Martin Pebble

Martin Pebble by Jean-Jacques SempéMartin Pebble (Phaidon, 2006; first published in French, 1969)

by Jean-Jacques Sempé

I love this book.

I love the type on the cover.

I love the yellow.

I love the shape and the size and the story.

I love Martin Pebble.

He’s loveable.

(I picked this up on a recent trip to Once Upon a Time in Montrose, CA, which is exactly why shopping in stores is the greatest thing. I had to touch this thing to believe it, and I might not have seen this thing if it weren’t for the bookseller. Bookstores are like story petting zoos and museums that don’t give you the stinkeye if you get too close to the art.)

(Something like that.)

But poor Martin Pebble.

Martin Pebble could have been a happy little boy, like many other children. But, sad to say . . . he had something that was rather unusual the matter with him:

he kept blushing.Martin Pebble by Jean-Jacques Sempé Martin Pebble by Jean-Jacques SempéMartin Pebble blushes for all the usual reasons and for no reason at all. The brilliance of Sempé’s color here is hard to miss. Black and white line work contains the red of Martin’s face, and that red occasionally extends to the text as well.

Subtle. Striking.Martin Pebble by Jean-Jacques SempéThe contrast Sempé crafts between Martin’s red face and all that black and white makes that blushing even worse.

Martin is in a pickle. He’s tiny and nearly lost on the page save for his giveaway condition.

He dreamed of fitting in.Martin Pebble by Jean-Jacques SempéBut he always stood out.Martin Pebble by Jean-Jacques SempéThen comes a series of sneezes, some very loud A T I S H O O s, and there he is.

Roddy Rackett, the new neighbor.Martin Pebble by Jean-Jacques SempéMartin Pebble by Jean-Jacques SempéWhen the story changes, and the hardships knock at the door, Sempé doesn’t just use the suspense of a page turn. He stops the story cold.Martin Pebble by Jean-Jacques SempéRoddy Rackett’s family moves away.

When you are a boy, and when you are made normal in the quirks of another, you never really forget about it. You think about A T I S H O O s while you are doing grownup things like riding taxis and elevators.Martin Pebble by Jean-Jacques SempéMartin Pebble by Jean-Jacques SempéSometimes things get back to normal.Martin Pebble by Jean-Jacques SempéI won’t spoil past that pink-lettered page.

But I love it.IMG_1250 copy

And!

Sempé himself sounds like a storybook character. He sold tooth powder door-to-door salesman! Delivered wine by bicycle! (More here.)

Click here for some of Sempé’s covers for The New Yorker. Lovely.

And this Pinterest board is a feast for the eyes, too. Enjoy!

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Presto Change-o! A Book of Animal Magic

Presto Change-o!by Édouard Manceau

published March 2014 (tomorrow!) by Twirl Books, distributed in America by Chronicle Books

What a treat to give the new Twirl books a whirl! (They are doing something right when a thirtysomething-ed lady squeals over a box of board books, right?)

This one is perfect for grabby hands and curious minds. Check it out in action.

breakerPresto Change-o!This is a board book that’s been on a steady regimen of spinach and milk. It’s big and beefy. That’s a great thing, because there’s a lot to experience on these pages.

Here’s how it works. The left page shows two seemingly unrelated nouns, loosely connected by a narrative. Sometimes it’s lilting and sometimes a bit labored, but since it’s a translation, all text-clunk is forgiven. Besides, the real treat is in the visual and tactile experience.Presto Change-o!Swinging a shape or two or three around transforms one picture to another. It’s simultaneously simple and sophisticated. And just plain fun to see and do.Presto Change-o!Presto Change-o!Some standard fare lives here: Rabbit, Teapot, Owl. And then there’s Bowl of Salad. Bowl of Salad! Thank goodness for the French. What a delight!Presto Change-o!Presto Change-o!I’m teaching an introductory Photoshop and graphic design class this summer. To 3rd – 6th graders. My brain exploded with ideas for projects when I saw this book. You better believe we will be creating our own Presto Change-os! 

Stay tuned.Presto Change-o!Here’s a bit more about Twirl Books.

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Review copy provided by the publisher.

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Abe Lincoln’s Dream

abeLincolnsDream_coverby Lane Smith

published 2012, by Roaring Brook Press, an imprint of Macmillan

Check out this trailer. It sets up the book’s mood and pace with flawless grace.

breakerLane Smith has done something really special here. It’s an evocative look at a legacy. A look back and a look forward. Steps taken and hope to go.

