Tag: Authors

How This Book Was Made by Mac Barnett


How This Book Was Made by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Adam Rex (InfoSoup)

How is a book made? Well this book was made in the regular way with an author making many drafts, and editor offering firm advice, an illustrator taking a long time to create the art, and it being printed halfway around the world. But it is also an amazing story and one that will surprise when the tiger keeps reappearing, the pirates raid the slow boat full of books, and the news that there is one last important piece to the book really being A BOOK. You will just have to read this book to see what that is.

Any book by Barnett and Rex is going to be wonderfully surprising and funny. This book is no exception. Barnett immediately makes sure that this book is not taken too seriously by starting it with him arm wrestling a tiger. The tiger then returns at important moments in the book, sometimes to be scared off and other times with a posse. The editor’s role is also depicted in the book with a lot of tongue-in-cheek but also honesty too. Throughout there is real information on how books get made with plenty of imagination added as well. Just like any book.

Rex’s illustrations are done with pencil on paper combined with photography. Some of the illustrations have cotton clouds and others are 3-d objects or 2-d objects photographed. This gives a great sense of space and distance, shadows lengthening across the page. Throughout the art is as clever as the words, which is a compliment to both.

A funny and imaginative look at the making of this book, both unique to this book and universal to the process. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from library copy.

Sweaterweather by Sara Varon

Sweaterweather by Sara Varon

Sweaterweather & Other Short Stories by Sara Varon (InfoSoup)

Enter the artistic process of graphic-novel author Sara Varon. Here you will see short comic stories, some done as exercises, essays and journal entries. Varon introduces each piece, sharing that she is always at least one of the characters in each of her stories. Each story has the charm and wit that one expects from a book by Varon, here is bite-sized pieces that allow readers to meet even more adorable animal characters. There are cats who long to fly, stories based on alphabet exercises, bee keeping information, swimming pools, and much much more. This is a world worth visiting multiple times!

Varon’s art is almost wordless, the characters showing much  more than telling all that they do. Varon plays with the cells of the graphic novel, breaking the walls between them by handing cups across the lines in one story and in another showing both above and below the water at the same time. She is consistently gently funny and smart in all of these stories. There is a beautiful familiarity to her work, it is at once quirky and cozy and creates worlds where one wants to exist.

Readers will find a lot to love here, whether they are reading it as future artists and authors themselves or because they love Varon’s work. Varon shows the growth of her own work as the book progresses, and also shows how from the very start she was true to her own style and vision. The collection is empowering and fresh.

The author of Robot Dreams and Odd Duck shows a back-stage view of her work, inviting young readers into her creative process. Appropriate for ages 9-12.

Reviewed from copy received from First Second.

Review: Billy’s Booger by William Joyce

Billys Booger by William Joyce

Billy’s Booger by William Joyce (InfoSoup)

This memoir in picture book format celebrates the creativity of a child destined to become an author. William has trouble at school. He wishes math were as much fun as the comics in the newspaper. He wants to play invented sports in gym instead of the normal ones. Notes are sent home from school. Then along comes a creative writing contest and William is very excited. He works and works on his entry. It’s title is Billy’s Booger and it’s all about a booger in his nose that gets super powers. But when the prizes are given out, Billy doesn’t win any of them, not even honorable mention. He is devastated and starts to act like everyone else. When he’s returning all of the book he used for research for his own book, he hears laughter in the library and heads over to investigate. A group of kids is reading his book and the librarian tells him that out of all of the entries in the contest, his is the most popular! He may not have won the actual prizes, but got something even better.

Joyce tells the story with a wonderful tone. He explains the earlier time when he grew up and children played outside rather than at playdates, when there were only three channels on the TV, and when funnies in the paper were a huge part of your day. It is a memoir about a kid who doesn’t quite fit into the school mold. It’s less about the grownups and how they dealt with him, though that is there in the background and more about him as a child and what he loved to do even then. It’s a testament to following your dream, to doing what you love and what you have always loved.

The illustrations are done in Joyce’s signature style, one that embraces vintage elements but also shines with a modern feel too. My favorite part of the book was the insert with William’s book in it. Happily, the pages are made from construction paper that feels so different in your hand. When I turned the page and saw it I cheered aloud. It is such a change from the finished and lovely illustrations in the rest of the book to move to these rougher drawings and paper. What an important element to embrace.

Fans of Joyce will love this glimpse of him as a child and it may inspire children to try their own hands at writing. Get this funny book out when creative writing projects are coming to help inspire really creative responses. Appropriate for ages 7-9.

Reviewed from copy received from Atheneum Books for Young Readers.

Review: The Pilot and the Little Prince by Peter Sis

pilot and the little prince 

The Pilot and the Little Prince: The Life of Antoine de Saint-Exupery by Peter Sis

Born in a time when airplanes were just arriving in the skies, French author Antoine de Saint-Exupery had dreams of flying himself.  At age 12, Antoine made his own flying machine that didn’t work.  He spent his days at the nearby airfield watching the pilots fly.  He even convinced one of them to take him up with him.  After serving in the military, Antoine took a job delivering the mail by plane.  Antoine was put in charge of an isolated airfield himself.  It was there that he started to write, but he also kept on flying, helping create new air routes in South America.  He returned to France eventually and got married.  He continued to both write and fly even after moving to New York, having famous adventures and also creating his beloved Little Prince.

