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Have you watched Adventure Time? Maybe you have seen the comic or the graphic novel or some of the merchandise. It's a phenomenon, not least because of the age range it seems to appeal to. It is a show on the Cartoon Network, which the network claims tops its ratings and is watched by 2 million 2–11 year old boys – but I know many older kids, including students, who watch it avidly too.
When I first saw it I must admit I was surprised that something as violent, surreal and bizarre – and sometimes with such horrific and sexual content – was being aired for young children. It has a PG rating but that does nothing to keep it from young children's impressionable brains.
I think it's brilliant (but then I have a degree in Dada and Surrealism), and its freshness is perhaps partly because it's not written in the conventional sense (by a writer or writer team) but produced by artists using storyboards that are then developed by a team, even going so far as deliberately to employ surrealist techniques such as the Exquisite Corpse game in order to come up with ideas. It's also hand-drawn, each 11 minute episode taking 8–9 months to make.
Now: "Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men?" This was the line that introduced the American radio show The Shadow in the 1930s (it later became a film, comic book series, etc etc). One answer is (besides the eponymous detective) – that children do. Children are far more preoccupied with questions about what adults call the dark side of human nature than many adults give them credit for. The best children's writers know this.
Adventure Time is therefore in the same ballpark as Where the Wild Things Are...
... and the darkest of nursery rhymes and fairy stories....
... the kind that were explored by Angela Carter in her novels about growing up such as the Magic Toyshop and the Company of Wolves...
...stories where grandmothers turning to carnivorous beasts, the bedroom is populated by monsters, and the house next door contains versions of your own parents but with buttons for eyes (thanks, Neil)...
There is a genuine sense of beauty, spirituality and awe in many of Adventure Time's episodes or scenes, that is also shared by children who are viewing the world for the first time. It's as if the creators have been able to access their own infantile selves to identify with the way that children see the world.
My reference to The Shadow was chosen for another reason: the parts of the personality satisfied in its fans by Adventure Time and these other stories can be seen as parts of the 'shadow self', as described by the poet Robert Bly in his A Little Book on the Human Shadow. The Jungian theory of the human shadow, itself part-derived from myths and old stories, is that babies and young children have what Bly calls a 360° personality. But much of this compass of human potential is socialised out of their behaviour during their upbringing. By the time they are around 20 years old just a slice remains. This is the socialised personality that becomes fixed as an adult. The remaining portion is buried – the shadow – but it emerges in odd ways: our obsessions, the imaginary traits we project onto situations and other people, particularly our partners, the things we are frightened of, particularly in ourselves. Bly says that after the age of 40 or so – the age of the midlife crisis – adults often start to unpack their shadow. Their reaction to this process determines the rest of the course of their lives. The shadow is not bad, nor evil. Those are labels that adults put onto things. The shadow contains just what was suppressed, punished or ignored during the socialisation or upbringing process, and depends on the values held by the parents and the culture they belong too. And this, I think, is why Adventure Time appeals to young adults as well as children. Young adults are struggling with those aspects of themselves which adults want to repress. In young adults there is a sense of nostalgia for their childhood self, that remains as a fading echo before the responsibilities of adulthood unkindly snuff it out altogether and they forget forever what being a child is like. They know this is going to happen, they regret it and they try to cling on to its last vestiges as long as possible. The shadow is important, vital, necessary, and it is dangerous to repress it or ignore it. The makers of Adventure Time, and the Cartoon Network that commissions it, cannot be unaware of this. It is a liminal gate to the subconscious, the place where creativity thrives. If I seem to be making rather grand claims for what is after all a children's cartoon I make no apologies. We all, as writers, are gatekeepers to this realm, aren't we? And each of us, in our own unique way, delves beyond the gate to do our work.Add a Comment
Moses, Will. 2011. Mary and Her Little Lamb: The True Story of the Famous Nursery Rhyme. New York: Philomel.
Most children in America will grow up learning the rhyme or the song about Mary and her little lamb, but few will give it any serious thought. We may similarly prattle about Old King Cole, Wee Willie Winkie, or Jack Sprat, but we don't expect to know anything more about them than their propensities for pipe smoking and music, late night excursions in inappropriate clothing and a distaste for high-fat diets.
Luckily for children, however, we can know a little more about Mary and her little lamb. Will Moses' detailed folkart paintings (many double-spreads), are a perfect accompaniment to the true story of Mary Sawyer of Sterling, Massachusetts, circa 1810. The pastoral images of 19th century Sterling and the simple features of the one-room schoolhouse are beautifully rendered in colorful oils. The story is somewhat lengthy, but Moses employs artistic license to add story enriching details that create a fast-paced, enjoyable read-aloud story. Delightful in words and pictures!
