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The SCBWI NY conference was incredible. There just is no other word for it. The staff was very helpful and I was impressed at how smoothly everything ran. They provided delicious breakfast breads and coffee (!!!!) each morning and the cocktail party was stunning and so yummy. I ate way too much of that sweet potato dish.
Here's a picture of me with Kit Grindstaff and Ruth Setton at the social.
I took tedious notes throughout the conference and if you followed the Twitter hashtag #NY13SCBWI you'll find my brief comments along with many others.
Here's a picture of my MiG crit partners: Andrea Mack, Susan Laidlaw, Kate Fall and Carmella Van Vleet. So fun hanging out with them!
I found the conference inspiring, and within it, many gems of wisdom that I can use in my own writing.
Some brief thoughts thoughts of the weekend:
Meg Rosoff had some great things to say about writing for children and to not get discouraged when others ask: "When are you going to write a real book? Like for adults?" She also encourages writers to: "Be flexible"
For my breakout session, I went to Molly O'Neil- she's encourages writers to write with authenticity and heart.
Here's the line of books that Molly has edited.
Next I went to hear Francoise Bui because of her focus on characterization. Her three points were to build great characters you need voice, characterization and texture with in the story.
Shaun Tan, an illustrator, spoke about the importance to not fear failure. This helps us to be free to create and experiment. Knowing that you can throw out your work allows you to be uninhibited to create. I just loved that.
Margaret Peterson Haddix reminded us that we must write a book for the kid that doesn't like to read. If we can do that, then the kids who do like to read will love it, too.
Julie Andews spoke with her daughter, Emma Walton Hamilton. I was amazed by Andrew's presence, which seemed to fill the entire room. The two of them talked about brainstorming and then plotting since they need to work with each other to get the job done. They use a web cam for most of their writing sessions.
Since they write multiple books in a series, they realized they needed to keep the books balanced between the inevitable and the element of surprise, which can be tricky.
Finally, Mo Williams raced to the podium and then around the room. He was great and I laughed so hard hearing him speak. Williams urged us to go deeper, write what we don't know and understand so that we can explore new emotions within ourselves. He also said to not be afraid to ask the tough questions.
Almost the moment Mo Willems' keynote speech ended, people started lining up to get their books signed and we kid you not, the line ran the length of a football field (that's 100 yards, for those of you unfamiliar with the sport, or 91.44 meters if you're Canadian).
It's no wonder people are so excited to have their books inscribed, when you share the room with the likes of Julie Andrews, Mo Willems, Shaun Tan, Jane Yolen, Tomie dePaolo ...
We could and should go on, but we'll let the pictures speak for themselves.
Shaun Tan fans standing in a queue (do they say that in Australia?)
Mark Teague and Floyd Cooper
Meg Rosoff and David Ezra Stein
Lin Oliver and Theo Baker
Tomie DePaola and Jane Yolen
Margaret Peterson Haddix and Matthew Kirby
Arthur Levine is a full-service editor. Here, he's opening the book to the right page for an inscription.
We, his audience, listening with a growing sense of wonder
Shaun Tan grew up in the northern suburbs of Perth, Western Australia, and currently works as an artist, author and film-maker in Melbourne. Books such as The Rabbits, The Red Tree, Tales From Outer Suburbia and the acclaimed wordless novel The Arrival have been widely translated and enjoyed by readers of all ages. Shaun has also worked as a theatre designer, feature film concept artist, and wrote and directed the Academy Award winning animated short The Lost Thing. In 2011 he received the prestigious Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award in Sweden for his body of work. His most recent publication is The Bird King.
Shaun prefaces by saying that ultimately the truth of what he wants to say is in his actual work.
He shares flashes of insight...
the truths that I'm most interested in are the ones you can't speak about directly
we work in little bubbles, bumping into each other
he's interested in migration, crossing borders, transitions, the idea of a strange encounter, like in his amazing book, "The Arrival"
we forget our everyday world is really exotic, we see it so much we're sort of blind to it - the dark side of familiarity, where we stop appreciating the ordinary.
He reads us one of his stories, "Eric" (from "Tales From Outer Suburbia")
The room is captivated, and there's a huge AWWW... at the end.
