Tag Archives: Lee Wade

Delicious Illustrations: A Chat with Jessie Hartland

Dear Reader:  ♥ August 15, 2012 is Julia Child’s 100th Birthday ! ♥ 

More eye-catchers!

Another title that exerted a strong visual pull on me at the ALA Convention Floor last July was a fun-packed book called Bon Appetit! The Delicious Life of Julia Child, published by  Schwartz & Wade (a division of Random House).  It was written and illustrated by Jessie Hartland.

What was the je ne sais quoi for moi?

There’s the combination of ebullient art, alongside wickedly funny text: She is a hearty partier and still a prankster. She is famous for painting a toilet seat in her dormitory red Simply irresistible.

Then I discover that author Jessie Hartland was the creator of another book that tugged at my heartstrings previously at ALA Mid-Winter 2011, How the Sphinx Got to the Museum (published by Blue Apple Books).

Besides having illustrated eight picture books, Jesse is a commercial artist whose work appears on ceramics…

and fabric…

and in advertisements.

Why did both the Julia and Sphinx books jump out at me? I think it’s because both books underscore the act of process.

It’s as if Jessie wholeheartedly takes us along for the ride, while she researches her subjects. We get blow-by-blow commentary, at a fast clip.

A preliminary rough sketch

Playfully rendered, and partnered by lively hand-written text, each page feels like notes shared by your BFF, who happens to render doodles into color. Mais oui! 

[A tangental note for my students:  Much of the fun in creating picture books is derived from uncovering all the back story of your subjects. We gather all the juicy parts; the nasty bits; the settings; the unexpected gems. It’s the resource of inspiration. —JC]


For Julia’s story, Jessie combined her own love of cooking with travels to Paris. I had to find out more.

Joy Chu:  Tell us about the genesis of the Julia Child book. Whose idea was it?

Jessie Hartland:  It was my idea. I love to read biographies and I wanted to do a series of “graphic biographies” for children, my own way.

I pitched Julia Child as the first in the set.


This was about 5-6 years ago, before Nora Ephron’s film, Julie & Julia.  The response I got was “…no one cares about Julia Child anymore.”

[However] the film revived interest in Julia, and I am so grateful to have been given the opportunity to do the book.

JC:  Did you do many preliminary character sketches of Julia herself?

JH:  I looked at lots and lots of photographs of Julia and watched all the DVDs I could find, then started sketching — from my head. I did a lot of doodling in cafes, and other odd places.

JC:   Was there much back-and-forth on the progressive dummy? How many versions — including the ones you did for yourself?

JH:  Yes—of course. Lots of back-and-forth. Many scenes needed to be clarified for the wee ones.

Preliminary rough: Julia and Paul Child’s early years in Paris. . .

. . . and its color version.

Some images I had as full-page got shrunk to a small panel.

Some tiny panels got blown up to full-pagers.

My two editors, Anne (Schwartz) and Lee (Wade), were wonderful to work with, the whole way. They would prod me with, “tell us more about…”

Same text content, with full-page treatment in lieu of small panels.

JC:   Favorite medium? And do you work same size, or up-size?

JH:  I tend to work up-size, just a bit. I paint in gouache, which is opaque watercolor.

JC:  Did you provide your own scans? Back and forth on color corrections?

JH:  They [the publisher] did the scanning. I don’t remember much in the way of color correction. However, there was lots to fix and clarify, what with all the hand-written text, made more complicated by the bits of French sprinkled in.

JC:  Are you a foodie yourself?

Jessie Hartland channels Julia. [photo by Isabelle Dervaux]

JH:  Yes, I love to cook. I grew up watching “The French Chef” on TV. My mother did not like to cook and it was fun to watch someone cooking who enjoyed it. At home we ate frozen vegetables, canned fruit and dreadful things made with soup mixes and such. As a teenager I got an after school job in my town’s only fancy-foods shop where I had my first croissants, baklava and French cheese.

Jessie Hartland’s book dedication inscription in Bon Appetit! The Delicious Life of Julia Child

While in art school I worked weekends and summers as a restaurant cook. Nowadays our family eats a lot of seafood caught by my 20 year old son, Sam: tuna, sea bass, bluefish, porgies, mahi-mahi and cherrystone clams. I grow tomatoes, cucumbers and raspberries and have a thriving herb garden.

JC:  How did you get started, in brief — from school to the field?

JH:  I went to the Boston Museum School, a very fine arts-oriented school, not commercial. It is affiliated with Tufts, where I took excellent academic classes.

After graduating, I worked briefly at a high-tech start-up, then moved to NYC and worked freelance doing production work for independent animators.

During lunch, I took my portfolio around and began getting illustration jobs and was able to quit the animation work.

As an illustrator, I found the assignments I most enjoyed were those asking for some writing and coming up with ideas.

When I was designing and installing windows—at night—for the Barneys department stores, I got the idea for my children’s book, “Night Shift.”

I had a fabulous gig for a couple of years, travel-writing and drawing a regular column for Travel and Leisure/ Family.

You could say moving on to writing and illustrating children’s books was a natural transition, but I think it’s really what I wanted to do all along.

JC:  Biggest influences?

JH:  Saul Steinberg, Robert Crumb, Roger Duvoisin, and old Graphis Annuals from the 50s. I grew up reading and loving Babar, Madeline and especially the collaborative books of Margaret Bloy Graham and Gene Zion (Harry the Dirty Dog). My mother made fabulous felt puppets and adapted the stories of Maurice Sendak and poems of Ogden Nash for puppet plays, and I put on the shows for my school.

