Lines: So Much More Than a Dash

We’re celebrating the launch of Sarvinder Naberhaus’s LINES! In this beautiful board book, Sarvinder shows us that lines are so much more than just a dash on a page. Lines create the whole world we live in! To bask in the beauty of Sarvinder’s LINES, us Emus are talking about our favorite lines on the planet!

Debbi Michiko Florence: My favorite “lines” make up the outline of my favorite bridge in the city of my birth – the Golden Gate Bridge.

Terry Pierce: My favorite “line” is the one that forms where land ends and water begins. Like this…

Janet Fox: The laugh lines at the corners of my eyes.

Christina Uss: I love lines on a map – the more squiggly and roundabout they are, the better they are for bike riding, since they’re usually not the most direct way to anywhere!

Hayley Barrett: Sometimes we’re online. Sometimes we’re offline. Both states of being have their charms and challenges. When we’re online, we possess an incredible, nearly limitless ability to form connections with others. We learn and grow, are comforted and discomfited in turn as our already small world contracts. When we’re offline, we come back to our earliest sense of self. We are free to daydream, to dig deep, to explore our minds and hearts. I benefit from time spent in each of these lines.

Jason Gallaher: Still, by far, my favorite lines of all time have been the lines outside bookstores waiting for the Midnight Release Parties of the Harry Potter books. People dressed in costume, carrying wands, gabbing about what Hogwarts House they are in…sigh. These were such great times when strangers could come together and make friends through their shared love of Rowling’s magic.

Elizabeth Acevedo: I love the lines of a poem!

Sarvinder Naberhaus: I love the line between night and day. The horizon at dusk.

You can get your own copy of Sarvinder Naberhaus’s LINES next week! Find it at IndieBound, Barnes & Noble, Amazon or your favorite bookseller!

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Golden Gate Bridge image from www.history.com

Bike map image from Portland Bureau of Transportation

Harry Potter Midnight Release image from BreakingNews.ie

Dusk image from 6iee.com

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IS A CIRCLE A LINE?

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I had just come off of an SCBWI conference, and I was inspired!  I decided that I wasn’t going to go to sleep until I got an idea. I just wanted to have a revelation. I kept thinking, brainstorming, trying to think of possible picture book ideas. I just wasn’t going to go to bed without one. And late that night (early in the morning) I caught the edge of my bookshelf with the corner of my eye, and the edge formed a LINE. And that’s when I thought, that’s it. Lines.
From there, I sat down quickly and started typing out LINES. For me, this is absolutely the best thing I’ve ever written.

I spent the next day making illustrations to go with it. LINES ALL AROUNDYou can’t really understand it with just the words which seems to be typical of my books (it was subbed with my dummy book art). Whenever I shared LINES at conferences, it seemed to make an impact on people, so I hope people enjoy it.

I love the fact that a true line, according to the dictionary, goes on forever in both directions. Isn’t that cool?  Forever east and forever west. It occurred to me that a circle is a line, because it also goes on forever and ever. And it is!  A circle IS a line!  It’s just a bent line. Or is a line an unbent circle?  What came first, the chicken or the egg? In this case, I believe it is the chicken & circle, since almost all math is built upon the principles and equations relative to it (the circle, not the chicken). So I believe the circle came first. LINES GO UP
If you take a straight line (180 degrees) and divide it into 360 segments, and bend each segment 1 degree, you will have a circle. So a circle is a line. Or a line is a circle. This is just a small taste of what makes this a STEM book. One may argue that LINES is for the very young, and very simple, but I absolutely disagree! I use LINES in the presentation I give to college students. We go from a line segment to Einstein’s theory of relativity. A line is a profound phenomenon. Things can be simple AND profound at the same time. Simple can be profound.

burgandy starI really wanted LINES to be a picture book because board books don’t necessarily get the recognition they deserve, and rarely get reviewed. You can imagine how excited I was when LINES got a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly. I’m so excited to see LINEs go out into the world and hopefully make a profound impact on people’s hearts and minds. I feel so privileged to be the messenger that brings concepts such as LINES into the world.

