A Closer Look: Covers by Jon Klassen

Canadian writer, illustrator, and animator Jon Klassen was very recently (just a few days ago!) appointed to the Order of Canada! Known and beloved for I Want My Hat Back, This Is Not My Hat, multiple collaborations with Mac Barnett (Square, Extra Yarn), in addition to numerous other acclaimed works and memorable illustrative contributions, Klassen has also been the recipient of the Caldecott Medal and the Kate Greenaway Medal. As a gentle tie-in to this Canada Day weekend and celebrating a Canadian artist, I wanted to present a collage of Klassen‘s fabulous works here (including all collaborations and titles Klassen provided cover art for). I am truly such an avid admirer of his work- writing and art- and my three year old is already quite in love with his work as well. Enjoy this feast for the eyes!

 

 

 

 

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Top Ten Tuesday: Unique Books I’ve Read…

Welcome to Top Ten Tuesday! Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish. I have not been doing a great job with keeping up and participating, but I have been inspired this week’s topic: the most unique books we’ve read!

With the caveat that I have probably/most likely missed a number of unique titles here, I’ve picked ten titles- mostly all children’s titles- that, to me, stand out. Are unusual. Out of the ordinary. Seriously unexpected and seriously unforgettable. Perhaps even peculiar. In no particular order, here are my picks:

 

 

Du Iz Tak? by Carson Ellis
A picture book written all in imagined bug language (yes, indeed!), with gorgeous artwork…

The Liszts by Kyo Maclear, illus. Júlia Sardà
Kyo Maclear is up there as one of my favourite wordsmiths/storytellers. The Liszts is a newer title: a story about a list-making family that is beyond one’s expectations and imaginings. Sardà’s illustrations are…extraordinary…

Lost & Found by Shaun Tan
I am rather obsessed with Tan’s work. This was one of my first introductions to his work, and I haven’t stopped reading and poring over his incredible work since…

Bera the One-Headed Troll by Eric Orchard
The combination of Orchard’s unusual and beautiful style of artwork with the darker fairy-tale feel- a stand-out graphic novel…

The Sleepwalkers by Viviane Schwarz
Ah, The Sleepwalkers! I read this graphic novel after falling in love with Schwarz’s picture books. A genuinely unusual, offbeat but lovely and hypnotic story about a team of heroes who rescue children from nightmares…

A Child of Books by Oliver Jeffers & Sam Winston
A feat in storytelling, visuals and typography, this picture books is also a love letter to the power of books and words…

Press Here by Hervé Tullet
One of the first interactive perfect-for-storytime picture books I remember reading and arguably still one of the best…I would argue this was a game-changer and paved the way for more delightful interactive picture books to follow…I can’t imagine storytime with interactive books…

Art & Max by David Wiesner
David Wiesner, as with many authors and artists on this list, is a favourite. While most anything and everything by Wiesner is breathtaking and innovative, I must confess to a particular soft spot for Art & Max: a picture book about art, art styles, and two friends who test and bend art between the pages of this book that cemented Wiesner’s place on my roster of favourites.

Shadow by Suzy Lee
One of the first wordless picture books where I had a serious ‘aha’ moment about the beauty and signficance of the genre…Also: why isn’t everyone just as bananas about her work as I am?!?

Milk Teeth by Julie Morstad
This is a small book/collection of Morstad’s artwork. Surreal, dreamy, so strange and so beautiful…As with Shaun Tan’s work, I could forever be breathing in Morstad’s exquisite work…

Bonus mentions:

Virginia Wolf by Kyo Maclear, illus. Isabelle Arsenault

They All Saw a Cat by Brendan Wenzel

What titles are on your top ten this week?

Best of 2016: Picture Books (Part 1)

The time has come, the Walrus said, to talk of…picture books!?!

Yes, picture books! This genre has been SO strong this year- whether the form of debuts, or published works from established authors and illustrators, I have been continuously surprised and delighted by my reading in this epic field. The titles on this list are ones that have either excelled as read alouds for my storytimes, ones that I have personally adored, or ones that I have feel have contributed something superb to the genre. Or perhaps all of the three factors combined!

