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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: picture books, Most Recent at Top [Help]
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1. 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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The post Review of Jack appeared first on The Horn Book.

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2. 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

The post Firefly July: A Year of Very Short Poems appeared first on The Horn Book.

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3. 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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4. 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.

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5. 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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6. Tap The Magic Tree, by Christie Matheson | Book Review

Tap The Magic Tree, by Christie Matheson, is a beautiful story about the changing seasons centered on a single tree that children are asked to interact with on the page.

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7. Quest, written and illustrated by Aaron Becker

Journey by Aaron Becker was definitely one of the most exciting picture books of 2013 and I was thrilled when it won a Caldecott Honor in January of this year. As someone who has read books out loud professionally and parentally for over 20 years and as someone who holds a deep appreciation for picture book illustrations, wordless picture books have always held a special place in my heart.

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8. Illustrator Saturday – Sarolta Szulyovszky

Sarolta_SzulyovszkycroppedSarolta Szulyovszky was born and grew up in Budapest (Hungary), she studied Applied Art, after which she moved to Italy. Since 2004 she start activity in the field of graphics and illustration working in a graphic design studio in Udine (Italy). Now she lives and works as a freelance illustrator and graphic designer in a little city in northern Italy: San Daniele del Friuli.

She works for children’ s books, magazines, cover books, Brochure Design and Packaging Design.

Sarolta works both traditionally in acrylics, pencil and digitally.

In 2012 her work has been selected for the ‘Annual Illustratori Italiani 2012′ (Society of Italian Illustrators) and for the 30th edition of the exhibition ‘Le immagini della fantasia’ (Sàrmede, Italy) – 60 illustrators from all over the world.
2011 – selected for the 23rd Biennial of Illustrations Bratislava.
In 2010 she won the 1st Prize (Category Children’s Book) at the ‘Marosvásárhely Book Fair Award (Romania).

Progress_1

Draft drawn in Photoshop, and the final illustration for a magazine. The commission was to illustrate the month of July. (Image: Progress_1)

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I needed a model to draw the woman so I photographed my son for the face and my hand for the hand!

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I found the fruit and vegetables on the internet.

Progress_4
After sketching out the draft, I prepare an acrylic base for the background colour and, with carbon paper, I transfer the draft I have printed onto the base I have prepared. (Image: Progress_4)

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Here is the final illustration entirely painted with acrylics.

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Book Covers

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Book Covers

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How long have you been illustrating?

I began to illustrate children’s books 11 years ago. My first publication (2003) was a drawing for an anthology of world fables published in Italy, but I have only thought of myself as an illustrator since I began to devote myself entirely to this work in 2009.

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Did you go to college to study graphic design?

I began to study drawing at the age of 14, attending evening classes while I was studying at a science academy school in Budapest (Hungary). My dream was always to become a designer, so once I graduated from high school, I attended a textile design college and another college to study interior decoration, then went to the university “Nyugat-magyarországi Egyetem” on a Packaging Design course, but I never imagined that one day I would be illustrating books! I became involved in the world of children’s books illustration in Italy where I attended courses on advertising graphics and editorial illustration.

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What were you favorite classes?

At university, I really liked design and drawing from life, especially portraits.

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How did you decide to move from Hungary to Italy?

I moved to Italy not for work but for love. I met my husband in Budapest and, after we got married in 1997, I came with him to Italy.

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Do you feel the illustrating opportunities are better in Italy?

I don’t think Italy offers more opportunities for work in the field of illustration compared to Hungary or other European countries. Italy is currently undergoing a severe social, cultural and economic crisis and illustrators (and anyone who works in the cultural sphere in general) is often considered an amateur, and not a professional, and so they are paid little or nothing. However, I do think that Italy is an excellent place to study illustration: it is a country that boasts 50% of the world’s cultural and artistic heritage, a very stimulating environment for an artist, and there are excellent schools specializing in illustration.

It is very true that “no-one is a prophet in his own land” and so the first publications I had in Italy were due to the fact I was a foreigner: they were looking for foreign artists for multicultural editorial projects. After that, I was published in my home country and in other states.

Sarolta_Masha

What was the first art related work that you were paid?

The first paid work was for the illustration of a children’s book translated into Italian from Hungarian, “Ha én felnőtt volnék” (If I were big) by Eva Janikovszky, published by L’Omino Rosso Editore, a small publisher in the region where I live. The book is a major classic in Hungary, a very entertaining story that I illustrated using digital techniques (Adobe Illustrator), which did not turn out to be my style.

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What do you think influenced you style?

I think my style has been influenced by many things: the popular Hungarian art passed on to me by my grandmother, who taught me embroidery, the late Renaissance painters in the Fine Arts Museum in Budapest, where I acted as tourist guide when I was a student and, of course, many contemporary illustrators that I discovered in books, exhibitions and on the web (Gianni De Conno, Gabriel Pacheco, Alice Wellinger, Pierre Mornet……. the list would be very long!).

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What type of work did you do right after you graduated?

After university, I gave birth to my two children and for 6 years I concentrated on being a mother….. although it was during that period that I discovered illustrated children’s books!

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How did you connect with the Wilkinson Studios? When did you join them?

I came across Wilkinson Studios in 2011 thanks to an illustrator friend of mine who was already working for them. I sent them my portfolio and they immediately gave me a job. The client was very pleased with the illustration and so we continued to collaborate and they included me among the artists they represent. It was a great honour for me.

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Do you do any exhibits to show off your work?

Yes, I am often invited to take part in joint exhibitions and I have had various personal exhibitions in Italy and abroad. In 2011 and 2013, my work was exhibited at the Biennale of Illustration of Bratislava, Slovakia and, 2007- 2012 every year at the “Le immagini della fantasia” of Sàrmede, the most important exhibition of children’s illustrations in Italy.

The last exhibition has just ended and it was “Il posto delle favole” (The place of fables), a joint exhibition by international artists in Rocca Sinibalda, a picturesque little town in central Italy. The next exhibition will be a personal exhibition of my work in Hungary in October 2014.

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When and what was the first children’s book that you illustrated?

The first book that I illustrated was, luckily, the one I mentioned as my first paid work.

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How did that contract come about?

The contact with the publisher came about through a friend we had in common, who was a book translator.

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Do you consider that book to be your first big success?

My first book was an important experience for me, I learned a lot, but I don’t consider it a great success.

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Have you published about children’s picture books for a US publisher?

So far, in the United States, they have published my illustrations in academic books and magazines, but I haven’t yet illustrated a whole book in the United States and I can’t wait to do so!

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Have you tried to write and illustrate a children’s book, yet?

My first successful book was actually one that I wrote and illustrated: “A hálás virág “(The grateful flower) is an autobiographical book that deals with the subject of diversity and the Great Mystery of death, life and rebirth. The story came from an episode that actually happened in my grandparent’s garden in Budapest. In 2008, the album won first prize for the best unpublished illustrated album for children aged between 6 and 9 years at the 11th International Competition “Syria Poletti: On the wings of butterflies”. It was subsequently published in 3 languages: Italian, Hungarian and Polish.