Sis beautifully shows the life of a man with two strong passions: writing and aviation.  He very effectively ties the two together, showing how they support one another though they may seem so separate and apart.  This is a book less about the creative process of an artist and more about the adventures that he had that inspired his writing and the eventual creation of a character who is beloved around the world. 

As always, Sis’ illustrations are dazzling in their minute details.  He playfully puts faces on mountains that form the landscape below the plane.  He creates the Manhattan skyline in fine lines with the red of the sun peeking over the horizon.  And then there are the smaller touches on the page that one lingers over and that add further information as well.

A dynamic picture book biography of an unusual author, this book demonstrates that there are many paths to becoming a writer and that the best path is your very own.  Appropriate for ages 6-9.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: The Scraps Book by Lois Ehlert


The Scraps Book: Notes from a Colorful Life by Lois Ehlert

This nonfiction picture book allows readers a glimpse into Ehlert’s creative process as well as her personal history.  The book begins with a very young Ehlert and how she was raised by parents who enjoyed making things with their hands.  She even had her own art space in the house.  After art school, she worked on her own art in the evenings and in an art studio by day.  She wasn’t creating books right away, but when she started she found inspiration right in her own life.  At this point, the book focuses on Ehlert’s previous work and the process she uses to create her beloved books.  This is a colorful and delightful visit to an artist’s studio.

Ehlert approaches this biographical book just as she does her fictional picture books.  The pages are scattered with scraps, cut out objects, designs from her previous work, and photographs from her past.  The result is a book that shines with her own personal style and energy.  This could be no one else’s studio and no one else’s art.  Ehlert invites young readers not only to explore her own history and approach to art, but also to seek out their own and create things themselves. 

Bright, beautifully messy, and wonderfully creative, this book will be inspiring to young artists and authors.  Appropriate for ages 6-8.

Reviewed from copy received from Beach Lane.

Review: A Home for Mr. Emerson by Barbara Kerley

home for mr emerson

A Home for Mr. Emerson by Barbara Kerley, illustrated by Edwin Fotheringham

Ralph Waldo Emerson grew up in Boston where he moved often with his family.  He dreamed of living out in the country near fields and woods.  After college Emerson moved to the small town of Concord, Massachusetts where he bought a farmhouse.  He brought along a bride and an extensive personal library.  He quickly found that he wanted friends to fill up his house and set off throughout Concord to meet his neighbors.  Emerson now had all that he wanted, a family, woods, fields, an orchard and many books and friends.  He began to travel extensively and lecture which brought even more people to his home, people from around the world.  Then one day, Emerson’s beloved home caught on fire and it was his way of life that saves him in the end.

The creative team that did The Extraordinary Mark Twain and What to Do about Alice? return with another dynamic picture book biography.  Kerley manages to both introduce Emerson to elementary-aged children and also to delve deeply into his personal life and the way that his writings reflected that lifestyle as well.  More details about Emerson and his life are available at the end of the book along with inspiration for young people to build their own worlds around what they love. 

Fotheringham’s illustrations are fresh and whimsical.  He has created a world of vivid colors against which the black and white figure of Emerson pops out.  Nature is celebrated in the images, reflecting Emerson’s connection to it and the Concord community spirit is shown as well.

Another exceptional picture book biography from an amazing team, this is a great pick for young readers who don’t know Emerson but will appreciate his sentiments.   Appropriate for ages 6-9.

Reviewed from copy received from Scholastic.

Review: Chloe and the Lion by Mac Barnett

chloe and the lion

Chloe and the Lion by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Adam Rex

You know this book is going to be unique when you get introduced to the author and illustrator before the book begins.  Then you meet Chloe, a little girl, who is the main character in the book.  The story begins and Chloe is collecting loose change that she would use to ride the merry-go-round in the park as many times as she could.  When she headed home, dizzy from the ride, she got lost in the forest.  Then a huge lion jumped out at her!  Except Adam Rex, the illustrator, did not draw a lion.  He thought a dragon would be a much better choice.  Mac Barnett, the author, doesn’t like that idea at all and insists that this is HIS book because he is the author.  The fight goes on from there, until Mac feeds Adam to the lion that a new stand-in illustrator drew for him.  Unfortunately, he doesn’t really like the art of the new illustrator and also finds that he can’t draw well enough himself to fill in for Adam.  What is an author to do?!

I love books that break that fourth wall and take a look at the inner workings of the author/illustrator or involve the audience in an interesting way.  The book’s art and writing are so closely integrated together that it is almost impossible to review them separately.  The tone here is clean and clear until the fight scene where it becomes comically fraught with emotion.  There are running gags, funny comments and lots of humor throughout the story that make it all the more fun to read.

The illustrations are inventive and add real dimension to the book.  There are several elements at play.  There are the figures done in clay that represent the author and illustrator.  There are the flat drawings of Chloe and the lion.  Then there is a stage where the book story takes place.  It’s a wonderful mix of theater, reading, and art.

The silliness doesn’t stop at the end of the book, make sure to check out the author blurb at the back, along with the very short illustrator blurb.  This book will thrill children with its silliness, dynamic illustrations, and its clever look behind the curtain of making a picture book.  Appropriate for ages 5-7.

Reviewed from library copy.