Mathilda and the Orange Balloon

Mathilda and the Orange Balloonby Randall de Sève, illustrated by Jen Corace

(published 2010, by Balzer + Bray, an imprint of HarperCollins)

(You might remember one of my other Jen Corace faves, The Steadfast Tin Soldier, over at Design Mom!)

Oh, Mathilda. You are a determined sheep. A sweet sheep. A sheep with a story.Mathilda and the Orange BalloonMathilda and the Orange BalloonMathilda and the Orange BalloonMathilda and the Orange BalloonSee, in Mathilda’s world, everything is small. And green. And gray. A fluffy sea of same. Which is only a shame for a page or two, because then . . . an orange balloon.Mathilda and the Orange BalloonIt’s just the thing to buoy the heart of a sheep weary of the same. She calls it magnificent, and something inside her wakes up. I love that, don’t you? The hope of a floating balloon, and the hint that the world is bigger and more colorful than you know.

While this magnificent thing sparks a joy in Mathilda, the other sheep are unimpressed. Heads down, mouths chomping on clumps of clover, they are uninterested. Blind to the magic. Especially when Mathilda says she is an orange balloon. When you’re blind to the magic, that friend filled with joy is just a gray sheep. And will always be a gray sheep.Mathilda and the Orange BalloonMathilda and the Orange BalloonMathilda and the Orange BalloonBut when you are Mathilda, you are round and warm. You fly. You are fierce and big, and you are happy. Of course, because you are an orange balloon. You are.

I adore this story. I love that it’s utterly ridiculous but full of hope. I’d like to give Mathilda a fist bump and say, “you go, girl.” And I’d like to be an orange balloon, too.

So the color here is masterful. Its contrast to the herd of gray sheep is a delight. It’s also restrained, and that’s why it soars. Mathilda and the Orange BalloonLast week I woke up in the middle of the night for the ALA Youth Media Awards. What a celebration of art and story, and man, aren’t our readers the real winners? Thinking about the Caldecott awards, this struck me:Screen Shot 2014-02-02 at 1.48.25 PM(Come on, that Mr. Wuffles bit about nine-tenths is funny, right? Still searching for validation on that one.)

(Also, here’s where I’ll put a little I-told-you-so about Flora and the Flamingo‘s win. Remember this post from July?! I told Molly Idle that I immediately felt guilty for publishing those words so early in the year, so what a relief that I didn’t actually jinx the process.

I know. That’s not how it works. Still.)

So.

Mathilda and the Orange Balloon is a stunning example of the balance between words and pictures. Type out Randall de Sève‘s words. Her text doesn’t dictate how Mathilda became the orange balloon. It didn’t have to. The pictures solve that puzzle. The pictures jump into the playground of your imagination and fill in the gaps. Her words are beautiful, but spare, and leave breathing room for the illustrations. This form is visual. Isn’t that the best part? Breathtaking mini-museums, and a rich storytelling experience. We have to leave them room, writers!

Enjoy this one. And check out this Mathilda birthday party! How fun!

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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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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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What Happens When . . .

by Delphine Chedru

{published 2013 (in English), by Tate Publishing}

I’ve been thinking a lot about visual storytelling lately. Well, I pretty much am always thinking about visual storytelling. And that’s why I was so tickled and touched by this book. Thanks to Rebecca at Sturdy for Common Things for introducing me to this lovely find!

I bought it because of that cover. I didn’t know I’d open page after page of wow.Instantly, I was drawn to the simplicity of each layout. A spare white page on the left, graced only with one line of text. And on the right, a richly colored illustration to match the text. On this very first spread, you get a clear sense of Delphine Chedru’s suggested shapes and mastery of negative space. It’s graphic and bold and beautiful.

So what does the text say?

What happens when my balloon floats up, out of the zoo . . . ?

