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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Picture books, Most Recent at Top [Help]
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1. A Picture Book Like You’ve Never Seen!

The Book With No Pictures

by BJ Novak

 

   Put on your silly hats, all you adults reading picture books to young ones. Start reconnecting with your inner child and get your best imitative voices ready for a VERY SPECIAL picture book read!

   B.J. Novak, known for his work on NBC’s Emmy Award winning series, The Office, in which he wrote, acted, directed and was executive producer, has come up with a very imaginative “NO PICTURE” picture book. HUH??

   Now wait, before you rush to judgment and say, “Now how will THAT hold the interest of my wiggly squiggly tot, I say trust me. IT WILL. But a lot depends on YOU! Feeling the pressure yet? Wait!

   Mr. Novak’s premise, and it’s a good one, is that it explains to kids how picture reads work. Namely, it states that the picture book reading adult MUST SAY EVERYTHING THAT IS ON THE PAGE! NO MATTER WHAT!

   Intriguing, no? YES!!!

   It Is If the plain black words on a pure white page are filled with nonsensical phrases and words the adult reader is COMPELLED to voice and the pressure is on YOU to make it, well, WORK!

   You, the reader will find yourself voicing phrases in a sing song fashion like:

 

                                                                                                                                           “GLUG GLUG GLUG

MY FACE IS A BUG

I EAT ANTS

FOR BREAKFAST

RIGHT OFF

THE RUUUUUG!”

 

       Mr. Novak cleverly has arranged an alternately outraged and aghast running dialogue that the reader voices to himself “sotto voce”, as he is forced to say the silly and the sensational stream of consciousness mouthings of the author.

 

 A song? I thought this was

 going to be a serious book!

 Do I really have to sing a —

 

       Whereby the reader immediately launches into the aforementioned ditsy ditty! Actually, it’s very FREEING, moms and dads and grandparents, too.

       Mr. Novak has gotten the creative power of a child’s imagination to work overtime here, in that with NO pictures to form the images, children are free to come up with their OWN.

       And let’s face it, as we older, more ahem, “sophisticated readers” pick up a tome, isn’t THAT what WE DO! WE imagined what Scarlett and Rhett looked like, we pictured the pinched persona of Scrooge as he stalked about his money changing hole, and what the RING actually looked like as we read “The Lord of the Rings”. I pictured Gandalf EXACTLY like Sir Ian McKellen!

       B. J. Novak has given our children a head start in imagining WHAT is on the written page AND WE ADULT READERS are allowed in on the journey with our best Robin Williams voices. Not to put too sentimental a point on it, but Robin would have done a heck of a job reading this book to kids on audio. I can just hear the laughter as he launched into, “I am a ROBOT MONKEY.” The possibilities for mimicry are endless, parents.

       Thankfully, I know I can say BONK with conviction to my 3, 4 and 5 year olds at Story time. My GA-WOCKO needs WORK! Can’t wait to give it a GO!!! Please do the same with your young ones!!

 

 

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2. Seven Questions Over Breakfast with Hadley Hooper


“Would it be a surprise that you grew up to be a fine painter
Who painted red rooms …”

Over at BookPage, I had the pleasure of reviewing Patricia MacLachlan’s newest picture book, The Iridescence of Birds (Neal Porter/Roaring Brook, October 2014), illustrated by Hadley Hooper, pictured left. I fell hard for this book, you all. It’s probably my favorite from this year. It’s simply exquisite in every way. I won’t go on. If you want to know what the book is about and why I love it so, that BookPage review is here.

I’m happy that Hadley obliged when I asked if she’d like to visit 7-Imp for a cyber-breakfast and talk more about her illustration work, this book, and what’s next for her. Best of all, she sent lots of art. This is her second picture book (her first being Shana Corey’s Here Come the Girl Scouts!, published in 2012), though she’s hardly new to illustration. She’s spent years as an editorial illustrator for magazines and newspapers.

When I ask her about breakfast, Hadley says, “well, I’m in Denver where we have A LOT of choices for morning coffee, perhaps because the night before we had A LOT of choices for craft beers. So, there are many opportunities to frustrate a barista with orders like a triple dry cappuccino or shots of espresso over ice. We’ll wait to eat until later if that’s okay!” I’m good for an espresso, though I’ll take mine hot. Let’s get right to it so that we can see more of Hadley’s art.

I thank her for visiting.

* * * * * * *

Jules: Are you an illustrator or author/illustrator?

Hadley: I’m an illustrator/painter. I’d love to write a book one day.


Jules: Can you list your books-to-date?

Hadley: I’ve done two picture books. The most recent is The Iridescence of Birds, a book about Henri Matisse (out in October of 2014!) by Patricia MacLachlan for Neal Porter. And Here Come the Girl Scouts by Shana Corey.


“And she let you mix the colors of paint …”
(Click to enlarge)


“And on the dirt parlor floor
So all the world looked red …”

(Click to enlarge)

Pictured above: Spreads from Patricia MacLachlan’s
The Iridescence of Birds …

Jules: What is your usual medium?

Hadley: In the ’90′s when I started as an editorial illustrator, I was still working in oils. Early on I Fed-Exed a piece of final art that was still tacky but well packed to Ray Gun magazine. I waited until the magazine came out to find the art director had published it with the packing tissue stuck to the image. It actually looked okay, but after that I switched to water-based paints.

For most illustrations, I’ll cut and/or emboss foam and cardboard to make relief prints. I use different transfer techniques and old carbon paper to get interesting line qualities. I’ll scan all the parts in and assemble in Photoshop.


Hadley: “This is a photo of the relief print parts.
(Some of my Photoshop files had over 100 layers.)”

(Click to enlarge)

Jules: Where are your stompin’ grounds?

Hadley: I live with Hugh and Maddie the dog in a now trendy part of Denver called Highland. My studio is ten minutes away in a now trendy part of north Denver called RiNo.


(Click to enlarge)

Jules: Can you tell me about your road to publication?

Hadley: I got out of art school with degrees in both illustration and painting and messed up my first assignment and got a kill fee. I put my portfolio away forever and started working odds jobs — as a scenic painter for theatre, painting murals in homes, painting traditional cells for an animation studio (that was GRRReat!), and waiting many, many tables. In the meantime, I did my own work, joined a co-op to exhibit, and after a time I felt I had something of my own, so I made cards of my paintings and sent them to art directors at magazines. I figured I might as well fail at the top, so I sent samples to the New Yorker and Harper’s and Rolling Stone and got jobs right away. After a year, I quit my waitressing job. My road into children’s books was through the editorial work.


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(Click to enlarge and see text)


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Pictured above: Spreads from Shana Corey’s Here Come the Girl Scouts!

,
published in 2012 by Scholastic. See more art here in this previous 7-Imp post.

Jules: Can you please point readers to your web site and/or blog?

Hadley: www.hadleyhooper.com.


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Jules: Any new titles/projects you might be working on now that you can tell me about?

Hadley: I have three books on the boards right now with three wonderful publishers, including another for Neal Porter. (My agent of 12 years has great folks, like Serge Bloch, and is responsible for me meeting Neal.)





Illustrations for a workbook from Chronicle, called Back to Us
(Click each to enlarge)

Mmm. Coffee.Okay, I’ve got more espresso, and it’s time to get a bit more detailed with six questions over breakfast. I thank Hadley again for visiting 7-Imp.

1. Jules: What exactly is your process when you are illustrating a book? You can start wherever you’d like when answering: getting initial ideas, starting to illustrate, or even what it’s like under deadline, etc. Do you outline a great deal of the book before you illustrate or just let your muse lead you on and see where you end up?