In no particular order, here are my picks:

They All Saw a Cat by Brendan Wenzel
Du Iz Tak? by Carson Ellis
The Liszts by Kyo Maclear, illus. Júlia Sardà
A Child of Books by Oliver Jeffers & Sam Winston
Wolf Camp by Andrea Zuill

 

Ooko by Esme Shapiro
Grumpy Pants by Claire Messer
Tokyo Digs a Garden by Jon-Erik Lappano, illus. Kellen Hatanaka
Thunder Boy Jr. by Sherman Alexie, illus. Yuyi Morales
The Night Gardener by Terry Fan & Eric Fan

 

A Family Is A Family Is A Family by Sara O’Leary, illus. Qin Leng
Before Morning by Joyce Sidman, illus. Beth Krommes
Henry & Leo by Pamela Zagarenski
We Found a Hat by Jon Klassen
Jill & Dragon by Lesley Barnes

 

The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles by Michelle Cuevas, illus. Erin. E. Stead
Bring Me a Rock! by Daniel Miyares
Dragonfly Kites by Tomson Highway, illus. Julie Flett
Barnacle is Bored by Jonathan Fenske
Before I Leave by Jessixa Bagley

 

The Wish Tree by Kyo Maclear, illus. Chris Turnham
The Sound of Silence by Katrina Goldsaito, illus. Julia Kuo
Friend or Foe? by John Sobol, illus. Dasha Tolstikova
Nobody Likes a Goblin by Ben Hatke
The Storybook Knight by Helen Docherty, illus. Thomas Docherty

Note: Some titles appearing on this list may have been published in previous years; titles on this list are ones that I read in 2016. Some titles appearing on this list may also have been provided by publishers in exchange for honest reviews; this has no bearing on making this list. These are my personal selections.

Picture Books Make Perfect Presents…Titles from Carson Ellis, Jon Klassen & more!

Ahh, the world of picture books is a marvelous, incredible one. I have read over one hundred picture books this year- and counting- and it’s been another STELLAR year. Innovative, hysterical, meaningful, and all around excellent, picture books authors and illustrators continue to amaze.

As holiday season is almost upon us and many of us- myself included!- are in the midst of searching high and low for standout gifts and surprises, I wanted to feature the following three wonderful picture books as possible ideas for the book (or art!) lover- young or old- in your life.

 

duiztak28250952Du Iz Tak? by Carson Ellis
Publication: October 18, 201 by Candlewick Press
Book Description:

Du iz tak? What is that? As a tiny shoot unfurls, two damselflies peer at it in wonder. When the plant grows taller and sprouts leaves, some young beetles arrive to gander, and soon—with the help of a pill bug named Icky—they wrangle a ladder and build a tree fort. But this is the wild world, after all, and something horrible is waiting to swoop down—booby voobeck!—only to be carried off in turn. Su! With exquisitely detailed illustrations and tragicomic flair, Carson Ellis invites readers to imagine the dramatic possibilities to be found in even the humblest backyard. Su!

THIS BOOK. Du Iz Tak? is up there as one of my surprise favourites of the year. I became familiar with Carson Ellis’ gorgeous illustrative work after reading her picture book Home, and poring over her illustrations for The Mysterious Benedict Society and The Wildwood Chronicles. Du Iz Tak? is an entire world- and another level- of wow. Written entirely in imagined insect-speak- beginning with the seemingly innocuous ‘Du iz tak?’, readers are taken on a fantastical, thrilling and wondrous journey with beautiful, elegant insects. From their discovery of a tiny shoot which then grows and grows through the seasons, the insects adapt and impress with every change- or danger- thrust upon them. With Ellis’ stunning illustrations as the readers’ guide, much of the delight of Du Iz Tak? resides with deciphering the language of the insects…and even more delight rests in coming to some revelations about their language!

There are so many ways that this book can be enjoyed and shared- and it really is one of those picture books that has something for all ages. Whether cherished as a work of illustrative excellence, kept as a coffee table book, as a child’s foray into insects, or even used as an unexpected read aloud, Du Iz Tak? is phenomenal. You can take a look here to peak inside the book a bit more!

 

wefoundahat28473874We Found a Hat by Jon Klassen
Publication: October 11, 2016 by Candlewick Press
Book Description:

Hold on to your hats for the conclusion of the celebrated hat trilogy by Caldecott Medalist Jon Klassen, who gives his deadpan finale a surprising new twist.

Two turtles have found a hat. The hat looks good on both of them. But there are two turtles. And there is only one hat. . . . Evoking hilarity and sympathy, the shifting eyes tell the tale in this brilliantly paced story in three parts, highlighting Jon Klassen’s visual comedy and deceptive simplicity. The delicious buildup takes an unexpected turn that is sure to please loyal fans and newcomers alike.

