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by Joyce Carol Thomas, illustrated by Floyd Cooper. Amistad, 2012. (review copy/F&G) I received an "F & G" from the publisher for this book. What that means is it is not the final bound version but just the printed and gathered pages. The illustrations are so beautiful in this book I think I am going to have to frame some of them, so having the pages unbound makes that easier! :) In 1948 JoyceDisplay Comments Add a Comment
by Barack Obama, illustrated by Loren Long. Random House Children's Books, 2010. (nook e-book) I have a new nook tablet that I am enjoying this e-book on with my sons. It is a gorgeous poem celebrating the most exemplary traits of famous American heroes: courage, creativity, determination, and the ability to achieve their dreams. Obama write to his daughters, encouraging them to become the bestDisplay Comments Add a Comment
by Ana A. de Eulate, Illustrated by Sonja Wimmer. Cuento de Luz SL (May 2012) (Review copy). A little girl in Afghanistan gazes at the sky and dreams of peace, her heart soaring above a grey-brown landscape torn by war. She visualizes peace as a kite of brilliant colors, with tails and strings connecting people of all places, races, and faces. She sees children and adults together, leaningDisplay Comments Add a Comment
by Sally M. Walker, illustrated by Sean Qualls. HarperCollins Children's, 2012. (review copy) In the author's note at the end of this lovely middle grade picture book Sally Walker tell of how she first learned the real life story of Henry "Box" Brown's 1849 escape from slavery. She was a choir member and music lover, and was fascinated to later learn that Henry was a member of his church choir.Display Comments Add a Comment
by Christy Hale. Lee and Low, 2012. (netgalley review copy) Christy Hale has put together a collection of charming concrete poems celebrating children's favorite building toys and activities. Each full page spread shows children engaged in building projects paired with photos of actual buildings that mirror the profile of the children's buildings. Architects including Frank Lloyd Wright, CesarDisplay Comments Add a Comment
Moreno Velo, Lucía.
Manu se va a la cama / Manu’s Bedtime.
¡Manu, No! / No, Manu!
Manu pone la mesa / Manu Sets the Table
Illustrated by Javier Termenón Delgado. Topka, 2006
Apparently you have to go all the way to Spain to find good board books about kids living up in gay or lesbian families. There is much to admire in Lucía Moreno Velo’s appealing series of three square-shaped board books about Manu, a toddler with two moms. The bilingual text in each volume deals with every-day things in the life of a small child: bedtime, helping out with family routines. and being told no.
When Manu tries to help set the table, for example, he manages to carry the table cloth for one of his moms with no problem, but is less successful with the basket of dinner rolls, which he drops en route, causing him to cry. The story concludes with hugs and reassuring words from his two moms.
In tone, the books remind me of Barbro Lindgren’s wonderful Sam series from several years ago. Like Sam, Manu behaves like a typical two year old, determined to do things in his own way.
The spare and spirited illustrations show Manu as a large-eyed toddler. His two moms are distinct enough from each other that even small children will be able to tell them apart.
As an added bonus, the text appears in both Spanish and English. The English translation is not literal, but it aptly captures the way in which Manu and his moms interact with each other.
The books can be easily purchased directly from the publisher, Topka (I did, and they arrived in about a week). Whether you’re building a library collection or a personal one, you’ll want to have them. They’re sure to become favorite baby gifts for lesbian moms.
AfterElton.com has a long, glowing review of Sarah Brannen’s picture book Uncle Bobby’s Wedding. It concludes with an author interview in which Brannen tells us about the inspiration for her story: seeing all the happy same-sex couples getting married in her home state of Massachusetts a few years ago.
She also answers the burning question that’s been on many of our minds: “Why guinea pigs?” Apparently she had originally planned to use birds because she wanted a species in which the coloring made it clear that both Uncle Bobby and his fiancé were male, but she decided that birds “look silly in clothes.” In the end she chose guinea pigs for the cuteness factor: “I wanted to create little fat furry people.”
So let’s revise the question: “Why critters?“ Would we as a community be more enthusiastic about this book if the characters were human? Will families who would never dream of reading Heather Has Two Mommies be more likely to pick up this book because of the cute critters on the cover? (I already know of one family whose love of guinea pigs has outweighed their discomfort with gay marriage.) How do you feel about gay guinea pig weddings?
Jennifer: Hi Ian,
Thanks for agreeing to the interview!
I’ve had a ball tracking through the amazing adventures you’ve had with pen and ink! You have a wealth of
experience in other arty areas, from designing album covers (including the cover for “Yellow Brick Road”), to advertising, from cards and calendars to murals.