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Does the area where you live have a large artist community?

I live in the countryside near a little town in northeast Italy that lies between the Alps and the Adriatic Sea, a land of excellent white wines and ham. There isn’t a large community of artists here, but you live and eat well!

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What type of illustration work do you do?

I work both on children’s books and books for adults, and on Packaging. I work both digitally and with traditional techniques. I like to adapt my style to the text and always try out new things so that I continue to grow and renew myself.

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Have you won any awards for our art?

I have won various prizes but the most important was the one I received at the Frankfurt Book Fair in 2013: the cover I illustrated of “Folyékony tekintet” / Liquid gaze (published by Libri, Budapest) was selected from the 12 most beautiful covers at the Fair by the Wall Street Journal.

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How many picture books have you illustrated?

So far, I have entirely illustrated 11 books, without counting the anthologies that include the drawings of several artists.

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What do you consider your biggest success?

The greatest success has been the last book I illustrated, “Folyékony tekintet” (Liquid gaze), a collection of poetry for which I drew the digital illustrations using only the colours black and red.

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Do you feel living in Italy has broaden your career as an illustrator?

For an illustrator, I don’t think it matters much these days where you live, an internet presence is more important because that’s where work meetings take place. 23. Yes, I have worked for Italian and Hungarian magazines and in the United States, for the Christian Reformed Church of North America’s Dwell Dive Magazine. 24. I use acrylic colours and sometimes I add some details in Photoshop.

Masha_SaroltaSzulyovszky

 

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Have you done illustrations for any children’s magazines?

Yes, I have worked for Italian and Hungarian magazines and in the United States, for the Christian Reformed Church of North America’s Dwell Dive Magazine.

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What materials do you use to paint your color illustrations?

I use acrylic colours and sometimes I add some details in Photoshop.

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What type of things do you do to find illustration work?

To find illustration work, it is important to have a website or a blog, send your portfolio to the illustration agencies and publishers, and go to specialist fairs, like the Children’s Book Fair of Bologna.

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What is the one thing in your studio that you could not live without?

The thing I miss the most is the view from my window: the hill with the historic centre and the mountains. When I’m at home staring at a sheet of paper or a monitor all day, it is important sometimes to turn and look into the distance!

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Do you try to spend a specific amount of time working on your craft?

It is very difficult to work set hours when you’re a freelance. I often work at night to meet deadlines…

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Do you take pictures or do any types of research before you start a project?

Research is the first phase of working on an illustrated project and that often takes whole days. I have a folder on my computer where I collect photos and texts that inspire me and that might be useful one day. If I don’t find the photos I need on the internet, people in certain poses, for example, then I’ll use relatives or myself, taking the photos I need.

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Do you think the Internet has opened doors for you?

Yes, I think the internet has opened many doors, but it has also increased the competition.

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Do you use Photoshop or Corel Painter with your illustrations?

Yes, I use Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator.

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Do you own or have you used a Graphic Drawing Tablet in your illustrating?

Yes, I use a Graphic Drawing Tablet to sketch out drafts and add details to my illustrations.

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

My dream is to illustrate the Bible, especially St Paul’s Hymn to Love.

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What are you working on now?

At the moment, I’m working on two books: an illustrated album: The Garden of Tears, written by the French author, Laurie Cohen, and a Hungarian novel by Zoltán Hajdú Farkas.

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Any words of wisdom on how to become a successful writer or illustrator?

Above all, it is important to inquire within and understand ourselves. What would I really like to do? Devote time to personal works that haven’t been commissioned, be humble (we always need to learn), have a little entrepreneurial ability (we have to promote our work ourselves) and great steadfastness.

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Thank you Sarolta for taking the time to share your process and journey with us. We look forward to hearing about all your future successes.

To see more of Sarolta’s illustrations visit her at:

Website: http://www.saroltaszulyovszky.com/

Blog: http://saroltaszulyovszky.blogspot.it/  

Please take a minute to leave a comment for Sarolta, I know she would love to heard from you and I always appreciate it. Thanks!

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

 


Filed under: authors and illustrators, demystify, illustrating, Illustrator's Saturday, inspiration, Interview, picture books, Publishing Industry Tagged: 1st Prize (Category Children's Book) at the 'Marosvásárhely Book Fair Award, 30th edition of the exhibition 'Le immagini della fantasia', Applied Art in Budapest, Sarolta Szulyovszky

2 Comments on Illustrator Saturday – Sarolta Szulyovszky, last added: 9/20/2014
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9. The Paddington Treasury : Six Classic Bedtime Stories by Michael Bon, illustrated by R.W. Alley

Paddington in picture book version is illustrated by R.W. Alley, an American who has spent the last 15 years updating and creating new illustrations for Michael Bond's bear. Although the stories are set in London, Alley's illustrations strike me as cheerfully American when compared to Peggy Fortnum's expressionistic pen and ink illustrations for the chapter books. But I tend to be the

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10. Mr. Tanen’s Ties by Maryann Cocca-Leffler

Mr. Tanen's TiesThe beloved principal of Lynnhurst Elementary School, Mr. Tanen, is known for his tie collection. Every morning when the children enter school they check to see what tie Mr. Tanen is wearing. He keeps a closet of ties in his office and changes his tie many times throughout the day. He might wear a tie to match his mood, or the weather, or for his official duties. His tie collection is endless!

One day during an important meeting with Mr. Apple at the School Department he is told that education is serious business and that wearing silly ties simply isn’t proper. Mr. Apple hands Mr. Tanen a blue tie and tells him he must only wear blue ties. Plain blue ties.

The students miss Mr. Tanen’s special ties, and soon it becomes clear that a plain blue ties make everyone feel “blue”. When Mr. Tanen calls in sick for a week, it’s Mr. Apple who fills in as principal. He has lots of rules and, of course, a plain tie. During recess, the students notice Mr. Apple bird watching and the next day someone gives him a tie with birds on it. At the end of the school day, Mr. Apple finds himself admiring his new tie and he decides to put it on. While at the grocery store, he gets compliments on his lovely bird tie. What a nice feeling! All the rest of the week, Mr. Apple chooses a special tie to wear from Mr. Tanen’s closet of ties. Mr. Apple finds himself smiling often.

When Mr. Tanen returns to work on Monday he finds Mr. Apple waiting with a tie box for him. Inside is another blue tie, but this one isn’t plain at all – it has #1 blue ribbon all over it. Ties most definitely make a difference at Lynnhurst Elementary School where no one is feeling “blue” anymore.

There is yet another happy ending to Mr. Tanen’s Ties, so you might just want to check this book out!