And then, this:Rather than turning the page, you unfold it. The text is still there to remind you of the story that gurgled up out of that wonder. Do you see your red balloon?The pages that follow are just as curious, and just as surprising. It’s impossible to not create a scenario for each posed question, and then be awed by the illustrator’s solution. And to my bucket when I leave it behind on the beach . . . ?What you might not be able to see in that picture is a WANTED sign for the shark, and a tiny red fish with a sheriff’s hat leading his capture, all with that bucket that you left on the beach. Adore.

And wouldn’t it be fun to create your own pages like this? Or respond to these pictures in writing? Isn’t all creativity answering ‘What if?’What happens when my left sock slips behind the radiator . . . ?

Well?What happens to Teddy when I leave him behind . . . ?

That bird on the boing-boing horse is just too much. Makes me laugh every time.

And then, a big, huge, monster question:What happens to stories once a book is closed . . . ?
This last page doesn’t unfold. This answer is up to you.

I am so under the spell of this weighty book with the lighthearted illustrations. I’m not sure how to answer that last question, and sitting with the ‘What if?’ is both challenging and satisfying, isn’t it?breakerWant more Delphine Chedru? Me too. I found this book trailer, and although I can’t understand the words, I can read the pictures. So charmed.

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Open This Little Book

OpenThisLittleBook_coverwritten by Jesse Klausmeier, illustrated by Suzy Lee

{published 2013, by Chronicle Books}Did you see that teensy update on my bio over there? I took out the former, cause I’m back to the library, y’all. It’s such a dream. My natural habitat. I see students for the first time next week, and have been anxious to share this with the littlest. I want it to be our signature story, the one that represents what we do together – opening book after book after book.

I’m also trying to figure out how to recreate this thing as a bulletin board. The engineering and the math and the genius and whoa. Stay tuned.

Check it out in action:

breakerJesse Klausmeier dedicated this to Levar Burton, which is especially sweet given that this little book is a real love letter to books everywhere. Color distinguishes each character’s little book. Distinct and vibrant, belonging to each reader.Shape and scale do, too, and not in the most obvious way. The first character we meet is Ladybug. She’s in a red book, reading a green book. And inside the green book is Frog, who opens an orange book.

So, the bigger the character, the smaller the book!And that’s what causes a bit of sticky situation when it’s time for a Giant to join the fun.Oh, and the texture! There’s a vintage and well-loved appearance to the pages. It feels like a book that’s already been well-loved and flipped through so many times. Such a small choice, such big heart behind it.

This book’s design is a frame that allows the connectedness of story and readers to shine. I bet you won’t be able to stop opening and closing this little book. It’s addicting.ch

You’re a Rude Pig, Bertie {book trailer}

This summer I got to work with the fantastic folks at NorthSouth Books to create a trailer for an upcoming release by Claudia Boldt, You’re a Rude Pig, Bertie!

Bertie is definitely a rude pig, but he’s also irresistible and will endear himself to you the second he reveals his true heart. And I adore Claudia Boldt’s work – a muted and restrained palette, unexpected shapes and proportions, and a charming cast of characters.

(I wrote a teensy bit about her previous book, Odd Dog, over at Design Mom, so what a thrill to create something for a creator you admire!)

Anyway. I love the result, and hope you love it, too!

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What do you think? Adorable, right? And super catchy. I guarantee that song will tag along with you the rest of the day – and you’re welcome!

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P.S. – I haven’t heard from the winners of the Sassy board books. Are you out there, Olivia De Hamilton and Sara Floyd? I’ll pick new winners on Friday if I don’t hear anything. Stay tuned!

Baby Journal: The Story of…

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by Yasmin Smail

{published 2013, by Cicada Books}

A small departure from picture books on this blog, making room for a book celebrating tiny arrivals! If you visit the online home of Cicada Books, you might have to do some jaw-lifting. Their eye towards the visual is a unique voice, and their books reflect that.

And please. Stop a while at the Discovering Kings Cross pop-up book, cause whoa.