What do you feel this more commercially driven art brought to your work as a children’s book illustrator?
‘Marketing’ is something that seems almost a dirty word to purists but it is an essential part of any saleable product in a competitive marketplace – does the ‘selling’ aspect play any part in your creative process? Should it?
IAN: I began my career as a ‘commercial’ illustrator, making drawings and paintings for anyone who asked, I just wanted to make a living from illustrating. That had been my goal since I was very young and I had noticed ‘spot’ drawings and the like in newspapers and magazines. My ambition had been to do something similar. I spent a very varied and happy twenty years or so in that illustration world. I learned a great deal technically through the trial and error of making drawings for difficult and or demanding clients. I learned patience, and the ability to redraft, remake, remodel, with a smile and good grace. This all helped when I was offered my first children’s book to illustrate (Round and Round the Garden) in 1982. It helped me to be consistent in my coloring, to get the mood of the book as demanded by the editor and designer, a process I was by then very used to. The selling part is obviously important. No publisher wants to make a book that does not sell, nor does any author. I certainly built on my experience in commercial illustration to make my pictures ‘appealing’ if that is the right word. I tried to bring tenderness and charm to my depiction of babies or animal characters. That was how I worked anyway, my commercial work had been influenced by the world of children’s illustration from the word go. I collected illustrated books from my time at Art School, and I still do.
Jennifer: With Heroes like Edward Ardizzone and Harold Jones and a teacher like Raymond Briggs one could say you were always going to end up illustrating children’s books.
What were your favourite books as a child? What images stuck in your mind - were they from books, films or somewhere else? How have these influences shaped your approach to your art?
IAN: I grew up in a house with very few books. Ours was what you would call a ‘blue collar’ family. My father was a milkman, (as was Raymond Briggs’ father) we had a patchy library of mostly old novels, I remember we had volume two of Gone With the Wind, no sign of volume one. The printed images I saw were either in comics, magazines or newspapers. I began my interest by trying to copy those images, often on to the endpapers and flyleaves of the old books that were lying around. Later I joined my local library and began my life long love affair with books and the pictures in them. I started with Hugh Lofting’s Dr Dolittle books. I read all of those in sequence and often reread them too. Later I moved on to Richmal Crompton’s Just William books, and I still read and laugh over those. I think however if there is a single illustration that I remember, that opened my eyes and mind, it was the one by Pauline Baynes, in The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, it is of Mr Tumnus out in the snow with his parcels and the street lamp. It still gives me the shivers. I think my own illustration work has been made of so many influences it would be hard for am to untangle them all, but they are all there in some way even if the result is recognizably ‘me’.
Jennifer: The ability to tell a story inside a story as with your book “Five Little Ducks” –How did you set about that now classic ‘Beck’ book?
Was the other story of the fox there from the outset or did it ‘occur to you’ in the way the speaking crow did in Tom Trueheart?
IAN: As so often happens, Five Little Ducks began as a quite different book. I was discussing with Judith Elliot, then the overall editor at and founder of Orchard Books, the possibility of a book about night time. I had made some roughs, written out some ideas, but it had stalled. Jill Slotover who was an editor there suggested the rhyme of the five little ducks. I saw it complete at once in my mind, the fox, the brave duckling etc etc. I drew some thumbnail sized color visuals in a sketch book, and that was it, go ahead, and I did. It seemed to flow very naturally and was a very positive experience.
Jennifer: This brings me to the ‘right brain’ process present in much of creativity.
In one interview, you spoke of ‘trusting’ an inner nudge that told you to go with the talking crow, even though never envisaged as part of your original idea for Tom’s story.
How does this work in the illustrative process and is it different to that in the writing process?
How do the two creative processes compare?
IAN: In writing a longer story there is naturally a certain amount of planning but as you work on something the imagination creeps up behind you occasionally and goes, ‘boo, weren’t expecting that were you’? This is just what happened with the talking bird, it seems meant and obvious to me now that Jollity the crow should be there, but he was meant at first just to be a target for Tom to throw a snowball at. Once the notion popped into my head that the bird would speak the book opened up for me there and then. My drawings were always planned more rigorously, I was very much in control of them, I can’t imagine the same leap occurring during the making of a drawing.
Jennifer: I’ve checked out http://www.tomtrueheart.com/ and encourage readers to
do ditto! The silhouettes perfectly suit the darker story, but are very different to your style say for example used in “The Teddy Robber” and again from “Puss in Boots”.
How do you decide on your approach to each project?