LINES SOLAR Picture1




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Sarvinder Naberhaus is a the author of Boom Boom, a picture book about the seasons, illustrated by Caldecott Honor recipient Margaret Chodos-Irvine. Her most recent book, Blue Sky White Stars received 4 starred reviews and is a patriotic salute to the flag, paralleling the forces that forged this great nation, illustrated by Caldecott Honor artist Kadir Nelson. Look for her upcoming STEM book, Lines (book launch August 26, 10:30 at the Ames Library) and visit her website www.sarvinder.com.

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A Proclamation

Normally when I sit down to write a post for Emu’s Debuts, I come in with a plan, feeling assured and confident the post will be done in roughly an hour, I’ll add a few gifs, and voila! The post will be complete. But trying to write this post feels…strange. It’s my Farewell Post, that Emu’s Debuts tradition of thanking the Emus for supporting them on the journey toward their debut publication, and then they flap their Emu wings and fly from the nest. The equation of how this post works has already been given to me, I’ve seen it done a dozen times, but now I’m not exactly sure what to write. What should be the easiest post yet is not the hardest, but the weirdest.

I think this disconnect between my knowing what I’m supposed to post and me actually writing said post comes from my inner Emu soul knowing that the traditional purpose of this post, saying goodbye, doesn’t fit with how reality feels. It doesn’t feel like a goodbye. Goodbyes indicate endings or completion of something, but what I’m feeling right now is really a beginning and that the journey of fledgling little WHOBERT WHOVER, OWL DETECTIVE, my debut picture book, is nowhere near complete. I’m really just at the starting line.

My mind is focusing on marketing, on spreading the word, on readings and signings and school visits. I know that as Whobert’s path in the world continues, my fellow Emus are going to keep supporting me, keep helping me spread the word, and I’ll do the same for them. So it feels less like I’m leaving the nest for good, and more like I’m able to fly from it from time to time, but always return home. I’ll report back what I’ve seen in the world at large to help those who are still waiting for their debut to hatch, but still receive so much love and support from them when what I see is distressing or concerning and need someone to lean on.

So this isn’t really goodbye, but rather a declaration of how much I’ve come to rely on my fellow Emus as a writer. While my time posting on this blog may be complete, my time celebrating and commiserating and experiencing with Emus is still going strong. No, this is not a goodbye post. It is a proclamation of my identity as an Emu. Thank you for everything these past two years, Emu friends. Here’s to cozying up in the nest for years to come.

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Jason Gallaher is a picture book and middle grade writer who loves to create stories that mix the flamboyantly whacky with the slightly dark. His debut picture book, WHOBERT WHOVER, OWL DETECTIVE, is out now from Margaret K. McElderry Books/Simon & Schuster. When not writing, Jason zips about Austin, Texas. He loves dinosaurs, unicorns, Anjelica Huston, and Emus who have been with him for every step of the journey. Jason is a tried and true Hufflepuff, and he is actively looking for an Andalite friend. (Photo Cred: David-Gabe Photography)

 

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After…

As someone who has moved 8 times in 16 years as an adult, I detest good-byes to the point where I refuse to make a big deal of them. I like to believe that by not saying good-bye it means I will circle back to friends and family during visits, at least. And so this is not good-bye, though I am fledging the Emu’s nest. I will circle in the sky, keeping an eye on the rest of the up-and-coming debuting authors here, cheering them on as they, too, spread their wings and fledge this nest.

Jasmine Toguchi, Mochi Queen and Jasmine Toguchi, Super Sleuth are now out in the wild, hoping to be found (and loved) by readers. Launch week was amazing, and the launch party hosted by my local indie Bank Square Books was fabulous. I was touched to see so many familiar faces in the audience, long-time friends, neighbors, and agency-mates. I especially loved having my husband, Bob, and daughter, Caitlin, there – they have been along for the entire ride and have always believed in me. As I read from the first chapter of Mochi Queen (and the audience laughed in the right places), as I shared the story of my journey, and as I signed books, I was filled with wonder and joy. I will cherish the memory of that day forever.

But nothing, and I mean nothing, compares to after. I had been mentally and emotionally preparing for launch for a long time, but I hadn’t thought much about After. After meant hearing about people buying and reading my books. It meant seeing photos of kids reading Jasmine Toguchi. The first time someone shared a pic of a little girl reading Mochi Queen, I cried. Every time someone shares a picture of a child reading my books, I get teary. Actual kids are reading Jasmine Toguchi! One parent told me that her daughter read Mochi Queen three times in a row. Seeing the books “in the wild” is also a heady feeling. My books. In bookstores! And in libraries!