The Hat trilogy has come to an end! Beginning with the acclaimed I Want My Hat Back, and on to the also much-acclaimed This Is Not My Hat, Klassen’s series revolving around some not-so-innocent animals has been massively popular. In his wonderfully distinctive, roguish approach in text and artwork, the Hat trilogy comes to an unforeseen conclusion in We Found a Hat. With two wide-eyed (and perhaps shifty-eyed…) and intriguing turtles as our protagonists, readers are in for more delights.

Confession time: I must admit here that it took me a second read to click into the first book of the series, I Want My Hat Back. It is deceptively simple and I think that threw me off at first read! I was smitten with Klassen’s artwork pretty much from the first time I saw his illustrations, but it took a second look for me to fall in major book love with I Want My Hat Back. Now though, I cannot even imagine the picture book world- or storytime- without his wry, quietly subversive, brilliantly comical series. We Found a Hat is indeed a worthy, wonderfully bold and funny conclusion to the series. And while I cannot give away the ending here or spoil what befalls our two turtles in the challenge over one hat, I will say that Klassen surprises yet again!

Any readers who have adored the previous Hat titles, or who have loved any of Klassen’s picture books will undoubtedly appreciate We Found a Hat. Jon Klassen’s artwork is truly marvelous and as with Carson Ellis’ Du Iz Tak?, We Found a Hat is a picture book which is a joy to have not only as a great piece of children’s lit, but also because it is so beautiful.

 

ACHILDOFBOOKS28686931A Child of Books by Oliver Jeffers and Sam Winston
Publication: September 6, 2016 by Candlewick Press
Book Description:

A little girl sails her raft across a sea of words, arriving at the house of a small boy and calling him away on an adventure. Through forests of fairy tales and across mountains of make-believe, the two travel together on a fantastical journey that unlocks the boy’s imagination. Now a lifetime of magic and adventure lies ahead of him . . . but who will be next? Combining elegant images by Oliver Jeffers and Sam Winston’s typographical landscapes shaped from excerpts of children’s classics and lullabies, A Child of Books is a stunning prose poem on the rewards of reading and sharing stories—an immersive and unforgettable reading experience that readers will want to pass on to others.

I have talked about the incredible A Child of Books in a previous review post, so I don’t wish to repeat myself too much here! Since my first reading of it a few months back, it has remained another standout- a favourite of my reading year. As with the Carson Ellis and Jon Klassen titles mentioned above, A Child of Books is art, exemplary children’s lit, and a treat for book lovers all at once. I thought it might be fun to share the trailer for A Child of Books so you can take an even better look at the book- from the creators themselves!

I received copies of We Found a Hat and A Child of Books courtesy of Penguin Random House Canada/Candlewick Press in exchange for honest reviews and for the purposes of this blog post. All opinions and comments are my own.

Spotlight: Interview with Illustrator and Cartoonist Eric Orchard!

eric-orchard-1Welcome to a very special spotlight post! I am absolutely delighted and honoured to have Canadian cartoonist and illustrator Eric Orchard here for an interview, organized by the lovely folks at Raincoast Books.

Eric is an award-winning cartoonist and illustrator who has published such works as the graphic novel Maddy Kettle: The Adventures of the Thimblewitch. Most recently, he published the unforgettable, unique and incredibly illustrated graphic novel Bera the One-Headed Troll. Read on for my interview with Eric where we talk in much more detail about Bera, fairytales, favourite artists and future work…

 

Did you always plan to write a graphic novel based upon your mother’s mental illness and raising children on her own, or did the idea of Bera the One-Headed Troll morph into a story about your mother?
I definitely noticed as the story unfolded that Bera was a lot like my mother. I never intended to her to be like my mother but it just happened that way. I started to see similarities in how Bera confronted her fear and feelings of inadequacy and how she kept going and tried to make the best decisions. I had drawn Bera years ago, a long time before I made the comic and I didn’t even notice she looks like my mother until I started drawing it. 



From your initial idea and conception of Bera the One-Headed Troll, how much changed? Were there any major or surprising characters or plot points there in the beginning that changed or were dropped?
 

