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

Jan 30, 2014 by

(Disclosure: I received a review copy of this beauty.*)    Aaaannd, it’s 2014. To make up for my month-long absence and to celebrate the new year, I’ve got a very special treat. 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...

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A picture book is born!

Dec 18, 2013 by

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...

Dec 13, 2013 by

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...

Nov 1, 2013 by

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....

Oct 13, 2013 by

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...

Oct 7, 2013 by

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...

Oct 4, 2013 by

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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My favourite resource books as a picture book creator...

May 30, 2013 by

Right now there are so many places you can get advice and help with your creative process as a picture book author/illustrator. From other creators’ sites where they  give insights into different techniques and writing exercises, to the grand, old Internet for all those really specific questions that you’ve been breaking your head over. You know, like a Photoshop tutorial for how to rasterize layers (aaaargh.) Since the Internet is your oyster, I figure you don’t need help with the particulars, but maybe some general resource books will be helpful. I have  some old and trusted resources that I like flipping through once in a while when I feel stuck. I find that helps me a lot. Admittedly, this list is more helpful to those of you who both write and draw because they...

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Celebrating “The Book”: The works of Suzy Lee...

Mar 18, 2013 by

I can safely say that one of my favorite picture book creators of all time is Suzy Lee. I own every book she’s made expect for the few that don’t have English editions. I’m hoping that there will eventually be translations, and that I can read them someday. But I’m thrilled that I got my hands on her latest work as illustrator called Open This Little Book. It’s only a few weeks old, and I managed to get one of the new, crisp copies that just arrived at the Seattle Public Library. The concept behind this gem came from the imaginative mind of the author, Jesse Klausmeier. This great little interview with the author/illustrator duo will give you some background on their creative and collaborative process. The result of their combined efforts is the most innovative book...

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Ezra Keats and multicultural picture books...

Mar 11, 2013 by

Today is a very special children’s book icon’s birthday: Ezra Jack Keats‘s. He  is widely credited with introducing multiculturalism into mainstream children’s publishing in the US. For over 25 years the Ezra Jack Keats Foundation has given an annual award to the best new author and illustrator that represents the “universal qualities of childhood… and the multicultural nature of our world.” In fact, this year’s winners were announced just a few days ago.  So today  seems especially apt to look back at this wonderful author and illustrator, because what he contributed and represents are the most important elements to me as a reader, lover, and creator of picture books — inclusion and diversity.   The book that brought  widespread recognition to Keats was The Snowy Day. It is a delightful picture book with an endearing African-American boy (Peter) as its protagonist,...

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