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1. 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #417: FeaturingUp-and-Coming Illustrator, Molly Walsh

It’s the first Sunday of the month, which means I invite a student illustrator or recent grad to visit 7-Imp, and today I’ve got the latter. Molly Walsh graduated in 2013 from RISD, and she’s here today to share art and tell us a bit about herself.

Without further ado …

Molly: Hello! My name is Molly Walsh, and I am an illustrator living on Cape Cod. I graduated in 2013 with a degree in Illustration from Rhode Island School of Design.

 




 

I work by day as a designer at a gift company in Cape Cod and, by night, as a freelance illustrator. I love creating art for decoration, but my first love is telling stories, large or small, through my illustration. Inspiration for my illustrations could come from something as small as a little detail from a friend’s story to something as large as trying to sum up an entire concept or emotion in one image. My love of nature and goofy characters also have a way of creeping into the images I make.

 




 

I started working in my current style toward the end of my time at RISD. I had been making 3D sculptures as a way to compensate for my lack of confidence in my drawing skills. Sculpting somehow gave me a better understanding of shapes and lighting, and I began drawing and painting again to save time. (Funny how that works!)

 



 

One of my professors, Fred Lynch, was of great help to me settling into a style that suited my voice as an illustrator. I do most of my work in watercolor and gouache, though my surface design job has taught me a great deal about digital media, which I’ve started incorporating into my work.

 




 

My current sketchbook is full of doodles and sloppily-written ideas for future projects, both somewhat formed idea for series and comics, as well as notes about “great ideas” I’ve written myself while half asleep. (The other day I found the words “Gastronaut — astronaut with gas” written on one page.) Looking forward, I hope to find more opportunities to tell both my own stories, as well as the stories and ideas of others through freelance work for books and magazines. Illustration is a wonderful, exciting thing, and I hope to use this power for good!

 












 

All artwork here is reproduced by permission of Molly Walsh.

Note for any new readers: 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks is a weekly meeting ground for taking some time to reflect on Seven(ish) Exceptionally Fabulous, Beautiful, Interesting, Hilarious, or Otherwise Positive Noteworthy Things from the past week, whether book-related or not, that happened to you. New kickers are always welcome.

* * * Jules’ Kicks * * *

1) I love the characters in Molly’s work. Also I love: “Illustration is a wonderful, exciting thing, and I hope to use this power for good!” (P.S. The last illustration up there is from Ray Bradbury’s “All Summer in a Day,” which is something like the third or fourth illustration I’ve shared at 7-Imp from that story, which used to HAUNT me as a child. I’m starting a 7-Imp trend.)

2) Yesterday, we saw a stage adaptation at the Nashville Children’s Theatre of Mo Willems’ Elephant & Piggie stories. It was fun. Here’s a bit of what it was like:

3) I talked to a big group of second-graders at a school in Nashville this week about favorite 2014 picture books and Caldecott contenders, and it was a thing of beauty to hear their strong opinions. Those lucky kids have some great teachers and librarians.

4) Oh, and the Twitter chat this week with Metro Nashville School librarians was fun too.

5) Author-illustrator Lori Nichols is going to come have breakfast at 7-Imp when life slows down and sent this preview of us in the meantime:

6) It’s neat to see friends’ photos on Facebook from ALA Midwinter.

7) Speaking of kick #2, my New Year’s resolution (though I don’t usually do resolutions) was to see more live theatre, so hey, I’m not doing too badly.

What are YOUR kicks this week?

1 Comments on 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #417: FeaturingUp-and-Coming Illustrator, Molly Walsh, last added: 2/1/2015
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2. Seuss on Saturday #5

McElligot's Pool. Dr. Seuss. 1947/1974. Random House. 64 pages. [Source: Library]

 First sentence:
"Young man," laughed the farmer, "You're sort of a fool! You'll never catch fish in McElligot's Pool!"
Premise/Plot. Marco, the young boy in the story, is fishing at McElligot's Pool. Though the farmer warns him that the pool is just where people throw junk, the young boy claims he's not foolish or wasting his time fishing there. He tells how the pool could be--might be--connected to the sea itself. And how right this minute even all sorts of fish might be making their way to the pool for him to catch. He describes hundreds of fish, giving his imagination room to shine. But is the farmer convinced? Are readers?

My thoughts: It is nice to see Marco again. (I'm assuming that this Marco is the Marco of And To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street, which was published ten years previously.) Marco's imagination is going strong.

Even though I don't like fishing. I liked this book about fishing. I liked it more than I thought I would.
I might catch a thin fish,
I might catch a stout fish.
I might catch a short
or a long, long, drawn-out fish.
Any kind! Any shape! Any color or size!
I might catch some fish that would open your eyes!
and
Oh, the sea is so full of a number of fish
If a fellow is patient, he might get his wish!
This one won a Caldecott Honor. Half the illustrations are in black and white. Half the illustrations are in color.

Have you read McElligot's Pool? Did you like it? love it? hate it? I would love to hear what you thought of it!

If you'd like to join me in reading or rereading Dr. Seuss' picture books (chronologically) I'd love to have you join me! The next book I'll be reviewing is Thidwick The Big-Hearted Moose.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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3. Little Red's Riding 'Hood (2015)

Little Red's Riding 'Hood. Peter Stein. Illustrated by Chris Gall. 2015. [February 2015] Scholastic. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Here and there, up and down, in and out, Little Red loved riding around his 'hood. One day, Big Blue Mama gave Little Red an important job. "Poor Granny Putt Putt is feeling run-down," she said. "Her oil is muddy, her exhaust pipe's exhausted, and her wiper fluid is wiped out. Please take her this basket of goodies right away."

Well. I almost don't know what to say about it. It's unusual and original all in one, I suppose. I'd never have thought about retelling the tale of Little Red Riding Hood in this way. The book is set in Vroomville, and all the characters are machines. Little Red is a scooter; Granny Put-Put is a golf cart; and the Big Bad Wolf, well, he's a very mean monster truck. The story is familiar enough, I suppose, in the end, yet it has an original feel to it. That doesn't mean that I personally love it.