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But this one! In this world of pinning and Instagramming and having cameras on our darn eyeglasses, do you think the physical art of baby book-making is dying?

I don’t know. But if I had a baby, this is how I would want to scrapbook all of their bitty things. Tangible! Messy! Lovely and dear.

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Baby Journal is just that. A compact home for all of your firsts with a little love.

There are pages for filling in, pages with recipes and lullabies, and pages with pockets for anything you want to add. It’s bound with an elastic strap, so all of the special things stay tucked inside.

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For handwriting? Or mini-pictures? Or thumbprints? It’s up to you.

BabyJournal_300113-25Yasmin Smail’s gorgeous colors and textures will beautifully frame the story of yours. Such a treasure!

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(I know. Adorable.)BabyJournal_300113-53 BabyJournal_300113-45      BabyJournal_300113-5

Baby shower coming up? Pair this with one of my favorite board books and you’ve got a fantastic gift for a new mama. Adorable analog memories!

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The Monstore and a conversation with Tara Lazar and James Burks

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words by Tara Lazar, pictures by James Burks

{published (TODAY!) 2013, by Simon & Schuster}

I have been looking forward to this book for a very, very, very long time. As long as it took Manfred to grow into a big old red monster from just a wee thing. (And once you know him you will assume like me that it took days and years and eons for that to happen.)

You see, Tara is one of those insta-friends. We’ve never met in real life, but she better prepare for a crushing hug of love once we do.

And in celebration of this grand opening, I went straight to the source. And so for you, enjoy this conversation with the creators of The Monstore. But beware…

NO RETURNS. NO EXCHANGES.

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Who did you create first, the kids or the monsters? James

The one thing I was most excited about with this project was getting to draw monsters. As soon as I got the email from Simon and Schuster asking me to do the book I started sketching out pages and pages of monsters of various sizes and shapes in my sketchbook. Then I ended up going back and picking out the ones that I thought best represented Manfred, Mookie, and Mojo. The rest ended up being the background characters.

After that I designed the kids and the manager. The manager was probably the toughest because I had a different idea as to what I thought he should look like and the publisher had another. I originally pictured him being much bigger so that he could keep all the monsters in line but the publisher wanted something different so I ended up going in the opposite direction and making him small. I think he turned out great. He’s a great character. Kind of mysterious.

Tara

And the way that James drew the manager, it gave me an incredible idea for a sequel. But I may be getting ahead of myself.

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How long did it take to arrive at your style for the illustrations? 

James

It didn’t take long to come up with the style for the book. It’s pretty much the way that I draw and design characters. The textured coloring was something that I had just started experimenting with because I wanted the book to look more picture-booky and less comic book style. I ended up creating some custom brushes in photoshop that gave me a nice textured effect and I left off most of the outlines so it felt more painted.

Tara

To me, the illustrations have a cool 3-D effect that I’ve not seen in other picture books. It’s just one of the things that makes THE MONSTORE unique.

{Carter here. Here’s a great example of that 3-D effect Tara mentioned. See how Manfred is busting out of that frame?! He can’t be contained!}

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Do you have any favorite moments in the book?

James

I’m pretty happy with all the pages. There are so many great moments and things happening. It was a fun project to work on for sure. One of my favorite pages in the book is where the monsters are crammed inside the house. There are just so many fun things happening on that page. One monster flying a underwear kite, another eating the tree, and a third tossing a roll of toilet paper out the window. It’s contained chaos.

Keep your eyes peeled for the little eyeball character I named “Peepers,” he tends to hide in various places through out the book.

Tara

It was so cool when James told me he names all the characters he draws, not just the three monsters I mention in the text. It helps him to give each monster a distinct personality. So when my girls and I got the book, we started naming every monster. There’s a girly balloon monster they named “Kiki” and a monster who looks like he has buttons up his chest, so my youngest calls him “Elevator”. I think they are more creative than I am! My girls were also better at spotting “Peepers” hidden on the pages than I was!

