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I was featured today on the MeeGenius blog!
I want to share good news with all of my Frog on a Blog fans. I’ve signed with the awesome Ripple Grove Press to publish my first picture book! It’s called The Peddler’s Bed and it’s due out in the spring of 2015.
I actually signed the contract back last October, but I wanted to wait until we got a little closer to publication before making my announcement.
I am eager to see a few sketches from the incredibly talented Bong Redila, the illustrator who will be working on The Peddler’s Bed. Hopefully that will happen soon, but in the meantime, I’m trying very hard to focus on writing and revising new stories. I love writing picture book stories, and I knew from an early age that I wanted to be a writer. (I’ll share more about that in an upcoming post.) I think I forgot about it for a while, up until about 9 years ago. That’s when I took a “Writing Stories for Children” class and started getting words down on paper. Then, I put my writing on hold again in 2009 in order to go back to school and get my degree in Library and Information Services. Happily, I finished my education this past winter and am now diving head first into writing children’s picture books.
To prove to myself that I am a real writer, and with my wonderful husband’s support, we went shopping for a new desk. I got a chair too! We rearranged some furniture. My husband put the desk together (Did I mention how wonderful he is?). I assembled the chair (Yay, me!). And the result: I now have my own little office space.
It may be small, but it’s all mine! Well, I do have to share it with my assistant.
He keeps a close eye on me to make sure I’m working hard. If he thinks I need a break, he’ll often go for a walk with me. He’s really helpful.
I get ideas and inspiration from our walks, but also from my book collection. Here are some of my picture books…
…and my pop-up books (upper shelf)…
…and my writing books.
Thank you for taking this tour with me and for being a fan of Frog on a Blog. If you haven’t already, please consider entering your e-mail in the box to the right to become an official follower. And be on the look out for The Peddler’s Bed next spring! Woot Woot!!!
Sharing information about great causes is something I love to do here on Frog on a Blog, particularly if the cause is related to picture books and helping children. So, I am thrilled to introduce Squishy Blueberry, a charming character created by author and illustrator Amanda I. Greene, who is also the founder of D’inkling Publishing. Amanda’s goal, through her Squishy Blueberry book series, is to encourage children to look within in order to discover a wealth of confidence, self-awareness, and emotional intelligence, qualities that we all possess but might need a bit of help bringing to the surface.
Amanda’s first book, Reflections of a Blueberry, is already available and is beaming with beautiful, whimsical, brightly colored illustrations and lyrical, rhyming text. To bring her second book to life, When You Are Blue, Amanda is seeking our help through a PUBSLUSH campaign. Please click on the cover image above to learn more about Amanda’s worthwhile project. You can watch a video, read about Amanda’s vision, make a contribution (and earn some great perks), or simply spread the word. You can also go to the Squishy Blueberry site: http://www.squishyblueberry.com/ for more information and oodles of “squishy blueberry” fun.
I think a little bit of Amanda herself can be found in the character of Squishy Blueberry who follows his heart and his dreams, notable endeavors indeed. Good luck, Amanda!
I’ve been wanting to visit the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art for quite some time. I finally got the chance to go this past weekend. So, with my sister Linda acting as navigator, I drove over 200 miles and 3 1/2 hours along the New York State Thruway to Amherst, Massachusetts. It was a beautiful day Sunday, perfect for a road trip. And though we were on a highway, we passed through some very scenic areas with rolling tree-covered hills and picturesque valleys. We even crossed the Hudson River.
After many miles, two rest stops, and two toll booths, we finally reached the museum with no trouble. Although, I almost drove right past it until I spotted this gorgeous sign marking the entrance.
The building and grounds are beautiful. But you really have to go inside to experience the wonder of the museum. They have three lovely galleries exhibiting artwork from several picture book artists. For our visit, they showcased the art of Simms Taback, Harriet the Spy (the book turns 50 this year), and What’s Your Favorite Animal (a book featuring art from many well-known illustrators, including Eric Carle himself).
No photography was allowed inside the galleries, of course, but the museum offered other opportunities for picture-taking.
The museum also has a wonderful library filled with picture books (they also do story times there), an auditorium (for films, lectures, plays, author/illustrator visits), an art studio (where all ages can be creative and crafty), and a bookshop/gift shop (I was like a kid in a candy store). All that was missing was a full-service cafe, though they do have a vending machine and plenty of places to sit and eat inside and outside (in a lovely orchard) if you choose to bring a picnic lunch.
My sister and I had such a good time. I hope to visit again sometime in the near future. If you are a picture book lover, I highly recommend it. And while you’re there, don’t forget to use the restroom; you won’t regret it!