Text: 3 out of 5
Illustrations: 3 out of 5
Total: 6 out of 10

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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4. this ORQ – Perfect Picture Book Friday

Title: this ORQ (he cave boy.) Written by: David Elliott Illustrated by: Lori Nichols Published by: Boyds Mills Press, 2014 Themes/Topics: pets, cave boys, cave moms, wooly mammoths Suitable for ages: preschoolers Opening:  This Orq. He live in cave. He carry club. He cave boy. … Continue reading

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5. Gingerbread for Liberty! How a German Baker Helped Win the American Revolution by Mara Rockliff, pictures by Vincent x. Kirsch

Gingerbread for Liberty! How a German Baker Helped Win the American Revolution by Mara Rockliff and illustrated by Vincent X. Kirsch is a fantastic new non-fiction picture book that is sure to appeal to kids. As always with the best narrative non-fiction, I am impressed by the author's ability to take an aspect of history or science and make it palatable and comprehensible for young

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6. Seeing Carin Berger’sBox of Art Supplies Makes Me Happy



In-progress image and final spread: “‘I wish it was spring right now,’
Maurice told Mama. ‘Waiting is hard,’ she said. ‘Right now it is time to sleep.'”

(Click each to enlarge)

Last week, I chatted over at Kirkus (here) with author-illustrator Carin Berger about her new picture book, Finding Spring (Greenwillow, January 2015). Today, as always, I’m following up with some in-progress images from Carin, as well as a few spreads from the book. Those are below.

BUT she also visited 7-Imp over a year ago, while working on this book, to talk about it in detail waaaay before its publication. If you like Finding Spring and like Carin’s art and her books, I highly encourage you to check it out, if you haven’t seen it already. Lucky for us all, it is an art-filled post. It is here.

And I thank Carin for sending the additional images below. Enjoy.


Two more in-progress images
(Click each to enlarge)


“Back in the den, Maurice snuggled happily against Mama.
He slept and slept and slept.”

(Click to enlarge)


“And at last, there it was. Maurice had finally found S P R I N G!”
(Click to enlarge)



 

* * * * * * *

FINDING SPRING. Copyright © 2015 by Carin Berger. Published by Greenwillow Books, an imprint of HarperCollins, New York. All images here are reproduced by permission of Carin Berger.

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7. Half Past Winter, by Ginger Nielson | Book Review

Half Past Winter is an adorable tale of two bear cubs and their adventure to find winter’s first snow. They grow impatient in their den when no snow comes and decide to explore until they find snow.

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8. If This Had Happened This Week, We Wouldn't Have Been Dancing In The Road

John Rocco has a picture book out called Blizzard that's been getting a lot of attention the last couple of months. It would have been terrific if I read that this past week and could write about it now after the events of the last couple of days here in New England. Yeah, well, that didn't happen.

I did pick up Rocco's earlier book, Blackout, from the library a while back. It would have been terrific if we'd had a power outage this week, a threat that was hanging over our heads this past weekend, and could write about it after reading Blackout. Yeah, well, that didn't happen, either.

But I'm still going to tell you about Blackout because it is beautiful. I am not the only person who thinks so, because it was a Caldecott Honor Book in 2012. It is beautiful looking with a lovely, simple story of people having a great time when the lights go out. That simple story is told without a lot of text, something that doesn't happen as often as you'd think with picture books.

By the way, Rocco also illustrated How to Train a Train by Jason Carter Eaton, which happens to be a big hit with a member of my family.

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9. Margaret Bloy Graham Has Died

9780060268657Children’s books illustrator Margaret Bloy Graham has died. She was 94 years old.

Graham became well-known for collaborating with Gene Zion, a writer and her husband, on the Harry the Dirty Dog picture book series. She went on to work on projects with other writers and author her own books. Altogether, she earned two Caldecott Honors for All Falling Down and The Storm Book.

Here’s more from School Library Journal: “Though Harry remains Graham’s most well-known collaboration, it was far from her only one. Her illustrations for legendary children’s book author Charlotte Zolotow’s The Storm Book (Harper, 1951), a gentle look at a child’s first thunderstorm, won her a Caldecott Honor. A versatile artist, she also provided the illustrations for renowned poet Jack Prelutsky’s humor collection Pack Rat’s Day (Macmillan, 1974), while in the 1980s, she collaborated with longtime friend and Little Bear author Else Holmelund Minarik on What If? (1987) and It’s Spring (1989, both Greenwillow).”

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10. Illustrator Interview – Maral Sassouni

I connected with Maral on Facebook because I swoon at her artwork and because she is a huge Francophile like me. She is relatively new to children’s books, but her work has been well received: selected in Society of Illustrators (Illustrators … Continue reading

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11. Sleeping Cinderella and Other Princess Mix-Ups by Stephanie Clarkson & Brigette Barrager

Rare is the princess picture book that I find worth reviewing here. In fact, I even find the "anti-princess" picture books not worth mentioning. However, I LOVE fairy tales and I couldn't resist  reading Sleeping Cinderella and Other Princess Mix-Ups by Stephanie Clarkson, with illustrations by Brigette Barrager. Clarkson takes four well known fairy tale princesses and imagines them fed up

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12. Freddy the Frogcaster and the Big Blizzard, by Janice Dean | Book Review

Freddy the Frogcaster and the Big Blizzard does an excellent job of creating a creative way to get kids interested in learning about the science of weather.

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13. Gingerbread Spies and Magic Pencils - Two Book Birthdays!

Mara Rockliff's latest picture book, GINGERBREAD FOR LIBERTY, is the delicious (and true!) story of the baker who helped save the American Revolution.