Well, there was always an owl involved! There are three versions of Bera I went through. Initially Bera was much darker. I think my work has just lightened in recent years and that’s reflected in the book. In the early version there were lots of ghosts and an even creepier mood. Later I wrote Bera more like a simple fairy tale. This version was lighter than the final version. And the baby was stolen by a dragon. It was in the second version I decided Bera has three basic trials to overcome. And finally I wrote the final version which more or less combines elements from the first two versions. 



Readers’ perceptions of Bera the One-Headed Troll, or their overall experience with Bera, may change upon reading your background and history with mental illness. Is this something that ever gave you cause for concern- I.e. that readers might be missing a key component to Bera’s story?


Not really. I really want the book to be able to stand on [its] own. I want people to be able to take what they want from Bera. I wanted to talk about mental illness because I wanted to do my part to destigmatize it but not as a frame work to understand the story. 
 
Bera is, arguably, a darker tale- in both colour palette and of course in subject matter.

bera25663501

Did you always plan for the story to be written and published (and marketed) for a younger/youth audience?
I did yes. I hope anyone can enjoy my books but I think of myself as working very much in the tradition of books for young readers. To me it’s the most exciting audience and the most exciting aspect of publishing. My favourite children’s book artists are Arthur Rackham and Maurice Sendak both of whom happily acknowledge both the joy and darkness of childhood. I like to think Bera is emotionally honest in that regard. It’s silly and strange and dark and joyful, all things that are an integral part of childhood. 



To what extent has your work, and Bera in particular, been impacted, if at all, by your own experience reading fairy tales?
I’m always really pleased when people mention this because this is really at the heart of the book. I very much wanted to honour the wonderful, strange world of fairy tales. I can’t imagine I’ll ever grow tired of fairy tales. I still read them every day. And I find they are both a wonderful escape and an amazing way in to the world. I read fairytales from every corner of the world and am constantly bowled over by the sense of wonder they give me. 

 

 

Which artists, illustrators and/or writers have been some of your biggest influences or inspirations in your approach to artwork and narrative? 
This is such a hard question! It’s a massive list and I’m always forgetting some of the most important names.  Maurice Sendak and Arthur Rackham for sure. I have a real love for fairytale artists. Lizbeth Zwerger is a big influence as is Tony Diterlizzi and Brian Froud. And there are so many cartoonists too. George Herriman, Walt Kelly, Jeff Smith and Charles Vess are big influences. I’m sure I’m leaving out a bunch of very important names!

What kinds of books or genres were you most interested in while you were growing up? Did you always have a big interest in graphic novels or comics?
I’ve always loved comics and have collected them as long as I can remember. I’ve always read a lot of genre fiction, fantasy and science fiction. The sci fi fantasy section in bookstores was always a favourite. The first story I remember writing myself was a ghost story.

Do you think you might ever branch to a different genre- e.g. move into picture books or mixed-media children’s novels?
I’m pretty happy doing comic books but they are an incredible amount of work. I keep thinking I should do an illustrated novel but I’ve been doing comic books so long I always go to them first as a way to tell stories. Illustration [is] something I love very much and would love to do more of. The problem is that comics take up all my time.

What have been some of the highlights of your 2016 reading year?
Another tough one! I read a lot and it’s hard to narrow it down to a few books.  I really loved Oyster War by Ben Towle, and anything Raina [Telgemeier] does. Astronaut Academy by Dave Roman, Battling Boy by Paul Pope, Margo Maloo by Drew Weing, anything by Ben Hatke, Korgi book 4 by Christian Slade, Monster on the Hill by Rob Harrell, anything by Emily Carroll, Eth’s Skin by Sfé, The Dreamwalkers by Viviane Schwarz.

maddy-kettle-100dpi_lg

If you are able to, I would love to hear about any upcoming projects you are working on! And do you ever think we might have a revisit with Bera and baby?
I’m always thinking ahead! There are three books I’m currently working on. The first is the second Maddy Kettle book, a sequel to Maddy Kettle and the Adventure of the Thimblewitch. I’m well into working on that book.  And I’ve been working on a fairytale comic about a fire breathing duck who comes home to the farm he grew up on.  And finally a story using the folklore and history of my home province Nova Scotia. A little place jutting out into the Atlantic Ocean just brimming with strange tales.  I would love to do another Bera book! I’m just waiting for the perfect story to come along.

Thank you so much for your time! 
Thank you so much! It’s been a pleasure.

