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If you’ve been paying attention to the picture book scene the last few years, you’re sure to recognize this fella…

No, not that fella! He’s new!

I mean this fella…

…drawn by this fella…

…Mike Boldt!

So you’ve no doubt heard of him…he’s got several hit books under his pencil and now I can introduce that OTHER fella, because he’s the star of Mike’s brand-new book!

Say hello to Fergus!

Mike, how did Fergus first find his way into your head?

My ideas come from all sorts of places. The idea of Find Fergus literally came out of a conversation that I was having with my friend, Dan Santat. In jest, I said I was going to do a knock off of Where’s Waldo?, but where Waldo was terrible at hiding. We laughed, and then Dan told me that was a really good idea, and I should make it. I thought about it, and decided he was right! So I did!

Was Fergus always a bear? 

Yes! It was very quickly decided that Fergus was going to be a bear, since actually doing Waldo in my own story wasn’t really an option. I thought a large bear would be funny, and then I tried to give him a Waldo flair with the glasses to pay tribute to the “original”.

Let’s talk about the color scheme. Why bright yellow?

I found the bright yellow background for Fergus right away. Originally, when I was working on the pitch, I did up a couple samples of a finished cover and a finished spread, and I used yellow in the background as a placeholder. But I instantly liked it so much it just stuck. There was one option where we tried a different color background, but it definitely was not right for this book.

Why do you think Fergus likes to hide so much? What’s going on beneath that big ball of fur?

Well, I believe Fergus is a character who has a rather childlike care-free approach to things in life. So whether he knows how to hide or not, he’s a bear who is going to have fun doing it. I really wanted to not only make sure that the theme wasn’t “Practice makes perfect” but rather “Practice makes progress”. I think with that approach we can have a lot more fun, like Fergus, even if we aren’t very good at something and enjoy the process. Besides, who doesn’t love a good game of hide and seek?!

No one doesn’t love hide and seek! 

Mike, can you give us any hints about your upcoming projects?

Funny you should ask, Tara! I actually have two books coming out next year. A wonderful and silly book called GOOD NIGHT, ALLIGATOR by Rebecca Van Slyke, and another hilarious picture book called BLOOP (by YOU!) about a hilarious space invader. That’s about it for now.

Well, it’s a good thing we have a Mike Boldt book now to tide us over!

And blog readers, you can win a copy!

I’ll count while you go hide! 10, 9, 8…

Kidding! Just leave a comment below to enter and a random winner will be selected soon.

Good luck!

And follow Fergus’ Indie bookstore tour:

I love watching illustrators at work. Sketching, painting, snipping paper for collage…seeing a blank page sprout something beautiful is miraculous. Plus, isn’t it a soothing way to spend some time? We all need it these days!

So it was with pleasure I watched illustrator Larissa Marantz paint CLYDE THE HIPPO, the character from her new series with husband Keith, published by Penguin Workshop.

Larissa, your video is mesmerizing!

How did you decide on the look and style for Clyde the Hippo?

Clyde was designed to fit in with a cast of characters called The Fuzz Budz which were a group of characters in our first self-published book. Those characters came about from a simple shaped art lesson that I taught my elementary school students. The idea was to use a rectangle shape as the basis for a bunch of animal characters. Clyde is made from a shape I call a “circ-tangle” which is basically a rounded rectangle.

Our first Clyde book was a self-published title called “Clyde Likes to Hide.” The style of that book is very different from the Clyde the Hippo series with Penguin Workshop because I started working digitally and wanted to use pastel brushes. I love the texture and richness in colors that you can get from working in pastels, but the mess is unreal. Being able to duplicate that look digitally was very satisfying. Keith and I also wanted the aesthetic of the book to be bright and graphic with elements of mid-century modern design thrown in, since we are fans of that era. I used a lot of pattern reference and strong shape language to keep things simple in my background illustrations.

 

No wonder I love the Clyde style, I’m a fan of mid-century modern, too!

How did you and Keith take Clyde from self-published to traditionally-published with Penguin?

We initially wrote and self-published the first Clyde book but didn’t put very much effort into selling it. We knew that in order to succeed in self publishing it takes a lot of hustle, and we just wanted to write and illustrate stories. We had created a second story, Clyde Likes to Slide, with a completed dummy. We sent that to our agent who we had just recently connected with. She loved it and thought it had great potential.  She shopped it to different publishers, one of which thought it would make a great series so they asked us to submit a series package. Ultimately they turned it down but Penguin saw something special in it and picked up the series.

