Archive for the ‘Fantasy’ Category


The Beginner’s Guide to Running Away from Home, by Jennifer Huget; illustrated by Red Nose Studio. Schwartz & Wade, 2013.

The creative genius who is “Red Nose Studio” is illustrator Chris Sickels. Do I love Red Nose Studio because of the fabulous handmade 3-D illustrations, or because Chris rides a 1965 Harley Pacer?  Well, maybe both.

Chris has illustrated books for children, and a personal fav is The Beginner’s Guide to Running Away from Home, written by Jennifer Huget (Schwartz & Wade, 2013).

Chris uses all manner of widgets, cloth, wire, sprockets, you-name-it to create his art.  Check out this Vimeo to see Chris, his Pacer, and a tour of his Greenfield, Indiana, studio.

Also check out the Red Nose Studio website here.  Be sure to open the Creosote tab! What is creosote?  Chris will school you. Creosote is also the title of his short award-winning film that you can view on the site (age level?– you decide). Added bonus! There are FREE high-res images from the film that you can print, cut out, assemble, and use for your own scenes.


Creepy Carrots! by Aaron Reynolds and illustrated by Peter Brown

Creepy Carrots! by Aaron Reynolds and illustrated by Peter Brown

You are probably aware that Creepy Carrots! was named as one of the five 2013 Caldecott Honor books. For Jasper, the main character in this picture storybook noir, carrots are everywhere . . . he can’t get enough of his favorite orange vegetable . . . but then they seem to be following him . . .
Illustrator Peter Brown created an insightful and informative Vimeo about the research and influences into his art for this faux-frightening tale. Be warned that you must have knowledge of Rod Serling’s 1950s-60s science fiction television series, The Twilight Zone, to fully appreciate Brown’s research– and the book Creepy Carrots! as well. Check out some full episodes of The Twilight Zone on your favorite Internet television/film provider, or go to a feature about The Twilight Zone on NPR here. Then, check out this Vimeo of Brown discussing how he made some of his decisions for this story of petrifying plants. And for the faint of heart, keep the lights on.


Nightsong, by Ari Berk, illustrated by Loren Long

‘Tis the season . . . for BATS! I was fortunate to catch up with illustrator Loren Long at Books by the Banks in Cincinnati this past weekend where he was signing his new Nightsong, a picture storybook written by Ari Berk. The book is black from beginning to end–except for less dark nighttime scenes–however this bat book is endearing rather the scary. The stereotype of the bat is of a totally black creature, but they can be other colors, too. Moonlight washes over Chiro and his mother to give them dappled butterscotchy-golden hues, as the mother encourages Chiro to leave the cave and go out into the world on his own for the first time to seek his breakfast. “Sense is the song you sing out into the world, and the song the world sings back to you,” she invokes. The term echolocation is never mentioned, but of course this is Chiro’s song as he makes his journey to the edge of the ocean, singing his song and hearing “the music of the land.” When the sky begins to turn light he returns to his mother, who sings him to sleep.

Loren Long, with two of his books: Nightsong, and Otis.

Loren Longs’s graphite darkness and image of the young bat with wings entwined with his mother’s adds safety and warmth to the dark cave. A brief author’s note at the end explains the name Chiro is “inspired” from the “Greek, cheir, ‘hand’ and pteron, ‘wing’ which is “the order name for bats, the only mammals capable of true flight.” A perfect book for fall . . . or anytime.

Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, with artwork by Yayoi Kusama

The Reverend Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, aka Lewis Carroll, originally published Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland in 1865. Dodgson himself sketched some illustrations for a manuscript of the story, and the first published edition was illustrated by John Tenniel. This tale has been selected by several artists over the years as a book to illustrate, such as Arthur Rackham, Salvador Dali, and many others, including a recent pop-up edition by Robert Sabuda.

Now there is yet another stunning edition of this classic work, illustrated by Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama. Kusama’s work as an artist is defined by polka dots, and these are evident on almost every page in the book, including the cover, endpapers, table of contents . . . everywhere. Full page illustrations, full-bleed double-page spreads, and spot art displaying Kusama’s repetitive patterns and dots also fill this children’s book/art book.

I recently saw a segment about Kusama–who became famous as an artist in New York in the late 1950s until 1973, and who influenced Andy Warhol–on the CBS Sunday Morning program (I saw this on September 16, 2012– you can see a gallery of images from Sunday Morning here). Kusama left New York in 1973, and now lives in her native Japan.

View images from Kusama’s version of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland below, and also scroll down to find out more about her on YouTube (note: some of Kusama’s art as shown on the YouTube video might be considered “mature”).

Bear in Love, by Daniel Pinkwater and illustrated by Will Hillenbrand

Daniel Pinkwater has long been a favorite author of mine, with his books for middle graders and early middle graders such as Lizard Music and The Hoboken Chicken Emergency, and picture storybooks for younger readers such as The Wuggie Norple Story (illustrated by Tomie dePaola), and The Big Orange Splot. Now a new Pinkwater is available, illustrated by Will Hillenbrand. To have both of these seemingly different talents in one cover–Pinkwater with his quirky humor, and Hillenbrand with his softly expressive illustrations–is a coup.

The result is Bear in Love, and I fell in love with this book immediately. The generous nature of the characters and concern for others, regardless of who they are, is quietly suggested in this book. And, as a treat, Hillenbrand has created a YouTube (below) demonstrating how he created the art for Bear in Love. You can also learn more at Will Hillenbrand’s website, especially about his books, and activities for his books.

For another treat, go to Daniel Pinkwater’s website. This site is full of surprises with not only a blog, but also free audio books (Pinkwater reading his books!). Alas, a Bear in Love reading is not available yet, but we can hope and continue to check.

No, not a suntan . . . Shaun Tan. I was immediately mesmerized by Shaun Tan’s The Arrival, his wordless book published in the U.S. in 2007, and it has been announced that The Bird King and Other Sketches, featuring Tan’s art and reflections, will be published by Scholastic/Levine in spring 2013. Tan is a native of Australia, and The Bird King was originally published there, as well as in Germany and the UK, so it will be a treat to have it accessible in the United States. Tan’s father was a Chinese immigrant to Australia, and The Arrival is a wordless fantasy, recommended for grades 7 and up, which speaks to immigration and the fears and trepidations as well as joys of such a significant experience. Shaun Tan has several other books, such as postmodern picture books and short stories (which he illustrated, of course), and now to have a peek into his sketchbook with The Bird King is certainly something to anticipate. His website, which can be found here, is also fascinating.

The Arrival, by Shaun Tan

The Bird King, by Shaun Tan

Now that I have your attention (ahem), Pandemonium is the title of a new graphic novel by Chris Wooding and Cassandra Diaz. Seifer Tombchewer is the sophisticated yet bumbling hero of this “prince and the pauper”-type fantasy. All of Seifer’s missteps are the correct ones, however, and he emerges as the brilliant impersonator of the invader Prince Talon in his quest to restore stability to the realm. And to add another layer, Seifer must fool Talon’s glamorous fiancée, the Lady Asphyxia, as well. The art is full-color, and the writing is full of drama and humor, especially when the characters speak asides directly to the reader. My suggestion for grade-level reading would be middle school, with interest to high school students also.