Books of Wonder, NYC

So while launch and all the excitement of planning and celebrating are now in the past, the real joy continues as readers discover Mochi Queen and Super Sleuth and hopefully find a friend in Jasmine Toguchi. I am extremely grateful for the privilege of being a part of readers’ lives through my books. And there are two more Jasmine Toguchi books in the series that will release next year – Jasmine Toguchi, Drummer Girl (April 3, 2018) and Jasmine Toguchi, Flamingo Keeper (July 3, 2018).

Before I fly the coop, I do want to thank my nest-mates for all their support before, during, and after launch. There is nothing like having friends who are there for you every step of the way. Thanks also to my fabulous agent Tricia Lawrence and my EMLA family, to my wonderful editor Grace Kendall and the amazing team at FSG, to talented illustrator Elizabet Vukovic, and to my family and friends.

*sniff*

Now I’m getting choked up so I’ll end here with a smile, a wave, and a see you soon! xoxo


Debbi Michiko Florence writes full time in her cozy studio, The Word Nest. Her favorite writing companions are her puppy, Kiku; rabbit, Aki; and her two ducks, Darcy and Lizzy.

Jasmine Toguchi, Mochi Queen and Jasmine Toguchi, Super Sleuth, the first two books of her debut chapter book series are now available from Farrar Straus Giroux. Two more books will follow next year: Jasmine Toguchi, Drummer Girl(4/3/18) and Jasmine Toguchi, Flamingo Keeper (7/3/18).

You can visit her online on her web site and her reading blog. She’s also on Twitter.

 

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Final Countdown – an Interview with Agent Ammi-Joan Paquette.

The Countdown Conspiracy 3What a fabulous week it has been celebrating the rockety roboty launch of Kate Silvensky’s fabulous debut THE COUNTDOWN CONSPIRACY. I got to interview Kate’s brilliant agent Ammi-Joan Paquette about the journey of bringing this great book to the world.

Q: What was it that first attracted you to THE COUNTDOWN CONSPIRACY?

A: This was one of those manuscripts that hooked me in right from the first page – talk about a heart-pounding opening! As I kept reading and flipping those pages, I stayed just as engrossed, and the premise felt so fresh and exciting. Basically this manuscript was your all-around winner. How could I possibly resist?  ☺

Q: Can you tell us anything about the process of working with Katie before it went out to sub? What did you and Kate have to do to get to a version that could go out to submission?

A: We didn’t really do much in the way of revisions – the story was terrifically strong, and any changes were just to streamline some plot and logic questions, and make sure all the character threads lined up in the strongest possible way. Katie is a terrific writer and reviser, so the process was as seamless as could be!

Q: Was there anything specific about the story that made you think it would be a good fit for Harper Collins?

A: I knew that Erica Sussman was a fan of high-concept, action-packed stories, so I hoped this terrific book would be right up her alley. I was never more thrilled than to hear that she was!!

Q: Is there a certain reader you envision for this book and or a niche you are hoping it will fill?

A: Oh my gosh, this is a book that will appeal to just about every reader! It’s ideal for girl and boy readers, those who love smart and strong characters as well as those who love complex plots and heart-pounding action. Best of all, Katie is a legitimate scientist, so every bit of the scientific backdrop is 100% sound and centered on the most up-to-date research. It’s an amazing way to show kids the thrilling side of science, and keep that STEM energy flowing – in the best way possible.

There you have it – if you don’t already have a copy of this book in your hands don’t waste another minute. Thank you to both Ammi-Joan and Kate for launching this fantastic read.

FullSizeRenderDarcey Rosenblatt’s debut novel will be published by Henry Holt/MacMillan in August 2017. LOST BOYS, an historic fiction, tells the story of a 12-year old Iranian boy sent to fight in the Iran Iraq war in 1982. With her critique group she runs the Better Books Workshop – an annual small deep craft conference held in Northern California.

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Robots on Parade!

THE COUNTDOWN CONSPIRACY is an action-packed sci-fi adventure that will keep middle-graders turning the pages to follow every nail-biting twist and turn of this thrilling tale. Kids will also be won over by protagonist Miranda’s unforgettable robot, Ruby. I certainly was! In fact, Amazon listed THE COUNTDOWN CONSPIRACY as its Number One New Release in Children’s Robot Fiction Books, so to celebrate I thought I’d ask other EMLA debut authors about their favorite robots.