I am thrilled to be a finalist in the 2014 MeeGenius Author Challenge! MeeGenius is a digital children’s book publisher that offers hundreds of picture eBooks via the MeeGenius app which is available for download to all the major operating systems and devices. MeeGenius creates enhanced eBooks that captivate young readers by sporting “read-along word highlighting, rich illustrations, and engaging story narration”.
I am one of ten finalists. In September, a winner will be selected who will receive a cash prize. Regardless of who wins, all of the finalists stories will be published in digital format and available at www.meegenius.com. Click on the MeeGenius logo at the top to see all of the finalists. And stay tuned to find out when my story Dinosaur Tag will be available and if I win the contest!
My sixth and final interview of the year is with someone very special, illustrator Jonas Sickler. Jonas is the artist who created the awesome blog logo that wonderfully represents the purpose of Frog on a Blog, which is to provide a fun, colorful forum for picture book fans to discuss all things related to children’s picture books.
Jonas is also the illustrator of six Indestructibles baby books that are specially designed to withstand the destructive behavior of the youngest picture book fans. They are tear resistant and waterproof! They are also absolutely gorgeous and they make great gifts!
Enjoy the interview!
Q. How long have your been creating art and when did you first realize that you wanted to illustrate children’s books?
JS. I have been making art since I was about 2 years old. Somehow I always knew that I would be an artist. Although there was a brief time around 4 years old when I thought I might be a fireman or a chef instead. I had always planned to work for Disney. It wasn’t until college that I began thinking of other options. That’s when I discovered Lane Smith through “The Stinky Cheese Man” and instantly knew I wanted to illustrate children’s books. During a trip to the Society of Illustrators, while my classmates were pouring over the exhibit, I took a field trip on my own to see Lane’s private studio. There, I met his wife Molly, and saw some works in progress. That day was unforgettable.
Q. How would you describe your style?
JS. My style is a bit difficult to categorize, though, I’m sure most artists say that to make themselves sound more unique and marketable. I certainly have a quirky, gritty style. There is never a shortage of textures and patterns in my art. Sometimes I work a bit darker- more Tim Burton/ Lane Smith. And sometimes I lean to a brighter Mary Blaire/ Karen Katz style. It depends on the subject of the book.
Q. Do you have a favorite medium you like to work with when creating your illustrations?
JS. My medium of choice is painted cut paper, even though most of my cutting is done in Photoshop these days. I still insist on using actual paint, rather than computer generated colors. I like seeing my hand in the finished art. Using the computer to collage my painted scraps into finished art has great advantages over scissors and glue. Such as instant color editing, and quick changes requested by art directors at the last minute.
Q. What picture book artists do you most admire and how have they influenced your work?
JS. As I mentioned already, I’m a huge Lane Smith fan. As well as Mary Blaire, Oliver Jeffers, Ezra Jack Keats. I keep all of these illustrators on my studio bookshelf for inspiration. Lane influenced me by showing me that children’s book illustrations can be dark, and still sell very well. Oliver Jeffers extraordinarily simple art and endearing stories captivate and inspire me to never over-think a book. Mary Blaire has incredible texture and color combinations, and Keats works wonders with simple shapes and patterns.
Q. What projects are you working on right now?
JS. I have about 10 books written, and awaiting illustrations on my drawing table. I tend to go through creative phases. I write my brains out until I have purged all of my ideas. Then I choose the best manuscript, and begin the illustration process. When everything is ready, I start shopping the project to publishers. I’m in the art phase right now on a few projects. But they are all top secret!
Q. Where can fans go to learn more about you and your work?
JS. My website has a selection of my work, and my blog has great tips for beginning illustrators, as well as a more in-depth look at my Lane Smith obsession. You can find me at http://www.jonasillustration.com
Q. Any closing thoughts for fans?
JS. Creating children’s books is not an easy career. It requires endless patience and persistence. It is more of a lifelong process riddled with defeats than a career. But occasionally luck swings your way, and dreams come true. It is for this reason we all continue to pursue the buried treasure of a children’s book contract. All the rejection letters and dashed hopes will vanish in an instant with that one simple “yes”.
Today is the last day of Picture Book Month 2013. What better way to see the month out than with a post by DeWitt Community Library children’s librarian Jennifer Burke on why she believes picture books are important.
After you read Jennifer’s thoughts here on Frog on a Blog, check out her awesome blog Miss Jenny Reads at http://jennythelibrarian.blogspot.com.
