Out the Window

Out the Window by Cybele YoungOut the Window by Cybele Youngby Cybèle Young

published 2014 by Groundwood BooksOut the Window by Cybele YoungDon’t you hate throwing your ball out the window and being too short to see where it bounces? The worst.Out the Window by Cybele YoungOut the Window by Cybele YoungBut the worst gets better, because in its place a spectacular parade clash-crashes by. Except when you’re a frantic, too-short creature, it’s really hard to see over the windowsill. Good thing you’re a clever whippersnapper, and push that chair up to take a peek.Out the Window by Cybele YoungOut the Window by Cybele YoungOut the Window by Cybele YoungAnd just when you can finally see outside, the book tells you to turn around.

You’ll stumble smack dab into the spectacle.

Juggling shrimp on a unicycle! A bat on a hanging, clangy contraption! Pink swans pulling a turtle on a wagon!Out the Window by Cybele Young Out the Window by Cybele Young Out the Window by Cybele YoungThanks to this parade, you might just get your ball back. It’s one fantastic game of catch.

And check out this trailer to see the book in its glorious action. Mesmerizing.

ch

P.S. – Remember the Twitter chat with Groundwood Books and Cybèle Young? The transcript is here, if you want to add to your art-to-study and books-to-love pile. It was such fun!

The Red Shoes

The Red Shoes

by Gloria Fowler, illustrated by Sun Young Yoo

published 2008, by Ammo Books

The slightest clunk in some of the words is swept up in the utter beauty of the illustrations in The Red Shoes. It’s an interpretation of the classic Hans Christian Anderson story, and I love its elegant take on girl power.

Just look at that cover. It’s evocative and inviting and so lovely that I’m not quite sure where her locks and thread intertwine and end.

The illustrations are rendered in black and white throughout, and so the peek of red under the dust jacket is exquisite. And lift that dust jacket for a taste of those red shoes.The Red ShoesSpeaking of the black and white, Sun Young Yoo says this: “A lot of people have asked me the reason why I don’t use any colors in my work. I do use colors sometimes, but I think there are a lot of colors out in the world. I don’t think I need too many colors to express my thoughts and stories. A piece of paper and a pen with black ink would be enough for me to create my own world. Instead of filling up the paper with colors, I’m inviting the viewers to my black and white world and asking them to fill up the blanks with their own colors and imagination.”The Red ShoesEndpaper junkies will adore them, and so will the shoe fiends among you. (I’m looking at you, Sallie.)The Red ShoesAnd the title, woven from needle and thread. Whoa. All of these details, and we are just now to the beginning of the words in the story. Thanks to its form, so much of the picture book experience is absorbed prior to reading a word. Its art, its heft, its detail: you’ve read so much of the story before you get to its true beginning.Then we meet Karen, the daughter of the town shoemaker. We see one illustration of their love for each other, an embrace that is so deftly drawn that it takes a long look to see where one begins and the other ends.So when Karen’s mother falls ill and passes away, the devastation is great. She’s alone in a vast empty space. And that tear.The Red ShoesThe Red ShoesEnter a queen and a princess and a decree to hand over the red shoes or be cut at the ankle. Karen looks so alone in this forest of executioner boots.The Red ShoesWhere white has washed the previous pages, now we only see dark. And man, I love this picture. Karen’s mother, reflected in a river and reaching out for Karen’s tears. Once again, the two wrapped around one another.The Red ShoesThe Red ShoesAnd then, a spark. Stitches and beads and sequins and threads. A bit of bravery and a touch of trickery.

I love that a story about a special pair of red shoes was told with an economy of color. The expressive line of a careful pencil holds all the weight of this fairy tale.

Happily ever after.

ch

Oh No, Little Dragon!

OhNoLittleDragon

by Jim Averbeck

Remember him? When I asked him what he would be if he wasn’t an author/illustrator, he said “extraordinarily irritable.” Ha.

Oh No, Little Dragon! is an endearing little book. Just look at his eyes! So sweet. That’s a little dragon with a spark in his heart, no question about it.

This is a story about fire, love, and kisses from a mama. And Jim Averbeck’s pictures capture the magnitude of this childlike search for sparkle.

IMG_1881

IMG_1882

ElementOfDesign.Line

When I teach, one of my favorite things to show students is this little video. Not only does it visually define the fundamentals of design, but it is also a tiny piece of art itself. Pay close attention to the bit on line. (And also the adorable accent of the narrator!)

From the video: “Line has direction, weight, gesture, spirit, gestalt, life.”

