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Andrea Offermann was born in Cologne, Germany, and grew up in the countryside close to the city, in an old horse stable converted to a house, surrounded by a wild garden. During a visit to the US she fell in love with Art Center College of Design and eventually moved to California to study at the school. She graduated in 2005 with a BFA in Illustration, and stayed for another year to work as an illustrator and fine artist.
At Art Center, she had the chance to take several print making classes and fell in love with the different techniques, especially the intaglio technique of drawing with needles and then etching the line into the surface. Later she took further intaglio classes at a printmaking school in Italy, and the love of line work has influenced my style very much since.
In spring 2006 Andrea moved back to Germany and is now living in Hamburg and exploring different areas of illustration such as children’s books, graphic novels and editorial work, while maintaining a close connection to fine art. Her work has appeared in numerous publications such as Society of Illustrators, American Illustration, 3×3, Illustration Now!. Her illustrations were chosen for the Bologna children’s book fair exhibition and in spring of 2013 my portfolio received the Grand Prize at the showcase of the SCBWI winter conference in New York.
Andrea’s work space. Here is Andrea and her process:
In this case the inspiration for the art was more literal than usual. I had seen a beautiful exhibition with art work by Dürer and fell in love with his wedding portraits. I wanted to do wedding portraits of a frog and a hare.
My thumbnails are always tiny and really just convey the idea of what I would like to do, with very very rough direction and composition.
I then scan the thumbnail in and print it out enlarged, then take it to my light box to trace the rough composition and then build the more refined sketch on top of it.
I scan the final sketch in and print it out, then use charcoal paper to transfer the drawing onto stretched watercolor paper. The charcoal line from the transfer paper is usually very dark, so I erase most of it away until I have a faint line left. Then, using copic multiliner pens or pen and ink, I draw the final image.
When the drawing is finished I paint with watercolors on top of it. I paint in thin layers and build the color up slowly, adding texture and details bit by bit.
How long have you been illustrating?
For about 8 years.
Did you go to school for art?
Yes, I went to Art Center College of Design.
What types of classes did you take?
I went through the regular illustration curriculum, focusing on editorial and book illustration. I was also particularly drawn to classes in printmaking techniques and took classes in intaglio both at Art Center and at Il Bisonte printmaking school in Italy.
Do you think the classes you took in college influenced your style?
Yes, I think especially the printmaking classes influenced my style, also several classes where we experimented with techniques such as glazing and rendering with different media.
Have you seen your style change since when you first started?
Yes definitely. My work was pretty much all over the place when I started, I was trying different things to see what would work best for a given assignment. Now I think a style has evolved, and I hope it will keep evolving, I keep trying new things and am hoping to be able to continue experimenting.
What is your favorite medium to use?
I love to work with pen and ink and then color with different media. Lately I have also started using paper silhouette.
Did any of the contacts you made in college help you get your first job or any contract?
Yes fellow illustrators at school brought me in contact with editors they had met with and eventually I got my first book contract in the US through one of those contacts. Also I was introduced to the gallery where I first showed my art at through illustrator friends.
The school itself had also set up some meetings with publishers and companies before graduation, and one of my first jobs also came through those meetings.
What was the first piece of art that you sold?
It was a series of intaglio prints titled “Magellan”.
Has your artwork won any awards?
Yes, most recently my portfolio won the showcase at the SCBWI winter conference in New York. My artwork was also chosen for the Bologna childrens book fair exhibit, has appeared in the books of Society of Illustrators, American Illustration, 3×3, Illustration Now!, won 1st place of the AltPick awards, and was on the shortlist of the competition to illustrate “Life of Pi”.
What book was your first? When was that?
The first book I illustrated was a picture book for German publisher “Carlsen” entitled “Keine Angst vor Schafen”, written by Will Gmehling. The book was published in 2008.
How did the contract come about?
I had met with an editor of Carlsen publishing at the Frankfrut book fair in 2006. Many European publishers make appointments with illustrators at the Frankfurt book fair, there are even open portfolio reviews where you can stand in line and show your work. After the fair the editor contacted me to ask if I would be interested in illustrating a picture book for Carlsen.
How did you get chosen to do the cover for the middle grade novel, The Boneshaker?
A designer I had met with had kept my postcard of “Pink Elephants” from an earlier meeting and when Clarion was looking for an artist to illustrate the cover of “The Boneshaker” she gave the card to the editor of the book.
Did you do any interior art for the book?
Yes, I did 13 black and white interior illustrations for the book.
Do you think you will branch out to doing illustrations for picture books?
Yes, definitely, I love illustrating books for all ages and actually just finished illustrating a picture book for an Austrian publisher (Nilpferd in Residenz), “Der Eisdrache (The Frost Flyer)” written by Troon Harrison, which I already mentioned earlier. This story was a great pleasure to illustrate, after illustrating several books for older children it was fun to work for this kind of book again, I hope I will always be able to maintain a balance between working on different books for different age ranges.
Do you think you will ever write and illustrate your own book?
I have been writing for a little while now and am hoping that I will be able to present my own story ideas sometime in the future.
How did you get the contract to illustrate The Midnight Zoo with Candlewick?
I was contacted by the art buying department who had seen “The Boneshaker” and my illustrations for the competition to illustrate “Life of Pi”. They thought that the sensibility of the illustrations would work well for Sonya Hartnett’s story.
How did Little, Brown, & Company find you for Ghost Knight?