Now he's discussing the themes of the story and how he followed the thread, saying
Again, some things can't be communicated directly.
He's talking (and showing slides) of other artists who captured seemingly unimportant things and found the beauty (and stories) in them, photos of his own studio that reveal much about his process, and images of close-to-his-home domestic scenes that inspire him. (We're seeing paintings and drawings, and even his sketchbooks!)
He's speaking now of exploring otherness and showing sketches he's done from museums of things foreign to him, saying:
"Drawing is the process of figuring out why I like things."
The most delicious part of his talk are his captioned illustrations that crack us up, explaining a 'typical' day. One drawing reads "stumble across my own consciousness in the kitchen - what time is it?"
It's whimsical, mystical and fascinating, just like Shaun!
There's so much more, and this moment still resonates from Shaun's keynote:
"I know a story is good when I can't entirely explain what it's about"
Want to hear more of Shaun's remarkable thoughts? You can check out our pre-conference interview, and his great website, and see some of his sketches yourself in his new "The Bird King and other sketches" but it was a delight to be able to hear him in person.
We're even getting a preview of his current work in progress...And we end with a standing ovation!
By Maureen Lynas
Look, I'm cross. Can't you tell?
Do I have to actually spell it out for you!
I once attended an excellent weekend course run by
Cornerstones Literary Consultancy. Each day was split into sessions based on
plot, character, settings etc. and all was well until we reached the session on
‘Show Not Tell’ Blank looks all round. Explanations were given. Examples
Shaun Tan grew up in the northern suburbs of Perth, Western Australia, and currently works as an artist, author and film-maker in Melbourne. Books such as "The Rabbits," "The Red Tree," "Tales From Outer Suburbia" and the acclaimed wordless novel "The Arrival" have been widely translated and enjoyed by readers of all ages. Shaun has also worked as a theater designer, feature film concept artist, and wrote and directed the Academy Award-winning animated short "The Lost Thing." In 2011 he received the prestigious Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award in Sweden for his body of work. His most recent publication is "The Bird King."
I was so fortunate in this interview with Shaun to ask him about working in the magical space "between familiarity and strangeness," find out what he does when he has a creative emergency, get his advice about endings that resonate, and so much more!
I'm in awe of his work, and now I'm even more excited to see Shaun speak in person!
How about you? There are a limited number of spaces still available for the Saturday and Sunday of the 2013 SCBWI Winter Conference (the Friday intensives have sold out.) You can find out more details and register here.
[Time is running out to enter our Tenth Anniversary Draw - the deadline is tomorrow - so if you haven't already, take a look here for the chance to win some fantastic prizes for you or your school or library]
Sally Ito is a poet, editor and translator living in Winnipeg, Canada, where she also teaches Creative Writing; she is currently writer. Sally was a book reviewer and contributor to the PaperTigers blog until earlier this year and wrote many of our contributions to Poetry Friday during that time (which is why we decided to post Sally’s selection on a Poetry Friday day!). So we are delighted to welcome her back with her Top Ten list of favourite books, encountered through her work with PaperTigers.
As a prelude, do listen to Sally reading the title poem from her collection Alert to Glory (Turnstone Press, 2011) in the video below.
My Top Ten Picks by Sally Ito
When I joined the Paper Tigers blog contributor team in 2008, the thing I was most excited about was getting to read and review great multicultural books for kids. What I discovered was a plethora of wonderful books that reflected who I was culturally and who my community was, culturally, as well. From my short time with PaperTigers, these are my ten picks of multicultural books for kids. It’s a little Japan-heavy, I realize but I hope you indulge my bias!
Tales from Outer Suburbia by Shaun Tan (Allen & Unwin, 2008) – I found this quirky picture book amazing and it was an inspiration for me when I was teaching to take my creative writing students out into our immediate neighborhood (an historic district called The Exchange) in Winnipeg to see what we could make of our environment in a creative way.
Naomi’s Tree by Joy Kogawa, illustrated by Ruth Ohi (Fitzhenry and Whiteside, 2008). This book is about a cherry tree and a Japanese Canadian girl who grew up with it and was separated from it by the circumstances of the Second World War. This book was a personal favorite since the author’s history reflects my own family’s in Canada.
