Thursday, July 26, 2012

HELLO! HELLO! Kirkus star and Mr. Schu!

So psyched to report a second review of HELLO! HELLO! has come in, this one from Kirkus, and it is a starred review! Thank you, Kirkus!

Also delighted to see this blog post (Watch. Connect. Read.) from super-cool, uber-librarian, John Schumacher, aka Mr. Schu, aka @MrSchuReads. He is currently on a road trip down south, with the point of meeting, at Zoo Atlanta, the real Ivan from Katherine Applegate's masterpiece, THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN. Along the way, he's documenting himself reading books at various indie bookshops, libraries, and general roadside attractions. Here's our man reading noneotherthan, HELLO! HELLO! Most excellent!

Check out this hilarious vid of Mr. Schu bouncing while reading.

Monday, July 23, 2012

HELLO! HELLO! Welcome to bamboo country.

More or less, I have been pretty tried and true to the pen and ink with watercolor form in my life as an illustrator. I have experimented some, recently, with using pencil and watercolor and that's been fun and gone well, but I pretty much hold fast to drawing in pen and ink.

Some time ago, years back, my mom gave me these bamboo pens for an xmas gift. She gave me a bunch of random art supplies, many of which I'd never used. Including the bamboo. A relative creature of habit, I set them aside and didn't give it a whirl for a long, long time.

*I don't think I always need to say this, but I always do. Please click on any images here to get a closer, better view!*

bamboo pens

Then, still years back, I came upon the work of Serge Bloch.

I'm oft blown away by the Bloch. He draws in lots of different ways, with, I imagine, lots of different tools. One of his things is he has a wild, drippy, fluid line and it looked like he's using something unconventional. "Maybe this guy uses bamboo?" I guessed. (could be brush...) I also, at some point, noted that one of my fave pic book guys, David Ezra Stein, in one of my all time favorite pic books, Leaves, had employed the mighty bamboo.

An outtake from Leaves by David Ezra Stein drawn in, yep, bamboo. (I yanked this from Jules at her 7-Imp interview!)

So, at long last, I picked up the bamboo and started playing. It gave me some incredible results (not necessarily Bloch-esque, not necessarily Ezra Stein-esque) but incredible nonetheless. But also incredibly unpredictable. Drawing with, essentially, the pointy end of a stick dipped in ink, is not going to guarantee any consistency. So, I never quite got the nerve to use it for final art.

Close-up of the legendary bamboo. I am not bound to this brand, but it's one I use.


If you are loyal to this blog, you might remember that my game was wildly changed when I got this large format inkjet printer that will print waterproof ink on watercolor paper. (Read all about it here!) Which, to make a long story somewhat shorter,  means I can make my drawings on any old paper and then scan in, rework, and/or redraw/rescan/rework (if need be) and then print a final, possibly edited, drawing on watercolor paper ready to paint. This gave me a heck of a lot more freedom to experiment and draw freely without the consequence. Before, if I drew a drawing and the ink or pen totally screwed me, that would be one large sheet of expensive paper in the trash. Now, I can draw it, mess it up, mess it up, fix it, mess it up, etc. but then print when finally ready on the expensive paper. Ahhhhh. Breathe deep.

Having said all this, my upcoming picture book, hello! hello!, (available everywhere you buy books on October 23!) was the first book I had the guts to draw in bamboo. And, boy, was I/am I excited about it. It is such an expressive line. Very wet at times, and also very dry at times. When the ink's running dry on the tip of the pen, the line line has almost a a graphite texture to it. It's very loose. Very free. I dig it.

Now. Backing up a bit... I've always been one to try and play with ways to get the most expressive, characteristic line in my drawings. I've used different nibs and played with unconventional (possibly, um, unsophisticated) techniques when drawing. (e.g. Often times, I let the ink cake up on my nib so that when the ink flows, or doesn't, the line gets totally jacked and weird.) Here are a few different styles of nibs I've toyed with over the years, and some sample art from each nib.

Ink I'm currently using. Again, not so much loyal to the Speedball, but it's done right by me lately.

This piece is from my book, Trouble Gum, which was drawn with a calligraphy nib.

This piece is from Another Brother, which was drawn with a crow quill nib.

Here are some samples of art I created for my first pitch of hello! hello! to accompany the manuscript. The bamboo is in full effect!

 (That bottom drawing's done with a crow quill. I was toying with mixing styles within this book. More on that factoid at a later date...)

And here's a couple of sample finished pieces from hello! hello! drawing with bamboo.

And here are some other things I've done with the bamboo.

Since hello! hello!, I have continued to work with the bamboo. Like I said, it is wildly varied and expressive, but also wildly unpredictable and this can wreak havoc on the nerves. But all in all, I'd say it is quite worth it.

I might also add, I incorporated some graphite to my drawings in hello! hello! Sometimes, the ol' bamboo wasn't cutting it, so I nabbed a graphite stick to get, you know, some roughly drawn fur on a bison. Or something like that.

At any rate, as you can maybe tell, I'm plainly stoked with the results here. Maybe, I mean possibly, you are too. I mean, I get that the average picture book reader will give zero cents about what kind of pen I use, but this is, true enough, the kind of junk that keeps me awake at night.

Hey, any other bamboo users out there? Bamboo solidarity! I mean, bamboo-4-eva.

I might also reiterate... hello! hello! is available anywhere you buy books on October 23! And my personal preference always lies with the brick-and-mortar stores. Buy books!

hello! hello!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Good, Old Books

One of my simple pleasures is, while at the local public library, browsing over the little store there where they sell off old library copies (weeded from the collection) and donations brought in from patrons. Bits of money made here go into the library cause. All in good fun.

I have picked up some uber choice pic books and illustrated mid-grade stuff in my days doing this. (None of which ever cost over a buck.) Including these fine specimens:

An edition of CHITTY that is insanely, awesomely illustrated by my #1 dude, John Burningham.

Ungerer, well he's also in the top slots for me.

 And, of course, who can be without one of these?

I came across this weird '66 semi-scientific oddity, all fun facts regarding hair (learned quite a bit here, truthfully). Superb 60's Ed Emberley accompaniment. (wrongfully uncredited on cover!) And, hey, that IS silkscreen on the case cover.

Most recently, came across this absolute gem. Some straight up vintage, prime Arnold Lobel. 

It's 1963, and Harper, so perhaps Ursula Nordstom had her hand in this, but I couldn't sleuth it out. Mildred Myrick... great name. Was this her only published work? I could not tell. Probably not...

At any rate, the illustrator's hand (in art and design) is top notch here and could easily stand just as tall today as any day before it. Character designs, drawing, composition, color, lettering all are tight as a drum. (One kid wears a dang colander/helmet on his head. Why? We never quite know, other than that's what awesome kids do.)

Here are a few sample pages and spreads that knock my socks off. Good ol' Lobel.

 half title


P.S. All of these books have that smell. You know the one.

P.P.S. May we always have libraries. May we always have books. (Of course, I mean print.)

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

HELLO! HELLO! origins

To begin my semi-regular blogging about my next book, hello! hello!, I'd like to take us back all the way to where this book got its legs. How and where I got the idea. Just so you know, full disclosure, my 3 year old daughter gave me this idea, straight up. (I like to say she is, you know, a good investment.)

Here's what happened.

I was watching Romy one afternoon, all by myself, and this was back when she was around 2 years old. (Just to preface a bit here, she was very verbal early on. She was speaking, at times, in full sentences by then. I'm not being all brag-Dad, I just have to say so, or this story ain't gonna seem credible.) We were playing in our family room on the floor, like with her Polly Pockets or whatever. Like many families' family rooms, there is a tv (it was off), couches, plenty of toys, clutter, etc. And in this particular family room there is also a laptop computer that floats around for general use.

So, yes, Polly Pockets. Well then... there was this moment where we're playing Pollys and I maybe, maybe, lost interest a second (it happens, ok?) and I happened to look over and see the laptop and I think all sly, "I'll just go over there and check my email and she won't even know I'm gone." (But probably I was doing something much worse like checking my Facebook page.)

So, I crept over to the laptop. Started pecking away at the keys, logging in someplace. She's still playing. I  got my face in the screen. When I hear,

"Daddy, stop checking email and come play."

Ugh. That kinda broke my heart. And, dang, I did not even know she knew the word email. How awful. It was the first time, and it won't be the last time, that I got checked for slacking on the job.

So, after I shook that first showing of slack-Dad guilt, then came the epiphany. What had just happened did not just happen to me. I mean, it's not happening to only me. This is a thing. This is a 21st century across-the-board thing that is a wedge between parent and child. This is universal.

