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by Dan Santat
published 2014 by Little, Brown (release date is tomorrow, April 8th. I’d recommend lining up outside your local bookstore as soon as possible. You want this book.)
Sometimes, you can tell that a story is going to squeeze its way into your soul.
I saw Beekle.
This is Dan Santat’s first offering as an author in a decade, though he has illustrated about a trillion books in the meantime. His work is inviting and bold and gripping and nuanced and so clearly Santat. Paired with his own words now, they haunt and amaze. Sweeping and startling and so very shivery.
(Speaking of all those Santats, my students peek under every dust jacket thanks to Kel Gilligan. They are super disappointed if a) the library mylar is in the way and b) if it’s a plain old case cover. Smarties.)
Thank goodness for this:And this.Whether accidental or intentional, the title is a nod to other epic journeys. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Tom Sawyer, Tintin, Pete and Pete (remember those redheads?). All of those escapades belong to memorable characters.
But Beekle. See him up there on the cover? That milky lump with the crooked, shy smile? No one has remembered him yet, because no one has ever imagined him. Not with their eyes, and not with their hearts.
The folks at the bus stop (save the tiny schnauzer) are too busy with real life and grownup things like tracksuits and newspapers. Of course they can’t see him. That’s why he’s looking at you, the reader. So in you go. Beekle was born on a magical island, a home for imaginary friends to wile away the days until they were dreamed up by a real friend. He waited and waited to be picked, and watched everyone else get imagined. And Beekle was alone, so . . .
(image from here.)Beekle’s sailboat reaches the real world, but no one stops to hear the music. Like any good adventure and friend seeker, he finds branches to climb and a lookout to perch. But no one came.
If you slowed down and savored the pictures, you might have seen a gust of wind pick up something thin and white. That thing, thin and white, stuck right to a limb holding Beekle. That thin and white canvas, her dream.So many moments add to the magic of this, in addition to the anticipation and raw rooting we are doing for our hero. See the leaves? The stars? That’s how she drew the leaves. That’s how the leaves look on the tree, too. That shape creates instant charm and magical mood, sure. But also, remember the beginning? The waiting and the hoping? On the island, all of that happened under the stars.Friends are matched under the stars.
That’s when the world begins to feel a little less strange.
If there’s a word that means flabbergasted and gobsmacked to the infinitieth power, that’s what I was when I got Beekle in the mail from Dan’s editor at Little, Brown, Connie Hsu. Not only did I get a sneak peek at this gorgeous story, but I got my very own friend.
The stars must have been out that night above Dan’s studio. Thank you, Dan. So, so much.
published 2014 by McSweeney’s/McMullens
Do you know Because of Winn-Dixie? (Have I told you about the time I told Kate DiCamillo I wrote because of Winn-Dixie and obviously meant because of Because of Winn-Dixie but she cackled and my heart soared?)
Anyway. There’s a thing called a Littmus Lozenge. It’s a candy that makes you taste your sorrow and your sad and your sweet, all at once. Maybe it’s the thought of a lozenge sounding like something medicinal, or maybe it’s cause this pharmacy gave me both comfort and the heebie-jeebies, but reading this book felt a little like tasting a Littmus Lozenge.Something unsettling hovers around this place, but it beckons me, too. And I’m not alone in that: those two myth-collectors/busters are at once intrigued and terrified.
It’s weird and charming and confusing and a head-scratcher all at once.
I think that’s exactly what makes it a successful story for kids. Everything doesn’t have to make sense. Offbeat is okay.
Because let’s face it: kid are weird and charming and confusing. They teeter in that fuzzy place between wonder and reality. This is a book that honors this and celebrates that. Is it suspicious, a lady going in and coming out in the same outfit? No. Not necessarily. But see: you are an adult. You are past your prime of delighting in the bizarre and making sense or screwballs out of it. When you read this, rest in it. Let it catapult you from being a grownup. It’s good for you. And then share it with a kid. They’ll get it.Physically, I love the compact trim size because it feels like a manual, like a notebook, like some peculiar pamphlet to some oddball prescription in the pharmacy. It’s like a secret. A hush.Then! The cover unfolds to show the depths of the Swinster Pharmacy. When you flip it over, there’s a map of the town. Don’t ask me why I didn’t show you that. Just trust me. (If you dare.)