Granny’s Giant Bannock by Brenda Isabel Wastasecoot, illustrated by Kimberly McKay-Fleming (Pemmican, 2008). This is one hilarious book about a Cree-speaking grandmother and her grandson Larf who accidentally bakes a giant bannock by misunderstanding his grandmother’s instructions on how to make the doughy confection from scratch.
Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit by Nahoko Uehashi, illustrated by Yuko Shimizu, translated by Cathy Hirano (Scholastic, 2009). This book is a translation of a popular fantasy series that was also made into a TV series. The story is set in early imperial Japan and features a woman warrior named Balsa who protects the son of the emperor, Chagum, as he carries within him a spirit from another dimension who must lodge in a human host in order to survive.
The Song of the Cicada by Shizue Ukaji. This is a Japanese book, yet untranslated into English, that I discovered while living in Japan in 2011. It’s an Ainu folktale illustrated with textile creations made by Ukaji herself. It’s the story of a woman who prophesies disaster – namely a tsunami – to her people and what becomes of her as a result. A timely read for the year I was visiting the country.
The Fox’s Window and Other Stories by Naoko Awa, translated by Toshiya Kamei. This is a collection of short stories spanning a career of writing by Japanese author Naoko Awa. Magical, enchanting and absorbing are the words I’d use to describe these stories, which have also been referred to as ‘modern fairytales.’
David’s Trip to Paraguay by Miriam Rudolph. A bilingual book with German and English text, this story is about a young Mennonite boy named David who travels to Paraguay from Canada in the late 1920s. Rudolph, an artist, charts the arduous journey with vivid and colorful illustrations of the things David sees on the trip.
Gifts: Poems for Parents edited by Rhea Tregebov (Sumach Press, 2002). We say we read to our children for their sake, but it’s just as true that we read to feed ourselves, too. Poetry is a kind of bread for the soul, and this particular treasury of poems by Canadians really fed me as a poet and a parent.
Bifocal by Deborah Ellis and Eric Walters. This is one book I read in part with my son, who later went on to have the book assigned to him for his English class in junior high school. It’s about two teenagers – Haroon and Jay – who have to negotiate their cultural identities during a tense lockdown situation at their high school.
Aya by Marguerite Abouet and Clement Oubrerie. I started covering graphic novels for PaperTigers a few years ago as I felt this was a developing trend in books for young people. And this book was one of my favorites! Aya is about a young woman growing up in Cote D’Ivoire, looking to become a medical student, but whose life is inevitably shaped and influenced by those around her with less lofty goals than her.
Awards, translations, migrations and a mix of people from 52 countries, were all part of the hectic week-end that comprised the International IBBY Conference hosted by IBBY UK here in London at the end of August.
There were too many absolutely brilliant workshops and talks to identify individually. UK authors and illustrators - Michael Rosen, Marcus Sedgewick, Michael Morourgo, Aiden Chambers and Anthony Browne were there but into the mix came other heady spice, texture and flavour from international experts in children’s literature and luminaries such as Shaun Tan, Peter Sis, Bart Moeyaert and Kitty Crowther, winner of the Astrid Lingen Award for Illustration.
Highlight of the week-end had to be the Hans Christian Andersen Ceremony with the Author award going to María Teresa Andruetto from Argentina and Illustrator award going to Peter Sis from the Czech Republic. I couldn’t help feeling that the venue of the Science Museum at night with its surreal spotlights was the perfect setting for Peter Sis’s drawings. The machines seem to take on a life of their own...
Some of the work of the short-listed illustrators and some IBBY Honour titles are shown below - exciting, unusual, different. For more events and people see Candy Gourlay’s blog.
The fine linear work of Roger Mello from Brazil who was short-listed...,
The work of Alenka Sottler, an illustrator from Slovenia, depicting the story of Cinderella - Pepelka - with almost Seurat-like pointillism.
In Piroulito and Rosalia Effie Lada from Greece has speech impaired characters wearing beautiful masks and Eg Kan Ikkje Sove No (I Can't Sleep Now) shows the wonderful silhouetted work of Oyvind Torsetter from Norway... and lots more, snapped at random.