I met with an art director at Little, Brown who saw my portfolio and immediately mentioned that they were looking for an illustrator for Ghost Knight. The author Cornelia Funke had specifically asked for an illustrator that could depict architecture, so I did a sample piece first to show how I would illustrate the cathedral, and both Little, Brown and the author liked the piece.
The same question for The Poisons of Caux: The Shepherd of Weeds with Knopf?
Similar story: I had met with the art director ad showed my portfolio. A year later she contacted me to inquire if I would be available to illustrate the book.
I have heard illustrators complain about how fussy publishers are with the covers of their books. Did you find doing a book cover more challenging?
Publishers definitely take great care when it comes to putting together the cover, since it’s the first thing that the audience will see, and it will be surrounded by other book covers geared towards the same audience, it needs to stand out but work for the audience at the same time. Also, many different departments have a say in what the cover should look like, so the decision making process can take longer then with interior art. It has happened to me that a cover was completely finished and then rejected by the sales department because they decided to go a completely different route, target a slightly older audience, not use illustration at all etc.
Is it harder to get published in the US when you live in Europe?
I think it’s more difficult to introduce your work to the publishers, but once the connection is established I don’t think there are great difficulties, the communication takes place mostly via email, artwork can be sent digitally or via FedEx.
What is the children’s book market like where you live?
The German speaking market is much smaller, publishers are maybe a bit more hesitant, they plan with much smaller print runs, so the advances are smaller too.
Have many languages do you speak?
German and English and tiny bits of French and Italian.
Have you ever visited the USA?
Yes, I studied in California and try to travel to the US about once a year to meet with publishers, go to conferences or show openings.
Have you published any of your illustrations in magazines?
Yes I do editorial illustration every once in a while.
Do you use Photoshop with your illustrations?
I use Photoshop for retouching or making small changes. Also, for magazine illustration and for the two “graphic novel” stories I wrote and illustrated I decided to use mostly digital coloring.
Do you own a graphic tablet?
YES! I love my graphic tablet.
Did you set up a studio in your house?
Up until now I was working from a studio in my apartment, but I will be moving into a shared work space in July.
Do you try to stick to a schedule to get your illustrations done?
Yes definitely. Especially when projects overlap I find it necessary to have a schedule I am working with. It happens often that deadlines are moved around, so it is very important for me to know how much time I will need for certain projects to be able to confirm new dates.
How many books have you published?
10 so far, in September the 11th book, “Der Eisdrache” written by Troon Harrison, will be published.
Have you gone to any of the big conferences for Children’s Illustrators and Writers?
Yes I have attended the summer conference in LA twice and the winter conference in New York twice as well.
What are your career goals?
I would like to keep illustrating stories that are meaningful and that reach audiences all over the world and of all age levels. It would be wonderful to one day be able to write and illustrate my own books. Most of all I want to keep learning and experimenting and growing, and make art and stories that touch audiences.
What are you working on now?
As I said I just finished a picture book for an Austrian publisher. Right now I am finishing up a book cover for a YA novel for a US publisher that I am very excited about, we tried a few interesting things with this cover, I am very much looking forward to seeing it in print. Next I will be illustrating a graphic novel, I am very happy about this new challenge.
Are there any painting tips (materials,paper, etc.) you can share that work well for you? Technique tips?
Hmmm… unfortunately my technique is not very unique, as far as materials go I love using lanaquarelle hot pressed paper and copic multiliners for the line work, for watercolor I use mostly Windsor Newton.
Any words of wisdom you can share with the illustrators who are trying to develop their career?
Stay motivated and patient, keep educating yourself, stay in touch with colleagues and share information. When I started out I had a great critique group of illustrator friends, and it helped me so much to be in touch with them and get critique and motivation, help and ideas through these meetings and talks. Now I feel very lucky to be part of the SCBWI mentorship program and have the opportunity to meet and be in touch with all these fantastic illustrators. Unfortunately travelling to the US is far for me, so I can’t see everybody as much as I would like to. I can only encourage you to look for a crtique group around you and if there is one join it, its such a gift to be able to share your thoughts on your work and learn from each other.
Thank you Andrea for sharing your artwork, journey, and process. I have a lot of people write me to let me know how much they love Illustrator Saturday, exactly because of talented illustrators like you. Please let us know when you have an another book or another success story to share. I will be happy to show if off to let everyone know.
If you would like to visit Andrea, here is her website: http://www.andreaoffermann.com If you like Illustrator Saturday and Andreas work, please take a moment to leave Andrea a comment about her post. It is really appreciated.
The other day I was at my son’s book fair, talking with his teacher. A few of my books were included in the event, and she picked one up and flipped through it. All of a sudden she asked, “Where do you get your ideas?” I’m pretty good at answering this question at school talks, but on the spot, I was speechless. I ended up smiling uncomfortably, shrugging my shoulders and saying, “I don’t know,” and then I quickly changed the subject.
On stage and in front of a group, I’m fine with the spotlight, but in a social situation, the last thing I’m comfortable talking about is me. Later that day, I started feeling guilty about how I’d responded. I should have made more of an effort to answer her, because her question was a good one. In fact, it was the exact same question I always want to ask other authors and illustrators. It’s why I’m always excited to meet them. I want to know: How do you do that thing that you do? Where do you get your ideas? And how do you get those ideas to swirl together perfectly so you can use them?
Usually I can’t trace a book all the way back to that first glimmer of an idea. It’s too complicated and messy—like trying to unravel wool that you’ve given to a kitten.
But with Bean Dog and Nugget, things are different. I know exactly how, where, and why I got the idea, and it all started five years ago.