Hadley

: I love to do research. I will still go to the library, since there’s nothing like having real books sitting open around the studio. I like Pinterest for finding references online. Since the Matisse book is fresh in my mind, it’s easy to talk about in this context.

I looked at every painting of his I could find. What a great luxury! I tried to find fabrics that he may have seen in his hometown, which was a textile town. I looked at the era’s fashion, architecture, even thought about the music he might have listened to. I used Google Maps to knit together the street he grew up on, which really hadn’t changed much, architecturally.


Rough of the opening spread of The Iridescence of Birds


 


Final art: “If you were a boy named Henri Matisse who lived
in a dreary town in northern France where the skies were gray …”

(Click to enlarge)


Final art: “And the days were cold
And you wanted color and light / And sun …”

(Click to enlarge)

I didn’t leave myself much time for the finals on Matisse, because four completed spreads in, I decided to start over. It was the right thing to do for sure, but it was sort of painful. I had been feeling uncertain about my direction but sent a spread to Neal and Jennifer Brown (the art director) for a look anyway and waited. Uncharacteristically, I didn’t hear back from them right away. That silence, intended or not, was the best art direction ever; it felt like they were letting me come to my own conclusion that it wasn’t quite working. In the next days, I did a totally new “market” spread, the scene of Matisse and his mom, and knew right away it was the way to go. I sent that one back, got approval, and was off and running.


“And let you arrange the fruit and flowers
She brought from the market …”

(Click to enlarge)

I do lots of drawings to get the characters to where I understand what they look like from different angles and poses. I use grease pencil on butcher paper, so I can’t get too detailed or too attached to my first drawings.

I typically like to have more time on roughs, so I’ll design each spread and decide what the color story will be for each. This way when I go to finals, I’ve got a good road map. But I always try to allow the final art to have its own say about where it’s going. I try and pay attention and not kill the energy. It’s a real challenge.


“And the iridescence of birds …”


 


Jacket art from The Iridescence of Birds
(Click to enlarge)

2. Jules: Describe your studio or usual work space.

Hadley

: On a typical day, I’ll put Maddie in the car and drive about ten minutes to my studio. Ironton sits on three quarters of an acre and has 20 studios, including a couple wood shops, a metal fabricator, a one-man bronze foundry, painters, and a gallery. All these different people with their diverse approaches to making art and objects are really fun to be around. Plus, there’s a new artist and show in the gallery every six weeks! I’ve got a studio that looks out onto the garden which I care for. It’s a big room and often a chaotic one. As of this writing (mid September 2014), I’m painting for a gallery show in early November and, yes, the paintings will be wet. The room reflects the different hats I wear, as the gallery coordinator, the gardener, illustrator, and painter.


A photo of the view of the Ironton garden from Hadley’s studio
(Click to enlarge)



Studio photos
(Click each to enlarge)

3. Jules: As a book-lover, it interests me: What books or authors and/or illustrators influenced you as an early reader?

Hadley

: As a young reader, Are You My Mother? was my favorite. I had to Google the book and found that P. D. Eastman did Go, Dog. Go! too, another one in heavy rotation. And all the Seuss books and anything Peanuts. I had the whole Childcraft series, which was heavily illustrated. It’s the same one that’s part of the set dressing for Andy Cohen’s Clubhouse on Bravo! Later reading was Judy Blume and Tolkien.

Weirdly, the most visually memorable thing as a little kid was my favorite sheet set. It had a farm scene on it, and I would spend lots of time daydreaming, looking at all those drawings of hens and animals and a girl with a pail, sort of Roger Duvoisin-like in style.


4. Jules: If you could have three (living) authors or illustrators—whom you have not yet met—over for coffee or a glass of rich, red wine, whom would you choose? (Some people cheat and list deceased authors/illustrators. I won’t tell.)

Hadley: I’d invite Georganne Deen, Robert Andrew Parker, and Vivienne Flesher. And someone who’s a friend already, whom I don’t get to see but once a year, and he’ll make everyone laugh — John Cuneo. Let’s raise the dead and invite Saul Steinberg, Edward Gorey, Dorothy Parker, and Ben Shahn.

5. Jules: What is currently in rotation on your iPod or loaded in your CD player? Do you listen to music while you create books?

Hadley: I think that music is the number one perk of my job. I love music. I can’t draw a line or even type a letter without it. Recent purchases are the new Damon Albarn, the soundtrack to The Great Beauty (great movie, too), Sylvan Esso, Tindersticks, Sam Amidon, Arvo Pärt. I’m counting the days until Nick Cave’s movie 20,000 Days on Earth opens here.

6. Jules: What’s one thing that most people don’t know about you?

Hadley: I was named after Hadley Hemingway, the wife he liked the best. According to my mom.

* * * The Pivot Questionnaire * * *

Jules: What is your favorite word?

Hadley: “Ennui.”

Jules: What is your least favorite word?

Hadley: “Panties.”

Jules: What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally?

Hadley: Generosity.

Jules: What turns you off?

Hadley: Self-confidence. I guess it’s more confusing than anything.

7-Imp: What is your favorite curse word? (optional)

Hadley: “Fuck.” “Screwed the pooch” is a great and useful phrase.

Jules: What sound or noise do you love?

Hadley: Cicadas.

Jules: What sound or noise do you hate?

Hadley: Those gas-powered leaf blowers.

Jules: What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?

Hadley: I’d love to be in a band, something truly collaborative. I’d be the drummer.

Jules: What profession would you not like to do?

Hadley: Accountant.

Jules: If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?

Hadley: “Surprise!”

All artwork and images are used with permission of Hadley Hooper.

THE IRIDESCENCE OF BIRDS. Copyright © 2014 by Patricia MacLachlan. Illustrations © 2014 by Hadley Hooper. Published by Neal Porter/Roaring Brook Press, New York.

Illustrations from Here Come the Girl Scouts! by Shana Corey, illustrated by Hadley Cooper. Copyright 2012. Published by Scholastic Press.

The spiffy and slightly sinister gentleman introducing the Pivot Questionnaire is Alfred, © 2009 Matt Phelan.

1 Comments on Seven Questions Over Breakfast with Hadley Hooper, last added: 9/30/2014
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3. Picture Book Monday with a review of This Orq (he cave boy)


I have read hundreds of picture books, many of which feature unusual characters, The main characters in today's picture really captured my attention. I don't believe I have ever read a picture book whose main character is a cave boy, and I am sure that I have not reviewed one that features a cave boy AND a mammoth.

This Orq (he cave boy)
David Elliot
Illustrated by Lori Nichols
This Orq (he cave boy)Picture Book
For ages 4 to 6
Boyds Mills Press, 2014, 978-1-62091-521-9
Orq is a cave boy and like all cave boys he carries a club and lives in...well... a cave. Of course. Orq has a pet baby woolly mammoth called Woma and he loves him dearly. Just like all baby pets, which grow into grownup pets, Woma gets bigger and bigger. Unfortunately, the fact that Orq loves Woma does not mean that Orq's morther loves the mammoth. She thinks Woma sheds and smells and the fact that Woma is not house-broken only makes the situation worse. Orq's mother insists that Woma ahs to leave the family cave.
   Orq does not want to have to give up his pet, so he decides that the best thing to do is to convince his mother that Woma is “smart” and “cute.” Maybe if Woma learns some tricks Mother will see how special and loveable Woma is. Or maybe not.
   Written in cave person pidgin, this delightful story will appeal to anyone who has (or has had at some point) a much-loved pet. Even when they are having accidents in the house they are still loved and wanted by their people. Young readers and their grownups are going to thoroughly enjoy seeing how Orq and Woma save their friendship despite fierce opposition from Orq's determined mother. It turns out that shedding and smelly mammoths that are not house-broken can be rather useful at times.