IAN: The silhouettes were not in the planning of the book at all. I was working on some ideas for the cover of Tom Trueheart with the designer Molly Dallas at Oxford University Press. We had a lot of ideas scattered about on a table, when she remembered that the endpapers I had made for a previous book (The Oxford Nursery Story Book) had used silhouettes. I turned the image of Tom walking with his packstaff into a silhouette and it seemed to click into place at once. It was a short step from that to illustrating the whole book with silhouettes. It was quite a discipline to learn, but a very enjoyable one. So I suppose this approach was unplanned but seemed right. Most of the picture books would be planned with the designer and editor together. They have a valuable input as well after all, quite rightly. Sometimes an editor will say, ‘it would be nice if this book were some thing like this’, and refer to a past book or approach, that certainly happened with The Little Mermaid, I went for the sad and the romantic, the lavish and the wide screen in that book very different to much of my other more graphic output, I imagine for the first and last time.
Jennifer: Any career path is a journey and one might have predicted that having the story teller gift (as demonstrated in “Five Little Ducks”) you would eventually arrive at the point where you wrote your own stories.
Did you always want to do this, or is this a new adventure?
IAN: I was encouraged to write my own original story to illustrate by my first editor David Fickling. This became The Teddy Robber, a book still held in affection by readers twenty years later, as I am constantly reminded by teachers and children on
The urge to write narrative though has been with me from the beginning. When I was a young commercial illustrator I went to creative writing classes. It was my intention to write adult fiction. I wrote a couple of short stories, began a novel, but it all ended in a drawer unresolved, unfinished. The urge was still there, the itch, the frustration if you like, but all necessarily suppressed under my busy drawing schedules, the need to earn a living, growing family life etc. Then the seed for Tom Trueheart was planted and grew a little in the potting shed inside my brain. He lay dormant for a while until, sadly, one of my best friends died. This was a big wake up call, as he was younger than me. ‘Come on’, I thought, ’finish that idea, grow that seedling, do what you really want to do, life is too short’. So then Tom actually got finished, with the encouragement of my agent Hilary Delamere. The publisher liked him and so did several other publishers. He is in ten languages now I think, so sometimes trusting your instinct is the way to go.
Jennifer: Tom‘s second book of adventures “Tom Trueheart and the Land of Dark Stories “ is darker by your own admission. The same applied to the progression of J.K.Rowling’s Harry Potter series.
What led to this?
What were the influences at work when you realized a second book needed to be written?
IAN: The second Tom Trueheart adventure came about by chance. I had not intended to write more than one book while I was busy writing the first, it seemed both
contained, and complete. The first draft ended with Tom confronting the villain Ormestone in a wood and Ormestone turning him into Tom Thumb, ie Tom finally had his own story to complete. My editor Liz Cross read it and said that she didn’t think it was the end of book one, rather she felt it could be the beginning of book two. I was delighted to think that there would be a book two as I had enjoyed writing about Tom so much. Book two needed a new set of stories and characters, there was the unresolved business of Tom’s missing father, maybe he would make an appearance and so on, it all just slotted into place. I used some of those darker fairy story elements, wolves, castles, bats spiders, skeletons, and so on, imagining that the villain would go to where he would be appreciated, and all this with Tom shrunk down to the size of Tom Thumb. It was great fun to do, and I have now nearly finished the third book, provisionally called Tom Trueheart and the Land of Myths and Legends. As you may know Suppertime Entertainment are developing animated films based on the books, so we wait to see what happens next.
Jennifer: How did you feel as an illustrator about someone else doing your illustrative work, as with the book covers for paperback edition in UK [Adam Stower] and the USA edition [Brandon Dorman]?
IAN: It is something of a luxury and a delight to see other artist’s interpretations of my characters and stories. As an illustrator myself you might expect me to be hyper critical, but no, I am very relaxed about it and I very much like what both Brandon Dorman and Adam Stower have done in relation to Tom Trueheart. Just recently, I saw the jacket for Pastworld which is far better than anything I might have done, completely spot on, designed by John Fordham and with an illustration by Paul Young, full of texture and mystery. It was sent to me as a ‘fait accompli’, and I couldn’t be happier with it.
Jennifer: What do we expect to see next?
What about film scripts [ I noted the trailer on your site.]?
What about your own totally Beck picturebooks?
