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Canadian Treasure Jon Klassen, author/illustrator of award-winning picture books as well as the illustrator of many great chapter books, is here! He is quick to clarify he's not going to talk about how to find your style:
How you work on something isn't the same thing as your 'style':
"Style is mysterious and shouldn't be opened, at least not by you...
Don't think about it.
Take care of the machine that makes it, so you can get better at making your work..."
Don't Think About Yourself At All
Jon recommends treating the project as something outside yourself.
Some of his favorite artists subscribe to this particular work ethic:
Agnes Martin, who says "The worst thing you can think about when you're working is yourself."
David Bowie, when asked by a reporter how cool it was to be a rockstar with a crazy successful album, said it's not David Bowie who's successful, it's the character Ziggy Stardust! Jon says Bowie needed a character first to get into his work, which let him not have to ask what would "I" do, but what would Ziggy or the Thin White Duke do.
Artist/weaver Anni Albers has this quote Jon loves:
Another great idea from Jon:
Treat your brain the way Pixar treated computer technology, do your best work with the resources you have at that time.
When first starting out, Pixar had hundreds of ideas for stories, but computer animation made everything look stilted and plastic and non-human. Instead of fighting their technology, Pixar embraced the limitations by animating things that were naturally plastic-y and clunky:
Similarly, Sendak's dummy for WHERE THE WILD HORSES ARE had tons of horse drawings in it, but Maurice hated drawing horses! So his legendary editor Ursula Nordstrom asked him what he would enjoy drawing and Maurice said he didn't know, but he liked drawing THINGS...
Jon describes how he went from being a grumpy animator who only wanted to draw rocks and chairs, to a picture book author/illustrator who enjoys creating characters outside of himself who can 'write' their own lines. Jon mentions he felt like his voice as a narrator is similar to that of a drunk P.D. Eastman, but when he thinks about the characters acting in a play—spouting their own lines, not his—he's able to take himself out of the equation and make something good.
You are not in control of almost any part of this process, Jon says, except for keeping out what you don't want in a project, chipping all that away. A book is like a child, you can shepherd it along, but it may wander off without you somewhere amazing, and that's a great thing.
A pared-down, stylish tale packed with adrenalin and mischief in equal measure about a child’s ability to see possibilities and transform the world around them, That’s My Hat! by Anouck Boisrobert and Louis Rigaud follows what happens when a hat created by a child is blown away on a gust of wind. Turning the pages takes us on a journey across the city to retrieve the hat, visiting various shops, a zoo and a library along the way. But when the child reaches the top of a skyscraper it looks like disaster will strike – can they use their imagination to save the day?
Although we may have seen the device before in Harold and the Purple Crayon, Anthony Brown’s Bear Hunt and Aaron Becker’s Journey, the idea of a child using a pencil to transform their world, changing something simple into an object of their imagination (in this case starting with a semi-circle being turned into a hat) never grows old. Perhaps this is because the ability to see alternative realities is a very real experience of childhood; we have all turned sticks into stallions ready for galloping, cardboard boxes into boats or stones into pets.
What That’s My Hat! brings afresh to this storytelling mechanism are very clever illustrations. Made of only 10 basic shapes and 5 flat colours, with simple black line embellishments, Boisrobert and Rigaud have created 3-D scenes to explore, with the use of intricate pop-up mechanisms and lots of hidden detail behind the folds and bends of the paper. It’s amazing to see the complexity that can be constructed from very basic building blocks. The magic is captivating and perhaps also empowering for young readers – these illustrations have a child-like achievability about them.
The ending draws the story full circle (literally, if you take note of how it began and what it concludes with), deeply satisfying readers, listeners and observers of all the fine and clever details in this playful book.
That’s My Hat! sent us to one of our favourite crafting materials – a bunch of paint chips (free! lovely thick card! great colours!), and from them we cut out lots of each of the 10 different shapes which appear in That’s My Hat!. For the circles I used a couple of outsized hole punchers and the kids loved the physicality of using them; I love it when the girls enjoy the preparation as much as the intended activity!
It was then time to let loose our imaginations, creating scenes with just the 10 types of shape and a black pen to add detail.
The girls loved looking closely at how the shapes were used in the book, copying some of the ideas for themselves, but also coming up with their own transformations for some of the shapes.
I love the grumpy looking mum and the dancing spider in this spread!
Whilst making stories with our shapes listened to:
All These Shapes by The Pop Ups – I can’t imagine a better song to go with a pop-up book about what you can make with shapes!!
Look at this Officer Brachio badge, stitched by Sami Teasdale! She gave it to me at the end of the day, totally amazing.
My excellent Scholastic publicist, Dave Sanger, and I did a little Masterchef cooking demonstration: how to make a dinosaur pizza.
And everyone dug in to the various Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous tomato pastes, swamp cheese, chili, mushrooms, everything needed to make a particularly sweet pizza.
Then I swapped hats because my big one kept getting tangled up in the chandeliers. I did a reading... (photo tweeted by Deadly Knitshade)
Photo tweeted by @deadlyknitshade
And Dinosaur Dave acted out some particularly emotional parts of the story:
Then we did some drawing and a song. Look, here's my husband Stuart's drawing! (You can download more drawing activities over on the Dinosaur Police webpage.)
Then we went out to the bookshop back yard for bubbly and book signing and Pauliina gave a fab speech:
Big thanks to Pauliina, my designer Rebecca Essilifie, Dave, Scholastic, Tereze, Juliet and staff at Tales on Moon Lane, my studio mates (Elissa Elwick, Gary Northfield and member-at-large Lauren O'Farrell), web designer Dan Fone, and Stuart for being so supportive! And to everyone who came along for the launch! Lauren shot a Vine video of me signing a book:
But Tales on Moon Lane wasn't our only stop! Earlier that morning Dave and I had taken part in a smaller Story Time at Dulwich Books, which was also good fun!