P.S. – Another numbered book I loved recently is How to Bicycle to the Moon to Plant Sunflowers, by Mordecai Gerstein. A total must read if you love quirk and lists like me.
The publisher provided a review copy of 29 Myths on the Swinster Pharmacy, but thoughts and love are my own.
Trying out some new techniques. This illustration is all digital, using the excellent Photoshop brushes made by illustrator Kyle Webster to replicate my analog paint-on-paper style. I used several of the big wash brushes and the gouache and detail brushes. I did modify the brushes that used a multiply mode in order to more accurately mimic how paint on paper would react. Looking forward to playing with these brushes more and experimenting with the flexibility that all digital allows.Add a Comment
The quail agree, squirrels are the WORST.
Another all digital experiment.Add a Comment
|Detail of Tyrannosaur's head in "Grapple Hold" from Dinotopia: First Flight by James Gurney|
What a treat to give the new Twirl books a whirl! (They are doing something right when a thirtysomething-ed lady squeals over a box of board books, right?)
This one is perfect for grabby hands and curious minds. Check it out in action.
Here’s how it works. The left page shows two seemingly unrelated nouns, loosely connected by a narrative. Sometimes it’s lilting and sometimes a bit labored, but since it’s a translation, all text-clunk is forgiven. Besides, the real treat is in the visual and tactile experience.Swinging a shape or two or three around transforms one picture to another. It’s simultaneously simple and sophisticated. And just plain fun to see and do.Some standard fare lives here: Rabbit, Teapot, Owl. And then there’s Bowl of Salad. Bowl of Salad! Thank goodness for the French. What a delight!I’m teaching an introductory Photoshop and graphic design class this summer. To 3rd – 6th graders. My brain exploded with ideas for projects when I saw this book. You better believe we will be creating our own Presto Change-os!
Stay tuned.Here’s a bit more about Twirl Books.
Review copy provided by the publisher.
Texas "Folk Swing" musician Steve Leach has a new CD coming out, and I was lucky enough to be commissioned by him to create the cover artwork and illustration for this new album. He wanted a sweet illustration evocative of a different era, but also timeless. We settled on a painting of dancers lost in the moment. The hand lettering is analog brush with digital color. Visit his site and have a listen to his fun songs.Add a Comment
At first glance, the answer to this book’s title is pretty clear. Because, everybody.But do you know this book? When I mention it to someone, I either hear about their favorite jelly donut (the one with strawberry), or they lose their sprinkles over the magnificence of this screwy tale.
The simplicity of the setup:
Sam lived with his family in a nice house.
He had a big yard and lots of friends.
But he wanted donuts, not just a few but hundreds and thousands and millions — more donuts than his mother and father could ever buy him.
Finally one day he hopped on his tricycle and rode away to a big city to look for donuts.
The scattered spectacle of the scene, a commotion in black and white. On those initial pages alone:
A bird in swim trunks
A roof-mowing man
A chimney blowing ribbons
A man in the window reading a newspaper with the headline, Person Opens Picture Book Tries to Read the Fineprint
And a cinematic, get-ready-for-your-close-up page turn. (Be sure to look closely in the blades of grass.)There’s almost a calm in the chaos. It’s regular and rhythmic and pandemonium and patterned all at once. Perfect for a story that’s a little bit bonkers and a whole lot of comfort.
And a Sad Old Woman. And Pretzel Annie.
(A fried orange vendor. A bathing zebra. Rollerskates. A Sad Old Woman.)
The starts of stories are carved in concrete.
P.S. – These pictures remind me a little of what I’m seeing for Steve Light’s new book, Have You Seen My Dragon? Check out this review where Betsy Bird notices the same, and this post at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast, because it’s always a treat. I also think of the hours I’d spend as a kid studying each square centimeter of The Ultimate Alphabet. Like Waldo, but weirder.
Gouache on bristol illustration of a farmer hoeing her field.Add a Comment