Tag Archives: Anne Wilsdorf

Building A World

One of my favorite little worlds is this world created by Emilia Forstreuter. Take a minute and give it a look.

Isn’t that lovely–both oddly familiar and magically strange. I think about this animation quite often when I’m working on fantasy novels. How does this world manage to be something I recognize while still being full of surprises?

But picture books are little worlds too. One of the first things I got to do when I became an Emu was to interview the lovely Anne Wilsdorf about her illustrations for Sophie’s Squash. I asked her about her habit of doing illustrated endpapers and she said the reason that she does that is that “A book is not just something you consume and throw away. It’s a whole world. You enter into that world when you enter the book. So it has to be complete–from the cover all the way to the endpapers. I think when it is complete, it allows you to be in the world of that book.”(See interview here.)

wilsdorf_01

Anne Wilsdorf

I’ve thought about that as I’ve tried to create my own worlds in my picture books. What are the things a writer can do with the text to make that world between the covers of a book complete. And I think one of the most important things the text brings to that creation is voice–that hard to define thing that, within a few words often, lets you know “this is where you are.” This book will be funny or sweet or sad or wise or brave.

I’ve gone to my bookcase to give you a few examples:

1)”One day, a lion came to the library. He walked right past the circulation desk and up into the stacks.”

2)”A cow says moo. A sheep says baa. Three singing pigs say la, la, la!”

3)”Rock, stone, pebble, sand/Body, shoulder, arm, hand/A moat to dig, a shell to keep/All the world is wide and deep.”

4)”Everyone was perfectly fine with the way things were. Everyone but Mr. Tiger.”

Even without the illustrations (and if you know these books, you’ll know that the visual voice perfectly matches the heard voice), don’t you feel that you know exactly where you are, that in just a couple of sentences, you have a handle on the world of this story?

Voice. It’s a beautiful, powerful thing. Which picture books that you love  use voice to get you quickly into the world of the story?

mylisa_email_2-2Mylisa Larsen has been telling stories for a long time. This has caused her to get gimlet-eyed looks from her parents, her siblings and, later, her own children when they felt that certain stories had been embellished beyond acceptable limits. She now writes children’s books where her talents for hyperbole are actually rewarded.

She is the author of the picture books, How to Put Your Parents to Bed coming out February 9, 2016 (Katherine Tegen Books) and If I Were A Kangaroo (Viking.)

 

 

 

 

 

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“A book. . .is a whole world.”: An Interview with Anne Wilsdorf

One of the intriguing things about a picture book is how the words and the pictures work together to create a story that neither by themselves could make. If you haven’t had a chance to see how this works in Sophie’s Squash, pick up a copy. It’s a lot of fun. Many thanks to Anne Wilsdorf, the artist who illustrated Sophie’s Squash, for talking to me about this process. Anne lives in Lausanne, Switzerland.

ImageMylisa: One of the things I love about your books is that you take advantage of all the places where illustrations can tell the story. For example, you often illustrate the endpapers as you did in Sophie’s Squash.

Anne: Yes. A book is not just something you consume and throw away. It’s a whole world. You enter into that world when you enter the book. So it has to be complete–from the cover all the way to the endpapers. I think when it is complete, it allows you to be in the world of that book.

Mylisa: When a child and an adult are reading a picture book together, the adult is often reading the words but as each page is turned, the child is reading the pictures. Another thing I love about your illustrations is that there is so much detail for the child to read. And one thing that is often going on in your books is that there will be a cat kind of having his own adventures in the book. Which makes me wonder: do you have a cat?

Anne: I thought you might ask about that. Yes, I have two cats. I have always lived with cats. I love the way they look at the world. But they don’t talk so we don’t know what they are thinking. They have their own story. When I put them in a book, they are like someone who comments on the story. They are another point of view.

Mylisa: I’m sure in each book, there are spreads that are your favorites. . .

Anne: There are always favorite pictures where you were able to express something that you wanted to express. I think my favorite part is that I love not only drawing the actions of the characters but translating their emotions. You use gestures or how a character uses her body to show those feelings and emotions. How you put your hands, how you place your feet. It’s just like theater.

Mylisa: And I think you do translate those emotions so beautifully in Sophie’s Squash. For instance, Sophie’s protectiveness and horror when her mother suggests they cook the squash. And then that lovely picture where Sophie has both of her hands on the windowpane and she’s looking out at the snow, worried about her squash, Bernice.

Mylisa: What are a few books that you loved as a child?

Anne: Oh, there were so many, so many.

I loved Tomi Ungerer. I always had his books first. We lived in Africa then and we had a big family–5 children. We were always together. When we had books, it was such a joy, incredible.

I loved the books of Wilhelm Busch. His Max and Moritz books. They are about two boys who do things that are very wrong, very naughty.

Mylisa: How did you begin to illustrate children’s books?

Anne: Since I was a child, I always loved to do books for family, for my sisters. I just kept going. It was natural for me.

I think it’s a way to know the world. When you are in your imagination, you are free to interpret the world. It gives you a very good feeling, a superwoman feeling.

Mylisa: Do you prefer working in traditional media or digitally?

Anne: I like the manual work. I like doing the drawings.

But I don’t hate the computer. I think that could be an interesting way to do things. I just haven’t done it.

Sophie's Squash by Pat Zietlow MillerAnne: I have something I would like to add about Sophie’s Squash. I love the story because it’s not so cute. So often in books we make things how we wish they were. In this story, there’s a problem because the squash is going rotten. This I love. We are very sad with the little girl and then we are very happy with her.

We are like Sophie in this book. I like to show many things in her room. How Sophie manages these objects, how she arranges them, helps us know her. I like to put her drawings on the wall. She is thinking about her squash. She is drawing her squash.

Many thanks to Anne for both the interview and the art. If you want to see a happy marriage between text and pictures, check out Sophie’s Squash.

 

mylisa_email_2-2Mylisa Larsen has been telling stories for a long time. This has caused her to get gimlet-eyed looks from her parents, her siblings and, later, her own children when they felt that certain stories had been embellished beyond acceptable limits. She now writes children’s books where her talents for hyperbole are actually rewarded.

She is the author of the picture books, How to Put Your Parents to Bed (Katherine Tegen Books) and If I Were A Kangaroo (Viking.)

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Filed under Book Promotion, Celebrations, Illustrators