Jennifer says she can go on and on about the importance of picture books. That means a lot coming from the chair of the Empire State Award Committee of the Youth Services Section of the New York Library Association.
Why Picture Books Are Important
by Jennifer Burke
Why are picture books important? What a question with many answers! I love picture books and using them in story times. Nothing makes me happier than sharing a picture book with a group of children and seeing them interact with the pictures and being read to. One important thing I’d like parents to know is that picture books aren’t just for “little kids”. There are a variety of picture books that can be enjoyed by children all the way up to high school! In my experience as a children’s librarian, some parents try to push their young child into chapter books too early, not understanding that picture books are a valuable tool in learning to read.
Picture books are generally a child’s first encounter with books and it introduces them to reading, even if they aren’t able to read yet. The pictures are a major part of the written story and they expose children to different styles of art, while also enhancing the story with visual cues, like the emotions on a character’s face. Interacting with the pictures while listening to the story helps a child become engaged in the reading process, and helps foster a love of reading.
From a librarian’s point of view, picture books are important because they are a tool in teaching parents early literacy skills they can do with their child to get them ready to read. Reading picture books is critical in children developing a sense of how words sound, what words mean, and what the letters of the alphabet look and sound like. While reading to a child, adults can talk to them in a way that encourages the child to engage in the story and understand what is being read to them.
Finally – and this is a personal perspective – picture books provide a sense of comfort. When I open up a picture book that I read as a child, wonderful memories of my grandfather and mom reading to me wash over me and I feel like I am returning home. Reading the same books as an adult brings me back to my childhood and I enjoy the book even more because I am experiencing those memories again. And that’s a wonderful feeling.
Thanks, Miss Jenny!
Children’s book author Jennifer Rustgi and illustrator Molly Allen need your help. They are self publishing a beautiful picture book entitled Much Too Much. They’ve started a Kickstarter campaign in order to raise the necessary funds to bring Much Too Much to life. To learn more about their worthwhile project, go to http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/muchtoomuchbook/much-too-much-childrens-picture-book. You can view a video, read the entire children’s story, and make a contribution to their cause. So far, half of their goal has been reached, but they will only receive the funds if the entire goal has been met. So, check out Jennifer and Molly’s page and consider backing their wonderful project or at least spreading the word. Good luck Jennifer and Molly!
Christmas is over for another year, and I hope many of you gave (or received) books as gifts. But just because the holiday is over, doesn’t mean you have to stop giving books. A book is the perfect gift for any occasion and even for no occasion at all. To me, giving or even loaning a book to someone says, “I like you.” A picture book given to a child makes that child feel special. And reading it with them is even better. Every picture book is a treasure chest waiting to be opened.
The five books below are just a tiny sampling of all the wondrous, adventure-filled picture books waiting to be discovered and shared.Add a Comment
Kids love stories about pirates. Kids also love to laugh. What’s funnier than a pirate who gets seasick? Wouldn’t your child want to read a story like that? That is exactly what children’s author Fran Sivers and illustrator Leilani Coughlan have created in their book Pelican Bill. But they need our help. They’ve begun a KickStarter campaign in order to raise the necessary funds they need to bring Pelican Bill and his pirate crew to life in a children’s picture book. Please go to their KickStarter page, https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1163027881/pelican-bill-a-sickeningly-good-yarn, watch the short video clip, read about the project (you can even read the entire rollicking, rhyming, jolly good story), and consider supporting their campaign. If you cannot help financially, at least spread the word about this really great cause. I’m sure Fran and Leilani will appreciate any assistance you can give.
If someday someone writes a parody of your book, then you know that your book has power, staying power. It’s so well-known and so popular, that another author has decided to “borrow” and capitalize on your recognizable style, story, or theme to generate interest in his or her own book.
There are many, many parodies of beloved and classic children’s books. Most are NOT for children. Often they poke fun at popular culture, mainstream America, or some social issue that’s dominating the media. Sometimes they’re just for fun. Sometimes they’re a bit risqué. Sometimes they’re a tad offensive. And usually, they are not authorized.
Pop Quiz: Which of the following are for children?
Answer: With the exception of Goodnight Goon, which is a “monstrously” clever picture book crawling with creepy creatures, none of the above are for children.
The 1947 classic, Goodnight Moon, is probably one of the most parodied picture books. Here are a few more “Goodnight” books: Goodnight Putter, Goodnight Keith Moon, and Goodnight Husband Goodnight Wife.
Other popular children’s picture books that have been parodied include Curious George, The Runaway Bunny, The Giving Tree, Pat the Bunny, and Where the Wild Things Are. Here’s just a sampling:
Whether you love them or hate them, parodies are proof-Picture Books Have Power!
