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A Conversation with Vanessa Brantley-Newton, illustrator of THE YOUNGEST MARCHER

I’d like to start this post by noting that the subject of THE YOUNGEST MARCHER, the late Audrey Faye Hendricks, was nine years old when she was imprisoned for her civil rights activism. She remained in prison—real prison—for a week. She was locked in a cell. Interrogated by adult strangers. She was in danger, both inside the prison and after her release. She is an American hero. As of this post, she does not have a Wikipedia page.

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“I’d never heard of Audrey Faye Hendricks,” says Vanessa Brantley-Newton, author and illustrator of over 75 books. vanessa-brantley-newton“When I read Cynthia Levinson’s manuscript, it broke me. It made me cry. I became fascinated by Audrey. I read the manuscript to myself and then had someone read it to me. Right away, I could see the pictures—that’s very important.”

Vanessa goes on to detail aspects of her research, “I read Cynthia’s previous book on the Children’s March, WE’VE GOT A JOB TO DO, and weve-got-a-jobwatched the PBS program on the event. I wanted my work to be emotional—to make it clear that Audrey was a child. As I worked, I listened to music from that time, songs like “Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around.” With one exception early in the process, Vanessa and the author did not actively collaborate on the project. “Cynthia wanted to see how I portrayed Martin Luther King Jr.—a friend of Audrey’s family—and once I showed her the sketch, we didn’t need to consult again.”

Like all of Vanessa’s work, THE YOUNGEST MARCHER glows with color and shimmers with texture. the-youngest-marcher“I’m a retro girl, heart and soul,” Vanessa says. “I love the colors of the sixties and seventies, the reds and oranges together.” She scanned vintage fabrics and included photographs in her collage work. Her use of marbleized paper adds swirling atmosphere to the image of a small, beloved child curled up on a prison cot.

Despite her age, Audrey’s bright-eyed conviction is made plain in Vanessa’s illustrations. As she heeds Dr. King’s call to fill the prisons, as she boards the police van in her starched skirt, bobby socks, and pink hair ribbons, she is full of hope and might as easily be headed to school or church. Although younger than the other marchers, she remains stalwart until the prisons are full to bursting and all are released. Hope intact, Audrey Faye Hendricks emerges to her parents’ arms and a changed world, one she helped to create.

“I hope that people can be inspired by my work,” Vanessa says. “As a child, I never saw children of color in books. We have this wonderful ability as authors and illustrators to tell stories that encompass what children go through so that kids feel included, like someone has captured their real world.”

I’d like to thank Vanessa for her time and for all of her efforts to bring Audrey Faye Hendricks and her story to vibrant, visual life. I’d like to thank author Cynthia Levinson for writing the story of THE YOUNGEST MARCHER. I’m glad and grateful to know about this remarkable story of courage.


Hayley's Author PhotoI write for young people and live to make kids laugh. My picture book BABYMOON celebrates the birth of a new family and is coming from Candlewick Press. WHAT MISS MITCHELL SAW, a narrative nonfiction picture book, is coming in spring 2019 from Simon & Schuster/Beach Lane Books and will be illustrated by Diana Sudyka.
I’m represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette.

 

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What would You Do If You Encountered THE NIAN MONSTER???

Today we continue our celebration of the release of Andrea Wang’s picture book, The Nian Monster.

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I found so many things I loved about this book that it’s hard to focus on just one. Alina Chau’s illustrations are delightful (such a scary yet adorable Nian monster!). The notion of societal complacency requiring a sharp mind to resolve a problem it created gives a message of hope. But the writing is what struck me the most.

Andrea did a fabulous job of seamlessly weaving Chinese New Year traditions into a fiction story. It’s a lovely read, as we follow Xingling’s story of how she outsmarts the Nian monster, but along the way we’re enriched with culture. We hear the words and sounds, taste the foods, see the colors and of course, get to know that rascally Nian monster himself!

For a bit of fun, watch The Nian Monster book trailer.

 

When Andrea shared the book trailer with our flock of EMUs, a question came to mind:

What would you do if you encountered the Nian Monster?

So, I asked the wonderful folks here at EMU’s Debuts for their responses…

Elly Swartz: If I came face-to-face with the Nian monster, likely I would scream first. But then, in the hollow echo of my voice, I’d swallow my scared and reach out to the Nian monster. After all, something must connect us? Is it chocolate? Crossword puzzles? Going for a walk? Maybe it’s just a day hanging out with your favorite friend or a monster.

Debbi Michiko Florence: What would I do if I encountered the Nian Monster? Honestly? I’d probably scream and run for my life! But in a different world, I would like to believe I’d behave as cleverly and bravely as Xingling does. Maybe I’d trick the Nian Monster into taking a stroll to the river. I’d tell him about the delicious oysters and lobster we have in coastal Connecticut. Then he would jump into the river, and perhaps a big current would sweep him out to sea.

Christina Uss: My kids and I just watched Andrea’s trailer and our responses were:

Jack (age 9): “Hide.”

Me (age 43): “Run!”

Jack again: I’m changing my answer to “Run and then hide.”

Susannah (age 9) but sounding like Aragorn from Lord of the Rings: “Fight.”

Me and Jack: “We’re changing our answers. If you tell us how, we will stay and fight with you.”