JC:  What are you working on now?

JH:  Another biography, this one of Steve Jobs. It will be targeted to older kids, though—and in black and white. A smaller format, and with many more pages. More focus on the writing and drawings—and I’m up for the challenge! He’s another fascinating character: rebellious, intuitive, ingenious…

I also have 4-5 other ideas in various stages of development. . . And I just found out for sure that there will be a third in the “Museum” series of booksHow the Meteorite Got to the Museum — about the Peekskill meteorite.

JC:  How delicious! Do keep us posted. And until then, bon appetít, Jessie!

[Inspiration can sprout from anywhere“… thanks to my mom, Dottie Hill Hartland, for fabricating for Xmas 1965 the brilliant French café dollhouse (complete with tiny food and menus in French!), which got me started on France, cooking, and Julia Child.” Jessie Hartland, from her Acknowledgments note on the copyright page]


The picture book as memoir

In a recent School Library Journal article, Anita Silvey reflects on the current state of affairs regarding children’s books. She writes:

“…Our children need picture books — all kinds of picture books. I can’t imagine a children’s book world without this glorious form. We’re demographically moving into a new baby boom. . . . We need real stories, and long stories, that can be read more than once…”

The picture book as memoir offers infinite possibilities. Reminiscences about family are an invaluable treasure trove of ideas.

Sharing stories can unplug a well-spring of long forgotten tales from family and friends that might not otherwise surface. Yes, you can collaborate with your family on a picture book story!

Here are a few examples:


click to enlarge

I’ve been a long-time fan of Marisabina Russo‘s work, from her early beginnings as an artist for newspapers and magazines like The New Yorker, to her current career as picture book author/illustrator.

(click to enlarge)

Here is the trailer for her latest book, I Will Come Back for You: A Family in Hiding During World War II (Schwartz & Wade/Random House), about being separated from one’s father and fleeing into the mountains against the backdrop of the Holocaust. It’s a true story, as told to the author by her grandmother.

Her debut, The Line-Up Book (Greenwillow), was a well-worn out family favorite in my household. It recalls one special day in the life of a mother and son. Still in print (first published in 1986), it continues to strike a universal chord. Revisiting that story brought back a rush of remembrances of how inventive my little son was during his cozy ‘alone’ moments at home.


click to enlarge

Encountering the above mentioned picture book memoir  brings to mind Giselle Potter‘s  The Year I Didn’t Go to School (Atheneum/Anne Schwartz).  Of particular note is the clear voice of the narrator, who doesn’t find it unusual to take a year off from school to join her bohemian family with a circus troupe in Italy. I felt the concern of the grandparents through the illustration, as they watch Giselle’s family take off at the airport.


Ed Young shares vivid memories of his childhood in Shanghai during WWII in The House Baba Built(Little Brown)Cited by Publishers Weekly as one of the Best Children’s Nonfiction Picture Books of 2011, it is also a Junior Library Guild Selection.  It also garnered wide critical acclaim plus  starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, School Library Journal, and Booklist.

The book is chock full of rich anecdotes, sumptuously illustrated with torn and cut paper, pencil, chalk, pastel, ink, paint, and photographs. A labor of love, it features eight (yes 8!) gatefolds.

jacket illustration from "The House That Baba Built" by Ed Young

jacket illustration from "The House That Baba Built" by Ed Young (click to enlarge)

As World War II was approaching Shanghai, Ed’s father worked on a plan to protect his family. From The House Baba Built :

“…The safest part of Shanghai was where the embassies were. . . . But the only land for sale there cost far more than my father could pay. So he offered to build a big brick house on it, with courtyards, gardens, a swimming pool, and let the landowner have it all. . . “

provided that Ed’s family could live there for twenty years. The landowner agreed.

Ed’s father, a trained engineer, draws up the plans…

One of 8 gatefolds, featuring an overhead view of the house Ed Young's father built, with swimming pool (click to enlarge)

The house was transformed as needed to a place for games, for relatives to gather, and to be safe.

The house was transformed as needed to a place for games, for relatives to gather, and to be safe. (click to enlarge)

Cousin Sonny spontaneously draws the cowboy Ed describes, as more relatives are sheltered in the house.

Cousin Sonny spontaneously draws the cowboy Ed describes (click to enlarge)

See Ed Young discuss children’s book illustration and his previous work on Shanghai Messenger, written by Andrea Cheng, published by Lee & Low (below).

Medium: Mixed media
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company/Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Art Director: Saho Fujii
Editor: Alvina Ling
Author: Ed Young

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Wait, wait, there’s more! 

If you’re in NYC, don’t miss your chance to view an Ed Young original up-close, from The House Baba Built at the Original Art Show.

Also on display is an illustration from Giselle Potter‘s latest book, The Orphan: A Cinderella Story from Greece (Schwartz & Wade), written by Anthony L. Manna and Soula Mitakidou.

And watch for more from our series covering The Original Art Show, right here at the Got Story Countdown!

cover from "The Orphan: A Cinderella Story from Greece"

Cover from "The Orphan: A Cinderella Story from Greece" (click to enlarge)

Medium: Watercolor
Publisher: Random House/Schwartz & Wade
Art Director: Lee Wade
Editor: Anne Schwartz
Authors: Anthony L. Manna and Soula Mitakidou


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