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Winding Oak's Bookology Magazine

Tag Archives | illustrations

Kingfisher Treasuries

unknown-3There was a time—although it seems like it’s becoming a tiny dot in the rearview mirror—in which one birthday child or the other received the birthday-appropriate book in the Kingfisher Treasury series of Stories for Five/Six/Seven/Eight Year Olds. Those beloved paperbacks reside on my office shelves now, but it was not so long ago that they were opened on the appropriate birthday to big smiles—there was something sort of milestone-like about receiving them. Near as I can tell from the interwebs, we’re only missing Stories for Four Year Olds—I just might have to complete our collection, because I’ve pretty well lost myself this morning while looking at these books again.

They are humble paperbacks—I don’t believe they were ever published as hardbacks, let alone with gilded pages and embossed covers. But the stories between the colorful covers are of that caliber, certainly. Chosen by Edward and Nancy Blishen, these stories are from the likes of Rudyard Kipling, Beverly Cleary, Isaac Bashevis Singer, Arthur Ransome, and Astrid Lindgren. Others, too—in addition to several folk tales retold by the compilers.

What I loved about these stories when we were reading them aloud was that they were from all over the world—many cultures and places represented. We often were looking at the globe after reading from these books. Some are traditional stories, some contemporary—an excellent mix, really. Short stories for kids—loads better than the dreary ones in grade-specific readers.

What my kids loved, curiously, was how the illustrations were tucked into the text. Every page has a clever black and white drawing—something drawn around the story’s title or running along the bottom of the page, a character sketch set in the paragraph indent, a crowd scene spanning the spread between the top and bottom paragraphs on both pages, a border of leaves or animals—very detailed, even if small. You don’t see illustration placement like these much. The books have a unique feel because of them.

unknown-4The illustrators for each book are different, but all are wonderful, and because everything is printed simply in black and white and creatively spaced on the pages the books look like they go together. Some of the drawings are sweet, cute—some you can imagine as fine art. Which is what makes me wish these had been produced in a larger hard-back version with color plates, etc.

But the fact is, the paperback trim size made it easy to slip these in my purse, tuck in the glove compartment, pack for the plane ride, etc. A lot of reading happened on the fly during those early elementary years—these books were some of the easiest to carry around and pull out at the doctor’s office, the sibling’s game, and the bus stop.

I thought about putting them out in our little free library in the front yard, but I’ve decided to keep them on my shelf. Maybe tuck one in my purse for when I’m sitting outside the high school waiting for my girl, or reading outside the dressing room while she tries on clothes. The days are flying by—I’m glad I have books to remember the sweet earlier days, too.

Perhaps I’ll buy another set to share in the library…..

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Apples, Well-Being, and Family

Bring Me Some Apples and I'll Make You a PieBring Me Some Apples and I’ll Make You a Pie: A Story about Edna Lewis is a memorable book about growing food throughout the seasons and living off the land in Virginia. Wild strawberry, purslane, dandelions, sassafras, honey. As spring rides the breeze into summer, this extended family tends to their larder, taking full advantage of the fruits, nuts, and vegetables growing around them. Summer subdues itself into fall. Time to bring in the corn and beans, take a last harvest of pecans before winter sets in.

This way of life may be unfamiliar to a large percentage of children, but even though the book is set in the 1920s, everything about the story feels contemporary. Perhaps it is a way of life that withstands time.

Food is the focus because this is a glimpse of the early life of Edna Lewis, renowned chef and Southern cookbook author. As the author and watercolor illustrator Robbin Gourley writes, “But her most significant contribution was to make people aware of the importance of preserving traditional methods of growing and preparing food and of bringing ingredients directly from the field to the table.” With our current resurgence of interest in a farm-to-table lifestyle, this book is a good way to talk about food and nutrition with your children.

Bring Me Some Apples and I'll Bake You a Pie

Quite a few traditional sayings are included in the book:

“Raccoon up the pecan tree.
Possum on the ground.
Raccoon shake the pecans down.
Possum pass ‘em round.”

Your mouth will water so much while you’re reading this book that you’ll be glad there are five recipes in the back of the book, from Strawberry Shortcake to Pecan Drops.

The watercolor illustrations throughout are charming and informative, warm and loving. The color palette of clear, bright tones adds to the feeling of health and well-being.

It’s a worthwhile addition to your home, school, or public library.

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August Shorts

Warning: There’s a lot of enthusiasm ahead for these books!

Where Do Pants Go?Where Do Pants Go?
Written by Rebecca Van Slyke, illustrated by Chris Robertson
Sterling Children’s Books, 2016

Well, this is just adorable … and I can already hear households throughout the English-speaking world chanting:

“Where do pants go?

On your arms? No.

On your neck? No.

No, no, no.

Pants go on your legs, that’s where pants go.”

We all know how much kids love saying “NO!” This book depicts a charming cast of kids in a rowdy lesson on getting dressed from underwear to jacket and hat. It’s a cumulative text so language skills are a part of the mix. The illustrations are bouncy and full of humor. Getting dressed will be filled with giggles.

Sky Stirs Up TroubleThe Sky Stirs Up Trouble (Tornadoes)
written by Belinda Jensen, illustrated by Renee Kurilla
Millbrook Press, 2016

I wonder if a scientific study has ever been done to determine how many kids want to grow up to be the weather forecaster on local or national news. Certainly the weather is just as much a preoccupation for children as it is for adults. This brand-new, six-book series about Bel the Weather Girl is written by a television meteorologist with an eye toward entertaining and educating the reader. In this book, Bel and her cousin Dylan head to the basement with Bel’s mom when a tornado siren goes off. They learn how to react to the warning and Bel explains, by baking a Tornado Cake, how the atmospheric conditions must be just so in order to cook up a tornado. A recipe for the cake is included as are interesting fact bubbles. The illustrations are friendly and engaging. I know I would have read and re-read this series in elementary school.

D is for Dress-UpD is for Dress Up: The ABCs of What We Wear
written and illustrated by Maria Carluccio
Chronicle Books, 2016

This charming alphabet book is just right for someone who will grow up to collect fabric, carefully study fashions, and find joy in creating “a look.” A wonderfully diverse group of children are dressed in clothing and accessories that depict each word from apron (for a chef) to zippers (for two friends’ jackets). In between, we find leotards and overalls and raincoats. It’s the illustrations that are most inviting: so much for the eyes and brain and heart to notice and absorb. There’s texture and pattern and detail (notice those galoshes) created by a textile and product designer resulting in a warm and enchanting book. You’ll know just the child to give it to.

This is NOT a Cat!This is NOT a Cat!
written by David LaRochelle, illustrated by Mike Wohnoutka
Sterling Children’s Books, 2016

LaRochelle and Wohnoutka (Moo!) are at it again: a book that has very few words but a lot of laughs! I love these books with few words because kids are so good at telling the story themselves. With gentle prompting from the adult reading with them, kids can be encouraged to tell the story in different ways. Perhaps the most fun is saying the five words in the book in so many different ways with varying emphasis and LOUDness! It’s just plain fun to read this book out loud. And because there are only five words, every child can have the satisfaction of reading this book on their own. The lively, humorous pictures conceived by Mike Wohnoutka invite studying closely as the details add to the fun. Bring your own knowledge to this book: do cats like cheese?

The Bot That Scott BuiltThe Bot That Scott Built
written by Kim Norman, illustrated by Agnese Baruzzi
Sterling Children’s Books, 2016

Great Scott! I love this book. For any child the least bit science-minded who loves to experiment or build things or creatively compile what-ifs, this is a must-have book. It’s an awe-inspiring feast for the eyes and the ears and the funny bone. The setting is a Science Day, in which students show their science projects to their teacher and the rest of the class. In a House That Jack Built style, the “what can go wrong, does” story progresses with much laughter thanks to the spot-on rhyming text and the color-infused illustrations. The ending is ingenious. I won’t spoil it for you and your smaller readers. But Scott’s science project saves the classroom from the brink of destruction. I’m inspired to make my own “bot” right now and so will you be!

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Francis Vallejo

Francis VallejoWe are pleased to share with you our interview with Francis Vallejo, the illustrator of Jazz Day: the Making of a Famous Photograph, our Bookstorm™ this month. This book is so rich with visual images that stir readers’ imaginations. You’ll feel like you’re standing on the street with the other onlookers!

The title page says that you used acrylics and pastels to create this art. Are those familiar media to you? Did you use any other media or digital manipulation?

I developed this technique for Jazz Day. Before this book I had extensively used acrylics, but had not used pastels very much. As I was working on the early sketches and thinking about how I would paint the final images, I discovered the illustrated books of John Collier. He used acrylic and pastel (although sometimes gouache instead of acrylic). Also, my friend and incredible artist Jane Radstrom has been creating beautiful pastel works for a while. Her work kept experimentation with pastel fresh in my mind. So combining a wet medium (acrylic) and dry drawing medium (pastel) seemed like the best of both worlds. I could create large washes and make big decisions, and then detailed mark making using drawing.

I also generally like to develop a new finishing process for every project I work on, so the next book will assuredly have a radically different look. I think it keeps me fresh. Finally, yes, I used a little digital manipulation in post to add a few details I may have missed in the physical stage.

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copyright Francis Vallejo

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copyright Francis Vallejo

Before you begin creating art, do you make sketches? Do you keep those sketches to refer to throughout your illustration process?

My process before creating the final image is borderline obsessive—scratch that—it IS radically obsessive! My process is based on that of Norman Rockwell. I spent 3 years working on the art for this book. 2.5 was spent on the sketching and research and studies and photography to prepare for the final painting. My publisher filmed this video of me going over my process:

Grays and blacks are predominant in this book. There are some alluring uses of bright color, such as the yellow taxi, the gold cornet, and the hot pink on the cover. Can you share with us some of the decision-making you did while you thought through your illustrations? Or is trying a bit of this and a bit of that?

An important part of designing the pages was to look at them as a whole, in one big group, on one sheet (or screen). Since books are sequential projects, the images have to work in sequence and not just by themselves. The colors, values, and mood, has to flow with the emotions of the story. I referenced color keys from movies, particularly Pixar movies, in how I designed the overall color keys for individual paintings, and made a strong effort to group together pictures that took place in front of townhomes and separately images of the musicians at their venues.

Your “perspective” changes throughout the book. You look at scenes from different angles, sometimes from above, sometimes from street level, sometimes from far away, sometimes close up. When do these perspectives enter into your planning process?

Right at the very beginning I knew that that idea was going to be challenging. Most of the pictures were going to be set in front of the same set of stairs. I had to create 15 illustrations all set in the same place and not make it repetitive! So using unique and varied perspectives was one of my very first priorities. Believe me, I was very excited when I was able to take a break from the street scene and move into the jazz clubs for a few pictures.

Do you choose the fonts that will be used in the book? Why did you choose a sans serif font?

I didn’t choose the font outright, but I was involved in the discussion. We thought sans serif was appropriately modern and avant garde – just as jazz is.

Did you know from the beginning that there would be a fold-out of the original photo? Did you make the decision to include the word “click” as a direction to open the fold-out?

That was an editorial decision that was planned out before I was even involved with the project. It is everyone’s favorite part and I do think it was a smart design and pacing decision!

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copyright Francis Vallejo

When you plan an illustration, do you consciously leave room for the poem that will go with it?

Absolutely. The text is just another shape on the page, so it is integral to plan for it from the very beginning. It is among my favorite things to do actually. I am a nerd like that. I love the puzzle of figuring out how I can design a scene to organically allow text to fit so that it seems like the negative shape the text is placed in is actually a shape that fits into the picture. Many of the most forward-thinking illustrators from the 1960’s would really explore this idea (Al Parker is king at this) and they were a big influence.

Did you always know the order in which the poems would be included in the book? Did that change how you thought about these illustrations?

I did. The order was given to me at the beginning and is incredibly important to consider. As I mentioned prior, the images have to work sequentially. There were numerous individual images that I was very fond of that I had to scrap as they did not fit the overall flow.

Was there an illustration that challenged you the most?

Yes! There is an image of a girl looking out of a window (appropriately titled “At the Window”) that took maybe 60 hours to sketch out then maybe 10 more to paint. In order to capture the poem I had to capture a profile shot of the girl from the side, as well as the top of the people’s heads. To do this I had to use a fisheye warped perspective. Figuring that out involved a lot of head scratching…and erasing!

Which of the illustrations in the book gives you the most pleasure when you look at it now?

The one I just mentioned. I battled that picture to get it right. I don’t always win those fights, but this one turned out well and the painting of the girl might be one of my very best!

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The Odious Ogre

The Odious OgreI’m a big fan of Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster, illustrated by Jules Feiffer. I can remember reading it as a kid and thinking it both hilarious and clever. And I loved the words! So many words!

So when the Juster-Feiffer team came out with The Odious Ogre a few years back, I leapt at it. A picture book! A long picture book! My favorite kind! Full of long words and clever phrasings—it is a hoot. I’ve read it to pre-schoolers through middle-schoolers—they and their adults laugh.

The Odious Ogre lives on his reputation mostly—and it’s a ghastly reputation. He was, it was widely believed, extraordinarily large, exceedingly ugly, unusually angry, constantly hungry, and absolutely merciless.

At least that was his reputation—it’s what everyone thought or supposed or had heard or read …. As Juster says: No ogre ever had it so good. He terrorized the surrounding villages and everyone just … well, let him. They thought it was hopeless, that there was nothing they could do.

No one can resist me, says the Ogre. I am invulnerable, impregnable, insuperable, indefatigable, insurmountable …. He had an impressive vocabulary having accidently swallowed a large dictionary while eating the head librarian in one of the neighboring towns.

Now I know there are those who will read that sentence of wonderful i-words and and the detail of eating librarians and they will think one of two things (if not both): There’s a vocab list! OR, why would she read that to pre-schoolers?!

My husband just looked over my shoulder at the illustrations and said, “Wow. That looks violent.” And there are violent scenes, to be sure. (Although they’re pictures in sweet pen and inky water colors, so the impact is softened.) The best scene is when the ogre throws a temper tantrum, leaping and hurling himself around the garden of a completely unflappable young girl outside of her beflowered cottage. She’d just offered him tea. And muffins. This floors the ogre. He worries that his reputation might be in jeopardy. So he bellows and stomps and blusters. He grimaces and twitches and snorts, all while belching, clawing and drooling in an attempt to frighten the imperturbable young woman. There’s a two-page spread of his reign of terror. The children adore it. The younger they are, the more they delight in it.

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The girl is at first overwhelmed. Then she recovers herself, sets down her plate of muffins and applauds with great enthusiasm for a full minute.

“What fun, how magical, how wonderful!” she exclaimed. “Would you consider doing that for the orphans’ picnic next week? I know the children would love it.”

It simply doesn’t matter that the three-year-olds cannot define all of the words. They know exactly what is going on—they’ve thrown such spectacles themselves, after all! They think it hilarious that the young woman wants the ogre to do it again on purpose.

Tucked in my copy of The Odious Ogre, I have sheets that I made that fold into a wee little book. It helps the kids to write their own story about  (Name) , The Most (adjective) Ogre. It asks them to name their ogre, describe their ogre, draw the ogre-y face, describe the ogre’s voice and sounds ….

Kids love this activity! At first I thought it was the size of the book (maybe 2 inches by 3 inches). But I actually think it’s the words. They come up with such creative words after hearing such thesaurastic strings of adjectives from Juster. They name their ogres things like Christilliblly and Amdropistily. They describe their ogres with words like humungo, tizzlly, and grubbling. They use all the crayons in the box when they draw their ogre’s portrait, and they change their own little voices in the most amazing ways to let me hear how their ogre sounds.

Big words, long rambly sentences, large art spreads—this is a great book for kids of all ages. I stand by my call for the longer picture book. I wish Juster and Feiffer would do a series for my personal storytime pleasure.

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Jennifer A. Bell

Jennifer A. BellIn this interview with Jennifer A. Bell, illustrator of many endearing books, we’ve asked about the process of illustrating Little Cat’s Luck, our Bookstorm™ this month, written for second, third, and fourth graders as a read-aloud or individual reading books.Jennifer was also the illustrator for Marion Dane Bauer’s earlier novel-in-verse, Little Dog, Lost.

What media and tools did you use to create the soft illustrations in Little Cat’s Luck?

These illustrations were rendered in pencil and finished in Adobe Photoshop.

Little Cat's LuckDo you use real animals for models? Are they animals you know?

I do have a cat. I find Google image searches to be a bit more helpful when I need to find details of different animal breeds or specific poses.

How are the decisions you make about drawing in black-and-white different than those you make about drawing in color?

I love working in black-and-white. I get to narrow my focus onto lighting, value contrast, and textures. It’s much faster than working in color. Color adds another layer of decision-making and can make things more complicated.

Little Dog Lost

The covers for Little Cat’s Luck and Little Dog, Lost are so vibrantly colored. Do you get to choose the color palette for the covers or are you asked to use those colors?