Christopher Lutwick was a German immigrant and, in the 1770's, a vocal advocate of revolution as well as possibly the most celebrated and popular baker in Philadelphia. When the war broke out, though he was too old for fighting, he was determined to help, and his friend George Washington made him the "baker general" of the army. He also had an even more significant, albeit more secretive role... to talk starving Hessian soldiers working for the British into abandoning the King. And he could do it because he was a former starving Hessian soldier himself.

This remarkable tale shines a light on a little known figure of the Revolution who worked alongside George Washington and the other heroes we all know about. And the scrumptious illustrations by Vincent X Kirsch are the icing on the gingerbread!

"This appealing concoction is a powerful reminder of the good one person can do." -- Kirkus

"A sweet addition to Revolutionary War units." --School Library Journal, starred review

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14. KidLit Author/Illustrator Events Jan. 27-Feb. 2

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This week we have an exciting one-a-year event for the younger set! Bookworm Festival!

January 31, Saturday, 9:30-12:00A Moose That Says Moo THE STORY OF FISH AND SNAIL by Deborah Freedman
Spring Oaks Middle School, 2150 Shadowdale
Bookworm Festival

Bookworm Festival is a celebration of reading and a chance for primary grade children to meet several authors who create books for them. Dan Santat, illustrator of countless A CRANKENSTEIN VALENTINE by Samantha Berger; Illustrated by Dan SantatDUCK & GOOSE COLORS by Tad Hillbooks including his newest, A CRANKENSTEIN VALENTINE, will give the keynote speech. He will be joined by nationally known authors and illustrators of picture books and early chapter books including Tad Hills, Deborah Freedman, Jennifer Hamburg and Dan Hanna.
Librarians and language arts teachers from across Houston comprise the steering committee for the Bookworm Festival. Their goal is to connect emerging readers with authors to foster the joy of reading. SWEET DREAMS, POUT-POUT FISH by Deborah Diesen; Illustrated by Dan Hanna

Please visit their site for exciting information about the day. Books by the festival’s speakers will be available for purchase though Blue Willow Bookshop.

Enjoy the trailer for CRANKENSTEIN VALENTINE!

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15. Harry & Winnie: Friends Forever and even longer …


“In 1919, just before Harry returned to Winniepeg, he made another hard decision.
He decided that Winnie would stay at the London Zoo permanently.
Harry was sad, but he knew Winnie would be happiest in the home she knew best.”

This week over at BookPage, I’ve got an interview with author Sally M. Walker. Her newest picture book is Winnie: The True Story of the Bear Who Inspired Winnie-the-Pooh (Henry Holt, January 2015), illustrated by newcomer Jonathan D. Voss. It’s a fascinating story and one I didn’t know.

Our Q&A is over here at BookPage, and below I have some art (and backmatter images) from the book.


“When Harry Colebourn looked out of the train window,
he couldn’t believe what he saw ….”


“… The cub climbed into Harry’s lap and licked his chin.
‘She’s for sale,’ said the man holding her leash. …”


“Harry could care for a bear; he was a veterinarian.
‘How much?’ Harry asked. …”



“Sometimes Harry went places where Winnie couldn’t. The other soldiers cub-sat.
They photographed Winnie. They took her for walks.”


“But no matter where Winnie went during the day,
she slept under Harry’s cot every night.”


“… For seven weeks, Winnie watched soldiers practice marching. …”


“Harry visited Winnie whenever he could, but the war lasted four years.
During that time, the zookeepers took good care of his bear. …”


“One day, when Winnie was nearly eleven years old, a little boy visited her.
‘Oh, Bear!’ cried the boy, whose name was Christopher Robin.
He hugged Winnie and fed her milk.”


“… The zookeepers treated her kindly, friendly visitors scratched her back,
and gentle children spoon-fed her milk. …”



Front and back endpapers
(Click each to enlarge)

* * * * * * *

WINNIE. Copyright © 2015 by Sally M. Walker. Illustrations © 2015 by Jonathan D. Voss. Published by Henry Holt and Company, New York. All images here are reproduced by permission of the publisher.

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16. Can You Buy Me the Wind?, by Steven Schoenfeld | Dedicated Review

In children’s book author Steven Schoenfeld’s Can You Buy Me the Wind?, children and parents alike are treated to a rhyming picture book that seeks to instill a solid set of values.

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17. Review of A Fine Dessert

jenkins_fine dessertA Fine Dessert: Four Centuries, Four Families, One Delicious Treat
by Emily Jenkins; illus. by Sophie Blackall
Primary   Schwartz & Wade/Random   40 pp.
1/15   978-0-375-86832-0   $17.99
Library ed. 978-0-375-96832-7   $20.99   g
e-book ed. 978-0-375-98771-7   $10.99

In four vignettes, set a hundred years apart from each other, parents and children make delicious blackberry fool from blackberries, cream, and sugar: quintessentially simple. Still, the cream must be whipped, with a different tool each time — a laborious twenty minutes with a bunch of twigs in 1710 Lyme, England; just two minutes with an electric mixer in 2010 San Diego. Early cooks pick berries; now, they may come packaged from afar — but the work of sieving them hasn’t changed much. Each setting has its kitchen practices, cooks, and meals: in 1810 Charleston, South Carolina, an enslaved woman and her daughter get only bowl lickings, while the master and his family are served the dessert; the San Diego dad and his son host a potluck for a diverse group of friends. Blackall’s art, as decorative as it is informative, features lovely (if unrealistic) calligraphic berry bush tendrils to counterpoint her cheery, wholesome figures; a subdued palette of historical tans is warmed with spots of green and pink, blossoming into brighter hues in the California present. It all adds up to a thought-provoking sample of how the techniques involved in a simple task have changed over time; and how people, and food, have stayed much the same, making this an effective introduction to the very idea of history. Recipe, sources, and historical notes from both author (pointing up such changes as following recipes and pasteurization) and illustrator (searching questions on the lives of slaves, her careful decisions on dress, and the engaging information that the mottled endpapers were colored with actual blackberry juice) are appended.

