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

by

(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...

read more

A picture book is born!

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...

read more

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

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...

read more

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

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...

read more

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

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...

read more

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

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...

read more

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

by

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...

read more

More than just a novelty: the art of die-cut picture books...

by

I think  ‘novelty’  is a rather unfortunate term commonly used to reference certain types of children’s books. I suppose books that use die-cuts or other techniques in their printing process are seen as ‘jazzed up’, and hence have a novelty factor. It still bothers me that just because these books have something more than the regular printed page, they are often times considered slightly better because of their  bells and whistles. It is very similar to how many people equate good apps as those with more animation and interactivity, losing track of the fact that at its core a successful kid’s app is one with a great story. A lot of the time these types of ‘special effects’  distract from, rather than focus on, the essential storytelling aspect. However, when creators have a unique story,...

read more

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

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...

read more

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

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.  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 I’ve seen so far this year.   As much as I’d love to share pictures of the inside pages to show you just how ingenious...

read more