Yes, I totally understand wanting to just make stories. Marketing and promotion is tough work (and not nearly as fun)!

Let’s jump back in time a little more…when did you and Keith decide you wanted to be children’s book creators?

Well, there’s a bit of a story behind that. I had been working in animation as a character designer for the Rugrats and Rocket Power. While I was there, I started illustrating picture books for Nickelodeon. When I left the studio to become a

 stay at home mom, I illustrated more picture books for Nickelodeon. Keith had always wanted to write and actually wrote some spec scripts for the animated shows I was working on. He had been writing a screenplay as well. Our first picture book together was inspired by our oldest daughter who was 9 years old at the time. She was drawing these adorable animal characters based on the lessons she was learning in my art classes. Based on her drawings, we came up with a cast of characters and Keith wrote some fun rhyming poems about the kinds of food they’d love to eat. That was our first book together and it’s called Dream-O-Licious.

The idea for adding Clyde came about when our youngest daughter asked for a pet and my husband joked with her that we already had a hippo hiding in the backyard. After I designed Clyde, I fell in love with him and we knew we had to make stories for him. Keith loves to come up with a good title and he loves to rhyme, so we came up with Clyde Likes to Hide as our first story. He’s a very large hippo who loves to hide, but he’s not very good at it. Next came Clyde Likes to Slide and Clyde Likes to Ride. I came up with the idea for Clyde Lied and Keith wrote a really great story for that concept. Clyde Goes To School does not rhyme but we wanted to introduce Clyde and his world, so that became the first title in the series.

What a creative couple! Well, a creative family!

Did you always know you wanted to work in illustration?

I didn’t realize I wanted to until later on. I knew I wanted to be an artist, but I studied fine art in college. When choosing a major, I didn’t understand that illustration was basically painting and drawing but for a different purpose. I switched from fine arts to animation and then made a pivot into illustration when I became a stay at home mom. Once I started reading all those children’s books to my kids, I realized that I wanted to illustrate my own characters, not just Nickelodeon’s characters. That’s when I started working on creating my own style and trying to get an agent . It was harder than I thought it would be. I figured that since I had already illustrated a dozen books, it’d be simple enough. But my style was very steeped in animation, and I didn’t understand that just because I could draw animated characters well that I couldn’t just draw for picture book illustration. I had to learn a little more about style and narrative illustration. I had to develop my own voice. And Keith had to develop his voice in writing, too. We both worked on it and were able to connect with a wonderful agent who saw our potential and now represents both of us as a creative team. Keith is my author and I am his illustrator.

 

I love it!

Can you tell us what’s coming next for the Marantzes?

We are hard at work on a middle grade graphic novel entitled BLAKE LASER that will be published with HarperCollins in 2022.

Set in the  24th century, the book features a 12-year old inventor who, along with her parents and annoying brother,  must stop aliens from stealing the sun’s energy. I’ve designed spaceships, aliens, and robots, which is very different from the cute stuff I’m used to drawing. One of my favorite things about this project is that we’ve written a story about a family that looks like us. Creating diverse characters for picture books is so important, along with developing heroes and heroines in stories who multiracial kids and children of color can identify with. There is no doubt that making a graphic novel is a tremendous amount of work but it’s something we both feel we’re suited for, given Keith’s love for cinema and screenplays and my experience working as an animation artist. We’re very interested in depicting epic stories with vast worlds for the remainder of our publishing career, so we are working nonstop at developing those types of stories for readers.

Thanks for chatting with me, Larissa. It’s wonderful to get to know you and CLYDE (and Keith)!

You can get to know them all better at ClydetheHippo.com.

We’re also giving away a CLYDE book: CLYDE LIKES TO SLIDE!

Slide in a comment below for a chance to win it.

A random winner will be selected later this month.

Good luck!

Ready…set…

Yes, it’s time to GO!

Where, you ask?

To the Pen and Ink Brigade’s STAND UP Art Auction! Going on NOW!

But first, author-illustrator Carin Berger is here to tell us a little about it. Carin, what is the Pen and Ink Brigade and how did you get started?

The Pen and Ink Brigade is a group of women artists/activists who have joined forces to use our art to create progressive change. Many of us are well known picture book creators and illustrators.