From the January/February 2015 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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18. Virgil & Owen, by Paulette Bogan| Book Review

Paulette Bogan perfectly describes every child’s egocentric outlook on how a new friend is “only theirs” in Virgil & Owen. Virgil is so happy to find a polar bear named, Owen. He is so excited to have Owen as his new best friend and to have him all to himself.

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19. Gaston – Perfect Picture Book Friday

I want to dedicate this post to the author Kelly DiPucchio’s own sweet little pooch, Whimsy, who passed away a couple of weeks ago. Run in peace, Whimsy DiPucchio, 2000-2015. I am sure you were the inspiration for many stories and … Continue reading

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20. What I’m Doing at Kirkus This Week,Plus What I Did Last Week,Featuring E. B. Lewis and Benny Andrews


“It’s a peaceful spring and summer in Huntsville in 1963, but not elsewhere in Alabama. More than a thousand black children gather for a nonviolent protest in a Birmingham park. They are met with gushing fire hoses and snarling dogs. …
Two hundred thousand people march for freedom in Washington,D.C.
Dr. King gives a speech, echoing the dream that black children and
white children will join hands in peace. It’s on television, nationwide.”
– From Hester Bass’
Seeds of Freedom, illustrated by E. B. Lewis
(Click to enlarge)


 


“When Benny’s military service was over, the government offered to pay his college tuition. He moved to Chicago to attend art school. It was the biggest city he had ever seen, full of many different kinds of people, towering buildings, and—best of all—museums. Benny could spend an entire day looking at art if he wanted.
He’d never felt so free.”
– From Kathleen Benson’s
Draw What You See,
illustrated with paintings by Benny Andrews
(Click to enlarge and see full text)


 

This morning over at Kirkus, I’ve got some good, new picture books for very young readers. That link will be here soon.

* * *

Last week I wrote here about Hester Bass’ Seeds of Freedom: The Peaceful Integration of Huntsville, Alabama (Candlewick, January 2015), illustrated by E. B. Lewis, as well as Kathleen Benson’s Draw What You See: The Life and Art of Benny Andrews (Clarion, January 2015), which is illustrated with some of Andrews’ paintings. Today, I’m following up with a bit of art from each book.

Enjoy.


 

From Seeds of Freedom:


 


“A girl carries paper pictures of her feet because she won’t be allowed to try on shoes. A boy wants to read but cannot use the public library. And a family tries to eat in a restaurant, but the owner locks the door in their faces. …”
(Click to enlarge and see full text)


 



 

From Draw What You See:


 


“Benny was inspired by the people around him, and people were what he wanted to draw. He especially liked making paintings of the jazz musicians
in the city’s many clubs and cafés. …”
(Click to enlarge)


 


“After art school, Benny moved to New York City and became a working artist.
He had so many stories to tell. …”
(Click to enlarg)


 


* * * * * * *

DRAW WHAT YOU SEE: THE LIFE AND ART OF BENNY ANDREWS. Text copyright © 2015 by Kathleen Benson. Art copyright © The Estate of Benny Andrews/Licensed by VAGA, New York, New York. Illustrations reproduced by permission of the publisher, Clarion Books, Boston.

SEEDS OF FREEDOM. Text copyright © 2015 by Hester Bass. Illustrations copyright © 2015 by E. B. Lewis. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.

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21. The Case for Loving (2015)

The Case for Loving: The Fight for Interracial Marriage. Selina Alko. Illustrated by Sean Qualls. 2015. [January 2015] Scholastic. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: First comes love. Then comes marriage. Donald, Peggy, and Sidney had two parents who loved them, and who loved each other. In fact, from almost the moment Richard Loving met Mildred Jeter they wanted to get married and have a family. But for them, it wasn't that simple, and here's why: Richard was white: a fair-skinned boy who got quickly sunburned in July. Mildred was what they called "colored" in those days: her skin a creamy caramel. In 1958, they lived in the small town of Central Point, Virginia, where people every shade from the color of chamomile tea to summer midnight made their homes.

A nonfiction picture book about the legal case Loving vs. Virginia which went to the Supreme Court. The book tells the story of how interracial marriage used to be illegal in Virginia and other states. (I'm not sure if the 16 states included Virginia or if there were 16 states in addition to Virginia where interracial marriage was illegal.) Richard Loving wanted to marry the love of his life, Mildred, but was unable to do so in their hometown, in their state. So the couple married in Washington D.C. Unfortunately, as they discovered, the two could not live together as husband and wife in Virginia. They had no choice but to move. Almost a decade later, the two decided something needed to be done, that they needed to be a part of the fight, the change. Interracial marriage should NOT be illegal. The book follows the family's journey during this troubling time.

It is a compelling read. It was informative but still at its heart a story not a lesson. This one will be for older readers (as opposed to other picture books with the usual preschool audience). Definitely recommended.

Text: 4 out of 5
Illustrations: 4 out of 5
Total: 8 out of 10

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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22. Seuss on Saturday #4

Horton Hatches An Egg. Dr. Seuss. 1940/1968. Random House. 64 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence:
Sighed Mayzie, a lazy bird hatching an egg:
"I'm tired and I'm bored
And I've kinks in my leg
From sitting, just sitting here day after day.
It's work! How I hate it!
I'd much rather play!
I'd take a vacation, fly off for a rest
If I could find someone to stay on my nest!
If I could find someone, I'd fly away--free..."
Plot/Premise: Mayzie does not want to hatch her own egg. So Horton, the elephant, steps in and does the job for her. It isn't that he loves the work either. But..."an elephant's faithful one-hundred percent!" He said that he'd take care of the egg, and he will. Because he always means what he says and says what he means. He's faithful through and through. What will happen when the egg hatches? Will Horton's steadfastness be rewarded?

My thoughts: I love this one. I do. I have loved this one since childhood. I'm not sure I could choose which Horton book I like best: Horton Hatches an Egg or Horton Hears a Who. Both illustrate great lessons. I don't mind the lessons so much in either one of these!