As Philip Ardagh pointed out, we even made the newspapers, ha ha... Young Holly managed to capture the rascal on paper:
Big thanks to everyone who came along! I also took off my big hat after the intial introduction because I think its sheer size was scaring one of the littlest guys in the front row. (It's better designed for big stage events, I think>)
This event was the first time Dave had drawn with me in public AND his first public outing in a dinosaur onesie. VERY BRAVE.
Imagine the 20th century has just begun and a new and very grand London department store is about to open. Whatever your heart desires, you can get it wrapped up in ribbons and bows at Sinclairs.
The department store is about to become the talk of the town for all its finery, opulence and grandeur but then thieves strike, lifting items from a special jewellery exhibition in the store’s grand exhibition hall. Amongst the stolen items the most marvellous clockwork bird encrusted with gems, an exquisite miracle of hidden engineering which produces a different song every time it is wound up.
Will this scandal overshadow the opening of Sinclairs? Who could have carried out this most audacious of crimes? Suspicion falls on Sophie, a young girl with a slightly mysterious background of her own, who works in the millinery department. Having once lived a rather grander life, Sophie has recently fallen on hard times and now has to work for a living. This change in circumstances means she isn’t trusted by her colleagues and it doesn’t help that she was seen admiring the clockwork bird just before it went missing.
A pageturner of a historical middle-grade detective story with a sparkle of glamour and glitz mixed up with dodgy street gangs and suspiciously finely tailored gentlemen, The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow by Katherine Woodfine is great fun to read. Developing friendships, bullying, kindness and compassion are all part of the mix, alongside code cracking, hidden passageways and serious crime. Woodfine’s period drama is a perfectly paced, exciting read and when readers turn the final page, they’ll be delighted to see that further adventures in crime-solving await Sophie and her friends in a second novel due in 2016.
If you’ve a child who’s enjoyed the historical novels of Jacqueline Wilson, or the detectives in Jonathan Stroud’s Lockwood and Co books this might just be the ideal book to suggest to them next. Last week M and J were on holiday and I read The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow to them as their bedtime read. It went down tremendously well, and resulted in these… our own priceless clockwork sparrows:
Jewels, gold, pearls and an exciting historical mystery, with a clever and thoughtful heroine? We’re all delighted that there’s to be a second in the series next year.
Series: Wearable Books Written by Donald Lemke Illustrated by Bob Lentz Capstone Young Readers 2/01/2015 9778-1-62370-183-3 12 pages Size: 8” x 8” Age 1 to 6 x “Fun interactive board book that children and adults can wear like masks, allowing for make-believe games and hilarious snapshot moments! With catchy rhymes, colorful illustrations, and interactive dialogue, everyone will enjoy this laugh-pout-load read-along.” [catalog] x New for 2015, Book-O-Beards allows young children to become a lumberjack—TIMBER!—a pirate—ARRRG!—a cowboy—YEEHAW!—a sailor—ANCHORS AWEIGH!—a police officer—You’re under ARREST!—or Santa—HO, HO, HO! The Book-O-Beards helps young children role-play different personas as they try these full-spread, fully bushy beards. Read the rhyming text, and then try one on..
“This orange beard is softer than fur. I In a deep voice shout out, ‘TIMBER!’”
While the Book-O-Beards will appeal more to young boys, girls can certainly use this imaginative interactive board book. Made of heavy cardboard, the Book-O-Beards will stand-up to many hours of play. Young children love to play make-believe. The Wearable Books series lets kids try on teeth, hats, masks, and beards, all the while producing giggles. The love of reading can begin with one spark from these unusual dual-fun books.
This has been a Christmas season of hats. If I wasn't drawing them, I was wearing them. Hats this time of year are fun, because you can bung any old shiny thing on your head and it sort of works. Here's Ms Claus, with what might be cherries, Christmas balls, holly berries, or the skewered noses of Rudolphs past.
I don't really 'make' hats, I sort of assemble them from slightly more sedate hats from secondhand shops and whatever bits and bobs I can rummage up. My friend Helen Boyle (who edits WRD children's book magazine) was meeting up for fancy Afternoon Tea with Damian Kelleher and me, and said she didn't have a good hat to wear, so I assembled her this mint-green one:
A little closer look; isn't that bird a cutie? I ordered a big lot of birds off the Internet, and they feature in most of this season's hats.
Damian looked incredibly swish in it.
This red one's a gift from my mother; she bought it at the Bellevue Arts & Crafts Fair, near Seattle. I wore it to the Camberwell art college MA illustration Christmas party, and it was great seeing my course leader from art school, Janet Woolley. She was a brilliant teacher, and while we were studying, we had a visiting lecture from Simone Lia, here on the left. Simone makes amazing comics and hers were some of the first I saw that inspired me to make my own.
Mark Oliver (who studied with me), Mark Long, who started just after I left, and Jan's daughter, Jasmine Woolley-Butler.
Okay, this hat was for visiting Scholastic. Actually, it was a hat I've worn before, but I added the bird and some pompoms.
...And made videos. You can see all our videos here, several Scholastic authors (including Julia Donaldson and Liz Pichon) answering questions on our favourite things about Christmas.
Now it was awfully nice of publisher Nosy Crow to invite me to their party, particularly considering they don't publish me. They do one of the most fun parties, it's very sparkly.