I was surprised and pleased to be nominated for the Sunshine Award by Lauri Meyers over at Lauri’s Stories. She is so sweet to think of me and I’m so glad that Frog on a Blog has brought some sunshine into her life. Incidentally, Sunshine was the name of my most favorite stuffed toy growing up. He’s a dog in overalls with a matching denim cap and he has bright orange eyes. I still have him!
As I understand it, in order to earn the Sunshine Award, I have to share ten interesting things about myself and then nominate some other deserving bloggers. I’m happy to share, but I’ll let you be the judge as to how interesting my little blurbs are. So here goes-
Whoa, that was a lot of information! Okay, now it’s my turn to nominate some bloggers. To those of you I’ve nominated, if this isn’t your thing (or if you’ve already been nominated), no worries, I still want to recognize your excellent blogs here on the Frog:
Robin Newman at Robin Newman Books
Vicky Lorencen at Frog on a Dime
Sarah Harroff at An Awfully Big Adventure
Christie Wright Wild at Write Wild
Fiona Campbell at Book Bake Blog
Inspired by the upcoming Halloween holiday, Finley has decided to share a special poem with you. He calls it Halloween Feast.
Halloween’s a comin’,
It’s on its way.
Halloween’s a comin’,
Are you ready to play?
Do you have a costume?
Is it scary, funny, both?
Do you have a basket,
pillowcase, or tote?
We’ll hop from door to door,
Proclaiming tricks or treats,
And when the night is over,
We’ll leap home and have a feast.
HAPPY PICTURE BOOK MONTH!
For my first interview of 2013, I am extremely pleased to showcase super-talented author and illustrator Melissa Guion. Baby Penguins Everywhere may be her first picture book, but it certainly won’t be her last. It is interesting to note that I can interview several people and get responses as diverse as the picture books they’ve written. In other words, I could interview ten authors or ten illustrators and ask them the same or similar questions and each would have totally unique answers. But all of them are fascinating. I know you will find Melissa Guion’s interview fascinating as well. Enjoy!
First of all, congratulations on the publication of your first picture book Baby Penguins Everywhere! It’s a wonderful book and I hope we see more from you in the near future.
1. Have you always enjoyed writing and drawing? And when did you decide that you’d like to be published?
MG. Yes, making books is probably my oldest dream. I wanted to be a gymnast for a while, after watching Nadia Comaneci at the Montreal Olympics in 1976. One out of two isn’t bad.
2. What’s the first thing you did when you got the news that your manuscript was accepted for publication? How did you get the news?
MG. I was actually hired without a manuscript! My future editor saw my artwork and emailed (via my agent) to say he wanted to give me a multi-book deal. I went into our first meeting fairly dubious, but it turned out he meant it. When I got home, there was an email in my inbox from the editor about how we might go about developing a story, and we were off.
When I got that email, I think I did all the obvious things like jumping around. I called my mom. I had champagne with friends that night to celebrate. The next day I told different friends and we also had champagne. I dragged it out.
3. How long did it take from acceptance to finished, shelf-ready book?
MG. People keep asking this and I keep guessing. I’m going to actually look it up right now… Start to finish, it took 2 1/2 years. That’s slightly misleading because, again, there was no manuscript. We made a handshake deal to do a penguin book in late 2009. I had a contract by the summer of 2010, and that’s about when I had my first dummy done. I turned in the final art in January 2012 and saw a finished copy in August 2012.
That’s a really long time. My second and third books will get done much faster, at least according to my contract.
4. How excited were you when you saw your finished book for the first time?
MG. I’m excited every single time I see it. I don’t know if that ever wears off.
5. How did you come up with the idea for Baby Penguins Everywhere?
MG. When I met my editor, I was a new mom and a first-time illustrator. My life was full of chaos. My editor suggested the premise of the lone penguin who finds a magic hat overflowing with babies. It felt applicable to every area of my life.
6. You also illustrated your book. What materials did you use to create the illustrations? Are they your favorite media to work with when creating art?
MG. I used pencil and watercolor. I thought about doing something experimental, but I already had plenty of challenges to deal with. Anyway, I really like watercolor. I love that it has a mind of its own.
7. Where can your fans go to learn more about you?
MG. I have a website, www.melissaguion.com. Readers can subscribe to my blog there. I try to update it a few times a month. I’m also on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/BabyPenguinsEverywhere) and Twitter (@MelissaGuion).