0 Comments on Picture Book Monday with a review of This Orq (he cave boy) as of 9/29/2014 8:45:00 AM
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4. Blizzard

A Junior Library Guild Selection 2014

One winter day it started to snow,
and it did
not 
stop.
At first it was fun, 
But four days later, the snowplows still hadn’t come, 
cabin fever was setting in, 
and rations were running low. 
Someone had to take action. 
Will one intrepid boy be able to triumph over a fearsome BLIZZARD? 
Blizzard_16-17_flat

“We dug tunnels and secret rooms under the snow.”

 

Blizzard by John Rocco -a book trailer from John Rocco on Vimeo.

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5. Mindfulness: Kids Books on Mindfulness, Kindness and Compassion

Kids books are a fantastic mechanism to start the discussion with young readers on what is mindfulness and ways to incorporate it into lives.

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6. 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #399: Featuring Marla Frazee


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Pictured here is an early comp from Marla Frazee’s newest picture book, The Farmer and the Clown (Beach Lane Books, September 2014). This book is something special, and since I recently reviewed it for BookPage, I figured I would see if Marla could share some early sketches and such from it. Lucky for me and all of 7-Imp’s readers, she said yes. She also includes below some final art from the book.

So, to read about this book and why it’s so good, that BookPage review I wrote is here. Below are the preliminary images and final art.

I thank Marla for sharing.

Enjoy!


Marla: “This is the first drawing I did of the two characters.
It kicked off my thinking about what the story could be.”


 


Marla: “This is one of the many, many, many versions of early thumbnails.”
(Click to enlarge slightly)


 


Early small sketch dummies
(Click to enlarge slightly)


 


A sketch from the full-size sketch dummy
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Early comps
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Marla: “The direction I decided to go in for the finishes …”
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A finished pencil, close-up
(Click to enlarge)


 


Finished drawing before painting
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Farmer and clown, pre-painted
(Click to enlarge)


 



Two more pre-painted final images
(Click each to enlarge)


 

Some Final Spreads from the Book:



 


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(Click second image to enlarge and see spread in its entirety)


 



(Click second image to enlarge and see spread in its entirety)


 



(Click second image to enlarge and see spread in its entirety)


 


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THE FARMER AND THE CLOWN. Copyright © 2014 by Marla Frazee. Published by Beach Lane Books, New York. All images here are posted with permission of Marla Frazee.

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 love LOVE looking at Marla Frazee’s pencil drawings. Even her early sketches are spectacular.

2) Lev Grossman’s The Magicians! AH! THE ENDING!

3) Grossman will be speaking at the Southern Festival of Books in a couple of weeks. I’ll have to go hear him. (Hey, I will also speak at the Southern Festival of Books in a couple of weeks! My co-author will be in town for that too.)

4) Transparent. It’s good stuff, you all.

5) I’m learning to play “Honey Pie” on the piano. My 8-year-old loves this song, so if I can nail it (I’m still a beginner), I’ll surprise her.

6) Surprises in the mail.

7) Laura Marling has surfaced — and in such a lovely, melodic way:

BONUS: I get to meet Lauren Castillo in person today!

What are YOUR kicks this week?

10 Comments on 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #399: Featuring Marla Frazee, last added: 9/28/2014
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7. Illustrator Saturday – Lisa Fields

backfb1
LisaFieldsLisa Fields is an illustrator based out of New York City and is represented by Chris Tugeau.

She received her BFA in Illustration from the Ringling School of Art and Design in Sarasota, Florida and attended The Illustration Academy.

Lisa is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.

Some clients include:

Boys’ Life
Cobblestone Magazine
Cricket Magazine
Dig Magazine
Faces Magazine
Highlights for Children
Houghton Mifflin
Kaeden Books
Odyssey Magazine
Pelican Publishing
Pinata Books
Ranger Rick Magazine
Tricycle Press

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1. How long have you been illustrating?

I graduated from college in 2006. After graduating I moved back home with my parents for a while so I could start my freelance illustration career…but obviously like most artists I have been drawing for as long as I can remember.

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How did you end up attending the Ringling School of Art and Design in Sarasota, Florida to get your BFA?

I can’t remember how exactly I came across Ringling in my art school research. I know I had my portfolio reviewed by them at one of the school fairs. Ringling was rated one of the best art schools and it was in Florida by the beach! As an 18 year old I was very excited about both of those things. I went to visit the school with my mom and after the visit decided that out of all the art schools I had seen it was the best fit for me as a person and as an artist.

all you need is love

What types of classes did you take that really helped you to develop as an illustrator?

I learned a lot in figure drawing/painting classes. It is amazing how much you learn from drawing from life.

beatles

Tell us about the Illustration Academy. Is that an online college?

The illustration Academy really changed my life. It is a summer program that I attended after my junior year and then again after my senior year of College. I found out about it because Ringling actually hosted them for a few years. They gave a presentation to my school and once I saw it I knew that it was something I needed to do. Along with the amazing faculty that stays the entire workshop, every week there is a guest artist that comes in and gives you an assignment, critiques your work and talks about the industry in general. You get to meet, work with, and get advice from the top illustrators in the industry today. I encourage artists of any level to check them out: http://www.artconnectionacademy.com/IllustrationAcademy.aspx.

king

What did attending the Illustration Academy bring to the table for you?

I learned invaluable advice from all the faculty at the illustration academy. They helped me round out my portfolio and gave me a realistic view of what to expect once I got out of school. It was also a great time and REALLY inspiring.

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What was the first things you did that you got paid to do?

The first assignment I was paid for was for a Magazine called Las Olas magazine. I illustrated portraits of five local chefs in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

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Have any of your college connections ended up helping you get work?

 

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How did you end up leaving in Florida to live in New York?

The first assignment I was paid for was for a Magazine called Las Olas magazine. I illustrated portraits of five local chefs in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

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How and when did you decide that you wanted to illustrate children’s books?

Illustrating children’s books was something that I was always interested in but for some reason coming out of school I really did not have that many images of children in my portfolio. When I got out of school adding more images of kids to my portfolio was one of the first things I worked on.

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What was the title of your first book? When and how did you get that contract?

The first children’s book I illustrated was The Triple Banana Split Boy with Pinata books. The art director contacted me after a promotional mailing that I did. I would send out postcards every couple of months to a mailing list that I had created. The mailing list was mostly compiled from this book: http://www.amazon.com/2014-Childrens-Writers-Illustrators-Market/dp/159963726X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=undefined&sr=8-1&keywords=childrens+book+artist+guide.

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How long have your been represented by Christina Tugeau? How did the two of you connect?

I am fairly new to Chris’ agency. I have been represented by her for a little over a year now. One of her former artists that she used to represent was a teacher at Ringling and I remember him telling me and my friend to check out her site. I didn’t think I was ready for an agent at the time but agency with the Cat was always in the back of my mind. When I decided I wanted to get an agent she was the first person I emailed and I was thrilled that she wanted to set up a meeting the next time she came to New York City.

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What types of things do you personally do to get your work seen by publishing professionals?

I still send out postcards myself every now again but that is mostly for editorial work. I try my best to stay active on social media because you never know who might end up on your page. I have a Facebook page and a twitter account. I have to admit I don’t think I have quite grasped the world of Twitter but I still tweet out new images just in case! I also try to keep my website and blog up to date with my most recent work. I am always bummed myself when I go to artists blogs that I like and it has not been updated in a few years so I try my best to keep on top of it.

 

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Have you ever tried to write and illustrate your own story?

This is definitely something that I am interested in. I have a few ideas floating around my head that I have to get on paper. I used to write stories and illustrate them all the time when I was a kid. It is hilarious to find them and read them now. I remember in elementary school we would get to write a story every year that would be published in the “publishing center” (ie a cardboard cover wrapped in wallpaper). It was the best time of the school year. One of my masterpieces was called The Princess and the Unicorn. You can’t get any more girly than that!

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What is your favorite medium to use?

These days I have been working digitally. I got a Wacom cintiq a couple of years ago and fell in love with it. I live in a little NYC apartment so it is more practical for me to sit down at the computer instead of setting out all the paints.

dog

Have you seen your style change since you first started illustrating?

I think my style has changed a lot. I learn with every project that I do and I am always trying to do better than my last assignment. I think someone would probably be able to tell that the images were drawn by the same person but I think my work looks a little more polished and consistent now.

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How many picture books have you illustrated?

I am currently working on my 4th book with Pinata books. I have illustrated two books for Pelican Publishing and one for Tricyle Press which was an imprint at Random House.

aborigines

How did you get the contract with Pinata Books to illustrate GRADMA’S CHOCOLATE?

I had already illustrated The Triple Banana Split boy with Pinata Books. I think the art director I worked with thought that Grandma’s chocolate would be a good fit for me as well.

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I see you, also illustrated TRIPLE BANANA SPLIY BOY with Pinata Books, too. Was that a two book deal?

It was! It was the first book that I illustrated.

heart

What is your biggest success story? The thing you are most proud of?

I am always proud if a client comes back and asks me to do more work for them. After leaving school you don’t really get critiques anymore which is something that you were so used to all the time. When a client comes back to you and asks you to do more work for them that’s how you really know they were happy with what you did for them in the past. There are so many artists out there to choose from so it means a lot!

ice cream

Are you open to working with self-published authors or is that something Christina would not let you do?

Typically I work with publishing houses but I might be open to it if it was a story that I really liked as well.

listen

Have you thought about writing and illustrating your own books?

 

mamabear

Is Lewis Tewanima: Born to Run your latest picture book? How did Christine get that contract for you?

Lewis Tewanima: Born to Run was the second book that I did for Pelican Publishing. I already had a contact at Pelican before I was represented by Chris. Again, I got the first book from a postcard mailing. The art director told me she had been keeping my postcards for years so you shouldn’t give up hope if you do not hear back from people right away.

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Have you done any work for educational publishers?

Yes, I have done a lot of work in the past year for educational publishers through jobs that Chris has gotten me. I am currently working on my 4th reader for Heinemann Books at Houghton Mifflin. These types of jobs I think would be very hard to find without an agent so it has been really great working with Chris.

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Do you use Photoshop in your work?

I do use Photoshop on my wacom cintiq.

party

Do you own a graphic tablet?

I have a big wacom cintiq at my desk and also a portable one so I can take my illustrations on the go with me (or sometimes it is nice to just sit on the couch and work in a differnet room). I am able to sync my files between the two devices with Adobe’s cloud service.

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How much time do you spend illustrating?

I draw every day. If I don’t have an assignment to work on I work on some of my own stuff.

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Do you have a studio set up in your house?

I have a studio area does that count?…NYC apartment living. One day I will have a house with a studio! J

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Is there anything in your studio, other than paint and brushes, that you couldn’t live without?

I have a rather large collection of children’s books and art books. I often look at them for inspiration. The children’s books have a wide range of styles. It is fun to see how different artist approach illustrating a book. My all time favorite is probably Kadir Nelson and I am loving Peter Brown and LeUyen Pham books these days as well.

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Do you take pictures or any other type of research before you start a project?

Yes, reference pictures are important for me. I usually find photos online or I take photo reference myself. The internet is an amazing tool. I don’t know what I would do without it. It would be nice to take reference pictures myself all the time but often projects call for different ages and ethnicities and the chances of knowing a model that fits the bill is not very likely in most cases.

scary

Do you think the Internet has opened doors for you?

The internet has definitely opened doors. Being able to have your portfolio online, up to date and accessible at all times is important.

swim

Do you have any career dreams that you want to fulfill?

I would like to write and illustrate a book.

underwater

What are you working on now?

Right now I am working on some pirates for an article in Appleseeds magazine. The art director would like the pirates to be a bit menecing…which is not something that I typically do. It is a challenge and I am having a lot of fun with it! I am trying my best to make sure they are not cute, menecing pirates. I am also working on sketches for a reader for Heinemann and sketches for a book for Pinata.

window

Are there any painting tips (materials, paper, etc.) you can share that work well for you? Technique tips?

I know that I have mentioned it a couple of times already but I love my Wacom cintiq. If you work digitally you should definitely look into it. It is expensive…but it is so worth it!

school

Any words of wisdom you can share with the illustrators who are trying to develop their career?

One of my favorite things to do is go to the bookstore and check out what is on the shelves. You will be inspired and will also see what art directors are looking for. If there are books that look like something your work would be a good fit for write down the name of the publisher/imprint and add them to your mailing list. I have had multiple people tell me that they saved my postcards until a project comes along that I would be a good fit for so stick with it and don’t get discouraged if you don’t hear back from people right away.

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Filed under: authors and illustrators, How to, illustrating, Illustrator's Saturday, inspiration, Interview, picture books, Process Tagged: Lisa Fields, The Ringling School of Art and Design

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8. Early Learning recap

Roger martha Early Learning recap

photo by Carolyn Sun

SLJ has posted a report of Martha and my presentation in Ohio last week of what makes  for a good preschool book. Look for Kevin Henkes’ excellent speech from that event on our site on Monday.

share save 171 16 Early Learning recap

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9. I am Cow, hear me MOO! – PPBF

Title: I am Cow, hear me MOO! Written by: Jill Esbaum Illustrated by: Gus Gordon Published by: Dial Books for Young Readers, May 2014 Ages: 3 -5 Themes: cows, self-esteem, adventure, fear Opening Lines: Nadine was a truly remarkable cow.     … Continue reading

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10. Shh! We Have a Plan by Chris Haughton

Shh! We Have a Plan is Chris Haughton's third picture book and the third book of his I have reviewed. The palette Haughton used in his first book, Little Owl Lost, caught my attention right away. Haughton's choice of potent colors, the kind you might be more likely to find in 1960s décor than a children's book drew me in. But it is his skill at story telling, both with words and pictures,

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11. Lifetime: The Amazing Numbers in Animals’ Lives, by Lola Schaefer | Book Review

This whimsical and educational book combines a love for both animals and numbers, which makes it a great way to get animal lovers excited about math while giving them the opportunity to learn more about the individual animals as well.

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12. Go to Sleep, Little Farm by Mary Lyn Ray, illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal

I became an instant fan of artist Christopher Silas Neal after reading Lifetime: The Amazing Numbers in Animals' Lives, a fantastic non-fiction book, by Lola M. Schaefer. His newest book, Go to Sleep, Little Farm, writtenMary Lyn Ray, is another visual treat. While the illustrations, which often play nicely against the text, may be a bit stronger than the writing, there is much to enchant

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13. Celebrating the wonderful RAIN in California: Rain, by Linda Ashman & Christian Robinson (ages 4-8)

I woke up to the sound of soft rain this morning and savored the small moment. It made me think of a lovely book that all our Berkeley school libraries have: Rain, by Linda Ashman, illustrated by Christian Robinson. I absolutely adore this book, especially for the way both author and illustrator notice small moments.
Rain
by Linda Ashman
illustrated by Christian Robinson
Houghton Mifflin, 2013
Your local library
Amazon
ages 4-8
Rain tells the story of two very different people’s reaction to a rainy day. The illustrations are full of details that kids notice and can talk about. A happy little boy and a grumpy old man wake up to a rainy morning, and each immediately react to the prospect of putting on their rain gear. The old man says, “Nasty galoshes. Blasted overcoat.” The little guy, on the other hand, tells his mom, “It’s raining frogs and pollywogs!”
interior from Rain, by Linda Ashman & Christian Robinson
They each go their own way until they meet in a cafe. Kids will love noticing what happens when the little boy offers his cookie to the old man. Will the grumpy old man refuse, or will the young boy’s enthusiasm win the day?

I loved talking with students about how the author noticed small moment details in the dialog and how the artist noticed small moment details in his illustrations. Students are talking about "small moments" as they craft their own stories, as a way to flesh out details in creative writing. Our 2nd graders noticed so many details, from the emotions of other customers in the cafe, to the interactions between the boy and the shop keeper.
Christian Robinson at Emerson, May 2014
The illustrator Christian Robinson visited all Berkeley elementary schools last year, thanks to a grant from the Berkeley Public Schools Fund, and so many students will be able to remember the story and meeting the artist. He is absolutely delightful.

For a bit of fun, check out his website: theartoffun.com and notice how small moments can be captured in words as well as pictures. This image (from Robinson’s Fall 2014 Publisher’s Weekly cover) is not from the book, but it is a small moment that has me smiling this morning.

Christian Robinson at Emerson School, May 2014
The review copy comes from our school library. 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.

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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14. What I’m Doing at Kirkus This Week,Plus What I Did Last Week, Featuring Benji Davies

This morning over at Kirkus, I write about Bob Shea’s Kid Sheriff and the Terrible Toads, illustrated by Lane Smith. That link will be here soon.

* * *

Last week, I wrote here about Benji Davies’ The Storm Whale, first published in the UK last year but released here this month by Henry Holt. I’m following up with art today, and since I love these illustrations so much, I asked Benji if he’d like to do a 7-Imp “breakfast” interview. He said yes, so I hope to post that in the next couple of months.

Enjoy the art …


“Noi lived with his dad and six cats by the sea.”
(Click to enlarge spread)


 



(Click either image to see spread in its entirety)


 



(Click either image to see spread in its entirety)


 


(Click to see full spread)


 


“Noi knew it was the right thing to do, but it was hard to say good-bye.
He was glad his dad was there with him.”

(Click to enlarge)



 



 

* * * * * * *

THE STORM WHALE. Copyright © 2013 by Benji Davies. First American Edition copyright © 2014. Illustration reproduced by permission of the publisher, Henry Holt and Company, New York.

4 Comments on What I’m Doing at Kirkus This Week,Plus What I Did Last Week, Featuring Benji Davies, last added: 9/27/2014
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15. Illustrator Interview – Lisa Jahn-Clough

     I confess that after my trip to Portland, Maine, this summer and falling in love with the area, when I noticed on FB that Lisa spends part of her year there, I thought I should invite her onto … Continue reading

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16. Picture Book Quotes by Curated Quotes (plus a custom image quote giveaway!)

You get a lot of spam, right? (Don’t worry, this isn’t spam.)

I do, too.

spam

But lately, the nature of the spam has changed. I’m receiving all kinds of press releases from companies who want to announce products on my blog. And, these folks have really done their homework! (No, they haven’t, just like my new middle-schooler. Sigh…a story for another time.)

They’d like me to blog about their moto-scooters, high-tech floss, fireplace pokers, vegan wallets (they’re no longer called “vinyl”), birdhouses and beanbags. You name it, they think you, my readers, would LOVE it! The mistake they make is not even reading my blog or relating their story to this blog’s readership. They’re all “thrilled to announce” their stuffy stuff but fail to convince me why *I* should be thrilled.

And then, I received an email from CuratedQuotes.com. They offered to design a quote image for my blog. Why, here’s something I would actually use! That my readers might actually want, too!

I spend a lot of time searching for re-usable images on which to overlay a quote.

Like this:

dahlquoteballons

And this:

roalddahlquotepibo

(Ugh, I’ve misplaced the image credits, which were all Creative Commons-ified.)

But here’s some folks that will do this for me. And make it look all cute and jazzy. So I said YES! And I sent them my very own quote!

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Isn’t it wonderful? (I imagine that’s a little girl doing “the wave” with a wave.) Feel free to use the image quote yourself!

CuratedQuotes.com categorizes all these lovely quotes for us. They have a plethora of profound, beautiful quotes prêt-à-porter, for use in your social media communiques. (Those are such fancy-schmancy words! But when quotes look so fancy-schmancy, you need to keep up.) Here are 57 awesome quotes about creativity, like this one I picked just for you:

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I’m so pleased CuratedQuotes.com contacted me.

They get us. They really get us.

And they will REALLY get you. They’re offering to make a custom image quote for one of my lucky blog readers! Just enter the quote you want to be picture-fied in the comments by October 1st. A random winner will then be selected. Good luck!

 


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17. Big Whoop! by Maxine Lee

Big Whoop! is the second picture book by illustrator, graphic designer and author Maxine Lee. It's also another great kids book from Pow!, a new, independent publisher dedicated to publishing "visually driven, imagination-fuelled" books that combine an "offbeat or humorous sensibility with outstanding design that delight children and grown-ups equally." Big Whoop! is definitely filled with an

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18. Two new swash-buckling picture book adventures



Dragon Island by Martin Baynton, illus. Terri Rose Baynton, Scholastic NZ.

Martyn Baynton needs little introduction for those who have been around a while, but for newbies to the scene he’s the author of Jane and the Dragon and Fifty the Tractor, and the producer of the TV series The Wot-Wots. His daughter Terri Rose has also worked on The Wot-Wots and was shortlisted for the 2013 NZ Post Children’s Book Awards. This talented pair have produced a thoughtful picture book that will strike a chord with many teachers and parents. The partially-rhyming text introduces us to a dragon called Norman who tries to stop the other dragons from fighting and wrecking. He prefers to make useful things – but is ridiculed by the others for his peaceful activities. When he builds a hot-air balloon, wins the big race to Coconut Island, and is granted three wishes he asks for no fighting, no breaking, no burning. But do the other dragons take any notice…? It’s a slightly bittersweet ending that will generate discussion between adult and child. The delicately-coloured fine line and watercolour illustrations provide plenty of detail for study, and the dragons themselves are quite intriguing with their physiological hints of different animals and birds. This book will be popular with pre-school dragon-lovers, and can also be used as a resource for classroom studies of tolerance and socially-acceptable behaviour.

ISBN 978 1 77543 191 6 $19.50 Pb

Marmaduke Duck on the Wide Blue Seas by Juliette MacIver, illus. Sarah Davis, Scholastic NZ

This latest story about Marmaduke Duck and his friend Bernadette Bear is just as much fun as the first two (MD and the Marmalade Jam, and MD and Bernadette Bear). As always, the rhyming and the rhythm can’t be faulted, although they do demand a lot of stamina from the adult reader. Our intrepid duck decides to go to sea, so buys a galleon and outfits it with a motley crew (rat, dog, cat, llama, lamb, bull). But someone’s missing. Poor old Bernadette Bear is feeling lonely at home, so she sets off to find Marmaduke. While Marmaduke sails the seas - and ends up captured by the scary pirate gang calling themselves the Marmoset Monkeys and Orangutan Fang - Bernadette is slowly following his trail. Her quest is detailed in sub-pictures scattered throughout the main double-page spreads. Of course, Bernadette appears in the nick of time to save her friend from walking the plank...  The inventive, bouncy text is enhanced by Sarah Davis’s fabulous illustrations.  Children will love the rollicking shipboard scenes, but the stunning depiction of the arrival of the Marmoset Monkeys (all 52 of them!) will be the most popular of all. This book would be great fun for reading aloud to both small and large groups of children aged from 3 to 7 years. It is also available in hardback.

ISBN 978-1-77543-125-1 $19.50 Pb

Reviewed by Lorraine Orman

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19. Picture Book Monday with a review of Calvin Can’t Fly: The Story of a Bookworm Birdie

For as long as there have been books, there have been bookworms, people who love books and who are happy to spend hours reading them. Sometimes bookworms get so wrapped up in the books that they read that they have trouble connecting with the real world. In today's picture book you are going to meet a big who is just such a bookworm.

Calvin Can't Fly: The Story of a Bookworm BirdieCalvin Can’t Fly: The Story of a Bookworm Birdie
Jennifer Berne
Illustrated by Keith Bendis
Picture Book
For ages 5 to 7
Sterling, 2010, 978-1-4027-7323-5
Calvin is a young starling and he lives under the eaves of an old barn with his siblings and all his cousins. When the young starlings explore the ground for the first time, Calvin’s siblings discover worms, grass, dirt, and water. Calvin discovers a book, and from that moment he is hooked on the written word. While Calvin’s brothers and sisters are chasing insects, Calvin is learning to read, and when they are taking flying lessons, Calvin is at the library reading books. Though Calvin does not know how to fly, “his mind soared” when he reads books. Books can take “him to places wings never could.”
   Though Calvin’s cousins tease him and called him names, Calvin does not give up his love of books. Instead he sadly goes to the library, the one place where he feels happy. He spends his summer reading and learning, soaking up information about everything and anything.
   Then summer turns into fall and the starlings prepare to fly south. There is just one problem. Calvin cannot fly, which means that he will have to stay in the barn for the fall and winter. All alone.

   In this wonderful picture book we see how important it is to follow your heart, even if it means that you don’t always fit in with your peers. Readers will be delighted to see that in the end, Calvin’s love of books turns out to be an asset for him and his extremely large family. Being a bookworm might not, in some people’s opinion, be ‘cool,’ but the rest of know better.

0 Comments on Picture Book Monday with a review of Calvin Can’t Fly: The Story of a Bookworm Birdie as of 9/22/2014 7:54:00 AM
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20. 5 Secrets for Cultivating Creativity


Creativity is tough to define and tougher still to write about. I’m no expert, but I know what works for me, and likely, you know what works for you. So I thought it might be fun to see what a few famous creative people had to say about the subject. I hope one of these nuggets inspires you. I’m putting a few up on my own bulletin board pronto.  :)

 (Note:  I apologize for the wonky spacing you'll see below. It looks perfect on the "compose" page.)

To cultivate creativity:

1.  Don’t overthink.


“It’s impossible to explain creativity. It’s like asking a bird, ‘How do you fly?’ You just do.” 
                                                                 –Eric Jerome Dickey

“Don’t think. Thinking is the enemy of creativity. It’s self-conscious, and anything self-conscious is lousy. You can’t try to do things. You simply must do things.”
                        –Ray Bradbury

“The chief enemy of creativity is ‘good’ sense.” 
                                                                –Pablo Picasso

“Rational thoughts never drive people’s creativity the way emotions do.”
                                                                          –Neil deGrasse Tyson



2.  Stop worrying that everything you write has to be perfect.

     “Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.”
                                                                           –Scott Adams


“An essential aspect of creativity is not being afraid to fail.”
                                   –Edwin Land

“There is no innovation and creativity without failure. Period.”
                                                                    –Brene Brown


3.  Just do it.

    “Creativity is a habit, and the best creativity is the result of good work habits.”
                                                                   –Twyla Tharp


“Creativity is putting your imagination to work, and it’s produced the
most extraordinary results in human culture.”
                                   –Ken Robinson


“And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.”
                                                                           –Sylvia Plath


4.  Believe in your own unique and beautiful mind.
 
                    “Creativity involves breaking out of established patterns in order to look 
                    at things in a different way.”

                                   –Edward de Bono

                 “Creativity is piercing the mundane to find the marvelous.”
                                                                           –Bill Moyers


  “Rule of art:  Can’t kills creativity!”
                                   –Camille Paglia


5.  Trust your instincts…

“A hunch is creativity trying to tell you something.”
                                                   –Frank Capra


…and let yourself go.

“Creativity makes a leap, then looks to see where it is.”
                                          –Mason Cooley



More excellent posts about creativity:

http://www.brainpickings.org/index.php/2014/08/25/the-psychology-of-writing-daily-routine/

http://writerunboxed.com/2014/09/12/the-surprising-importance-of-doing-nothing/

This is my last post for TeachingAuthors. I’ll miss my friends here, as well as you readers who comment to let us know you're reading (that’s always appreciated!). But I’m not disappearing entirely. I’ll be blogging at a new blog called Picture Book Builders, along with seven other published picture book authors and illustrators. Every Tuesday and Friday we'll explore one of the many, many elements that go into the making of great picture books. Hope to see you there! Check us out at www.picturebookbuilders.com


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21. Alphabetical Order?

Al Pha’s Bet

By Amy Krouse Rosenthal; illustrated by Delphine Durand

 

As the first few weeks of Back to School roll out for families attempting to adjust to school schedules and the new “order of the day”, an ABC book came to mind for young readers. And it prompts the question, “Did you ever wonder WHO put the 26 letters of the alphabet in ABC ORDER for countless generations that have enunciated them in sing song fashion?

New York Times best selling author Amy Krouse Rosenthal, author of “Little Pea” and “One of Those Days”, does.

Like many other things in life, it all depends on how you look at things and Ms. Rosenthal has chosen to roll out the alphabet in a refreshingly imaginative way.

It’s not JUST the same ole ABC’s. It’s their STORY, and don’t kids love stories, or at least one VIEW of how they came to be, well, in ABC order?

Enter Al Pha in the time of long ago of course. In point of fact this is the VERY long ago as in the time of the invention of FIRE, the WHEEL and SHADOWS (might THIS reference to SHADOWS be a nod of the head to Plato’s cave theory relating to the allegory of knowledge? This could lead to a VERY interesting turn in the story telling road). We’re talking VERY olden times here!

Anyway, the king announces a contest for the organization of the letters of the alphabet that had just been thrown together willy-nilly! The lure of being famous AND remembered “for all time” prompts Al to enter with both feet. SHH! Private BET time as Al tells NO ONE of his plan. Remember the BET! Al collects his burlap bag of letters from the palace and is off and running on an organizational quest. The easiest letter to come first is A. A is of course, for Al!

And what follows is a very interesting take on the progression of the letters AND what prompts their groupings. Could a bee casually buzzing by Al be responsible for its place as #2 in the list of 26? And what about E and F closely resembling each other? Could they be TWINS? A snake’s hiss and S is assembled, but not before the reaction of Al with an “Arrrrrrrrrr”, that precedes the S! As Al nears the end, it’s a literal “toss up” of X and Y to see in which order they will be arranged.

Dragging the ABC burlap bag BACK to the king, Al and the king wind up in a duet, SAYING AND SINGING the letters that tons of school kids have recited in the same way. Al is a shoe-in for fame.

So, Al Pha won the BET! What a neat tying up of loose ends, Ms. Rosenthal. AND it’s the end of the story, but not of Al and Ms. Rosenthal’s cunning take on the history of the ABC’s.

And hey, Delphine Durand’s “thumb like”, red-panted Al is perfect for a “Where is Thumbkin?” illustration. But THAT is ANOTHER story!

 

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22. Firefly July: A Year of Very Short Poems

Before we start chatting about specific 2014 picture books, take a moment to read the Caldecott criteria. They’re posted over there on the right, but I will help you find the important parts. Here they are, in part:

In identifying a “distinguished American picture book for children,” defined as illustration, committee members need to consider:
  1. Excellence of execution in the artistic technique employed;
  2. Excellence of pictorial interpretation of story, theme, or concept;
  3. Appropriateness of style of illustration to the story, theme or concept;
  4. Delineation of plot, theme, characters, setting, mood or information through the pictures;
  5. Excellence of presentation in recognition of a child audience.

Tattoo those categories onto the inside of your eyelids so you will understand why, when we talk about books, we stick to the same points over and over. We have to. The committee discusses all books in light of the published criteria, and the chair keeps everyone close to these five main ideas. 

janeczko firefly july2 Firefly July: A Year of Very Short Poems It’s tricky to start our discussion this year with a collection of poems, because it brings up the age-old question of whether this is a picture book or an illustrated book. I refer you to the definitions. Let’s just agree (for the moment, at least) that this fits the definition of a picture book as it is essentially a visual experience. Feel free to say otherwise in the comments. That’s just not where I want to go at the moment.

This handsome volume presents 8 to 10 poems per season and, just as the subtitle says (“A Year of Very Short Poems”), each poem is very short. This gives the volume a clear arc and allows the illustrations to gently explore how color and line might change over the course of a year, as the seasons unfold. The paper cover and the case cover are the same, and the endpapers are a lovely muted blue. Though I am generally a fan of flashy endpapers, it makes sense that these are calm, given the energy that illustrator Melissa Sweet brings to each spread.

Spring is the first season, and the first page is a celebration of spring things, including a robin, which I love. There are also daffodils and other early-spring bulbs blooming. The small poems march on, but it is the illustrations that hold them together. As we move to summer, the Langston Hughes poem “Subway Rush Hour” is made summery by the bouquet of daisies that accompanies it. Summer moves on and the colors change as the leaves fall. The transition is seamless; indeed, the divisions between the seasons are subtle and easy to miss, much like the artificial dates on the calendar that mark the change. By wintertime, the hues have completely changed–darkened by the lack of sun, yet whitened by the presence of snow.

Sweet’s art, a joyous combination of watercolor, gouache, and mixed-media collage, tells each poem’s story while allowing the young reader to consider each poem for herself. Her use of color and line build each illustration, sometimes joining two poems (such as” Fog” and “Uses for Fog”) together on a double-page spread, other times allowing the gutter to divide the scenes. The art is completely appropriate to the collection; indeed, it’s her illustrations that make these poems accessible to the child audience (and here the audience could be as young as 3 and as old as an appreciative adult). The mood is set by the illustrations, and Sweet does not bore the reader with trite homages to each season–she requires the reader to look deeper at each spread and think about the connection to the words.

I just looked up the part of the definitions about the term “distinguished,” and here that is:

  1. “Distinguished” is defined as:
    1. Marked by eminence and distinction; noted for significant achievement.
    2. Marked by excellence in quality.
    3. Marked by conspicuous excellence or eminence.
    4. Individually distinct.

Most of the books we will talk about this fall and winter are distinguished, and this one certainly is. Each spread is filled with emotion and care, with design meshing seamlessly with color and line. There are many places to look, but it never looks busy or overdone, as each page turn creates its own little world.

Though the real committee can (and will) compare this book to Sweet’s other 2014 title (The Right Word), I have found it difficult to do that in a single blog post. So, feel free to compare if you wish, but know that Martha will be talking about that one soon. For me, I cannot choose between these two very special books. Perhaps Sweet will “pull a Klassen” and receive two phone calls from Chicago in January.

 

share save 171 16 Firefly July: A Year of Very Short Poems

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23. Review of Jack

depaola jack Review of JackJack
by Tomie dePaola; illus. by the author
Preschool Paulsen/Penguin 32 pp.
9/14     978-0-399-16154-4     $17.99     g

Farm boy Jack wants to make new friends and live in the city, which is exactly what he does in this minimally plotted book. On his way to ask the king for a house, Jack picks up a chick, a duck, a goose, a dog, etc., each one declaring its own interest in city digs, thus providing Jack with a community of ten new friends upon whom the king is happy to bestow a nice fixer-upper. While the lack of any conflict or obstacles means we aren’t that invested in Jack’s fate, young children will like the simple pattern of the story as well as the cumulating sound effects offered for each animal as it joins the merry band. DePaola dresses the journey in his most sumptuous colors, the carrot-topped hero and his ever-growing group of friends traversing a landscape of deep greens and grays and purple farmhouses to their new home, bright pink in the heart of the city. Storytime audiences will enjoy the trip as well as the sly cameo appearances by nursery-rhyme favorites such as Jack and Jill and Miss Muffet’s eight-legged friend.

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24. Picture Books: Character Development in Every Word!

erikaphoto-45Jersey Farm Scribe here on

Picture Books: Character Development in Every Word!

We all know that our characters need to resonate with the audience. They need to relate to them, yearn to grow with them, feel their pain and celebrate their accomplishments.

It’s asking a lot. But it’s what keeps little fingers reaching for the same stories again and again.

It’s not as easy task when I’m working on an MG project, and I’m sure it’s a struggle for any authors no matter what the genre. But when I’m working on a picture book, I have an even smaller window to describe my characters, and far less opportunities to tell SHOW others what makes them so special.

The intimate relationship we have with our manuscripts sometimes makes it necessary to take a step or two back. WE may know Little Lucy or Bumbling Bradley just as well as we know living, breathing children in our life. But we are tasked with putting entire personalities into as few as 500 words and still having room for a story!

  1. I just re-read that last sentence. Putting it that way on paper makes it sound even more daunting.

But (deep breath) fear not! There is something truly beautiful hidden here as well.

One of my favorite things about writing picture books is that it is genuinely the epitome of the POWER of words. An entire story told in fewer words than this blog post will have. A full story arc with beginning, a middle and an end. And not just ANY story arc, one that will attract an agent, dazzle a publisher and make both parents and children reach to pull the story from the shelf time and time again.

Each word has a fingerprint.

Every word chosen MUST fit not only in the sentence, but in the essence of the story itself. Verbs are not only describing the action of the story, but setting the intangible style, the VIBE of the characters and of the story itself.   Adjectives do more than describe the subject they’re linked to, but represent the attitude and individuality of the characters they are entangled with.

Snort and giggle may have the same definition. But the aura of the characters they describe, are distinctly different.

Bounding, lurching and hopping may all describe the same actions, but one word may bring up stronger images of chaos, versus innocence or playfulness. And to make things more… let’s say exciting… there are no hard and fast rules. The same word used in one sentence may have different implications when used in a different way.

Well, that’s just not helpful at all, is it?

While a daunting task for sure, these word description choices also open almost limitless doors. The power is in our hands.   The slight change of a few words can alter an entire story, or give that extra shimmer of life that our characters so desire to have.

So okay, how do I DO that?

For me, something that helps me is when I assess every individual sentence in my picture books in two ways:

Auditory and Meaning

Auditory:

We have the benefit of knowing that 99 percent of the time picture books are read, out loud, TO our ultimate target audience. That’s powerful knowledge! And it’s important to capitalize on it. Of course, most picture book authors know the importance of reading your manuscript out loud from cover to cover. But you can go a step beyond that as well.

I take every individual sentence and read it out loud, numerous times in a row. Think about how the words sound together, how they physically feel coming off the tongue. Try different adjectives, new verbs, try to add or remove a comma, just to see if anything has a more pleasing flow, a more playful sound or something that fits better with the mood I want my readers to be experiencing.

And I ask myself, what would my character think of these sounds?

If I don’t feel that my character would have a natural and deep connection with the sounds and intonations throughout the story, than I’m probably not giving my readers a chance to connect with my character.

Meaning:

Again I take each and every word from each sentence individually and dissect it for meaning. As the great Ame Dyckman would say (author of Boy + Bot, Tea Party Rules and more), it’s the Picture Book Word Count SMACKDOWN! If a word does not make you tingle, if you don’t read it and say to yourself, THAT’S IT, that’s EXACTLY IT… find a better word or take it out!! Trust that your illustrators will know what they’re doing and that they will express the details and description so that you can focus on action.

Again, play with new verbs or adjectives and be sure that each word matches not only the scene that you’re painting in their minds, but the tone of the moment, the spirit of the main character and the emotion that the memory of reading the book will create.

The best picture books and characters are often burned into our memories for our entire lives. The words from these stories carried much more significance than their mere definitions. They were the medium for living, breathing characters that tiptoed off the pages and into our world. Your manuscripts have the opportunity to exercise the profound power of each individual word.

Your manuscripts… and the characters they will bring to life… are worth it!

Erika

Erika Wassall is a writer, a farmer and a liver of life. She is a member of SCBWI and a proud Mad Scientist, bringing science experiments right into children’s classrooms, and hearts. She has a small farm in New Jersey with sheep, chickens, pigs and vegetables. Check out her new website at www.TheJerseyFarmScribe.com where as a first generation farmer, she often takes the long way, learning the tricks of the trade on The Farm. On her website is also The Shop page with tips and a free Q/A from her husband’s mechanic shop, and The Writer page where she shares stories, experiences and characters from the heart. Follow her on Twitter at @NJFarmScribe. She’d love to hear from you!

Thank you Erika for another great post.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Filed under: Advice, article, Author, inspiration, picture books, Process Tagged: Develop every word, Erika Wassell, Jersey Farm Scribe, Picture Book Characters

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25. Review of the Day: Fox’s Garden by Princesse Camcam

FoxsGarden1 300x177 Review of the Day: Foxs Garden by Princesse CamcamFox’s Garden
By Princesse Camcam
Enchanted Lion Books
ISBN: 978-1-59270-167-4
$14.95
Ages 3-6
On shelves now.

Have you ever read a picture book multiple times, enjoying it with each and every read, and then find later that it was wordless . . . and you didn’t even notice? Now THAT is the mark of an effective title. The publisher Enchanted Lion Books prides itself on its “Stories Without Words” series, and deservedly so. They import wordless picture books from abroad, format them into these long, slender books, and subsequently prove to the world that good storytelling is universal. It goes beyond language. The latest in this long line of beauties is, to my mind, the most impressive offering to date. Fox’s Garden by author Princesse Camcam (who edges out Sara Pennypacker, Mary Quattlebaum, and Robert Quackenbush in the Best Children’s Author’s Name contest) is ostensibly a very simple story about kindness and unexpected rewards. Combined with remarkable cut paper scenes that are lit and photographed in an eerie, wonderful way, this is a book that manages to simultaneously convey the joy that comes after a simple act of kindness as well as the feel and look of winter, night and day.

On a cold and windy night, when the snow blows in high drifts, a single fox plunges onward. When a warm, inviting village appears in a valley she makes her way there. However, once there she is summarily rejected by the hostile townspeople, at last taking refuge in a small greenhouse. A small boy spots the fox’s presence and goes to offer her some food. When he finds her, he sees that she is not alone. Newborn kits suckle, so he leaves the edibles at a safe distance and goes inside to bed. In the early morn the fox and her brood prepare to leave but before doing so they leap through the boy’s window, planting flowers in his floor so that he wakes up to a wonder of blossoms of his very own.

FoxsGarden2 300x175 Review of the Day: Foxs Garden by Princesse CamcamThe fact of the matter is that I’ve seen cut paper work in picture books before, whether it’s the scale models in books like Cynthia von Buhler’s But Who Will Bell the Cats? or the distinctive Lauren Child style of The Princess and the Pea. But books of that sort are part cut paper and part dollhouse, to a certain extent, since they utilize models. Titles that consist of cut paper and lighting alone are rarities. Even as I write this it sounds like such a technique would be some fancy designer’s dream and not something appealing to kids. Yet what makes Camcam’s style so appealing is that it combines not just technical prowess but also good old-fashioned storytelling. The glow that emanates from behind some of the homes in the snowy winter village looks infinitely appealing. You can practically feel the heat that would strike you as you entered through one of those doorways. Even more impressive to me, however, was the artist’s ability to capture winter daytime cloudy light. You know that light I’m talking about. When snow has blanketed the earth and the white/gray clouds above give off this particular winter gleam. I’m used to complimenting illustrators on how well they portray winter light in paint. I’m less accustomed to praising that same technique in sliced up paper.

The shape of the book itself is an interesting choice as well. The publisher Enchanted Lion specializes in these long thin books, so I wasn’t quite sure if the book originally published (under the name “Une rencontre”) in the same format. To my mind it feels as though it was always intended to look this way. Just watching where the gutter between the two pages falls is an interesting exercise in and of itself. The first two-page spread shows the fox struggling, belly low, through snowdrifts. She’s on the right-hand page, the desolate woods behind her. When she spots the village she is on the left page and the town looks warm and inviting on the opposite side. Distant, because of the nature of the layout, but comforting. Interestingly the only time the two pages show two different scenes is when you see people kicking and yelling at the fox. In contrast to the rest of the book the two different images make everything feel tense and angry. Landscapes are calming. From there on in everything is a two-page spread, sometimes presenting a close-up shot (there is an amazing image of the happy fox in the foreground on the left page, while the boy is in the distant doorway of the greenhouse on the right) and sometimes an image of distance, as with the final shot.

FoxsGarden3 300x87 Review of the Day: Foxs Garden by Princesse CamcamIt isn’t just the art that had me fail to recognize that the book was wordless. Camcam’s vixen seems to tell whole stories with just a glance here and there. She’s a proud animal. You understand that even as she’s kicked and cursed she’s retaining her dignity. The boy’s act of kindness may be given because he sees a creature in need, but it seems as though it’s just as likely that he’s helping her because she is worth worshipping anear. And though she and her brood do something particularly un-foxlike near the end she is, for the most part, not anthropomorphized. The storytelling sounds so oddly trite when I summarize the book, but it doesn’t feel trite in the least. You could easily see this book adapted into a ballet or similar wordless format. It’s a naturally beautiful tale.

Let’s examine that word for a second. Beautiful. I don’t use it enough when I’m describing picture books. It’s not the kind of word you should bandy about for no reason. If I called every other book “beautiful” it would diminish the importance of the word and I couldn’t use it when something as truly stunning as this. It’s the kind of book that doesn’t feel like anything else you’ve seen or read. True and lovely and entirely unique. A book to borrow and a book to own.

On shelves now.

Source: Final copy sent from publisher for review.

Like This? Then Try:

Professional Reviews: A star from Kirkus

Misc: You can see a whole mess of spreads from the book over at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast

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