*There’s nothing like a family who sticks together!

Terry Pierce:  For me personally, whenever I’ve felt threatened, I typically “freeze” while simultaneously trying to keep a level head. With the Nian Monster, I think my “level headed” response would offer to bake him a batch of my amazing chocolate chip cookies. Homemade cookies always have a way of taming even the wildest beast! And through a mutual love of baked goods, we could strike up a conversation and find other things to chat about.

You’ve seen how Xingling and a few EMUs have responded. Now, ask yourself (if you haven’t already), what would YOU do if the Nian Monster came after you?

*Andrea will be giving away a copy of The Nian Monster — just comment on one of the posts this week to enter!

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PierceHeadshotUCLA (2)About Terry Pierce…

Terry writes picture books, easy readers and board books and is whittling away at a middle-grade adventure novel. She lives in the California desert but avoids the summer heat by retreating to Mammoth Lakes every summer to hike, bike, write and dip her head in high mountain sky. She’s a Vermont College of Fine Arts graduate and teaches online children’s writing courses for UCLA Extension. She has two books coming out in spring 2017, My Busy Green Garden (Tilbury House) and Mama Loves You So (Little Simon).

 

 

 

 

 

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10 BUSY BROOMS: Gremlins and Wheelers and Oz, Oh My!

It’s the final day of our launch week for Carole Gerber’s1732-40272-_2d00_-animated-cheering-fluttershy-pinkie_5f00_pie-twilight_5f00_sparkle 10 BUSY BROOMS. We’ve had so much fun celebrating!

To cap off the week, we’re going to talk about monsters. There is no shortage of monsters in 10 BUSY BROOMS. There is a goblin, a werewolf, a mummy, and much more. But Michael Fleming’s amazing illustrations render these baddies delightful instead of dreadful, appealing instead of appalling. Just look at the witches on the cover — how cute are they?!

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But what does scare an EMU? Safely huddled together in the nest, we recounted what movie or cartoon character we found most scary as kids, and why:

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Carole Gerber: Charles Lee Ray – nicknamed “Chucky,” was a serial killer in a horror film series called “Child’s Play.” I never watched a single one of the movies -seeing his face and just hearing about the movies was as much fright as I could handle.

Jason Gallaher: As I kid, I COULD NOT handle the gremlins from “Gremlins.” They terrified me! They are so sadistic and twisted and I just couldn’t understand how a cute little hamster-like muffin could become a bloodthirsty monster.

The weird thing is when I was little I would BEG my mom to let us rent the video, promising I would watch it all the way through, but I never once made it to the end. Only recently was I able to watch the movie without running away in terror, only to find out that one of the gremlins actually eats the science teacher, which made me even more terrified of these green slimy creatures. Then I read the description on the back of the box, and “Gremlins” was originally pegged as a holiday movie! Outrageous! As a fella robsessed with the holidays, I was offended. No science teachers get eaten when Santa is on his way!

Katie Slivensky: Oh, man. ALL DOGS GO TO HEAVEN. 13775762_10106817460995333_2334941852642014925_nThat movie scared the pants off of me for so many reasons. The dream sequence in Hell was terrifying, for sure, but what really got me was the lady poodle angel dog. Her repeated, sing-song-y “You can never come back!” line as the main dog escapes Heaven to return to Earth haunts me to this day. Some serious psychological business goes down in that movie. Lady dog was mega creepy. (Okay, apparently she was a whippet, not a poodle. BUT THE POINT STANDS. She scared the bejeezus out of me.)

scooby-and-shaggy-ghostDonna Bowman recalls being scared of several characters: Since we’re not talking about grown up movies like Friday the 13th, I can’t mention Jason, right? Human monsters have always been more frightening to me than any animated or fantastical creatures.That said, I remember being creeped out by the ghosts in Scooby Doo cartoons. Also, the witch from the original Wizard of Oz movie, with her flying monkeys, scared the gumballs out of me.

Donna wasn’t the only EMU traumatized by the Oz movies.

Debbi Michiko Florence: Okay, this is going to sound silly since I wrote four Dorothy & Toto books (mind you, for early readers), but when I was a kid, the Wizard of Oz movie terrified me. Those flying monkeys! The wicked witch! Yet I watched the movie every year (and had a hard time sleeping after).

Elly Swartz: I was totally frightened by the flying, winged monkeys in the Wizard of Oz. I closed my eyes every time they came on the screen!

Elaine Vickers: The wheelers from Return to Oz. I just did a Google image search and I think I’m going to have a hard time falling asleep tonight. Beware the wheelers!

And that’s a wrap! Whew! Am I the only one who feels like they need to go hide under the covers with a good book now? Click on over to buy your own copy of 10 BUSY BROOMS and reassure yourself that not all villains are vile — some just want apple brew.

IndieBound       Amazon          Barnes & Noble


Andrea WangAndrea Wang’s debut picture book, The Nian Monster, is a Chinese New Year folktale retelling set in modern-day Shanghai. The Nian Monster will be published by Albert Whitman & Co. in December 2016. She has also written seven nonfiction books for the educational market.

If you’re wondering what character Andrea was afraid of as a kid, the answer is: all of the above!!

