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.

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Winners! Winner!

HoldPileDo you know John Schumacher and Travis Jonker, the super-librarians? Both of their blogs are in my morning-coffee-check-in-routine, and they are in awards crunch time right now, so send them a little sparkle. Mr. Schu is serving on the Newbery committee, and Mr. Jonker on the Caldecott. Eager to hear the fruits of their work on the 27th!

Those two do an occasional roundup of library’s hold shelves, hashtagged #holdshelf. This is more of a hold pile, but I love it so much. One of my fourth grade classes swaps books like germs. Twenty-some books never even get shelved, just passed on to the next friend in line. They value each other’s recommendations, and think about which friend in particular would love a certain book.

It’s awesome. An honor to watch and facilitate.

So.

Did you win some books?

The Mischievians: Penny Klostermann and Danielle Heitmuller!

The Tiny King: leandrajwallace!

Email me your addresses, and I will skedaddle to the mailbox! (Except maybe you, Danielle, maybe we should just plan dinner instead!)

Happy weekend!

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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!

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Review copy provided by Candlewick Press.

 

 

My Top Five Most Popular Posts of 2013

Just peeking in to say hello and cheers and be careful where you aim the champagne bottle this week! Thanks for hanging out here in 2013, and I can’t wait to meet you all back here in 2014.

In case you missed any of these, my top five (in page views!) posts of 2013:

  • Sleep Like A Tiger by Mary Logue and Pamela Zagarenski (A dark horse but deserved Caldecott Honor last year. It’s transporting.)
  • Hide & Eek! by hat-trick design and Rebecca Sutherland (A flashlight and a dark room and innovative storytelling.)

breakerAnd one last but-you-gotta-see-this-before-you-go:

I’ve loved following this story of a dark and twisty app for older readers. The Jörgits is a striking tale of aliens and just what in the world is going on here on our planet. Anders Sandell and his crew are doing fascinating work. You can find out more on their Kickstarter page, which has already been funded but is still beautiful and compelling.

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And if you still need your picture book fix, here are some recent favorites over on Design Mom: The Day the Crayons Quit, No Fits, Nilson, and Mr. Tiger Goes Wild.

Phew! What a great year to blab all over the place about picture books.

Don’t forget that The Mischievians giveaway is open through tonight! Be safe and happy and curl up with something fantastic this holiday season. Thanks again, a million times, for reading with me here. I’m thankful for you!

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The Mischievians

TheMischieviansCoverby William Joyce

published 2013, by Simon and Schuster

(I love that upside down A. I suppose that sucker is called The Letter Flipper Upside Downer. The Fontfiender. Or something.)

Impeccably designed with nods at its book-ness, the cover is distressed and worn like it’s been studied and loved and needed. It’s a book that knows it’s a book, so it looks especially, book-y.* Right?

But let’s start with this. You might know some of these guys:

breakerThis is the latest offering from William Joyce and Moonbot Studios, a dazzling storytelling team. (Remember that book-loving Morris Lessmore?) But this one is mayhem and wordplay and maddening and glorious. You wouldn’t expect anything less, right?Mischievians1The story starts on the endpapers where some kids are at their wit’s end and a spindly green arm yanks away a vowel. Awful. Naturally, their parents are blaming them. Wouldn’t you? But no. The peculiar looking Dr. Zooper sucks them into his laboratory, and introduces them to the encyclopedia that explains everything.Darn those Funny Bones. Did you know they find your ow-ding-ow-oh-oh so hysterical that they hide out until the giggles subside? Thanks to this encyclopedia of mischief-makers, I know that’s why they only show up a few times a year. They’re out there somewhere, chortling and waiting, plotting and howling. Jerks.Mischievians2The Mischievians.Mischievians3When the kids are zooped back up the chute, they have a monumental task. Document! Top Secret! Report and resist!

I don’t think it will take them too long.breakerHow about you?

Thanks to Simon and Schuster, I have two copies to zoop over to you! Just leave a comment here by midnight PST on December 31. Maybe even tell me which mischief-maker is driving you most nuts? Is it the Remotetoter? The Stinker? The Lintbellian? You have my sympathies and my snickering.