The 2016 election really galvanized us. We gave ourselves the name, the Pen and Ink Brigade, and marched together in the women’s march. We began to realize that, collectively, we had a vast pool of talent and shared political beliefs. And, kind of on the fly, we organized a fundraiser, the BLUE WAVE project, which was an art show and an art sale that benefitted a get out the vote [GOTV] group, VoteRiders just in time for the 2018 midterm elections. Somehow, in a matter of weeks, we pulled the project together. Each artist created a blue wave, which, when they were put together, made a great blue tsunami.  We held the show at the Diana Kane Boutique in Brooklyn, and managed to sell all the art. It was empowering and exhilarating. And we haven’t stopped!

Wow! What project did you tackle next?

After the BLUE WAVE project the women of the Pen and Ink Brigade worked together on a number of projects. We created a mural proposal for AOC’s office in Jackson Heights, NYC. We made a backdrop for a fundraising event, Persisticon, and we put together a bi-coastal art show, PINK NYC + PINK SF, with 80 artists, all women, who created work that reclaimed and re-defined the color pink. We raised over $20,000 for Stacey Abrams’s voting rights initiative, FAIR FIGHT ACTION, to help ensure people’s right to vote in the upcoming 2020 election. It was super inspiring to see the art come in, and for the color PINK to be reclaimed as something fierce and provocative and powerful.

What is this week’s STAND UP! Auction all about?

And now, in time for November, we have yet another project. STAND UP! is a fundraising auction. 100% of the proceeds will go to EMILY’s List to help diverse, progressive women candidates get elected. We came to this theme after watching people bravely working together to confront the many difficult challenges that we are facing as a country right now. The pandemic, the importance of BLM, the economic hardship so many of us are experiencing, the inequities that affect schooling and health for people. Climate change. These are tough times. But it has been heartening to see our communities coming together and standing up for what is right. We structure the call for entries to be flexible and open ended, allowing each artist to create a piece that addresses a specific issue that the artist was standing up for.

Please tell us what your piece for the auction is about!

My piece is titled STAND UP for ALL OF US!

I was thinking about what our country and world needs to move forward, and on that list was diversity, inclusion, connection and community. That is my hope for this moment, that broadly, we will find a way to STAND UP and join forces and find the beauty in the wild diversity that we each offer, but also that deep need for connection that we all have.

These ideas also thread through many of my books like The Little Yellow Leaf and Forever Friends. And explicitly in All of Us, which I wrote in response to the 2016 election. I deeply believe in the power of love and community, and in these dark divisive times, I have been heartened by the way people have come together to STAND UP!

The STAND UP! Auction is going on today through August 28th! See all the artwork available at penandinkbrigade.com/standup.

Also, you can tune into an interview with author-illustrator LeUyen Pham tonight on Instagram Live:

It’s the age-old question: what’s for dinner? Pizza? Or Tacos?

Tough decision! Pizza could have anything ON it, but then a taco could have anything IN it. Limitless possibilities! So who’s the best?

Luckily, author-illustrator Stephen Shaskan has settled the debate with his newly released chapter book:

This is the first in a delicious new illustrated series!

I like to interview folks about their books, and luckily, both Pizza and Taco were available to take a seat, and they didn’t even leave melted cheese on my couch! Not a chunk of cheddar or a morsel of mozzarella! What polite guests.

What? Don’t you like tunafish sandwiches?

Guys, come back!!! I’ve got pickles, too!

OH WELL.

Maybe you want to figure out who’s best. (Do so quickly, because you don’t want to be late for their BEST PARTY EVER in the Spring!)

Stephen is giving away a signed copy of PIZZA AND TACO: WHO’S THE BEST? to a lucky winner.

Just leave one comment below to enter.

Winner will be randomly selected in July.

(Sorry, actual pizza and taco not included. They don’t travel well.)

 

At the risk of dating myself, I’ll mention an old commercial tag line from the 1970’s—“when E.F. Hutton talks, people listen.”

Well, when Holiday House contacts you and asks if you’d like to chat with two-time Caldecott and Geisel Honor book winner Laura Vaccaro Seeger, you also stop everything and LISTEN!

Laura’s latest book is a charmer, snuggle-worthy for the littlest ones. It’s titled, simply, WHY?

I met Laura last year at the Irma S. Black Award ceremony where she served as keynote speaker. She showed us her newest book at the time, BLUE, about a boy and his best friend. (Notice how the die cut on each page forms a new part of the image with each turn.)

 

Laura, you must know you are the only PB creator to make my husband tear up, as you read BLUE. And he’s never even had a dog! He was incredibly moved. How do you inject so much heart into your stories?