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Strong Girls in Middle Grade

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This week we’re celebrating the release of Janet Fox‘s brilliant new middle grade novel, The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle. The setting is haunting, the plot is tight and tense, the writing is gorgeous. (You don’t have to take my word for it–check out the incredible blurbs and three starred reviews at the bottom if this page!)

But perhaps my favorite thing about this book is the strength of its main character, Kat. She is clever and fierce and good, and she absolutely never gives up. She’s so unique and memorable, and she joins some pretty impressive ranks of strong girls in middle grade. Here are some of the Emus’ favorites:

penderwicksMegan Wagner Lloyd: There are so many fantastic girl protagonists in MG! A few wonderful ones that come to mind: I love the Penderwick sisters (in the Penderwick series by Jeanne Birdsall) for their determination and the way they embrace each sister’s uniqueness. I love Pacy (in The Year of the Dog series by Grace Lin) for her creativity, her yearning, and the way she is always puzzling out the different things that make her Pacy. I love Ellie (in The Fourteeth Goldfish by Jennifer L. Holm) for her curiosity, openness, and kindness. I’ll stop there (I could go on for ages!).

Darcey Rosenblatt: Harriet the Spy is certainly a fav, but meg in A Wrinkle in Time is my all time favorite and sort of saved my life because she was nerdy and under appreciated but turned out to kind of save the world!!

Katie Slivensky: Annabeth Chase from Percy Jackson. Smart, quick–that girl has her act together. Which is incredibly necessary, because she’s in a series with a monster attack every other page.

juniperLaurie Thompson: Princess Juniper of the Hourglass, because she is oh so real and has to learn as she goes, mistakes and all! 🙂

Hayley Barrett: Ada in The War That Saved My Life.

Sarvinder Naberhaus: I always liked Laura Ingalls Wilder because she wasn’t a goody-two-shoes like her sister Mary.

Elly Swartz: I loved Rose in Rain Reign by Ann Martin. She stays true to who she is, and is a take-charge kind of girl.

Carole Gerber: I like Meg in Little Women. Shows how “up” I am on current MG titles! Yay for Louisa May Alcott, one of the first to write about strong girls.

lizziebrightMylisa Larsen: Oh, there are so many that I love. Delphine from P.S. Be Eleven (and surrounding books in that series.) Odge from The Secret of Platform 13 (though she is technically a hag not a girl but she reads as middle grade girl to me.) Igraine the Brave. Lizzie Bright. The Penderwick sisters. Aerin from The Hero and the Crown. Vida Wojciehowski (“My public calls me Velveeta.”) from Bluefish. I adore Vida Wojciehowski. Just as I loved Jo March with every fiber of my 14 year old heart when I first met her. My daughter is sitting here and her current picks are Tamora Pierce’s Alanna and Varian Johnson’s Gaby de la Cruz.

Andrea Wang: I love Hermione from the Harry Potter series. She’s unabashedly brainy, a steadfast friend, and always prepared. I covet her little beaded handbag with the Undetectable Extension Charm on it.

Jason Gallaher: A new favorite of mine is Mya Tibbs from Crystal Allen’s The Magnificent Mya Tibbs: Spirit Week Showdown. Mya has personality for days! She’s a cowgirl loving, taradiddle telling, hogtying practicing spitfire who isn’t afraid to face life’s challenges head on.

Thank you, Emus! And thank you, Janet, for giving us another strong middle grade girl to read about and root for!

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Interview with Pat Zietlow Miller

Today on the blog we welcome fellow EMLA author Pat Zietlow Miller, whose latest picture book, THE QUICKEST KID IN CLARKSVILLE, was released last week. Pat is one of my picture book heroes–so kind, smart, talented, and incredibly hard working. She writes those rare picture books that have incredible amounts of appeal for both kids and parents. (Exhibit A: I got a copy of this book to review and left it on my kitchen table, and sure enough, by the time I got home from work, all my kids had read it already and wanted more. And I was happy to read it multiple times that night!) She’s also the recipient of numerous awards, including the Golden Kite, Charlotte Zoltow Honor, and Ezra Jack Keats Honor. (She’s amazing, folks.)

Without further ado, here’s what Pat had to say about this beautiful book:

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EV: I know you’ve gone into detail about your revision process for this book elsewhere, but are there any other behind-the-scenes stories you can share about this book?

PZM: TheWilma_Rudolph_(1960) research for this book was really fun. Early versions featured double-dutch jump-roping, so I watched a lot of YouTube videos about it. Then, when Wilma Rudolph made an appearance, I watched more videos, read all the biographies I could find plus her autobiography and did a lot of website searching.

My first real job was as a newspaper reporter, and it was kind of like doing that again. I liked gathering all the facts and figuring out how to use them.

EV: You’ve already developed such a beautiful backlist and I know you have more books under contract. What is special about this book that will always make it stand out for you?
PZM: This is the first historical fiction book that I’ve written. It stands out to me because I think Wilma Rudolph’s story is one everyone should know. As I’ve tal631px-Wilma_Rudolphked with other people about the book, I’ve been surprised how many folks don’t know who Wilma Rudolph was. So I’m glad I was able to make it an element of my book.

I did a lot of research as I worked on this book, and learned more about Wilma than I had known before. I was able to put some of that information into an author’s note that I hope readers find as interesting as I do.