His previous book, The King's Stilts, was about balancing work and play. And again, we see those themes at work in Horton Hatches An Egg. Mayzie is an incredibly selfish and lazy bird. She tricks the good-hearted Horton into sitting on her nest and hatching her egg. She lies to him as well, promising that she'll only be gone for a short amount of time, she has every intention of coming back soon. Horton is a great contrast. He endures much, suffers much. But he's calm and steadfast. He's diligent and faithful--disciplined.

I love the surprise ending. Do you?

Have you read Horton Hatches An Egg? Did you like it? love it? hate it? Do you prefer it to Horton Hears A Who? Or do you--like me--love both books almost equally? I'd love to hear your thoughts!

If you'd like to join me in reading or rereading Dr. Seuss' picture books (chronologically) I'd love to have you join me! The next book I'll be reviewing is McElligot's Pool. 


© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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23. 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #416: Featuring Peter Carnavas



 

Today’s picture book is an import. Peter Carnavas’ Jessica’s Box was initially published in Australia back in 2008, but Kane Miller will bring it to U.S. shelves in March.

When we first meet Jessica, her mind is racing. It’s “too busy for sleep. Her thoughts were already with tomorrow.” And that’s because tomorrow will be her first day of school, and she’s eager to make new friends. When she shows up, she brings with her a big cardboard box. By lunchtime, though her box is neglected at first, curious children gather ’round, and Jessica reaches into her box to pull out a stuffed toy bear. The reaction Jessica wants isn’t exactly the one she’s met with: Some students laugh at her, and others ignore her. The next day, Jessica brings cupcakes. Needless to say, the treats are met with enthusiasm, but they’re consumed and forgotten. “Not even a thank you?” Jessica wonders.

Jessica keeps trying, yet she reaches the point of mild despair: “She just wanted to disappear.” So, she puts the box on her head one day. And a boy approaches and befriends her; he thinks she’s playing hide-and-seek. Later at home, when she tells her family she’s finally made a friend, her Grandpa says, “You must have had something very special in your box today.” Jessica smiles and responds, “I did.” (I read this at a bookstore story time yesterday—the story really seemed to get everyone’s attention—and found myself asking the children, “what was in her box?” “Her head,” one child said, which made me laugh.)

I love this sweet, but never saccharine, tale. Jessica’s family at home is warm and loving, yet they never coddle or overprotect her, letting her come to realizations about friendship on her own. In one particularly lovely spread, it was “Dad’s turn to talk to Jessica that night,” and the next illustration shows them outside together (Jessica on his shoulders), just looking into the sky: “They didn’t say very much.” Sometimes silence is best.

And, as you can see from the illustrations (which are somewhat reminiscent to me of the artwork of Ole Könnecke), rendered with a sunny, warm palette, Jessica is in a wheelchair. Yet the story isn’t some huge “issue” story about her having to overcome her disability or some such. Her lack of friends has nothing to do, in fact, with that, and never once does her wheelchair come up in conversation. I suppose one could argue that is why she’s nervous about school, but many children do, indeed, get apprehensive about the first day, wheelchair or not.

This one’s a gentle story, quiet and wise. It’s a keeper.



JESSICA’S BOX. First American Edition 2015. Text and illustrations © 2008 Peter Carnavas. Published by Kane Miller, Tulsa, OK. Illustration reproduced by permission of the publisher.

Note for any new readers: 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks is a weekly meeting ground for taking some time to reflect on Seven(ish) Exceptionally Fabulous, Beautiful, Interesting, Hilarious, or Otherwise Positive Noteworthy Things from the past week, whether book-related or not, that happened to you. New kickers are always welcome.

* * * Jules’ Kicks * * *

1) I forced this song I heard this week on all my music-lovin’ friends, because I immediately fell in love with it (and only listened to it about seven HUNDRED times).

2) New music from Laura Marling:

3) I don’t normally re-watch TV shows, but we re-watched season two of House of Cards, because season three will be here soon. And it’s so good. And on my second watch, I saw all new things to appreciate about the direction of and writing and acting in this show.

4) This panel discussion this past week went well, and it was wonderful to talk about this topic with Sharon Draper.

5) Thoughtful gifts from thoughtful friends.

6) A story time yesterday with very responsive children and their parents — and some great, brand-new picture books, including Jessica’s Box, which everyone seemed to really like.

7) The ALA Youth Media Awards will be announced a week from tomorrow!

What are YOUR kicks this week?

10 Comments on 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #416: Featuring Peter Carnavas, last added: 1/26/2015
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24. Some New-ish Picture Books I Love Including A New Dr. Seuss: Horton and the Kwuggerbug and More Lost Stories; The Worst Princess; Drop It, Rocket!; and Mr. Wuffles!

Horton and the Kwuggerbug and more Lost Stories
Written and Illustrated by Dr. Seuss aka Ted Geisel
Published by: Random House Books For Young Readers
Published: Sept 9, 2014
ISBN-13: 978-0385382984
Ages: 4-8 (and up)
Source: Book obtained from publisher in exchange for an honest review.
My rating: 5/5

It’s incredible to me that we can read new Dr. Seuss stories after Ted Geisel died, but these Dr. Seus stories were “lost.” They’re treasure I’m glad was rediscovered: A new Horton the Elephant story, a fanciful story about Marco (from And To Think I Saw It On Mulberry Street) who arrives to school late and tells the tale about why; a police officer who saves the town; and a short grinch story featuring a different grinch than the one who stole Christmas. These stories have the same wonderful rollicking, almost perfect rhythm that Dr. Seuss is known for; twists and plot surprises that keep the reader interest; conflict that keeps us riveted; characters we care about, empathize with, and root for; and humor. I loved the satisfying ending, especially, in Horton and the Kwuggerbug where a mean-spirited character gets his just desserts; this was my favorite story in the book. I also love that the stories include fanciful made-up words and great imagination that fit his stories perfectly.