With every book, I try to distill the story down to its essence and I always draw upon strong feelings and beliefs while writing and illustrating.

With BULLY, for example, I’ve always felt a deep sense of empathy for anyone who was bullied or feeling left out, so it was important to me that above all else, empathy is the most important aspect of that book.

BLUE is probably the most difficult book I’ve ever created. It really comes from a deeply personal place. As a young child, I’d experienced the sudden loss of a family member—my brother—and that very complicated trauma was never really worked through. Consequently, I’ve always had an overwhelming fear and dread of loss. BLUE is a kind of therapeutic, cathartic personal exercise, but more importantly, it’s an attempt to offer comfort, as well as a starting point for deeper discussion with young children, (or anyone, really).

Your husband’s reaction truly means a lot to me!

So with your new book WHY?, what did you distill its essence down to?

WHY is a about curiosity, patience, and understanding. The little rabbit is having a bit of an existential crisis, and at one point in the book, the apparently all-knowing bear is faced with a similar crisis as he realizes that he can’t explain everything after all. Ultimately, their loving and enduring friendship is more important than anything, even when there are unanswerable questions. (I’ve always been fascinated with unanswered questions…)

Why do you think WHY? is a child’s most pressing (and frequent) question?

Well, given that children are witnessing everything pretty much for the first time, I think it makes sense that they would seek to have a deeper understanding of what they’re seeing and hearing.

I think adults often take for granted their surroundings, even if those deeper meanings were never fully explored or questioned.

Why are the characters in the book a bear and a bunny—instead of a bear and cub (or rabbit and bunny)? Why is the relationship shown as one of friendship instead of parent-child?

Ah, I thought long and hard about that.

With this book, as with many, I had an immediate vision that I wanted to stay true to. I knew that I wanted one of the characters to be very large, and one super small, which in many ways ended up dictating the decision about whether or not they’re related to one another. I also wanted them to be friends rather than relatives because friendship is a voluntary relationship, which I felt made the story more interesting in many ways.

Also, from the beginning. I’d envisioned a bear and a rabbit, but I did explore a substitute for the bear because I was worried that there might be confusion between the bear in WHY, and the bear in my DOG AND BEAR series. In the end, I felt the bear was undeniably perfect, and I was confident that the character would be distinctive in its own right.

He is distinctive! And so lumpy in a furry-cuddly way. Plus, it’s more visually interesting to showcase contrasting characters!

Speaking of your art, it’s gorgeous, full of depth and texture. Can you tell us a little about your illustration process for WHY?

Sure! With each book, I try to envision an art style that will match the text I’ve written. Hence the multiple, various art styles over the years.

With WHY, I envisioned a softer style, unlike any of my other books. It’s been years since I’ve worked with watercolors, and I had such a great time painting the art for this book!

So, I began each painting with a pencil drawing, and then I painted over the drawings with watercolor paint. I repeated this process lightly, many times, which gave the art depth and a layered feel, without any thick paint or brushstrokes. This way, the softness was retained and the pencil lines showed through.

Once all of that was done, I still felt it needed something – a bit of grittiness and a little more depth. I wanted it to feel more organic.

So, I finally broke out a fabulous gigantic Japanese brush I’d bought a few years ago in Singapore and I soaked it full of water so that it was completely saturated. Then, I brought it into my backyard where I dipped the sopping wet brush into India ink and flung it at watercolor papers. When I was finished, I had a huge stack of paper, each sheet full of splotches, spots, drips, etc. I created so many sheets because I didn’t want to repeat any of the elements.

Then, I scanned my original watercolor paintings and all of the “splotch” art sheets. For each painting, I overlaid several different “splotch” art sheets, I isolated the splotches, and I either lightened or darkened those areas on the original paintings.

Your process is fascinating! I love the thick and chunky Japanese brush!

What’s so lovely about the illustrations is that they feel soft and safe for a young child who is asking WHY, who is questioning the world around them. What do you hope that young reader will take away from your story?

I think with WHY, I’d love to encourage curiosity and the freedom and “permission” to question absolutely everything, which ultimately I believe, would encourage independent thought and informed decision-making. I also hope WHY is an example of patience and understanding, for sure. And lastly, I hope that young readers understand that not all questions have immediate answers, and that’s okay.

What a wonderful take-off point for a meaningful discussion between adult and child. 

