Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Unicorn Love

Don't hate on the unicorn, bro.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Top Ten (November 2010)

1. BINK AND GOLLIE. By Kate DiCamillo and Alison McGhee, Illustrated by Tony Fucile. I saw this pic book on many a list this year and just last month got a look at it. It's cool and quirky. And it's three short stories about two girls who are pals that do fun, weird things and seem to live alone without parents. Fresh. Liked it.

2. OCTAVIAN NOTHING BOOKS. By M. T. Anderson. Full disclosure: I must've picked up the first Octavian Nothing book and attempted to read it, oh, six... seven times. It is hard to get into. Finally, I put my head down and chewed into the first chapter. Glad I did. And then I chewed through the second, equally gratifying book. I won't say it wasn't hard for my puny brain to follow at times (the language is authentic (I can only assume) to the time--American Revolutionary War--and kinda tedious on my little head), but the payoff is good. Very, nicely well done.

3. GEORGE AND MARTHA. I read the original James Marshall again last month at my local library. A Halpern-Cordell house fave. I forgot how good it is. I like that James Marshall.

4. DAVIDE CALI BOOKS. I knew about THE ENEMY, but after a bit of online investigating, found out that Cali has some amazing looking books out there. Many of which are not in English (unfortunately for me).

5. JOHN SEGAL BOOKS. This guy has this super cool way of illustrating where he just uses watercolor and he uses the edges of the painted areas to define the form. No line, I mean. It's very sweet and inventive. I especially love SLEEPY HEAD and FAR FAR AWAY.

6. ZOHAR LAZAR. I think he (an illustrator, mostly editorial as much as I can tell) must've just recently gone onto facebook. When I saw his name suggested as a "friend", I was reminded to go check out his website again (I'm a fan, but haven't followed his work/website in quite some time). He just gets crazier and better and better. Good grief.

7. J CHURCH. A west coast punk (pop-punk?) band I was into in the college years. Sadly, the singer and frontman, Lance Hahn, passed away in recent years. I was somehow reminded of these guys and have been listening to them online again.

8. DON'T STOP NOW. Huzzah! M'lady, YA scribe Julie Halpern, has a new book coming out in June ('11)! Her third novel, and I got to read the brand new Advance Readers Copy (ARC). So funny, so good, and a fun road trip romp with a bit of mystery woven in. Loved it.

9. THE DRONES. Australian rock band. Raw and rough around the edges good. Highly recommended.

10. CIRCUS. Did you catch this miniseries doc on PBS last month? It was quite fascinating. Circus culture is not what one might expect. Not what I expected anyhow. This was a really neat look in and out of the big top. What goes into making a show. An act. A circus life. Specifically that of the respectable Big Apple Circus. And did you know people still actually "run off and join the circus"? Fascinating.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Young Chicago Authors

Julie and I are guests at this year's Young Chicago Authors (YCA) Holiday Book Bash. We'll be hobnobbing with some of Chicago's finest authors, book enthusiasts, and past and present students and faculty of YCA. We'll also be there signing and selling books. I love a fine holiday party and I have not been to this before. Sounds awesome. If you are in the area, please come out and party down. Here's a link to the list of authors and where to purchase your tickets.

And, of course, the info:

Friday, December 3
Egan Center at DePaul
1 E. Jackson Blvd.

Happy Holidays!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Bikes, Flowers

(as always, if you like, click image to zoom)

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Top Ten (October 2010)

Hey. Here's my ten faves from last month.

1. SCHOOL VISIT. Some may know that public speaking is not on the top of my list of junk to do. But I think I may have changed my tune. I had a really great day out in Naperville, Illinois at Chesterbrook Academy speaking to a couple of groups of kids. With lots of help and encouragement, I put together a sweet powerpoint presentation and had much fun. Now I'm ready for more!

2. PAVEMENT. There was this piece on Pavement last month in the New Yorker. About the band in general, I think, but also on the recent reunion tour and also because Pitchfork, or somebody there, made some sort of "best rock band of the 90's" claim. (Really?) Anyway, it got me listening to some early Pavement stuff again. Certainly brought back some varied memories.

3. DISNEYWORLD. We took Romy, our two-year-old sweetness, on her very first trip down to Disneyworld. Good times were had by all!

4. FEED. I'd heard of M. T. Anderson before, but hadn't read anything of his. Julie suggested this. I was not disappointed. A perfectly dismal prospect of a world future. It ain't pretty.

5. BAMBOO PEN. My ma bought me a few of these a couple years back, think it was, and I had not given them a whirl. I did recently and was pleasantly surprised at what they bring. It's not very easy to figure out or to control. Probably because I have no idea what I'm doing. But I think I may be onto something?

6. BETWEEN TWO FERNS. I was a fan of Zach Galafianakis already, mostly from BORED TO DEATH, but after getting wind of these celebrity interviews he does for Funny Or Die, I'm totally hooked. Something quite funny here in a low budget setup of one celeb mock taking the mickey out of another. Absolutely hilarious.

7. LITTLE NOTHINGS vol. 3. I've been a fan of Lewis Trondheim since I first discovered the NIMROD stuff Fantagraphics was doing in English translation. I really like his slice-of-life autobio stuff. I like how he draws people as animals and I very much like his sly subtle sense of humor. Julie and I saw him at Comic-con a couple years back and he's much like his books. Good stuff.

8. THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG. I'm not huge on the whole Disney princess thing, but this movie's got some good stuff going for it. Quality, traditional animation (gasp!), New Orleans backdrop (with characters from many different N.O. influences/backgrounds which is great), and a "princess" who's just not all princessy. I have to say I really enjoyed it.

9. HARRY BLISS ON FACEBOOK. I guess when you think of a celebrated children's book artist and cartoonist, you don't necessarily think of a foul-mouthed, cocky, dirty, so-and-so. This is the hilarity that is Harry Bliss's facebook profile. Not for kids. And not for some adults. His 200+ self-shot short vids, scripted or not, are keeping me laughing.

10. PHINEAS AND FERB. Ok, ok. This is my third Disney plug in this list. I maybe need to chill. But it's just coincidence really. The Disney Borgs dis not assimilate down in Florida. I don't think. Anyways, I like this cartoon. It's about kids. It's kid-friendly and clever. And it's old school animation (I think) and old school fun. There don't seem to be much like it on tv anymore.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Some New Drawings

Playing with style/contrast. Drawings with quill. Drawing with a bamboo. Loving the bamboo!

Click images for better views:

Monday, November 8, 2010


Here we have, ladies and gents, a slightly blurry photo of a scattered stack of final illustrations for a newly finished picture book. This one is called ITSY-BITSY BABY MOUSE, by author Michelle Meadows. To be published by Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers in, if memory serves, spring 2012. Don't hold me to that. I mostly just remember my deadlines. For me pub dates usually come to light closer to pub date. And I digress.


Wednesday, October 27, 2010


Makes me shake in my boots. My shoes. My moccasin slippers. That's right, I rock those.

One of these days, I'll get more guts when it comes to starting color. Anyhow, thought I'd share some of my color studies for current final art I'm finishing up. I'm happy with these three. My team--Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers (S+S BFYR)--chose one direction. Guess which?

Sunday, October 24, 2010

See Me. Feel Me. Touch Me. Heal Me.

Just really wanted to say a few things pertaining to... Me.

Talented author/illustrator, Sergio Ruzzier, had the great idea last week to ask a single question around the kidlit community. What are your top ten favorite picture books of all time? I had the honor of being the first post in this series (I think I was maybe just the biggest nerd who went and turned his answers in first). Find out what my tops are right here. And, you know, there's already been a few more posts since mine. Authors Emily Jenkins and Marc Tyler Nobleman. And one of our favorite bloggers, Julie Danielson of Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast. Very much looking forward to seeing more of these lists!

Next up... I just reformatted my blog. It looks pretty much exactly as it did before, but it's allowed me to "label" all of my posts (see the snazzy list o' labels at the column to our right). So, for instance, if you had any desire whatsoever to read all of my "Top Ten" columns, you can click the label titled (what else) "top ten" and you're golden.

I've also added all links to all interviews, and the like, that I've done to the right. So you can read (or reread!) all kinds of stuff about me. Yours truly. This guy.

One more thing. Regarding me.

Here's a new self-portrait.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Top Ten (September 2010)

Perhaps you'll notice, I'm half a month late in getting my monthly list out. Did anyone care?

Working on final art for a pic book plus sketches for a poetry book, plus back-of-brain stuff on two forthcoming pic books. Waters are a little choppy at the moment.

Ten of my faves from last month:

1. GIANTS SUNFLOWER SEEDS. I've been a seed fanatic since I was, maybe, 12 or something. I've always been a David man, but I ran across these last month in a Wisconsin grocery store. The name does not lie. The seeds are, in fact, giant. Steroids? The "salt and pepper" ones are quite nice.

2. BIRTHDAY GIFT. Last month, I celebrated another birthday. I'm... thirty-something. I got a spectacular gift for this one. Julie and a few other kind relatives put together some moneys to afford me this laptop. It has been sweet. I take it to the library when I'm working there on stories, and I used it for a school visit already (and more to come, I hope!).

3. DOMINIC. Read this super cool William Steig chapter book last month. Another excellent little known Steig discovery (for me).

4. THE HEART AND THE BOTTLE. I saw this one by Oliver Jeffers sitting face out at the library last month. I liked art and story enough to use a b+n gift card to buy a copy.

5. TOY STORY 3, A LITTLE GOLDEN BOOK. We found this book at our local grocer's. Little Golden rolls like that. The art is superb. Do not discount the LGB.