Dr. Seuss’ beautiful, strange, evocative, and trademark illustrations fit the stories perfectly, with crazy cliffs and strange-looking trees, emotionally expressive characters, and bright colors. They’re Dr. Seuss’ strong illustrative style that generations of readers have loved and been entranced with, and generations will continue to love.

The stories all have a strong emotional appeal, with conflict and psychological tension. These are pure Dr. Seuss, and they’re a delight. When I finished reading, I had Dr. Seuss’ rhythms and some of the rhymes running through my head–which shows how catchy they are; I think is a sign of greatness. I loved these “new” stories, and I think children and Dr Seuss fans will love them, too.

My only criticism is that Horton and the Kwuggerbug probably should have been published on its own; the other stories aren’t as polished or as captivating. For instance, How Officer Pat Saved the Whole Town is all about what might happen, not what is happening, so it’s not as dramatic or intense or fun, though it’s still enjoyable.

Also included is a long, detailed introduction by Charles D Cohen–an expert on Dr Seuss stories. It provides some fascinating detail for readers who love Dr. Seuss.

Highly recommended.


The Worst Princess
Written by Anna Kemp
Illustrated by Sara Ogilvie
Published by Random House Children’s Books
Ages: 3-7 (and up)
Source: Obtained from the publisher for an honest review.
My rating: 5/5

This is a refreshing tale about a princess who thinks she needs to be saved from her tower–until she realizes that getting “saved” just locks her up in a different tower. The princess makes friends with a dragon, and together they travel the world. In the end, the princess saves herself.

I love books that show girls being strong, not ruled by sexism, who are able to save themselves–especially when the books are written well, without being preachy or didactic. This book is a delight on all levels–the content, the way the story is written, and the illustrations.

Kemp’s rhyming text flows smoothly; there is rarely a rhyme that feels even slightly forced. The story is lively and entertaining, and the dialogue helps it move quickly. Humor permeates the story, from the names the princess and prince call each other (twit, turtledove), to the insults given (the prince telling her to twirl her pretty curls), to the dragon setting the prince’s shorts on fire. I love the princess making tea for the dragon, and the way they become friends who defend each other and travel the world together. Princess Sue is a strong role model that breaks out of the sexism she was trapped in.

Ogilvie’s illustrations are vivid and alive, quirky and expressive, and a delight to pore through, with a lot of detail to enjoy. The characters and the objects they interacting with have strong outlines which bring them into the forefront and focus, while backgrounds are more muted and blurry. I love the bold, bright colors. Princess Sue’s bright orange hair is echoed in the dragon’s bright orange-red scales, which visually and emotionally tie the two together even more. And the prince does look like the pompous twit he acts like, with his thin curly mustache, foppish hair, long narrow nose, and stuck up expression.

This is an important–and fun!–book for both girls and boys. None of us need be constrained by the gender rules for behavior that society sets for us. Girls can think for themselves, protect themselves and others, travel the world, and be outspoken. Boys can stay at home, cook, take care of children, or follow their dreams, whatever they might be. Though the book doesn’t show boys escaping their forced gender roles, it will make children (and adults) think, and it challenges sexism in a humorous way. We need more books like this.

If you love strong-girl characters, you have *got* to get yourself–or the kids in your life–a copy of this book! I think it’ll become a classic, like Princess Smartypants
and The Paper Bag Princess. This, for me, became an instant favorite.
.

Highly recommended! If I could give it a higher rating, I would. This is a keeper, and one to give away as gifts, too.


Drop It, Rocket! (Step Into Reading, Step 1)
Written and illustrated by: Tad Hills
Published By: Random House Books for Young Readers
Published: July 8, 2014
ISBN-13: 978-0385372541
Ages: 6-9
Source: Obtained from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. (As you may be able to tell, I only review books I love.)
My rating: 5/5

Rocket loves to find new words. He brings the little yellow bird many objects so they can make words from them. But when he finds a red boot he refuses to put it back down or trade it for anything–except for a book which the friends then pore over.

Hill’s sentences and words are short and easy for young readers to read, so that should bring a feeling of success, and yet they keep reader interest by telling a great story. The story moves quickly with a lot of dialogue, and there’s some great humor (with a set up of Rocket dropping every object he’s asked to, until he gets to the boot) and conflict. I love the focus on words and reading. It’s very feel-good and fills me with delight.

Hill’s illustrations are sweet, light hearted, and expressive, with great emotion, facial expressions, and body language. The illustrations perfectly compliment and enhance the text. I love how they work together so that the illustrations show things that the text doesn’t, such as how all the objects Rocket brought back are printed out as words. The great amount of white space around each illustration helps to add to the light, airy feeling of the illustrations.

If you love books about books or words, you’ll want to pick this one up! Highly recommended.


Mr. Wuffles!
Written and illustrated by: David Wiesner
Published by: Clarion Books
Published: October 1, 2013
ISBN-13: 978-0618756612
Ages: 4-8
Source: I purchased the book myself.
My rating: 5/5

I love David Wiesner’s books; he’s created some of my very favorites, especially Tuesday and Flotsam–so I look forward to each new release, and Mr. Wuffles! didn’t disappoint. Mr. Wuffles! is a Caldecott Medal Honor Winning title, and it deserves to be.

Mr. Wuffles doesn’t play with any of the toys his human buys for him. But when a tiny alien spaceship–the size and almost the look of a golf ball with protrusions–lands in Mr. Wuffles’ house, Mr. Wuffles goes crazy playing with it. The tiny aliens inside get headaches and feel sick from being tossed around, so when they think Mr. Wuffles is asleep they sneak out. Mr. Wuffles is about to attack them when a ladybug distracts him, and the aliens flee to safety–into the walls of the house, where they are greeted by ants and ladybugs who’ve all been chased by the cat (as evidenced by the paintings on the wall). The aliens and the bugs–who look similar in shape–become allies and friends, sharing food and ideas, and coming up with a plan for escape, while Mr. Wuffles watches them under the radiator. The aliens and bugs distract the cat until they get their spaceship working and fly away, out the window, while the triumphant bugs don some of the alien attire and add to their paintings on the inner walls of the house.

