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by Claire Keane (Dial Books, 2015)
Here’s one to hand to any kid that still can’t get enough of Frozen. And when you do, give them a little wink-nudge that this book’s creator worked on what Elsa and Anna’s world looked like. And she worked on Tangled. And then they will see the lush purple cover anyway, and sometimes that’s all it takes.
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Meet Celeste. She wants the perfect gift for her mom. Big eyes. Big dreams. (Sweet bear expression. And do you see those little shoes she’s kicked off? Even sweeter.)
Celeste is stumped. When she’s about to fall asleep, the Wind carries her away.
She sparkles with the Stars and then meets the Moon and the Sun.
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There’s something musical about the pace of the pictures here. Sweeping and epic and enchanting. The colors wash over Celeste’s celestial quest, slowly spinning one into another.
And then, she’s home again. But her heart is new and her eyes are fresh, and the same things that have always been there shine a bit more than they did before once upon a cloud.
Simple in story. Arresting in art.
Review copy sent by the publisher.
Jack be nimble,
Jack be quick,
Jack jump over
Pieces from the 2015 SCBWI-WWA Conference intensive with Candlewick art director Kristen Nobles. The assignment was to illustrate the traditional nursery rhyme by going beyond the typical little boy images.
by Matthew Burgess and Kris Di Giacomo (Enchanted Lion, 2015)
This book is the author’s debut picture book, and as a poet and creative writing teacher he found a perfect venue for these words. And here’s a great look at the illustrator’s work over at This Picture Book Life. (If you haven’t seen Brief Thief, RUN to the library. Now.)
Then there’s Enchanted Lion. Smart, beautiful, well-crafted books. This small Brooklyn publisher is fresh off a huge and deserved recognition in Bologna.
So. Let’s take a look.
Layers of letters and piles of words make up some of the best endpapers I’ve seen this year.
Before I flip another page, I’m keenly aware of this texture. What an exceptional way to visualize the poetry of E.E. Cummings. It makes perfect sense. A jumble of words and sounds and feelings are the foundation for E.E.’s work.
Words as art themselves.
Here’s a simple sentence, spare but lovely, stating facts and straightening out his family tree. Understated, but lively is for sure in that ensemble. Can you see rambunctious Uncle George there, turning a cartwheel or just plain standing on his hands?
The handwritten labels, the cattywampus text layout, the warm texture. All so inviting.
A happy home for spilling words.
A poet, catching words like a bunny through a hoop.
An author, echoing exactly what young E.E. loved.
Estlin looked around
as if his eyes were on tiptoes
and when his heart jumped,
he said another poem.
An illustrator, wrapping it all up in carefully crafted texture that smacks a bit of haphazard beauty.
It’s pretty. It’s intentional. It’s rich and wonder and a treat to take in.
A remarkable slew of back matter includes a timeline, additional poetry, a fascinating author’s note, and another really great elephant illustration.
Lots to see and learn and celebrate here.
I received a copy from the publisher, but opinions are my own.
by Nikki McClure (Abrams, 2015)
This is one of those books where the cover convinces you that you’ll love it. It’s both bright and cozy. Spare and warm.
A teensy giraffe peeks out of this boy’s hiding spot and you can see its smiling face, but only eager anticipation in this boy’s eyes.
This is my kind of kid. It looks like a grownup is over his shoulder, offering an open door and a pair of shoes. But he’s got a tower of bricks, a colander kingdom, and the very best pair of pajamas.
In is best.
Until out is.
And when out is cold and wet, in you go.
Nikki McClure’s paper cuts are intricate and exquisite, but they are also all-embracing. Not common artwork, but a reminder of the universal comforts of childhood and play and home.
A stark black and vibrant yellow are perfect patches of color to explore these opposing wishes. They balance, they tug, and they leave enough room for us to journey with him. By day and until nightfall.
In and out.
A perfect choice to celebrate curiosity, imagination, and the way we explore our world.
Another Nikki McClure favorite is here!
Here's the poster for the 2015 Art on the Green arts festival in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, featuring one of the fabulous osprey that make their home on and around Lake Coeur d'Alene.
The normal perception of color depends on having distinct sets of color receptors, including green cones and red cones, each of which has a peak sensitivity to a slightly different wavelength of light.
|Simulated cause and effect of color blindness—Images courtesy EnChroma|
When their signals are interpreted by the brain, they allow red and green colors to be easily distinguishable.
The photo on the left represents normal color vision, and the one on the right simulates the way things look to people with red-green color blindness. The charts shows how the gap between the green cones and red cones are narrowed in people with red-green color blindness.