Posted by: Wendy


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11. Good morning, Kidlit and GOODNIGHT, ARK! Laura Sassi’s Debut! (plus a giveaway!)

Good morning, writers! (Yawn! Stretch! Crack fingers. Sip tea.)

Let me tell you the reason for my uber-early morn, besides rousting my middle-schooler from her zombie-slumber. Not only do I have a SCBWI event at a “hipster cafe” (according to said middle-schooler), but I’m here to announce another debut by a friend! I’m pleased to share with you an adorable Noah’s ark tale, GOODNIGHT, ARK by Laura Sassi. Once again, a picture book writer makes a breakthrough with a new twist on a familiar theme.

goodnightark

Laura, a lot of time on this blog is spent talking about inspiration and story ideas (because of PiBoIdMo). What’s the genesis of GOODNIGHT, ARK?

First off, I just love your play on words here. The Biblical story of Noah’s ark is indeed found in Genesis! And I’ve always loved the story of Noah and the flood and all those animals packed in the ark two by two. Indeed one of the earliest stories I ever wrote – just for fun as a seven or eight year old – was a funny retelling of Noah and his ark. It has illustrations and everything—including horrendous spelling. My mom saved it. Wasn’t that sweet of her? This new Noah’s ark story, however, has a different genesis—experience! As a fellow Jersey girl, you know we’ve had some mighty fierce storms in the past few years and my kids and dog did not like them. Indeed howling winds and pelting rain sent them tumbling into our bed more than once. However, I thought that a story about ordinary kids piling into an ordinary bed might be boring, so I kept flipping the idea until—Zip! Zing!—it hit me—I could set the tale afloat on Noah’s ark! I knew I wanted my story to rhyme, and so once I had my setting, it was fun to brainstorm which animals might pile in and what might happen when they overloaded poor Noah’s bed.

Such an adorable idea! My kids are always crowding into my bed, and I remember doing it myself as a kid.

Did you have any hesitations about writing in rhyme? You know, because we hear so often not to do it because it’s difficult to do well.

Actually, I did not. Some stories are just meant to rhyme. For GOODNIGHT, ARK, I used the rhymes to create page turn riddles to encourage young readers to guess what will happen when page turns. But writer beware! You better make sure you have a good ear for it because creating good rhyming verse is complicated. You not only need to follow your established meter, you also you need to make sure your rhyme and meter are not driving the story. There is nothing worse than forced rhymes where words are inverted to make the rhyme or meter work, or where the plot has to go in awkward directions in order to rhyme. Stay away from that kind of rhyme!

You’re so right, some stories are meant to rhyme. And it’s good to follow your instincts for a story. I often say that the “gut” is a writer’s best friend. This business is so subjective. You can’t please all the readers all the time, so be true to your vision. 

IMG_0748How did you land this debut contract?

The first key to opening that contract door was to find an agent who believed in my writing. The second key was not settling for what I thought at the time was my best effort, but pushing myself to take the manuscript to the next level before subbing it to publishers. The third key was sending GOODNIGHT, ARK to small, but well-thought-through sub list. For several months my agent and I heard nothing, then all of a sudden there was a flurry of interest. The manuscript ended up going to three acquisition meetings and getting two offers! In the end I chose Zonderkidz because I loved their vision for the story which they saw as a perfect piece to bridge both the Christian and broader secular markets. And then I was completely over the moon when, soon after signing the contract, the editor emailed me to say that Jane Chapman had agreed to illustrate it!

IMG_0751WOWZA! You hit kidlit gold there! Every author dreams of getting a top-notch illustrator attached to their project. Did you go thru the roof of the Ark when Jane Chapman said “yes”?

I first encountered Jane Chapman’s work when reading Karma Wilson’ BEAR SNORES ON to my children when they were little. And I LOVED the way she rendered Karma’s little creatures and that big bear with such warmth and sweetness. I couldn’t wait to see how she would depict the frightened tigers, skunks on board the ark in my story. I had no doubt she would do a wonderful job and I was right! Her lovely lantern-lit illustrations are rich and engaging. And here’s a funny tidbit: Shortly after I found out that Jane had signed on to illustrate GOODNIGHT, ARK, I read an interview with Jane Chapman over at Joanne Marple’s blog. At one point Joanna asked Jane if she had any favorite animals that she loved to draw. Jane answered something along the lines that she’s often commissioned to draw bears and mice, but that she’d really love the opportunity to draw some other more unusual animals such as ostriches…or WILD BOAR! (Well, there are wild boar in GOODNIGHT, ARK, so when I saw that I smiled because I knew, or at least hoped, that Jane was just as excited about this project as I was.) GRUNT! SQUEE! (That’s me trying to sound like an excited boar!)

What a cool surprise!

Speaking of such, what’s one of the surprise bonuses of the recent publication of your book?

This is an easy and wonderful answer for me. Special mother/daughter bonding time! I had no idea my nine-year-old would be so excited about the publication of GOODNIGHT, ARK. From theme-based cookies to celebrate the launch, to being my sidekick at book signings, I’ve loved the extra time she and I have spent together doing GOODNIGHT, ARK things. For example, this past Saturday, she accompanied me to a book signing at a lovely independent book store just north of us. She helped the children settle down, then took pictures while I read the story. Afterwards, she helped hand out the craft, and then (and this is my favorite part) completely of her own accord, she gently walked around to each child with the skunk puppet I’d brought along to help me read the story, and asked each child if they’d like a chance to pet the skunk. The children LOVED that! And so did I! In a couple of weeks my fourteeen-year-old will be accompanying me on a road trip down to Lexington, VA to do double book signings. I hope that will also be a special mother/son bonding trip. (With skunk in tow, of course.)

Awesome. I love how your kids are involved. My middle-schooler says “yeah, yeah, Mom” when I get excited about a manuscript. Then she asks for a grilled cheese, stares at it while I read, and then exclaims, “Mommy, that story is too cheesy, just like this sandwich.” Why do I bother to wake her?

Thanks so much for sharing your story with us, Laura! And I understand your publisher will be sharing the book with us! 

Comment below once for a chance to enter the GOODNIGHT, ARK giveaway. You must have a US address (and not a PO Box). You have until September 28th to enter!

laurasassi

Laura Sassi has a passion for telling humorous stories in rhyme. She writes daily from her century-old home in New Jersey where she lives with her husband, two children, and a black Cockapoo named Sophie. Her poems, stories, articles, and crafts have appeared in Highlights for Children, Cricket, Ladybug, Spider and Focus on the Family’s Clubhouse and Clubhouse Jr. and elsewhere. GOODNIGHT, ARK is her first picture book. Visit her at LauraSassiTales.wordpress.com.