There are only a few short lines of text in the story; most of the story is told through the illustrations. But the sparse text works to emphasize certain details in the book, and bring the story full circle. In the first two panels, Mr. Wuffles’ human says “Look, Mr. Wuffles, a new toy!” and when the cat walks away, says “Oh, Mr. Wuffles,” which makes the reader notice all the toys Mr. Wuffles never plays with. Three quarters of the way through the book, we see Mr. Wuffles’ human asking him what is so interesting–while he stares determinedly under the radiator, where the aliens and bugs are–to Mr. Wuffles, they seem like living or animated toys. And then in some of the last panels, Mr. Wuffles’ human brings hima new toy–a rocket–while saying “Hey, Mr. Wuffles–blast off!” and then when Mr. Wuffles walks away, saying “Oh, Mr. Wuffles.” So we see again Mr. Wuffles snubbing toys for living creatures–bugs and aliens. And there’s also some humor with the rocket symbolizing outer space and exploration of the universe and other intelligent life–while real aliens have already visited Mr. Wuffles’ home. The text works well, emphasizing key story points.

The illustrations are what make the book. SO much is told through the beautiful, colorful illustrations–through body language, through action. The story is well paced and also holds a lot of humor, with a funny explanation for why some pets may prefer chasing after bugs and living creatures than playing with their toys, and humor that animals, insects, and aliens may be more intelligent than us or notice things that we don’t.

The illustrations are painted in various sizes of panels, almost like a comic book, some taking up a full spread, some half a page, some a quarter or a fifth or less, the action moving beautifully from one panel to the next. The viewpoint also changes, moving us from seeing Mr. Wuffles and what he’s doing, to seeing the aliens and bugs and what they’re doing. The bright, rich colors, realism, and strong storytelling bring the story alive. There is so much to see on every page–details readers will love to find–and fantastic expression and body language.

Anyone who’s owned a cat will also recognize the body language and behaviors of a cat–chasing after a fly, leaping up in surprise, swatting at moving objects, getting overwhelmed at too much stimuli, a swishing tail when wanting to pounce or annoyed at something–and refusing to play with some expensive toys while loving chasing after anything from nature.

This is a funny, light-hearted fantasy romp, especially for children with imagination and cat lovers. There’s also a bit of a fun surprise for readers who buy the hardcover; take off the paper jacket, and instead of the cover you see outer space. :) Highly recommended.

If you can, I hope you buy pick these books up at your local bookstore or library. They are well worth it, and will bring many enjoyable reads. I know I’ll be buying copies for gifts–they’re that good.

0 Comments on Some New-ish Picture Books I Love Including A New Dr. Seuss: Horton and the Kwuggerbug and More Lost Stories; The Worst Princess; Drop It, Rocket!; and Mr. Wuffles! as of 1/25/2015 4:05:00 PM
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25. A Visit with Don Tate …



 

Author-illustrator Don Tate, who visited 7-Imp for breakfast back in 2011, is back today to talk about his upcoming picture books. As it turns out, I had an opportunity to do one of those so-called cover reveals for his book Poet: The Remarkable Story of George Moses Horton of Chapel Hill, which will be on shelves from Peachtree in the Fall. (Yes, FALL! I know. Seems so far away.) And then it turned into an opportunity to ask him about the book (I read an early PDF version) and to show some spreads from it, and I’m all for that. Even better. To boot, Don is even sharing some images from another forthcoming book, written by Chris Barton, called The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch (Eerdmans), which I believe will be on shelves in April. So you’ll see that below too.

Poet is the story of George Moses Horton, the first African American poet to be published in the South. Horton’s story is a remarkable one, and Don talks a bit below about why. Let’s get right to it, especially so that we can see more of his art.

I thank him for visiting.

Jules: Can you talk a bit about your research for this one?

Don: I had so much fun researching Poet: The Remarkable Story of George Moses Horton. It was like putting together a puzzle. The first piece of the puzzle began with a simple “budget line,” as they say in the newspaper business: George Moses Horton was an enslaved poet in North Carolina, who became the first African American to be published in the South. Many poems protested slavery. In order to complete the puzzle, I did a lot of research.


“George loved words. …”
(Click to enlarge)

I began by reading Horton’s own autobiography. It’s a very short but detailed account of his life that was published as a prefix in his second book, The Poetical Works of George M. Horton. The book was published in 1845. The archaic language was tough to understand.

Here’s a sample (which is in the public domain):

…Nevertheless did I persevere with an indefatigable resolution, at the risk of success. But ah! the oppositions with which I contended are too tedious to relate, but not too formidable to surmount; and I verily believe that those obstacles had an auspicious tendency to waft me, as on pacific gales, above the storms of envy and the calumniating scourge of emulation, from which literary imagination often sinks beneath its dignity, and instruction languishes at the shrine of vanity. I reached the threatening heights of literature, and braved in a manner the clouds of disgust which reared in thunders under my feet. …

Okay.


“Then George found an old spelling book. It was tattered and some pages were missing, but it was enough to get him started. …”
(Click to enlarge)


“… George was now a full-time writer, but he was still not a free man.”
(Click to enlarge)

So first I had some deciphering to do. One of my best resources came from a researcher at the University of North Carolina’s Wilson’s Special Collections Library. I can’t emphasize how much researchers there helped me to tell this story. I’d ask a question, and they’d return an abundance of information and sources — about Horton’s life; the clothes people wore; images of the old campus; literacy in slave communities. I had way more information than needed, but it gave me the confidence to tell an accurate story. I also consulted with the Chapel Hill Historical Society and the North Carolina Museum of History, and I studied the poetry from his three books: The Poetical Works, The Hope of Liberty, and Naked Genius.