My children used to be picky eaters. One of them still is, but I won’t embarrass him by saying his name. When she was six, my daughter Ivy loved chicken nuggets, and my son Luther (three) lived for hot dogs. So that year, as a Christmas present, I made them each a stuffed friend. And so Hot Dog and Chicken Nugget were born. The kids liked them, but not as much as me. I loved these little characters and promptly displayed them in my dining room. The kids didn’t seem to mind them sitting on a shelf out of reach, their other toys were more fun to play with anyway.
So Hot Dog and Chicken Nugget sat there for years, watching our little family, until one day I was inspired. At the time I was new to blogging and filled with blogging energy. It’s a great stage for creativity, and I wanted to try something different, so I started a Hot Dog and Chicken Nugget blog. It was a chronicle of unrequited love—a chicken nugget in love with a hot dog.
Working on the blog was fun, rewarding and stimulating, but it was also time consuming! All the drawing, and photographing, and setting up of the characters took forever. If it had been my only job I would’ve been fine, but I had books to write, deadlines to meet, and lunches to make—it was too much. In the end, I couldn’t keep up, and so I stopped—mid-romance. Chicken Nugget and Bean Dog retired from fame, and went back into their old spots on the shelf.
Over the next few years, I tried to fit them into a story, but I could never make it work. I’ve come to realize, that if a book is a struggle from page one, it’s probably wise to give it up. Wanting an idea to be good, and having it be good are two very different things.
But they were there in my head, waiting, and then one day I found my story. I was outside working in my backyard yard, trying to keep my plants alive when I got the glimmer.
Can I do an aside here, just a quick tangent? It’s for the story, to give you perspective on my gardening skills. I’ll be fast, I promise.
This is what my daughter said last week, when I brought home spring plants for my garden.
Now, back to the story. So I’m in the yard coaxing and begging things not to die, when I hear my son and his friend engaged in a not-so-friendly exchange. It seems there was a ball, and now the ball is in the bushes, and neither of them wants to retrieve it. The “You get it!” “No, you get it!” makes me smile. It’s one of those I-hope-I-remember-the-kids-like-this moments.
A few days later I was at my son’s school, in the library, looking for an easy comic book for him to read. At the time he was a very reluctant reader, and not at all interested in books. Isn’t that always the way? Author and lover of books has child who hates reading.
This was all happening two years ago, and in the easy comic book genre there weren’t many choices, certainly not like today. The school librarian and I talked about it, and I left with a purpose. I was going to make a comic book for my son to read! I was a mom with a mission. The next day as I was getting ready to start, everything suddenly came together—my tornado of creativity, the right pen, and my favorite paper—it was perfect. I love when that happens. And so BEAN DOG AND NUGGET was born.
Once I got started, it was an easy book to write, but I don’t feel guilty about saying that, because in truth I’d been working on it for over five years.
I like epilogues, because it’s always nice to know what happens in the end. I dedicated BEAN DOG AND NUGGET to my son and his friend, and when the first book arrived I made a big deal of it and showed them the dedication. Do you know what happened? I was imagining some kind of payback, perhaps something like, “Oh thank you for putting my name in the book,” but I was wrong. They ignored me completely, and instantly started arguing and pointing to the Nugget character on the cover. “You’re the girl! “No, you’re the girl!” “No, you’re the girl!” “No, you’re the girl!” It wasn’t the response I was expecting, but it was perfect. It was full circle, and the exact kind of scenario that had inspired me in the first place. I listened to them and smiled. Silly boys, I knew something they didn’t. Nugget is the smart one.
Thanks to Charise for sharing Bean Dog and Nugget’s journey from shelf to bookshelf!
Both books release today, and as a special treat, Charise is giving away THREE prize packs which include both signed books and supplies to make your own Bean Dog and Nugget paper puppets.
Just leave a comment about your favorite part of her making-of-the-story story!
Winners will be randomly selected in about a week. Good luck!
What draws friends together? Is it that you both love the same music or flavor of ice cream? Or is it that you make each other laugh? Friends understand one another, love spending time together and make each other happy. Kids -- even young kids -- totally get this. And they're going to love Odd Duck, a new graphic novel that celebrates friendship, with all its quirks and eccentricities.
Theodora swims with a teacup balanced on her head, flavoring her meals with mango salsa, and stays put for the winter. She knows exactly what she likes and is happy with everything going as planned.
When Chad moves next door, Theodora is not quite sure about this new duck. His feathers are askew, he has strange sculptures in his yard, and absolutely no manners! "Theodora could not relate to a single thing that he said. But she knew one thing was certain ... she and Chad would not be friends."
Castellucci and Varon develop this delightful story from here, showing how the two bond over their love of stars, but then fall apart over an argument over which one is odd. The illustrations are charming -- quirky, sweet and sunny. Kids will love the way the two friends come back together in the end, realizing that they really do like each other just the way they are.
Here's what my nine-year-old wrote:
"Of course, every duck can't be perfect, but these ducks are more than just not perfect. They're odd. And in this book both of them have never had a true friend, so they are put up to the challenge to make a true friend."
Kids do get it. They understand what it means to be a true friend. Odd Duck will make them laugh, smile and remember how much they value their own friends.
I really enjoyed reading this interview with Cecil Castellucci in the LA Times. It was also really interesting to read about Sara Varon's process creating the artwork, in this guest post at the First Second blog. Cecil originally proposed this as an early chapter book with spot art, but when the two began working together they realized that it might be even more effective told primarily through pictures.