Hayley Barrett says:

I’ll take the Jetson’s wise-cracking, big-hearted, all-capable Rosey. She’d roll in on her one leg, red eyes blinking and antennae bing-bing-binging, taking care of household business and not hesitating give rude Mr. Spacely his pineapple-upside-down comeuppance. “The opinions expressed are my own and do not necessarily reflect those of my employers.” Gotta love Rosey’s gumption!

Darcy Rosenblatt says:

I loved Lost in Space but I also love and fear the Cylons from The remake of Battlestar Galactica. As a writer they are such deep and interesting characters. Frightening because they are part of a history that could happen.

 

Jason Gallaher says:

I mean, I have to go with WALL-E! A robot who is also a hopeless romantic and just wants to find true love? Yes, please! Also who’s environmentally friendly? WALL-E, me and FernGully sounds like a recipe for a perfect vacation!

Christina Uss says:

I feel like L. Frank Baum’s Tin Man was the first robot-ish character with whom I really connected. Our library had these big Wizard of Oz books with excellent pen-and-ink illustrations and I always thought the Tin Man looked nicer and more trustworthy than any of Dorothy’s other traveling companions.

Then my older brother was Star Wars-obsessed when we were growing up, and I remember occasionally being invited into his room to listen to “The Story of Star Wars” record on his tiny record player, and looking at the album cover of R2-D2 and C3PO while listening to their dialog. Was there ever a robot who communicated so much without a single word as R2? I wanted him for my very own.

Lately, I’ve fallen for a new literary robot: Roz, from Peter Brown’s THE WILD ROBOT. I read this novel out loud to my kids this summer and it was a real page-turner – not only to see how Roz would learn to adapt and survive with each new challenge that came her way, but also to see how Brown chose to draw her in all kinds of odd circumstances. I think Roz and THE CONSPIRACY COUNTDOWN’S Ruby would become friends if their book worlds ever collide and they meet!

And finally, let’s hear from THE COUNTDOWN CONSPIRACY’s author herself!

 

Katie Slivensky says:

C-3PO and R2D2 will forever be my top robots. As a kid, I lived and breathed Star Wars. It’s no surprise at all a mechanical sidekick found its way into my debut novel. 😉 Ruby definitely came from the part of my brain that always longed for my own R2 unit!

 

As robots continue to become a more integral part of our everyday lives, there is no doubt that we’ll see more robots in fiction, too. But THE COUNTDOWN CONSPIRACY’s Ruby will certainly be an unforgettable addition to the world of beloved robots. Congratulations, Katie!


Kat Shepherd is a writer and educator living in Los Angeles with her husband, two dogs, and a rotating series of foster dogs. Currently the only robot in her life is a vacuum cleaner. Her Babysitting Nightmares series (Macmillan/Imprint) debuts in fall 2018. You can find Kat at katshepherd.com or connect with her on Twitter @bookatshepherd.

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Initiate Interview of Erica Sussman, Editor of THE COUNTDOWN CONSPIRACY

I’m delighted to introduce Editorial Director Erica Sussman of HarperCollins. She graciously agreed to be interviewed for Emu’s Debuts as we celebrate author Katie Slivensky’s debut middle grade novel, THE COUNTDOWN CONSPIRACY. 

To begin, Erica, can you explain what was it about THE COUNTDOWN CONSPIRACY manuscript that made you sit up and pay attention? When during your initial reading did you decide to acquire it for HarperCollins?

“I was drawn into the story from the very first page. Miranda is an incredibly sympathetic and relatable narrator, despite the fact that she’s in a pretty crazy situation! I was never a science buff, but Katie’s story is so accessible that I didn’t get confused by any of the technical aspects of the space travel—I was too busy trying to figure out what would happen next! And Katie’s manuscript also made me cry – in the best and most surprising way – which is a pretty tough feat! She’s crafted the most wonderful friendship between Miranda and Ruby, a robot that Miranda built. There’s a moment of such heartbreaking sacrifice in the book (I won’t tell you what happens, don’t worry!) that is handled so deftly – when I read it I knew I had to get Katie’s debut novel on my list.”

Confession: I haven’t read THE COUNTDOWN CONSPIRACY yet. If I asked you for a book recommendation, how would you persuade me to drop everything and read THE COUNTDOWN CONSPIRACY?