Thank you, Laura, for giving us a glimpse into your creative process!

WHY? is available from Holiday House on August 13…or you can win a copy here.

Leave a comment below and someone will be randomly selected to receive a copy in a couple weeks.

One comment per person, please.

Good luck!


Laura Vaccaro Seeger is a New York Times best-selling author and illustrator and a 2-time winner of the Caldecott Honor Award, winner of the New York Times Best Illustrated Book Award, the Boston Globe/Horn Book Award for Best Picture Book, and a 2-time winner of the Theodor Seuss Geisel Honor Award. She is also the recipient of both the Massachusetts Reading Association and the New York Empire State awards for “Body of Work and Contribution to Children’s Literature.”

She earned her BFA degree at the School of Fine Art and Design at the State University of New York at Purchase. She then moved to Manhattan and began a career as an animator, artist, designer, and editor in network television. She created show openings and special segments for NBC and ABC for many years and won an Emmy Award for an opening animation for an NBC Special.

Laura and her husband, Chris, have two wonderful sons, Drew and Dylan. They live in Rockville Centre, New York. She loves painting, writing, surfing, boating, tennis, running, playing the piano, and spending time with her family and friends. 

Visit her at www.studiolvs.com.

 

 

One of my favorite picture books of all time is ARNIE THE DOUGHNUT, cooked up by the inimitable Laurie Keller. (Why hasn’t it become a major motion picture? I sniff the heavenly aroma of sugary fried dough and box office smash potential!)

So while you wait for the selection of Storystorm prizes, I invited Arnie to the blog to interview Laurie’s latest character, Potato, about his quest for the perfect pair of pants. Take it away, boys!

 

Hey Potato! Thanks for meeting me at the bakery. Did you have any trouble finding it?

No trouble at all! I just took a Tuber Uber.

 

I see you have your new Potato Pants on! I was hoping you’d wear them.

Oh, yeah––I never leave home without ‘em! Pretty snazzy, aren’t they? Yep, when it comes to designing flattering pants for potatoes, Tuberto is your go-to tater!

 

I heard you almost didn’t get your Potato Pants––something to do with an eggplant. What was the problem?

He was waiting for me in Lance Vance’s Fancy Pants Store on the ONE day they were selling Potato Pants and I didn’t want to go in there because I was afraid he’d push me like he did the day before and ruin my brand new Potato Pants!

So, he’s a pretty pushy eggplant, huh?

Well, I thought so but it all turned out to be a silly misunderstanding. I’m a big enough spud to admit that. We’re actually friends now!

 

That’s cool! So, you really wanted this stripey pair with the stripey suspenders. Why do you like stripes so much?

I can’t explain it, Arnie. They just make me happy!

I feel the same way about my frosting and sprinkles!

I see you’re doing the Robot––I mean the PO-bot! Can you teach me how to do it?

 

No.

 

But I can teach you how to do the DOUGH-bot!

 

 

 

Oh, no! I laughed so hard I ripped my Potato Pants!

 

I’ll call for help! Oh, YOO-HOO, MAKEUP!

 

No, I’ll just scooch right over to the Tater Trouser Tailor. Thanks for everything, Arnie!

Thanks, Potato!

What is it now, Arnie?

Oops, sorry, Makeup––problem solved. But as long as you’re here…do you mind arranging my sprinkles into stripes? Diagonally? By color? Pretty please with frosting on top? Thanks!

 

I LOVE ‘EM!

But I wonder if vertical stripes might be better on me?

 

Oh, YOO-HOO, MAKEUP!

 

Well, we all know that Arnie is a diva doughnut (just like Mariah Creamy).

Thanks for stepping in to interview Potato, Arnie!

Since I am such a ginormous Laurie Keller fan, I am so mashed today to offer a copy of POTATO PANTS! 

Just leave a comment below to enter! A random winner will be selected after the Storystorm prizes!

Good luck!

 

Fangirl moment. THE Carin Berger is on my blog today. A children’s book creator I have long admired, Berger’s cut-paper illustrations bring delightful whimsy to books by former U.S. Children’s Poet Laureate Jack Prelusky, as well as imbue her own stories with a joyful spirit.

 

When I read her newest release, ALL OF US, I thought, “This is a perfect book for today—for right now.” So of course, I had to ask her about it. Thankfully, she agreed to an interview.

Carin, ALL OF US feels so timely, however I know it can take years to create a picture book. How did you decide upon the theme (and when)?