And finally I was delighted to meet Australian author, Mark Greenwood and his illustrator wife, Frane Lessac from Freemantle...
delighted to have Peter Sis sign my books...
and delighted to be in the heady atmosphere of such creative energy. Thank you IBBY UK for playing such excellent hosts.
Drop everything! Paul Gravett has interviewed Shaun Tan! The Oscar winning artist of The Arrival, The Lost Thing and many other picture books is one of the most admired illustrators working today, and although Tan’s work often ends up being “comics” in that it is sequential, pictorial storytelling, as this interview makes clear, doing anything like comics is only something he backed into:
I think you’re building a mature relationship with comics without too many preconceived ideas. I think if you’d been immersed in them since childhood, perhaps you’d have had a system in place that would have been difficult to escape from?
Yeah I would have taken them for granted. But as it is, comics seemed quite a strange way of telling a story which is what intrigues me. My attraction to picture books was word-picture relationships and how pared down they can be and still make sense and also have these big gaps in between. The best comics maximise this relationship between language and image that’s not explanatory. They’re both doing different functions. It’s quite a natural extension, but that said I don’t feel like a comics artist.
Tan also talks about his inspirations:
This guy called Aki, an IT specialist from Helsinki, came to stay with us for two weeks. We set up a bedroom for him. In the Eric story, the exchange student prefers to sleep in the kitchen pantry, which is tolerated because the family want him to be comfortable. When Aki was staying with us, he would get on with his studies, bent over a book, reading intently, I could see him through the gap in the door. Whenever I am doing an illustration, no matter how fanciful it is, there is always some reference to something in my own life. Not to be autobiographical but because it helps me draw the picture. It helps you project emotion into the picture. It’s very difficult to just draw things without feeling.
Crossing Boundaries: Translations and Migrations, to be held at Imperial College, London, from 23rd to 26th August 2012.
It’s going to be fantastic and I get to see friends from all over the world.
Shaun Tan, Mark Greenwood, Frane Lessac – the fantastic Aussie contingent of authors/illustrators from the West are coming.
Can’t wait to speak about ‘Ships in the Field’ on a panel with Marjorie Coughlan editor of Paper Tigers
Picture Books about Migration
Zeynep Bassa (Author and Illustrator, Turkey) Picture Books on the Theme of Migration in Germany Questions of migration, discrimination, social marginalisation and integration appear as newly emerging topics in children’s books. Based partially on the author’s personal experiences as a migrant mother of two children in Germany and from work with migrant children, this paper reviews some of the children’s books published in Germany on the subjects of tolerance and acceptance of different identities.
Marjorie Coughlan (Editor, Paper Tigers, U.K.) Escaping Conflict, Seeking Peace: picture books that relate refugee stories, and their importance Attention is drawn to picture books in English from around the world about children and young people who have been forced from their homes because of conflict. These are stories that need to be told, whether they are biographical or fictionalised accounts, for understanding of the past, healing in the present, and hope for the future.
Susanne Gervay (Author, Society of Children’s Writers and Illustrato
This book is Epic. It doesn’t just “tell” an immigrant’s story, it magically (or I suppose, skillfully) brings us INTO the very experience. - Aaron Zenz
Because it’s a richly imagined, beautifully rendered, wordless graphic narrative of immigration, dislocation, and hope. - Phillip Nel
#68 then. #65 now. There’s no question it belongs on this list.
So is it a picture book? Well, let’s see. It tells a story entirely with pictures and not a single word (or, at least, not a single word we can understand). You might call it a graphic novel too, except it eschews thought bubbles and speech balloons. Yet it does break itself into panels quite often… but can’t the same be said of many picture books, like The Adventures of Polo and the like? Is there an age limit to it? Maybe (there are some scary scenes) but when do children stop reading picture books? Many read them for years, though often on the sly when around peers or siblings.
I hereby proclaim that until someone can pin down a definite genre for a book as amazing, miraculous, and downright fun as The Arrival, here it shall remain on this Top 100 Books poll.