This pic is hard evidence of what I'm talking about. Circa the same time period, actually. A nice family moment, right? And the dude in the upper right corner wasting away with his nose in the computer? Yeah, that's me. (p.s. the laptop the girl's got her hands on is one she spilled coffee on. Call it a sign?)

In the home, the laptop is one thing. But now, with the whole smart-phone-web-enabled-plugged-in-can't-escape-techo-temptation, we can take it with us. And we are constantly wandering from connecting with our kids. From being completely present parents for our kids. Right?

It's so easy to be plugged in, anywhere and everywhere we go these days. It's so easy to be connected that we are losing our connection with the people standing right beside us. I started thinking about how many times I'd seen kids whose parents were on the iphone or crackberry at parks, kids' ball games, shopping malls, restaurants.

And on the other side of the coin, kids do have their stuff too. The portable vid games, computers, tv's... even those "take it with you" flip down ones you see in the SUV's. Some little ones even have phones of their own.

Either way, that wedge is omnipresent. I mean it's omnipresent if we let it be omnipresent.

Now. Do not get me wrong. I am not here to wag my finger. Not with this blog post and not with this book. As I plainly said, I am as guilty as the next Dad, Mom, Grandma, Grandpa, etc. who is or has put the wedge in. Staying plugged in is not a crime nor would I be the guy who's copping you if it were. But a line must be drawn. If it must be a line of guilt, or shame, so be it. I've got my line of shame and I hope you've got one too.

Keeping that line intact, that is what this book is about. That is, hello! hello! (available October 23 in stores everywhere!)

hello! hello! jacket wraparound

I really feel like this story needs to be told now. And it really needs to be told as a picture book. (Is there any better place to do it?) And it really needs to be told as a printed picture book. But that's a whole other rant...

So all together now.

Stop checking email and come play.

Shall we?

hello! hello!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

HELLO! HELLO! starred review in PW

This just in! The first review for hello! hello! and it's a starred one from Publishers Weekly! So pumped! Thank you, PW!

Hello! Hello!
Cordell (Another Brother) outdoes himself with this silly, loving nose-tweak to digital civilization. Lydia’s electronic gadgets fail to charm her one afternoon, and her family members—all drawn in shades of gray—are lost in their own virtual worlds. “Pec Pec Pec,” her father texts in an anonymous LCD font. “Zap Beep Pow,” chirps her brother’s video game. Led outside by a stray leaf, Lydia discovers trees, bugs, flowers, and a horse who knows her name. The outdoor world appears in full color, Cordell’s text becomes hand-lettered, and the action unspools faster and faster. The horse carries Lydia through the flowers, picking up by twos and threes an improbable group of animal friends—a fish, a gorilla, a swan, even a whale—who chorus “hello” and thunder across the fields with them, until Lydia’s cellphone rings and everything comes to a halt. Fortunately, upon her return, Lydia is able to entice her family outside. The vision of Lydia and her escape is a glorious image of liberation; it’s required reading for any kid with a phone. Ages 2–6. Agent: Rosemary Stimola, Stimola Literary Studio. (Sept.)

Monday, July 2, 2012

HELLO! HELLO! let it begin...

As noted in my previous post, with my ode to ALA/Anaheim, I debuted my next (my third) author-illustrator picture book, hello! hello!, to a room of 100+ librarians, some authors, some illustrators, and various Disney-Hyperion personnel. It was great fun, and exhilarating to finally get it out there and start talking about it.

I'd like to start beating that drum now on a more semi-regular basis. By blogging about the book from now until it's publication date of September 18, 2012. Which, from now, is about 2 months time. I'll have to dust off the blog a bit since I haven't had time or, at least, put time into it for a while. But I'd really like to start sharing what went into this book, how it came to be, and what it means to me.

With this post, I will just start with some kind words from someone other than myself. Brenda Kahn, a middle school librarian and blogger, posted a sort of review/synopsis/rumination of and about hello! hello!. Since ALA and that particular Disney-Hyperion Story Time event, I've seen a few great mentions of the book (thank you, Mr. Schu!), but Ms. Kahn's blog post at proseandkahn is the first to pick it apart. Thank you, Brenda, and please, reader, read on here!

More to come...