The Lion and the Bird

The Lion and the Bird by Marianne DubucThe Lion and the Bird (Enchanted Lion, 2014)

by Marianne Dubuc

A lion and a bird are not the most obvious of friends. One big, shaggy, and growly, and one small, sleek, and flit-about-y.

But not these two.The Lion and the Bird by Marianne DubucThis lion has rosy cheeks which are insta-endearing and wanders out to his work. Just a lion, working in the garden. That’s when he spots an injured bird.The Lion and the Bird by Marianne DubucSame insta-endearing rosy cheeks.

The lion springs to action. The bird smiles, but the flock has flown away.The Lion and the Bird by Marianne DubucMarianne Dubuc varies the art on the page. Some spot illustrations, some full-bleed. This paces the small, quiet action of the story – the spots create sequential scenes on one spread, moving us forward in time, a full-bleed image slows us down into one moment on the same physical space.The Lion and the Bird by Marianne DubucThe Lion and the Bird by Marianne DubucThe two spend the winter together, ice-fishing and fire-watching. It’s cold. But:

Winter doesn’t feel all that cold with a friend.The Lion and the Bird by Marianne Dubuc

No more spots, no more full-bleed. Only white space.

We slow way down. We worry about what’s to come.

But Spring has to come. The flock has to return.

The page turn here is filled with emotion. We see the lion saying a bittersweet goodbye. (How he’s holding his hat in honor is just the most beautiful thing.)The Lion and the Bird by Marianne DubucThe Lion and the Bird by Marianne DubucAnd then, as if we are the flock, he gets smaller. Farther away. Lots of white space.The Lion and the Bird by Marianne DubucTime goes on. (Sometimes the seasons are like that.)

But then.The Lion and the Bird by Marianne DubucA flock of birds. A single note in the white space.

Winter returns, and so does his friend.

In this book, white space moves the story and white space is the story. The moments that seem the most like nothing might actually be the moments that are the most something.

That bird’s solitary trill piercing the air reminds me a bit of this art installation. It’s a combination of movement, music, and art that leaves room for the story in the space left behind. This reminds me of the lion, waiting and listening and hoping.

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PS: I’m heading to Las Vegas this weekend for ALA. Will you be there? Would love to say hello!

 Review copy provided by the publisher. All thoughts my own.

Ninja! and an interview with Arree Chung

Ninja! by Arree Chungby Arree Chung

published June 2014 by Henry Holt and Company, an imprint of Macmillan.

Friends, I’m so excited to have Arree Chung in this corner of the internet today. I met Arree last summer at SCBWI in Los Angeles, and am humbled every time I think about how we share an agent and a friendship. He’s an expert storyteller with a bright, animated style and a fresh perspective. Ninja! is his debut picture book, and it will be far from his last.

First, you should watch this short film. And here’s my confession. Arree sent this to me a number of weeks ago with the caveat that it was unreleased and not to share. Except: it was too awesome not to. So I showed it to my students, because single-digit-aged kids are pretty good at secrets and don’t have Twitter accounts anyway.

They loved it. And I mean L O V E D  I T. Each class, without fail, asked to watch it many, many times in a row. So we did.

Meet Maxwell, and then meet Arree.

breakerWhat has been the most surprising thing about this whole debut picture book thing?

The most surprising thing about the publishing process is how long it takes to actually bring a book to market (1.5 – 2 years).  My background is in games, where companies can publish with the click of a button and make updates via the internet.  The process gives me appreciation for the care that goes into the publishing process.  It also helps to have a great team of people to work with.  Everyone from your agent, publisher, editor and art director in making the book and then there’s publicity, marketing and sales folks that help in getting the book out.1stCoverAn early cover design.Ninja_Revision_Notesrevision notes.

I’m fortunate to have a supportive publisher in Macmillan.  They have a great team of experts.  Each one helps you with a specific aspect of the publishing process.  I’ve learned so much.  I’m so grateful I’ve been in good hands.  I’ve worked hard to hold up my end of the deal and make something special.  With Ninja it was easy, because I loved it so much.

Who are your creative and/or literary heroes?

Oh, so many!

Authors:
Roald Dahl
E.B. White
Jack Gantos
Judy Blume
Jeff Kinney

Illustrators:
Russell Patterson
Chris Ware
Yuko Shimitzo

Author/Illustrators:
Shel Silverstien
Wolf Erlbruch
William Steig
Mo Willems
Peter Brown
Leo Lionni
Maurice Sendak
Ian Falconer
Jon Klassen
David Shannon
Bill Peet
Calef Brown

Comics:
Jim Lee
Scott McFarlane
Jeffrey Brown
Bill Watterson
Jim Davis
Charles Schulz

Animation/Film:
Brad Bird
John Lassetter
Guillermo Del Toro
Chris Sanders
Danny Boyle
Tim Burton
Nick Park (Wallace & Gromit)
Steven Spielberg
Hayao Miyazaki

Can you talk about the similarities and differences in animation and the picture book form?