Finish this sentence: My favorite thing about the illustrations for THE QUICKEST KID IN CLARKSVILLE is . . .

PZM: The faces of the characters.

Frank Morrison put such a lot of emotion in every look the girls give each other. He tells a whole story just by their expressions. He made Alta and Charmaine real. I adore his work.

EV: Finish this sentence: The perfect reader for this book would be …

PZM: Any kid who has ever dreamed of being the best as something.

EV: As a mom of two tough daughters, one of my favorite things about this book is the strong, confident characters. What do you love most about these girls? And/or who are some of your favorite kidlit/PB characters?

PZM: I like how Alta and Charmaine are confident in their own abilities and don’t downplay their skills to keep the peace. But I also like how they are open enough to change their mind about each other and become friends.

And, oh wow. Favorite picture book characters. Here we go:

  • Olivia the pig for her unshakeable confidence and unbridled imagination.
  • The young Patricia Polacco in stories written by the grown-up Patricia Polacco like THE JUNKYARD WONDERS, THANK YOU MR. FALKER and CHICKEN SUNDAY. Everything she creates is perfect.
  • Henrietta of Mary Amato’s THE CHICKEN OF THE FAMILY for her willingness to believe the unbelievable and for her ability to eventually turn the tables on her annoying older sisters.
  • The determined narrator of Janice N. Harrington’s THE CHICKEN-CHASING QUEEN OF LAMAR COUNTY who never loses sight of her goal.

I’m sensing a chicken theme here, which I did not intend, so I will add Nadine the cow from Jill Esbaum’s I AM COW, HEAR ME MOO! Even when Nadine’s bragging gets her into trouble, she rises to the occasion and ends up learning new things about herself.

EV: Since this blog is grounded in the debut author experience, can you give any advice to writers who are still in the pre-publication part of the journey? What has surprised you most and/or what do you wish you’d known?

pzmPZM: I wish I had known – or maybe accepted – that there’s a limit to what you can control. I’m the kind of person who likes to make lists and check things off and who clings to the nice-but-untrue illusion that if I work hard enough and plan well enough, I can determine my own destiny.

That’s true to a point. But there’s so much in publishing you can’t control. Like what, you ask? Hmmm. Let’s see. Like:

  • What reviewers write.
  • How well your book sells.
  • How much marketing and publicity support it gets.
  • What else is released at the same time as your book.
  • Whether your editor or agent stays in publishing or pursues other opportunities.

So my advice would be to work your hardest to do your part of the job – the writing – as best you can. Also, make every effort to be professional and conscientious and responsible when you interact with editors and agents. And then, try to let the rest go.


View More: http://morgansladephotography.pass.us/vickersfamily

Elaine Vickers is the author of LIKE MAGIC (HarperCollins, October 2016) and loves writing middle grade and chapter books when she’s not teaching college chemistry or hanging out with her fabulous family. She’s a member of SCBWI and represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette of EMLA. You can find her at elainevickers.com on the web, @ElaineBVickers on Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram, or generally anywhere there are books and/or food for her consumption.

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An Interview with THE LOONEY EXPERIMENT editor Jacque Alberta

And for the grand finale of our week of all things LOONEY, we caught up with Zonderkidz Senior Editor Jacque Alberta about Luke Reynolds’s debut middle-grade novel THE LOONEY EXPERIMENT.

Here’s a little reminder about this wonderful story, from Luke’s web site:

Atticus Hobart couldn’t feel lower. He’s in love with a girl who doesn’t know he exists, he is the class bully’s personal punching bag, and to top it all off, his dad has just left the family. Into this drama steps Mr. Looney, a 77-year-old substitute English teacher with uncanny insight and a most unconventional approach to teaching. But Atticus soon discovers there’s more to Mr. Looney’s methods than he’d first thought. And as Atticus begins to unlock the truths within his own name, he finds that his hyper-imagination can help him forge his own voice, and maybe—just maybe—discover that the power to face his problems was inside him all along.

Looney Experiment

And without further ado, here’s Jacque!

Tam: What was it about THE LOONEY EXPERIMENT that made you want to acquire it?

Jacque: It hooked me in the first chapter. Atticus’s character felt so relatable and real—a kid who is very withdrawn publically, but has this amazing internal voice and humor. And the journey of finding the courage to be who he really is—to risk putting himself out there—is done so well. I immediately felt like this was a character and a story I needed on my list, because Luke’s story is not only really entertaining, it also has a storyline that can help readers see how they too can overcome what feels impossible to face in their own lives.

Tam: What do you love most about Mr. Looney?

Jacque: He is that teacher we all wished we had. He’s a substitute, but he puts all of himself into the job, and even takes the time to notice what Atticus needs—something no one teacher has ever done before. His giving Atticus his signed copy of To Kill a Mockingbird remains one of my favorite things about Mr. Looney—helping Atticus really see who he is and what he can do means more than a book that is likely worth a lot sentimentally and monetarily.

Tam: And then of course I need to ask, what do you love most about Atticus? 

Jacque: Atticus has a great voice, and is such an appropriately wise soul. He is insightful in many ways, but still a teenage boy who probably secretly still likes fart noises a little bit too. And his journey from a kid who can barely speak in class to becoming the spokesperson for a group of students at the end is a fantastic one. I also loved that even though he does mature a lot in the book, he never totally loses the humor he had at the start—his fart-noise contest with Adrian toward the end was great!