"They're Mine!" "No, they're mine! They live in My room!"
This was the conversation that ensued when it came time to pick a shelf space for the two Astronaut Academy books by Dave Roman, the second of which, Astronaut Academy Re-Entry (First Second, May 15, 2013) was read about five times each in five days by my two boys (nine and twelve).
I would have solved the problem by putting them on my own shelves, if I kept graphic novels in my bedroom. They are that lovable. They are also very funny--both the words and the pictures. And they are also very good value for your money. Not only are they eminently re-readable, but even a fast-reading adult (ie me) will take at least an hour to savor every page the first time through (I didn't let my eyes glide over any of the pictures. I didn't want to miss anything).
On one level, these books deliver sci-fi fun of a very wacky sort. The setting is, after all, Astronaut Academy, where students arrive in robot-cat like school bus in space. There are robots and other high-tech accouterments. There is also a character who is a ninja bunny, and the mysterious Senor Panda. There's the very sci-fi game of Fireball, that plays a major role in the events of Astronaut Academy, and lots lots more.
But what there also is, even more so, is characters to love. From Hakata Soy, the central protagonist, to the kids on Team Feety Pajamas (who spend most of their time in the library, ostensibly Evil, but actually not so much), to the shy, the geek, the sporty kids who make up the gloriously fascinating and diverse student body, there is someone for just about anyone to relate too and sympathize with.
And so the central story line of Astronuat Academy Re-Entry isn't the Fireball excitement, the way Hakata makes peace with his Past, or even the defeat of the heart stealing fiendish monster from space. Nope, the central story line follows the emotional arcs of lots of kids as they navigate the world of school and friendship and parental expectations (at a wacky school in space, but still universal). And my heart goes out to them all.
(Here at Tor, you can see nice several pages of the book, staring one of my favorite characters, Thalia Thistle, playing fireball. And some of the heart eating monster stuff).
It's not a straight-forward, linear progression of story--it's told from multiple points of view. And things don't necessarily make Sense, especially if you haven't read the first book. This might make it not a book for everyone. But who cares about sense, says I, when you are given a combination of words that read themselves out loud in your head and pictures that make you smile like crazy?
Plus dinosaur cars. I loved them in the first book, and I was getting worried that they weren't going to be in this book. But they are.
It's a busy month for Tanita and I, this merry month of May, so we've decided to feature a couple of guest posts and interviews over the next few days--on the 8th, we're part of Shana Mlawski's blog tour, and today, we're proud to be part of the... Read the rest of this post
I don't believe that I've ever mentioned this before, but my grandmother worked as a school lunch lady when my father and my uncles were young. She was always quite proud of that fact. Perhaps that's one of the reasons why I enjoy Jarrett Krosoczka's Lunch Lady series so much (see my reviews here, here, here, here, and here). Certainly this is one of the reasons why I am pleased by the idea of dedicating a day to honor school lunch ladies. Yes, that's right. Jarrett Krosoczka, Random House, and the School Nutrition Association are celebrating School Lunch Superhero Day this Friday, May 3rd.
Here are some quick tidbits about the event (from Random House):
Jarrett’s very own
School Lunch Superhero, Jean Cariglia, inspired his Lunch Lady series. When
Jarrett visited his school after the first book was published, he was astounded
to see how much this recognition meant to Jean. This, and other acts of
kindness he has seen while touring for the series, planted the seed for School
Lunch Superhero Day.
TO CELEBRATE: The SchoolLunchSuperheroDay.com
website has all kinds of activities to help schools celebrate – games,
activities, valentines, you name it!
TEDx: Besides creating a really innovative take on
superheroes, Jarrett is also a really amazing individual. Last Fall, he was
invited to present a TEDx talk. His talk has over 500,000 combined views and is
really inspirational. See the video here.
THAT'S A LOT OF FOOD: School
nutrition professionals feed 31 million students every day.
LUNCH LADY: LUNCH
LADY AND THE VIDEO GAME VILLAIN is on sale now. This is an action-packed
graphic novel series with fun food-related gadgets. The series is great for
Lunch Lady and the Video Game Villain is the ninth in Jarrett J. Krosoczka's Lunch Lady series of graphic novels. There is a lot going on in this installment. The main plotline involves Lunch Lady and Betty investigating a rash of technology thefts from around the school (including Hector's X-Station Mobile). This is set against Hector's battle with bully Milmoe in the election for class president. Milmoe has mysteriously deep-pocketed support, and his friends discover that an enemy from a previous book may be involved. Meanwhile, Principal Hernandez is concerned about an upcoming tour of the school by the new, reform-minded superintendent, a tour which turns out not to bode well for our heroic Lunch Lady. The book ends on a cliffhanger regarding Lunch Lady's future.
In Lunch Lady and the Video Game Villain, Krosoczka spends a bit more time on plot, and a bit less time on cafeteria-themed inventions than the previous books in the series. Or so it seemed to me. There is a "Crazy-Straw Earpiece", but the spork phone is missing in action. There are also, instead, various other, more traditional, forms of technology mentioned (many of them missing), like "the latest ePad" and a "stepometer."
However, the book still has the same feel that young readers will expect. Milmoe is still a bully, surrounded by sycophants. He says things like:
"HA! That twerp? The only thing he can beat is the latest video game of "Nofriendo"!"
There's a funny scene in which Lunch Lady and Betty set up a sting operation, and tumble out of a locker. There is byplay with the grouchy janitor, and a battle with a villain near the end of the book. It's all vintage Lunch Lady, albeit with slightly fewer gadgets, and slightly more continuing plotlines. I think that young fans will enjoy it. I know I did. Recommended!