While it is true that it can take years to bring a picture book into the world, I wrote ALL OF US, in a single burst, in response to the turmoil in our country, especially in the lead up to the election. In fact I wrote it while I was in Germany, the country that my family was forced to flee in the 1930s because of unrelenting racism, hatred and violence directed against vulnerable minorities. I had actually voted on Election Day and then flown to Germany that afternoon. I landed to the news of the election results. The juxtaposition of the events in our country against my own family’s history of forced displacement was upsetting and surreal. I wanted to do something to make a difference, to remind those that felt unbalanced or ostracized or alone, that community, diversity, inclusion and love are powerful and will ultimately triumph. This idea of wanting to do something dogged me for days. Or maybe it was months. In any case, there in Germany, with such a stew of feelings inside, I woke up in the middle of the night with the words to the book almost like a song or refrain in my head. I scribbled them down and made thumbnail drawings in my sketchbook. The next morning I took a picture of this on my phone and then emailed to my publisher, Greenwillow Books. And, in a terrific leap of faith, Greenwillow agreed to put this project ahead of one that was about to go to final art in order to get ALL OF US out into the world quickly.

You are known for your cut paper illustrations. Was there any special consideration of the paper you chose for this project?

I do think a lot about the paper that I use in my illustrations. I work with found ephemera in part because I love that each piece of paper comes with its own history…like secret stories…that inherently add another layer of depth to the books. I intentionally gather really diverse papers from around the world, so if you look closely at the illustrations in ALL OF US, you might see a bit of Chinese or Spanish or Japanese or Hindi or Russian.

I know you surreptitiously include your daughter’s name “Thea” in every book. Did you hide any messages in ALL OF US? Or is your message out in the open?

I love that you remember that I put “Thea” in all of my books.

It is true, in ALL OF US, there are some covert messages. Others are right out in the open.

Some examples of hidden messages are:

Thea’s name appears on the hand that is on the “know that I am here, as steady as stone” page.

Elsewhere in the book, my brother’s name, Daniel, appears in one heart.

Additionally, there are two self portraits in the book. One appears on the wordless “love wins” page holding a heart that says “thea”.

A second family portrait is on the lowest row of the left hand side of the 2nd “love wins” page. There you will find me, my husband, Max, Thea, and our pet rabbit, Pearly.

Finally, on all of the pages in the book that have illustrations of people, I have included images of family and friends within the crowds.

Also, if you look closely, you will find my daughter’s black cat, Cosette.

What’s more, there is a gentle, unspoken story going on in the book.

There are two characters that reoccur, the little girl in the yellow boots and the little boy with the red kite. The girl starts the book with a heavy heart and an unsure step. The little boy is on the page with the unclear path and his kite appears on the stormy past page.

They first appear together on the “hazy future” page, and they don’t notice each other.

Eventually, as we make our way through the book, they notice each other and join together as friends in part of the larger community.

allofusspread

allofuslovewins.jpg

(Click to enlarge spreads.)

Carin, what do you hope readers will connect with? What do you hope they will take away after reading ALL OF US? 

Hope is a great word. I HOPE that the message of HOPE in ALL OF US will resonate with readers.

I HOPE that the book makes readers feel more connected, that it opens up conversations about inclusion and community and the power of HOPE and love in the face of adversity.

Children face so many challenging moments in growing up…they are figuring out who they are, and how they fit it. They are trying to make sense of the world and navigate through all sorts of new situations. I really HOPE that ALL OF US can be a tool to bring people together and to offer empathy and light and HOPE in difficult times.

Thank you, Carin, for bringing us such a beautiful book for our uncertain times. I know I will treasure my copy.

Blog readers, if you would like your own copy to treasure, plus ALL OF US bookmarks and swag, please comment once below.

A winner will be randomly selected in September.

Good luck and thank you for reading.

 

 

Author-illustrator Denise Fleming gave the keynote at the NJ-SCBWI conference a few years ago and she said something that has stuck with me: “My internal age is five. So I make books for five-year-olds like me.”

I had an ah-ha moment, complete with a hovering lightbulb. I’m eight, I thought. No wonder I write what I do.

Denise’s newest book was recently released, and if you’re familiar with her work, it looks a little different. I learned that Denise has changed up her style. So, of course, I wanted to chat about it.

Denise, you are well known for your innovative illustrations created with paper pulp. THIS IS THE NEST THAT ROBIN BUILT looks a little different—still gorgeous and unique—but I understand you decided to reinvent your style with this book. Why did you feel the need to change up your technique?

I have been illustrating my books with pulp painting for over 25 years. While I love paper making, I felt it was time for a change for several reasons. The small company where I bought my pulp had changed hands and the new pulp was causing me problems. The board I used for stencils was no longer available. I had tried substitutes but none worked as well for detail and some were difficult to cut. Then, there were the hours of standing bent over the paper vat which was affecting my health. These were all a part of my decision to experiment with new techniques.

Gelatin printing and foam printing along with collage were the techniques that really interested me. These provided more freedom and the ability to create more detail, which is difficult with paper making. I also felt I needed a bit of reinvention. I have been around for a long time, I wanted readers to take a second look at my art. I am fascinated with printmaking. Before I created books I studied printmaking, mostly etching, lithos and mono-prints. I am excited to try new styles and techniques in upcoming books.

How does this new style contribute to and enhance this story?

With the new style I am able to create more detail in the illustrations. Printing the background and collaging the foreground gives the feeling of more depth. I also am able to make papers with the textures of feathers and grasses which enhances the art and adds a feel of realism.

 

Has your new style given rise to ideas for books you would have never thought of before?

Actually, I will be experimenting with several new styles in upcoming books. And yes, these new styles will allow me to more ably illustrate several manuscripts I had put in the back of my file due to the fact that I couldn’t figure out how to illustrate them in my pulp painting technique. People are difficult to do in pulp painting. Up until this point I have illustrated people as large graphic shapes. Hands and fingers were stressful as the pulp would fill in spaces between figures. Ugh. So maybe more figures and details in upcoming books. And maybe even white space.

Can you tell us about any upcoming projects?

As to future books, I have been on a sort of sabbatical. Working out how I want books to look. Manuscripts have not been submitted, so I would rather not reveal any of the books until they are under contract. But, I will let you know about them as soon as I send them out and am offered contracts. I agent myself, so I have to give myself a push. Unfortunately, I love experimenting, so I am slow to get back to the business of books.

If I were to edit your reply, I would delete “unfortunately”. Readers are lucky that you keep innovating and creating even more beautiful art!

THIS IS THE NEST THAT ROBIN BUILT is available now from Beach Lane Books.

You can win a copy here by leaving a comment below. A winner will be randomly selected in a couple weeks.

Good luck!

by Josh Nash

When you are trying to make it in a business that favors good ideas, you are going to need to get some. Easier said than done, right? It’s not the 1960s anymore when you could just send away for them by mail order catalog. (Not a lot of people know that “Where the Wild Things Are” cost Maurice Sendak $8.95 and a self addressed stamped envelope.)

So where do ideas come from? Good question. I always think of the Bright Eyes lyric by Conor Oberst about being a musician and songwriter: “I’m drinking, breathing, writing, singing. Everyday I’m on the clock.”

First, when it comes to drinking and working, I recommend coffee. But you can drink whatever you want. Tea, Black Cherry Kool-aid, Orange Julius. Second, it’s the “Everyday I’m on the clock” bit that makes the most sense to me because I like the idea of never being off the clock as an artist and a writer. It is a job we never really punch out of, isn’t it? Living a creative life is a full-time job and being open to ideas means you are always on the clock.

You are on the clock during your morning commute. Four lanes of Hondas and Subarus jockeying for the exit lane may not be the ideal setting for turning illustration or story ideas over in your head, but the creative mind never clocks out. Just be careful not to drive off the highway into a ditch especially when your last phone transmission is a text to yourself that reads “bunny has a potluck but everyone brings cups.”

minivanditch

Keep a notebook handy at the office because even when you are on the clock, YOU ARE ON THE CLOCK! Ideas don’t quit just because you have 150 emails to answer and Dale from Accounting is waxing interminable about his adventures in home brewing. However, you don’t want to be so focused on story ideas at your day job that you end up getting fired for being a bad employee. But if you do get fired, it would be good if you had plenty of amazing story ideas to sell. So it’s a tricky balance.

officecoffee

Standing in line at Starbucks? You got time to lean, you got time to clean, buddy! Ideas are working overtime at coffee shops. The right mix of caffeine and anonymous strangers milling about keep the idea synapses firing. Who is that old lady? What is her story? Who is that toddler? Why is she screaming? Why is that screaming toddler’s dad just staring at his phone while his toddler is screaming? Is he actually a cyborg dad suffering a program glitch? And there’s your idea. Write it down.