My review back in the day of it said this about the plot: “A man prepares to leave his family for a new world. Tearfully they let him go as he boards a ship for another land. Once he arrives, however, he finds himself at a loss. Everything from the language to the buildings to the birds is strange here. The reader of this book sympathizes easily with the man since author/illustrator Shaun Tan has created a world that is just as odd to us as it is to our protagonist. Appliances consist of confusing pulls and toggles. People live and work in plate and cone-shaped structures, traveling via dirigibles and strange ship-shaped machinations of flight. As the man proceeds to discover how to find lodging, food, and work, he meets other immigrants who tell their own stories of hardship and escape. Through all this, our man grows richer for his experiences and even grows to love the odd little white-legged cat-sized tadpole creature that follows him everywhere. By the end, his family has arrived as well and the last image in the book is of his daughter as she helps another immigrant get directions in this dazzling and magnificent city.”
Are there those amongst ye who have not read this book? Then go to it. I could wax rhapsodic for days on end about the power and beauty of this story, but I’ll let the experts do it for me.
The New York Times said of it, ” ‘The Arrival’ tells not an immigrant’s story, but the immigrant’s story. . . The effect is mesmerizing. Reading ‘The Arrival’ feels like paging through a family treasure newly discovered up in the attic.”
Booklist said, “Filled with subtlety and grandeur, the book is a unique work that not only fulfills but also expands the potential of its form.”
The Washington Post said, “Hundreds of sepia-toned drawings, some tiny, some panoramic, all pulsing with detail, combine to produce an effect reminiscent of silent movies or mime, the absence of words forcing the eye and the brain to work harder.”
And Kirkus said, “It’s an unashamed paean to the immigrant’s spirit, tenacity and guts, perfectly crafted for maximum effect.”
As of this post, Shaun Tan has still not had a chance to visit Ellis Island. And any questions you might have about the
By now, I’m sure you already heard that Shaun Tan, amazing creator behind The Arrival, Tales from Outer Suburbia, and so on and such, was this year’s recipient of the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award. Why should you care? Well apart from the fact that it’s always nice to see genius rewarded, there is the small matter surrounding the money that comes with the prize. Second only to the Nobel in terms of price, I believe, the Lindgren Award is the most money an author or illustrator of children’s books can win. It amounts to 5 million krona, or $764,600. Wowzer.
Lest you pooh-pooh the win by saying that Shaun Tan is always a surefire bet, check out this list of the 2011 candidates. It’s not easy to beat out Quentin Blake, Eric Carle, Neil Gaiman, the International Youth Library, Julius Lester, and many talented others in one fell swoop, but Mr. Tan managed it.
Of course I was present when they announced the win. See?
Er . . . Okay, admittedly I’m a little obscured here. Uh, see the balding guy with the glasses and the gray suit, dead center? I’m right behind him. Hello! Of greater note, Kitty Crowther, last year’s winner (Belgium), is front and center. Thanks to the Astrid Memorial Award for the photo.
You can learn more about the award on its blog, which is fun. If you’d like to see how the announcement went down, Cristiana from The Tea Box was kind enough to record the moment:
And this would be incomplete without Mr. Tan’s reaction as well:
I feel like the White Rabbit here. No time, no time! We’ll have to do this round-up of Fusenews in a quick quick fashion then. Forgive the brevity! It may be the soul of wit but it is really not my preferred strength. In brief, then!
The Scop is back! This is good news. It means that not only can author Jonathan Auxier show off a glimpse of his upcoming middle grade novel Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes but he also created a piece of true art: HoloShark with Easter Bunny.
If you know your Crockett Johnson (or your comics) you’ll know that long before Harold and that purple crayon of his the author/illustrator had a regular comic strip called Barnaby. What you may not have known? That it was turned into a stage play.
J.K. Rowling wants to create a Hagrid hut in her backyard? She should get some tips from Laurie Halse Anderson.
Thanks to the good people of Lerner, I got to hang out a bit with Klaus Flugge at a dinner in Bologna recently. Not long after he showed The Guardian some of his favorite illustrated envelopes. Hmm. Wouldn’t be bad fodder for a post of my own someday. Not that I have anything to compare to this:
Wandering through the Reading Room exhibiting children’s illustrations by wonderful artists such as Cathy Wilcox, Sarah Davis, Shaun Tan, Donna Rawlings, Nina Rycroft, the Children’s Book Council gathered in the warm candle-lit sun lounge of The Hughenden.
Everyone was waiting for Her Excellency Professor Marie Bashir, Governor of NSW and patron of the Children’s Book Council.
