Monday, April 26, 2010

JUSTIN CASE, out today!

As touched on here before, my brand new book (a middle-grade novel--ages 7-9) with fabulous author and pal, Rachel Vail, JUSTIN CASE: SCHOOL DROOL AND OTHER DAILY DISASTERS, is out today! Officially dropped.

Lots of insanely good stuff has been swirling around about it already. Just to hit a few of the finer points...

STARRED review in Kirkus!

JUNIOR LIBRARY GUILD Premier Selection for Spring 2010!

Stellar reviews in both School Library Journal and Publisher's Weekly!

Glowing recommendation (or "blurb" as they say in the biz) from prolific and beloved novelist, Avi!

It's all very exciting, and I'm thrilled to have gotten the chance to work with Rachel again (our first collab was picture book, RIGHTY AND LEFTY, back in 2007).

Anyhow... thought I'd kick off the celebration by sharing a few favorite pieces from the book. I'll actually break this into a few blog posts, so as not to blow all the fun in one shebang. Here's the first installment. Please click on images to get better, closer, looks.

GO, JUSTIN! More to come...

Thursday, April 22, 2010

My Nightmare

Welcome to my nightmare. After about three solid days of stressin, fightin, wrasslin, whinin, and cryin, I got to a place where I'm sorta comfortable with a color scheme for my next author-illustrator picture book. Color. This Drama Queen was not so nice to be around for those past few days. Sorry, Julie.

Here's where the chips fell (not shown: dozens of scraps, rejects, shreds, and general evidence of a growed up cry-baby).

Number 1 it is. Onward!!!!!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Top Ten (March 2010)

Ten things I was into last month:

1. DAVID EZRA STEIN. Of course this wasn't the first time I'd heard of this picture book author and illustrator. But it was the first time I really took a serious look at his books. He has a real talent for qualities loose and expressive in his art. And his text is perfectly sparse and clever and ever so subtle in humor. I particularly like LEAVES and POUCH!.

2. THE SECRET LANGUAGE. I continue to work my way through the books of Ursula Nordstrom. This is the one and only novel she wrote herself. As I understand it, a sequel was all but finished, but she couldn't get comfortable with an ending and she burned the manuscript before she died. This book is innocent and sweet and reminds me of books I read when I was a kid. Took me back there. I can't believe my library had a copy of this in original hardcover. What a find!

3. GORILLAZ. I'm not much for contemporary pop music, and I never really gave Gorillaz much of a chance since their inception. But I heard some clips off their new album, Plastic Beach, and was quite impressed. Collabs with Snoop Dogg, Mark E Smith, and Lou Reed, to name a few. I dug a little deeper into the other albums and was not disappointed. I particularly like it when they seek out international talent, like "Latin Simone (Que Pasa Contiga) with the late, great Ibrahim Ferrer.

4. WOODY HARRELSON in ZOMBIELAND. This movie was funny and pretty, pretty well-executed. The absolute standout was Woody Harrelson. Very funny, very well-played. Good Wood.

5. PARENTHOOD. This new hour-long dramedy on NBC is a reincarnation of the 1989 movie. Apparently in 1990 there was a previous failed attempt to make the movie into a tv series. The 2010 take, I like it. I think it strikes a chord in me, a new dad. All the kids are older than mine, but I'm already thinking, "that's gonna be me and Julie". I'm a sap, I'm a sucker. And I like the cast. One of those big ensemble ones. Somebody from Gilmore Girls, somebody from Six Feet Under, Craig T. Nelson. Good all-arounds. I hope people are watching and it keeps it's momentum.

6. RUTH KRAUSS. More from the Ursula Nordstrom era. I love Ruth Krauss. Her stuff is very strange and very deep and intellectual, I think. But it also feels like it totally relates to kid minds. Wonderful, sharp, weird writing. I'm eating it up.

7. ABEL'S ISLAND. I don't know how I came on this. I was aware of it for years now, but didn't think a William Steig novel would be any good. I mean, it got a Newbery nod, but I still hesitated. Anyhow, I ended up reading it last month, and so glad I did. The drawings, of course, are stellar. But he takes a very simple premise--a mouse stranded on an island--and just Steigs the heck out of it. He uses big words in a funny way and really gets to the meat of the matter. Gets a good story out of it. And who else but Steig would write a line about how Abel goes behind a rock to "defecate".

8. MY LIBRARY. I love my local library. I use it for inspiration, work, books, music, and just for a general peaceful getaway sometimes. It kills me to hear funds are being openly slashed for libraries and librarians around the country. I think in a time where there's not much money, the library is more essential than ever. Long live books! Long live PRINT! Long live the library!

9. CELEBRITY FIT CLUB. I was toying with not including this in my list. Like, I'm too high brow for this sort of thing. But... yeah right. This season (the only one we've watched--honestly) was like a "reality" genre godsend. Sebastian Bach, Jay McCarroll, Bobby Brown, K-Fed AND Shar Jackson. Watch them try to shed pounds! Watch them work out their personal demons in front of a film crew! How could I not?

10. ROMY WALKS, v. 2. Romy is now walking independently. Not all day. She still likes the security of a hand hold from her Mom or Dad. But every day, for stretches at a time. It's crazy to see these milestones come along like this. Visually, this one is huge. Proud of ya, kiddo!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

What's the deal?

It feels like a dang fortnight since I blogged last. The thing is, I've been fully absorbed. Julie had surprise surgery last week--an appendectomy. I lost my wedding ring--have yet to find (a complete mystery). I've got a big picture book deadline on my shoulders--my second author illo. And just usual, you know, living. It's been wild.

As promised, my blog url has changed. If you made it this far, you got the news. And thank you.

In the coming weeks, I will be thoroughly flogging my next book, titled, JUSTIN CASE: SCHOOL, DROOL, AND OTHER DAILY DISASTERS. A middle-grade novel written by none other than Ms. Rachel Vail. Pictures provided by me. Published by Feiwel and Friends and readily available on April 27. A very fun one, do say so myself. Here is a more formal description from the pub:

It’s the start of the school year, and nothing feels right to Justin. He didn’t get the teacher he wanted, he’s not in the same class as his best friend, and his little sister, Elizabeth, is starting kindergarten at his school. Elizabeth doesn’t seem nervous at all. Justin is very nervous about third grade. And to top it off, he’s lost his favorite stuffed animal, but he can’t tell anyone, because technically he’s too old to still have stuffed animals. Right?

Here is third grade in all its complicated glory—the friendships, the fears, and the advanced math. Acclaimed author Rachel Vail captures third grade with a perfect pitch, and Matthew Cordell’s line art is both humorous and touching. As Justin bravely tries to step out of his shell, he will step into readers’ hearts.

I'll be showing some of my drawings in the coming weeks. And I'm gonna do one of my patented contests (win a book!... or something), so stay tuned. For now, here's the cover (click it, make it bigger)!

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