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers (@RandomHouseKids) Publication Date: April 23, 2013 Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher
FTC Required Disclosure:
This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through Amazon links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).
Reader Gut Reaction: When the cheerleaders and the geeks team up to try to solve a school group funding problem together, WHAT could possibly go wrong? That fabulous title ends up proving itself apt again and again throughout this hilarious and... Read the rest of this post
Looking for a graphic novel that will make you giggle? Check out ASTRONAUT ACADEMY: Re-Entry by Dave Roman. This series follows the hijinks of students enrolled in a school in outer space. And we're talking highly funny hijinks: shapeshifters that will steal your heart (literally), time travel, detention, a bilingual panda, heartbreak, robots, and Fireball, a game that resembles lacrosse and Quidditch, but with FIRE. And there's a competition montage. This story is so ready to be made into an animated film.
I laughed out loud several times while reading this book, which includes subtle pop culture references as well as different characters' definitions of OTP. Yes, you read that correctly. At one point, someone goes "Squee!" Then there's this exchange between two characters:
"Labels can't define who we are on the inside." "Are you being sarcastic?" "Only if you want me to be." "I [heart] sarcasm. (No, seriously.)"
The cast of characters is multicultural, which is delightful. Roman's black-and-white-and-gray illustrations clearly show kids with different skin colors, different hair styles, and different fashion senses. Some are shy, some are outspoken. Some are bullies, some are friends. A few are spies. A few are ninjas. Did I mention there's also a raccoon or two, a rabbit or two, and that this is book two in the line? Read the ASTRONAUT ACADEMY graphic novels in order: #1 Zero Gravity #2 Re-Entry
I just dropped by Dave's blog to see what's new, and I discovered that he's signing copies of his books for his local bookstore, WORD, which is also holding a really cool contest. Want to get an Astronaut Academy-style portrait of yourself (or a friend), hanging out with the character of your choice? Click here to learn more.
ASTRONAUT ACADEMY: Re-Entry will be available May 14th, 2013 from :01 First Second Books.
Jess Ruliffson is an illustrator and non-fiction graphic novelist, increasingly wearing the hat of a comics-medium journalist. She’s working on a graphic novel based on interviews with veterans of the war in Iraq and conflicts in Afghanistan for the Joe Bonham Project, giving wounded vets a chance to tell their own stories of trauma and resilience (as seen above). Ruliffson took part in the Atlantic Center for the Arts Residency in October 2012 and became one of the founding members of Studio YOLO, a confederacy of artists who pose monthly comics-drawing challenges. Her art work is heavily based on realism in line-drawing, but also possesses a unique stillness and reflective quality suited to personal narratives, either her own or drawn from shared stories. You can view her ongoing work at both her website and blogspot.
Poseidon: Earth Shaker (First Second, March, 2013) is the fifth of the Greek gods to get his own graphic novel, in the stellar series written and illustrated by George O'Connor.
The series as a whole is an extraordinarily kid-friendly introduction to the Greek pantheon, and although I wouldn't recommend starting with Poseidon, this latest volume is a fine addition to the series.
It's somewhat episodic, beginning with the division of the cosmos between the three main gods (Zeus, Hades, and Poseidon), with Poseidon revelling in his new dominion over the sea. The stories of Odysseus and how he outwitted the Cyclopedian (Cyclopsian?) son of Poseidon, and Theseus, another son, come next, followed by the story of the contest between Poseidon and Athena over Athens. The story concludes with a flashback back to the early struggles between the gods and the Titans, emphasizing the overall theme of the book--Poseidon's conflict between the joy he takes in his dominion of the sea, and his sense that somehow he has been wronged.
Though this is a kid-friendly series, it's not something I'd give to a kid younger than ten or so--there are "adult themes" as is so often the case when one deals with the Greek gods...But for the older, perhaps reluctant reader, this series is a spot-on introduction to the stories--the pictures are powerful and utterly memorable (true for all the books, but I think in this book they are particularly compelling, what with all the ocean action opportunities provided by the subject matter), swinging the events along very nicely indeed. Adding value for teachers, and written in a manner engaging enough for the curious young reader, there's interesting back-matter included as well.
Julie Kagawa is working with Bluewater Comics to turn her book THE IRON KING into a four-part Manga/graphic novel series.
Publishing comic books is a pricey endeavor (no surprise there), so they're trying to raise the funds to cover the costs up front. Initially, they had a very ambitious Kickstarter campaign -- but not being Veronica Mars, they didn't make it. So they adjusted the budget, found ways to cut costs significantly, and have relaunched on Indiegogo. They still have a ton of awesome prizes for anyone who contributes -- and they have a much more attainable goal. But because they lost all the Kickstarter pledges, they're having a hard time getting our numbers back up.
They need YOUR help letting readers know about THE IRON KING Manga project, and asking them to contribute whatever they can. Even $1 will help them reach their goal.
I read it with much amusement and delight, but thought that perhaps my own immaturity and snarkiness prevented me from qualifying as an unbiased judge of its greatness. I therefore turned to an expert on books of this type: my third grade daughter Mackenzie.
I decided Mackenzie could serve as an impartial judge due to the following qualifications:
Timmy Failure is aimed at her demographic,
She's a voracious reader of this genre,
She regularly discusses and swaps books with her third grade posse, and
She stole the advance review copy the day it arrived at our house before I even had the chance to open the cover.