Also, I loved Atticus’s list of what guys should and shouldn’t do in middle school!

Tam: It is always so inspiring and enlightening to learn a little about the behind-the-scenes editing process.  Can you give us some insight into how you approached editing this book?  What was it like to work with Luke? 

Jacque: Actually, the editing on this was one of the easiest processes I’ve had in a long time! The manuscript that was submitted was quite clean—and Luke was fantastic with revisions and rewrites. Most of what we worked on was making sure Atticus’s journey toward courage felt natural, so that the reader can see the gradual awakening after meeting Mr. Looney, and then how Atticus regained that confidence after Danny’s attack. And also debating over fart jokes and the like …

We also tried to keep up with the developing news over Go Set a Watchman, as To Kill a Mockingbird is so central to the storyline. When it was announced the precursor to To Kill a Mockingbird would be coming out, we had to scramble to change references to Harper Lee’s publishing story in real time, knowing our book was going to the printer before Go Set a Watchman would be in stores and the storyline known.

Tam: Who do you see this book appealing to? 

Jacque: My hope is that middle-school boys will find the book and enjoy the story, and see some of themselves in Atticus. And I think girls will enjoy it as well, as Atticus is just a wonderful character—and there’s a nice love story of sorts with Audrey Higgins to help balance the fart jokes JI also hope all readers leave with a sense that what is inside you matters … even if middle-school you feels like only other’s outside perceptions matter.

I think adults will love it too, as there’s something about middle school that never leaves us. And the journey Atticus takes is one that everyone has to take at some point—deciding who we are, what we want to become, and taking the brave leap to make that us known.

Tam: And, finally, is there anything else you would like to add? 

Jacque: Hmmm … Only that I loved working with Luke, and hope this book becomes a huge bestseller for him, because it’s a fantastic story by a fantastic person and author.

Well, that’s just about the truest truth ever spoken. Luke Reynolds is SUCH a fantastic person and THE LOONEY EXPERIMENT is SUCH a fantastic story! Comment below and you’ll have a chance to win a signed copy of Luke’s debut middle-grade novel!

Or, if you just can’t wait for your copy (we definitely can’t!), click any of these links to purchase THE LOONEY EXPERIMENT now:

AmazonBooks A MillionBarnes and NobleIndieBound

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Jacque Alberta is a Senior Editor for Zonderkidz as well as Blink, the general market YA imprint of Zondervan—and while she loves reading and editing new books, her favorite part of the job by far is interaction with authors. Jacque joined Zondervan in 2004, and over the years has worked on a variety of kids’ products, from picture books to storybook Bibles and juvenile fiction, but YA is one of her true passions. A graduate of Calvin College (with an English major, naturally), she lives in Grand Rapids surrounded by piles of good books, as well as a very cute (and equally naughty) wire fox terrier named Tucker.

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Interview with THERE WAS AN OLD DRAGON Illustrator Ben Mantle

This week on Emu’s Debuts, it’s all about the dragons! We’re celebrating the debut of Penny Parker Klostermann’s delightful debut picture book, There Was an Old Dragon Who Swallowed a Knight. Today I’m thrilled to have snagged an interview with the books incredibly talented illustrator, Ben Mantle, who had some great insights into a part of the process we writers often know little about.

Elaine Vickers: Can you share with us the process of how you came to be the illustrator of There Was an Old Dragon Who Swallowed a Knight?

Ben Mantle: This was pretty straightforward really. My agency sent me the text. I read it. I loved it. I think I then read it another 10 times just because it was such fun to read, as the rhythm was so good. I really liked that it had a slightly dark storyline too. I emailed my agency and said – I would love to illustrate it and then I read it more times, faster and faster each time. Again, purely because it was such fun to do!

EV: I adore thisimage 1 dragon! Did he always look like this, or did he change throughout the process?

BM: The dragon was the first character that I tackled as he is the main driving force in the book. My first initial few sketches didn’t quite catch what I had in my head. After all, the Dragon is ruthless, but more than that he is just incredibly greedy animage 2d not to mention a little bad. I mean, he does just go around eating people. In my original design he just doesn’t have the manic look that I wanted or that look of desire of a very hungry person who has just sat down for an all you can eat buffet. I knew that a lot of his character would be in the eyes, which is why they are one of the main changes. His new Beady little pupils really gave him something and the curving brows are a sure fire sign of a baddie. All good baddies have large eyebrows.

EV: What is your artistic process? Tell us a little about the creation of these illustrations!

BM: Not long before the text for There Was an Old Dragon Who Swallowed A Knight came througimage 4h, I had been feeling that I really wanted to stop relying on the computer so much and get back to painting again and I thought this book in particular with its fantasy setting, would suit being painted.

Equally, because the story has that hint of darkness, along with being very funny, I thought that it would be a nice contrast to have the artwork more traditional. Long before the painting stage though, I start making lotsimage 3 of little thumbnail images to capture the key moments in the book. I then scan these in and enlarge them to the correct size and start neatening them up. I do this because I often think my original sketches are more fluid and uninhibited by detail.

