Archive for the ‘Illustrators’ 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.




Mr. Tiger Goes Wild, written and illustrated by Peter Brown

Mr. Tiger Goes Wild, written and illustrated by Peter Brown

Journey, by Aaron Becker

Journey, by Aaron Becker

Nelson Mandela, words and paintings by Kadir Nelson

Nelson Mandela, words and paintings by Kadir Nelson

I was lucky to be invited to help as a facilitator today for the Mock Caldecott co-sponsored by The Lane Libraries (Butler County, Ohio) and the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County. What’s a Mock Caldecott, you ask? It’s a lively and exciting discussion of books, resulting in a vote among participants as they predict the upcoming Caldecott Medal and Honor books. Many libraries, schools, bookstores, and other venues hold Mock Caldecotts– with varied predictions!

We were a group of maybe 80 librarians and educators, and we had received a list of 24 titles ahead of time so we could read and examine the art in preparation for today’s festivities (thanks to Gratia Banta, former Caldecott Committee Chair, and also to Sam Bloom of PLCH for selecting and organizing).  The Caldecott Medal is awarded for the best illustrated book of the year, and you can read more about terms and criteria for this award here.

We were divided into small groups, and we quickly discussed the artistic qualities of the books, one at a time. Each group voted for their three top choices, the votes were tallied, and the results are above! We decided Aaron Becker’s wordless fantasy Journey would receive the Caldecott Medal, with Kadir Nelson’s Nelson Mandela and Peter Brown’s Mr. Tiger Goes Wild receiving Honor designations.

Will these books actually receive the awards we predicted? Only the actual Caldecott Committee will determine that, and the results will be announced on the morning of January 27. If you can’t go to the ALA Midwinter meeting in Philadelphia for this event, find a link for the live streaming here.

Here is a real treat for you . . . go to this link to watch a series of video clips of illustrators discussing some of the books that might be currently under consideration by the 2014 Caldecott Committee (books published in 2013). It is possible one or more of these books could be selected for recognition, but that’s all hush-hush for now. We’ll just have to wait until January 27 to learn more.

What are your picks for the Caldecott?

Show Me a Story!  Why Picture Books Matter:  Conversations with 21 of the World's Most Celebrated Illustrators, compiled and edited by Leonard S. Marcus

Show Me a Story! Why Picture Books Matter: Conversations with 21 of the World’s Most Celebrated Illustrators, compiled and edited by Leonard S. Marcus

Read interviews conducted with some of your favorite children’s book illustrators in the recent Show Me a Story! Why Picture Books Matter: Conversations with 21 of the World’s Most Celebrated Illustrators, compiled and edited by Leonard S. Marcus. If you have read Marcus’ earlier Ways of Telling: Conversations on the Art of the Picture Book, you will recognize some of the interviews, such as interviews with Mitsumasa Anno, Robert McCloskey, Helen Oxenbury, Jerry Pinkney, and Rosemary Wells, among others (not all of the interviews from Ways of Telling have been included in Show Me a Story!). New interviews include Lois Ehlert, Yumi Heo, Chris Raschka, Peter Sís, Mo Williams, Lizbeth Zwerger, among others. Some of the previously published interviews have been updated, and there may be some slight edits in the previously-published interviews. Special features include bibliographies of the illustrators’ books, and a section of color plates in the center of the book.
Marcus is an established researcher and writer in the field of children’s literature, and the interviews in Show Me a Story! provide insight into the lives and artistic perspectives of the subjects, in their own voices. Each interview is unique; for example in the interview with Peter Sís, one learns of his early life in the former Czechoslovakia and how his art was encouraged by his family, to how he began illustrating books for children, discussion of symbols and fantasy structures in his pictures, and insight into his work with his editor, the remarkable Frances Foster.
Marcus has written several books about authors, illustrators, and topics in children’s literature, but I first became a fan of his work when I read Margaret Wise Brown: Awakened by the Moon. Not only is this book an intriguing biography of one of the creators of classic children’s books, it is also a primer in the history of children’s literature during Margaret Wise Brown’s lifetime. The book is currently out of print, but searching for it will be worth the effort.

Margaret Wise Brown:  Awakened by the Moon, by Leonard S. Marcus

Margaret Wise Brown: Awakened by the Moon, by Leonard S. Marcus

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.


The House Baba Built:  An Artist's Childhood in China, written and illustrated by Ed Young

The House Baba Built: An Artist’s Childhood in China, written and illustrated by Ed Young

Ed Young was the inaugural speaker for the Butler Lecture at Dominican University’s Graduate School of Library and Information Science on February 22, and I was lucky enough to be there!

Young, widely known for his Caldecott Award winning book Lon Po Po: A Red-Riding Hood Story from China and many other books, spoke about his recent The House Baba Built: An Artist’s Childhood in China. He showed slides and related how he went back to Shanghai to find that house, and while it took some looking because the street had been built up, he finally did pinpoint the four-family home his father built and where he grew up. His stories about the history of the house were engaging, such as how he was gracious to the current owner and was thus invited inside, why his father included a swimming pool inside the home, how a worker died building the home, and other childhood memories of a family haven during wartime. The book itself is a biography, a family history, a glimpse into this historical period in China, and is stunning with fold-out pages, drawings, collage art, and photos. The paper itself is a tactile treat, and the book encourages lingering.

Ed Young signs my books after the Butler Lecture at Dominican University

Ed Young signs my books after the Butler Lecture at Dominican University

Thank you Susan Roman, Thom Barthelmess, and others at Dominican for this delightful evening with Ed Young. I can’t wait until next year’s Butler Lecture when Jane Yolen is scheduled to be the speaker!

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”).