I also felt I owed it to her after she scoured the shelves of our public library looking for Number Two in the series. I believe Mackenzie suffered intense emotional damage upon learning that the follow-up wouldn't be available for quite some time. Nonetheless, she graciously agreed to be interviewed.
Me: So what's Timmy Failure all about?
Kenzie: It's about this boy who's really bad in school that decides to open up a detective agency. The problem is, he really bad at being a detective and he misses lots of obvious clues. And he owns a fifteen hundred pound polar bear named Total.
Me: Is the polar bear real, or stuffed?
Kenzie: It's real! (She shrugs her shoulders and lifts her hands up, palms to the ceiling as if to say. "Duh!").
Me: You're sure it's real?
Kenzie: What does it matter?
Me: Good point. So apart from this polar bear, does Timmy have any friends?
Kenzie: He has one friend name Rollo, but Timmy thinks he's not that smart, which is crazy, because Rollo studies all the time and gets really good grades, and Timmy doesn't.
Me: Any other friends?
Kenzie: Well, he has an archenemy (speaking with increased enthusiasm now) and her name is Corinna Corinna, and what's funny is that at first he won't name her or even let you see her face. She has her own detective agency and Timmy thinks she's reeeeeally annoying.
Me: Any favorite parts?
Kenzie: I like when he tries to solve cases, because he always ignores really obvious clues. This one time a boy hires him to find out who ate all his candy. On Timmy's way out, he peeks in the room and sees the boy's brother, his face all covered with chocolate, sitting on his bed surrounded by candy wrappers. You think he's solved the crime, but all Timmy does is write in his notebook, "Gabe's brother is a slob."
Me: Any other favorite parts?
Kenzie: Well, I think it's really funny that the librarian is really, really tough, and he has "Dewey" on a tattoo...
Me: You mean like, the Dewey decimal system?
Kenzie: Yeah. You don't really expect a librarian to look like that.
Me: (picking up the book) I noticed some pretty hard words in here. Did you understand them all?
Kenzie: Yeah. If you read the book, you can tell what the words mean.
Me: Really? All of them?
Kenzie: Well, most of them. But you don't have to understand every word to get the story. Plus, I think that sometimes even Timmy doesn't know what the words mean. He names his detective agency Total Failure, Inc. because the polar bear's name is Total, but he doesn't even get why that's a really bad name for a company.
Me: So who would enjoy this book?
Kenzie: Anyone who likes funny stories. Every day I show funny parts to my friend, so she wants to borrow it next. And then her friend wants to borrow it... yeah. You might not get it back.
Me: So is Timmy a failure?
Kenzie: Yes. Actually, no. He's not a failure. He's just clueless. Are we done yet?
# # #
There you have it: the insightful and thought provoking reflections of a third grader.
One point on which we both agree is the vocabulary. Stephan Pastis intersperses fantastic vocabulary throughout the book, purposefully heavier at times to indicate moments on importance. Check out how in the following short excerpt he combines specific vocabulary, repetition, sentence variety, and even sentence fragments, in a wonderful way.
But that greatness did not prepare me for what I would see at the Weber residence.
For today it is the scene of total devastation. All marred by the remnants of someone inhumane. Someone determined. Someone whose weapon of choice comes in packs of six, twelve, and twenty. If you are squeamish, look away.
Toilet paper. It is everywhere.
And this isn't one isolated and out-of-the-ordinary passage; this is how he writes the entire book. For that reason, I would definitely recommend this book for middle schoolers, and certainly reluctant and struggling readers. I could even see myself using several portions as mentor texts to teach sentence and paragraph structure, understatement, satire, and word choice.
Reader Gut Reaction: Imagine my excitement when I heard that Our Jane was back, and tackling history for young readers in an illustrated/graphic novel-type format. Tanita and I practically grew up on Jane Yolen, and we admire her so much, in part... Read the rest of this post
The French are different from you and me. They have better comics for their kids. Sure, America’s been doing passably well in the last few years, but take a look at the graphic novel shelves of your local library or bookstore and you won’t be able to help but notice how many of the names there sound distinctly French. Joann Sfar. Guillaume Dorison. Goscinny. The list goes on. While we’ve been frittering away our time with discussions of “New Adult” fads, the French have come very close to perfecting the middle grade graphic novel, and Ariol: Just a Donkey Like You and Me typifies that near perfection to a tee. School stories wrapped in the guise of animal characters, Emmanuel Guibert and Marc Boutavant have managed to create yet another GN that will be cluttering up our American shelves with its presence. And if we’re going to be honest about it, you’ll welcome Ariol with open arms. If the French keep producing books as good as this one, let ‘em. There’s always room for more.
Split into twelve short stories, Ariol follows the day-to-day life and small adventures of an average blue donkey, his best friend (a pig), his crush (a cow), and his friends. As we watch he and his best friend Ramono go to school, survive gym class, and participate in a disgusting but fun game. On his own Ariol contends with his parents, longs for Petunia (the aforementioned sow), pretends to be his favorite superhero Thunderhorse, and plays pranks. Nothing too big. Nothing too epic. Just everyday school stories from a donkey you’ll love in spite of yourself.
