Wednesday, April 14, 2010

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Monday, March 29, 2010

Moving Day

Dear Readers,

This is not much of a blog post, but I'm only here to let you know that the url for my blog will soon be changed. This is all terribly boring, but you see, my blog is supported by Blogger and is currently uploaded via FTP. This allows me to publish to my own website with my own url. For reasons I simply cannot understand, Blogger is dropping support for FTP publishing. So my blog will, soon, be something like Instead of the existing

Like I said, this is all just awfully boring and I do apologize. I only wanted to give fair warning that I'll soon be making the switch.

While we wait, here is a sketch of a big sheep on a bicycle being chased by 12 small sheep on tricycles.

More soon,


Wednesday, March 17, 2010

TROUBLE at Warren Newport Public Library II

Julie and I forgot to bring our camera to the reading on Sunday. But luckily, WNPL's graphic artist, Nancy Matson, was on the scene and snapped some terrific pictures. Thanks, Nancy, for handing these over!

This one really captures the vibe of the day. Really nice, warm Moms and Dads there having fun with the kids.

I love this little guy. I had no idea anyone ever took me so seriously.

Monday, March 15, 2010

TROUBLE at Warren Newport Public Library

This past Sunday (March 14) I was a guest at Warren Newport Public Library in Gurnee, IL. Yours truly stood before a nice-sized (!) crowd of kids and parents to read TROUBLE GUM, talk pigs (my favorite thing to anthropomorphize) and do some drawing and what not. In a nutshell, I told the kids about how the pig is probably my favorite animal to draw. Because pigs are intelligent and funny, and just easy to hang human characteristics on. Then, I asked the kids what their favorite animals were, and I'd try to draw 'em. One by one, I fumbled through big (giant sketch pad on an easel, for all to see) sketches-on-command of a lion, a koala, a panda, a horse, and an ostrich. It was lots of fun.

The kids also had paper and could draw the same animals to play along. I asked if they would leave some of their drawings with me so I could share on the blog. A couple of the kiddos were kind enough to part with the following beauties.

Anika Agashe, 4 1/2 yrs old. I love this interpretation of Ruben from TROUBLE GUM. Complete with hand-lettered title type treatment in the corner!

Anika Agashe, 4 1/2 yrs old. Sweet renditions of a lion and a koala. Thanks, Anika!

Spencer, 5 yrs old. Spencer rocked this awesome cheetah, even though I didn't even draw one myself.

Spencer, 5 yrs old. Another very cool one of Ruben. Thank you, Spencer!

And thank you to Patty Sawin at WNPL for helping pull this together. I had a blast.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Top Ten (February 2010)

Yes, I am slow in getting this list out. Yes, it matters not cause it ain't like anybody's biting nails in anticipation here.

1. GRANT WOOD, NORMAN ROCKWELL. In prep for my current book work (my 2nd author-illustrator picture book), I've decided to go with an old school rural backdrop (a la Virgina Lee Burton). Buried in my subconcious for rolling hills, small towns and humble living, were these two painters. Wood's take, a slightly high brow one. Rockwell is the obvious everyman. I was surprised at how much and how well I responded to seeing this work again. Wood, is neat and surreal about it. Rockwell takes a sometime knee slap approach. I don't like it too much when he got silly with the rubbery faces. But wow, what a painter! And I do love an artist who makes for the people. I like it when you find something years, years later that you thought you never liked, and now you like it.

2. DEAR GENIUS: THE LETTERS OF URSULA NORDSTROM. Julie gave me this for Valentine's Day. A must read for any author, illustrator, editor, agent (or aspiring all of the above) working in the world of children's books. I will be long affected by this book. What an amazing peek inside the world of children's book publishing in a very turning-point time of the 50's, 60's, 70's. And by a central turning-point player, legendary kid book editor, Ursula Nordstrom. Responsible for groundbreakers and classics like and from Margaret Wise Brown, Maurice Sendak, E.B. White, and many others of this golden era of books. I would've liked to have known her. One cool, hip, sweet, hard (when need be) lady.

3. ABIDE. Another gift from m'lady. This shirt (an obvious tip 'o the hat to Shepard Fairey's Obama poster) pays homage to one of my all-time favorite movies, The Big Lebowski.

4. DRAWN! I've been following this illustration and cartooning blog for years. The contributors always have something very worthy to share. And I like that it's Canadian.