This started out as an all-white hat that looked very wedding-ish, but I redecorated it with some long feathers I found at Deptford market and a flashing giftbox from Poundland. (It's the first time my hat's had actual LIGHTS, which was rather exciting.) Here I am with Philip Ardagh:
Actually, I think I like it better in black and white. (Stuart took this photo.)
Ha ha, people were even wearing giant rodents on their head (designed by Axel Sheffler, in the blue jumper).
This last hat was verging on ugly, but that was okay because...
When I first started planning hat week, I knew I wanted to invite the wonderful Sarah McIntyre, illustrator and writer of picture books and comics extraordinaire to take part. The creator of Vern and Lettuce, Princess Spaghetti and half of the all singing all dancing Oliver and the Seawigs and Cakes in Space team Sarah has serious form when it comes to hats. Her hats are book events are legendary. She has even been called a “celebrity hat stand”…
Thus it is with huge delight and a great sense of honour that I’ve a guest post today from Sarah McIntyre, all about her love of hats. It is time to doff mine and let Sarah take the floor…
“I daydream a lot. I love my job, but sometimes I wonder, what would I do if I wasn’t illustrating children’s books?
I’ve contemplated taking various jobs, including:
a window dresser (I watched Mannequin too many times when I was a kid)
a medical illustrator (my biology teacher said I made good dissection drawings)
an archaeologist (I thought Indiana Jones was awesome)
a journalist (I tried it but found it too high-pressure)
a ship’s rigger (I interviewed for this job once but didn’t get it)
a shoemaker (I know exactly what kind of shoes I want and I can never find them)
Okay, this last one. I’m not actually a hat maker, but funnily enough, my job has let me make little forays into this world of wearable sculpture. I don’t get very excited about the world of fashion; it’s mostly intended for skinny people and I’ve watched The Devil Wears Prada. I don’t understand all that stuff about stilettos and expensive handbags.
I used to think I needed to wear slimming black and try to all but make myself disappear because I wasn’t a standard size, but south-east London has changed me. A large Afro-Caribbean population live in my neighbourhood and, let me tell you, a lot of those women don’t let a bit of WEIGHT stop them from looking absolutely fabulous. I adore their block-printed fabric designs. Here are some of my African-print dresses, from Sika Designs in Greenwich, and Esther Marfo in New Cross.
And the outfits on these Nigerian and Ghanaian ladies don’t stop with curve-enhancing dresses in bold patterns, their bright colours rise two or three feet up into the air with incredible head wraps. On a Sunday morning when people are going to church, the bus stop can look like a sea of giant fancy sweet wrappers. It’s glorious!
Making books has given me lots of reasons to dress up, and if I’m doing a stage event, I can go as over-the-top as I want; my only limits are whether I can fit the outfit onto the train or into the airplane. Here’s a six-foot-tall wig made out of purple clingfilm:
In fact, I almost didn’t fit into my Oliver and the Seawigs book launch. I hadn’t counted having to pass through a glass door before ascending to the deck of the Golden Hinde ship. Here’s a photo of my editor helping me through. (Thank goodness for my dignity, I didn’t have to crawl.)
The other thing that has changed for me is that I used to think comfort was the most important thing in dressing. But there’s a certain amount of discomfort that’s worth it, because it’s so fun seeing people’s jaws drop in surprise. This alien cake hat, for the Cakes in Space launch, for instance. It was quite heavy and clopped me hard on the forehead whenever I jumped in the air (because one does jump in the air, in stage events). But when I’d squeeze the hidden valve and its mouth would open, I’d have a wonderful time watching people gape. Some kids would obsess over it, trying to figure out how it worked, or if it really was alive.
My sculptor friend Eddie Smith helped me with both the giant Seawig and the Cake. He’s a Royal Academy sculptor and has done lots of Proper Art Stuff, but he’s loved doing something a bit different.
For Jampires, I tried to find a Bakewell Tart fascinator on the Internet, and there were lots, but they were all too SMALL. So I made this one out of a sprinkler attachment from the pound shop, a children’s ball (also from the pound shop), a foam pizza base, the plastic lid from a Christmas pudding, some felt, lace, fabric and glitter.
My Summer Reading Challenge Medusa hat was also a pound shop marvel: a green pencil case, craft pipe cleaners, a yoghurt pot and a bit of painted foam. (I’m sure the Duchess of Cornwall wears very similar things herself.)
If you go on to my Hats Pinterest page, you can see lots more things I’ve worn! Some of them I’ve made, and some of them I’ve customised, from vintage hats I’ve found in second-hand shops. It doesn’t take much to make a quiet hat into a startling headpiece; just stick on some large feathers or a big bow, or a ship, or a giant octopus. Some day I may make a book exclusively about hats, but for now, go check out David Roberts‘ fab new picture book with Andrea Beaty, Happy Birthday, Madame Chapeau, inspired by his favourite hat makers.
I do daydream about taking a year off to go study under someone such as Philip Treacy and make all sorts of wild headgear. But for now, I’ll be content with doing it as a job sideline… so much fun to be had!”
So now you can see why I wanted Sarah to be part of my Hat Week extravaganza, can’t you! Do you have a favourite among Sarah’s hats?
What’s a life without love, even if that love is a bit wonky and not quite what you expected?
Madame Chapeau, the latest creation from the finely paired team of Andrea Beaty and David Roberts, does her best to send little flights of joy and love out into the world, by making hats that perfectly match each of her clients. She’s imaginative, attentive and playful with what she creates, and her customers are delighted. However, poor Madame Chapeau lives alone. There clearly once was someone important in her life, but now, on her birthday she is left dining without close company.
