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

The Tiny King

The Tiny King by Taro Muiraby Taro Miura

first U.S. edition published 2013, by Candlewick Press

Here’s a sweet and funny story. Candlewick sent me a review copy of The Tiny King in the waning weeks of 2013. My eye was already eager for it thanks to this Calling Caldecott post about international illustrators, so it was a bit of postal perfection. (Speaking of, are you counting down the days to January 27th?)

And then for Christmas, my mom sent me a spectacular selection of picture books – including The Tiny King! She always says I’m tough to buy books for, like “purchasing jewelry for a jeweler.” Maybe that’s true, but I think she did a pretty darn good job. (The others were a Poky Little Puppy Christmas edition and an autographed Jon Scieszka, so. And all came from bbgb in Richmond, VA. Shop indie!)

There’s no moral to this story. Just an extra copy of The Tiny King for you! Stay tuned for how to snag it.

So, this book. It’s this crazy mashup of charming fairy tale and quirky collage. The result is exquisite and mesmerizing, and you get a taste of that from the cover alone.

A sword-gripping hand is strong and fierce but nothing more than a circle. His distinguished white hairdo dripping out from under his crown – a small stack of white, curved lines. A leg made up of newsprint, which on careful inspection is a snippet of the tiny King’s wedding announcement. Foreshadowing. Spoiler. Clever and adorable.

Did you see the mini-note at the bottom of the cover, too? (This is the actual size of the Tiny King.) What a little delight!DPB_Stack_TheTinyKingNow that you’ve met him on the cover where you’ve seen him smash end to end, flip open to the first page and see that stature in context. This split in scale made me laugh out loud and drop my jaw. It’s so stunning, and so easy to fall in love with this little dude – small and alone and swimming in it.

He has a massive colorful castle, an army of tall soldiers with spears, and a feast fit for a bigger king. The spreads that introduce the reader to his lavish and lonely lifestyle are dark and looming, despite his kooky, whimsical posessions.DPB_Stack_TheTinyKing2And then one day, a big princess shows up. The light! The expanse of bright space! The Q on her triangled gown! I went all out gaga and giddy for our tiny hero.

Everything changes in tone and in mood. The story takes place on washes of pink, blue, and yellow. The babies arrive, the soldiers are sent home to their families, and the empty castle is filled up with a bunch of love.DPB_Stack_TheTinyKing3Happily and beautifully ever after.

I’d love to send a copy from my castle to yours. Just comment here by Thursday night at midnight PST. I’ll announce winners for this giveaway (and The Mischievians!) on Friday, and head to the royal post office this weekend.

Good luck!

ch

Review copy provided by Candlewick Press.

 

 

Leonardo the Terrible Monster

Leonardo the Terrible Monster by Mo WillemsHere’s something.

By Mo Willems. Published 2005, by Hyperion Books for Children. (Which I believe is now Disney-Hyperion.)

An old favorite, a forgotten gem. I was plotting a read-aloud for fourth graders, hunting for a picture book about meanness and bragging and being friends with someone different than you. In true Mo Willems style, this thing jumped right off the shelf when I ran my fingers across the spines. True story.

So I ignored my achy-creaky knees, and hovered over this on the floor of the library. It was one of the last purchases I made for the library before I left Virginia for California, but I haven’t given it two shakes of a nod since.

Not surprisingly, it’s brilliant.

It’s sheer size is in direct opposition to how terrible of a monster Leonardo is. I mean, he’s so big that he can’t even be contained to the cover. All we see is a peek of meek eyes and teensy-tiny horns. But we already know he’s pretty bad at being a monster. That juxtaposition is beyond hilarious, right?Leonardo the Terrible Monster by Mo WillemsSo, he’s terrible. And terribly alone. Look at all of the white space on this spread, highlighting just how terrible and terribly alone Leonardo is. It makes his sad face even more pathetic. Awful. Awesome.Leonardo the Terrible Monster by Mo WillemsLeonardo the Terrible Monster by Mo Willems Leonardo the Terrible Monster by Mo WillemsLeonardo the Terrible Monster by Mo WillemsAdults laugh at him. He doesn’t have Tony’s outrageous stack of teeth. And then there’s Eleanor, whose purple pedicure and anklet only hint at what kind of monstrous mug she may have.Leonardo the Terrible Monster by Mo WillemsBut Leonardo has an idea  – a fantastic, scare-the-tuna-salad-out-of-a-scaredy-cat-kid idea. His plot gives him some bounces of confidence. And there’s less white space. More text, more oomph, more pizzazz from his plan. He’s not so alone.