Note: Earlier this year on the KidLit Celebrates Women's History Month blog, I highlighted Laurie Halse Anderson's book, Thank You, Sarah: The Woman Who Saved Thanksgiving. Sarah Josepha Hale (1788-1879) was a fascinating woman. Not only did she almost single-handedly create the national Thanksgiving Holiday, she was also a writer, editor and a poet. I noted that she penned the ditty, "Mary Had a Little Lamb," which I learned from the back matter in Thank You, Sarah. However, there is apparently more to the story. According to the afterword in Mary and Her Little Lamb, John Roulstone wrote the first stanza of the now-famous poem in the 1810s. Sarah Hale published the poem in 1930, apparently adding three more stanzas. Later, musician Lowell Mason, set the rhyme to music, adding the repetitive lines that we all sing today. Regardless of its evolutionary process, it's amazing that a 4-line ditty about a girl and her lamb could so enchant the schoolhouse visitor John Roulstone, the accomplished writer Sarah Hale, and the famous musician, Lowell Mason. How much more simple life must have been in the early 1800s! There is no end to the things one can learn from picture books.
Yesterday was the deadline for the Tomie de Paolo SCBWI award 2012. The theme ... if you didn't guess already ... is the classic tale 'Chicken Licken'. Here's what I did ...
Inked with hand dipping pen
First colouring ... didn't like colours
Final colouring in watercolour. I changed a couple of details in photoshop. If you look at the inked copy you will see I tweaked the shape of Turkey Lurkey's tail, the size of Henny Penny and removed some of the 'marks' on the road.
The piece took me a couple of days.
Wish me luck! The award is announced early January - the winner receives $1000 and all expenses paid to the SCBWI conference to NY in Spring. And as I haven't scheduled to be there this year, it would be sweeeet.
Whatever, it was a fun piece to do. Lately I seem to have been drawing a lot of fowl!
A very friendly new collection of board books from Annie Kubler, these books offer one nursery rhyme in each volume. The child characters are appealing with their large round heads, active hands and feet, and rather jolly feel. The children are multi-ethnic adding to the appeal of the volumes. Kubler presents each nursery rhyme simply and successfully. She does not adorn the verse or change it from the original, rather these are modern versions of the classics.
Recommended for libraries and families, this set would make a great new baby present to get those little ones growing up with nursery rhymes. Appropriate for ages 0-2.
Pocketful of Posies: A Treasury of Nursery Rhymes. Salley Mavor. 2010. September 2010. Houghton Mifflin. 72 pages.
I loved this one! I just LOVED, LOVED, LOVED it. Salley Mavor's artwork--her needlework or embroidery--just amazed me. Each and every page of this one wowed me. (You can look inside this book at Amazon.)
The book is a collection of nursery rhymes. You'll find familiar favorites alongside lesser known rhymes. What makes this collection special--really special--is the artwork. It excited me! I just love reading and rereading this one!
I eat my peas with honey. I've done it all my life. They do taste kind of funny. But it keeps them on the knife (47)
Little Miss Muffett Sat on a tuffet, Eating her curds and whey; Along came a great spider, Who sat down beside her, And frightened Miss Muffett away. (28)
This would be a great book for parents (and grandparents) to share with the children in their lives!
Guyku (rhymes with haiku) - illustrated haiku that features boys and things that boys like to do outdoors in each season. My favorite?
Hey, Who turned off all the crickets? I'm not ready for summer to end.
Brilliant! Teachers should be all over this one. Wish there were one for girls (but "Galku" just wouldn't cut it)
Fox, Mem. 2010. Let's Count Goats. Ill. by Jan Thomas. New York: Beach Lane.
Here we see an over goat. And this one's going under. But can we count the crossing goats, terrified of thunder?
Mem Fox, Jan Thomas, silly goats, what's not to like? Great counting book for little ones. (You don't see the word careering very often. Interesting choice.)
Mavor, Salley. 2010. Pocketful of Posies: A Treasury of Nursery Rhymes. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
Traditional nursery rhymes illustrated in "hand-sewn fabric relief collages." Most of the rhymes are familiar - old classics including Peter, Peter Pumpkin Eater, The Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe, and the like. But a few may be so old as to be new,
I'm dusty Bill from Vinegar Hill. Never had a bath and never will.
The depictions of the exquisitely detailed needlework are simply stunning. Even a child who can't appreciate the work involved will know that this book is something special.