Sorry about it.

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*Other book-y looking books I love:

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (the original design!) by Newt Scamander (and J.K. Rowling)

Shaun Tan’s The Arrival 

The ridiculously brilliant Battle Bunny, by Jon Scieszka and Mac Barnett (That post from Julie Danielson at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast is a smorgasbord of awesome.)

And, of course, Greg Heffley’s Diary of a Wimpy Kid series. (With a huge nod to Jeff Kinney, obviously.)

Red Knit Cap Girl to the Rescue

RedKnitCapGirlToTheRescueby Naoko Stoop

published 2013 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Naoko Stoop’s work has enchanted me for some time now. I’m thrilled she is in the picture book world because her voice is unique. It’s haunting and heartwarming at the same time. Terribly beautiful. I wrote about Red Knit Cap Girl over on Design Mom, and now she’s back in another lovely episode.

And how thrilled was I to connect directly to Naoko and find out some nitty gritty details of her process, inspiration, and drive to create story? Very. Hope you enjoy getting to know her as much as I have!

Be sure to visit Naoko’s etsy shop if you are still in the hunt for Christmas gifts. I’d take one of each, wouldn’t you?RKCG2-10(Click any image to enlarge. You have got to see the detail and texture in its full glory!)

When did you first know you were meant to be an artist? Was it a particular moment? A habit? An inspiration?

I have to say, I still hesitate to call myself an “artist”. Because, to me, “art” is about expression, and everyone has his/her own way to express themselves. I’ve been very, very lucky that I’ve made a career in what I love to do. I never considered that I would be in the art field when I was studying business at college, or working in marketing for a big corporation back in Tokyo. Back in those days, I felt something was missing in my life. I didn’t know what it was, but I remember that my grandmother used to tell me that when I was five, I never stopped drawing. Her words stayed with me for years. Several years ago, when I was feeling lost, I quit everything and started to paint. I was hoping to find new prospects in my life and nurture my inner child, and it opened me up to a new world of possibilities. Since then, I’ve been painting.

What are your creative influences – in books, or film, or art, or nature, or anywhere else?

I grew up mostly in Tokyo. I was a typical city kid, busy with studies and school activities—I didn’t spend much time outside. After college, I lived in Vancouver B.C. Canada for about a year, and it was the first time in my life that I was exposed to nature on such a large scale: huge mountains, endless rain forests, magnificent glaciers and lots of wild animals. Canada’s natural beauty amazed and inspired me. I felt so spiritual by just being in nature, it gave me a sense of security and stability which I never felt in Tokyo. My time in Canada has been a strong influence on my current artwork, considering that I didn’t yet know how to paint when I was there. Life is interesting; I would’ve been very happy living in Vancouver had I stayed there, but I’m not sure if I would’ve become an artist. It was living in Brooklyn that gave me creative inspiration—Brooklyn definitely has an artistic atmosphere, with a lot of support for young artists. People accept individual creativity and don’t negatively judge your work. When I was painting on used brown paper grocery bags, a gallery owner discovered me, and she gave me my first gallery show opportunity.

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And who are your creative heroes?

Hayao Miyazaki,
Hokusai Katsushika,
Maurice Sendak
Is there a book from your childhood that has stuck inside your soul?

It’s not a book, but an early Miyazaki movie, “Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind.” It had a strong influence in my developing my own stories. I also love Totoro by Miyazaki. Totoro is my spiritual home :)

Which comes first – the story in words, or the story in pictures?

Definitely story in pictures first. I develop the stories in my head with sketches, visualizing the storyline. Later, I write a simple text to accompany the illustrations.

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Tell us a bit about your physical process of creating art? I see wood, paper, paint, and pencil? Your pictures are so tactile and lovely – the spread with the waves (where their eyes are squeezed closed tight!) grabbed me and plopped me right into that sailboat with them! What a rush!

