a few feathers / to put in your bed …’”
(Click to enlarge spread and see poem in its entirety)


 



 

From The Twelve Days Before Christmas
(early sketches, followed by final art):


 


Cover sketch
(Click to enlarge)


 


(Click to enlarge)


 


(Click to enlarge)


 


(Click to enlarge)


 


(Click to enlarge)


 


(Click to enlarge)


 


“On the ninth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me / 9 ladies dancing …”
(Click to enlarge spread)


 


“On the eleventh day of Christmas, / my true love gave to me / 11 pipers piping …”
(Click to enlarge spread)


 


“On the twelfth day of Christmas, / my true love gave to me /
12 drummers drumming …”

(Click to enlarge spread)


 


“Can you find all 78 gifts?”
(Click to enlarge spread)


 



 

* * * * * * *

HONEYKY HANUKAH. Text copyright © 2003 by Woody Guthrie Publications, Inc. Illustrations © 2014 by Dave Horowitz. Published by Doubleday Books for Young Readers, New York. Illustrations reproduced by permission of Dave Horowitz.

MANGER. Illustrations © 2014 by Helen Cann and reproduced by permission of the publisher, Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, Michigan.

THE TWELVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS. Illustrations © 2014 by LeUyen Pham. Illustrations reproduced by permission of LeUyen and the publisher, Doubleday Books for Young Readers, New York. Sketches reproduced by permission of LeUyen.

0 Comments on Celebrating the Holidays with Art fromHelen Cann, Dave Horowitz, and LeUyen Pham as of 12/27/2014 7:00:00 AM
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25. Making History Come Alive at Christmas

Getting a kid to say ‘this person who lived a hundred years ago is basically just like me’ is a wonderful thing to take away from a war story a century ago.”

* * *

If freelance writing deadlines don’t stop for the holidays, the least I can do is tell you about John Hendrix’s new picture book, all about the true story of a 1914 Allied-German Christmas truce on the front lines during World War I. It’s called Shooting at the Stars: The Christmas True of 1914.

I’ll have art from the book at 7-Imp soon — maybe even this Sunday. For now, I talk to John, pictured here, about the book over at Kirkus, a hundred years after the events themselves.

That is here.

Merry Christmas, all!

* * * * * * *

Photo of John used with his permission and taken by Kevin Roberts.

0 Comments on Making History Come Alive at Christmas as of 12/29/2014 10:14:00 AM
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