Here’s what I’d say: If you’ve ever felt out of your depth, if you’ve ever had to make new friends, if you’ve ever had to step up and be brave, if you’ve ever had to stand up for yourself or a friend, if you’ve ever longed for an out of this world adventure…PICK UP THIS BOOK.

I’ve had to face situations like those, but always right here on terra firma. This book’s readers, on the other hand, will encounter such relatable challenges as they thrillingly zoom through space. Much more fun and interesting.

What were your favorite books when you were a kid? Does THE COUNTDOWN CONSPIRACY have anything in common with them?

I had a bunch of favorites, but the one that stands out in relation to The Countdown Conspiracy is SpaceCamp, which now that I think about it may possibly have just been the novelization of the movie with Lea Thompson. It was about a group of teenagers accidentally sent up into space and I think I read it approximately a zillion times. There was a lot about Countdown Conspiracy that reminded me of it in the best ways: unlikely friendships, strong characters, a great sense of humor, fast-paced adventure, danger—and, thank goodness, a happy ending.

And with that, we are GO for launch. Editorial Director Sussman, in six seconds and six words, please commence the launch sequence for THE COUNTDOWN CONSPIRACY.

Six…BRAVE

Five…KIDS

Four…HAVE

Three…THE

Two…BEST

One…ADVENTURES

I couldn’t agree more! I can’t wait to blast off with Miranda and Ruby. Thank you, Erica, for all you do to bring exciting, uplifting books into the world. THE COUNTDOWN CONSPIRACY will surely encourage in its readers an enterprising spirit and a love of science and space.

You can purchase THE COUNTDOWN CONSPIRACY at your local bookstore or here:

Indiebound: http://www.indiebound.org/book/9780062462558
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Countdown-Conspiracy…/dp/0062462555
Barnes and Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/…/the…/1124860410

To learn more about author and science educator Katie Slivensky, visit her website. https://www.katieslivensky.com

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About Hayley Barrett

I write for young people and live to make kids laugh. My picture book BABYMOON, illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal, celebrates the birth of a new family and is coming in spring 2019 from Candlewick Press. WHAT MISS MITCHELL SAW, a narrative nonfiction picture book, is also coming in spring 2019 from Simon & Schuster/Beach Lane Books and will be illustrated by Diana Sudyka.

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This. Is. It.

Guys.The Countdown Conspiracy 3

This is it.

Today is the day kids will get a chance to meet Miranda. And Ruby. And Esteban, and Najma, and Tomoki, and Rahim, and Anna. This is the day I get to introduce my kids to kids in real life.

I have waited so long for this day. I still don’t quite believe it is happening.

Just over two years ago, I got the call that every writer dreams of getting. And that night, as I lay in bed, the giddiness still bouncing around in me, it hit me: kids were going to meet Miranda. A young girl out there somewhere might someday pick up my book, read about Miranda and all her determination, self-doubt, grit, and drive to become an astronaut, and maybe…relate. Maybe be inspired to achieve her own personal goal.

That was the moment it felt real.

And today, it doesn’t just feel real. It is real. It’s happening.

I wrote this book for a lot of reasons. But one of which was the desire to share the excitement of space travel with as many kids as I could. And after years of writing and revising, of querying agents, of being on submission with publishers, of doing rounds of edits with my editor, and of simply waiting, today is the day kids get to read my book.

Wow.

I have a lot of people to thank for getting my novel (and me) to this time and place. My family. My friends. My writing group. My agent. My editor. My whole team at HarperCollins. My fellow EMUs. My cats.

But honestly, the people I should thank the most are the kids I have had the honor of teaching in my various roles throughout my life. Some of you I got to know for long stretches. Most of you were one face in a crowd of hundreds during a 20-50 minute presentation. But all of you mattered, because it was your energy, enthusiasm, and curiosity that inspired me to write this book, and to keep writing books.

Whenever you’d gasp when I brought out Gollum or Norman (two charismatic prehensile-tailed skinks) to climb up my gloved arm, or laugh at my bad jokes as I taught you Newton’s Laws using bright orange carts to knock over giant grey plastic boxes, or cheer when the first bolt of lightning leapt from the Van de Graaff generator, or shoot all your hands into the air when I asked what your favorite dinosaur was, or fall into an almost reverent silence when the lights dimmed and the stars turned on and you got to take in the beauty of space…

All of that. All of that and more. You’re who I’m writing for. So thank you for being you, and I hope my books can help keep that wonder in your eyes for as long as possible.