Next there’s a few stages of printing out, re-drawing, tidying up until everyone is happy (designer and editor). In order to then paint the final art, I print out the roughs, which have been tidied up by now, and use a drawing board I converted into a lightbox (Ok, not so much me, but a guy who is actually handy with tools), I trace the rough shapes with watercolour, adding in a little shade/texture at the same time. As you can see by the image, I paint each bit separately as this gives me more flexibility, as well as knowing that if I make a mistake, I haven’t just ruined everything! Having said that, I love the mistakes you get with paint, especially if, like me, you haven’t used it for ages.

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EV: Can you share with us any particular challenges or funny incidents that happened while you were working on this book?

BM: For me, the real challenge of any book, is knowing what to show and what to leave out. What is the ‘moment’ that needs to be illustrated? With this book, I had decided that you would never actually see the Dragon eating a person, but it would be implied by the image. Plus, I felt that it was funnier to show that moment just before or just after.

Do you have a favorite character or illustration from the book?image 10

BM: Oh, my favourite character has to be the cook. I have a real soft spot for him and my favourite illustration (and I think one of Penny’s too) in the book is the one of the cook being seasoned by the Dragon as the cook seasons his own pot of food. After all, the Dragon is just doing what comes natural to him and this is a nod to that.

EV: You’re such an accomplished illustrator, but I know you’re a picture book author yourself. How has that changed and informed your illustrating?

BM: I’ve just finished writing my third book, so now the main thing I have realised, is just how hard it is! It has definitely made me appreciate the relationship between the text and the image and that the best text knows exactly what to not say. It’s a very reciprocal relationship. The image can really add to the story, but only if the author/text is confident enough to leave breathing space. Penny is a whizz with text, as soon as I read this book I loved it and I’m looking forward to cracking on with our next book, which I can honestly say is absolutely fantastic.

Thanks so much, Ben, for sharing your time and your amazing artwork with us!

Comment on any post this week for a chance to win your very own SIGNED copy of There Was an Old Dragon.

Or buy a copy right away. You can find one at YOUR local indie bookstore here: Indiebound

Or, you can order online through Barnes and NobleAmazonBooks-A-Million, or Powell’s.

For personalized signed copies of There Was an Old Dragon, you can order from Texas Star Trading Co. and give your dedication details in the Gift Message box. You can also contact them by email at texasstartradingco@sbcglobal.net or call  (325) 672-9696.

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Filed under Book Launch, Celebrations, Illustrators, Interviews, Picture books

What would YOU feed a hungry dragon?

There Was an Old Dragon cover

It’s launch week here at Emu’s Debuts for Penny Parker Klostermann’s delightful picture book, There Was an Old Dragon Who Swallowed a Knight! Yesterday, Calista brought you an insightful interview with Dragon’s editor, Maria Modugno. And today, we’re bringing you… FOOD!

I asked my fellow Emus what they would offer a hungry dragon to convince it to eat that instead of them. And, let me tell you, if we Emus were all together in a mob, it would be a mighty fine feast indeed! (For added fun, try to spot the new Emus who will soon be joining the flock!)

For appetizers…

Garlic BreadLuke Reynolds would offer the dragon a full loaf of garlic bread, with extra butter melted and nuzzled within the rich, warm doughiness. The dragon would certainly have no choice but to remember how deeply satisfying melted butter is, and the soft dough would be so much more amazing than a crunchy, yucky human being!

Darcey Rosenblatt would try not only to save herself but further humankind, so she would offer a recipe for yummy roasted vegetables and engage her dragon friend in the cooking process. Never heard of a vegan dragon? Darcey is sure it happens!

I myself (Laurie Ann Thompson) would offer up some steaming crab macaroni & cheese. I just hope that old dragon knows how to share!

We have quite a few main courses for Dragon to choose from:

Sweet & Sour Pork Belly w/ pickled gingerOne of the most delicious things Megan Morrison has ever eaten is pork belly with crispy crackling skin. She was at Beppe in New York and asked the waiter for a recommendation. It sounded so gross, but oh. It was not. It was bacon on crack. She and her husband still talk about it with reverence. Surely a big slab of pork belly would be far tastier than Megan!

Jennifer Chambliss Bertman would serve the dragon the largest turkey she could find with a side of stuffing and an extra dose of tryptophan in hopes that he’d fall asleep.

Carole Gerber did her research first: Komodo dragons–the kind in zoos–eat deer, according to the fact sheet she read. The dragon first knocks the deer off its feet before killing and eating it. Carole would distract the dragon with a heap of deer toenails to confuse him as she made a quick getaway.

UntitledJason Gallaher would offer this hungry dragon a nice rare steak. Not only would it serve as a talking point about something they have in common (Jason likes his steak mooing), but the slab of meat would really save this guy a lot of trouble. He can still get his craving for meat satiated, but he doesn’t have to worry about chewing through all Jason’s clothes, his shoes, the change in his pockets, etc. Plus, deodorant. Jason applies deodorant regularly, and who in their right carnivorous mind would want to eat a creature that just lathered himself in Old Spice? Not Jason, that’s for sure.