I love both mediums for different reasons.  Both mediums can transport the reader into new worlds.  I love it when a book or movie captures my imagination and I am completely immersed in a world that has been built.  The world is invented but it feels familiar and the story resonates with honesty.  I hate it when a story is force feeding me a message and it feels like an infomercial or when a story rambles without a focus.  Storytelling is magical when it has both the imagination and heart and speaks to you directly and honestly.  A great story is so exhilarating.  There’s nothing in the world that feels like it.  I love both animation and picture books because they have the ability to create magic.

How they are different?  Well, I think the main difference is that film tends to be a passive experience.  The viewer is in a dream like state that watches the story unfold.  It’s like being suspended in a time capsule and you watch everything that happens.  You take the story in a more subliminal kind of way.NinjaCreepAwaySpread14_15Books on the other hand I think are active experiences.  You as the reader actively interact with the words and pictures.  It’s like your brain is the film projector and is working to play the story.  Because of this, I think books are much more intimate experiences.  You go at your own pace.  You stop, question and wonder.  Sometimes you’re so engaged, you speed all the way through and sometimes you like to read slowly just because.  Readers engage books with their imaginations and a lot of the story is told in-between the words, the page turns and the illustrations whereas films are full experiences that use all the arts of composition, acting, music and visuals to put you in a state of suspension.

Both are magical and I love doing both so much.

Can you give us any behind-the-scenes information on how you created the short film? Did you get to know Maxwell differently in that format?

Yeah!  It was so thrilling to bring Maxwell to life.  I had a pretty good idea of who he is as a character after creating the book but actually seeing him move and casting Taylor Wong as Maxwell brought another whole dimension.

As for production, here’s a quick behind the scenes look of what it took to make the short film.  I plan on doing a much more in-depth look in a separate blog post.

We used 4 software tools: Photoshop, Flash, After Effects and Final Cut Pro.  The process was a highly collaborative effort between folks at MacMillan, myself and David Shovlin, the animator.  It was a ton of work to do but a ton of fun as well.ShortFilm_Process

In all, it took about 5 weeks of work.  David and I worked really hard on it and I’m really proud of what we created in a relatively short period of time.2013-09-09 23:23Where did Ninja! come from?

It’s been my dream to make my own picture books for a long time.  The first conception of Ninja came when I was in art school.  I jotted down “A boy goes creeping around the house dressed as a Ninja and causes trouble.”  That was probably in 2007 or so.

Maxwell_1st_CharacterSketchesNinja_Thumbnails        MaxwellScanNoPencilNinja_earlySketches-1Early Ninja! thumbnails and character sketches.

In 2012, I decided to do the Illustrator Intensive at the SCBWI Summer Conference.  We were given an assignment to submit a story along with a manuscript, thumbnails, character sketches, and a finished illustration.  Up to that point, I had been writing stories for years but was stuck on many of them.  For the workshop we had to write down answers to the following questions:

WHO
WHAT is the dilemma?
WHERE does it take place?
HOW is the problem solved?

This really helped me a lot.  Previous to this, many of my stories didn’t have focus and wandered a lot.  Ninja was a big break through for me as a storyteller and I had lots of people who helped guide me through it.   I’m so thankful for Rubin, my agent, and Kate, my editor.  The more I worked on it, the more the world and character took shape and gained depth.  It was so much fun to make.

Do you remember any art you made as a kid? What was it?!

Yeah, I made a lot of ninja stars and origami.  I was also obsessed with Legos.  I loved to build cruiser space ships and large fortresses armed to the teeth.  Whenever my uncle bought us Legos, we would make the thing we were supposed to make and then tear it apart and then make what we wanted to make.  Making your own thing was much more fun.

I was a huge comic book reader and collector as well.  I bought all of the X-men, Spiderman, Spider-ham, Batman and Spawn comics.  I still buy comics.

I also really love the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  I used to record all of the episodes.  In fact, I used to press pause on the VCR and trace drawings of the Ninja Turtles by overlaying paper onto the TV.  At school, everyone thought I was the best drawer, but I never told anyone my technique til now!  Eventually I copied so many drawings I could draw it out of memory.  I tried to do the same technique with Transformers but that wasn’t nearly as successful because I didn’t understand perspective as at 12 year old.

And now what’s next for you?Ninja_GhostStoryI’ve got a lot of things I’m working on.  I have lots of Ninja stories to tell with Maxwell. (I’m so excited about all of them!)  One of them involves an old Chinese folktale involving ghosts!

I’m also illustrating two Potty Training books for kids that are hilarious.HowToPeeillustrations from How to Pee

I have lots of picture book stories I’m developing and I’m also writing a middle grade novel titled Ming Lee, All American.  Ming Lee chronicles my experiences growing up as an ABC (American Born Chinese).  It’s deeply personal and is funny in that Louis CK, embarrassing but honest kind of way.  I would describe it as Judy Blume meets Diary of a Wimpy Kid.  Of course, it is its own thing that I am figuring out.  I have a sense of what I want it to be but you never know what it will be until you get there.

Ming_Lee_CoverMingLeeHairCut

breakerA huge thanks to Arree for this peek into the mind of a master craftsman. Be sure to get your hands on Ninja! this week!

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Hooray for Hat! {book trailer}

Do you know Brian Won? You should. You will.

Remember a while back when I made that Brian Regan/snowcone/more favorite reference? That’s what it’s like looking through Brian’s portfolio. Just when I think I’ve picked a favorite piece – BAM. There’s the next one.

When his picture book Hooray for Hat! comes out in the spring you can bet I will be first in line. (And hopefully doing as impressive a highstep as Zebra. Watch. You’ll see.)

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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.

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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.

Carter_006text006Greg4

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.
Carter_008text008Greg5

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.

Greg6

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

IMG_1951

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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theisland

The Island

Wasn’t Monday morning a thrill? I tweeted this, which pretty much summed up my morning:

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And I wrote (and squealed) a little more about it here, where there’s a really beautiful picture thanks to Caryn Schafer’s beautiful blog!

There’s a billion and one things to love about Jon Klassen, and one of them is his mastery of color. Even if you picture the covers to Extra Yarn and This Is Not My Hat, you get an insta-glimpse of what I mean. Color rules. It’s easy to read, easy to feel. And it’s what stands out to me about this book, The Island.

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by Marije Tolman and Ronald Tolman

{published 2012, by Lemniscaat USA}

I bought this book based on its cover, before I even turned a single page. Look at it! It’s dreamy and sparkly and enchanting and soft and calm and it just speaks.

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And the story is just as dreamy and sparkly and enchanting and all those other things. A polar bear climbs down from a ladder in the clouds. Wordlessly, he pokes from page to page, from thing to thing, from story to story, from island to island.

The landscapes are muted and quiet, and the living characters are saturated and strong. The color palette is transporting and calming and breathtaking.

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I adore being able to read a different story every time I carefully thumb through it. I’m not sure if it means something small or something big, and I don’t really care. I just enjoy it and soak it in, and feel my imagination bursting at the seams.

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And something else that is delightful and surprising: a father-daughter duo created this one. Something about that feels extra special.

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Pepi Sings A New Song

  by Laura Ljungkvist

{published 2010 by Beach Lane Books}

I’m a huge fan of Laura Ljungkvist’s sophisticated and playful style. Remember Follow the Line?

Pepi Sings a New Song is a delightful romp through a world of words. Pepi meets and greets his neighbors, from Manuel at the bakery to Cynthia at the dog park, all in search of stanzas for a new song.

ElementOfDesign.ColorThe vibrant color on each page adds life and zest to Pepi’s journey. It separates each pit stop, and subtly references the full circle journey Pepi makes in search of a song. And? It’s just darn beautiful.

That baker, Manuel, lives on pretty pastry pink pages.

Aurora’s art studio is framed by a cool, creative, blue.

Clive’s music studio is on a brassy, golden orange, which perfectly echoes his trumpet. (And his awesome plaid pants.)

Love this book, love Pepi, and once again — love Laura Ljungkvist.

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Robot Zombie Frankenstein!

by Annette Simon

I am kookoo crazy bonkers for this book. Like, we’re talking nuts.

When I opened this book at the Candlewick Booth at ALA this summer and saw THOSE ENDPAPERS, I did this move: slam the book shut, say ‘no.way.’ about a billion times, and make my eyeballs about five times their normal size. True story. {You can probably ask Dianne de Las Casas, although at the time I think she was ooh-ing and ahh-ing over the lovely Tammi Sauer‘s Princess In Training!}

Anyway.

I love this book. I love its unpredictability, its wacky pace, and its larger than life robots who have larger than life imaginations.

{And its author, Annette Simon — I love her, too!}

And I love, love, love the smorgasbord of shapes. Even the shape of the book itself is a big blocky square. Well, maybe it’s a slightly squished rectangle.

I’m not busting out the ruler on a holiday weekend!

You can’t tell me that his expression isn’t absolutely hysterical, can you?!

Remember those endpapers? They are a breakdown of all of the various robot parts. So brilliant. You could make this: (!!!!!!)

(image from this fun post!)

And I don’t want to give away the ending, but there’s a treat involved that makes this book an extra special read this tasty time of year. Read this book. Prepare for a zany adventure. Make that robot above, too!

P.S. — A huge heart shaped thank you to Candlewick for sending me this book. All thoughts are still my own. 

AND!

Speaking of robots — congratulations to LAURA S.! Did you win the Boy + Bot giveaway? AFFIRMATIVE! Email me your address, and these goodies will hit the road!

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.