Carol Keeble Pesident of the CBCA (NSW), Maurice Saxby a father of Australian children’s literature and Margaret Hamilton former President of the Children’s Book Council, the CBCA Foundation and a leading literary figure in Australia welcomed the Governor.
It was a wonderful evening of fine food, the company of authors and the children’s literary community.
Some of the authors included J.C. Burke, Christopher Cheng, Sue Whiting, Mary Small, Jill Bruce, Margaret Roc joining the President of the CBCA NSW and supporters to discuss books, listen to an address by Jill Bruce the new judge of the CBCA Awards and Wendy Smith the outgoing judge.
Fabulous night with everyone lingering on to share good company, food and celebrate children’s books.
On Wednesday, Older Brother, Little Brother and I had the thrill of hearing this year’s Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award winner Shaun Tan speak at Seven Stories in Newcastle, during his whistle-stop visit to the UK. I’ve loved his work since being mesmerised by The Arrival four years ago; and we’ve also had the privilege of featuring Shaun’s work in our PaperTigers Gallery. Shaun’s picture books truly tap into something essential in our existence so that no matter how old you are and whatever your life experience, there is something there for everyone to absorb and distill. His books have had a big impact on the boys too, and it was a real eye-opener for them to meet their creator and hear about the drawn out process and sheer hard work that goes into producing a book. Now we are all desperate to see the Oscar-winning short of The Lost Thing!
Older Brother was most struck by Shaun saying that imperfection was a “very important concept for an artist”; and that he is always aiming for simplicity, because it’s through that apparent simplicity that he can achieve layer upon layer of meaning. Then accompanying the text with unexpected illustrations to create further tensions – but he pointed out that he wouldn’t call his work surreal per se: rather, the unexpected juxtaposition of familiar objects in his work is what is surreal.
Little Brother especially loved the first in Shaun’s series of cartoons depicting a day in his life: Waking to the Sound of a Solitary Cicada – a huge cicada looming in through the open window. He’s still laughing about that (but, as is so often the case with Shaun’s work, for me, the more I think about it, the more the funniness is tempered with a feeling of unease…). Little Brother also came home thinking about the humor and tensions achieved by people/creatures doing extrordinary things as though they are completely normal – like feeding Christmas decorations to a huge, friendly monster-machine aka the Lost Thing. And when Shaun pointed out that, as per the element of the familiar present in all his creations, the Lost Thing is a cross between a dog, a horse and an elephant, yes, you can absolutely see it.
I was bowled over by Shaun’s generosity in handing over his creations to their audience with an open invitation to interpret. He told us how in his writing, he pares the words down, excluding any emotional words because he wants the readers to have space to bring their own interpretation to his work. And he took us through his creation of the water buffalo giving directions to the little girl with a box from Tales from Outer Suburbia (you can see it in Shaun’s interview with Drawn here): how initially there was something peeping out of the box, and how he felt it wasn’t fair on the viewer to be so prescriptive, so he left it up to each person to imagine what was in the box.
It was also a real treat to see two extracts from the animated version of The Lost Thing and to hear about the ten-year project to bring the book to the screen, including Shaun’s determination to retain the fl
If you've never seen a water buffalo giving directions, or had a strange visitor who's questioned your ideas and opinions, or had toys disappear in a garden visited by a faceless, barnacled diver, or discovered a dugong on your lawn, or heard a chorus of dogs howling at the night, or found that maps actually can lead you to the edge of the world, then I'll direct you (not with a pointy hoof I must say) to go immediately to a certain secret door to a cupboard that is marked The Illustration Cupboard at no 22 Bury Place in St James, London where you'll be 'surprised, relieved and delighted' at what you find.
Last Wednesday 30th August Shaun Tan appeared inside The Illustration Cupboard as quietly and mysteriously as his character Eric and left behind a trail of signatures and delicate bird drawings and magical red flowers that blossomed from his thumbprint inside the covers of the books that were piled everywhere. If you hurry and get there before the 10th September you'll still be in time to see his incredible pencil sketches and prints from Tales from Outer Suburbia, The Bird King,The Arrival,The Lost Thing and The Rabbits - an exhibition that is a magical celebration of quiet mysteries.
I've just read this year's Hugo and John Campbell Awards, which are up on the Locus web site. Go take a look.For once I've actually read a little of what's on the list. I loved the Connie Willis books and am slowly savouring Cryoburn. Connie Willis's time travel stories are always wonderful. The first I read was The Doomsday Book, then To Say Nothing Of The Dog, then some of the short fiction. These two were really one very long novel broken up, in which the time-travelling heroes are in wartime Britain. Lovely stuff! I'm going slow with the Lois McMaster Bujold book because it has been so very long since there was a Miles Vorkosigan novel. And nice to see a couple of Aussies there too. Shaun Tan for Best Professional Artist - yay! I've been a big fan of his work for years now. Well, why wouldn't I be? I'm a teacher-librarian, after all. I was lucky enough to have a long chat with him at last year's Aussiecon.Sean McMullen and I used to be in a Melbourne SF writers' group together; he was the one, by the way, who persuaded me to join the SCA and learn what you could and couldn't do with a sword and shield! Good on him for getting on the Hugo short list. I couldn't be more proud of him.
Everything in this Horn Book article Board-book-a-palooza by Cynthia K. Ritter I agree with. Everything.
Speaking of HB, Roger’s blog has a new format. Love that bow-tied avatar of his. Who drew it, I wonder?
Don Tate has a fun piece about his time at the Highlights first illustrators intensive Founders workshop. He happened to stay in the same cabin that I did when I visited last summer. I had no idea I’d stayed where Floyd Cooper had. Fabulous!
Don’t get me wrong. I love Where’s Waldo but how dedicated am I? Not this dedicated. Yeesh! Thanks to Molly O’Neill for the link.
Dunno. If I were to find a title for this story of the 1500 pound Mo Willems sculpture of a pachyderm I think I would have gone with “Elephant and Piggie Iron”. But that’s me.
Who knew that random stills of that old Spider-Man cartoon could be this fun? Particularly when they involve librarians.
By Candy Gourlay
Kuper's piece in last Saturday's FT Magazine
In this past weekend's FT Magazine, Simon Kuper wrote a piece entitled How I lost my love of reading - the illustration by Luis Granena was of a man struggling to carry massive tomes on his back. Kuper writes:
My daughter (age five) simply lives the book. Better, she doesn't know yet that books are both status symbols and good for
I went to Chicago on Friday and took part in the recording of the "Wait Wait Don't Tell Me... Royal Pain In The Year" 2011 Special. It airs on BBC America (TV) and on Public Radio on December the 23rd. I was the "Not my job" guest, and answered three questions. Whether or not I got any of them right, you will have to wait until the 23rd to find out.
There's a conversation between Shaun Tan and me in the Guardian right now, and it's fun. We talk about art and suchlike. In the photo above we were standing behind the Edinburgh Book Festival authors' yurt taking it in turns to point at imaginary interesting things.
ST: I don't know about you but when someone first mentions an adaptation, I have, probably a little bit inappropriately, a feeling of weariness at revisiting that work after I'd struggled with it for so many months or years. But then the second thought is "Wow, what a great opportunity to fix up all those dodgy bits."
NG: It's so nice to hear you say that. Somebody asked me recently if I plot ahead of time. I said yes I do, but there is always so much room for surprise and definitely points where I don't know what's going to happen. They quoted somebody who had said: "All writers who say that they do not know what's going to happen are liars, would you believe someone who started an anecdote without knowing where it was going?" I thought, but I don't start an anecdote to find out what I think about something, I start an anecdote to say this interesting thing happened to me. Whereas I'll start any piece of art to find out what I think about something.
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Eric is a foreign exchange student who has come to stay. His host family do their best to make Eric feel welcome but they never feel quite sure that Eric is enjoying his stay with them. And then one day, “with little more than a wave and a polite goodbye” Eric departs. The host family feel uneasy and a little confused until they find the secret Eric has left behind, a secret that shows Eric has indeed had a wonderful time.
Tan’s moving, thoughtful story is funny and profound; we cannot know the seeds we are planting with our behaviour and actions. But Eric allows us to believe that if we give people the space and time they need, if we are kind and generous, beautiful things will grow.