What makes it even harder to bear is that her most treasured hat has been lost en route to her solo birthday meal. Passers-by try to help by offering their own hats to Madame Chapeau, and although their kindness is appreciated. nothing is quite right.
But then up steps a secret admirer, who has been watching Madame Chapeau for some time. A young girl, clearly fascinated by the hats Madame Chapeau creates, offers the milliner a little something she has been working on. It’s rather odd, but this gift has been made with much love and turns out to be the best sort of birthday present Mme Chapeau could have wished for. A new friendship is formed and – one suspects – a new hat maker begins her training.
Detail from Happy Birthday, Madam Chapeau. Note the hat that Madame Chapeau is wearing and compare it with the hat in the photo below of David Roberts’ mum.
This is a whimsical and charming book which celebrates creativity, generosity and thoughtfulness from start to finish. Beaty’s rhyming text tells a heart-warming tale, but Roberts’ detailed and exuberant illustrations steal the show. With lots of famous hats to spot (look out for Princess Beatrice’s hat, for example, or Charlie Chaplin’s Derby) and fabulous fashion, food and architectural details to pour over, this book rewards repeated readings. Happy Birthday Madame Chapeau is a joyous, life-affirming read and if that isn’t enough of a reason to seek it out, do read Maria Popova’s commentary on the subtle message this book has about diversity and cultural stereotypes.
Beanie type hats, plus some colourful craft pompoms make for some enjoyably silly headgear – perfect as winter approaches
I wonder what David Roberts would make of our hats? I ask this because it turns out he was himself a milliner before he became an illustrator. From a young age he had an interest in fashion, making clothes for his sister and her dolls, before going on to study fashion design at college. From this, a special love and skill with hats grew – a love and eye that can clearly be seen in his Madame Chapeau illustrations. I asked David if he would share a little about his love of hats, how it developed and what he finds so enjoyable about making hats. Here’s what he had to say:-
One of the first hats David Roberts made – for The Clothes Show competition in 1993.
“As a kid I was fascinated by Mrs Shilling, and the hats her son David made that she wore to Ascot. They were so theatrical that it would make the news! I loved how she wore these amazing and often bizarre creations with such style and elegance – even if the hat was ridiculous she never looked ridiculous in it.”
David Shilling with his mother Gertrude Shilling. Photo: Sidney Harris
“So when I had the option to do a course in millinery while studying for a degree in fashion design at Manchester Polytechnic, I jumped at the chance, and from then on I was hooked.”
David Roberts’ sister in the hat he made her for her wedding day.
“I love the sculptural aspect of millinery; a hat can be so individual, so singular, a one off. It’s so exciting to have all your elements to create a hat, cloth, wire, glue, buckram, feathers, beads, tulle, net and just let something evolve in your hands. It can turn in to anything really – an abstract shape or something natural like a plant or a flower.”
Stephen Jones, surrounded by some of his hat creations, London, circa 1985. Photo: Christopher Pillitz
“I worked for Stephen Jones for 5 years make his couture hats , where I learned so many skills. And although I loved making his imaginative creations, I stared to realise that I wanted to try my hand at illustrating children’s books – the other great passion in my life.”
This hat is one David Roberts made for his partner Chris (modelling it here). Do look out for it in Madame Chapeau’s shop!
“I am glad I made the step in to illustration, but I do still love to get the wire and beads and feathers out to make a hat once in a while. Madame Chapeau came about when the author Andrea Beaty heard that I had once been a milliner: She wrote the text for me and sent it from Chicago in a hat box! I was utterly captivated by it and enjoyed illustrating it and indulging myself once more in the wonderful world of millinery.”
This is the hat David Roberts gave to Madame Chapeau to wear. It is one David made for his mum to wear at his sister’s wedding.
My enormous thanks to David for sharing some of his millinery background with us today. His passion for hats shines through in his gorgeous illustrations for Happy Birthday, Madame Chapeau. Don’t take my word for it – go and find a copy to enjoy yourselves!
Elephant’s day doesn’t get off to a good start. He wakes up GRUMPY.
When the doorbell rings, it only annoys him. When he thumps downstairs to see who it is, there is a mystery present waiting for him and this unexpected gift – a most spectacular hat – turns his day around and puts a great big smile on his face.
Keen to share his good fortune Elephant visits his friends. They too have woken up out of sorts but Elephant knows a great way to spread his happiness: by sharing his present and giving each friend a fabulous hat to wear.
Hooray for Hat by Brian Won is a wonderfully up-beat and joyous ode to friendship, the good things that come from ‘paying it forward’ and teamwork. It perfectly captures the transformational magic of hats; a little bit of frivolity and exuberance bursting out of your head can indeed do wonders to how you feel!
From the deftly humorous grumpy facial expressions in a range of animals, to the appealing candy colour palette beautifully set off against stark white pages, Hooray for Hat‘s illustrations and design are a delight. The dapper carnival procession of animals are sure to make young readers giggle and banish any blues, helping us remember how little acts of kindness in life can make all the difference. A treat, pure and simple!
In response to Hooray for Hat we set up our own millinery studio, using old lampshades as bases for our hats (we were able to source lots of old lampshades from a local recycling centre).
Lampshades, ribbon, paper, hot clue, sequins and a whole lot of imagination and craziness later we had our hats:
As you can see, they made us feel very happy!
Whilst making our hats we listened to:
I Wanna Hat with Cherries played by the Glenn Miller Orchestra
Top Hat Ramble by Big Country Bluegrass – great for dancing to, but the only free recording I can find on YouTube isn’t great quality.
The Tinfoil Hat made both girls giggle
Other activities which would go well alongside reading Hooray for Hat include:
Playing with the activity sheet Brian Won has created to go with his book. You can download it from here and it includes bunting, different paper hats to make and colouring in.