Adam Shaughnessy would try to distract the dragon with guinea pig. Not because it’s particularly delicious (it’s fine), but because it might alleviate his guilt to share it. Adam had guinea pig while he was in Peru. It’s good to try new foods when traveling, but when he came back to the elementary school where he was working, a colleague shared Adam’s tasting adventures with a kindergarten teacher—without thinking about the fact that the teacher’s entire class was lined up behind her. They walked past Adam with looks of horror and an obvious terror that he was coming for Mr. Whiskers, their classroom pet, next.

Mmm... pulled pork with slawOne of Debbi Michiko Florence‘s favorite meals her husband makes is pulled pork–North Carolina style (vinegar-based). She would offer the dragon a giant plateful of pulled pork sandwiches piled with her husband’s cole slaw, because even a carnivorous dragon needs his greens!

Indian food is Christine Olson Hayes‘ first choice whenever they go out to eat. So many amazing flavors and textures! She’s pretty wimpy and usually orders things on the mild side, but she’s sure the dragon would appreciate a nice Indian curry, super extra hot and spicy!

And, of course, we mustn’t forget dessert!

StroopwafelMylisa Larsen would offer up stroopwafels! They’re these lovely thin waffle cookies sandwiching a layer of caramel. Best eaten warm. When her husband travels to the Netherlands, their children greet his return not with “hello” or “so glad you’re back” but with “Did you bring stroopwafels?” For Mylisa’s sake, she’d be hoping the dragon felt the same enthusiasm.

To make a hasty escape, Maria Gianferrari would douse the dragon with honey so he’d be in sticky straits. Or if he were in a friendlier mood, she’d serve him some goat cheese since it tastes so delicious when baked.

Vanilla Milkshake @ Lori's DinerHayley Barrett imagines something simple and refreshing… Something to cool a scorched palate…. Something to tame the fire in the belly…. She’s got it! A double-thick vanilla milkshake! Slurp!

If there was a dragon alert, Donna Janell Bowman would make a marshmallow vest with giant chocolate buttons and dragon fruit all over it, then she would trick the meanest bully into thinking it had invisibility powers. When the bully snatched it from her and put it on, she would say, “don’t you dare touch my super powers milkshake!” and, “Hey, back off from that graham cracker wand. Or else!”  Of course the bully would steal it, without realizing that she had lured him into the dragon’s lair. Gulp! And she wouldn’t feel guilty at all because mean bullies are not “nice humans.” Two problems solved.

Bubblegum with bubbleIf Elly Swartz were in danger of being eaten by a dragon, she would offer the dragon a tub of Bazooka bubble gum to ensure her safety. You see, not only would Sir Dragon find Bazooka gum sugary and delicious, but he’d also surely want to learn how to blow a bubble. And Elly would need all of her body parts to teach him. So, she would, of course, offer to teach him how to blow a bubble, saving herself and all her body parts in the process!

S'Mores!Janet Fox knows just what she’d give our hungry dragon: S’Mores! Sweet and tasty and so easy for a dragon to cook in an instant. Plus…chocolate. Did you hear her, Dragon? Chocolate!

Rebecca Van Slyke thinks dragons would prefer ice cream to a tough teacher like her! (Probably chocolate ice cream, but maybe a nice raspberry ripple.) Besides, if he DOES eat the ice cream, it would put out his “internal combustion” and she could get away!

Peanut ButterTamara Smith‘s great idea is peanut butter, of course! Have you seen dogs eating peanut butter? Their jaws get glued together and they make that slurpy, smacking sound as they try–for just enough time for, say, a person to get away–to open their mouths. Tam would definitely give the dragon peanut butter. Plus, it’s the most perfect food on the planet!

For her part, Penny is glad her dragon didn’t encounter the Emus Debuts before he encountered the kingdom… His story would be one of frustration instead of gluttony! And the meter would be all screwed up…

There was an old dragon who swallowed a stroopwafel.
I don’t know why he swallowed the stroopwafel.
It isn’t lawful!

There was an old dragon who swallowed raspberry ripple ice cream.
I don’t know why he swallowed the raspberry ripple ice cream.
It seems extreme!

(“See what I mean? There’s no need to go on!” –Penny) 😉

What's for lunchSo, how about YOU: What would you offer a hungry dragon to entice him to eat it instead of you?

Comment on any post this week for a chance to win your very own SIGNED copy of There Was an Old Dragon Who Swallowed a Knight!

Or buy a copy right away. You can find one at YOUR local indie bookstore here: Indiebound

Or, you can order online through Barnes and NobleAmazonBooks-A-Million, or Powell’s.

For personalized signed copies of There Was an Old Dragon, you can order fromTexas Star Trading Co. and give your dedication details in the Gift Message box. You can also contact them by email at texasstartradingco@sbcglobal.net or call  (325) 672-9696.

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Filed under Book Giveaway, Book Launch, Celebrations

There Was an Old Dragon, and he’s HERE!

confetti

Photo from ADoseOfShipBoy on Flickr

Get out your confetti cannons and toot your horns: it’s time for another week-long Emu’s Debuts book launch party!!!

This week we’re celebrating the launch of Penny Parker Klostermann‘s There Was an Old Dragon. We’ve had dragons on the blog before, thanks to Joshua McCune’s Talker 25 and Natalie Dias Lorenzi’s Flying the Dragon, but this dragon is for the younger set (and everyone else who loves jaunty rhyming text and colorful, clever artwork!). I mean, just look at that face!