Enter: Sam.Leonardo the Terrible Monster by Mo WillemsThe reader knows right away that Sam and Leonardo are cut from the same cloth of lonely. Sam has even more nothing around him. Sam isn’t even facing forward. Sam has the saddest pit of despair behind those wire rims.Leonardo the Terrible Monster by Mo WillemsLeonardo the Terrible Monster by Mo WillemsLeonardo the Terrible Monster by Mo WillemsSo when Leonardo blaggle-blaggles, grrrrs, and roooaarrrs, Sam cries.

But. It’s not because he’s scared.Leonardo the Terrible Monster by Mo WillemsNow. Here’s where I did a combo of a laugh/snort/cackle/snot/wimper thing. Sam’s white space is filled to the brim with all of the awful things that were bouncing around under his bowl cut. A mean big brother! A stubbed toe! On the same foot that he hurt last month! Bird poo! A hurt tummy!

All of Sam’s insides just tumble out and stun that gruff old Leonardo. Look at how he’s clutching his chest! Swoon.

That’s why.Leonardo the Terrible Monster by Mo WillemsAnd then – an epic page turn. Leonardo’s smart, caring, friend-brain fills up all of that white space. It’s like the part where the Grinch’s heart grows three sizes. By seeing his whole face, his thought process, and those very un-monster eyes, we watch his heart change. Just like that.Leonardo the Terrible Monster by Mo WillemsLeonardo the Terrible Monster by Mo WillemsThe way Mo Willems uses space and size in this book shows us so much about Leonardo, Sam, and ourselves.

Friends. Flipping you forward since about forever.

ch

P.S. – For those fourth graders? Ended up going with Each Kindness, which is lovely beyond measure, and the moment was just shy of heart stopping. It was a perfect picture book morning. 

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floraandtheflamingoCover

Flora and the Flamingo

by Molly Idle

{published 2013 by Chronicle Books}

I think the first Molly Idle illustration I ever saw was something from her latest release, Tea Rex. She had me at the pale pink and yellow striped wallpaper. Done for.

But the pale pink and yellow in a freshly-cracked-open Flora and the Flamingo might have pushed me over the ooooooh-top.

That bright yellow is a perfect complement to the sweet shades of pink. And of course, it’s also the cheery color of dear Flora’s daisy-spotted swim cap. And note something about that deceptively simple tagline, Friendship is a beautiful dance.’ Besides being a lovely sentiment, it sets up the reader to really count the time, hear the music, and expect an overwhelming crescendo.

I was entirely swept away.

The book opens on a flamingo in a perfect passé. But then…

Here she comes. In floppy black flippers, and already in stark contrast to the flamingo’s lean grace.But Flora is unabashedly confident, and sidles right up to the flamingo, mirroring his move. And do you see the flaps? Molly Idle’s animation background breaks through the static page turn of the picture book, and requires the reader to be participatory, to be part of the dance.So much to love here. The once confident Flora is now coy and demure. If that’s not an eye for mischief, I’m not sure what is.

Also? Her roundness is part of her charm, right?! I take a beginning ballet class for adults, and this kinship to Flora makes me feel like I fit right in at the barre. Love her for that!And so they dance.

Have you noticed their spatial separation up until this point? Flora firmly planted on the right, the flamingo steady and stable on the left. Until this spread! Flora jetés straight across the gutter to her partner. That spread above stunned me, made me gasp, and then made me cheer.After some pages of very cute choreography, the flamingo forgets his manners (I assume he had them in the first place, as dapper flamingos usually do, right?) and teases the upside down and awkward moves of Flora. She stumbles and spills and is so very sad. And there she is, all alone, and back on the right hand side of the spreads.

Until…He dances to her. It’s his turn to cross the gutter, to patch things up with Flora, to offer up apologies and invite her to dance again.

From a design perspective, that movement is subtle, simple, and utterly brilliant. From a story-telling perspective, the exact same thing is true.For much of the book, Flora and her friend have been relatively small on the page, allowing for lots of white space. That space lets these characters live at the heart of the book, and leaves room for the dance of friendship to reverberate.

That’s why this near-final spread is so soaring. The steps have been small but meaningful, and the rhythm of their dance echoes their size on the page. But now, they launch out of frame together. The left side/right side split is irrelevant, and the crescendo of their dance matches their mended-up and larger than life friendship.

Now, I’m not much of a betting girl. (Except for those early 2000s when all I wanted to do was play poker. True story. And I was halfway decent, but my sister was always better.) But if I had to put all of my money on the top Caldecott contender for this year? This one, by leaps and bounds.

ch

Round Trip

RoundTripcover

by Ann Jonas

{published 1983, by Greenwillow Books, an imprint of Harper Collins}

I remember the cover, the texture, and the feeling of checking out a handful of books from Mrs. Marks at the Ridge Elementary School library. Not that I only checked out a handful, but some are so ingrained you could drop a penny in that wrinkle and it would come out flat.

The Story About Ping, Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing (with that cover!), My Brother Sam is Dead, Strega Nona, and something with two girls in a tree on the cover. A lemon tree? That’s a lttle fuzzier.

And this one. Round Trip by Ann Jonas. When my friend Darshana recommended it to me recently, I was floored. I had been trying to think of this book for ages, and she brought it all flooding back. Thank you, Darshana!!

Ok, yap yip shh. The book.

It’s lyrical and sort of quiet, a trip through the town before the day has really started. Past closed stores, a barely stirring farm, to the empty coast. to

After watching a movie and the sun set, it’s time to return home. But. There are no more pages. That’s when you flip the book UPSIDE DOWN and read it again. Back to front, and left to right.fromThe small farm’s rippled rows are now smoky factories. The trains exhaust poofs are now puddles under rain. And home is home again.

contrast

I love the stark contrast of black and white. You know I do.

But the thing that is driving this story and these ingenious pictures is the existence of negative space. That’s where the space around an object forms something else. Maybe it’s amorphous and just beautiful fill, and maybe it’s an entire new world.

roundtrip roundtrip2

Same spread, the top is going, and the bottom is returning. The marsh becomes fireworks as the day becomes night. (Images from Greenwillow’s blog.)

A while back, (a long while back, actually!) we looked at Caldecott-winning Black and White and those crazy images that are both vase and face. You know those. And these: a series of negative space animals, take a keen eye to these and enjoy. And you do know about the arrow in the FedEx logo, right? Right. You’ll never unsee it.

So enjoy Round Trip forward, and enjoy it backward. See the negative, feel the positive. Embrace the space.

ch

Sky High

skyhigh1

by Germano Zullo, illustrated by Albertine

(Originally published as Les Gratte-Ciel in Switzerland in 2011.)

This book was just published in the US in late November, but I have had my claws on it since this summer. I know.

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But! It’s so fantastic that I didn’t think it was fair to show it until you had a chance to get your paws on it, too.

And I highly recommend snagging this one. It would make a perfect gift for anyone who veers into the land of quirky and oddball sensibilities. Or anyone who loves art and architecture. Or anyone who loves picture books. Or color. Or has tall bookshelves.

Pretty much anyone.

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This is a story of dueling home renovators. Neighbors. Just your average Joes with fancy names and fancier cars.

When Agenor-Agobar Poirer des Chappelles (!) adds a gold solid door, Willigis Kittycly Junior brings in a marble column inlaid with diamonds. The two pile on the one-ups – keeping up with the Monsieurs.

ElementOfDesign.WhiteSpace

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White space on the tall pages gives the homes physical space to grow. Also? I felt my own brain stretching to new fantastical and imaginative heights. Just when I thought I loved this book as much as possible, a chihuahua celebrates his third birthday with 400 guests.

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A wardrobe with 6,000 suits! A stuffed Bengal tiger! A Venetian mirror!

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Sky High is a lovely cautionary tale, peppered with wacky surprises and perfect illustrations. And on top of all that, (HA – get it?) it’s just as beautiful on the outside. I almost love that it’s too tall to fit on my bookshelf. More time to gaze at the warm gray and yellow of the cover. Just another tiny, portable art gallery in picture book form.

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.

Henri’s Walk To Paris

So Saul Bass {1920-1996} illustrated this. You know him, even if you think you don’t.

Recognize any of these?

Saul Bass undoubtedly has a powerful legacy of corporate logo design, but he is also considered the father of the title sequence. I can’t say that I was well aware of him before I was a motion graphics designer, but as an animator, I am very influenced by his strong use of line and his bold color palettes.

{You can see a roundup of his title sequences at Art of the Title.}

And that’s fancy and whatnot, but then he created this sparkling kids’ book.

Henri is just a little French garçon who dreams of Paris, but lives in Reboul. He packs up some cheese, a carrot, and a piece of bread and walks himself there. But {SPOILER ALERT!} he doesn’t make it. A little bird disrupts his navigation, and he ends up right back in Reboul. But Henri? Thinks he made it, and thinks Paris is quite like home. And we love him for that.

In graphic design, unity is the quality that ties individual elements into a beautiful whole. Me talking about Saul Bass is like a dirty sock puppet oozing with glue and googly eyes having an opinion on Jim Henson. He’s a master craftsman, and so let me just show you some moments I love.

Check out these consecutive spreads. The typographic element that reflects the title IS Henri. And from one page to another, there he goes, walking off to Paris. This graphic drives your eye forward and invites you to dive into this book. And of course it tiptoes left to right. It’s how we read, and it simply signifies forward motion. Smart is an understatement.

He doesn’t clutter this illustration with a window sill, curtains, or many details of the room inside. It doesn’t matter. The story is outside. This is a brilliant use of negative space.

Henri’s tiny house, contrasted with the vast world beyond. And color…green and red are direct opposites on the color wheel, so the tiny pop of red is a perfect choice to offset the mass of green.

Soothing pattern repeats in those thousands of trees and the zoo full of animals.

A reminder of the cover, a peek into Henri’s walk. And below, a shift in perspective and point of view.

So Henri leaves home and returns again. Likewise, Saul Bass’ pictures ramp up to the climax of the story, and repeat again as Henri heads home. That same window repeats, that same wide shot of the tiny white house sits still again, only with different text for a different time in the story. It’s a detail that’s hard to show in pictures, but on an overall visual read of the story…it’s magnificent.

Henri’s Walk To Paris in reprint is a gift I didn’t even know I was was on my wish list. It’s joining this monster on my coffee table-slash-corner of my desk.

Extra Yarn

Saturday. Burbank. Unwind Yarn. A genius author/artist combo in my neighborhood? One that I have proclaimed love for on multiple occasions? It was perfect.

{Cake pops wrapped in yarn. Adorable!}

And the dynamic duo: illustrator Jon Klassen, and author Mac Barnett.

{I have been to Mac’s website plenty of times, and only now realize the dapper man holding up the piano is HIM. Click over, am I right??}

I even met my Twitter buddy, Alyson Beecher!

…And heard Mac read Extra Yarn to the crowd. I mean, wow…his own words in his own voice…magical, really.

So…what the heck is up with this awesome book?

On a cold afternoon, in a cold little town,

where everywhere you looked was either the white of snow

or the black soot from chimneys,

Annabelle found a box filled with yarn of every color.

And she goes knit-crazy, wrapping her town with the color and warmth of this magic yarn. Remember the knit covered house in the picture above? Yeah. That happens.

I tried SO HARD to keep my cool while talking to Jon Klassen about design, really I did. He explained to me his reasonings for using white space and the puzzle of leaving room for the reader to create their own stories in the space left behind by both the words AND the pictures. We talked about texture and trailers and the differences in animating for the screen and designing for the book page. I managed to not faint and fall in it, thank-you-very-much. It was unreal.

But a notable design consideration in Extra Yarn is of course, color. Annabelle’s creations bring life to a drab, cold town.

Jon told us that he bought a $5 sweater from Goodwill, photographed it over a light table, and digitally colored over the photo-real stitches to get the look of the knits in Extra Yarn. Straight from the illustrator’s mouth: “Everything else I tried just looked stupid.”

Recognize that bear?

The archduke: the bad guy, out to get Annabelle’s yarn. Hearing Mac’s voice for the archduke? Also amazing.

What a day, what an event, what a book. See that?

Want it? Your own author AND illustrator signed copy of Extra Yarn?

Duh.

Leave a comment here by Sunday, April 22 at midnight PST to win it! I’ll announce a winner on Monday, April 23rd. Good luck!

Owl Moon

{written by Jane Yolen, illustrated by John Schoenherr}

I think it’s well documented in these parts that rowdy read alouds steal my heart the most when it comes to picture books, but this one… Jane Yolen has rare rivals when it comes to a mastery of language and creating rich imagery with words.

It was late one winter night, long past my bedtime,

when Pa and I went owling.

There was no wind.

The trees stood still as giant statues.

I remember this book from the Ridge Elementary School library. It was wrapped in ripped Mylar and had smudged pages, and I can imagine it accompanied many bedtime rituals around the neighborhood. While I so vividly remember the cover, the Caldecott Medal, and that ripped Mylar, the story was entirely unfamiliar to me when I read it again recently.

How fun to revisit childhood moments with some grown-up eyes. (Grown-up eyes that are wrinkly and saggy, but whatever.)

I love color in this book because it is simultaneously lush and stark. It’s late, late at night, and the colors are made up of shadowy tones.

John Schoenherr represents Jane Yolen’s words exceptionally well in the white sky and white snow. The colors are in the duo, the shadows, and the landscape, and the regal owl, and bright white leaves room for the text.

This book is a beautiful combination of words and pictures, and certainly worth revisiting. I’m very thankful for my brand-spanking-new-no-ripping-Mylar copy, and very thankful for that one a long time ago. It was just one of many that made me enjoy the glory of a picture book.