February 27, 2011
Posted by ellagerman under Favorite Books  Comments
So sad to fall in love with yet another book that’s out of print. But at least I’ve got my own copy of this one! Eric and the Little Canal Boat is a charmer that was published by Parent’s Magazine Press in 1967. It’s an early Anne Rockwell that was written by Lilian Bason.
I absolutely adore the illustrations by Rockwell in this book. They’re so simple, quiet, and sweet. A limited palette of colors – primarily pinks, light blues, grey, yellow, orange, brown and greens fill in thin line drawings with a lot of white for the sky. Spots of detail appear here are there with these wonderful abstracts of flowers dotting the hillsides.
Rockwell’s illustrations work wonderfully well with the story about a little boy striving to please his boss on his first day of work. The setting is Sweden. Here canal boats ride through channel locks that connect series of lakes at different elevations. Little Eric’s job is to help the boat cast off, to open and close the channel gates for the boat, and to help the cook. Most importantly, Eric must remember the captain’s instructions, ”The boat must always be on time, and the passengers must always be happy.”
What’s charming is that little Eric fumbles many tasks, but he always strives his hardest. You’re very happy indeed when Eric’s hard work is rewarded.
I found some YouTube videos of the canal to play to the kids to give them more understanding of how these gates work. I was really amazed at just how narrow they are!
This book also has one of the few white book covers that really works well. And isn’t that rope font just adorable?
February 17, 2011
Garth Pig and the Icecream Lady is the second book by Mary Rayner featuring a large pig family that my kids and I have fallen in love with. The first one being Mr. and Mrs. Pig’s Evening Out.
I can’t comprehend why these books are out of print. Aside from the rather boring white cover on this one, these books have got it all – beautiful pen and watercolor illustrations, suspense, rolling action, humor, a villan, and sweet child heroes. They’ve got this sweet appeal at having the empowered child and siblings overcoming the most awful situations, and all in a funny way. I describe her style as David McPhail meets William Steig, tender and story driven.
In this story, the 10 pig children want to get “Whooshes” (I absolutely love saying that word) from the Lupino’s Icecream ”Volfwagon” parked down the street. Garth is foolish enough to enter her truck and get abducted by the wolf in disguise. In the great scene that follows the wolf drives along singing “Fried or boiled, baked or roast,/Or minced with mushey-rooms on toast?” At the bottom of this page is a puzzled and innocent little Garth with the dry words underneath, ”Garth Pig heard her. It was not a song about icecream.” That’s so great.
It’s up to Garth’s brothers and sisters and their ten-pig bicycle to save him. They of course succeed. And they don’t forget to get all their Wooshes!
This is my library pick of the week.
February 16, 2011
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I’m a little late in getting my thoughts together about my weekend, but this is where I was this past Saturday. I think it was a fabulous little preview of what the international summer conference in LA will be like. Great lectures, opportunities for the professionals to see your stuff, time to schmooze, and great OJ and brownies. I love conferences.
For a while I’ve been doing little sketches of the people who talk at the meetings I attend. Apart from great sketching practice, it helps me remember who was talking when I go back and read my notes. I share this one of the wonderful illustrator David Diaz (Caldecott winner for Smoky Night) only because halfway through it I got the cool feeling that I was drawing a figure from one of his books!
Here’s my small sketch…
and for the fun comparison, here’s a portion of Diaz’s cover image for Sharing the Seasons.
Diaz did my portfolio review. He was wonderfully kind and helpful and had some nice things to say about my work. “Wow,” he said. “Wow”, I thought, he said “Wow”! He also gave me advice on the direction to go in preparing my portfolio for the LA conference, including encouraging me to develop a story with my Pearl and Bear characters so I could illustrate a few spreads (ooo, what fun!).
Diaz says he can see these little guys being made into a great e-application! So I’ve been very much in story-creation mode since the conference ended.
And where else to get inspiration on writing a great story than after hearing the professionals praise what works and rant about what doesn’t? I found the First Pages Panel at the conference highly instructional. The first page from a manuscript of a local SCBWI member’s story was read aloud in front of us and to a panel of 3 agents and 3 editors. We listened while the panel followed along with a printed copy. Then the editors and agents (especially the agents — surprisingly, they were the most critical ones) tore the writing apart! That was fantastic.
