Destination ‘Crabtree’: it’s all about the journey (and a few other things)...

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(Disclosure: I received a review copy of this beauty.*)    Not only do I have a scrumptious picture book to talk about, I also had the added pleasure of chatting with the makers of this delight. Brothers Jon and Tucker Nichols not only made Crabtree (their debut picture book) together, but they both wrote and illustrated it. Yes. It reads like the creation of one genius mind. But it’s actually two. Published by the wonderful McSweeney’s McMullens, this book is a work of art that I’ve been tempted to cut up and paste all over my ceiling to just lie down and stare at. Luckily to avoid such sacrilege, they very thoughtfully created a dust jacket that opens out to a giant poster you can pin up. See? They really did think of everything. Crabtree is named after its...

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A picture book is born!

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Looks like this lab just had its first successful experiment! I’m so excited to announce the release of my first picture book — Minu and her Hair  —  published by the wonderful Tulika Books. Activity has been low-ish around here because I’ve been busy with this the past couple of months and I was torn between posting about it, or keeping it a surprise. I finally (stupidly) chose to do the latter; it’s been pure torture. Now I can finally stop holding my breath. Phew. Moving onto the book…     Did you write and illustrate it? Yes, and yes. A more accurate explanation is I worked, worked, re-worked, and re-re-worked it.   So, what is Minu and her Hair about?  What? No! Seriously, it’s worth the surprise! Fine, I’ll give you a clue. There’s a girl...

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You’ll never look at color the same way again...

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The nature of concept picture books make them formulaic at a very fundamental level. Since these books are usually used to introduce an idea (shapes/colors/numbers), many of them tend to be constructed along similar patterns. Usually it’s over the illustration styles or the examples discussed that they differ. And luckily for us, sometimes, there are inventive exceptions to these rules.     The facing page of the illustration above has the text “But when clouds decide to gather up and the rain pours down, then the sky is white.” Above the printed words, the same sentence is in Braille. This is a spread out of the seemingly paradoxically titled  The Black Book of Colors written by Menena Cottin and illustrated by Rosana Faría. Groundbreaking in many ways, this book was awarded the Bologna Ragazzi New Horizons award back...

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Sometimes, two heads are way better than one: a picture book author-illustrator dream team...

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Author Germano Zullo and illustrator Albertine have together given me endless hope for the future of the picture book and plenty of entertainment along the way. This creative Swiss duo is a match made in picture book heaven. I happened to stumble across their work quite serendipitously, when I picked up Little Bird at the library (I wrote about my love for this book earlier here), and since then I’ve been on a constant lookout for more. Be it witty or whimsical, their work is another example of an unclassifiable wonderful-ness that crosses borders and genres in the world of picture books.  The chemistry they have is striking, and with each collaboration they manage to bring something new to the reader and yet retain their signature style. I thought I’d talk about three of their books in this post:  Marta...

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Painting unique portraits: 3 noteworthy picture book biographies on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr....

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The picture book is a form that lends itself very well to re-telling stories– even those of famous historical figures we know so much about, like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. With different perspectives and visual narratives, these picture book biographies will offer you new ways to understand, discuss and celebrate this iconic activist. Martin’s Big Words is a visually stunning picture book biography published in 2001  by author  Doreen Rappaport and illustrator Bryan Collier. This book focuses on the inspiring influence of words on Dr. Martin Luther King as a child,  and how he grew up to harness and develop a powerful rhetoric that spear-headed a social revolution. Bryan Collier’s innovative pastiche of watercolour and collage art beautifully mimic Dr. King’s evolution as a man of words, adding depth and meaning to his journey.   At the...

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Concept picture books: a much-needed multicultural spin...

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Round is a Tortilla has a refreshing take on the common concept picture book about shapes. Usually these kind of books target very young readers, and hence there isn’t a narrative; there are typically words with accompanying pictures. What I really loved about this book was how Roseanne Greenfield Thong‘s charming text and John Parra‘s gorgeous illustrations transport you into a distinctly Hispanic cultural space with a wonderful Latino flavor to it. Even though at its core it is still a ‘list’ book (where there isn’t really a plot), both the written and visual narrative elevate it to something more meaningful and creative than your standard concept book.   Spanish words pepper the rhyming English narration, and make for a great read-aloud experience. I’m not usually a big fan of rhyming text, but it’s quite effective...

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Not what they seem: playing with perception in picture books...

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The most encouraging sign in the exploration of a form is when people really begin to think outside of its set definitions. It’s not every day you find a picture book that plays with readers’ expectations and takes them on a completely unexpected journey. Today I thought I’d talk about two books published this year that managed to do just that. Count the Monkeys is yet another example of the fabulous Mac Barnett‘s work. Anybody who is trying to be a picture book author, I think, should really do a study of his work to see just how creatively he thinks as an author. He understands that the medium is more visual, but he always comes up with witty and intelligent concepts that illustrators can then work with, which ultimately create a winning combination of both...

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It’s Picture Book Listmania Time! — AKA August 10 for 10 (#pb10for10)...

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August 10 for 10 began in 2010 when Cathy Mere and Mandy Robek decided it would be a great idea, and wonderful resource, for people to share their 10 favorite picture books on the 10th of August. Cathy speaks about the history of  how the event started on her blog, and I’m sure there are going to be many, many awesome lists being put together to celebrate. And in that spirit, let me share mine. I have been waiting for an opportunity to talk about  picture books I love, so I might go into somewhat of a fervor; forgive me. I’ve decided to share two lists: one of my favorite picture books that I’ve read so far this year, and one of my top 10  picture book creators. To create a master list is near impossible because I love different picture books...

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Experiments in papercutting – II...

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I’m working on an idea for a new book with paper-cut illustrations. Even though my concept is for a digital book, I like the idea of using paper-cut pictures because it gives it a more 3D feel than the flatness you sometimes get with digital art. Doing it this way, I also have the freedom to move the pieces around, like a puppeteer. It’s a little time-consuming, but entertaining process. Looks like somebody’s angry, huh? I was a little scared myself, when I finished. Poor kid! What do you think? Let’s see what comes out of it.  Stay tuned for more! P.S If you’re curious about how the first papercutting experiment went, go here....

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New picture books, old stories: folktales and fables...

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The danger in re-telling old stories is that if they don’t bring a fresh perspective, they can seem tired and uninteresting. Especially because folktales are  more ‘moralistic’,  re-working them in a way that makes them more creative and engaging is important. Making picture books out of traditional stories is a great way of adding fresh visual appeal, and if the text is written well, it can give new life to an old story.  When looking at folktale re-tellings, I think keeping in mind how the text flows is crucial. Traditionally all these stories were told orally, and they had a certain rhythm and lilt to them because the storyteller would be narrating them to his/her audience. Two picture books I found recently were  good attempts at re-telling popular folktales. I don’t know how much...

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