8. Is there anything else you’d like to share with Frog on a Blog readers?
MG. If they’re ever in NYC, they need to go to Russ and Daughter, on Houston Street, for smoked salmon and horseradish cream cheese on a bagel. It’s the best! Penguins like it, too.
This year’s winner of the Caldecott Medal is This Is Not My Hat by Jon Klassen (Candlewick Press, 2012). This story is a big fish tale, but not in the way you might think. It’s also a small fish tale about a small fish who stole the hat of a big fish. He’s pretty sure he can get away with it, but stealing is wrong, isn’t it? Do you think he’ll get away with it? Do you think he should? This story certainly made me smile. Mr. Klassen does a superb job moving the story along with short sentences and illustrations that change ever so slightly as they move to the right and off of the page.
The ALSC chose five honor books this year! Among them is Creepy Carrots by Aaron Reynolds and illustrated by Peter Brown (Simon & Schuster, 2012). This fun picture book is cleverly illustrated with just enough color to set an eerie mood. If picture books were horror movies, this one would be rated G. It’s just so much fun; I read it three or four times. Jasper Rabbit has this terrible feeling that carrots are following him. Is it his imagination? Or have the creepy carrots devised a plan to keep Jasper out of the carrot patch?
Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett and illustrated by Jon Klassen (Balzer+Bray, 2012) is my favorite of the picks this year. The story includes everything from a magic box of colorful yarn, to an evil archduke, to a sweet, young heroine who cares very much for her town. I like how the town gets more and more colorful as the story goes along. But the best part is the quiet, unassuming, and peaceful ending.
This honor book simply titled Green by Laura Vaccaro Seeger (Roaring Brook Press, 2012) is beautifully illustrated in different shades of green, one of my favorite colors. It sports minimal text and peek-a-boo cut outs on several of the pages, which tie one page cleverly to the next. As you may guess, all of the illustrations depict the great outdoors and the natural beauty of the world, and showcase trees, flowers, animals, vegetables, and more.
One Cool Friend by Toni Buzzeo and illustrated by David Small (Dial Books, 2012) stars a polite, young boy named Elliot who decides he wants a penguin. I like Elliot; he has a lot of character. I like the combination of color and black and white for the multimedia illustrations. My favorite picture shows Elliot and the penguin skating in his room. This is a fun story that will make you laugh. And the twist at the end is the best!
Sleep Like a Tiger by Mary Logue and illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski (Houghton Mifflin Books, 2012) is a dreamy, bedtime story with muted colors that fill up the pages. The paintings are a mix of fantasy and reality and, along with the solid text, tell the story of a young girl who doesn’t want to go to sleep. I just love the pictures of the dog asleep on the couch; just gorgeous!
I am super excited to share my newest interview with Frog on a Blog readers. Say “hello” to awesome author/illustrator Carin Bramsen. The first time I saw her beautiful picture book Hey, Duck!, I became an instant fan. Her style is playful, colorful, and so detailed, three qualities I love in a picture book. Just look at this gorgeous cover. Of course, to really get what I’m talking about, you have to check out the book in person. I immediately noticed the amazing realistic detail of the little duck’s feathers and the cat’s fur. And of course, the story is wonderful too. Enjoy the interview!
I have fallen madly in love with your soft, little duckling and his gorgeous feline friend from your book Hey, Duck! I’m excited to have this chance to get to know more about you and your work through this interview, and to share your answers with my blog fans.
1. How did you get your start in children’s books? And which do you prefer, writing or illustrating?
CB. Thank you so much for inviting me! I’m honored and delighted to appear on this wonderful blog devoted to picture books.
My path to children’s books was roundabout. I’ve always loved both drawing and writing, and some of my best childhood memories are of illustrating my own stories. But as a misguided young adult, I thought I had to choose between writing and the visual arts. I made many false starts in either direction. At some point, my sister, Kirsten, and I spoke casually of collaborating on a book about one of her childhood experiences. We eventually revisited the idea, she wrote a terrific story called THE YELLOW TUTU, and I set about trying to illustrate it. I had much to learn, so I started poring over heaps of picture books to see what worked. I read Martin Salisbury’s Illustrating Children’s Books, which taught me how to put together a picture book dummy. The more I worked at it, the more I fell in love with the challenge of telling a story through pictures as well as words. We published THE YELLOW TUTU with Random House in 2009. By then, I was hooked on the picture book genre, and my own stories flowed naturally from learning about narrative art. One of the many things I love about this field: it turns out I don’t have to choose between writing and illustrating!
2. Your characters are so full of life. I feel as if they could jump right off the page. What medium did you use to create your illustrations for Hey, Duck?