And just when you think it’s quitting time, remember that ideas work the night shift too. After you have kissed your honey or let your cat bite you goodnight, and after you have drifted into that state of half-awake, half-driving-your-bed-through-four-lanes-of-Hondas-and-Subarus because-you-are-three-hours-late-for-that-college-humanities-class-you-forgot-to-drop-in-1997, you will have one more idea. This will be a very bad idea. Do not write it down, it’s gibberish!

Ideas never take a day off. They are workaholics. All you have to do to get them is to show up, is punch your timecard and get to work. By constantly being on the clock, and making room for creative work in your daily life, whether it is writing, painting, daydreaming or doodling, ideas will come knocking at your office door, submitting their tiny résumés. And you are always considering candidates because you are always open for business. You’re always on the clock.


Josh is 50% eraser shavings, 50% animal cookies and 50% Café Americano. Josh is also horrible at math but he loves to draw. When he was very small, his mother read him books with words and pictures by Maurice Sendak, Garth Williams, Richard Scarry and Ezra Jack Keats. His dad provided him with piles of scrap paper, pens and pencils to make his own pictures. Josh is bigger now but he remembers those stories and pictures vividly. And he still loves to draw.

Josh has been drawing professionally since 2004 and has done so for the nice folks at Scholastic, Hooked on Phonics, and singer-songwriter Kenny Loggins.

When he isn’t drawing he can be found enjoying beautiful Northern California with his wife, traveling to a rainy European city, reading a book or doing any number of activities that don’t require math.

Visit him online at JoshuaNashIllustrates.com and on Twitter @joshuanashillus and Instagram @joshuanashillus.

Josh is giving away a signed copy of this adorable fox print.

by Joshua Nash

Leave ONE COMMENT on this blog post to enter. You are eligible to win if you are a registered Storystorm participant and you have commented once below. Prizes will be given away at the conclusion of the event.

Good luck!

by Timothy Young

In my new book I’M GOING TO OUTER SPACE! I tell the story of a boy named Luis who tells us all about the exciting things he wants to do and see when he gets to outer space. I was inspired to write this book as an homage to all of the science fiction I’ve loved since I was young. I remember watching old B&W films like “This Island Earth” and “Invaders From Mars” on television and cartoons like “The Jetsons”. As I got older I would read books by Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury and Robert Heinlein and watch “Lost In Space” and “Star Trek”. I was already an avid sci-fi fan when “Star Wars” came out and my love for Science Fiction only grew further and continues to this day.

When I started to flesh out the illustrations for my story I decided to pay homage to the entire genre. I have a spread with spaceships from the 1930’s to now. I have a page of robots that I challenge any sci-fi fan to name them all. They are from movies, television, comics and even other picture books.

When it came time to draw aliens, I realized I had a problem. I love designing aliens, it’s one of my favorite things to draw. But I also wanted to have some classic aliens as I had done with the spaceships and robots. I decided to have one spread with recognizable aliens that kids and parents will have fun figuring out who they all are. For the rest of the book I put my own original creations designed just for this book…all except one.

Back when I was just out of college I was hired by a friend who was an art director at Doubleday Books. They needed an illustration of an alien artist. At the time I was creating sculptural illustrations, 3D models that were photographed for print.

I created a number of sketches for the alien and when one was picked I sketched the final scene. I then sculpted the character and built his props; the easel, canvas and box of paints he uses. Another artist built the landscape and a sky backdrop was rented.

Everything was brought together at a photographers studio in lower Manhattan and the photograph was then used as the cover of a catalog of Science Fiction Art Books.

So when I started drawing aliens for I’M GOING TO OUTER SPACE! I decided to include my first alien from one of my first professional illustration jobs. He appears a few times in the book including this spread with a bunch of his friends.

I’M GOING TO OUTER SPACE! released just a few days ago…on December 15, 2017 from Schiffer Publishing.

Thanks, Tim! This was like time-traveling through outer space!

You can go to outer space, too, because Tim is giving away a signed copy of I’M GOING TO OUTER SPACE…THIS WEEK.

Leave one comment below to enter! And good luck!

 

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My Picture Books

COMING SOON:

BLOOP
illus by Mike Boldt
HarperCollins
July 2021

ABSURD WORDS
illustrator TBA
Sourcebooks eXplore
November 2021

"PRIVATE I" SERIES #3
illus by Ross MacDonald
Little, Brown
2022

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