When Millie spots the hat with the colorful feathers in a shop window, she stops in to try it on. But when she decides to buy it, it turns out to much too expensive. After all, she is looking for a free hat. The gentleman at the store thinks a bit and then comes up with a hat that can be anything that Millie wishes it to be, all it takes is a little imagination. Millie imagines a peacock hat, with the gorgeous tail. She passes a bakery and the hat turns into a cake hat. A flower shop turns it flowery. The park turns it into a fountain hat! Then she realizes that everyone she passes has their own special hat if she only looks for it.
The exuberance of this book is great fun. Kitamura takes great pleasure in creating different sorts of hats and bringing them to stunning realization. Kitamura’s art is whimsical and very friendly. His story is filled with imagination and a sense of fun. The book is sure to get everyone thinking about what their own personal hat would look like.
Mine? Oh, my hat changes of course, but right now it is autumn leaves that blow about with gusts of wind that catch in the hair of people I pass by. What about you?
Crafty teachers and librarians will be able to create hat crafts to go with this book. It will pair nicely with other hat books like Caps for Sale. Appropriate for ages 3-6.
Reviewed from copy received from publisher. The copy will be placed in library collection.
From shoes to hats. This may look a little familiar. I have posted some photos of this drawing in the past, but I've not posted the actual drawing until now. I got it scanned at a print shop and wasn't too happy with the results. It's a little too bright for my taste. The photos are much better, the colours are more true to the original. See them and read about how I created this drawing HERE.
From now on I promise to stop plugging my children's book blog and drawing shoes. Possibly maybe.
You do have to click on the drawing for a better view.
I love this photo, and if had started reading at his age, maybe my whole life would have been different. As it was, my life is more complicated than I ever thought it would be. That is, because I wear many hats in my so-called "retirement."
We all wear different hats in life, especially as weget older. My hats include those of a husband, father, grandparent, uncle,friend, teacher, essayist, instructor, tutor, performer, golfer, biker,children’s poet, and an adult poet.
Over the pastthree decades I have written many children’s poems. During that time, I sometimes have playedthis recording in my head, “Someday I am going to get more serious aboutwriting adult poetry and join an official writing group.” Now I feel old enough, and I have taken theplunge. I am more than willing to share my poetry for adults and chase aroundfor publishers.
I feel passionately about poetry, whether it’swritten for children or adults. Exactly how passionately? Well, I have strongbeliefs about the value of poetry. I am working on a poetry handbook forhomeschoolers, and what follows is an excerpt from the introduction:
“Poetrycan help you understand the world better and yourself better. Poetry canprovide an avenue for you to untangle mixed-up feelings. Poetry can make youlaugh and encourage you to take problems in stride. Poetry can give you wordsof courage to remember in times of stress.
Poetrycan be a friend that goes wherever you go. Poems can be tucked into your bookbag or your brain matter, and taken with you on any journey, short or long. Inother words, poetry can play an important part in your life as a road map tocourage, compassion, laughter, fun, success, and self-knowledge. This willbecome clearer as you read on.
Just as the book arrived I found out that Tutti Frutti Productions, a UK theatre company whose work is aimed specifically at family audiences was about to start touring with a stage version of When We Lived in Uncle’s Hat. Such a lovely coincidence ensured we read the book straight away, and were then quick to buy tickets for the production which is touring to a theatre local to us in a few weeks’ time.
The auspicious signs didn’t end there – upon reading the book for the first time with M and J I experienced a rather strange sense of deja-vu – as if the book had been written for me, right here, right now.
When We Lived in Uncle’s Hat is a series of cameo descriptions of different homes a family has lived in, in their search for the right place for them, the home that would suit them all. They try living in the forest, on the church roof, in a hotel and even on the moon, amongst many other places, before finally ending up in a house that makes the perfect home for them. The book closes with the lines:
Now our house has four corners.
And our year has four seasons.
We moved here four years ago…
So … this is where we’ll live for a very, very long time.
This book spoke to me as I too have moved very many times in my life – on average staying in any one place for only three years. But it just so happens that this month we’ve been in this home, where we are now, for four years. A funny case of life mirroring art, but one which further endeared me to this book.
The structure of the book opens up lots of opportunity for flights of imagination and connective moments of empathy. What different places could you live in? What would it be like to live in given circumstances? For example, at one point the family find themselves living under a bridge, where “it smelt strange and the names of people we didn’t know were written on the pillars.”
The simple illustrations using a lot of coloured pencil (in addition to watercolour and collage) didn’t immediately grab me. Perhaps my expectations were too high given her recent accolade? They did, however, intrigue me. I imagine there were some interesting editorial discussions as a result of the content: several illustrations include German words, and these have been left in German in the English language translation, and there is also a (very small) drawing of a naked woman sunbathing – not something I imagine would be welcomed with open arms by most English publishers of picture b
Born in 1874 Elsa Beskow published 40 odd books in her lifetime, many featuring children exploring fairy tale worlds where respect for nature plays a major role. She is credited with having been the first author to bring Swedish children’s literature to an international readership and her books are nowadays particularly popular with followers of Steiner and Waldorf education methods.
A family of forest people live under the curling roots of an old pine tree, deep in a forest. They go about their lives playing, exploring, observing nature and overcoming danger and the book follows their simple and happy lives through the course of the four seasons. They make friends with frogs, fight (and kill) a snake, collect mushrooms, harvest cotton grass and feed their animal friends when the snow comes. Their life is almost carefree and idyllic, in harmony with nature and their surroundings.