CB. Thank you! I’m so happy to hear you find my characters full of life. I drew the illustrations for HEY, DUCK on my computer, with a digital tablet. The tablet comes with a mouse shaped like a pen, which I use to draw (paint) colors, shapes, textures and tones as I would with a traditional brush or pen. But Photoshop allows me more flexibility than paint and paper would for moving parts around, layering and reworking if need be.
3. What is your workspace like?
CB. My workspace is an unprepossessing corner of my living/dining room. (And by “corner” I mean a third of the space; this is a Brooklyn apartment, after all!) I have my computer desk next to a folding table with a drawing board on top, and lots of jars filled with brushes and pencils. Lately, I’ve dragged my old easel into the living room, where I’ve been playing around with bigger drawings. I still love all kinds of traditional media, and the visceral feel of working big.
4. What picture book authors and illustrators do you most admire? Do you have any favorite picture books?
CB. Oh, dear. I have so many favorite authors, illustrators and picture books, I can’t keep track. A few of the books that make me sit back and say, “perfect”: THE SNOWY DAY, by Ezra Jack Keats; SNOW, by Uri Shulevitz; TEN LITTLE FINGERS AND TEN LITTLE TOES, by Mem Fox, illustrated by Helen Oxenbury. I adore the Mole Sisters books by Roslyn Schwartz. I often find a special beauty in books that skew very young, and I love anything that makes me laugh. But my tastes range anywhere from James Marshall to Dr. Seuss to Kadir Nelson to Gennady Spirin. There’s an endless variety of riches in picture books, all indispensable.
5. What other books have you written or illustrated, and are you working on any new projects?
CB. I’m pleased to say there are new books with Duck and Cat on the horizon.
6. Where can people go to learn more about you and your books?
CB. I have a website: http://carinbramsen.com/home.html
I also have a blog: http://carindraw.blogspot.com/
And I’m on Twitter: @carinbramsen
7. Is there anything else you’d like to share with Frog on a Blog fans?
CB. Often, a good picture book experience owes much to a talented art director. I’m indebted to Tracy Tyler, the Random House art director who has brought so much knowledge, dedication and inspired insight to both of my book projects to date. Picture books are always a team effort.
Monstore is available now. Check out Tara Lazar’s site for more information:
I’d like to extend a big Frog on a Blog welcome to up-and-coming picture book author and illustrator Emily Kate Moon. Her first picture book (and certainly not her last) Joone was published this year. Joone stars a precocious and sweet little girl and features bright colors and a whole lot of fun. I think fun may be the perfect word to describe Emily Kate who, as you can tell by her wonderfully detailed interview responses, has a lot of fun doing what she does. You will no doubt enjoy this interview as much as I did.
Q. You are both an author and an illustrator; which do you prefer and how did you get your start in the children’s picture book arena?
EKM. Oooh… I don’t know if I could say that I prefer one over the other. I really love them both. And they are so interconnected, I find it that one gets the other going! When I sit down to start a new idea, I do it with a pad and pencil. If the words don’t come, the drawings do. And with each pencil stroke, the story comes to life, whether my pencil is making a picture or a word. It’s a really fun process. And when I’m really in the flow, it feels like I am channeling from some other place. That’s the most glorious moment of all: when I have no struggle to create what comes out — I’m just the one holding the pencil!
I got started in the children’s picture book arena when I was 17. I illustrated someone else’s book, but it didn’t go anywhere. It was an important step, though. It definitely started my career. (It’s a long story, actually. If people want to know more, send them to my website blog!)
EKM. My workspace consists of two desks: a drafting table that tilts, and a flat desk on which rests my computer and art supplies. I also have lots of cubbies and drawers and a big bookshelf full of children’s books! Looking around right now, my studio is kind of a mess. I guess I like it that way. It feels like something is always in progress!
My default medium is pencil on paper. It’s the easiest for me. I also love fat felt tip markers. But I really enjoyed learning how to use gouache when making the illustrations for Joone. Gouache is a magical medium! It’s somewhere between watercolor and acrylic. And I also love doing large paintings: abstracts of acrylic on canvas. I’ve just moved to Florida and right now I’m inspired by the ocean so I’m working on a series of wave paintings. I love standing outside at an easel, with the music on, lots of colors to choose from, a cup of brushes and a bucket of water — just going with the flow to see what happens!
EKM. Joone wandered into my head one day, fully formed, and bugged me until I knew I had to write about her. I had always wanted to write and illustrate children’s books, so it didn’t really surprise me that this little girl popped in one day and wouldn’t go away! She came with all the details: orange dress, purple hat, brown shoes and turtle atop her head! She even came with a grandfather. (The yurt came soon thereafter.) I grew up in California, so the setting is inspired by the country hills and vineyards that surrounded me there.
Q. Who are your favorite authors and illustrators? Any favorite picture books?
EKM. I have all sorts of favorites! And I love so many of the new authors these days that my list just keeps growing! I think storytelling, in general, is getting better. Which makes sense, I guess, as we learn from each other and expand on our collective work. But some of my classic favorites are Eloise by Kay Thompson and Hilary Knight, Winnie the Pooh by A. A. Milne and Ernest Shepard, and the many tales by Beatrix Potter. As a little kid, I memorized Eloise from beginning to end (which is quite a feat, considering the length of that story!) and I later filled drawing pads with watercolor reproductions of Ernest Shepard’s and Beatrix Potter’s beautiful illustrations. I also love Bill Watterson’s Calvin and Hobbes, and Joone’s proportions were greatly influenced by Calvin! And, of course, who doesn’t love Dr. Seuss… I’m pretty sure he has influenced us all! But my all-time favorite children’s book is Officer Buckle and Gloria by Peggy Rathmann. That one just really hits me! It makes me emotional all the way through because it is so well done. By page 4, my children are like, “Mom why are you crying?” and I say, “Oh! Because it’s just so good!”
Q. Can you tell us about any picture book projects you are working on right now?
Q. Where can fans go to learn more about you and your work?
EKM. My website: emilykatemoon.com or Joone’s Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/joonebook
Q. Is there anything else you’d like to share with picture book fans?
EKM. When I tell people what I do, they often say, “I’ve got an idea for a children’s book!” or “My cousin wants to do that!” It seems everyone has an unmade picture book in their lives somewhere. But it’s something that remains faraway… mostly because they don’t know how to move it forward. My answer to them is, “Just start it.” (Or tell your cousin to start!) Start by writing it down. Make it as good as you can. Read it to people, including children, and see what responses you get. Be willing to change it. If it’s great, submit it to an agent! (Agents are everywhere, but it will require some work to find the right one.) And some of the best advice I ever got is this: do not team up with an illustrator. It reduces your chances of being published. Either do it all yourself or submit the manuscript alone. These agents and editors who will read your manuscript are pros; they can envision illustrations and will match your story with the right illustrator. Most of the people who say they have a children’s book idea but haven’t moved forward with it is because, as they put it, they can’t draw. Don’t let that stop you! There is a whole world of illustrators out there who can draw and would love to illustrate your book! And the world might just love your story….
Welcome author and illustrator Courtney Pippin-Mathur! Courtney’s first picture book Maya Was Grumpy has been available for several weeks now and it’s just gorgeous! I love her wonderful color palette and lively, playful style. I think all people can relate to Maya, the adorable star of the story, who was feeling grumpy for no apparent reason. My favorite part has to be her wild hair and especially how it gets less and less wild as she becomes less and less grumpy. Maya Was Grumpy is a delightful picture book that you and your kids will absolutely love. And I know you will enjoy Courtney’s delightful interview as well. Read on for more information about Courtney Pippin-Mathur and Maya.
Q. How did you get your start as a children’s picture book author and illustrator?
CPM. I majored in Studio Art in college but I knew the fine art path wasn’t right for me. When a teacher brought in Stephen Gammell’s “Monster Mama” a giant gong went off in my head. I have always loved books and the art of picture books so it made perfect sense.
Q. What’s your favorite part of creating picture books for children?
CPM. Two parts- the spark of the original idea or sketch and the joy of the finished, bound book in your hands.
Q. What authors and illustrators have been inspirations to you?
CPM. Roald Dahl, Polly Dunbar, Lauren Child, Stephen Gammell, Shel Silverstein to name a few
CPM. I was sitting on the couch with my laptop and sketchbook in front of me when my 3-year-old stomped into the room, stomped her foot, and declared “I’m Grumpy!” I wrote down the first line and sketched a grumpy little girl with crazy hair.
Q. What materials do you like to work with when creating your illustrations?
CPM. Mechanical pencil, paper, pen , watercolor paint & paper and Photoshop
Q. Where can fans go to learn more about you and your work?
Q. Is there anything else you’d like to share with Frog on a Blog fans?
CPM. I’m a long time fan of frogs. I created a frog character in high school that I used as my signature. His name was Moran and I drew him constantly. And for my daughter’s baby shower, I drew a flying frog for the shower announcements.
I am extremely pleased to present this interview with children’s book author Jessica Young, whose debut picture book My Blue is Happy is literally teeming with color. As all of my blog fans know, I love color, so to have a chance to interview an author who shares my passion for our wonderful, colorful world is just so satisfying. In My Blue is Happy, Jessica is able to express her unique feelings for each color as the story moves along. Illustrator Catia Chien’s brilliant artwork enhances the text, and together, the words and pictures immerse the reader into that wonderful, colorful world I mentioned. I have to say, since blue is my favorite color, and has been since forever, I absolutely love how Jessica conveys blue as happy and not sad, the emotion that is usually associated with the color. Think about how many shades of blue there are, from the darkest navy to the lightest baby blue and every shade in between. My favorites are periwinkle, teal, turquoise, and sky blue. So I have to agree with Jessica when she says, “My Blue is Happy”! (P.S. Check out the gorgeous cover image below!)
Enjoy the interview!
Q. What do you enjoy most about writing for children?
JY. Kids are naturally creative, curious, and silly – and they tend to be open to new ideas and experiences. It’s exciting to think that my story might spark a change in perception, understanding, or emotion. Also, I love accessing the parts of me that are five or nine or seventeen. As Madeleine L’Engle said, “I am still every age that I have been.” And I like spending time at those younger ages within myself.
Q. How do you motivate yourself to sit down and write?
JY. I spend so much time wanting to write and thinking about story ideas as I’m doing other things that most often when I do sit down to write it feels relieving. I sometimes leave a difficult piece for a while and entertain a shiny, new idea, or toggle back and forth between two or more works-in-progress, but when necessary, I just try to plow through. Being accountable to my critique partners also helps. And fun snacks and drinks!
Q. What inspired you to write your beautiful picture book My Blue Is Happy?
JY. I can’t remember the exact moment the title and idea came to me. But I’ve always been interested in individual differences and perspective. Blue is one of my happy colors, and I wondered if having a sad association like “the blues” colors people’s perceptions of it. I’ve also observed adults telling kids that colors mean specific things, and that grass is green and sky is blue, and I’ve wondered how kids reconcile that with their own experiences. There are universal/collective ideas about color, but also variations across cultures and individuals. I wanted to explore the concept of subjectivity through the lens of color.
Q. What was it like to work with illustrator Catia Chien? Were you able to collaborate on what the illustrations would look like?
JY. I’ve actually never met Catia, and we didn’t correspond at all while making the book (as is often the case), although I’d seen her art and loved it. I discussed my vision for the story with my wonderful editor at Candlewick and worked with her to develop the text, and Catia did the same with the art director. It was amazing seeing it come together. The illustrations are so imaginative and ethereal – they really take the text to another level.
Q. What’s the first thing you did when you held the completed hard copy of your picture book in your hands for the first time?
JY. I showed it to my kids. It was really amazing for me to have them read it and see their names in the dedication. A good friend and her kids were over at the time, and we all looked at it and took pictures.
Q. Can you tell us what projects you are working on right now?
JY. Several picture books, a chapter book series, and a young adult novel – but that one may take me a while.
Q. Where can fans go to learn more about you and your work?
Q. Is there anything else you’d like to share with Frog On A Blog readers?
JY. I wouldn’t have gotten this book published without joining the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) and finding the support of my writing friends and crit partners. They push me, humor me, cheer for me, and teach me. If you’re writing and thinking about joining a critique group and/or SCBWI, I highly recommend it!
November is Picture Book Month. I love that there is a month dedicated to picture books! All month long, on the official Picture Book Month site http://picturebookmonth.com/, picture book authors and illustrators have shared their thoughts on “Why Picture Books Are Important”. I thought it would be fun to post my own thoughts on the subject right here on Frog on a Blog.
Why Picture Books Are Important
by Lauri Fortino
Between the covers of every picture book there is a world of wonder waiting to be discovered. It’s a world of color, imagination, and new friends. It’s also a starting point for literacy because a picture book has the magical ability to instill the love of books and reading in a child. Reading is something that many of us take for granted. But for those who struggle to read, it can mean the difference between success and missed opportunity or the difference between feeling accepted and feeling lost. If children are introduced to books and reading early on and throughout their growing-up years, I know that they will become strong readers. The best way to begin the journey toward literacy is by reading picture books. So parents, and grandparents, aunts, uncles, sisters, and brothers, read picture books with the children in your lives often. By doing so, you will help those children grow up to be successful, thriving adults who in turn will have the opportunity to introduce their children to the wonderful world of picture books.
The ability to read is the jump-off point from which all of life’s successes take flight.