Another way to think of it is that for people with color blindness, the red and green signals are making noise on the same channel. It's like having two radio signals going at the same time. You can't make out what they're saying on either station, and red and green end up being mixed up. People with color blindness have the necessary healthy receptors. The only problem is that they're too close to each other.
To address this problem, engineers at EnChroma
developed special filters which fine-tune the light going to each of those closely nested receptors. The result is a genuine experience of red, green, purple, and pink colors where they weren't visible before.
The promotional video (link to YouTube
) shows the emotional effect of color-blind people trying on the glasses and seeing colors for the first time.
Because there are many kinds of color blindness, EnChroma is careful not to claim that this is a universal cure, but it appears to provide a helpful boost for many deutans
. EnChroma/Valspar offers a free online color blindness test
to see if they might be suitable.
Reviewers on Amazon say that the glasses sometimes take a while to get used to, and that you have to learn the names for unfamiliar colors. There are also concerns about the build quality and brittleness of the lenses.Read EnChroma's more in-depth explanation Color blindness test
by Donald Lemke and Bob Lentz
Guys. So if book-gifting isn’t a thing for April Fool’s Day, then it totally should be. These books aren’t a joke, but they are a huge bunch of laughs.
Here they are in action:
How funny is that? Such clever design. A perfect accessory.
Hipster popularity aside, these punchy beards provide a secret identity for the preschool set. It’s dress up meets poetry meets a barrel of laughs.
And these guys don’t stop there! Beards have some series teammates in Book-O-Hats, Book-O-Teeth, and Book-O-Masks.
Sure to spice up story time!
by Greg Pizzoli (Viking, 2015)
I’ve read lots and lots and lots of books for kids. I’ve read lots of questionable ones and I’ve read lots of spectacular ones. And then I’ve read a handful that are simultaneously spectacular and fresh and inventive and completely honor how smart kids are.
This is one of those.
You might know Greg from that burping crocodile or the hound with a need for speed, but did you know a book about an impossible con is exactly what the world of kids’ books needed? Meet this Greg.
Actually, meet Robert Miller.
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A normal kid, one who leaves home to become an artist despite his parents’ best efforts. A normal kid with a penchant for billiards, poker, and gin.
A grifter known as Count Victor Lustig.
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This liqour induced pow-wow below the Totally Legit delivery truck might be one of my favorite moments in this thing. It’s accompanied by a sidebar of Totally Legit information about the Prohibition. This blend of grit and truth and history hangs right in the suspense of Vic’s story. It feels like Saul Bass made one of those The More You Know PSAs right there on the page.
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One of the greatest tricks in this whole book is how we see the silly, unsuspecting faces of Vic’s marks, but never his. Only a thumprint. Both the clearest and fuzziest identification.
Mixed-media collage always yields great texture, just by its very nature. But Greg adds custom-made rubber stamps, actual photo texture from the floor of the Eiffel Tower, and like we’ve already seen, his very own thumbprint. This approach is as layered and grungy as Vic himself. This book can’t be slick and clean and soft–it needs depth and dirt and intrigue. That’s what it’s got.
That’s no con.
Check out these endpapers. Brick wall, posted bills, danger, and suspense.
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Why does that not look like the full width of the book, you ask?
Because then there’s this:
In the best of places, that sneaky space under the dust jacket, where unsuspecting grownups don’t dare peek. Kids do. They know where the good stuff is. And this is the good stuff: The Ten Commandments for Con Artists by our hero.
I think 8 is my favorite. Or 5. Or 10.
And now, don’t miss Greg and Julie’s chat about this book over at Seven Impossible Things. Lots to digest. Commandment 2 will be an impossibility.
I received a copy of Tricky Vic from Viking, but the comments are all my own. And speaking of Viking, huge kudos to the publicity team that sent the book like so:
Scientists have announced an important discovery about how structures in the retina shape color vision.
The study concentrates on the Muller cells, which occupy a narrow space in front of the eyes' photoreceptors.
It has always been a mystery what goes on in that layer, and why the rods and cones are at the back of the vertebrate retina, and not in the front.
The study leader is Dr. Erez Ribak from the Israel Institute of Technology. He has demonstrated that the Muller cells act as light guides, selectively sorting the light as it passes back to the photo-sensitive layer.
The image at left is a 3D scan showing the vertical Muller cells in red standing above the rods-and-cone layer in blue.
According to the BBC report, the Muller cells "funnel crucial red and green light into cone cells....Meanwhile, they leave 85% of blue light to spill over and reach nearby rod cells, which specialize in those wavelengths and give us the mostly black-and-white vision that gets us by in dim conditions."