And that’s what I think about when I look through the pages of Oh No, Little Dragon! — the life and spirit of the lines.

IMG_1883

See how the foreground and background lines are weighted the same? They are approximately the same width and texture, but the background lines recede because they are more transparent. Similar lines in different spirit create space in the illustration.

IMG_1885

The lines of phooooooshing on these pages have a clear direction and sense of animation across the spread. Love that. Can’t you just hear and feel Little Dragon sputtering through this book?

I won’t even tell you how much I love the soot-colored line drawings on the endpapers.

Nope.

ch

Andrew Drew And Drew

Are you a sketcher? A doodler? A drawer?

(As in draw-er, not dresser!)

If so, you just may see yourself in this crafty, clever book.

This is a fairly new release from my fairly new friend, Barney Saltzberg.

Whether you have a tiny imagination that needs some calisthenics, or a huge-mongous, uncontrollable one, meet Andrew.

He draws. And draws.

And his lines become, well — anything at all!

Or even nothing.

And sometimes nothing is the best something.

Andrew.

He (and my new friend Barney!) have crafted a wonderfully animated book. You can’t just sit back and read it. You have to guess! And wonder! And unfold all of the pages!

And? Andrew (and Barney!) have left you enough white space to fill in the story with things from your own brain. What do you see? Where does your line take you?

It’s a delight. A brain tickler. An interactive treat.

A book.

SophiesFish

Sophie’s Fish

by A.E. Cannon (who loves Cheetos and Oreos!) and Lee White (who loves to bike, I think?!)

I really think artists might be some of the coolest people out there. (Some might say just plain ‘out there,’ but that’s neither here nor there. Nor anywhere.)

What? Where were we?!

When I saw Lee’s illustrations come through my email inbox, I seriously got whiplash from how fast my jaw hit the floor. His art has a charm that swept me off my feet and rendered me speechless for a moment or two.

Not a usual occurrence.

Sophie’s Fish explores all the things that just might happen if you get asked to babysit a fish. Hysterical. Hysterical!

The compositions are gorgeous. The textures leap off the page. The colors are snappy but soft. The whole thing? Is perfect.

Like this spread…

The sidewalk creates intersecting and interesting lines which gives such life and movement to this one still picture. And from an overhead perspective even! So cool. And those dreamy, complementary colors.

Or this one…the DING DONG page!

Don’t those layered textures make you think you could just reach out and touch it?! The crumpled rug, the splintered door, and that calm, but rough sky. I LOVE THIS SPREAD.

Did you hear me?! (One of those non-speechless moments!) This book is a gem. A winner. A beautiful piece of art.

You owe it to your imagination to sit a while with this one.

Don’t Squish The Sasquatch

words by Kent Redeker, pictures by Bob Staake

This book came in the mail in a box from my beau.

I tweeted this the other day: Some boys buy their girls flowers, chocolate, or fancy purses. Mine buys picture books.

Coolest endpapers ever? That’s saying a lot, since I’m a bit kookoo for them, but just look at that sasquatch. His spindly legs and arms, a dapper bow tie, and that hat especially…that hat kills me. Cool that he’s looking towards the right, right? Since that’s the direction we read and move through the book? Cool.

And the setup. All this suave sasquatch wants is to ride Mr. Blobule’s bus. Without being squished.

And after his introduction on the endpapers, and the spread with the setup…then we get to the title page. So unusual! So interesting.

Have you ever taken a photo of the horizon at sunset or sunrise? Maybe you even get all fancy with your composition and use the rule of thirds? Horizontal lines are calming, stable, restful.

But diagonal lines?

They suggest movement and action, and the frantic call of DON’T SQUISH THE SASQUATCH has a lot of extra oomph in these illustrations.

His arms are flailing and his teeth are tilting and the buildings are slanted. All of those diagonal lines add depth and interest to the picture. And below, even Mr. Blobule’s bus is bouncing towards one side. Action and movement, packed into pictures, wrapped in the battle cry of DON’T SQUISH THE SASQUATCH!

I love this book. So will there be squishing? Or something else?

Me Want Pet

Me love Tammi Sauer.

Me love Bob Shea.

You love book now.

Cave Boy had lots of things.

Rocks.

Sticks.

A club.

But no pet.

“Me sad,” said Cave Boy. “Want pet.”

Me love colors. Desaturated. Dusty. Me feel like part of family.

Me love lines. Animated. Anxious. Me love boldness.

Me love endpapers. Me draw bad. Bob Shea draw like caveman.

Me want read again. Again. Again. OOGA!

Zero

by Kathryn Otoshi

Looking for a picture book on numbers, counting, and value? This is it.