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This book is a fun house! You won’t know if you’re walking right side down or upside up. The colors will leap off the page and super soak your brain. It’s vibrant, funny, and a heck ton of surprising. James’ illustrations are the perfect complement to Tara’s wacky words, and you should put this in your nightly rotation pronto.

And maybe knock five times under the last box of sour gum balls at your local candy shoppe. You just might find The Monstore!

Also? I LOVE that the title on the spine is written from the top down. Three cheers for fewer library shelf-induced neck cricks. Am I right?!

BUT WAIT THERE’S MORE!

Do you want a copy of this?! (Answer: YES.) Well, great, cause I’m giving a copy away! Just leave a comment on this post by Tuesday, June 11th at 12:00 PST, and I’ll draw a winner!

And if you can’t wait to play the odds, check this opportunity out! If you call Tara’s local indie (908-766-4599)to purchase a copy, they’ll ship it out to you signed and personalized!

{The cover image at the top of the post links to IndieBound, and Tara wrote an awesome post about other places to get The Monstore here.}

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The Watermelon Seed and an interview with Greg Pizzoli

TheWatermelonSeed

by Greg Pizzoli

{published 2013, by Disney Hyperion}

I’ve been looking forward to this book for a long time, mostly because that cover is SPECTAZZLING. But also cause I follow Greg Pizzoli on Twitter, where he is clever and quippy and shares things like THE ENDPAPERS. And then this is what the publisher teased us with, so I was pretty much in love with this book right away:

With perfect comic pacing, Greg Pizzoli introduces us to one funny crocodile who has one big fear: swallowing a watermelon seed. What will he do when his greatest fear is realized? Will vines sprout out his ears? Will his skin turn pink? This crocodile has a wild imagination that kids will love.

Yeah. SO INTO THAT. The Watermelon Seed hits stores TOMORROW, May 14th, so you might want to go ahead and get in line. After you meet Greg, of course.

So I’ve also been looking forward to this post for almost as long. I’m thrilled to have Greg Pizzoli in for a visit. Welcome, Greg!

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I call him “Kroc”. Sometimes my editor calls him “K-Roc” or “The Krocster”. Boy, does he hate that.Greg2My background is in printmaking, and I built a silkscreen shop in my studio, which is how I generate a lot of my work. I think my preference towards limited and deliberate colors comes from the printmaking. It could be laziness, but I’m going to say printmaking.

Even the first sketches of this book were in just a few colors. It just made sense to make the whole book feel like a watermelon. Plus, he’s a crocodile, so the green is already there.
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Everyone at Disney*Hyperion was very supportive of my trying out different inks and paper choices to get the feel just right. We did CMYK v. Spot color tests and there was just no comparison. I think it would be tough to get that pink, and that green with CMYK. At least for me. We tried a few different paper stocks, too. I’m super picky.
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Greg3Basically you make a drawing in black and use that to make a stencil on a screen. Doesn’t matter how you make that drawing – by hand on tracing paper, with construction paper, in Photoshop – whatever you can use to get a drawing in black. Your screen, which is a frame of aluminum with a fine mesh stretched across it, is covered in photographic emulsion, and you expose the screen to light. Wherever the light hits the emulsion, it hardens and becomes water resistant.

BUT if you put your black drawing between the screen and the light source, the emulsion that is blocked by your drawing (which remember, is black, thus very light blocking-y), that emulsion stays soft. And you can wash it out with water. So everything that wasn’t blocked by your drawing is water resistant, and your drawing washes out of the screen, making a water resistant stencil in the shape of your drawing. You make one of those for each layer, or usually, color. WATERMELON was offset printed obviously, but I did a lot of screenprinting textures, etc to make it feel very printy. The spot colors definitely help there, too.

I’ve been teaching screenprinting for about 4 years at The University of the Arts in Philly. It’s where I met Brian Biggs. He took a continuing ed class I was teaching in 2009. He introduced me to my agent. I dedicated a book to him, but it hasn’t come out yet. I still owe him big time. I still teach! I love it.

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Humor usually keeps me interested in whatever I’m doing.

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I like to work with texture for sure, too. And shapes. Shapes, yeah, shapes are good. I know this is great interview material here. Breaking news, Greg Pizzoli “like shapes”. Today on Buzzfeed, 23 shapes Greg Pizzoli likes most.

Anyway . . . I was really into shapes and texture with THE WATERMELON SEED, and the next book I’m doing with Hyperion (NUMBER ONE SAM, Summer 2014) comes from a similar place. We’re doing spot colors for that one, too. But four this time, which opens up a lot of possibilities in terms of overlapping layers and colors.
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Like most people, I like lots of stuff. I never get tired of looking at Eduardo Munoz Bachs posters. He obviously had a lot of fun making his work. A lot of people you’d suspect probably, Sendak, Ed Emberly, Tove Jansson, Charles Schultz, etc.

Carter_007text007I’m really lucky to have so many talented buddies in the Philly area, too. I host occasional drink ‘n’ draws at my studio and Zach Ohora, Matt Phelan, Bob Shea, Tim Gough, Amy Ignatow, Brian Biggs, Lee Harper, Gene Baretta, Eric Wight, and several others have come by. It’s a good time. Sometimes we do this thing where we each draw for five minutes and then pass the paper to the right and draw on top of that drawing for five minutes, until we get all the way around the circle or run out of beer. You can imagine just how bad these things look. Joe Strummer, Iggy Pop, David Bowie. They’re my heroes.

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No way! I love coffee. I think I quit for a while last year and it just floated around my online profile for a bit. I did stop drinking as much. I am down to like 2-3 cups a day which feels great for me. I was drinking like 8-10. Oh yeah. I’m nicer now.

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Greg Pizzoli, people. Is he awesome or what?

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So yeah. That’s pretty much my favorite thing on the internet right now. Did you catch the part where the period at the end of the sentence becomes a spotlight for good old K-Roc?! I love that detail.

The Watermelon Seed! Greg Pizzoli! Thanks for hanging out here! We love your book. And you are top notch, too.

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Fish On A Walk

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by Eva Muggenthaler

{published 2012, by Enchanted Lion Books}

I’ve mentioned my bookshelf issues before, right? As in not nearly enough space to put all the books? In my head, picture books are so skinny! They’ll take up no space at all, right? But rather than on shelves, I have stacks. Everywhere.

Well, this book bowled me over when I first laid eyes on it. You’ll see. But the stack it was in? Covered by a throw pillow on the couch. Not anymore, I promise. Please send shelves.

Anyway. Let’s talk about this book, because I think you will adore it.

An intriguing title that gives away the delightful dichotomies to come – unusual instances, and a billion bitty details to love.

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The cover hints at all of this, with its mossy greens and a muddy red – complementary colors on the good old color wheel. As far a part as they can get from one another, and a great use of contrast in design framing a book all about sometimes absurd differences.

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I adore the way the green line of the cover dangles down along the stark red endpapers! Love.

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Inside, each spread contains one glorious illustration holding all of those billion bitty details. And each spread holds only two contrasting words which can explain or guide or drive the pictures. You figure it out, you get into the story, you make sense of the contrasting duo.

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It’s like Eva Muggenthaler gave your imagination a diving board and didn’t tell you that the pool was so deep that you’ll shoot out of the other side of the globe. Extreme? I don’t think so.

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A hint! Such a tease.

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Wonder and ooh and ahh with this one. This is one of those books that needs to stay out all the time, not ever stuck on a bookshelf. And definitely never ever ever under a throw pillow.

PS – Valentine’s Day is charging forward. Do you need a good book for your sweetie? Check out my Top Ten over at Design Mom!

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