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12. Littleland Around the World by Marion Billet

As a bookseller and parent, I was always surprised by the lack of Look-and-Find books for kids who weren't quiet ready for the intensity of the Where's Waldo books. Which is why I was so excited when I discovered Marion Billet's Littleland last year! And now we have Littleland: Around the World to add to the growing list of Look-and-Find books for toddlers. Billet's illustrations are bright

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13. How to Spot a Great Picture Book

dilysDilys Evans has been providing advice to young artists since 1978, when she founded Dilys Evans Fine Illustration.

Below is a summary of that advice—10 characteristics that she believes all outstanding picture books have in common.

Use it as a guide as you evaluate the picture books in your collection.

1. In the Beginning Was the Word
The pictures must be truly inspired by the story.

2. Preparation Is Paramount
The artist knows his or her characters, subject, and the setting inside and out.

3. A Great Cover Is a Great Start
If the cover art is compelling, it will make the viewer pick up the book and turn the pages.

4. The Artist Sets the Scene before the Story Begins
The inside flap offers a great opportunity to set the stage for the story or introduce a character.

5. The Endpapers Involve the Reader
Endpapers are another opportunity to add to the story or overall design of the book.

6. The Medium Is the Message
The perfect choice of medium to illustrate the text should convey every mood and nuance.

7. Every Picture Tells the Story
Every image is central to the story and moves it forward to the next page.

8. The Book Is a Form of Dramatic Art
Every scene must be carefully chosen to dully illustrate the drama and excitement of the story as it unfolds.

9. Art and Type Should Be a Perfect Marriage
The typeface should seem to be almost an extension of the art itself.

10. White Space Rules!
White space is a compositional element and not just a background to present the art.

Printed by the School Library Journal, September 2005

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Filed under: Advice, authors and illustrators, How to, list, picture books, reference, Tips Tagged: Dilys Evans, Guide to Evaluate a Picture Book, How to Spot a Great Picture Book

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14. #we need diverse (picture) books

little melba 300x248 #we need diverse (picture) booksOf course we do. Last year’s amazing crop of picture books included those illustrated by artists of color such as Yuyi Morales, Brian Pinkney, Jerry Pinkney, Angela Dominguez, Bryan Collier, Don Tate, and Kadir Nelson. This year we will see picture books illustrated by Christian Robinson (two of ‘em), Yuyi Morales, Raul Colon, Duncan Tonatiuh, Jason Chin, Susan Guevara, E.B. Lewis, Kadir Nelson, John Holyfield, Pat Cummings, James Ransome….and Christopher Myers and Frank Morrison….and more? I’m not even counting the many international artists who aren’t eligible for the Caldecott. (And my off-the-cuff list also doesn’t take into consideration books like Grandfather Gandhi, not illustrated by a person of color, but featuring diverse characters.)

I don’t know if it’s the raised awareness surrounding last spring’s #weneeddiversebooks campaign or whether in truth the numbers are growing, but it feels like there is a tiny bit more representation this year, at least among the books I’ve seen, and certainly among the ones that are currently rising toward the top of my admire-it pile: Josephine; Draw!; Viva Frida; Separate Is Never Equal; Little Roja Riding Hood. More women, more illustrators of color — although the numbers for that particular overlap are still insupportably low. And although, of course, we still have a lonnnng way to go.

It somehow feels too tentative to make any pronouncements. I think Sam Bloom summed up my cautious optimism in his comment on Robin’s Monday post:

“Of course, this brings me to the single biggest issue I see in the picture book world, which has definitely been publicized well of late: the need for more diverse characters. Of course, there are comparatively few authors/illustrators of color to begin with, another well-known fact. It seems to be getting a bit better – I’ve noticed quite a few REALLY strong books by or about people of color this year – but I wonder if it truly IS better, or maybe it’s just the fact that I’m paying close attention to the situation so it seems like more.”

What are you seeing? Are you sensing some movement toward more diversity in this year’s picture books? Does anyone have any numbers to back up (or refute) my admittedly highly anecdotal experience? Equally crucially — is the actual Caldecott committee noticing the strength and award-worthiness of these titles?

 

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15. Way Back Wednesday Essential Classic

The Tasha Tudor Book of Fairy Tales

 

The world today is NOT a fairy tale. But then again, maybe IT IS!! Maybe that’s why we keep reading these timeless classics in varied editions to our children. Fairy tales are a way for our young readers to puzzle out the inconsistencies they SEE in life. Wolves are not ALWAYS what they appear to be. They can dress up in grandma’s clothing or even try to blow your house down. Princesses with a pretty perfect life can prick a finger and fall into a slumber that can last 100 years. BUT it can be broken by true love’s kiss!

That’s why we keep reading these ageless stories to the young as THEY attempt to come to grips, as we did, with fears and fantasies that are part of their vivid imaginations.

The “happily ever after” is certainly THERE in these timeless tales, BUT, it is achieved in the overcoming of obstacles such as hacking away at a thorny hedge row that’s grown about the castle of the one you seek. Reference “Sleeping Beauty.”

In a changing world that is not always kind or fair, how can we inoculate children from the foul weather that inevitably comes? Answer: YOU DON’T!! But you give them tools and models to show that challenges CAN be met and overcome with some tenacity and toughness. By toughness, I do NOT mean being hardened to life. I mean grit.

Remember this scene in the musical “Oklahoma?” Laurie, the farm girl next door has just married the love of her life. A jealous rebuffed suitor named Jud attacks them both, right after a beautifully tender ceremony. Her brand new husband is now to stand trial for Jud’s death. Laurie says to the resilient Aunt Eller: “Why did this happen now when everything was so PERFECT?” Eller explains that a lot of things may come to a woman in her life; sometimes sickness, poverty and other sadness. Eller stoutly says to Laurie: “There’s only one way you can stand it. You gotta be HARDY! You just GOTTA BE!

Well, that’s what fairy tales teach, I think: how to be HARDY! They model it in their characters in how they get themselves out of witch’s ovens in “Hansel and Gretel”, trick the trickster in “Rumpelstiltskin” or stick to their inner guidance systems as ONLY the children DO in “The Emperor’s New Clothes.”

And in the introducing of these stories, choose wisely. Choose illustrators and storytellers that bring them richly and winningly to life. People like Tasha Tudor are the classic conveyors of what I mean. I was stunned recently when I walked into a bookstore looking for one of this foremost illustrator of folk and fairy tales books and NONE were to be found. Has CLASSIC fallen out of fashion? Hope not! Classic speaks to every generation in its illustration of what is timeless.

Tasha Tudor received two Caldecott Honor designations in 1945 for “Mother Goose” and also in 1957 for “1 is One.” She also received the Regina Medal, as did the equally famous Tomie de Paola, for her contributions to children’s literature. Illustrator of some 100 books, her last being “Corgiville Christmas” in 2003, her legacy is secure in the world of children’s picture books.

And by the way, if you have the same experience as I did, PLEASE ASK your local bookstore to ORDER a book that you may want, but NOT see. It’s a way to KEEP classic picture books CURRENT!!