This book contains classic nursery rhymes like “Baa Baa Black Sheep” and “Mary Had a Little Lamb.” The text is unchanged from the classic style, making this book a reassuring one to share with children. The surprise and wonder of the book is its illustrations. Done in fabrics and threads, the illustrations have a great dimensionality to them, lifting off of the page. There is also an almost irresistible urge to try to feel the fabric’s softness on some pages. If you look closely, you will find other objects in the illustrations as well: small shells, acorn caps, pine cones.
The bright colors make the book immediately appealing. The softness of the illustrations, created by the fabric, continue to add to the appeal. This becomes more than a book of nursery rhymes and turns into a book that can be pored over time and again. It is a refreshing and interesting style that is timeless and lovely.
Highly recommended, this would make a gorgeous baby gift. Stand it up in the library facing out, and it won’t take long for someone to whisk it away to check out. Appropriate for ages 1-3.
I'm actually a little embarrassed to admit that I haven't spent a lot of time teaching my preschooler son all the familiar nursery rhymes. For some reason I read the rhymes more often to my daughter when she was younger. Of course, given my love of Mother Goose, we've read Mother Goose books but not repeatedly. Sometimes I sing the rhymes for my children, but we haven't really listened to many of the nursery rhyme melodies on CD or on DVD either. In my childhood I learned and memorized many nursery rhyme melodies and there's no doubt in my mind that this early exposure to nursery rhymes helped accelerate my reading and rhyming skills.
Team Mom recently introduced my family to a nursery rhyme inspired, educational live-action children's TV series called Mother Goose Club. The series is aimed at the toddler / preschooler age group and currently airs on various PBS stations (though I don't think we've seen it on our local station). Produced by Sockeye Media, the program has received 14 Midsouth Emmy® award nominations. Just recently the company released a DVD called Nursery Rhyme Singing Time with Mother Goose Club. Here's a clip of the song "One, Two, Buckle My Shoe" from the DVD:
The DVD includes 15 familiar nursery rhyme songs and five Mother Goose Club episodes.
Songs: Jack Be Nimble • Itsy Bitsy Spider • Hickory Dickory Dock • One, Two, Buckle My Shoe • Rig a Jig Jig • Where is Thumbkin • Little Bo Peep • Clap Your Hands • Baa Baa Baa Sheep • Mary Mary Quite Contrary • Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear • Humpty Dumpty • Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star • Pat-a-Cake • Little Boy Blue
Episodes: Baa Baa's Rhyme Time Bonanza • Hickory Dickory Dock Rocks • One, Two, Buckle My Shoe Eep Counts to Ten • Itsy Bitsy Spider Time • Teddy Bear Boogie Woogie
The Mother Goose Club characters are certainly zany! The six characters -- Teddy Bear, Jack B. Nimble, Little Bo Peep, Baa Baa Sheep, Mary Quite Contrary, and Eep Mouse -- are actual adults and kids dressed up in brightly colored costumes. The characters sing and dance, all the while teaching young viewers about rhyming words. The characters remind me a little of those from the Doodlebops series, a PBS show we watched for a short period when my daughter was younger. Perhaps that explains her fascination with the Mother Goose Club characters' showy wigs and costumes.
Parents and educators can either pick and choose songs and episodes individually from the menu or play everything at once. If you select "play all," the DVD plays the nursery rhyme songs first and then the episodes. My preschooler son prefers the short and to the point songs and likes to sing along, especially with his favorites, "One, Two, Buckle My Shoe" and "Itsy Bitsy Spider." The episodes concentrate primarily on teaching rhyming skills using various nursery rhymes. I did notice that a few of the songs aren't what I expected. "Where is Thumbkin" is abbreviated and only covers thumbkin and pointer, neglecting the other fingers. The "Baa Baa Black Sheep" song rhyme is actually titled
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Nursery rhymes. What’s up with that? (I feel like a stand up comedian when I put it that way). They’re ubiquitous but nonsensical. Culturally relevant but often of unknown origins. Children’s literary scholar Leonard Marcus ponders the amazing shelf life of nursery rhymes himself and comes up with some answers. Why is it that they last as long as they do in the public consciousness? Marcus speculates that “the old-chestnut rhymes that beguile in part by sounding so emphatically clear about themselves while in fact leaving almost everything to our imagination” leave themselves open to interpretation. And who better to do a little interpreting than cartoonists? Including as many variegated styles as could be conceivably collected in a single 128-page book, editor Chris Duffy plucks from the cream of the children’s graphic novel crop (and beyond!) to create a collection so packed with detail and delight that you’ll find yourself flipping to the beginning to read it all over again after you’re done. Mind you, I wouldn’t go handing this to a three-year-old any time soon, but for a certain kind of child, this crazy little concoction is going to just the right bit of weirdness they require.