Children of the Forest
The original Swedish text was written in rhyme, but this has not been retained in the English version. Perhaps this was a wise decision, for the text certainly never feels like it is a translation. One of my favourite quotes is “They paddled and splashed in the stream, damming it to build a water mill. No one card how wet or muddy they were for no child of the forest can catch cold“. This made me think of the forest kindergarten movement, a type of preschool education which is held almost exclusively outdoors.
The illustrations will delight you if you like Beatrix Potter or Jill Barklem. They are the perfect mix of reality (in so many details, such as the mottling on the silver birch bark used as a shield by the father of the family) and fantasy (pint sized people, trolls and fairies). There is nothing modern, avant garde or unsettling about
My girls are going through a phase where what they most want to do pretty much all of the time is create miniature landscapes, with building bricks, playmobil, sylvanian family furniture and animals, supplemented by all sorts of knick-knacks that little children have a magical ability to accumulate. These “set-ups” as the girls call them are often inspired by the books we’re reading, and the latest book to be given the landscape makeover is The Children of Hat Cottage by Elsa Beskow.
In a nutshell, The Children of Hat Cottage tells the sort of tale many parents will recognise – about children trying to be helpful, but ending up making a bigger mess than there was before.
A mother lives with her three young children in a cottage shaped like a hat. One day she has to leave them at home whilst she goes off to buy yarn to make new clothes (isn’t it liberating and exciting how in fairytale-like stories, it’s perfectly possible to leave children at home alone!). Whilst their mother is away the children decide to do something nice for her; they clean the cottage chimney. But one thing leads to another and disaster strikes… their beautiful little hat home burns down.
Fortunately there is a friendly neighbour who comes to the aid of the children, and together they work to save the day. The mother returns, and though initially shocked, everyone shows great composure, makes the best of the situation and out of hard times, lots of love (and a new home) flourishes.
This is a sweet little story with simple, but lovely illustrations. The themes of independence, triumphing over adversity, and keep one’s cool in the face of disaster are great for shared storytime. The fairytale aspects of the setting will delight children who want to believe in gnomes and little spirits, and the poise with which the mother picks up the remains of her burnt-out life and makes the best of it is something I shall aspire to when things are higgledey-piggeldy in my life.
There’s plenty to like about this story, but hand on heart, I don’t believe this is one of Elsa Beskow’s greatest books. The illustrations are somewhat sparse compared to some of her work. They are quick, fluid sketches rather than the detailed images you find in, for example, Around the Year or Children of the Forest. Still, we’ve enjoyed it and it has inspired plenty of play in our family, as I’m sure it will in yours.
Here are some scenes from one of M and J’s “Hat Cottage set-ups”, including a little cottage we made inspired by the one in the illustration above.
3 Comments on Minature landscapes and giant hats, last added: 2/8/2012
I love this photo. At least one young lady knows that her photo is being taken, while wearing her silly hat and a smile. Some schools outlaw hats. They are considered it a distraction to education. Rather sad, eh? I've been in such schools. I always like schools that allow all kinds of hats better?
I think judiciously placed advertisements relevant to the content of the ebook can enhance the reader's experience. Obviously this must be done with taste and flair. Imagine, for instance, if you were reading an ebook about a chocolate factory. When you reached the end, you would probably quite fancy a bit of chocolate. Imagine your surprise and pleasure, therefore, to find placed elegantly before you an opportunity to place an order for, say, Fishblanket's Luxurious Chocolate Fancies! Delivered to your door within an hour by helicopter, and at the cost of a mere one thousand guineas. Would that not be a fitting finale to your reading experience. Who could resist?
In just such a spirit of maximising reader pleasure I have partnered with several esteemed online purveyors of hats, and have added adverts (or hatverts, as I call them) for their wares to the end of my children's ebook Happy Hat Day.
Here they are if you are interested in such things. (I am quite willing to disclose that I earn one shilling for every one thousand hats sold. Ker-ching!)
Kid Lit Reviews welcomes Angela Shelton, author of The Adventures of Tilda Pinkerton Book 1: Crash-landing on Ooleeoo. Kid Lit Reviews generally does not delve into articles for authors unless there is something of interest to the young reader. Today will be an exception. Ms. Shelton is writing on the importance of the teacher-writer [...]
Yesterday the Summer Reading Challenge team took me and the Medusa fascinator to Exeter Library to talk and draw with children from St Leonard’s Primary School ...and the Duchess of Cornwall! (Camilla is no stranger to the Medusa hat; you can see hers on a Royal Hats blog here.) I talked with the kids about the Mythical Maze characters I'd drawn, then they helped me draw a four-panel comic about an yeti-Medusa adventure, showing them how easy it is to make a story. Then we all drew Medusa (one kid had something like 46 snakes on his Medusa - it looked like an explosion!).
I talked a bit about how we are still creating myths and legends; no one can second-guess which will be the stories remembered for thousands of years, but we can try our creative best and who knows, perhaps people will still remember our characters for generations to come. I introduced them to my Oliver and the Seawigs co-author Philip Reeve and we pointed out the little Sea Monkey on the poster, saying it was our contribution this year to myth making. Then I invited Camilla to come help me draw a Sea Monkey and she was such a good sport about it! I liked her monkey, it's very cheeky.
And we all sang the Sea Monkey song! Camilla said she wouldn't be able to get the chorus our of her head, and I apologised. (It does have an annoying catchiness to it.)
Last night the Fleece Station studio was out in force to celebrate the launch of Gary Northfield's new comic book, Gary's Garden! You may recognise Gary's Garden as a frequent strip in The Phoenix Comic, one of the comics in there that the parents like as much as the kids do because it works on so many levels.