Fairy tales help young readers negotiate the alternating fears of “fair and foul weather” in their OWN lives by modeling what is possible. Hey, if a cat can pass off the miller’s son as the Marquis of Carabas to a KING and become the Royal Cat, ANYTHING is possible!

 

 

 

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16. Illustrator Interview – Rebecca Emberley

I discovered Rebecca’s work through participating in her crowd-funding for her ITSY BITSY SPIDER book. By the way, as of two weeks ago, in addition to its print format, this story is is now an interactive book app for the iPad … Continue reading

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17. Giant Vehicles by Rod Green, illustrated by Stephen Biesty

Giant Vehicles is the fantastic new book by Rod Green, illustrated by the master of cross-sections, Stephen Biesty. Eight enormous, real-life vehicles. From the Super Train to the Airbus A380 to the biggest helicopter, rocket, cruise ship, submarine, container ship and, of course, the massive dump truck on the cover, a Caterpillar 797F. Although this is a board book with flaps to

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18.


Has your picture book manuscript been turned down so many times you're considering using it to wallpaper your office?

Have you agonized over every single word in your picture book manuscript and are unable to make one more change--but still don't feel it's ready to submit?

Do you love picture books but long to learn more in a deeper, more meaningful way?

Or would you like to work with like-minded writers in exploring a new picture book story?

Well, I have good news for you!

I've been told there are still a handful of spots left for my upcoming online course, INTERMEDIATE PICTURE BOOK WRITING. Click here for information. I hope to see your name on my roster!

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19. #661 – Pig and Small by Alex Latimer

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Pig and Small

Written & Illustrated by Alex Latimer
Peachtree Publishers                9/01/2104
978-1-56145-797-7
Age 4 to 8            32 pages
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“Pig and Bug just want to be friends, but their size differences are proving to be a BIG problem. Pig wants to play games—but Bug is too small to keep up. Bug wants to make things for his friend—but Pig is too big to appreciate the craftsmanship! Just as they’ve given up all hope for a friendship, Pig has an idea. Will it work? (Yes, it will.)”

Opening

“Before this morning, Pig’s nose had never squeaked—not even once.”

Review

Poor Pig. His nose squeaked so much he even looked it up in a medical book. Squeaky Nose Syndrome is right after Squeaky Mouth Syndrome and before Squeaky Pants Syndrome. Wait, it isn’t there. There is no Squeaky Nose Syndrome. Pig examines his nose himself and finds the problem, which is not a problem at all, but a tiny bug. Bug is waving his arms—all four of them—trying to get Pig’s attention. Bug wants to be friends.

“Hello,” said Pig.
“Squeak, squeak,” replied Bug.

Pig and Bug start doing things together, but their friendship has problems from the start. What Pig likes to do—play board games, ride bikes, catch—was difficult and sometimes a wee bit dangerous for Bug, and what Bug likes to do—make things for Pig, Hide-N-Seek—was too small or too hard for Pig. They decide to part ways.

ab

I really like the illustrations by Alex Latimer. He also wrote and illustrated Lion vs. Rabbit (reviewed here), The Boy Who Cried Ninja (reviewed here), and Penguin’s Hidden Talent (sadly, not reviewed here). I love the simple lines and colorful characters that always shine with emotions. He also adds small details that I love and often find amusing. Latimer’s picture books use humor and situations to teach young children without seeming to send a message. In Pig and Small, size makes a difference for BIG Pig and small Bug, so they decide not to be friends. However, this is not the end of Pig and Small.

Pig turns to leave, after he and Bug decided to go their own ways, and the wind, blowing mighty hard, whips a newspaper at Pig, sticking it to his face. Open to the movie section—The Pirate, the Ninja, and the Invisible Dog—Pig realizes there are many things he and Bug can both enjoy. They go see the movie and have a great time. Bug . . . nah, I’ll leave the details between the pages. Do not miss the BIG finale.

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BIG Pig and small Bug decide size does not matter. There are many things the two interesting friends can do together that both enjoy. They enjoyed the movie and talk about it on the way home. There are museums, zoos, plays, and aquariums awaiting them. Size does not matter in friendships. Differences melt away between friends and they find ways to enjoy their time together.

Once again, Latimer’s soft, easy tones guide us to a new understanding of what friendship is about, or rather what it is not about—size. With kids back in school and the holidays approaching (much too fast), children have the opportunity to make many new friends. After reading Pig and Small, they will understand that size does not matter in friendship, or do friends need to have identical likes to get along and be friends. Friendship, as in life, is a compromise and differences should not matter . . . at least not to friends like Pig and Bug.

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PIG AND SMALL. Text and illustrations copyright © 2014 by Alex Latimer. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Peachtree Publishers, Atlanta, GA.
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Pick up Pig and Small at AmazonB&NBook DepositoryPeachtree Publishersyour favorite local bookstore.
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Learn more about Pig and Small HERE

WIN PIG AND SMALL from Peachtree Publishers HERE

Meet the author and illustrator, Alex Latimer, at his website:   http://www.alexlatimer.co.za/

Check out what he has to say at his blog:   http://alexlatimer.blogspot.com/

Tweet him at his Twitter:   https://twitter.com/almaxla

Find excellent picture books at the Peachtree Publisher’s website:   http://peachtree-online.com/

Peachtree has a blog with occasional giveaways here:   http://peachtreepub.blogspot.com/

Also by Alex Latimer

The Boy Who Cried Ninja

The Boy Who Cried Ninja

Penguin's Hidden Talent

Penguin’s Hidden Talent

 Lion vs Rabbit

Lion vs Rabbit

Just So Stories

Just So Stories

The Space Race

The Space Race

 The South-African Alphabet  

The South-African Alphabet

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pig and small
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Copyright © 2014 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews


Filed under: 5stars, Children's Books, Favorites, Picture Book Tagged: acceptance, Alex Latimer, children's book reviews, differences in people, friendships, Peachtree Publishers, picture books, Pig and Small, respect, size doesn't matter

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20. Very Little Red Riding Hood by Heapy & Heap

Very Little Red Riding Hood by Teresa Heapy, illustrated by Sue Heap, is the first in a series of picture books that re-imagines classic fairy tales with toddlers as the stars. When you think about it, this is a pretty good idea since kids are fascinated with fairy tales from a very young age. The problem is, when you don't Disney-fy the classics, the can be a bit dark for the littlest

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21. A Conversation withNorwegian Author-Illustrator, Stian Hole


“‘Listen! The sea has so many voices,’ Anna whispers. ‘It sounds like a heavenly choir humming. A song about crabs, eels, and sea urchins cooing in the deep.’”
– From
Anna’s Heaven
(Click to enlarge spread)

This month, I reviewed Stian Hole’s Anna’s Heaven, released by Eerdman’s in September, for BookPage. That review is here.