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Katie Headshot.jpgKatie Slivensky’s debut novel (THE COUNTDOWN CONSPIRACY) releases on  August 1st, 2017 with HarperCollins Children’s.

Katie is a science educator at the Museum of Science in Boston, where she coordinates school visits, does live presentations, and runs the rooftop observatory program. She lives in a suburb of Boston with her two completely absurd cats, Galileo and Darwin, and is represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette.

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Out of this World! THE COUNTDOWN CONSPIRACY Launch Begins!

It’s time to celebrate the launch of Katie Slivensky’s THE COUNTDOWN CONSPIRACY! To blast off the celebration of this sci-fi adventure, Emus flocked together to answer this question: If you could travel to one place in space, where would you go?

Hayley Barrett: I’d want to go….hitch a ride on C 1847/T1 — Miss Mitchell’s Comet! It’s non-periodic, so it’s going to be a long, long ride. See you later…maybe.

Miss Mitchell getting her star gazing on!

Kat Shepherd: The idea of space has always kind of scared me. That whole concept of infinity, and being in a vacuum, and being completely separate from everything you’ve ever known in your entire life. There is no particular place in space I’d like to visit, but I would love to go up in space, see the earth from a distance, have a little sleepover (because I want to see how comfortable I sleeping would be without gravity), and then come right back down again.

Christina Uss: Space scares the willies out of me, so I’d only go if I could slip into a book universe to do the deed. Then it’s easy: I’d want to get me an Electric Thumb and hitchhike with Ford Prefect and Arthur Dent to the Restaurant At The End of the Universe.

Debbi Michiko Florence: I do NOT want to go up in space, but I’m happy to read about it! So if other EMU’s go into space, I will read your books.

Jason Gallaher: I’m pretending that space travel doesn’t scare the Shatra out of me! I’d want to go to a planet in the Goldilocks zone where conditions are potentially just right for the planet to be habitable. Word on the hyperlane is that Kepler-62f, Kepler-186f and Kepler-442b are the planets to check out!

Image credit: NASA Ames/JPL-Caltech

Katie Slivensky: I’d want to go to Europa and try and see if anything is alive there. Europa is one of the many moons of Jupiter. It’s covered with ice, and under that ice–oceans of liquid water! It’s the PERFECT place to discover alien lifeforms. It’s my not-so-secret-dream that NASA gets its Europa mission together sooner rather than later. I know they’re planning on a more robotic angle for the mission, but maybe they’d let me sign up if I ask nicely. And hey, the Jupiter system isn’t that far away. I’d be willing to put in the 5 years of travel to get there!

Image from Galileo spacecraft

You can get yourself a copy of Katie’s THE COUNTDOWN CONSPIRACY from IndieBound, Barnes & Noble, Amazon or your favorite bookseller (all options much easier than blasting into space)!

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WHOOO WHOOO! Interview with Whobert Whover’s Illustrator Jess Pauwels!

We’re wrapping up the party for Jason Gallaher’s debut picture book Whobert Whover, Owl Detective with an interview with Jess Pauwels, the talented illustrator. It’s such a thrill for me to chat with Jess, because not only do I love this “whodunnit” fun story starring an owl (one of my favorite animals), but I adore the wonderful illustrations!

First, WHO is Jess Pauwels? In her own words:

I live in Brussels Belgium. I grew up in a family of professional dancers, but pencils were more appealing to me (and less exhausting ^!^) ! I studied arts and I graduated in illustration from St Luc-Brussels. For a few years, I was both an illustrator and a bookseller.

Six years ago, I chose to concentrate only on my graphic career. I drew for magazines, music labels, and picture books publishers. Since then, I have illustrated great stories, mostly in France, and some of them have been translated into Chinese and Italian.

Whobert Whover, Owl Detective is my very first USA picture book

And now, on to the interview!

Tell us a little about your creative process. What are the steps you take before you start working on the book’s illustrations? How did you come up with Whobert and the other cast of characters?

First, I sketched all the characters. Like a « forest theme » movie casting – how should they look like to stick to the story? It helped me to get their reactions and to find the appropriate facial expressions for each one.