 

Picture Book Review: A Child of Books by Oliver Jeffers & Sam Winston

achildofbooks28686931Review: A Child of Books by Oliver Jeffers & Sam Winston
Source: Hardcopy courtesy of Penguin Random House Canada/Candlewick Press. Thank you!
Publication: September 6, 2016 by Candlewick Press
Verdict: Excellent
Book Description:

New York Times best-selling author-illustrator Oliver Jeffers and fine artist Sam Winston deliver a lyrical picture book inspiring readers of all ages to create, to question, to explore, and to imagine.

A little girl sails her raft across a sea of words, arriving at the house of a small boy and calling him away on an adventure. Through forests of fairy tales and across mountains of make-believe, the two travel together on a fantastical journey that unlocks the boy’s imagination. Now a lifetime of magic and adventure lies ahead of him . . . but who will be next?

Combining elegant images by Oliver Jeffers and Sam Winston’s typographical landscapes shaped from excerpts of children’s classics and lullabies, A Child of Books is a stunning prose poem on the rewards of reading and sharing stories—an immersive and unforgettable reading experience that readers will want to pass on to others.

“I am a child of books. I come from a world of stories and upon my imagination I float.”

Oliver Jeffers is, arguably, a very well known and respected force in the world of children’s literature (and beyond). His work appeals to both children and adults- from the very young just discovering board books to grown ups who are lovers of words and art. From Lost and Found to The Incredible Book Eating Boy to his illustrative work in Drew Daywalt’s The Day the Crayons Came Home books, Jeffers has consistently created and produced innovative and beautiful work. In A Child of Books, Jeffers teems up for the first time with fine artist Sam Winston, and their collaborative efforts here have created something of excellence.

Through the relatively simple narrative of a young girl- describing herself as a child of books- readers are taken on an ingenious ride between stories and worlds of words. Artist Sam Winston created the typographical landscapes that are the backdrops throughout the story and they are magnificent. A few examples: as the young girl rescues a lost young boy into her world of books, they climb mountains made up of sentences in various angles and varied lengths; they escape a monster who is entirely made up of sentences and words from Frankenstein and other dark tales; and the two children rest and sleep on clouds shaped and curved by lyrics of songs and lullabies. The combination of Winston’s typography and art with Jeffers’ story and art is quite something to behold- it’s a mixture of styles and approaches that fuse to bring about new beauty. Even while exploring some big themes we’ve seen before in picture books- such as the immeasurable power of stories and words for all children – Winston and Jeffers have made it utterly fantastical and fresh.

Overall, A Child of Books is gorgeous, a superb example of visual engineering and inventive storytelling in picture books. A festival for the eyes (this book must be explored in person!), a love letter to the magic and unending importance of books, this picture book is one I highly recommend for everyone.

I received a copy of this title courtesy of Penguin Random House Canada/Candlewick Press in exchange for an honest review. All opinions and comments are my own.

From Cover to Covet (2): Let’s look at picture books and expressions

Welcome to the second ‘From Cover to Covet’! I had so much fun with the first one, I wanted to do a second one right away!

There are so many gloriously designed, stunning, moving, unique, eye-catching covers I see in my library work and in my personal reading, and I want to give them (and their creators!) a little bookish love here.

These posts will show a mixture of newer and older titles, titles I’ve read, titles I haven’t, and everything from picture books to young adult lit, adult fiction to comics.

Let’s take a look at some utterly perfect, (facially) expressive covers:
 


 

Mr. Pusskins: A Love Story by Sam Lloyd
Wild by Emily Hughes
Tad and Dad by David Ezra Stein
Hoot Owl, Master of Disguise by Sean Taylor, illustrated by Jean Jullien
Goodnight Already! by Jory John, illustrated by Benji Davies
Mother Bruce by Ryan T. Higgins
Night Animals by Gianna Marino
Bernice Gets Carried Away by Hannah E. Harrison

From Cover to Covet (1): Shadow, The Dark, The Insomniacs, Josephine & Ten Birds Meet a Monster

New feature time! I will be trying out a new series called ‘From Cover to Covet’, featuring…covers! There are so many gloriously designed, stunning, moving, unique, eye-catching covers I see in my library work and in my personal reading, and I want to give them (and their creators!) a little bookish love here.

These posts will show a mixture of newer and older titles, titles I’ve read, titles I haven’t, and everything from picture books to young adult lit, adult fiction to comics.

Here we go…