First, I find a piece of wood which has the right grain for the scene, then I start with background. This is the most intriguing part of my painting process because wood grain gives me a spontaneous pattern, and I can never predict the exact result before I paint on it. (Sometimes, I get very a different painting idea by looking at the flow on the grain!) When the background is dry, I start drawing the outlines of the scene with inks, then color them with acrylic paint, gouache, pencil and pastels… whatever would suit best to give the appropriate texture for the scene. I try to use found materials as much as possible, since I believe that art is a form of expression and separated from materialism.

What parts of Naoko are in Red Knit Cap Girl?

I created Red Knit Cap Girl as my inner child. I drew her playing in nature with forest animals, which I never had in my real childhood. I came to realize that I wasn’t the only one—people started telling me that Red Knit Cap Girl reminded them of their childhoods. I guess Red Knit Cap Girl could be lots of people’s childhoods! When I realized she wasn’t me anymore, I think I grew up a little bit :)

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Will we see any more of her adventures?

Yes! I am currently working on the third Red Knit Cap Girl adventure, coming in Fall 2014.

What’s next for you?

As long as I’m able to, I’d like to keep creating. I’m grateful to the people I work with—those who read my books and talk about my work. Thank you so much for interviewing me.

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No, thank you, Naoko for the glimpse into your studio and story-loving soul. We are thankful! Are you as inspired as I am?

Thanks to Little, Brown for the images in this post. (Don’t forget to click on them to see them larger! You won’t be disappointed.)

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A Very Fuddles Christmas and an interview with Frans Vischer

FuddlesCoverby Frans Vischer

(published 2013, by Aladdin, an imprint of Simon and Schuster)I’ve said in public and in writing that I’m not a huge fan of cats. I’ve also admitted to not being a fan of Saturday morning cartoons as a kid.But then I met Fuddles. His misguided glory and chubby rump bowled me over. What a fabulous feline. Frans Vischer created this sly cat, inspired by his own ginormous kitty.

breakerHow loveable is that guy?This book is gorgeous. Its pages are sleek and the endpapers a lush, rich, wintry green. Such a warm contrast to the ivory cover and jacket!

My favorite page turn plays with the shape and direction of a chimney catastrophe.And thanks to the verso, I know that the typeface is Wade Sans Light. (You font-o-philes can purchase it here.) It’s a gentle and restrained choice, a fantastic foil to Fuddles’s antics. I asked Frans a few questions about his art and inspiration. What an honor!

Your bio tells us that you arrived in America at the age of 11! How did you stumble on cartoons and can you tell us a little about their inspiration on your childhood?

In Holland there were only three TV channels at the time, and they rarely showed animation. Arriving in America, I was blown away by all the channels- cartoons were everywhere! I was introduced to Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, Tom & Jerry, Droopy, as well as all the Disney stuff. I didn’t speak English then, but the cartoons communicated visually, and I was instantly hooked!

What types of stories were you telling as an animation obsessed teenager?

I took a creative writing class in high school where I wrote very silly, Monty Python-inspired stories. Characters would make appearances without any intro or lead-in, and I would go off on tangents with entirely new story-threads, and just as abruptly drop them to return to my earlier story. I also did a number of school projects with my high school friend, Dave Waters, (also a Monty Python fan,) doing absurd story lines. We made 8 mm films together, poking fun at TV commercials, and shows like “The Waltons.”

Who are your artistic and literary heroes?

Growing up I always loved Disney. Michaelangelo’s sculptures had a great effect on me for their strength and subtlety. I read and drew from many European comics, such as Lucky Luke, Asterix and Obelix, Tin Tin. In high school I admired, (and still do,) the editorial cartoons of Pat Olyphant and Jeff MacNelley. When I attended Cal Arts I was introduced to Ronald Searle, Ralph Steadman, and A.B. Frost, among many others. Bill Peet’s transition from Disney story-artist to children’s book author/illustrator was a true inspiration, and Roald Dahl’s books and short stories made me want to write my own stories. Currently, I love David Small’s draftsmanship, David Catrow’s humorous drawings, and Holly Hobbie’s color. I could go on and on, but I won’t.