5. AVATAR. I know. How boring, to come here and talk up Avatar. But I did like it. The plot was, at times, very Hollywood formula, but what I most responded to was Pandora. I love Pandora. I want to go to Pandora and plug into an Avatar and hang with the Na'vi and be one with nature and fly giant bird-dragon things.

6. CRISPIN. My first Avi novel. Avi being, for those not in the know, the one-named versatile and beloved kids novelist. I was reading this in anticipation of seeing him speak at kid lit pal, Esme Raji Codell's bookroom. Alas, it didn't work out with the babysitter and I missed it. But I'm glad it made me read CRISPIN.

7. CHARLOTTE'S WEB. I'm now reading several books mentioned in DEAR GENIUS. And I started here. When I was a kid, the movie (1973, animated) left a huge mark on me. It was deeply saddening. I only watched it once. That really says something when something can move you like that. Reading it really took me back there. Beautiful, beautiful book with beautiful, beautiful classic pen/ink work by Garth Williams. And yes, (spoiler alert!) I cried when Charlotte died.

8. OLYMPICS. There's something comforting about the Olympic Games. Watching countries from around the globe come together and play nice (that's the idea anyhow). And many of the things they do (both summer and winter) are, well, insane. I also very much enjoyed watching Neil Young play out the flames at the closing ceremony. With a song he wrote, allegedly, for his car.

9. ANDERSON'S BOOKSHOP CHILDREN'S LITERATURE BREAKFAST. Every year, local bookstore Anderson's hosts an awesome breakfast inviting hundreds of Chicago-area educators, librarians, and book lovers, as well as Illinois-based authors and illustrators of books for children. They also always have wonderful speakers. Highlights this year were Fran├žoise Mouly and Richard Peck.

10. ROMY WALKS! Romy has initiated Phase I of walking sequence. Meaning she is now standing up independently and attempts to move forward and then...plunk. But she confidently walks hand in hand with her Mama or her Dada or with both. It's new and exciting to us and to her, as she constantly demands to "walk!".

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Coupla sketches

"What are you working on?" Perhaps you have asked. Maybe (probably) not. But what I am working on is my second written and illustrated picture book titled, tentatively (?), ANOTHER BROTHER. I haven't talked much about it, but I did talk a little about it here, at my recent interview with Travis Jonker of 100 Scope Notes. Dare I say more?

I'm about 98% done with a picture book written by Lauren Thompson titled, newly (?), LEAP BACK HOME TO ME. A lovely story about a mama frog and a baby frog. I'm just finishing one last jacket illustration now. Very cool.

In the meantime, here are two random sketches I found to post. I kinda (used to) have a thing for elephants.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Anderson's Children's Lit Breakfast

To anyone who may have bought copies of any of my books to be signed at the Anderson's kids book Breakfast (always fun--great people, great speakers): My apologies, but we had to leave early. Our 15mth old's Grandma (our babysitter) was a last minute cancellation due to being sick and we had to bring Romy with. By around 11 am, she was being crazy cranky/tired and we had to leave early.

If you wanted/needed something signed by me, please just contact me and we could maybe work something out?

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Interview at 100 Scope Notes

Please take a moment to head on over to the awesome children's lit blog, 100 Scope Notes, and check out this interview I just did with Travis Jonker. Travis found this weird website, Twiddla, that acts like a collaborative computer sketch pad. We did some interview-style mouse doodling together (alongside the more traditional q/a interview questions), and the results are something else. A cool idea, Trav. Drop a comment and let him know you stopped by!

Travis also just redesigned the blog and it looks great. The new home page, here.

Thanks for having me at 100 Scope Notes, Travis. Lots of fun.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Top Ten (January 2010)

That time again. My favorite things from the month previous.

1. BOB DYLAN: BEHIND THE SHADES REVISITED. From what I can tell this is the most comprehensive and accurate bio on the man who is well-known to not like to be well-known. It's very dense (long) but was quite the page turner. I mean, you gotta like you some Dylan to want to turn these pages, and I really liked it. As my pal and fellow Dylanologist, James Preller said, "it helps connect the dots." My favorite period remains the controversial "going electric" one. Coming to a loud, loud crash with the world tour of '66.

While I'm on topic, I just discovered this nasty, nasty performance from the '02 Grammy Awards. Circa Love and Theft. Freakin amazing.

2. LATE NIGHT WARS. I'm not much on Late Night TV these days. And I'm not much on bickering matches (especially in this political climate). But I have to say I was entertained by what went on this past month. I think it peaked when Jimmy Kimmel soundly eviscerated Leno at his own table. Oomph.

3. SESAME STREET: A CELEBRATION OF 40 YEARS OF LIFE ON THE STREET. This book was one that I got for xmas but had not yet cracked til a week or so ago. They did an AMAZING job with this. The amount of detail, history, behind-the-scenes info is incredible. Ever wonder how Big Bird is brought to life? You'd be amazed. Anybody who grew up with SESAME would find it hard not to get a little misty when thumbing through this beautifully illustrated document. Especially in the Mr. Hooper section. Sniff.

4. THE DAY AFTER RECOVERING FROM STOMACH FLU. Act I: day of getting hammered in the stomach for hours accompanied by unspeakable acts of purging. Act II: it abruptly ends and you discover what it is to "have your health" again. Being of sound health the very day after being ill--It is a beautiful reminder that even the worst days of some (stomach flu) will never be as bad as the best days of others (serious illness, poverty, famine...). As the late great Mr. Rogers used to say, "It's such a good feeling to know you're alive." Straight truth.

5. MOON MAN. Phaidon is reprinting a lot of classic Tomi Ungerer picture books. I say they're classic cause this one is from 1966. Not that I'd ever heard of them or him. But I have now, and I've started with MOON MAN, and I am impressed. I don't know if it's any relation, but it has that whole Yellow Submarine vibe to the art. Loose pen and ink line and wash. Very nice.

6. MEZZETTA GARLIC AND DILL GOLDEN GREEK PEPPERONCINI. I love salty foods. I love salty, pickled foods. I love salty, spicy, pickled foods. I love salty, spicy foods pickled with garlic and dill.

7. MUPPET WHAT NOT. I am, it seems, some kinda Henson nut. I mean, somewhat yes. But mostly, there's just been a lot of it going around with Sesame's 40th. But a while back, Julie discovered that FAO Schwarz offers a build-your-own Muppet program (much like the more commercial Bear Workshop out there). How amazing is this? If you can't get to NYC to do it in person (which, by the way, looks awesome!), you can assemble and order the whole thing online. For Romy's Xmas/Hanukkah gift, we got her one of these. Well, it's supposed to be for her.

8. 100 SCOPE NOTES. This blog, by Travis Jonker, is one of a handful of kidlit blogs that are constant abuzz. I really like the tone of it and Trav always finds new and creative ways to present himself (e.g., he sometimes reviews in the form of a comic strip). I actually met Travis at an ALA Conference (he's also a librarian) not too long ago in Chicago. A very nice guy.

9. GIBBY from iCARLY. Now that we have cable television, I've become a bit of a connoisseur of the tween comedy. I don't like much of what Disney has to offer, except Wizards of Waverly Place is pretty funny despite it's shameless hopping on of bandwagon. iCarly trumps them all. There's this old jaded codger side of me that cringes from time to time when they get all tweeny but I'm not exactly the intended audience. Anyways, the best part of the show is this kid Gibby, a secondary player. He is positively built for physical comedy (no offense, Gibbs). Man, that dude is funny.

10. MAN V. FOOD. Another recent cable TV fascination. This time from the Travel Channel. A dude goes around the country taking up local restaurants on insane eating challenges. Like, "eat this gigantic steak in under an hour and you get a free t-shirt." Or, "eat this disturbingly spicy sandwich (made with "ghost" peppers...?!) and you get a free t-shirt." If it sounds ridiculous, it is. And it is also both disgusting and appetizing at the same time. Weird.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

From Korea with Love

Just got wind of this. TROUBLE GUM is gonna get a Korean edition, from one of their publishers, Forever Books! How awesome is that? I think it's especially cool since not too long ago, one of my earlier pic books, RIGHTY AND LEFTY (written by Ms. Rachel Vail) also got a pick-up from a Korean pub. Cool, cool.

(I did a quick online translation of TROUBLE GUM from English to Korean. Below. I doubt it's an accurate trans, seeing as TROUBLE GUM is my made up thing, and those online translators usually end up being wack. Hopefully this ain't nothing too vulgar, at least.)