(Click to enlarge)


“Now it was too dangerous for George to write poems that protested slavery.
But he didn’t stop writing altogether. …”

(Click to enlarge)

Jules: Did you learn anything that surprised you?

Don: Yes. As mentioned in my Author’s Note, George Horton’s life and the things he accomplished as an enslaved man totally surprised me. Horton was likely the best paid poet of his Southern contemporaries, black or white. He made enough money from his poetry to pay his master for his time, which allowed him to live at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill as a full-time writer. He published two books while enslaved and delivered two commencement speeches to graduates. All of this happened a time when African-American literacy was discouraged, devalued, even outlawed. George’s life was full of surprises.


Don: “This was a sample image used to sell the dummy. I sketched the entire book roughly — but painted this one piece. In the end, I decided to go with a less polished-looking style. I felt the loose watercolor and line worked better.”
(Click to enlarge)

There was another thing that surprised me. Slavery was a peculiar institution, to say the least. But I was surprised to learn that many slave owners in North Carolina viewed their slaves as family members. Is that strange or what? Slaves were considered the property of their masters. They performed day-long, back-breaking work for no pay. Their diet was typically poor and their clothing inadequate. They could be whipped or even killed by their masters for any reason and with no recourse. Some way to treat a family member, huh?


Don: “Originally to be our title page image. But I realized much later that this image would not have been accurate. While George did work alongside his mother, singing songs in a tobacco field, he would have been a toddler. I scrapped this image.”
(Click to enlarge)


Don: “This was another title page sketch. Again, the tobacco field was not accurate.”
(Click to enlarge)

Jules: I like in your closing Author’s Note that you talk about why you wanted to do this book — that you once were adamant about focusing on “contemporary stories relevant to young readers today,” especially given that “whenever the topic of black history came up, it was always in relation to slavery, about how black people were once the property of white people ….” Yet you were moved to tell this story anyway. Can you talk a bit here about why?

Don: As a young child, I was often embarrassed when the topic of slavery came up at school. There were many reasons for that, but mainly it seemed that when it came to the history of African Americans, slavery was the only thing ever mentioned. White kids sometimes made jokes about slavery. Black kids insulted each other by saying mean things like: “You look like Kunta Kente,” who was a character from the movie Roots. If someone got called Kunta, a fight was on! That’s sad when you consider what Kunta Kente went through in his lifetime. He was actually a hero.


Don: “This was the original opening illustration for the book. However, I questioned the race of the church congregation. Would George have worshipped with an all-black congregation? Or would he have worshiped together with the whites, but separate? Both scenarios could have been possible; we just don’t know. One of my sources, a curator at the Historic Hope Plantation in North Carolina. advised going with the all-black congregation. North Carolina had one of the largest free black populations in the colonies. It was more likely that he was inspired at church services
while hearing a free black preacher read the Bible.”

(Click to enlarge)

Because of those negative childhood memories, when I first got into the publishing industry, I promised myself that I would not illustrate stories about slavery, that I’d focus on telling other stories of my people. So what changed all of that? It was a journey.

I’m a dad and husband. I’m a provider. First and foremost, it’s my job to earn a living for my family. If I was going to become a published author, I figured that writing stories about apples didn’t make sense if oranges were in higher demand. Know what I mean? So for my first book, I wrote a story about a former slave who became a famed folk artist. I could have written a story about a contemporary African American child who . . . I don’t know, enjoys skateboarding and playing basketball. Which one do you think would have sold quicker?


Don: “This was one of my favorite images from my original book dummy. It portrays a couple reading one of George Horton’s love poems. We decided to nix this one,
opting to show George reciting a poem while a student wrote it out.”

(Click to enlarge)

But here’s the thing: When I wrote that first book, It Jes’ Happened [art here at 7-Imp], and I studied the narratives of other enslaved African American people, I fell in love with their stories of resilience. Slavery, civil rights, “issue” books? Why not? My people have overcome mountainous obstacles. These are stories that everyone can appreciate and relate to — not only African American children. Inspired, I decided that I wanted to focus my career on telling these important stories.

Hope’s Gift (Penguin, 2012), written by Kelly Starling Lyons, was another in that journey for me. It’s the fictionalized story of an enslaved family. The book celebrates the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation.

Next up is a story that I illustrated, written by Chris Barton. It is called The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch (Eerdmans). It tells the story of a young man who in ten years went from teenage field hand to United States Congressman. The story is set during slavery and ends during Reconstruction, the era following the Civil War.

This book also presented many challenges. Reconstruction, which promised bright opportunities, was often a dangerous and deadly time for African Americans, who were basically reenslaved under new laws. Chris Barton dealt with the challenging subject matter honestly, and so did I. Some of the images in the book, like a KKK church-burning and others will generate a lot of discussion. Here are a few images from The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch.


(Click to enlarge)


“… Fellow former slaves reveled in the promises of freedom –
family, faith, free labor, land, education.
John Roy wanted to be part of that.”

(Click to enlarge)


(Click to enlarge)


“… Back home, white terrorists burned black schools and black churches.
They armed themselves on Election Day to keep blacks away.
They even committed murder.”

(Click to enlarge)

Jules: What’s next for you?

Don: A lot! Currently I’m illustrating a second book for Chris Barton called Whoosh! Lonnie Johnson’s Super Stream of Ideas (Charlesbridge, 2016). It’s the story of the creator of the Super Soaker squirt gun. I’m also creating thumbnail sketches for a book written by Michael Mahin called . . . get ready for it: Stalebread Charlie and the Razzy Dazzy Spasm Band (Penguin, TBD). Whew! I thought I’d never be able to remember that name. But guess what? I can’t forget it! Next up is another book that I wrote that I’m not ready to talk about. It will be published by Charlesbridge and is out to my editor. I expect revision notes soon. I’m very excited about that project.

* * * * * * *

All images here are used by permission of Don Tate, and the illustrations from Poet are used by permission of Peachtree.

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