Elissa Elwick and I both wore Chompy the Caterpillar-themed garb. Gary's Garden makes the perfect prezzie for kids (say, 5+ with some help reading), adults who love nature and gardening, anyone who likes a good laugh. Buy it here a The Phoenix Comic online shop! Gary works so hard on these comic strips, has such great drawing skills an perfectly pitched comic timing; we're all very proud of him. Look, Lauren O'Farrell (aka Deadly Knitshade) makes a perfect perch for Bob the Butterfly!
And here are the lovely Ficklings - David and Caro - who make it happen, at David Fickling Books, based in Oxford. It was also great to see Gary's Garden amazing designer Ness Wood (who also designed Jampires!), DFB's Phil Earle and John Dickinson. Jonathan Main and Justine Crow of Bookseller Crow in Crystal Palace hosted the party, and they've been great supporters of lots of our books, we love our indie. I love buying books from them, even online; they stock a great selection, including lots of beautiful graphic novels.
...Bits of which were consumed most elegantly by Gary and his partner Nicky Evans.
Speaking of elegance, just as David Fickling was giving his speech, a giant bird swooped down and placed a wafer upon his lips. We all bowed our heads for a moment of awed silence for this great book.
Gary made a big window display; here he is stage directing Nicky in setting it up.
There were a couple other Phoenix Comic people present: the fabulous Jamie Smart (Bunny vs Monkey, also out now as a book!) and the excellent Matt Baxter, who creates the Live from HQ strip with the Phoenix comic-character editorial crew. I didn't manage to get a photo of Jamie, but here's Matt. And you can just spot illustrator and app-creator Heather Kilgour over his shoulder! There were quite a few comics makers there that I didn't manage to photograph, including Francesca Cassavetti.
Hee hee, another hat photo.
This Thursday (called 'Super Thursday' in publishing) was also the official publication date for my book with David O'Connell, Jampires, and wow, a couple of them showed up!
It was really Gary's night, but we had a happy mix of new creative stuff.
I was very proud of my Chompy hat, made from a pencil case, foam balls and pipe cleaners from Poundland, some felt, a yoghurt pot and a coat hanger.
When creating Gary-themed characters, it's very important to get the wonky eyes right.
Before the launch, we went for a top-notch Afternoon Tea in Alex Milway and Katie Lee's garden (Gary lived with them for a couple years while he was working on Gary's Garden), and Dave and I brought along some of our local Butch Institute Jampires-themed jam.
Huge congratulations, Gary! Gary's Garden is amazing, and everyone, spread the word and help it fly off the shelves! And subscribe to The Phoenix Comic for ongoing Gary's Garden goodness.
Here's the video of our Summer Reading Challenge visit to Leith Library! Philip Reeve came along and made a very elegant flip-chart stand. I love it when the boy says, At first I thought, wow, she’s posh! She had like, that bird in her hair, and fancy blue ribbon… and a dress with lipstick on it… and it was like, really posh.
Philip noted that support for Scottish independence has soared since our visit; I hope we weren't a contributing factor...
In other news, after my meeting at Scholastic yesterday, I stopped into Foyles on Charing Cross Road and found this book looking up at me from the display table. One of my all-time favourite illustrators that I'm always going on about, David Roberts, and... hats! Oh my word, you guys!!! Why didn't no one tell me about this book??
David worked as a milliner, and you can tell, in the sculptural way he draws his figures and their patterns. I put together my hats with a bit of lick and spit - I don't really know what I'm doing - but I often daydream of taking a year out of publishing to work as an apprentice for Philip Treacy, with access to all that great kit. I don't generally get excited about the whole fashion industry (and its emphasis on being super-thin), but I make a huge exception for hats, which can be worn by anyone. Andrea's website also has some examples of hats that you can make yourself:
Hat lovers and fashionistas around the world, you're going to adore this book. You can follow Andrea on Twitter as (@andreabeaty but sadly, David Roberts is not on Twitter. (He's too busy pumping out a prodigious amount of incredible work. How does he DO it??!)
Philip demonstrated the wonder of SCIENCE, how in the future in Cakes in Space, people can insert protein sachets into the marvellous NOM-O_TRON and produce the most excellent food you can imagine. In Philip's case, it was a chocolate biscuit.
Now, I ought not to give away all the secrets of our research, but I can allude to a strange occurrence during the event, brought on by Visitors from Elsewhere, which left Philip struck to the heart with tragic loss. ...A moment of silence, please.
To deal with these dangers in the future, we need TECHNOLOGY, mostly in the form of robots who look rather friendly. I drew a diagram of a Cakes in Space-featured robot named Pilbeam. And so that the schematics of this fine robot would not be forgotten by future generations, I had everyone draw Pilbeam along with me, implanting the robot's makeup directly into their brains.
And the implantation was successful, each diagram slightly altered so that the memory could not be wiped out by a single virus. (Clever, yes?)
Despite the gloom and doom of the presentation, the front window display at Daunt Books Marylebone looked quite jolly. We suspect they may be in collusion with the killer cakes.
After our signing, Philip and I traveled with Norwegian starship captain Karoline Bakken to another satellite of Daunt.
Despite its rather old-fashioned facade, Daunt Books HighgateIS the future and houses a time machine in its basement.
The staff let us inscribe coded warnings for future generations in their Cakes in Space books but pretended not to know what we were talking about when we asked them about the time machine. So we left them, vowing to return when their secret could be revealed.
As we traveled, Captain Bakken lavished unwarranted affection on our captured cake. Being nice to cakes doesn't help anything, you ought to know. Eat the cake before it eats you, that's our motto.