Then, I waited for the publisher’s creatives to send me the text layout – the way they want the text to be spread from one page to another.

After they decided where to put the text and where my illustrations would stand, I made several storyboards (small fast drawings with the same proportions of the book) to settle who is in the picture doing what and what is the general ambiance. I tried to find a balance between close ups, large views, etc. It helps with the dramatization of the image.

The drawings part was the most creative, fun, personal touch part. I was able to choose how I would tell Jason’s great story with my own touch.

Then, when the publisher’s team validated this part, they pretty much left me to decide on the rest of the job. They gave me advice more than asked for changes.

So next, I drew properly the whole thing, with all the details and the intentions I wanted – every image at the final book size, this time. Sometimes when the image is bigger than in my storyboard, things didn’t work anymore, so I changed or got rid of some stuff. I’m not usually very satisfied with the firsts results. Slowly, I found the right tone to satisfy me.

To complete and color, I scanned my drawings to the computer. This helped me to make final changes (eyes too close together or add a feather here and there, resize a worm …). If I had to do it in traditional techniques it would have taken ages.The computer can be a wonderful tool if you don’t skip important first creative steps.

Were there any specific challenges you encountered during the process? Any particular joys?

Whobert Whover, Owl Detective is my first USA picture book collaboration. Humor is very different over there (in the USA). You are less serious and you seem to trust more the kids’s sense of humor. It’s very liberating to illustrate.

But the most challenging thing for me was the long wait before the launch of the book. In Europe, it takes around 3 to 6 months. With my project for Whobert, it took more than a year between the finished illustrations to the real printed copies.

But the real challenge for me was when I was finishing the pictures, because my 10-year-old French bulldog became very hill. Rushing into work helped me not to be too depressed about it, as he was my hairy muse for so long. He left us in February 2016.

A year and a half later we are welcoming our new puppy and Whobert Whover, Owl Detective is going out. It’s been a long, dog-free, but projects-full year in my studio. The wait for this fun picture book gave me hope and kept me focused on my other books to finish.

Meeting Jason through this project and seeing him be so enthusiastic, proud, and thrilled with the result was a vitamin shot to my self esteem.

Who is your favorite character from Whobert Whover, Owl Detective? Why?

This is quite a tough question, because when I draw a story I need to step into the shoes of every character. But, I think it’s really Whobert I like the most. He is so funny and stubborn. He’s a determined hero even if he’s mostly naive. With that kind of character you just cannot stay serious about life. He’s kind of a mix between Sherlock Holmes and Kimmy Schmidt, and I’d love to be this kind of mix! ^!^

(I LOVE Jess’s answer!)

Finally, can you show us a picture of your work space (I’m obsessed with creative work spaces.) What is your favorite part of your work area? Do you have any special rituals or talismans?

I work at home in our apartment in Brussels Belgium. I have my own studio. I tried to work in an outside place with other creative friends, but I was suddenly not so productive (morning coffee talks/lunch breaks talks/afternoon coffee talks). It became harder to focus on the jobs. I love to socialize a little too much.

So back home I’m more effective. I have my morning coffee in front of my social media and news, and I’m launched.

As talismans, I need several things to reassure myself, like music (Nina Simone, Laura Veirs, Joan As police Woman). On the walls, inspiring images like Lewis Carroll’s drawing of Alice in Wonderland, other illustrators’ prints. or pictures of our trips. On my desk are my favorites pencils and markers and two mini statues of Ganesh, brought from India and Lao, which are taking care of my projects.

…and lately COOPER our new companion, watching me from his pillow…not very calmly yet. !-)

Thank you, Jess! Congratulations to you and Jason on Whobert Whover, Owl Detective! You and Jason make a fabulous team!


Debbi Michiko Florence writes full time in her cozy studio, The Word Nest. Her favorite writing companions are her puppy, Kiku; rabbit, Aki; and her two ducks, Darcy and Lizzy.

Jasmine Toguchi, Mochi Queen and Jasmine Toguchi, Super Sleuth, the first two books of her debut chapter book series is now available from Farrar Straus Giroux. Two more books will follow next year: Jasmine Toguchi, Drummer Girl (4/3/18) and Jasmine Toguchi, Flamingo Keeper (7/3/18).

You can visit her online on her web site and her reading blog. She’s also on Twitter.

 

 

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