Fifty artists are handed a nursery rhyme apiece. The goal? Illustrate said poem. Give it a bit of flair. Put in a plot if you have to. So it is that a breed of all new comics, those of the nursery ilk, fill this book. Here at last you can see David Macaulay bring his architectural genius to “London Bridge is Falling Down” or Roz Chast give “There Was a Crooked Man” a positive spin. Leonard Marcus offers an introduction giving credence to this all new coming together of text and image while in the back of the book editor Chris Duffy discusses the rhymes’ history and meaning. And as he says in the end, “We’re just letting history take its course.”
In the interest of public scrutiny, the complete list of artists on this book consists of Nick Abadzis, Andrew Arnold, Kate Beaton, Vera Brosgol, Nick Bruel, Scott Campbell, Lilli Carre, Roz Chast, JP Coovert, Jordan Crane, Rebecca Dart, Eleanor Davis, Vanessa Davis, Theo Ellsworth, Matt Forsythe, Jules Feiffer, Bob Flynn, Alexis Frederick-Frost, Ben Hatke, Gilbert Hernandez, Jaime Hernandez, Lucy Knisley, David Macaulay, Mark Martin, Patrick McDonnell, Mike Mignola, Tony Millionaire, Tao Nyeu, George O’Connor, Mo Oh, Eric Orchard, Laura Park, Cyril Pedrosa, Lark Pien, Aaron Renier, Dave Roman, Marc Rosenthal, Stan Sakai, Richard Sala, Mark Siegel, James Sturm, Raina Telgemeier, Craig Thompson, Richard Thompson, Sara Varon, Jen Wang, Drew Weing, Gahan Wilson, Gene Luen Yang, and Stephanie Yue (whew!). And as with any collection, some of the inclusions are going to be stronger than others. Generally speaking if fifty people do something, some of them are going to have a better grasp on the process than others. That said, only a few of these versions didn’t do it for me. At worst the versions were mediocre. At best they went in a new direction with their mat
There are many steps to coming up with great work and having a wonderful and creative idea. I know that sometimes it seems that creative professionals can pull ideas out of hats as easily as a magician and sometimes ideas do come rather quickly but there are crucial guidelines one should stick to when trying to meet a clients needs. As an illustrator or designer you should always allow some time to reasearch a client's target market and buisness needs. A great idea might only be great for you or to satisfy some artistic craving you are waiting to fill but how does this help out the people who have put their trust in you? So, what should you research to ensure that you are coming up with something fabulous that will actually help your client get what he/she needs?
Here's a little list of things to research when you get a new client:
Who is your client? What exactly do they do? (Sometimes this is rather easy while other times I've had clients where I've had to look up the meaning of their profession in the dictionary before starting, rather daunting!) Why did your client hire you? (Exactly what needs arose for them to hire you in the first place? Are they looking to gain more clients in a juvenile audience? Do they always hire illustrators because it's worked for them year after year? Does illustration give them a personal touch or edge?) So to narrow this down a bit: What is their target audience? (And are they trying to broaden their scope using you?) Who are their competitors? (And what are they doing to promote themselves/using on their products? Say you're doing illustrations for a package on a new doll. Take a look at Barbie. Why is she so sucsessful? What sets her apart from what your client wants?) Think about the target audience: What else are the clients buying? (Think back to the barbie situation: These children also wanted to buy Dora books, big thick chunky jewelry filled with purple and pink and love bright coloured candy) What is the client wanting to evoke in their clients? (Are they wanting to make the clients feel a certain way when they use the product/read the artical/look at an ad/packaging?)
Take time to research images & colours. Find out what is appealing to the target audience. If you know nothing about 8 year old girls hang out for a bit in the Disney Store then head over to Zellars to get a broad scope of what exactly your client is doing and desiring. Go to the library and read to children of this age. What are the parents like in this situation? Are parents consistently turning down certain products that children like? Sometimes it's just as important to take into consideration things like this as the true client is the adult.
With this said, illustration shouldn't always be about fitting into a market. If your client wants to break new ground take a look at what's out there anyway so you'll know who's creating new ideas, what makes their work innovative and how you can allow your own work to evolve (but remember, a client is the main thing that separates fine art from illustration so always always keep them in mind). Sketch... Alot! Don't show a client all of your sketches (unless they have requested this as it can become a buffet of ideas in which a client will want to take pieces of each idea and merge them. This will result in a bloated and ugly stomach where nothing get's noticed for it's flavour). Pick out the best couple of sketches (or just one!) based on your research and tell the client why you picked what you did. Explain the choice of colour, the composition, the arrangement of elements. Let your client in on your process, let them know how long each phases is and ask them questions. Don't be afraid to ask your clients questions about their business (clients adore talking about their business and it shows you care and want to do a good job for them). Meet them in person as often as you can. Look them in the eye when they talk. Take notes. See how they react to your ideas. If you didn't get a concept right the first time find out why it's not working. Maybe go back and explain why you did something a certain way.
In many ways finding a good idea is just the result of narrowing down the extra large field of "I can do anything I want!" which is so daunting. Following the above guidelines can take lots of the pressure off of you to create a masterpiece from nothing.
I woke up this morning to 95% humidity and thought, “April showers, indeed.” Then I started wondering about the origins of all those rainy-day nursery rhymes we recite as children. Are they just catchy, or do they have hidden meanings? Unfortunately, as is the case with most nursery rhymes, the origins are, er, muddy.
In my poking around, I also turned up a book called Heavy Words Lightly Thrown: The Reason Behind the Rhyme, by Chris Roberts (Gotham 2004). Roberts doesn’t address the rainy day rhymes, but there’s plenty of other trivia to enjoy. Who knew the political undertones of Jack Spratt, or the bawdy origins of the Three Men in a Tub? (Well, maybe you could have guessed—but it’s probably even more lurid than you thought!)
I'm still trying to find a something I like...time to redo the kitties...this time the line art is done in Illustrator. I'll repaint a new background and post it later. I just might have to redraw it before I'm happy!
The Very Best Mother Goose Book Tower. By Iona Opie. Illustrated by Rosemary Wells. 2010. (February 2010). Candlewick. 80 pages.
Earlier in the month, I reviewed Maisy's Book Tower. I started my review by asking if the product was a book or a toy! I still don't have the perfect answer for that one. Because this is really the first time that I've encounter stacking book towers. (Books meant to serve dual purposes as a book-book and stacking blocks.) We've got four books included in this set. Jack and Jill And Other Classic Rhymes. Pussy Cat, Pussy Cat And Other Animal Rhymes. Pat-a-Cake, Pat-a-Cake And Other Action Rhymes. Wee Willie Winkie And Other Lullabies.
Mother Goose can be tricky at times because there are more than a few variations to the text itself. And it can be frustrating (at times, at least for some readers) for the book to "get it wrong." For example, I got a little annoyed that "I'm A Little Teapot" is all wrong:
I'm a little teapot, short and stout, Here's my handle, Here's my spout. When the tea is ready, hear me shout, Pick me up and pour me out!
Overall, I think there's a good mix of rhymes that are familiar (or familiar enough at any rate) and completely unfamiliar. Some of these are ones that I've not come across before.
What does a cat, a cow, and a table setting have in common?Absolutely nothing. But combine them together and you got yer self a funny little rhyme and a kick ass addition to any nursery room.
This 5.5×5.5″ three piece wall art set was inspired by one of my all time favorite rhymes of randomness “Hey Diddle Diddle“.
Fun fun stuff. I wanted to keep this a 3 piece so I left out a line from the rhyme. Besides that line about the little dog laughing sounded a little too far fetched for me (oh if only sarcasm transferred well when reading.)Put them in any order you want. One of the best part about this rhyme is that it doesn’t make any sense so order doesn’t exist.
On a rainy day, a little boy escapes into a world of nursery rhymes that is filled with a rainbow of colors. He moves past icons of nursery rhymes like Little Boy Blue, Miss Muffet and her big black spider, Bo Peep’s white sheep, and five pink piggies. Keep a sharp eye out for other nursery rhyme characters in the background, because there’s a list at the end of the book to see if you spotted them. Told in a style that only Alison Jay could achieve with her vintage, crackling illustrations that maintain a modern energy, this book is sure to be a winner with preschoolers.
Jay has such a distinct and unique style that you can spot her books from afar. Just as she has with counting books and alphabet books, Jay has once again captured the timelessness of childhood here. Her exceptional illustrations bring energy and fun to the simple text which focuses on colors and characters. It is in the illustrations that the world comes to life and there is a depth that makes exploring them ever so much fun.
Make room for this one in your section on colors and in your section on nursery rhymes. Combining the two is a brilliantly colorful idea. Appropriate for ages 2-5.