Blog reader Walt Morton, asks:
"Did Howard Pyle teach or endorse a particular palette of colors? He was so methodical and analytical, I believe he had an ideal palette underlying his methods.
Yet I find no printed evidence."
Offhand I didn't know the answer, so I reached out to my lifelines.
"It is my understanding that Pyle's emphasis was always on values, and color was of secondary consideration. [Harvey] Dunn said that Pyle 'preached tonal values 24-7' and had a very negative view of his own abilities with color. In fact Dunn reported that Pyle claimed he didn't really understand color at all. Given the many beautiful pictures in color by Pyle, we may take this anecdote with a grain of salt... something Dunn said which was designed more to drive home to his own students the preeminence of values in picture making.
"Regarding actual palette set up, Harvey Dunn said that Pyle taught his students to 'Keep shadows and light absolutely separate both on palette and on picture.' Dunn elaborated elsewhere: 'Keep light colors and shadow colors separate on palette, shadow colors on left, leaving a division between, and then light colors on the right.'"
Ian Schoenherr, author of the Howard Pyle blog
|Howard Pyle, The Dancer, 1899|
"I have almost nothing to add to what Kevin said. In my transcribed records, there’s little mention of the specific pigments Pyle used.
"However, in a letter Gertrude Brincklé wrote from Italy on March 12, 1911, she said: 'Mr. Pyle colored a print of Holbein’s ‘Richard Southwell’ for me - not just tinting, [but] modeling with water colors, white, vermillion, cerulean blue, thick colors.'
"And two observers assumed that Pyle added vermillion to his black and whites (starting in the early/mid 1890s). Likewise, an 1897 news item said, 'He even uses color sparingly where that will add to the ‘value’ of his scheme. Black and red is his favorite combination, with the introduction now and then of blue and yellow.'"
Like Kevin said, there are a few photos of Pyle with palette in hand - and I think only one (from early 1899 - above) shows the paint side - but that doesn’t help much.
by Connah Brecon (Philomel, 2014)
I fell hard for this book. Heart-itching, squeal-worthy, big time bulging-eyeballs-love.
The title is perfect, right? An ode to the impossibility of putting all of the teensy intricacies of a crush into words.
A girl. A hunt. But she doesn’t really know how to grasp this thing.
Because it’s all . . .
and . . .
Picture sparkles streaming out of a bottle and a warm kitty snuggle. Impossible for words. Only colorful bursts of feeling.
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I love her green dress/red hair combo. Strong complementary colors for a stronger girl. She says she’s not brave, but she’s doing just the opposite.
She leaves a trail of crumbs. Sets a trap. And waits.
It doesn’t work.
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Good question, little girl. (I love that her love parade is marching down Hope Street.)
So when the rain drips down the sign and the marching band has marched on, she is sad. So sad.
I really want to share my heart but I just can’t find the right way to open it.
The thing is, she had. She did. This whole time. And that’s worth a bang-up ending. You’ll see.
Here’s a fun look at Connah and his creative process, and if you haven’t given the Let’s Get Busy podcast yet, start here.
This is a perfect thing for any Valentine of your very own.
A cutesy piece for my kiddo's preschool fundraiser.
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by Michael Arndt (Chronicle Books, 2014)
This book won me over when I saw it last year, and it’s one that is fun to peek into again and again. And how is that the case with something so simple, but so sophisticated? So spare, but so complex? That’s the best truth of design.
Here’s what’s happening. Each spread shows an animal and its sound. And each animal is mostly made up of the letters of that sound.
It’s a fun puzzle to unlock. The portraits are bold and saturated in color, often different than we’d see them in the wild.
But here they are, wild anyway.
I do love an animal book that goes beyond the usual suspects, don’t you? A mosquito! Not my favorite friend by any means, but he looks good and menacing here.
This small volume is a perfect primer on both typography and onomatopoeia.
And it’s got killer endpapers.
A portion of proceeds from Cat Says Meow goes to support animal rescue organizations, including the ones from where Michael’s dog (Clooney!) and cat (Aiden!) were rescued.
And for more type fun, play this kerning game and see how your eye stacks up to a designer’s. Or this one on letter forms, which is a bezier curve bonanza.
Would you like a signed copy? And these one of a kind bookmarks and vinyl stickers! You do, yes. Leave a comment here or share this post on Twitter before midnight on March 8st, PST. Good luck!
All images are © 2014 Michael Arndt. Thanks to the artist for sharing them (and an awesome giveaway!) here. And be sure to check out his Instagram if you love all things type, animal, and lovely. It’s a great one!