Dragon Cover High Res copy

This particular dragon is up to a bit of no good, though, as you might expect from the title.

Here’s what some early reviews had to say about it:

“No matter how many swallowed-fly titles you own, this one belongs on your shelf too.” — Kirkus

“The author has used a broad range of words—savory, shady, fattens, tassel, guzzled, bloat, quote, perchance, amass, and billow. These will add depth to the young listener’s vocabulary.” — School Library Journal

Penny has been busy pounding the virtual pavement to get the word out about this fantastic book. In addition to what we have planned for you the rest of the week, don’t miss the ongoing “There Was an Old Blog Tour.” Here are the list of places this very hungry dragon has visited or will be visiting soon:

And you can click HERE for the free downloadable activity guide From Random House!

For personalized signed copies of There Was an Old Dragon, you can order from Texas Star Trading Co. and give your dedication details in the Gift Message box. You can also contact them by email at texasstartradingco@sbcglobal.net or call  (325) 672-9696.

You can find one at YOUR local indie bookstore here: Indiebound

Or, you can order online through Barnes and NobleAmazonBooks-A-Million, or Powell’s.

Of course, you can also try your luck: Comment on any post this week for a chance to win your very own SIGNED copy of There Was an Old Dragon. And don’t forget to come back to see what’s cooking for tomorrow: it’ll be delicious!

 

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Filed under Book Launch, Celebrations

Unexpected Connections

Tamara Smith’s Another Kind of Hurricane is the story of two kids, Henry and Zavion, separated by geography, who connect in an unexpected way. So to welcome this book into the world, we’re sharing our stories of unexpected connections today.

Another Kind of Hurricane cover

Penny Parker Klostermann

It was Fall 2010. I was dreaming about getting a picture book published. I knew it would be challenging, but I also knew I needed to get with it if I was serious. We were headed to my in-laws for Thanksgiving. My mother-in-law called us while we were driving. There was a little chit-chat about the traffic, then this:

My mother-in-law: “Tell Penny that there’s going to be a guy joining our Thanksgiving get-together that writes children’s’ books.”
Me: “What’s his name?”
My mother-in-law: “I don’t know. You’ll have to ask Bev (my husband’s sister).”

All this plus inspiration

All this plus inspiration

It turns out it was Peter Brown! Yep! I couldn’t believe I was sitting across from someone who was doing what I wanted to do. (Well, the writing part. I’m NO illustrator.) I shyly said that I had written a few stories. He responded politely and appropriately, but I’m sure he was thinking, “How many times have I heard this??? Everybody wants to write a children’s book!” I can’t say I was brave enough to take the conversation further. I just listened as he told some others at the table about his writing. But, meeting him was the connection I needed to move forward in pursuit of publication.

Maria Gianferrari

I have the perfect connection for Tam’s launch—my connection with Tam! As I’m writing this, we have not yet met in person, but we’ll be meeting at my own book launch. Another planned meeting at her parents’ farm was foiled by heavy rain, luckily not a hurricane, and yet it feels like we have some kind of otherly bond, one in which I feel like I’ve somehow known her for a long time, connected by common threads, strange as it may sound. Who knows—maybe we were sisters in a past life, and now we’re Emu-sisters. I look forward to the day when we can hang out together!

tamara_ellis_smith_bio

Tamara Ellis Smith. And we’re happy to report that Tam and Maria have finally met in person at Maria’s book launch party last week.

Carole Gerber

When my daughter Jess was a college student at Elon University in North Carolina she drove back to our home in Ohio during holidays and summer break. She always stopped for gas and a snack in Beckley, West Virginia, which had a large tourist stop with multiple pumps, restrooms, and fast food outlets. While waiting in line for an ice cream, she saw old family friends we’d lost touch with – except for annual Christmas cards –  when they moved out-of-state. Later that year, while waiting to run a half-marathon in Washington, D.C., she saw them and two of their children who were also participating. Since then, my husband and I have also re-connected with our old friends and visit back and forth a couple of times a year.

I think I know that person

I think I know that person

Megan Morrison

I’ve been really lucky on the Internet. Through the power of shared interest in books, I’ve connected with people who have turned out to be my best friends, my writing colleagues – and even my husband. That’s got to be the best unexpected connection I’ve made. I met him because he posted something funny and snarky on a Harry Potter message board. It was a sentiment I wanted to express, but as a moderator I was trying to set a good example. Privately, I messaged him to tell him I appreciated his comment – and he messaged back some very complimentary things about my writing (fan fiction, at the time). His own writing was excellent. The man knew how to spell and punctuate. What’s more, it turned out that we lived in neighboring boroughs of New York City: me in Manhattan, him in Brooklyn. We got together that very weekend, and when we parted at the subway entrance later that evening, I had a very, very funny feeling. My gut was not wrong. On July 30th of this year, we will have been together for ten years.

I've got a good feeling about this

I’ve got a good feeling about this

What about you?

Share your unexpected connections below or comment on any of the posts this week to be entered to win a signed copy of Another Kind of Hurricane.

Purchase a copy of Tamara’s book through Indiebound, Powell’sBarnes & Noble, or Amazon.

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Filed under Book Giveaway, Book Launch, Celebrations