I love that a curly haired girl with brown skin is his host. Perhaps that was an obvious choice, but I think she’s more than an art direction. Her today is because of his past.

She is his recurring dream that he just can’t shake.DPB_Stack_AbeLincolnsDream1This is history and beauty, wrapped up in the whimsy that only Lane Smith can do. His textures add life to an already rich history. They are layers, individual parts to a whole life and a whole story.

Roses and lightning and cherry blossom branches frame panels of their journey. Different type for her thoughts and his. Different times, balanced and bridged. Lane Smith’s art is restrained and curious and playful all at once. DPB_Stack_AbeLincolnsDream2 I can’t think of another storyteller who could handle this story with greater elegance. Art that both delights and informs, and words that are both playful and serious in tone. A masterpiece!

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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

Sparkle and Spin

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By Ann and Paul Rand

{originally published 1957 by Harcourt, Brace, and World. Reprinted 2006 by Chronicle Books.}Sometimes pictures are just that: eye-catching and whimsical, without being packed with meaning or message. That spirit dances across the page in Sparkle and Spin, written by Ann Rand and illustrated by her husband Paul.

Paul Rand is an iconic American graphic designer. A problem solver. A storyteller. A communicator.

He said this about design:

“Good design adds value of some kind, gives meaning, and, not incidentally, can be sheer pleasure to behold.”breakerHis biographer, Steven Heller, said this:

“Paul Rand did not set out to create classic children’s books, he simply wanted to make pictures that were playful. Like the alchemist of old, he transformed unlikely abstract forms into icons that inspired children and adults and laid the foundation for two books that have indeed become children’s classics.”

Maybe he didn’t intend to be a creator of legendary books for kids, but his love for beautiful work shines in this one. That’s the magic of Sparkle and Spin: harmony, wit, and playfulness.And Ann’s words are a delightful match to Paul’s pictures. There’s a rhythm, song, and honor to these words that represent the joy of learning. Harmony, captured perfectly.

In graphic design, harmony is the magic that happens when all of the individual elements complement one another. It’s when small parts of pretty make up a more lovely whole.breakericeCreamHere’s a detail I really love. This bold, graphic ice cream cone comes at the beginning, and with the inscription: To all children who like ice cream. And at The End, that scoop’s been slurped, chomped, and devoured. That’s what the experience of this book is. Tasty.

The book sparkles and spins. You’ll see what I mean.

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line135cover

Line 135

by Germano Zullo and Albertine

{published 2013, by Chronicle Books}I’m in that bleary-eyed, inspired, and terrified post-SCBWI haze. Are you?

That’s why this book is perfect for this time. And isn’t that always why picture books are perfect? There’s something magical about those moments that are captured, when the polaroid’s positive sheet has just pulled away from the negative. That moment, exposed. That’s the one I mean.

The creators of Line 135 also collaborated on Little Bird, which has dinged around in my skull for a long time, but I still have no coherent thoughts on it. It’s that enchanting. And of course, my beloved Sky High, which, just – wow.

The line on which this whole story is hinged? My mother and my grandmother say that I am too small to know the entire world.

So how to fit the entire world in this book? It’s a long rectangle. Intentionally and beautifully so, because unfolding the pages reveals more and more train track. The sense of distance is heightened, much like in Sky High, but along the horizon line this time. We travel with this narrator.The endpapers are bright neon green to match the train, and a wordless spread before the journey shows our narrator with her mother. After the trip? a wordless spread with her grandmother. The journey is bound.Albertine’s line drawings include whimsical details like the poofs of exhaust plumes on a highway maze of cars, or weeds growing straight up through the hole in a discarded tire. Always, always speeding forward? That sleek and vibrant train, holding that also vibrant little girl and her wisdom. I love that her capsule is holding all of the color. The black and whites are striking, but her trip (and her truth) stands out.And as the train moves forward, as the narrator grows in confidence and gumption, the illustrations get more fantastic. Gone are the looming skyscrapers of the city, welcome are the sandcastles with turrets and spiral staircases. Isn’t that beautiful? As she becomes more dogged in her determination, her surroundings are less real, less sad, and less intimidating.

Go get this one. Ride a train. Read an adventure. Get swept up in the trip.

chMoreToReadI wrote a thing about my favorite middle grade novels over at Design Mom this week. Did I get your favorites?

Frog & Friends, Owl & Friends

 by Joyce Wan

{published 2013, by Penguin Young Readers Group}

Here’s the thing. I adore Joyce Wan! I wrote about her here! And here.

She’s a brilliant artist and a fun friend and I hope to be raising a glass with her at the SCBWI conference in LA in August! (Are you going?!)

 And just look at her newest delightful duo of board books! They are on shelves TOMORROW, June 27th!

I’m just giddy over this sneak peek. And giddy is exactly how I am, too, over the design of these books.  I had a few questions for her about their striking look, and am thrilled to introduce her to you! {You’ll love her.} {ME}

Joyce! I’m mostly curious about how you used texture in these, because that natural, wood grain feel is different for you, right? (Apart from the sleek, glistening, rub-me graphics of YOU ARE MY CUPCAKE and WE BELONG TOGETHER.) I feel like there’s a story there, either artist-wise or art-wise. Is that true?

{JOYCE}

Although I do love sparkly and shiny (what girl doesn’t?), there is something about wood that I’ve always found to be warm and inviting. I’ve always loved wood textures and even offer a line of cards printed on actual birch wood veneer from sustainably harvested trees. My business card is also printed on wood too.

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I wanted to incorporate wood textures into illustrations for my next book which naturally led to the idea of some sort of tree book. The original manuscript was written as a picture book about a tree (very close to what Owl & Friends is like) which the publisher broke down into two board books when it was acquired. The textures were created by scanning actual wood and then incorporated into the art using Photoshop.

 {ME}

And the form – the foldout! It’s so clever. How did you dream up that novelty?!

{JOYCE}

I love surprise endings in books (and movies for that matter). Ones that beg a another reading or watching and make sense when you go back over the entire book/movie. These books offers a surprise ending and done in such a way for the wee’est of readers. I wanted the ending to be BIG (size-wise) and I wanted readers to smile when they see the ending! So an ending that opened up somehow seemed liked the way to go and it makes it more interactive and fun!

Isn’t she spectacular?! I didn’t show you that big surprise ending, because some things are extra magical on a first read, and this is one of them. I can’t wait to give these to some teeny twinsies that I know!

Thanks, Joyce! Big fan!

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Joyce Wan designed her first greeting card when she was in first grade for a city-wide greeting card design contest. The design won first place and was subsequently sold through a major department store chain. Twenty years later that design would inspire a design studio called Wanart whose products featuring Joyce’s designs are now sold world wide. Joyce also teaches courses on greeting card design and art licensing at the School of Visual Arts in New York City. Joyce is inspired by Japanese pop culture, modern architecture, and things that make her smile. Joyce is the author and illustrator of Greetings from Kiwi and Pear (Blue Apple Books, 2009), You Are My Cupcake (Cartwheel, 2011), and We Belong Together (Cartwheel, 2011), Frog & Friends (PSS!, 2013), Owl & Friends (PSS!, 2013) and several forthcoming titles including: Hug You, Kiss You, Love You (Cartwheel, 2013), Mama, Mama (Cartwheel, 2014), My Lucky Little Dragon (Cartwheel, 2014), Whale in My Swimming Pool(FSG, 2015) and will be illustrating Sleepyheads by Sandra Howatt (Beach Lane, 2014). Joyce hails from Boston, Massachusetts and currently lives in New York City. Through all her work, Joyce hopes to inspire people to embrace the spirit of childhood and follow their dreams. Visit her online at www.wanart.com.

The Monstore and a conversation with Tara Lazar and James Burks

monstorebreakermonstorefrontcover

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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Design is a Dandelion

by Janice Lovoos

{published 1966, by Golden Gate Junior Books}

I was in Seattle a few weeks ago. You remember the library, right?

I went to Pike Place Market, because of course, but also because flying fish and dudes in galoshes are a spectacle worth checking out. And I also wanted to get up close and personal with some bluefin tuna eyeballs.

There’s a real reason for that, trust me. But they didn’t have any tuna, so this happened: Screen Shot 2013-05-17 at 11.51.46 AM

There’s not a real point to that story except that I adore that tweet (and those two Favoriters) and it’s what I did just before I wandered into Lamplight Books.

It’s like I stole something. Fifteen dollars? Sixty quarters? It still has that magical, musty smell of hidden secrets. And it was mine in a fraction of a split second. That fast.

Because…behold:

 I’m in love. From the texture of a porcupine, to the form of mountains and weeds, to the repetition inside a squash, design is everywhere.

Design is a Dandelion ends like this, with truth and a charge:

Design is everywhere. It is for everyone. All you have to do is to learn to see it. Open your eyes and take a big, long look.

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