It’s interesting to me how very everyday and down-to-earth Guibert’s stories are. In spite of the barnyard cast (complete with a talking teacher’s pet who also happens to be a fly) there’s nothing magical or out of this world to be found here. Ariol is sympathetic if flawed. His best friend’s a bit of a jerk, but for some reason you don’t hate him. His parents are well meaning without being pushy and his teacher’s put upon. In its review of this book Kirkus said it was “less vicious with the satire” than a lot of the Wimpy Kid type novels out that the moment. I’d agree, but that doesn’t meant the book doesn’t have bite. True it dares to get a little introspective from time to time (Ariol contemplating whether or not donkeys really are as stupid as the prejudiced say) but for every thoughtful contemplation there are at least two instances of characters sneaking fake vomit into their classmates’ changing rooms or nicking movie theater standees behind the backs of their grandmas. Let’s just say there will be plenty of stuff for uptight parents to object to if they really want to do so.
Author Emmanuel Guibert I knew from various graphic novels over the years like Sardine in Outer Space and The Professor’s Daughter amongst many others. Turns out, it’s Marc Boutavant who’s the surprise here. Not that I didn’t already know his work. It’s just that when you see a Marc Boutavant children’s book in America it inevitably stars big headed, wide-eyed children that seem this close to bursting out into a chorus of “It’s a Small World After All”. He’s . . . . cute. He does cute little books with cute little themes. There is nothing to indicate in All Kinds of Families or For Just One Day that the man is capable of giving life to a sardonic aquamarine donkey with superhero aspirations. Yet give life to Ariol he does. The art here is sublime. The style is just straight up panels. No messing with the essential design of the book or anything. Within these panels you can get one story from the text and another from the art. For example in the story “Moo-Moo” I got the distinct sense that the mother of the girl Ariol’s been crushing on was more than a bit aware of the boy’s feelings for her daughter. Little interstitial details make the whole thing fun too. I loved the tiny art at the beginning of each chapter. Some of it tells crazy stories, and others tell the story before the story (if you know what I mean).
The tales found here are universal in the best sense of the word. Yet like the Nicholas series by Goscinny (the series to which Ariol bears the closest resemblance) there is something overwhelmingly French about this book. I didn’t notice it at first. Not when the first story in the collection (“Match Point”) was essentially a one-donkey show of Ariol pretending to win a tennis match and become a rock star too while he’s at it. Not when the second story (“Rise and Shine”) compared the act of getting up to go to school with a person’s birth. Not when the furniture in Ariol’s living room looked more like something out of a doctor’s waiting room than a home. No, it wasn’t until we got to the chapter “Operation ATM” that it clicked. In that chapter Ariol engages in a raucous game of pretend in the backseat of the car as his dad drives. He leaps, he dances, he hides, he throws himself bodily all about and if you’re an American parent like me then you spend the better part of the chapter gripping your seat so hard that stuffing is coming out in clumps between your fingers as you growl through gritted teeth, “Where. Is. His. Seatbelt?!?” Kids won’t care a jot, but expect the parents to lift an eyebrow or two here and there.
Oh. And can I just give a special shout out to Joe Johnson for the translation here? Over the years I’ve come to recognize when a translator goes above and beyond the call of duty. I don’t think there’s a kid alive who will read this book and think the language is stilted or funky. Instead it reads like it was written in English in the first place. There’s only the most occasional slip-up and it goes by so fast that no one will ever notice.
In the end, a school set Animal Farm this is not. It’s just regular everyday stories with the slightest French lilt. American kids will gobble it up right quick and then hunger for more. New middle grade graphic novels are rarer in America than they should be considering their popularity. Here’s hoping funny imports like Guibert and Boutavant’s continue to make up for the lack we feel on our shelves every day.
On shelves now.
Source: Final copy sent from publisher for review.
One of my favorite people asked me for graphic novel recommendations yesterday, and this is the list I drafted for her. It includes some of my favorites as well as some volumes I knew she'd appreciate because of the art or the storyline or both.
For those of you shocked at the lack of caped crusaders here, don't be too upset; I love those stories, too! This list leans heavily towards the realistic...until you reach the last few titles, because I couldn't help myself. The Coraline graphic novel is one of the best book-to-GN adaptations I've ever read, and if I didn't list it here, along with some Golden books, my heart would hurt. Then, of course, there are the younger series which employ talking animals - and amoebas - but I at least began the list with realistic tales:
TweetNowadays we think of it as the pre-mullet era of Superman, but at the time The Death of Superman was an incredibly big idea for DC. A story which killed off their main signature hero was not only an eventual inevitability, but also an idea which would actually have some resonance for the company. Superman [...]
The guests for this episode are Carol Tilley, this year’s Trends in YA presenter, and Denise Agosto, organizer for the event. The Trends in YA Presentation is an event that occurs each year at the Midwinter Conference. This year’s presentation will be on Saturday, January 26th at 4:30 in room 213 in the Seattle Convention Center. Tilley will read from her research paper, which explores the history of comic books and their relationship with libraries.
The early award season for books is here, and earlier this week the American Library association handed out a slew of literary awards. As has been the recent trend, several graphic novels were recognized among the pictureless books:
Do you remember Ratha's Creature by Clare Bell (first published in 1983)? I reviewed it here several years ago! There is a Kickstarter project underway to help fund a graphic novel version and I encourage all of you to check it out and contribute to the cause. Ratha's Creature is an excellent and truly unique young adult novel that should be introduced to a new generation of readers (especially those who love cats)!
