Tag Archives: Neal Porter

My Snake Blake

Another Neal Porter/Roaring Press book that charmed me on the ALA Exhibit Floor a few weeks ago was My Snake Blake by Randy Siegel, illustrated by Serge Bloch.

You’ll also want to check out illustrator Serge Bloch‘s blog too!


The Galapagos, coming in September!

It’s no accident that the books I’m most attracted to tend to sprout from the same imprints. It’s down to about three or four for me. Such is the case with books from Neal Porter of Roaring Brook Press.  On the ALA floor, I was delighted to learn of Jason Chin‘s latest, due out September 18, 2012.

[Jason Chin’s previous book,  Coral Reefs,was among those featured at the most recent Society of Illustrators’ Original Art Show, and here at the Countdown. ]

Island has a firm foundation built upon the best science resources. It is above all a wonder-filled story of epic proportions.

title page spread from "Island"

Title page spread from “Island” [click to enlarge]

Opening page from "Island"

Opening page from “Island”

Jason Chin thrills the reader with the geological and biological processes that led to the Galápagos Islands we know today. He writes:

“…in order to create an engaging story, I have included events and details that are necessarily speculative. . . [but the] island formation, species colonization, and evolution described in this book are real… This story is based on science, but brought to life through my imagination…”

Marveling at how the islands themselves become the central book character brings to mind how my middle-school earth science teacher foisted James Michener‘s novel Hawaii onto my reluctant classmates. He insisted it was required reading in order to  intimately grasp the evolutional concept of violent volcano-formation-to-steamy-landforms; and its turbulence being analogous to the fictional (yet fact-based) generational saga that followed.

Telling larger-than-life story through stranger-than-fiction natural science. How glorious!

So much to see, so much to ♥

The American Library Association’s annual convention came and left Anaheim last week. It was a great opportunity to get a preview of  upcoming children’s book treasures.

. . . . . . . . . .

Spotted at the Macmillan/Roaring Brook booth:

Jacket of FROM A GOOD MOUNTAINAny book by James Rumford is an event! His early Peace Corps experiences imprinted a lasting curiosity about different cultures, and international themes.

From the Good Mountain: How Gutenberg Changed the World Concise text is written as a series of intriguing riddles, with corresponding illustrations rendered in the style of an illuminated manuscript. Example:

What was made of rags and bones, soot and seeds? What took a mountain to make?

For the answer, Rumford lures us to the fifteenth century, when books were made by hand, and a man named Johannes Gutenberg invented a way to print books with movable type.

[click any image to enlarge]


See more about his creation process behind the making of From The Good Mountain here.


At my recent UCSD Extension illustration class, we marveled at the variety of style Rumford applied to each of his books.

While experimenting with different media, he remains consistent and focused, in terms of technique, within the framework of each book’s own theme.

Jacket from "Silent Music", by James Rumsford

In Silent Music, Ali is a schoolboy with a yen to play soccer and listen to loud music. Sound familiar? No surprises there.

[click any image to enlarge]

from "Silent Music" by James Rumsford

Now consider that Ali is a contemporary Iraqi boy who lives in Baghdad, and has everyday acquaintance with most aspects of the war, and occupation.

from "Silent Music" by James Rumsford

Like his hero, the famed calligrapher Yakut, who wrote through the destruction of Baghdad in 1258 (“he shut out the horror and wrote glistening letters of rhythm and grace”), Ali turns to calligraphy, creating inked brush-strokes during the bombing of Baghdad in 2003. It’s Ali’s salvation.

from "Silent Music" by James Rumsford

“Writing a long sentence is like watching a soccer player in slow motion as he kicks the ball across the field, as I leave a trail of dots and loops behind me,” says narrator Ali.

from "Silent Music" by James Rumsford

In an eloquent ending, he discovers that while the word “war” flows easily, the pen “…stubbornly resists me when I make the difficult waves and slanted staff of saalam peace.

Rumford shows us how iconic Arabic calligraphy is, from rhythm of Ali’s life, the flow of his movements, his everyday environment, to his family’s garments, in loving detail.


In Tiger and Turtle, Rumford bathes his backgrounds with vibrant color and Persian textures (an abstract effect that almost smells exotic), setting the stage for his two characters, rendered simply with calligraphic brush strokes.

[click any image to enlarge]


And what are Rumford’s thoughts about future of the printed book?

Check out the author bio on the back flap of From the Good Mountain (coming 9/18/2012 from Roaring Brook Press/a Neal Porter book):

Back flap author bio, FROM THE GOOD MOUNTAIN

Check out Jama Rattigan’s interview with James Rumford here.
Jama also reviews Silent Music here.

An early preliminary jacket sketch for “Silent Music”


I’ll post more images of what grabbed my attention on the ALA Exhibit Floor over the next several days. Stay tuned…

A chance encounter between the photogenic Olivia and a lucky group of San Diego SCBWI members, on the ALA exhibit floor in Anaheim.

