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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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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Experiments in papercutting – II...

Jul 10, 2013 by

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...

Jul 7, 2013 by

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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Keeping it simple: paper, pen & ink...

Jul 2, 2013 by

When I started illustrating, one of the first mediums I was drawn to (pardon the pun :)) experiment with was pen and ink. There is something so classic about black and white, and the intensity and energy of black strokes on paper; I love it. Probably the most basic way of working with pen and ink is the humble dip pen. It is also the most inexpensive start to trying out a medium– basic nibs cost approximately 20-50 cents/12-30 rupees each. If you use them a lot they do wear out pretty quickly, but luckily getting replacements isn’t costly or difficult. If you’re trying dip pens for the first time I encourage you to take a few different types of nibs so you can see the varied results you can get. I started out...

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Be curious: moulding a scientific mind through picture books...

Jun 13, 2013 by

I used to despise physics and mathematics in school. I was happy to leave them far behind as soon as it was possible. I couldn’t relate to them in any way and they felt so distant, boring and inconsequential. It was clearly a result of the way I was introduced to the subjects. I just wish someone had inculcated in me the wonder and spirit of science at the start. I found it so limiting, which it is everything but. Two picture books I read recently made me feel like science was exciting; a revelation indeed!   Infinity and Me  (written by  Kate Hosford  and illustrated by Gabi Swiatkowska) is a picture book that was published in 2012, and talks about the mathematical concept of infinity. Through the inquiring mind of 8-year-old Uma, we begin to ponder about...

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3 picture books deal with 2 complex issues: death and domestic violence...

May 31, 2013 by

What could be more difficult that dealing with the loss of a parent?  It’s a subject that most people have a hard time even comprehending, forget making it a subject of a book for children. But picture books aren’t meant to shield children. That’s my opinion, at least. There are people in the other camp who believe that hard subjects like death, loss, violence and abuse should be left out of books for children. But they’re all a reality of life, unfortunately. Isn’t it inevitable that they will have to deal with a whole host of issues as they grow up? Two beautiful picture books that I read recently reflect that if it’s done in the right way, they can be very valuable and effective.  My Father’s Arms Are A Boat  (written by Stein Erik...

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More picture books: Spring brings kindergartners and other beasts...

Apr 4, 2013 by

The cherry blossoms are in bloom all over Seattle. Daffodils everywhere, tulip bulbs emerging and leaves slowly re-appearing on the trees. There could not be a more fitting time to talk about And Then It’s Spring, an enchanting new picture book written by Julie Fogliani and illustrated by Erin E. Stead. Since I don’t understand the concept of ever borrowing one book at a time from the library, I also got a few others. One amongst them was Mom, It’s My First Day of Kindergarten! , written and illustrated by Hyewon Yum. Incidentally, both these books were recently awarded the 2013 Ezra Jack Keats Award for New Writer and New Illustrator , which I spoke about in this recent post.   Let’s start with And Then It’s Spring. Too often picture books and children’s books are littered with horribly bad...

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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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