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Wait a minute, didn't I say I never do the WAITING ON WEDNESDAY meme? Well, here I am again anyway, because J'ADORE GENE LUEN YANG. Seriously. Will read anything the man draws/writes, which means I'm doubly excited about his historical foray into... Read the rest of this post
The seventh Diary of a Wimpy Kid book, The Third Wheel, made me laugh aloud several times. Like the other books in the series, The Third Wheel doesn't follow a particularly linear plotline. The "third wheel" aspect of the book (involving a Valentine's Day Dance, a girl, and Greg's best friend) only directly comes into play quite late in the book. But it doesn't matter. Time spent peeking into Greg Heffley's diary is always entertaining. Some highlights that struck me from this installment included:
Greg's memories from back before he was born (already capable of being embarrassed by his mother).
The fact that Greg spent the first few months of his life sleeping in a dresser drawer ("which I'm pretty sure isn't even legal").
The location that baby Greg found to hide the batteries for the TV remote ("when you're a baby, you can't really get around a lot, so there was only one place I could hide the batteries.")
When Greg drove his father so crazy during Bring Your Child to Work Day that he was sent off to sit somewhere else, and ended up forgotten and left at work.
A "pantsing" epidemic among the boys at the middle school.
A bizarre "bring your own toilet paper" fad at the middle school.
I think the reason that these books work so well is that although the incidents are over-the-top, there's an underpinning of universal behavior that comes through. The Wimpy Kid books will always be among my favorites, because I've known kids who were turned on to reading for the first time by Greg's exploits. I also think that there's a fair amount of humor in these books for adults, making these fun read-together books (or read in parallel, anyway) for the whole family.
The sketch-filled diary format has become fairly widespread in children's books, of course, but Jeff Kinney launched the craze, and remains a master at it. I found Diary of a Wimpy Kid #7: The Third Wheel to be a worthy installment of the series, a laugh-out-loud read for kids and adults. Recommended! (And no particular need to read the books in order, I don't think).
Publisher: Amulet Books (@AbramsKids) Publication Date: November 13,2012 Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher
Hey, all you reader guys out there. We survived yesterday. You what day I mean--the one devoted to all the stuff that makes MANLY MEN like us shudder in our manly boots. The day devoted to kissing and hugging and romance. In other words, Valentine's Day, the one devoted to looooove!!!
The MANLY MAN view of romance
So to get the thought of all that stuff out of our minds, let's ask ourselves--what do guys LOVE? And the answer to that is obvious--GRAPHIC NOVELS!! Yes, indeed, graphic novels are great! You've got exciting stories, laughs, heroes punching out villains, and sometimes whole planets blow up! So let me tell you about a few graphic novels that I and a regular contributor to this blog have read and enjoyed lately.
This was a great story. Jedi Master Mace Windu speeds to the planet Simocadia to stop a Separatist invasion but Yoda appears and tells him it's a mistake. Mace goes anyway and has to face the results of his decision. This one has lots of good Star Wars action, cool artwork and Mace Windu, one of the best Jedi Masters. How could you go wrong?
If you like cartoon series with whiz-bang action and goofball humor like Fairly Odd Parents or TUFF Puppy, you'd like this graphic novel series. Loud Boy is one of the five kids who've discovered they have super powers. In this one, Loud Boy and friends are charged by their Uncle Stanley to keep the Flooggget out of the hands of Old Fogey and his evil cohorts. But along the way, Loud get sucked into a video game--literally! Unless he can win the game and get out, every kid on earth will disappear into cyberspace.Can Loud Boy do it? Read and see--and have a really good time as you do!
Lunch Lady and the Summer Camp Shakedown by Jarret J. Krosoczka I've been a fanof Lunch Lady, the cafeteria supervisor and crime fighter, for a long time. In this book, Lunch Lady and her sidekick Betty.are working a summer camp--which supposedly has a swamp monster in the lake. It couldn't be true--or could it? Lunch Lady will have to use all their high-tech school cafeteria crime-fighting equipment to save the camp! I really like these graphic novels--mystery, suspense, and good campy fun. CAMPY fun!!!! I just made a joke! Har, Har Har, Har!!!!!
And to prove that I'm not the only one who enjoys graphic novels, here's a review from our old friend Michael:
Lunch Lady, book 8 Lunch Lady and the Picture Day Peril by Jarret J. Krosoczka Lunch Lady, Betty, Hector, Terrence, and Dee are all back! When a school photographer scams school kids out of thousands of dollars and then runs, it's up to Lunch Lady to find her, or the student council's fund will be ruined. I do think that the scene transitions are a bit jerky, but there's an action scene that I consider the best of the series so far. Plus, does the ending suggest the start of a serial? I guess book 9 will reveal that. But for comic book readers, this is a good one to check out!
And here's one more from Michael:
Mal and Chad, book 3 Belly Flop by Stephen McCraine Comic-book duo Mal and Chad are back for their third and longest adventure yet! When Mal learns that Megan is pushing him away, he wonders how cool he has to be to hang out with her. Also, a talent show is being held at Einstein Elementary, and Mal sees this as an opportunity to show his level of coolness. Plus you can expect plenty of episodes with his inventions. Comedy, romance, sci-fi, inspiration, and action all come into play in this book as well as the other books in this series. As far as graphic novels go, this is one of the best! I was a little bored during the first few chapters because this book focuses more on the romance and inspiration than anything else. The five elements I listed above did not blend together as well as it has in previous books. However, what action there was was very well-done, and this book is definitely worth reading! Michael Lanier Pianist,guitarist,banjoist,autoharpist,jaw harpist,Ukeist,Mandolinist
So you see, guys really do LOVE graphic novels! If you'd like to read about more graphic novels, click on the "graphic novels" tab under this post. And what about YOU? How you read a good graphic novel lately? One that you LOVED? Write in and let us know! And remember--these graphic novels are: