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1. What I’m Doing at Kirkus This Week,Plus What I Did Last Week,Featuring Eva Erikkson and Sydney Smith


– From JonArno Lawson’s Sidewalk Flowers,
illustrated by Sydney Smith


“Dad lifted me up so I’d be closer to the stars that were far, far away. ‘Some of them don’t even exist,’ he said. ‘They’ve gone out already.’ ‘But we can still see them,’ I said. ‘Yes, we can see their light,’ said Dad. ‘It may take several hundred years to arrive here.’ I looked at the stars that weren’t there. And Dad went on telling me their names and carrying me. ‘The Swan,’ he said. ‘The Harp. Big Dog.'”
– From Ulf Stark’s
When Dad Showed Me the Universe,
illustrated by Eva Erikkson

(Click to enlarge spread)


 

This morning over at Kirkus, I write about Michael Morpurgo’s Half a Man, illustrated by Gemma O’Callaghan, and J. Patrick Lewis’s The Wren and the Sparrow, illustrated by Yevgenia Nayberg. That link will be here soon.

* * *

Today I’ve got some art from JonArno Lawson’s Sidewalk Flowers, illustrated by Sydney Smith (Groundwood, March 2015), as well as Ulf Stark’s When Dad Showed Me the Universe, illustrated by the great Eva Eriksson (originally released in Sweden in 1998 but coming to American shelves later this year). I wrote about both books here at Kirkus last week and want to share some art today.

Don’t miss Philip Nel’s post on Sidewalk Flowers, and here Roger Sutton talks to Lawson.

Enjoy.


 

Art from Sidewalk Flowers:


 



(Click either image to see spread in its entirety)


 



(Click either image to see spread in its entirety)


 



(Click either image to see spread in its entirety)


 


(Click to see cover in more detail)


 

Art from
When Dad Showed Me the Universe:


 







 

* * * * * * *

SIDEWALK FLOWERS. Copyright © 2015 by JonArno Lawson. Illustrations copyright © 2015 by Sydney Smith. Published by Groundwood Books, Toronto. Illustrations here reproduced by permission of the publisher.

WHEN DAD SHOWED ME THE UNIVERSE. English language edition © Gecko Press Ltd 2015. Illustrations here reproduced by permission of the publisher.

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2. A Penguin Named Patience, A Hurricane Katrina Rescue Story – PPBF

Title: A Penguin Named Patience, A Hurricane Katrina Rescue Story Written by: Suzanne Lewis Illustrated by: Lisa Anchin Published by: Sleeping Bear Press, 2015 Themes/Topics: Hurricane Katrina, penguins, rescuing, patience Suitable for ages: 3-7 Opening: Patience knew something was terribly wrong. It was dark and steamy … Continue reading

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3. Selfie Sweepstakes Reviews: Drawbridges Open and Close

DrawbridgesDrawbridges Open and Close; by Patrick T. McBriarty; illus. by Johanna H. Kim. Curly Press, 2014. 40pp. ISBN 978-1-941216-02-6. $15.95

Gr. K-3. I was glad I had read this book prior to my recent visit to Ft. Lauderdale, where everybody gets around by car, negotiating a host of drawbridges back and forth across the Intracoastal Waterway. Although the book opens (heh) confusingly with “Next to the drawbridge is a bridge house,” it then settles into a clear and nicely-patterned account of the six steps taken (by the Scarryesque Bridge Tender Todd, a fox) to open the bridge for passing boats and then the six to close it so that street traffic may resume. Coloring is vibrant without being over-lavish; the drawing of the all-animal cast is a little awkward but that of the bridge and boats and vehicles is neatly-lined, and the cutaway diagrams that show how the bridge works are excellently informative. One terrific spread shows the open bridge, the passing boats and the impatient cars from an amazing bird’s-eye-view. Perhaps the focus is a bit narrow, and it’s not said how generalizable the information is (do all drawbridges work this way?) but children with an eye for the way things work will be happy with this picture book. R.S.

 

[This review may be distributed freely and excerpted fairly; credit to “Read Roger, The Horn Book Inc., www.hbook.com.]

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4. Shay & Ivy: More Than Just a Princess Picture Book: Kickstarter

Sheena McFeely hopes to raise $8,000 on Kickstarter to create a book called Shay & Ivy: More Than Just a Princess. She is working with freelance illustrator Casie Trace and branding expert Manny Johnson on this children’s book.

The funds will be used to cover the costs of producing the book and developing an app version. The app edition will feature interactive videos done in both American Sign Language and English. We’ve embedded a video about the project above.

Here’s more from the Kickstarter page: “At the end of day if a child wants to be a princess. that’s alright. If a child wants to be more than just a princess, that’s great too. As long you follow your heart, do not give in to society’s pressures in being someone else, and be truly the happiest of all. That’s the goal of this book – to spark girls and even boys’ imaginations to go beyond a kingdom or an aisle to define themselves.”

Welcome to our Kickstarter Publishing Project of the Week, a feature exploring how authors and publishers are using the fundraising site to raise money for book projects. If you want to start your own project, check out How To Use Kickstarter to Fund Your Publishing Project.

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5. Rosie Revere, Engineer to Be Read in Space

Layout 1The Story Time from Space team (STFS) has selected Rosie Revere, Engineer for its next reading project.

This picture book was written by Andrea Beaty and illustrated by David Roberts. Abrams Books for Young Readers released it back in September 2013.

School Library Journal reports that it was chosen because the author gifted a copy to an astronaut named Alvin Drew. He then shared the book with educator Patricia Tribe. STFS will make a video with a recitation of this story available on its website in the fall of 2015.

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6. Seeds of Inspiration: Books for Children and Young Adults about Wangari Maathai

'Seeds of Inspiration: Books for Children and Young Adults about Wangari Maathai' - Mirrors Windows Doors article

Wangari Maathai - photo credit: Martin RoweWhat better way to introduce MWD’s new theme, ‘Branching Across the … Continue reading ...

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7. Kisses to all the small Ellas out there!

Ella

By Mallory Kasdan; illustrated by Marcos Chin

 

“Ella” is a picture book urban parody of the 1955 iconic Plaza Hotel living, precocious but precious, lots of time on her hands and well-to-do child of means called ELOISE!

Eloise lives with HER Nanny, a dog called Weenie, that looks like a cat, and the turtle, Skipperdee who consumes raisins on the “room on the tippy-top floor” of the hotel. Ella, too, lives in the Penthouse or the “PH” as she dubs it.

Eloise is famous or infamous, as you please, and has enchanted readers both old and young. HER creator, Kay Thompson, star of “Funny Face” and cabaret acts galore, brought her to life with several subsequent books and assorted TV productions. 

Both Eloise and Ella’s days are filled with finding devious and devilish ways to prevent boredom. Remember the famous quote from Dorothy Parker? “The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity.”

Both Eloise and the hip, happening Ella stave off the Big B with abandon – and a great deal of curiosity.They are both six. Eloise lives at The Plaza, while Ella resides at “The Local Hotel” that looks like it could be situated near the High Line in NYC.

Eloise has a female live-in called Nanny, while Ella has a male nanny, named Manny who is ultra cool. He has tattoos for sleeves, makes films, plays guitar AND pickles veggies!

Marcos Chin’s art has a colorfully urban edge that is the exact opposite of the black and white drawings of Hillary Knight that brought Eloise to lavish life in her elegant Plaza abode. The only red in those books was the bow in Eloise’s hair. I like elegant!

Ella has a poofy, blue barrette held hairdo unlike the pin straight locks of Eloise. And here, there are no black, pleated skirts with white blouse and accompanying Mary Janes for Ella.

Nope. Her wardrobe consists of a sky blue skirt with accompanying sleeveless blouse, cinched black belt and tights. High top sneakers are her shoe of choice. Her dog, a moxie, travels in a red polka dotted bag slung over her shoulder. She’s ready to go and go she does. After all, her entire back and front yard is the cultural richness of New York!

Ella also has a pooch named Stacie, and instead of Eloise’s turtle called Skipperdee, she has a fish called Rasta. Cool!

Weaving her way through the ethnically diverse parade of patrons and employees of her hotel home, Ella is as comfy in urban chic as Eloise is at the elegance of the Plaza.

Bell Captains Levi and Louis at Ella’s hotel are red bearded, white shirted with bow and hand over hand style ties. Very cool! And the courtly Maverick, the African-American Bouncer from the roof top bar, greets Ella with a kindly, “What’s up girl how you feel?”

Ella has a LOT of time on her hands to be filled. Never a waster of that precious commodity, she uses the land line at the Front Desk to do helpful wake up calls to sleeping patrons. Hmmm.

This child is more than a bit bored as she pranks her way through the day. A Metro card figures largely in one. Nice current cultural touch here.

Ella spends large portions of some days texting, meditating, doing Zumba and performing mani/pedis for her dog. This girl has a ton of time on her hands! She also loves to hide the “Privacy Please” signs from other residents’ door knobs! Cute.

She checks stairs ways for paparazzi and has even attended a famous woman politico’s fundraiser – I’m sure for a hefty contribution.

Okay. Picture books ARE the portal into other worlds that young readers may never have the chance to experience themselves. I love that. And, aside from the parody of Eloise, that is what “Ella” shows us: what an upper class, maybe 1% of urban children like Ella or Eloise experience.

But, may I be honest here? There is something so wistfully sad about both Eloise AND Ella. Where are the parents? This is definitely parenting by proxy, to say the least.

Then again, maybe it does give kids a window into a much wider variety of diverse population than the suburban child might encounter, and it does give them pause to appreciate the perhaps “helicoptering” parents they DO have.

But I can’t help feeling both kids are lonely. Ella may be longing for something much more fulfilling than attending Fashion Week, attending 62 events, eating edamame, and living a life literally littered with pranks and poking around the fringes of adult lives. This is a child very much left to her own devices for amusement.

Question. Where are the other kids her own age? No time for “playdates” as Ella is on the fast track to the Ivys via her hotel-schooling home tutor from “Hah vard” named Judith. Her education, at least formally, comes to her in the creative memoir journals Ella pens in gold-silver glitter. Ella is a mini Auntie Mame in the making!  

For me, and maybe unwittingly for Ella, she reveals herself more than a little, in the most honest and open passage of this entire picture book:

 

I use my binoculars to look in the windows of other buildings.

 

Sometimes I see a dad get a kid a glass of water and a kid read a book with a flashlight before a mom comes in and the light goes off and all is still.

 

Ella seems to be looking over the shoulder of a particular world that she has very little knowledge of – but one with which she might just like to have a much closer experience. Out there, in that building across the way, is a partially emotional unknown landscape – for her.

Her mom, referred to as a person in the “Entertainment Industry”, knows Bono and Ella gets to speak with her mom in video chats! These tete a tetes occur between mom’s scene changes and at night, before Ella goes sleepy bye! Hard to tell if this is a seldom thing or a way of life. 

Young readers will probably feel that Ella’s life is way cool as she scoots through her days, literally, with Manny, the minder. They do  “a lot of ordering in and taking out.” And Ella’s doxie dog walker, Topher, would probably be a great helper to most young kid’s hearing mom shout, “Did you remember to walk Bentley?” But then, again, how DO you teach kids some personal responsibility?

BUT, I do think dropping that big watermelon off the roof of The Local Hotel might possibly kill someone, sweetie! Manny, where are you?    

Deep down, perhaps, all young Ella unconsciously wishes for, and wants, is to be tucked in at night by mom or dad, with that last minute drink of water.

Tell you what, Ella. C’mon out to our farm for a new and refreshing experience of life with picking grapes, veggies and riding tractors. It’s not cool or cray, but I think you just might find it comforting.

And, I promise to tuck you in at night, give you a glass of water – and read lots of books to you too, of course! 

Kisses to all the small Ellas out there!

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8. My Favorite Carle

Though I certainly have always respected Eric Carle's accomplishments (great museum, for instance), I can't say I was ever particularly taken with his work. The whole caterpillar business kind of escapes me.

However, this weekend someone asked me to read him Carle's Dream Snow. And now I know why Eric Carle is Eric Carle.

What a fantastic combination of story and image. Little bits of animals can be seen through barn windows. Later, the whole entire body can be found behind an overlay of snow. And then the Santa-type figure decorates a tree that lights up. (Or maybe there was music. I was kind of excited over this, and now I can't remember.) I think this book makes the best use of what some might consider gimmicks, the overlays and the music or lights, that I've ever seen.

Someone in our family was totally drawn into this book. I had told him I was looking for a cow book in his room. He asked for Dream Snow, pointed out the cow in the barn, and when we lifted the snow overlays, announced, "There's the cow" and then "There's the-----" whatever the next animals were. Yes, he is amazing. But this book should make it easy for all kids to be amazing.

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9. Review of Won Ton and Chopstick

wardlaw_won ton and chopstickWon Ton and Chopstick:
A Cat and Dog Tale Told in Haiku

by Lee Wardlaw; illus. by Eugene Yelchin
Primary   Holt   40 pp.
3/15   978-0-8050-9987-4   $17.99   g

In this sequel to Won Ton: A Cat Tale Told in Haiku (rev. 3/11), the cautious kitty has another reason to be worried: an adorable new puppy. Won Ton is not happy when he catches his first glimpse: “Ears perk. Fur prickles. / Belly low, I creep…peek…FREEZE! / My eyes full of Doom.” He scoffs at the ideas the people suggest for names, and ferociously warns the new pup: “Trespassers bitten.” Yelchin’s graphite and gouache illustrations depict with sensitivity and humor the sleek gray cat’s initial fear and horror alongside the roly-poly brown puppy. Pastel backgrounds cleverly incorporating shadow and light allow the funny poses and expressions of the pair to shine. Each haiku is complete in itself, capturing the essence of cat with images such as the banished and lonesome Won Ton “Q-curled tight,” and together the poems create a whole tale of displacement and eventual mutual understanding. At the end, both cat and puppy snuggle in bed with the boy, meeting nose-to-nose as friends.

From the March/April 2015 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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10. Review: Planting the Trees of Kenya by Claire A. Nivola

 

Planting the Trees of Kenya: The Story of Wangari Maathai, by Claire A. Nivola

Planting the Trees of Kenya: The Story of Wangari Maathai
by Claire A. Nivola
(Frances Foster Books; Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2008)

 
Winner … Continue reading ...

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11. Emma Yarlett – Illustrator Interview

I promised you more Europeans so here is another fellow-Brit, Emma Yarlett. I think when you see ORION AND THE DARK, you will realize why I shot off an email immediately to Emma to see if she would be up … Continue reading

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12. Olive Marshmallow by Katie Saunders

Olive Marshmallow is the newest book from Katie Saunders, and part of the debut line of books from a brand new publisher,  little bee books. It may seem like there are shelves full of new baby, big sibling picture books, but during my years as a bookseller, books of this genre that I wanted to read to my own growing family or recommend to customers were few and far between. I would definitely

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13. From Zine to Picture Book: Greg PizzoliDiscusses the Making of Tricky Vic

Author-illustrator Greg Pizzoli visits 7-Imp this morning to talk about his entertaining new picture book from Viking, Tricky Vic: The Impossibly True Story of the Man Who Sold the Eiffel Tower, on shelves next week — and a book, as you’ll read below, that started its life as a zine. It tells the story of the sly and brilliant con artist Robert Miller, who later became Count Victor Lustig and who is known, as the title tells you, as the “Man Who Sold the Eiffel Tower.” It’s a fascinating story with a smart closing Author’s Note from Pizzoli. (“Stay sharp” are his final words to readers.) And he created the art using pencil, ink, rubber stamps, halftone photographs, silkscreen, Zipatone, and Photoshop. Many of the photos in the book come from a Paris trip he took years ago, but then again, you can read a lot more about this below.

Greg has a couple more books coming out this year, but he may actually visit again at a later date to discuss those. Right now, it’s a Tricky Vic kind of morning. Let’s get to it. Grab your coffee and get ready to get conned. I thank him for visiting.

Oh, and by the way: Greg mentions Mac Barnett below, which makes me think of his new book, co-written with Jory John and illustrated by Kevin Cornell and which also happens to be about conning (and practical jokes and all-things-mischief). It’s called The Terrible Two, and it was released in January by Amulet Books. It is very funny. It’s selling well and was recently optioned for a film adaptation, as Travis Jonker noted here. So, you’ve probably heard of it already. If not, I highly recommend it. No joking.

Now, I welcome Greg …

* * *

Greg: Okay. So, Tricky Vic.

Tricky Vic: The Impossibly True Story of the Man Who Sold the Eiffel Tower is a nonfiction picture book about the life of one of the world’s greatest con artists [Robert Miller/”Count Victor Lustig”]. His most infamous trick, of course, was selling the Eiffel Tower for scrap metal, but he also conned Al Capone, escaped from prison by literally tying bedsheets together and climbing out a window, and repeatedly sold “money-printing boxes,” which in reality did nothing at all.

Tricky Vic started back in 2009 when I was in graduate school, studying Book Arts and Printmaking. I had heard the major points of Miller/Lustig’s life and had the idea to make a comic or a zine out of it — but never did. Then I graduated and sort of forgot about it.

Fast forward a few years of working hard at illustration, getting my first book deal (for The Watermelon Seed) and, one day, getting lunch with Mac Barnett. Actually, we went to The Rosenbach Museum and Library here in Philadelphia, which at the time housed the Sendak collection, where we saw Sendak’s pencil sketches for a proposed edition of The Lord of the Rings, among other things.

But after that, we got lunch. And we were talking about nonfiction picture books and why they often seem to fall flat. Mac was at the time working on President Taft is Stuck in the Bath, and I told him my con-artist idea from back in grad school. He told me I had to make it. I said, “I guess I could make a zine.” And he said “MAKE A ZINE!”

A few months later, I made a zine. Here it is:


Greg: “The original zine was about 4×6 inches and 16 pages.”

The University of the Arts, where I went to grad school and where I occasionally teach, has a couple of offset presses. And once a year the Printmaking department offers a class called Book Production, where you make a book in an edition of at least 100 copies. So, the first half of the class you are making book dummies (which some people seem to call “mock-ups,” but which I will always call dummies), and you talk out ideas during critiques and try out different formats. And the second part of the semester you are printing and assembling the books. I had taken this class previously as a student, and my department head was the instructor. She graciously allowed me to audit the course so I could explore Tricky Vic.


Making plates in the offset shop

I was going to illustrate the book in a more “usual for me” kind of way, but the limitations of only being able to print five layers of ink (two colors on one side of the paper and three on the other)—plus having basically three weeks to put the whole thing together, not to mention the approaching deadline of Not Very Scary—forced me to simplify everything. I approached each spread or illustration like it was an editorial assignment and came up with stuff that looked pretty different than my usual kidlit work.

Here are some examples:


Greg: “Stay weird, kids …”
(Click to enlarge)

So, then I put a couple dozen of the zines together (they were all hand-sewn by me) and made little rubber stamps for the envelopes and sent them to kids’ book people I know — and one to my agent Steve. I sold a few on Etsy, too, I think.


Finished two-color print


Assembling zines by hand


Zines were sent out in small envelopes with rubber stamp elements

I really enjoyed making it, but I had no thought that it could be a “real” picture book. It just seemed too weird, too dark, too much about-a-criminal-who-scammed-people-out-of-their-life-savings to work for kids’ books, ya know?


“Zut alors!”

Well, like I said, I sent it to my agent Steve, and he just has an amazing vision for this kind of thing. And before I really even realized what was happening, I had a two-book deal with Viking.

Then came researching, re-writing, more researching, re-writing, re-writing, re-writing, and nine months or so later, I had the story at a point where I could start thinking again about pictures.


Incognito Pizzoli

Part of my research process involved going to Paris, and since I had just proposed to my (now) wife, we left for Paris the next day. We stayed in the suburbs with some family friends, who live in a 17th-century converted farmhouse. They live a nice life.


Outside the Gerome household
(Click to enlarge)


Where’s Greg? Outside the Hôtel de Crillon,
which appears in
Tricky Vic
(Click to enlarge)

We went all over Paris doing all the things two newly-engaged people do, especially when one of them is working on a picture book about a guy who sold the Eiffel Tower. I took a ton of photos, and a lot of Paris is in the book — in subtle ways sometimes. For example, this is part of the floor of the Eiffel Tower platform:



 

It’s also the photo I used to make all of the halftones throughout the book. The gritty texture, this stuff:

 


Halftone texture made from Parisian textures


 

Also, this photo. This is the floor of The Louvre.

 



 

That shape is used throughout the book. And I don’t expect that anyone would recognize it or—in the case of the halftone grit—even have a chance of knowing, but to me it adds layers to everything. It makes it all more about my experience there, and it feels more (again, to me) like it has more depth than if I hadn’t included those elements.

 


The Louvre floor shape in action
(Click to enlarge)


 

The original zine had a huge influence on the look of the final book, and lots of the ideas from the zine came through unscathed to the final. I’m really happy about that in one sense, but I definitely think the final book is a great improvement, largely due to my editors, art director, and friends who helped me along the way. It’s much more considered, but I hope not fussy. I had more time to work on it — the zine took three weeks, and the book took six months. At this point, the zine feels like a sketch for the book that came later. Pictures probably work better than my ramblings. Here are some side-by-side comparisons:





(Click each to enlarge)

One of the things I did for this book’s final art is incorporate rubber stamps. I love rubber stamps. At some point I want to illustrate a whole book with custom-made rubber stamps — but I’m taking it one step at a time.

For Tricky Vic, I drew police cars, limousines, etc. and had a company I’ve been using for years, Simon’s Stamps, make wooden handle rubber stamps for me. It’s a nice way to have something that’s reproducible and quick, but—whereas copying it digitally would be maybe a little lazy and maybe look too slick—this adds some grit that I like.



(Click each to enlarge)

Something else: On another trip—for another book I hope we talk about next year—I went to London and, at the Museum of London, found this report card from 1906. Like a criminal, I lifted the basic layout and the tone of the language for Miller’s school report card, which in the book shows that he got an “F” in Conduct but an “Excellent” in Theatre. I made those grades up.


Report card from The Museum of London
(Click to enlarge)


Greg: “Ken Wright, one of my editors, and Jim Hoover,
my art director, snuck into the report card.”

Again, I don’t necessarily expect that everyone will notice these things, but I think some kids will, and I bet we would get along. My dream for this book—besides, ya know, ten million copies sold—is that some kid who maybe is dreading yet another book report on a goody-goody President “who never told a lie” can pick up Tricky Vic and write a biography of the man who conned Al Capone. I’d love to see that.


Greg: “Thanks for the good advice, Mac.”
(Click to enlarge)

Another thing that might be of interest is the case cover. Like all of my books I’ve written so far, the case cover is different than the jacket. The jacket is obviously pretty close to the zine — just (I think) more sophisticated.


Zine v. Picture Book
(Click to enlarge)

The case cover, though, was a blank slate, and as publishers seem to generally let me do whatever I want on the case covers, I decided to recreate the envelope that I used when I sent out the original zines. It shows up in the book, too. I figure when the pristine uncoated paper stock of the jacket gets ripped to shreds, there will be the case cover — with this mysterious envelope that reads “OPEN IN PRIVATE.”


Case cover — front and back

And, probably to the annoyance of librarians everywhere, I hid something under the back flap. Miller/Lustig is credited as writing the “Ten Commandments for Con-Artists.” And sneaking them under the back flap seemed the best solution to make sure that they weren’t spotted by concerned parents — and weren’t missed by discerning kids.


“Peel …”
(Click to enlarge)


“… slowly …”
(Click to enlarge)


“… and see.”
(Click to enlarge)


(Click to enlarge)


 

Also, you should know: Yes, that is my thumbprint.

 


Endpapers
(Click to enlarge)



 

* * * * * * *


 

TRICKY VIC. Copyright © 2015 by Greg Pizzoli. Published by Viking, an imprint of Penguin Group, New York. All images here reproduced by permission of Greg Pizzoli.

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14. A Peek at the Creative Space of Pat Zietlow Miller

Pat Zietlow Miller is the author of the award-winning (and adorable!) picture book Sophie's Squash, illustrated by Anne Wilsdorf. Sophie's Squash is story that celebrates the special love between a child and her favorite toy--only in this case it's a butternut squash. On a trip to the farmers' market with her parents, Sophie chooses a squash, but instead of letting her mom cook it, she names it Bernice. Sophie's Squash has earned many accolades and honors, including four starred reviews, the Golden Kite Award, the Charlotte Zolotow Honor Book Award, and the Ezra Jack Keats Honor Book Award.

And fortunately for the children's book world, Pat has more books coming out in the world--SEVEN to be exact (at last count). Coming in April is Wherever You Go, illustrated by Eliza Wheeler. In Wherever You Go, join an adventurous rabbit and his animal friends as they journey over steep mountain peaks, through bustling cityscapes, and down long, winding roads to discover the magical worlds that await them just outside their doors. This book celebrates the possibilities that lie beyond the next bend in the road – the same road that will always lead you home again. Kirkus Reviews gave Wherever You Go a starred review with the praise: "Miller's verse, infused with musical momentum, communicates the emotional arch of a journey with beautiful brevity."

To learn more about Pat Zietlow Miller, visit her website.





Describe your workspace.

I write in one of two spots. At my kitchen table surrounded by the detritus of life in a family of four – books, papers, pens, calendars, mail, dishes – or at a desk upstairs that looks much more writerly. I’m probably in the kitchen more often just because that’s the way things seem to work out.

Describe a typical workday.

Most days, I’m at my regular job in corporate communications at an insurance company editing copy and writing about auto, home, and life insurance. (Hint: Having umbrella coverage is a good idea.)

When I get home, I start dinner, talk to my husband and kids, and help with homework where I can. English and language arts are fine. Calculus and physics are not. Then, when the kids are studying and my husband is watching basketball, I flip open my laptop and get going. Of course if the kids have evening activities, I’m probably driving them there instead of writing.

So when I do write, I tend to be pretty focused. I don’t have a lot of time to mess around.

List three of your most favorite things in your workspace and why they are meaningful.

These are all from my upstairs formal writing space.


  • A dictionary and bookmark I got from my high school English teacher Gladys Veidemanis after I was voted “Most Likely to Be Published” by my classmates. It took more than 20 years after I graduated, but it did happen.





  • A nameplate that belonged to my aunt, Faye Clow, who was director of the Bettendorf Public Library for many years. She was a huge proponent of books and literacy, and I always loved her and admired that. My upcoming book, Sophie's Seeds (Schwartz & Wade, 2016), is dedicated to Faye.




  • The F&G [publishing term that means folded and gathered--they are fancy colored proofs] of whatever my next book is. Right now, I have Wherever You Go, which is coming from Little, Brown on April 21 and Sharing the Bread, which is coming from Schwartz & Wade on Aug. 25. Getting the F&Gs always makes the book finally seem real.

Do you have any rituals in your work habits? If so, describe them.

Open lap top. Sit down. Start typing.

Ignore any tears, arguments, or requests for help finding lost items until the young person involved either goes away or asks my husband. While some writers follow very organized processes when writing, I’m a little more haphazard. I wrote a post about this for Tara Lazar’s Picture Book Idea Month.

What do you listen to while you work?

Everything listed in my answer to the previous question. I really prefer not to have music playing while I write. It impedes my ability to focus on the story. (When you read my answer to the next-to-last question, you’ll see that this can be a problem.)

What is your drink and/or snack of choice while you’re working?

I normally don’t eat or drink while I’m writing. I tend to eat and drink when I get up and walk around because I’m temporarily stuck. Then, dark chocolate is always good. But I have standards. It’s got to be top-of-the-line stuff.

What keeps you focused while you’re working?

Getting the story done and making it the best it can possibly be. Finding the perfect combination of words is really important to me. And I love critique partners and editors who really challenge me if they think I haven’t quite done it.

Do you write longhand, on a computer, or another way?

Nearly always on a computer. Very rarely, I’ll write longhand if I’m on a plane or a bus and a pad of paper is all I’ve got to work with. But I do jot down notes longhand, usually phrases that I think sound intriguing.

How do you develop your story ideas? Do you use an outline, let the muse lead you, or another technique?

It sounds terribly boring, but I’m afraid I just sit down, open my laptop and start writing. Sometimes, I stare at my manuscript for a while before starting. While I certainly have been inspired, I don’t really believe in waiting for inspiration, because I could be waiting a long time. I find that the mere act of beginning to write usually kick-starts my inspiration.

If you were forced to share your workspace but could share it with anyone of your choosing, who would it be?

My husband. He’s a sportswriter and works out of our house. On days that I’m not at my day job, we often work in adjoining rooms. He’s fun to have around, although he sometimes plays really, really bad music while he works – like “My Girl Bill.” If we ever worked next to each other long term, this could become problematic.

What is the best piece of writing advice you’ve heard or received? 

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It’s what I learned in a high school journalism class taught by Ron Harrell. The end of your story has to have some element of the beginning in it to provide satisfying closure. He said it was like wrapping a ribbon around a present and tying a big bow. I wrote a blog post about this concept on Picture Book Builders.



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15. Little Bird Takes a Bath by Marisabina Russo

little bird takes a bath is the newest picture book from Marisabina Russo, author and illustrator of one of a picture book I loved reading at story time when I was a bookseller, the bunnies are not in their beds. Little Bird likes to start each day with a song, and after a rainy night with honking horns, bobbing umbrellas and wing-rattling thunder, he is looking forward to his bath when

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16. IN by Nikki McClure

Nikki McClure is a stunning artist and a magical picture book author.  In both her story and art, she captures the rare, quiet spaces of childhood that often overlap with nature. Both her illustrations and text bring a refreshing, revitalizing pause to the page, warmly inviting readers to slow down and enjoy the moment. Perhaps this is, in part, because McClure's process of creating

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17. This Is Sadie Book Teaser

We're getting very excited about the new book...not too long now.
My brilliant son Euan has put together this little teaser trailer to celebrate.




May 12, 2015
Available to pre-order at:
Barnes & Noble Indie Bound Amazon.com McNally Robinson Indigo Powell’s Hive


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18. March New Releases: Picture Books


I have lots of client books coming out in March. It's thrilling - but it also makes it somewhat difficult to blog about all of them without this blog becoming a wall-to-wall advertisement. So instead of doing a post every time one is released, I'm going to post about them in categories. Here, then, are the Picture Books of March 2015. Enjoy!

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19. Best New Kids Stories | March 2014

Wow! This is a great month for picture books—amazing picture book authors and sensational illustrators star in this month's new release kids books. Plus, The Penderwicks in Spring is here!

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20. 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #421: Featuring Bryan Collier


“But first I needed an instrument. The great thing about music is that you don’t even need a real instrument to play. So my friends and I decided to make our own.”
(Click to enlarge spread)

It’s the first Sunday of the month, which means I normally feature the work of a student or debut illustrator. I’m breaking my own 7-Imp rules today, however, to … well, not do that — simply because I like this book and want to show you all some spreads from it. This won’t be on shelves till mid-April. Forgive me for posting about it so early, but to be honest, I’m just not that organized this week. But I had read and enjoyed this book and knew I had some spreads from it to share, so there ya go.

Trombone Shorty (Abrams) is the picture book autobiography from Grammy-nominated musician Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews. Illustrated by Bryan Collier, Andrews kicks the book off with “”Where Y’at?”, explaining that the folks in New Orleans have their own way of living and their own way of talking. Young Andrews grew up in Tremé, where “you could hear music floating in the air.” His older brother played the trumpet, and Andrews would watch and pretend to play his own. Andrews and his family would delight in the Mardi Gras parades, which “made everyone forget about their troubles for a little while.”

Andrews and his friends made their own instruments until the day Troy himself found an old, beaten up trombone. He joined a parade, his brother shouting, “TROMBONE SHORTY! WHERE Y’AT?” Thus a nickname was born.

Andrews goes on to describe the moment Bo Diddley called him out in a crowd at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. Before he knows it, Andrews is on stage, playing with Diddley watching. The moment is illustrated, and in the backmatter readers are shown the actual photograph of this moment (two things I could show you today, but I’ll leave that for you to discover when you find a copy of this in April). “After I played with Bo Diddley,” Andrews writes, “I knew I was ready to have my own band.” Towards the book’s close, Andrews switches to present tense:

And now I have my own band, called Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue, named after a street in Tremé. I’ve played all around the world, but I always come back to New Orleans. …

I don’t think it’d be possible for there to be a better illustrator for this book than Collier. And he’s on fire here. “Collier portrays the story of this living legend with energy and style,” writes the Kirkus review, “making visible the swirling sounds of jazz.” It’s a feast for one’s eyes. Below are some spreads from the book.

(If you purchase this book, come April, a portion of the proceeds will be donated to the Trombone Shorty Foundation.)


“And there was music in my house, too. My big brother, James, played the trumpet so loud you could hear him halfway across town! He was the leader of his own band,
and my friends and I would pretend to be in the band, too.
‘FOLLOW ME,’ James would say.”

(Click to enlarge spread)


“I listened to all these sounds and mixed them together, just like how we make our food. We take one big pot and throw in sausage, crab, shrimp, chicken, vegetables, rice—whatever’s in the kitchen—and stir it all together and let it cook. When it’s done, it’s the most delicious taste you’ve ever tried. We call it gumbo,
and that’s what I wanted my music to sound like—
different styles combined to create my own
musical gumbo!”
(Click to enlarge spread)


“From that day on, everyone called me Trombone Shorty! I took that trombone everywhere I went and never stopped playing. I was so small that sometimes I fell right over to the ground because it was so heavy. But I always got back up, and I learned to hold it up high. I listened to my brother play songs over and over,
and I taught myself those songs, too. I practiced day and night,
and sometimes I fell asleep with my trombone in my hands.”

(Click to enlarge spread)


“Today I play at the same New Orleans jazz festival where I once played with
Bo Diddley. And when the performance ends, I lead a parade of musicians around,
just like I used to do in the streets of Tremé with my friends. WHERE Y’AT? WHERE Y’AT? I still keep my trombone in my hands, and I will never let it go.”

(Click to enlarge spread)


 

TROMBONE SHORTY. Text copyright © 2015 by Troy Andrews and Bill Taylor. Illustrations copyright © 2015 by Bryan Collier. Illustrations reproduced by permission of the publisher, Abrams Books for Young Readers, New York.

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) Being a part of Book ‘Em’s Read Me Day this week at Warner Elementary School in Nashville.

2) I’ll be speaking at Malaprop’s Bookstore/Cafe in Asheville, NC, this weekend. Here’s the low-down.

3) The girls got another Snow Day this week.

4) House concert for a friend (though not at my own home). It was lovely to hear her play some new songs.

5) Lunch with an out-of-town friend, who actually served on the Caldecott committee this past year. She positively glows from the experience.

6) My nine-year-old made up another song on the piano, and my musician friend has a music program that allowed him to print out the sheet music for the song she made up. And he also put it onto CD. That was a nice surprise.

7) Giving good children’s books as gifts. Gotta share the love, don’t you know.

What are YOUR kicks this week?

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21. Juna's Jar, by Jane Bahk and Felicia Hoshino (ages 4-7) -- imagination and friendship soar

I adore picture books for the way they let us escape into our imagination, but they can also help us recognize our resilience (and our children's) as we face disappointment. Share Juna's Jar, a lovely new picture book by debut San Francisco author Jane Bahk, and talk with your children about how Juna's imagination helps her when she misses her friend Hector.
Juna's Jar
by Jane Bahk
illustrated by Felicia Hoshino
Lee & Low, 2015
Your local library
Amazon
ages 4-7
Juna and Hector always loved collecting things together and putting them in Juna's kimchi jar, but Juna is at a loss when Hector moves away. It's especially sad that she hasn't had a chance to say goodbye.
"Juna loved to take the jar and go on adventures with her best friend, Hector."
Her big brother, Minho, helps cheer her up, getting her a fish. That night, Juna dreams of diving into the ocean, swimming with her new fish and looking for Hector. The next night, after her brother gives her a bean plan to fill the jar, she journeys into the rain forest. On the third night, Juna rides a cricket in her dreams, traveling far outside the city to Hector's new home. As she sees him sleeping, Juna is able to whisper goodbye.

Felicia Hoshino's gentle watercolor illustrations capture Juna's wistful emotions, full of longing but also the final promise of new friendship.

I love how friend Margie Myers-Culver sums it up in her review at Librarian's Quest:
Juna's Jar "asks readers to think about friendship, family and the potential of imagination. It's not about looking at life as a glass half full or not but what can happen when we fill the glass."
Jane Bahk won the 2010 Lee & Low New Voices Award for an unpublished author of color, with the manuscript for Juna's Jar. I look forward to more stories from her! I also want to honor and thank Lee & Low for this important award.

The review copy was kindly sent by the publisher, Lee & Low. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2015 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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22. Best Selling Picture Books | March 2015

This month our best selling picture book from our affiliate store continues to be the lively board book Peek-a-Zoo!, by Nina Laden.

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23. Be Thankful for Friendship!

Ten Thank-You Letters

By Daniel Kirk

 

There are so many approaches to this picture book, I honestly don’t know where to start reviewing them.

First, I thought I’d take the friendship angle of the yin and yang. Hey, it IS the beginning of the Chinese year of the goat. Friends are often not mirror images of one another. But often they do complement each other. After all, we are all not alike in personality and tastes; that’s why we have chocolate and vanilla ice cream!

And, in the case of Rabbit and Pig, I was reminded of the divergent friendship of Wally Cleaver, in TV’s “Leave It To Beaver” and his pal, Eddie Haskell. Does your child have a friend that they fully embrace and you, as a parent, scratch you head and wonder why? Wally’s parents did. But they sagely figured there was something about their super kind and considerate son Wally, that he needed in the “all about me” Eddie.

Here, Pig is bent on writing a series of thank-you notes, only to be constantly interrupted by Rabbit for paper, stamps and who knows what all.

Pig is nothing if not task-based and very methodical in his pursuit of same. Rabbit is, well, shall we say, more of a spontaneous spur of the moment type. Rabbit is constantly prompted by the ideas of Pig, and he too sets his own into motion. There’s one glitch. Rabbit lacks the physical things to put make them happen! Enter his friend Pig. He is only too obliging, kind and willing to provide the needed apparatus of pencil, paper, stamps, and envelopes for Rabbit’s just thought of thank-you notes.

As Rabbit thinks of MORE people to write letters to, Pig’s letter to his grandma is constantly put on hold amid a flurry of interrupts.

Here’s another take on this picture book that is a great angle to bring up for kids. And that is the writing of a thank-you note. Does anyone even do this any more?

I remember at Christmas; first, came the thank-you notes to aunts and uncles that sent us presents, and then, and only then, were we allowed to play with said toys.

Let’s face it, some kids are natural procrastinators. “Later, mom.” or “I promise I’ll do it later.” And sometimes later never arrives. “Ten Thank-You Notes” is a fine vehicle for reminding young readers there are so many people in their lives deserving of thanks. It’s not only provides a fine read, but a teachable moment. Everyone, from Madame President to the crossing guard is worthy, in Rabbit’s book, and on paper, of a thank-you note!

I fully realize Pig and Rabbit are very young, and therefore they have only learned to print letters in their notes. And that is so wonderful in and of itself. They are so neatly written and very well expressed. But, I can’t let this picture book go by without another plug for the teaching of handwriting.

Finally, what if Pig’s grandma writes a reply to Pig in her own handwriting? Might he be unable to read it? Just some food for thought, parents, as the teaching of cursive sinks from view in some schools.

We have letters that family members wrote by hand on the day of our daughters’ christenings. They were put aside until the girls were old enough to read them. The letters were filled with the feelings of family members on that day. They are rare and revert to a time filled with members of our family that are no longer with us. Please don’t deny your young reader the ability to actually read letters like these.

In the meantime, have your young ones read along with Pig and Rabbit as they both model behaviors and a friendship that not only allows for differences, but would make both Martha Stewart and Emily Post proud!

 

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24. Review of BirdCatDog

BirdCatDogBirdCatDog [Three-Story Books]
by Lee Nordling; illus. by Meritxell Bosch
Primary    Graphic Universe/Lerner    32 pp.
11/14    Library ed.  978-1-4677-4522-2    $25.26
Paper ed.  978-1-4677-4523-9    $6.95
e-book ed.  978-1-4677-4524-6    $25.32

In this innovative wordless picture book told entirely through cartoon panels, three pets escape the ennui of domestication for brief, interconnected adventures in the wild. An introduction explains that readers may read across the six-by-three distribution of rectangular panels for the protagonists’ parallel plot lines — the Tweety-like yellow bird in the blue-saturated top row of panels; the orange tabby in the green-toned middle row; and the bluish-gray guard dog in the yellow-hued bottom row—or read from top to bottom to “get the whole story.” Expressive, accessible art wordlessly follows the pets’ adventures, during which each animal not only interacts (badly) with the other two pets but also comes snout-to-snout (or beak-to-beak) with a wild version of itself: a hawk, a lynx, a wolf. While the consistent panel grid sacrifices the more dynamic layout and pacing afforded by a variety of panel sizes and shapes, this structure (with its protagonist-color-complementing rows) unobtrusively guides readers along. And it’s that much more effective when that structure breaks into a dizzying and hilarious double-page spread of all six creatures in a high-speed chase through the pets’ backyard, a bemused squirrel looking on. Once they have chased off the interlopers, the triumphant pets settle down for well-deserved naps on their well-defended home turf.

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

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25. Picture Book Monday with a review of The Brave Beast

When I was young I did not fully appreciate what true bravery meant. Then I saw a friend do something that terrified him. He was afraid of heights and yet he climbed a tree to retrieve a wayward kite for someone else. I never forgot his courage and compassion.

Today's book is about a beast who, though preferring a quiet life, goes into the frightening unknown to help others. This is a beast I would be happy to have as a friend.

The Brave BeastThe Brave Beast
Chris Judge
Picture Book
For ages 5 to 7
Andersen Press USA, 2013, 978-1849395618
One day the Beast is having a relaxing bath in his lovely garden when he is interrupted by the arrival of a plane, which lands nearby. The pilot comes running up to the Beast and tells him that the people on his island need the Beast’s help. Apparently a loud and terrifying noise is coming from the middle of their island, and the residents are so frightened that they have left the island altogether. There must be “a truly ferocious monster” somewhere on the island and they want the Beast to help them get rid of it.
   The Beast is very large and rather frightening looking himself, but he is actually a very gentle soul and the idea of facing a dangerous monster frankly scares him, but he is kind and wants to help out, so he goes with the pilot. They fly over the island, the Beast jumps out over the sea, and then he swims to land. Bravely he walks through the empty village to the middle of the island where there is a mountain. He makes his way through a twisty tunnel until he comes to the other side of the island. Then the Beast walks through a “spooky” forest, which in when he hears the noise, a noise that makes him run “round and round the forest in fright.”
   Often we fear things that we don’t really understand because they seem overwhelmingly terrifying; but when we face them, we realize that they are not as bad as we thought. In this wonderfully amusing picture book, we see how the Beast, who is scared just like everyone else, finds the courage to face what frightens him, which is when he makes a rather surprising discovery.
   This is the second book about the Beast, and just like the first, it will delight young children and their grownups.


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