Eric also reminds me that even if people appear unmoved, uninvolved, they are not without emotion and internal life. Indeed, in the Guardian interview, Tan admits that Eric is perhaps a little autobiographical in this regard:
As an adolescent people would always say I was not expressive and they always made the mistake of thinking that I didn’t feel anything, because I didn’t react to things. My mind reacts but usually a long time after the fact – if something exciting happens I’ll just sort of go “okaaaay, let me process that”, and then three days later I’m excited about it, when everyone else has left the room.
Eric is a treasure of a book, the perfect book to match with the Chinese saying “A book is like a garden carried in your pocket”. It does fit perfectly in a pocket (or a Christmas stocking) and encourages us reflect with curiosity and trust on cultural differences (a recurring theme in Tan’s work) and how, even if differences are initially confounding they enrich our world.
Playing “Eric” is a variant of a very popular game in our home, “Mummy knows nothing”. It’s a game in which M and J get to explain what everything and anything is, and how the world works. Eric / Mummy doesn’t know that that thing on the wall is a bookcase. They think it is a fridge. M and J get to be the clever ones and explain what it really is. Eric / Mummy thinks what M and J call a bed is actually a trampoline (where on earth would I get that idea from?), so the girls go into lots of detail describing how to use a bed.
M and J share this delight with the narrator of Eric:
Secretly I had been looking forward to having a foreign visitor – I had so many things to show him. For once I could be a local expert, a fountain of interesting facts and opinions.
Thanks to Zoe Toft at Playing by the Book for alerting me to this video of Shaun Tan’s award winning bookThe Arrival set to a musical score on the Sydney Opera House’s website.
Watch highlights of Shaun Tan’s visual masterpiece The Arrival featuring a live score by Ben Walsh and The Orkestra of the Underground.
The Arrival is a migrant story told as a series of wordless images. With his Orkestra of the Underground, Ben Walsh pooled a diverse range of musical talent and composed a score to accompany Tan’s beautiful illustrations in a rare and unique audio-visual experience.
Shaun Tan, The Bird King and Other Sketches Templar Publishing (UK), 2011; first published by Windy Hollow Books (Australia), 2010.
Ages 9 +
Shaun Tan’s beautifully produced sketchbook, The Bird King, generously lays bare the creative process of illustration. While not specifically designed for children, Tan’s familiar images are of instant, near-universal appeal, and his explanatory text will be a revelation to young fans, especially aspiring artists.
Tan’s introduction references Klee’s famous description of drawing as “taking a line for a walk.” The colored and black-and-white drawings are divided into sections. Images in which “one little drawing is enough” to suggest a whole story comprise the untold stories section. In book, theatre and film, Tan describes his preliminary sketches as “a constant reminder of what I was ‘getting at’ in the first place” during longer creative processes. In drawings from life, we see “ongoing studies in the relationship of line, form, colour and light” that are crucial to an artist’s lifelong process of learning to see. A final section, notebooks, is culled from small ball point pen sketches, doodles and scribbles, some “an equivalent to daydreaming” that Tan poetically compares to fishing: “casting loose lines into a random sea… catching ideas that might otherwise be hidden beneath the waves.”
The drawings themselves also include little notes, ideas for development, and titles that further decipher the artist’s visual language. One double-page drawing entitled “Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man” features a dozen of Tan’s creatures marching behind a small boy, bird on his head, palette in hand. The only color on the page is a splash of orange dropping from his brush, repeated on the body of a goldfish, held aloft in a bowl, by a large creature with a diving bell head in which a bird in a beret stands at the wheel. In Tan’s quixotic imagination, the robotic and the humanizing hover in edgy balance.
The production quality of this small hardcover book is excellent. Partially bound in red cloth, with embossed lettering on the front cover, it’s held closed with a red elastic band; a blue ribbon bookmark is sewn into the binding. The back matter includes a list of the drawings in the book (noting materials used and the original purpose of each sketch) and a bibliography of Tan’s published works.
Young artists will learn more from studying the lines Tan takes for a walk than from any number of art classes. Children who already know and love books by the 2011 Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award winner will recognize preliminary sketches of work from favorite books. For newcomers, The Bird King is a great introduction to this evocative Australian writer-illustrator.