IAN: I have a big novel (in terms of length and ambition) coming out in the summer of 2009. It is called Pastworld. It has taken me four years to develop and complete, Bloomsbury will be publishing. It is a much darker book, aimed at older readers, twelve years and up. A complex book, and hard to sum up in a few words, it is a dark adventure set in what appears to be Victorian London. I suppose you would perhaps categorize it as ‘Steampunk’, there are airships, and murders, and strange passions. It has grown out of my obsession with London, the city I have lived in for forty years, with the science fiction novels of H G Wells, and movies and all sorts of other things muddled together. It may surprise some of my readers, even shock them. It is intended as an older read, it is nothing like Tom Trueheart, and it is not at all cute.
After that I am writing a novel for Oxford provisionally called The Hidden Kingdom, in which the hero is thrust into a sudden drama and the reader discovers the truth as the story develops and at the same time that the hero does. It is set in a mythical place and time and will I hope explore love as one of the subjects.
As to films, I wrote a short story for adults called The Summer House. A young film maker read it and wanted me to adapt it as a screenplay for a short film. I did the adaptation and the film was shot in France two summers ago. Through the magic luck of casting the director Daisy Gili, got Talulah Riley, fresh from the film of Pride and Prejudice as the young female lead, and a boy called Robert Pattinson as the young male lead. Rob of course is playing Edward Cullen in the film of Twilight which just opened ‘big’. So our little 13 minute film now has the added bonus of two rising stars. My son has a film making company and he kindly makes book trailers for me, we are looking forward to making the trailer for Pastworld plus a website where further mysteries can be developed.
As to Picture books, I very much enjoyed illustrating the book Winston The Book Wolf written by Marni
McGee, but whether I will ever make another one of my own I don’t know, the longer form seems to have taken over.
Jennifer: You’ve had a lot of interviews that have covered a lot of ground.
Is there a question you wish you had been asked? Okay, now’s your chance! Question and answer – over to you!
Q. What would you have done if you hadn’t made books?
IAN: I would like to have been a ‘café concert’ cabaret entertainer in the mythical Paris of the 1900’s, singing in a tux with a cane, and hanging out with Ravel and Erik Satie and perhaps even having a passionate affair with Colette!
Jennifer: Yep – I can see you doing a Maurice Chevalier complete with top hat!
Maybe that is more than just a dream??????
Now here’s a tantalizing tease - Hidden Kingdom and Pastworld are coming up AND, with one shorter film under his belt already and two animated feature version of the Tom Trueheart books under way, can we expect Ian to be off to Hollywood next with a blockbuster in his sights? Stay tuned!!!!!
Gracias Thanks is a delightful picture book written in Spanish and English. A young boy gives thanks for all the simple everyday things that make him happy. His mischievous character shows through as he delights when his Abuelita gives him a dollar when no one else is looking, and his “friend Billy who showed me the book about a boy giant who puts his little parents on top of a tall tree whenDisplay Comments Add a Comment
by Michael S. Bandy and Eric Stein, illustrated by Shadra Strickland. Candlewick, 2011. (review copy). Set in 1962 in the Jim Crow South just before the Civil Rights era, this picture book is based on a real life experience of author Michael Bandy. The lushly illustrated book tells of a boy named Michael who confronts the segregation laws in his community. On a bus ride to town he experiencesAdd a Comment
I'm signed up for the Picture Book Idea Month challenge over at Tara Lazar's blog again this year. All through the month of November we try to come up with at least one idea a day for a new picture book that could be worked on and written in the coming year. I did it last year and came up with a list of ideas for books... none of which got written as yet. But still... those ideas are brewing.Display Comments Add a Comment
The other day our Advent calendar activity was to make these paper stars. I am so happy with the way they came out! The red one I made out of an old Christmas card. It was a little too stiff and hard to get the glue to stick without holding it together for a while. I tried using pictures from the World Wildlife Fund Catalog, after we made our donation online. The photos of the birds andDisplay Comments Add a Comment
One of the activities in our Advent Calendar this week is to make paper chains for the Christmas Tree. I remember making them as a child in red and green construction paper. I've made them as a teacher with first grade classes for many years. It is a great joy to introduce them to my own two boys, who had never made them before. I consider myself privilaged and honored to be the one whoAdd a Comment
I've got a little work to do, so if you would kindly bookmark your place, I'll be back shortly.
Some fun bookmarks:
If'n Books + Marks (Love the one that says: "My life is much more complex than this character's.")
Mirage Bookmark ( Who knew there was an Exhibition of Bookmarks? I'm fond of this one and this one.)
And if you've ever wished to be Amy March, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Jane Austin, or Anne Shirley...or leave a calling card just like them...pay a visit to Small Meadow Press. They have just the perfect thing for you. (And you must give me one if we ever meet!)