Looking for a picture book on feeling unimportant, finding friends, and celebrating differences? This is it.

Zero’s illustrations sing over crisp black and white pages. The lines that create Zero’s shape are a beautiful, glistening silver. So much about her character is revealed in the curves and motion of her lines.

In addition to line telling a character story, line is also used to layout the pages and guide the readers’ eye.

Line also guides some playful typography.

No true spoiler alerts here, but Zero gets her big moment. The puzzle is visual and literal and all around spectacular. You’ll love this one.

The King’s 6th Finger

How about that cover? How about that King? How in the world did that SIXTH finger sprout on his hand? Why is he so distressed? His eyes are full of shock and despair! His tiny crown covers 5 lonely strands of hair! He has a 5 o’clock shadow! Squiggles! Hand drawn typography! Rich color! It’s a perfect square!

Yes, I judge a book by its cover.

And its endpapers. A repeating pattern of 5s, subtly indicating our green king’s obsession with the number 5.

An extra endpaper! His kingdom, his castle: FIVE turrets.

The King’s 6th Finger is written by Jolby and Rachel Roethke Coddington. Jolby is the collaboration of illustrators Josh Kenyon and Colby Nichols. Clearly, they are the Brangelina of illustration. Seriously, if you google eye candy, the interwebz will magically take you to their website. Their work is clean, clever, and strong, and I dare you not to get lost in their archives. And just like I said with Amy Martin’s Symphony City, a The King’s 6th Finger print might be in my future.

There once was a simple king named Mortimer

Who had an obsessive compulsive disorder-er

I’ve already mentioned their gorgeous use of color and strong typography, but the layouts of these pages are remarkable. Line can be used to create shapes, but in these spreads, line is used to separate art from text, and to separate scenes from one another. The content and story in each spread is beautifully balanced, led by the lines created by the various blocks.

Can you see the Rule of Thirds at play here? The blue space on the right hand side occupies the bottom two-thirds of the page. Even though the upper third is split evenly in half, your eye is still appropriately directed around the page. The left hand page is also a perfect example of the Rule of Thirds as an appealing layout. The top third holds the text, and the bottom two thirds holds the picture. Our surprisingly short King, cradled in the hand of the beast, is perfectly placed at a dynamic crash point, where two imaginary horizontal and vertical lines intersect. Bold graphics placed intentionally, this is a great example of a layout that just plain works.

Lines create space for text, and space for pictures. The square shape of the book makes the rectangles inside have even more oomph and strength and appeal. And blue and orange on opposite pages? Perfect, as they are complementary colors on the color wheel, and instantly pack a strong visual punch.

Again, the lines on this page are implied by the separation of art from text. The 8 perfect squares remaining mimic the square shape of the book, which creates a really nice feeling of balance. This design choice is also a nice nod to the King himself as his greatest quirk (and problem) is his need for evenness and balance. {See, I wasn’t lying about Jolby being the Brangelina of Illustration…their design choices are top notch and definitely not accidental!}

By the end of the story, our King has changed his tune on the number 5. The endpapers at the back of the book are similar to the ones at the front, although this time, they don’t reflect an endless sea of 5s…

Curious how that happens? Check it out.

The Dot and the Line: A Romance in Lower Mathematics

by Norton Juster, who rocks a fishing vest with mad style. How do I know? I saw him in person:

…and had him sign this smart love story for my own love story. When you are part of a couple who prioritizes Jeopardy! and does math problems on diner napkins for fun, this book matters.

Once upon a time there was a sensible straight line who was hopelessly in love with a dot.

Our hapless line jumps through hoops and over hurdles to impress his round red love. Each page is visually stunning; this book reads like a master class in graphic design.

This line, nothing but a straight series of points, becomes a very loud, larger than life character. A simple horizontal line becomes a celebrated daredevil or an international sportsman.

Likewise, the flirty red dot is just as zesty and appealing. It’s JUST a red circle, but Norton Juster characterized her so brilliantly that a simple shape becomes larger than life.

Soon, you are entirely wrapped up in the love story between a dot and a line. A dot. And a line. Two basic graphic elements.

You marvel at the line’s ingenuity,

his vision,

and his dedication.

But does he get the girl and complete his equation?

If the animated endpapers are any consideration, I’d bet on a happy ending.

This MGM animated short from 1965 is such a fun adaptation of Norton Juster’s work, and won that year’s Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film. In the spirit of this Hollywood awards season and because Valentine’s Day is fast approaching, spend 10 minutes celebrating the love of a dot and a line. You’ll love it.