6. JULIET, NAKED. Looking for something to read, I read another Hornby. Again, I was impressed. I like that guy's style. And I like that this is sorta/kinda playing off Dylan/Dylanology/Dylanmania. It's funny. Cool cover too.

7. BORED TO DEATH. We are now in Season 2. And I love this show. Danson (awesome), Galifianakis, Schwartzman, et al. The writing is sharp and funny as heck. I love how they joke-check things like the Amazon sales rank and the New Yorker cartoon caption contest. Where else will you find that?

8. POMEGRANATE PIZZAZZ. To serious tea drinkers, these Bigelow bags are probably trash. But I came across this one last month and I shall endorse it. It's got built-in juice, man!

9. OUR JONATHANS. We have a Jonathan apple tree in our backyard. It yields a massive crop every fall, and last month the apples were popping and dropping, kids. It was fun to go back there with a ladder and fill bag after bag. Although, I did get tapped square in the eye by a renegade Jonny. Risk you run.

10. THE SUBURBS. The newest offering from indie darlings, Arcade Fire. Though I still like the debut best, this is good and has had copious listens in the studio.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Monday, September 20, 2010

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Top Ten (August 2010)

Top ten of my favorite things from last month (as always, in no particular order):

1. THE WALKMEN. Anyone who reads this blog regularly might know my keeping current with music has completely lapsed over recent years. I still listen to plenty of music, but I just can't be bothered to keep my ear to the ground anymore. Anyhow...I had heard bits of songs from this band here and there and thought they were cool. A while back, it was. Something made me remember so I took a closer look. Old suspicions confirmed. They are good.

2. SCOTT MAGOON. Was there ever a better name built for a children's book illustrator? OK... Dr. Seuss. Richard Scarry. I get it, there are others. But Magoon is up there too, right? And his art absolutely does that good name justice. Last month I got a look at his newish title, GRANNY GOMEZ AND JIGSAW. And this, folks, is top notch Magoon.

3. SEMPE COVERS THE NEW YORKER. Jean-Jacques Sempé, you can do no wrong.

4. THE UNSINKABLE WALKER BEAN. Aaron Renier's new one--his debut with First Second. This is the most perfect, most exciting work of comics I have read all year. Amazing.

5. THE STRANGE CASE OF ORIGAMI YODA. I first heard of this book on Chad Beckerman's (my uber-talented Abrams art director) blog. Then I saw it face out at my library. After a minute of hesitation, it got checked out by some other patron. Then whoever checked it out let it go way overdue. Then I finally got to read it. And... good it was. Very well done, Tom Angleberger. Well worth the wait.

6. HARPS AND ANGELS. I can never tell if I'm outing myself as uncool for saying, um, "I like Randy Newman". (Sorry, Randy. Yeah, you're not reading this.) I mean he does all that sappy-pappy stuff for Hollywood. But, best I can tell, that's not him. That's just his way of bringing home bacon. After listening to his albums (the good stuff) I knew then that ol' Randy has a seriously dark, twisted, brilliant mind. HARPS is no exception to this, seeing as he strikes, head-on, America and it's less-than-perfect current (current-ish... this album's from 2008, if you feel me) state of affairs. Oh, what fun could he have with today's political climate?

7. MY DAY WITH TOM. Now that I work from home, I've become quite the shut-in. Not quite Nicholson in The Shining. But it's time to not let that happen. So I've been on the lookout for fellow illustrators in my area. Chicago and it's suburbs. Last month, I elbowed my way into Tom Lichtenheld's home/studio and we had a great day of good, solid author/illo talk. He's a super nice, super talented fellow and he gave me crazy-good advice and guidance on my first big upcoming school visit. Thanks for putting up with me Tom!

8. DEATH COMES TO TOWN. The Kids in the Hall are back, and with a vengeance. With a twisted (as ever) new mini-series about Death dropping in on a small Canadian town called Shuckton. Fortunately we now have cable and we caught the U.S. run on the Independent Film Channel (IFC). Awesome.

9. FACEBOOK. Last month, I set up a "professional" profile on Facebook. (Which basically means, a place where I don't have to feel guilty plugging my new books, or new drawings, or good publishing news.) This sorta goes back to my #7 in this list. My present attempts to connect with other illustrators. Maybe if I lived in the NYC area, setting up an often pow-wow with a cool, friendly kid book illustrator would be like shooting fish in a barrel. Since I don't live in the NYC area, "friending" people who live in New York and all over has been my next best thing. And it's cool to see what other artists are doing day-to-day without always having to visit a hundred different blogs around the net. And much as I can tell, kid book makers are good people. And I'm happy I did this.

10. RENAISSANCE FAIRE. Just north of us is one of those merry and weird Renaissance Faires. You know the ones. Where people dress up like fairies and knights and wenches and what not. It can get a little awkward at times, but when you take an almost 2-year-old (in a tutu and a crown), it's a stroke o' genius. Last month, we went twice. Huzzah!