They critiqued word choice, rhythm, story arc, not showing enough restraint in scene description (the key difference between a picture book and a short story, they pointed out), kid appeal, wasting too much time on intro — agent Chris Richman amusingly called this the Scoobie Doo Syndrome (imagine your legs spinning round and round before you really get going), and character names and story lines too similar to what’s already out there (“not doing your research”). You really got a feel for what to think about when critiquing your own writing.
I also got a preview of the Illustrating Books for Children course run by Joy Chu. Doesn’t that sound like fun?
You heard a lot about voice making your manuscript stand out above the rest. Editor Kim Griswell (Senior Editor, Highlights) said voice is the ability to “illuminate the ordinary”. She believes everyone has it, you just need to uncover it, in part by being brave enough to reveal where you came from. She advised writing from the specific place you grew up and about the things that shaped you. She warned against writing about events you haven’t yourself endured (like writing about a loss if you haven’t experienced it) for fear of sounding false. Write only the stories that you can tell, she said. And give it emotion!
Another repeated theme was about not following trends. Keep in mind, they noted, that what you see today in the published world was created two years back. So don’t start writing a vampire novel! Likewise, make up your own slang, or you risk it going out of style, said our local Patricia Morris Buckly during the pre-conference. HarperCollins Associate Editor Sarah Dotts-Barley reminded us to focus not on the market, but instead on writing our own great story.
I’ll end my post with this wonderful quote by E.B. White about writing for children that Dott’s-Barley read:
You have to write up, not down. Children are demanding. They are the most attentive, curious, eager, observant, sensitive, quick, and generally congenial readers on earth. They accept, almost without question, anything you present them with, as long as it is presented honestly, fearlessly, and clearly.
For some more notes on the event, check out a nice outline summary from the two gals at Writing on the Sidewalk
and a nice post on the event by the agent Natalie Fischer.
February 14, 2011
Posted by ellagerman under Favorite Books 1 Comment
Here are two of my favorites:
The Valentine Bears (1983) is a sweet book by the prolific Eve Bunting, illustrated with mostly black and white illustrations by Jan Brett. Shocked? Yes, this is an early Brett! I absolutely love the restrained palette – just a spot of red, straw color, and pink here and there and lots of white backgrounds. Although I adore all of Jan Brett’s highly detailed illustrations, it’s pleasing to see her lovely drawings on simple, white backgrounds.
The story is about a Mrs. Bear who strives to celebrate Valentine’s Day for the first time. This is a time normally occurring in the middle of their hibernation. She succeeds in sharing her special day with Mr. Bear, a day filled with playful teasing, exchanging their favorite snacks and sweets (like chocolate covered ants) and reading Mrs. Bear’s loving, hand-made Valentines.
The Day It Rained Hearts (1983) is by Felicia Bond (best known as the illustrator of If You Give a Mouse a Cookie). One day it rains different sized hearts. A girl catches them. She then thoughtfully tailors Valentines out of them for her animal friends. It’s simple, sweet, and with a funny, unexpected ending.
February 12, 2011
Inspired by Illustration Friday’s suggestion a few weeks back to present a chicken drawing, I tackled Chicken Little for my next illustration. I thought it would be cute to show the fox as the one scheming all along to get the chicken to believe the sky was falling. So here he is dropping the acorn.
I came across some very elaborate and fanciful chicken coops in my research, so I thought I would have fun doing a Russian chicken emerging from a pretty little dacha. I really enjoyed doing the decoration in this one, from their traditional clothing to the painted shutters. I wouldn’t mind living in this little chicken’s home myself!
February 7, 2011
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I was very excited to see two of my faves in their top 12. Check them out here. It was a little disappointing that some others that I liked so much didn’t place. With 600 submissions, shouldn’t they have done a top 20?
February 3, 2011
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For days now I’ve been up to my ankles in scraps of paper while I’ve been making my son’s Valentine’s Day class cards. My husband came home from work last night and came upon us casually sitting in the midst of all this debris reading a book. I believe he uttered, “We need another parent.” What’s the point of cleaning up while you in the middle of a project, right?
Here are the finished cards, frilly hearts that fold into their own envelope. My son helped with the artwork. I actually like his little flowers better than mine. And yes, that’s a rose a la Charles Rennie Mackintosh, a longtime love of mine.
My other distraction was making this little guy out of gloves for a friend’s birthday.
You can see more pics of these things on my craft blog.