Initially, I had submitted many cover sketches for Little Dog, Lost. Most of them were moody nighttime scenes with the exception of a daytime park sketch. Simon and Schuster thought that image worked the best and we went from there. That cover went through many revisions. The dog changed, the composition was adjusted, and the colors got brighter and brighter. When we started working on Little Cat’s Luck the cover needed to look different than the dog book but still coordinate.

Little Dog, LostHow did you interact with the art director for these books?

There was a lot of back and forth on the covers but I had more freedom working on the interior illustrations. I had a set number of illustrations to come up with and they set me loose with the manuscript. The art director then used my sketches to lay out the book. Once they could see how it all came together we made some adjustments and I was able to work on the final artwork.

When does the book designer get into the process?

The art directors for these books were also the designers.

What does the book designer do beyond what you’ve already done?

So much! They design the cover and book jacket. They choose the fonts. They paginate the text and illustrations and prepare the book to be printed.

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Jennifer, thank you for taking the time to share these insights into your work with our readers. One of the reasons we fell in love with both Patches and Gus, and with Buddy in Little Dog, Lost, is because you have such a deft way with characterization.

For use with your students, Marion’s website includes a book trailer, a social-emotional learning guide, and a teaching guide that you’ll find useful as you incorporate this book into your planning.

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The Jungle Book

The Jungle BookThe word exquisite once won the game for me while playing Password. I have been fond of that word since that time and look for instances where it applies. That is surely the illustrated edition of The Jungle Book, written by Rudyard Kipling all of those years ago, and newly illustrated by Nicola Bayley. Candlewick published this edition of the classic stories and their classics are worth collecting, reading, and treasuring. They should be well-worn on the bookshelves in your home.

I first read The Jungle Book when I was ten. I don’t remember any illustrations in the Reader’s Digest Condensed Books version but I remember that this book made a big impression on me. It was so “other.” It was not the world I knew and it was larger than the farm dogs and pet cats I observed. It gave me a sense of the world beyond my vision. I believe it can still do that for readers today.

Bagheera and Mowgli by Nicola BayleyThe story of Mowgli and his wolf-pack, of Shere Khan, the tiger who believes Mowgli is his to dispose of as he wishes, of Baloo and Kaa and Bagheera … is as captivating now as I remember reading it as a child. There is such dignity and grace in the words that Kipling wrote, the stories he weaves with fierceness and humor and respect, that The Jungle Book transcends time. Who would not be fascinated by this story of a young boy (cub) who is adopted by a wolf pack, grows up believing he is a wolf, and then must re-join the world of man when the animals judge it is time. He lives in the jungle, is accustomed to the ways of the animal tribes, and this never leaves him, especially in his dealing with humans.

Midday Nap by Nicola BayleyThe book is such a treat to read because the visual experience is so rewarding. There are richly-colored borders and sumptuous story-dividing pages with patterns evocative of India, where The Jungle Book takes place. Every spread has some illustration it, done in colored pencil, that set the scene or enhance the storytelling or give us a glimpse of Mowgli and the animals. The full-page illustrations are riveting.

You’ve read before of my fondness for “butter covers,” dust jackets finished with a smooth and tangibly soft cover that invites holding and reading. This book has such a cover and it is irresistible. (I made that term up, by the way. Don’t try Googling it.)

In the “Word” at the beginning of the book, Nicola Bayley writes, “I’d been to India and visited all sorts of places you wouldn’t normally see, and I went to libraries in London to find out what the country was like in Kipling’s time.”

In the author’s bio on the jacket flap, we learn that “Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936) was born in India and spent his early childhood there. He lived a migratory life: educated in England, he returned to India in 1882, then met his wife in London and spent the early years of their marriage in Vermont, eventually settling in England. The most famous writer of his time, Rudyard Kipling was awarded the Nobel Prize in literature in 1907, thirteen years after the publication of The Jungle Book.” His writing is a look into his world and his time, his experience, his feelings about life.

This edition of The Jungle Book is exquisite. I recommend it highly for your family read-aloud time, for young and older. Don’t skip over the poetry. Its rhythm and words are part of the experience. It will give you much to discuss and a world to explore.

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Gifted: Arlo’s ARTrageous Adventure!

Arlo’s ARTrageous Adventures! written and illustrated by David LaRochelle Sterling Children’s Publishing, 2013 If you’re considering gifts for the holiday season … (book #1 in our series of Gifted recommendations) … No matter how uninteresting Arlo’s elderly relative insists on making their trip to the museum with her warnings to be serious and quiet and […]

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