You all know I like to follow up reviews with art from the books I write about, if possible, but for this one I also decided to chat with the award-winning illustrator himself (pictured here) about this book, what’s next for him, how picture books differ in the U.S. and overseas, and more. In fact, he poses a question to readers below (regarding U.S. publishing), if anyone is so inclined to weigh in.

The chat today includes art from Anna’s Heaven, as well as a couple of older picture book titles of Stian’s, published here in the States. Stian also shares images from a forthcoming book, which will also be published here.

Let’s get right to it, and I thank him for visiting.

* * * * * * *

Jules: Your photocollage work is beguiling. I imagine you always on the look-out for vintage photographs and vintage books. Am I right? Where do you typically find source material?

Stian: Yes, I am a collector of bits and pieces that I move around and try to put together. That is what I do for a living. Like in a theater, I have a huge prop stock. By the way, have you noticed all the things theatre and picturebooks have in common?

Some years ago I used to search libraries and second-hand bookshops. Now, databases and collections on the internet have opened up new possibilities. Isn´t it amazing what people out there collect?

Most of the time I find something other than what I am looking for, though. So, more and more often I take a walk instead and use the camera on my cell phone.

Jules: Yes, in Uri Shulevitz’s Writing with Pictures, he says that a picture book is closer to theater and film—silent films, in particular—than other kinds of books. Fascinating.

I love that you honor open endings in your picture books. Americans, it seems, get sort of twitchy sometimes about open endings. What do you think are some of the biggest differences between children’s book publishing here in the States and overseas?

Stian: Your question is interesting, but too big for me to answer, I am afraid. Hmm, I will try to find a way …

I wonder why someone would feel insecure about open endings in children´s literature. Life isn´t always a safe place, so why should it be in picture books? Wouldn´t it be a fraud to tell children that life is always sweet? Anyway, I think kids already know it isn´t so. I believe picture books are a quiet—and safe—meeting place for wonder and reflection. Picture books are often read by adults and children together, and they give a valuable opportunity for thoughts, conversation, and mind-traveling for people of different ages. It is a magic place for opening secret doors, for listening and sharpening your senses.

Anyway, I believe what is scary in life becomes less scary when you speak with someone about it.


“‘Or she’s visiting someone she hasn’t seen for a while,’ Anna says.
‘I bet she’s wearing her new dress, the one from Spain.’”
– From
Anna’s Heaven
(Click to see spread in its entirety)

It is a good thing when books travel. I wish more books could travel across borders. When I follow my books around, I sometimes get small glimpses of other cultures´ traditions and views on children´s literature. I love to meet people that think differently than I do. It makes me think.

One difference I have noticed across the Atlantic sea, though, is that for some reason I don´t quite understand there is sometimes—or rather in some places in the U.S.—a reluctance of skin, nakedness, and sexuality in children´s and young adults´ books. The U.S. is the only country who has asked me to put more clothes on the characters in my images or else they will not publish them. I once had to remove a boy that was peeing, for some reason. Not even the Arabic countries asked me to do that.

So, I try to turn my head upside-down and look at Nordic picturebooks from the other side of the sea. But I find it difficult to see oneself. Can someone of your readers help me? Anyway, I must say that my publisher in the U.S. has always been thorough and honest with me, and I must pay tribute to them for publishing my weird books.




Some illustrations from Stian’s next book to be published in the U.S.,
Nightguard with poems by Synne Lea

Jules: I don’t have an answer for that, but perhaps some blog readers will weigh in with some thoughts.

Did anything in particular from your life inspire Anna’s Heaven?

Stian: I usually only have a starting point when I start working on a story. That is all I have; the rest is a strange journey, sometimes fragile and frustrating, sometimes sweet and joy-filled.

In this case, I saw a girl hanging upside-down in a swing and remembered doing the same thing as a boy. It made me stop and think that I still want to do that as an author and illustrator: to turn things upside-down and see the world from another angle! So I realized it was something I had to investigate further.


“‘You can spell kayak forward or backward and it’s the same word,’ Anna says.
‘Like
redder.’ ‘And Anna,’ Dad says. ‘Hurry up now or we’ll be late.’ Even though she is looking away, Anna notices that her father is restless. She can feel it in the air, in the grass, in the scar on her knee, in the mole on her neck, and in every hair on her head. Anna knows that her dad gets restless when he is not looking forward to something.”
– Opening spread from
Anna’s Heaven
(Click to see spread in its entirety)

Along the way, many things inspired me — memories, personal experiences, and lots of influences from different people. When I work on a story, I always keep an alert eye and ear for things I might use in the story. Not only pieces for the illustrations, but also words, feelings, and incidents. Anything. Often I find something else than what I was looking for, things that catch my attention but probably don´t belong in the story. Nevertheless, I pick them up, write it down, and sometimes use it later in another story. You know, people like me are collectors and researchers. One of my favourite authors, Peter Høeg from Denmark, once said, “I am a scientist. I investigate my heart.”


“‘Now I’m ready. Hurry up, Dad. We’ve got to go or we’ll be late.’”
– Final spread from
Anna’s Heaven
(Click to see spread in its entirety)

Jules: How much do the illustrations, as you’re working on them, inform the text — if at all? (Or vice versa.)

Stian: In picturebooks, the images and the text should not say quite the same. It is the dialogue between them that is the engine of the picturebook. The third hub is the reader. The author should strive to open up the story, so different readers can add thoughts and help co-write the book. Books do not work without readers.




More illustrations from Nightguard

Jules: What are you reading now?

Stian: I am always reading. Right now, I’m reading A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Antony Marra. And poetry in the evening before sleep.

Many of the American classics have had an impact on my artistic life — J. D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye, Edgar Lee Masters´ Spoon River Anthology, Fitzgerald´s The Great Gatsby. I must also mention the Canadian writer Alice Munro´s short-stories, among many others.

Jules: On that note, what picture books have you loved lately? Or whose work have you seen that you think deserves some love and attention?

Stian: I just read The Rules of Summer by Shaun Tan from Australia. I love his work. The same with Isol (Argentina), Beatrice Alemagna (Italy), and Kitty Crowther (Belgium).


…”‘How do you feel about starting school? Do you have butterflies in your tummy?’
Auntie Borghild asks. ‘I’m scared,’ Garmann answers,
wondering how butterflies get into your stomach.”


…”Suddenly, she wakes with a start and adjusts her dentures. Garmann asks, ‘Were you ever a child?’ Auntie Borghild thinks for a while. A dragonfly hovers in the air.
Then she smiles and speaks. ‘Yes, a hundred and fifty years ago,’
she says, and laughs so hard she shakes.”


“‘Are you going to die soon?’ Garmann asks. … ‘Are you scared?’ Garmann asks.
Auntie Borghild nods slowly. She takes a hairbrush from her bag and runs it through her silver-grey hair, which glistens in the sun. ‘Yes, Garmann, I’m scared of leaving you.
But the big garden could be exciting.’”


…”When you die, you travel in the great starry wagon in the sky, thinks Garmann,
but first of all you have to be buried.”

[Pictured above are illustrations and the cover from Garmann's Summer,
released by Eerdmans in 2008, but originally published in Norway in 2006.
Click each image above to enlarge and read the full text.]

Jules: What do you, as an artist, find most challenging and satisfying in the creative processes you employ?

Stian: That is a good question. I often feel that reading and writing stories have something important in common. They makes me feel like I live multiple lives. I am thankful for that. It is very satisfying to live parallel lives, since only one life can feel so short. I am also grateful whenever art open doors inside me, to rooms and places that I have not visited for a while or maybe never been. Sometimes art open the doors all the way to my heart.

But sometimes when I am daydreaming, falling down the rabbit hole, floating inside a bubble, working on a story, I get afraid that I am not present enough in reality. Then I promise myself to hug and tell my wife and my boys that I love them when they come home from school and work. These things feel so important in my life, but hard to explain — does it make sense to you?


…”‘Do you think we can see God out there?’ she asks. ‘If we’re patient, maybe,’
Garmann answers, pretending to adjust a telescope. ‘Hello, Planet Earth! This is Comrade Yuri Gagarin, the first man in space. I can’t see God up here,’ he says, disguising his voice. ‘Hello, Ground Control heer. That’s probably because
you don’t know what you’re looking for!’ Johanna laughs…”


…”When it rains, water drips through a crack in the spaceship, and Garmann and Johanna snuggle up so they don’t get wet. They can sit like that for a long time without speaking. Sometimes they ask each other riddles: ‘If you say my name, I have disappeared.
Who am I?’ Garmann says. All they can hear is the wind rushing through the treetops and a woodpecker a long distance away. Johanna shrugs. ‘Silence,’ Garmann says.”

[Pictured above are spreads and the cover from Garmann's Secret,
released by Eerdmans in 2011, but originally published in Norway in 2010.
Click each image above to enlarge and read the full text.]

Jules: Yes, that makes sense to me. Art is taking you outside of yourself. My favorite singer-songwriter/musician, Sam Phillips, has this lyric in one of her songs (called “Lever Pulled Down”):

I’m a lever pulled down / I’m a flipped switch / I’m a lever pulled down / from the fire in the air / … and I’ll give my life for the lightning in our dreams …

I think that’s what you mean. Perhaps.

(I wish I could link to the song, but it’s one of her rare tracks and not online.)

p.s. I have a Sam Phillips lyric for EVERYTHING in life.

So, what’s next for you?

Stian: Soccer. All three boys are playing matches this weekend, and I will be there. On Sunday, I am goalkeeper when the Norwegian author´s team meets the Italian author´s team. They have come all the way to Oslo.

Then there will be new stories to write. Always. I hope the next book will be a love story. I want all my books to be love stories.

* * * * * * *

Photo of Stian Hole taken by Jo Michael.

All artwork here is used by permission of Stian Hole and Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, Grand Rapids, Michigan.

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22. Luna and Me: Book preview and love of process

“Baby, you are my sunny afternoon,

you sprinkle magic in my heart.” – Tulsi, age 5

It’s 5:08 AM and has over a year since I last wrote in this space. Much can happen in a year, like a 4 year old (now 5) blowing my mind nearly every day with the ways she dances through her magical world, so free, her heart and mind wide open. I finished the children’s book that I went to the Redwoods to research last year, and it was dreamy, really, how Tulsi actively contributed in my process. She “played” out the story and quoted many lines from the manuscript. Sitting side by side, we elaborated and refined drawings from my initial dummy sketches while looking at photos from our trip. She freely offered countless ideas of details to add (or even hide) in the pictures. I treasured her unpredictable and untrained color sense while we both painted color studies of every illustration. And during long days of painting, she would climb up on her step stool next to me, gift encouraging “wow”s, thoughtful questions, keen observations only a child would notice, and even draw in wee details! It was such a treasure sharing this process with her.

The publishing world moves at a comparable rate to mine these days (ha), so even though I shipped off 20 illustrations mid-March, you’ll still have to wait until Fall 2015 to see it. I wanted to share a glimpse of LUNA & ME before I’m too engrossed in the next book(s). :) LUNA & ME, The True Story of a Girl Who Lived in a Tree to Save a Forest is a picture book inspired by environmental activist Julia Butterfly Hill’s two year tree sit in an ancient Redwood tree. Her story (and so many other environmentalists) inspire me to do what I can to care for our world using my own talents. One thing I love about this book is Julia’s example of acting from a place of love and compassion and then adding passion, dedication, faith, education, teamwork and endurance, to create change. And it is a magical, powerful story – one I am so happy my kids, and your’s, will know.

And recently, it has been awesome watching my incredible designer work her own sweet magic on the interior and cover design. So many people have supported this project, and I can’t wait to share it with you! – with Christy Ottaviano Books

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23. Welcome, BACKHOE JOE! Long-Time Reader, First-Time Author Lori Alexander (plus a prize pack!)

September should be “giveaway month” here on the blog, since we’ve got a bounty of books ‘n’ stuff. The winner of THE LAKE WHERE LOON LIVES was Carol Nelson, who was notified, and who exclaimed that she never wins anything. I was tickled to prove her wrong!

And today we’ve got yet another giveaway, from a long-time blog reader and PiBoIdMo participant, Lori Alexander. Her debut picture book, BACKHOE JOE, is being released TODAY! A round of applause for Lori! I sat down with her to discuss the making of a debut. (Well, I sat HERE, while she sat THERE. We did not sit together, although I would have loved to. I mean, look at her! Isn’t she adorable?)

Author Photo_Lori AlexanderLori, there are many truck books on the market because they’re so popular with young children. (In fact, once an editor told me not to write a truck book because of others already out there!) Tell us what makes BACKHOE JOE different and special!

You are right, Tara! There are lots of truck books. When my son was younger, he was crazy about construction. He wore truck shirts and slept on truck sheets and had truck birthdays. We pulled the car over for close-up looks at construction equipment (which set an exhausting precedent on cross-country trips, with me wishing my son had been born a dinosaur fanatic instead. No stops!). We also sought out as many construction books as we could get our hands on. After a while, they all seemed similar to me: a bulldozer pushes, a dump truck dumps, an excavator digs. A playground is built at the end. To mix it up, my son and I had lengthy conversations about what we would do with our own backhoe. Our backhoe could scoop Legos into a pile, dump dirty laundry into the washer, and drive all the neighborhood kids to school (that front loader is roomy!). These dreamy discussions led to the kernel of the idea for BACKHOE JOE which is about a boy who tries to adopt a “stray” backhoe. So, like pirate books and dinosaur books and princess books, BACKHOE JOE joins a crowded subject, but I’m hoping he will dig out some space of his own on the bookstore shelves.

backhoejoeI’m sure he will! (I mean, look at him! Isn’t he adorable?)  And that’s what we all have to do, take a common theme and make it unique! I love the idea of a truck as a pet.

Is this the project that landed you an agent? How did you pitch it?

That is something you hear editors ask for…a fresh twist on a common theme! With Backhoe Joe, it took me a few years to get it right. My early drafts were about a boy asking for a backhoe for his birthday, through a series of letters to his parents, à la I Wanna Iguana. I received some positive feedback from a small publisher, who liked the concept, but wasn’t sold on the letter format. Many more months of big-picture revisions as well as tiny tweaks lead to the current version. I received some positive feedback from agent Mary Kole during a webinar critique, and that gave me the boost of confidence I needed to begin querying agents. I queried with BACKHOE JOE but had two other PB manuscripts ready to go, in case an agent was interested. Lucky for me, one was! And you asked how I pitched it. I believe in the cover letter I said something completely cheesy, like “it’s FANCY NANCY for boys!”

Well, that would certainly grab my attention!

What can you share about your debut book experience that’s been most surprising?

While writing BACKHOE JOE, I really tried to nail the page breaks. I studied the page turns in my favorite picture books and read blog posts about layout (Tara’s “Picture Book Dummy, Picture Book Construction: Know Your Layout” is one of my favorites). I submitted BACKHOE JOE to my agent divided into 16 spreads. I thought she might want to remove the breaks and submit it to publishers in paragraph form, but it never came up. I was surprised (in a good way!) when my editor at Harper agreed and the final layout of Joe was exactly how I envisioned it. All that homework paid off!

Another surprise was, although I should have known better, having one sale under your belt doesn’t make it any easier to sell the next book. Rejection—a thing of the past? Not so!

Ha, don’t I know it! They never stop, but they do get easier to swallow. (However, I am not advocating eating your manuscript.)

What’s your favorite line in the book?

My absolute favorite line is on the last page, but I don’t want to spoil anything. I will say Craig Cameron did a fantastic job bringing Joe to life and he set-up the twist ending beautifully.

Aha, I LOVE a twist ending! I think it’s so important for a successful picture book, to surprise your audience, to extend the story beyond the story. Let them imagine what happens next (plus set yourself up for a sequel)!

My second favorite bit is when the main character, Nolan, tries to train Backhoe Joe like he’s a dog. But naughty Joe revs at the mailman, buries his cone in the flowerbed, and digs in the garbage. It was fun to think about the ways a dog and a construction truck might behave similarly.

Sounds hilarious!

OK, one last question. I have a list of fun words I posted recently, which has become quite popular. What’s your favorite word?

This time of year, my favorite word is monsoon.

Yeah, I love ooh sounds!

And now our readers are gonna make ooh sounds (corny segue, Tara) because Lori has a BACKHOE JOE prize pack to give away! Just leave one comment below by September 23rd!

The prize pack includes a signed copy of BACKHOE JOE, bookmarks, stickers, and squishy foam stress “rocks”. (Hey, I could use some of those! Remember, the rejections never cease!)

Thanks, Lori!

backhoejoe prize pack

Lori Alexander lives in Tucson, Arizona, with her husband and two rock-collecting kids. Her family always brakes for road construction so they can admire the dozers and diggers. Lori still secretly hopes a backhoe will follow them home. She is represented by Kathleen Rushall of Marsal Lyon Literary Agency. This is Lori’s first picture book. Visit her at LoriAlexanderBooks.com.


10 Comments on Welcome, BACKHOE JOE! Long-Time Reader, First-Time Author Lori Alexander (plus a prize pack!), last added: 9/16/2014
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24. Two Fabulous Picture Books


Constructionby Sally Sutton, ill. Brian Lovelock, Walker Books Australia
The long-awaited third picture book by this talented pair (after Roadworksand Demolition), this handsome hardback volume will be greeted with joy by children and parents alike. It’s the same format as the previous two: “Build the frame. Build the frame. Hammer all day long. Make the stairs and floors and walls. Big! Bang! Bong!” And what are the busy workmen creating? Why, a library, of course. Some Aucklanders will recognise the completed building as the flash Birkenhead Public Library. Brian Lovelock’s expansive illustrations (done with pigmented inks) are full of busyness and interesting construction features. You’ll find the traditional Facts page at the end that offers information about cranes, trucks and construction workers, and readers will also notice the endpapers with their photograph of assorted nuts (not edible). This is the kind of book that pre-schoolers will ask for repeatedly – because of the irresistible rhythm, the clever onomatopoeia, and the bright, spacious illustrations. Heartily recommended for pre-school centres and junior primary classes.

ISBN 978 1 922077 30 1 $29.99 Hb

Elizabeth, Queen of the Seas by Lynne Cox, ill. Brian Floca, Schwarz and Wade Books (dist. Random House NZ)

This delightful and good-looking picture book is based on fact, set in Christchurch, and written and illustrated by Americans. I love it – but crikey, why wasn’t the story of Elizabeth the elephant seal turned into a book by a New Zealand author? Anyway, congratulations to the enterprising Lynne Cox for her excellent story (her first children’s book). She was walking on the banks of the Avon when she met two children who asked her if she was looking for Elizabeth. Once she was told that Elizabeth was an elephant seal who lived in the Avon river and liked to sunbathe on the nearby roads, Lynne knew she had a great story to tell. It doesn’t take much research to check Elizabeth’s history, and to realise that the book sticks closely to fact. Elizabeth lived in the Avon and Heathcote rivers from the late 70s till her death in 1985. She was hugely popular with the people of Christchurch.

The text of the book is straightforward, suitable for pre-schoolers and early school-age children. The illustrations are done in pen and ink and watercolour, using different perspectives to provide light, bright pictures featuring the smiling seal. The illustrator has done his homework too – I can’t fault his rendition of Christchurch in the 1970/80s.

My review copy is going to my two preschool grandchildren in Christchurch for Christmas. They’ll love it.

ISBN 978 0 375 85888 8 $29.99 Hb 
Reviewed by Lorraine Orman      

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25. Does one size fit all?

Stephenson t CA0 popup1 Does one size fit all?

illus. by André da Loba from the New York Times

Leonard Marcus gave a swell talk about Robert McCloskey last night, but what’s really sticking with me is a response he gave to a question at the end about ebooks. Size matters, he essentially said, when it comes to picture books and other books for young children. Of course, we all know this, but I hadn’t thought about the point in the context where Leonard was placing it, that the size and shape of whatever ebook you’re reading is subsumed by the size and shape of whatever screen you’re reading it on. The difference between the board book, picture book and big book editions of Goodnight, Gorilla disappears in your e-reader edition (which–I just tried it–is a disappointing experience indeed). I’m thinking I may need to gin up a jeremiad for our Cleveland presentation on Friday.

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