Are there any easter eggs or hidden trivia we should know about in your books?

There aren’t any hidden items, but I did include furniture from our home in Fuddles’ house. Being a big soccer fan, I had to have a soccer ball in both Fuddles books. And on the last page in A Very Fuddles Christmas, Fuddles sits by the fireplace on Christmas Eve beside a note from the kids to Santa. If you hold a magnifying glass over the note you can read it!

I see we are quasi-neighbors! Do you have a go-to takeout joint? (I could infuse some fresh tastebuds into my delivery rotation.)

We support our local places as much as we can. In Montrose, we love the Star Café and Zeke’s.

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Thanks, Frans! There you go, friends. An irresistible addition to your Christmas canon.
Need more? I wrote this list last holiday season for Design Mom!
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Sweet and Shorts: Lucy and the Anvil

breakerLucy and the Anvil, by Adam Kline and Brian Taylor

I backed this project on Kickstarter earlier this year, and am thrilled for these guys on their results. Top notch eye-candy. That purple and orange sunset? Swoonworthy.It’s offbeat. It’s kooky. Lucy loves this anvil, even though it’s not very good at seesawing or sledding. I mean, it’s…an anvil. This book is a friendship story, a love story, and a story about what you’re not very good at. Not being good at some things leaves you lots of room to be good at the most important things.

This interview with the guys is a fascinating read and shows a handful of images from the book. The cover more than hints at their similarities after all: check out Lucy’s pigtails, perfectly mirroring the anvil’s mighty arms. Thrilled with my copy!

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Book-Gifting Guide: For the Design Devotee

For the young reader, the old artist, and everyone in between. Here are a couple handfuls of spined-up art museums. Some have flaps and things to flip, some have acetate papers that carefully reveal things below, some are massive, some are mini. All are spectacular.

(I’m linking each book to its respective publisher. Consider shopping at your local bookstore or Indiebound. Happy reading!)

GiftGuide2013_One1) Pantone Color Puzzles // by Tad Carpenter  ⏐⏐ Abrams Appleseed

2) One Night, Far From Here // by Julia Wauters  ⏐⏐  Flying Eye Books

3) Walk This World // by Lotta Nieminen ⏐⏐ Big Picture Press

4) Benjamin Bear in Bright Ideas // by Philippe Coudray ⏐⏐  Toon Books

5) Jane, the Fox and Me // by Franny Britt and Isabelle Arsenault ⏐⏐  Groundwood Books

GiftGuide2013_Two6) Maps // by Alexsandra Mizielinska and Daniel Mizielinski ⏐⏐ Big Picture Press

7) House Held Up By Trees // by Ted Kooser and Jon Klassen ⏐⏐ Candlewick Press

8) The Big Book of Art // by Hervé Tullet ⏐⏐ Phaidon

9) The Goods: Volume 1 // by McSweeney’s  ⏐⏐ Big Picture Press

10) Go: A Kidd’s Guide to Graphic Design // by Chip Kidd  ⏐⏐ Workman

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Sweet and Shorts: The Lonely Beast 123

Black_iPad_Title

I haven’t spent a ton of time exploring apps, but when I stumble on one that gobsmacks me around, I take notice.

(Side note: my friend Koseli, Design Mom’s Discovery Editor, has reviewed a bunch, and she always finds the loveliest ones! You can find her reviews here.)

Watch this. It’s The Lonely Beast 123 by Irish publisher Pilcrow.

breaker3coats_table Black_iPad_Birds Black_iPad_FishI’m a sucker for this Beast, his hairy type, and his whimsical world of numbers. It’s road trip season, so if you’re looking for something beautiful and worthwhile for all of that backseat time, check this one out!

The Lonely Beast 123 was created by Chris, James and Simon in their little shed at the end of The Beast’s garden. Their first app, The Lonely Beast ABC, featured in an iPad TV commercial and on billboards around the world, was winner of the Editor’s Choice Award from Children’s Technology Review, and a finalist for the Bologna Ragazzi Digital Award at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair.

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