More highlights of Original Art

This week we’ll sample more selections from The Original Art Exhibit, featuring highlights from the best illustrated children’s books of 2011.


jacket from "Coral Reefs" by Jason Chin

Jason Chin takes picture book nonfiction into the realm of lyrical realism in his latest book, Coral Reefs.
The jacket gives a hint of what’s to come — a young girl exploring an underwater kingdom. We are presented with real-life marine biological facts through the text, visually told as an undersea adventure.

[click images to enlarge]

Jason Chin:  “The girl in this book is the daughter of a friend who used to live in Vermont, where I now live.”

Jason Chin:  “My illustrations are done in watercolor, the same size as they appear in the book.

To do research for the book, I visited in the coral reefs of Belize and learned to scuba dive so I could experience the reef first hand. . .”

“. . . Being underwater affected me emotionally — it was exhilarating to visit such an otherworldly place, but the reef itself was serene and mysterious . . .”

“. . . After my initial excitement, I looked around and felt very, very small and it was very peaceful.  I tried to bring what I saw, and also what I felt, to my illustrations–to make the images both visually accurate and emotionally honest.”

“. . . A girl stands in a library room [the renown Rose Reading Room of the 42nd Street New York Public Library] and removes a book from a shelf entitled Coral Reefs. As she reads we see the text below each image. The book explains how reefs are formed, who lives in them, and what their future may be. As we read along we see the girl’s library suddenly flooded. New York City is now underwater and the girl observes firsthand the lagoons, the feeding grounds, and the food chain at work. By the end she stands on the library steps utterly wet, and some other kids get to read the book world beneath the sea for themselves. . . It can be no easy task to show what the underside of the ocean looking up might be, or to pinpoint what shadowed underwater light looks like. From the endpapers of the fishies to the animals you spot around the reef, Chin has taken his time with this book to make it absolutely marvelous. . . “  — Elizabeth Bird, Fuse #8 Review, November 29th, 2011

Medium: Watercolor
Publisher: Macmillan / Roaring Brook Press / Neal Porter Books
Art Director: Jennifer Browne
Editor: Neal Porter
Author: Jason Chin
See Jason Chin’s previous book, Redwoods
Jason Chin’s website and blog


jacket from "Cookiebot!" by Katie Van Camp, illustrated by Lincoln AgnewLincoln Agnew creates the most amazing cookie-grabbing robot ever via Cookiebot!, the second adventure featuring Harry and Horsie, written by Katie Van Camp.

Agnew’s style is an homage to pop art, retro signage, and action comics, complete with Harry’s original blueprints for his cookie-seeking robot. Irresistible fun!

[click any image to enlarge]

Here’s Harry. . .

Here are his blueprints for his cookie-seeking robot. . .

Cookie wars! Horsie flies to the rescue…

How awesome is Harry, I ask you. . .

Fascinating factoid: Harry is the real-life son of David Letterman and his wife, Regina Lasko, at age 5. AuthorKatie Van Camp, who was their au pair for several years, says that her adventure tale Harry and Horsie started out as a poem she wrote for Harry, but it blossomed into a book, with the Lettermans’ blessing.

An interview with Lincoln Agnew

The official Harry & Horsie website
Medium: Digital
Publisher: HarperCollins  / Balzer + Bray
Art Directors: Martha Rago and Dana Fritts
Editor: Donna Bray
Author: Katie Van Camp


Original sample for "Blue Chicken"

Reality blends into a mind bending romp, mixed in with artful color lessons plus  pithily minimal verbiage via Deborah Freedman‘s original vision . Blue moon, kind of blue, and undo the blue with Blue Chicken!

“A moo wakes the chickens. They’re peevish and blue. They dump the red wheelbarrow, dropping that chicken who just wanted to . . .”

Deborah Freedman:  “I drew and painted each spread ‘by hand’, but as many separate elements, which were later pieced together in Photoshop. . .”

“. . . As you can imagine, splashing paint all over a finished drawing would be pretty risky! So I spent lots of time experimenting with pipettes, syringes, straws, and old toothbrushes – but on separate pieces of paper – before I layered the splashes over and under the rest of the artwork.”

[@ my students: This is an excellent tip . . .  what a time-saver Photoshop can be for your original artwork!—Joy]

Check out Deborah Freedman’s blog here.
Seven-Imp interview with Deborah here!
Deborah’s books and portfolio here.
Deborah’s  Blue Chicken blog
What is “Sculpey®”? Find out how Deborah found her models here.

Deborah molded her own Sculpey® white hen — the model for "Blue Chicken" (click to enlarge)

Medium: Watercolor and digital
Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
Imprint: Viking Children’s Books
Art Director: Jim Hoover
Editor: Catherine Frank
Author: Deborah Freedman




This slideshow requires JavaScript.