But what is this? My co-pilot decided to go undercover, to wear CIVVIES, while I remained still properly clad in my fighting uniform. Obviously this is a sign of some overarching PLAN we have, but I can't tell you about it or I'll have to kill you.
Be aware. Be vigilant. Run to your nearest bookshop and snatch up a copy of Cakes in Space so that you, too, can be prepared for alien cake attack. You NEVER KNOW when they might strike. I will leave you with our public service broadcast:
Next month one of my all-time favourite illustrators will be visiting the UK, and in a dream come true, I’ll be getting to meet him. I’ve even bought a special hat for the occasion. (True! I’ll be sharing a photo after the event…)
Even if you can’t make any of these events, please do join me today as I interview Satoshi, about hats, Japanese illustrators, and how his work has changed over his career so far.
Zoe:Millie’s Marvellous Hat is the most playful and wonderful of picture books. Millie can’t afford to buy a hat but she can imagine the hat she’d like to wear. Your book is full of incredible hats, each of which somehow reflects the character who is wearing it. I’d like to start by asking what hat you are wearing today? Is it a hat you often wear? What does your hat tell us about you?
(I can easily imagine you wearing a hat mixing your beautiful blues, plenty of cats and lots of music escaping into the air. In my head I’m wearing a hat with a peal of brightly coloured books cascading open, with lots of characters and sparks escaping from the pages.)
An extract from Millie’s Marvellous Hat
Satoshi: At the moment I’m listening to wonderful jazz music on the radio and my musical hat is becoming bigger and more colourful. I love all sorts of music. I wish I had some musical talent myself but unfortunately I have none. So I often put on my imaginary musical hat that makes interesting melodies and harmonies.
Zoe:I love the look and sound of your hat, Satoshi!
Can you share 3 or 4 key points on your journey to becoming an author and illustrator – key people, special books, serendipitous meetings, that sort of thing? What books did you enjoy as a child?
Satoshi: When I was a child I spent lots of time reading comics. Astroboy (Tetsuwan Atom) by Osamu Tezuka was my favourite and Shigeru Mizuki’s little spooky comics were excellent too. My elder brother influenced me a lot. He was keen on painting from an early age and by four or five I had started to draw with him. In our early teens we often went to art galleries together. The first one we went to was a big exhibition of Pierre Bonnard, the French painter.
I started making a picture book in my twenties. The most important person in my journey was Klaus Flugge, owner and publisher of Andersen Press. He gave me the story Angry Arthur by Hiawyn Oram and published it with my illustrations. That started my career. Klaus and I have been good friends ever since.
An illustrated envelope sent by Satoshi Kitamura to Klaus Flugge.
Satoshi: Illustrating short stories or picture book texts are narrative illustration in which you illustrate scenes that progress the story. Illustrating poetry is like answering a letter: a piece of fine poetry is a letter written to you and you answer it by showing what kind of image, feeling or sensation the poem created in your mind. You answer it with pictures.
Zoe:I understand that at the time of the 2011 earthquake and Tsunami you were working on a sequel to Millie’s Marvellous Hat. Is that sequel still on the cards? Or has its association with such a devastating event made it hard to finish?
Satoshi: The earthquake in 2011 was the most crucial incident in the recent history of Japan and we still live in its aftermath. Unfortunately since then the country seems to be heading in the wrong direction. The very right-wing government is becoming more aggressive and relationships with neighbouring countries are deteriorating unnecessarily. On the positive side, the earthquake made many of us more concerned about politics and about the technology our society relies upon.
However, these things do not affect my work directly. I have written a couple of stories for Millie but they are not as good as the first one. I’d love to do another book about Millie one day. I’ve done two short graphic novels recently. One is an adaptation of a Leonora Carrington short story and another was my own story inspired by one of Charles Simic‘s poems. I enjoyed working on them very much and would like to tell more stories in this way.
Zoe:You’ve been illustrating for over 30 years – what have you learned about illustrating in this time and how do you think your style has changed since you illustrated Angry Arthur? Have you changed the materials you use for illustrating?
Satoshi: I hope my illustrations are getting better, although I always feel that they are not quite good enough. Probably lots of artists feel this way – that life is too short, and they need two or three hundred years to develop his/her skills to the full. Or possibly I am a little immature!
I’ve never consciously changed my style. The changes come naturally. In terms of materials, I sometimes use new materials – for example, I paint with acrylics more often these days. In Beetle and Bug in the Grissel Hunt, written by Hiawyn Oram, I made a top using a biro and drew spiral patterns by spinning the top across the paper.
Zoe:In the past you lived for an extended period in Britain, but I believe you are now based back in Japan. How is the picture book landscape different in these two countries? What do you find works well in one place but not the other? What do you think each could learn from the other?
Satoshi: I’m a bit of an outsider in my own country, probably because I lived in UK for about 30 years. Strangely, my books are most popular in Latin America. I don’t know why but I see more books of mine in bookshops there than anywhere else. I have been invited to many book festivals in Mexico, Chile and Colombia. My books are not particularly popular in Japan but Millie’s Marvelous Hat will be a set book for second year primary school students in Japan from next year. Many years ago UFO Diary was in the English textbook for Japanese secondary school students.
Zoe:Could you recommend some Japanese illustrators we should look out for (whether or not they are available in translation)?
Satoshi: Ken Katayama is the most outstanding artist alive in picture books in Japan. Suekichi Akaba was another brilliant artist.
Two books illustrated by Ken Katayama (1940–)
Two books illustrated by Suekichi Akaba (1910–1990)
Zoe:Many thanks Satoshi – I’m really looking forward to meeting you next month!
You’ll have to wait a year for this, but November 2015 will see a brand new book from Satoshi: