Tag Archives: kids books

Show Yourself in Your Work: An Illustrator’s Story

It’s launch week! It’s launch week! Hold onto your summer floppy hats, we have a book…well, actually two to launch into the world this week. A little bit from the publisher about our first book baby!

Jasmine Toguchi: Mochi Queen

by Debbi Michiko Florence (illus. by Elizabet Vukovic)

Eight-year-old Jasmine Toguchi is a flamingo fan, tree climber, and top-notch mess-maker!

She’s also tired of her big sister, Sophie, always getting to do things first. For once, Jasmine wishes SHE could do something before Sophie—something special, something different. The New Year approaches, and as the Toguchi family gathers in Los Angeles to celebrate, Jasmine is jealous that her sister gets to help roll mochi balls by hand with the women. Her mom says that Jasmine is still too young to join in, so she hatches a plan to help the men pound the mochi rice instead. Surely her sister has never done THAT before.

But pounding mochi is traditionally reserved for boys. And the mochi hammer is heavier than it looks. Can Jasmine build her case and her mochi-making muscles in time for New Year’s Day?

Ages 6 – 9

Available July 11, 2017 (Farrar, Straus and Giroux BYR)

And even better? This is the first book in a series. The second book is also available this week! At the end of this post, you can enter to wind a copy!

To kick off a week of Jasmine Toguchi celebrations, I sat down with illustrator Elizabet Vukovic. Ok, technically, she was in the Netherlands and I was in Maine… but laughing all the way through our video chat, it was as if we were sitting at the same table. Elizabet is not only talented and brilliant, but she’s bubbly, fun, spunky, and there are some big surprises in her journey.  You are going to love her as much as I do. Let’s get to it.

evukovic_02

Elizabet knows exactly what it’s like to have a big sister who gets everything first! Reading the pages of Jasmine Toguchi: Mochi Queen, Elizabet related to Jasmine immediately. She laughed heartily as we talked about her own childhood and the misery of hand-me downs.

Growing up in the Netherlands, Elizabet lived around the corner from a bicycle store. Every summer, she looked through the shop window at the new bikes. So shiny! So new! And every summer, she watched her older sister pick out a new bike… while Elizabet got her sister’s old bike to ride. (Eventually Elizabet would get a new bike, but not until high school!)

Elizabet wore her sister’s hand-me-down clothes and played with hand-me-down toys––until one day Elizabet had enough. It happened in the toy store. The girls had begged their father to walk into the toy store, promising only to look at the toys. Finally, their father agreed. The three of them walked into the store and that’s when Elizabet saw it: a microphone. Not just any microphone, but one that echoed. Elizabet was always singing and this microphone would be the perfect accessory. She had to have it.

She asked her dad to buy it. He said no.

So Elizabet refused to leave the store––without that microphone. That’s when her father and big sister left her there and went home.

But Elizabet did not budge.

Finally, her father returned to the store. And he bought Elizabet that microphone!

As we talked about this story, Elizabet’s eyes sparkled and her grin grew wide. Tapping into these experiences, brought Jasmine to life for Elizabet. She says the illustration on page 37 of the book put in a fine point on what both girls dealt with. (And no sneak previews. The only way to see this emotional scene is to buy the book or request it at the library or win it in our book give away! Also, it’s totally worth it.) But, it’s that illustration in particular that captured both Elizabet’s experience and Jasmine’s: complete frustration and irritation. The contrast of Jasmine’s level of anger juxtaposed to the oblivious prancing around of her older sister really nails the dynamic.

Elizabet says that level of personal connection is critical to her work. You can learn anatomy, she explains, but you have to put yourself in those characters. “Show yourself in your work,” Elizabet said.

But Elizabet’s path to accomplishing that, to creating the space where that’s even possible is interesting. She is the child of immigrants from Croatia. Her parents are hard workers and always expected that of their kids. Because they had to overcome so much and accomplish so much to establish their new lives in the Netherlands, they are also very practical and pragmatic.

Elizabet was interested in drawing as a very small child. Her kindergarten teacher used to say to her parents, “You have a real Picasso on your hands.” Even in high school, a teacher mentioned that Elizabet should go into drawing.

But as a profession? That was hard for Elizabet’s parents to accept or encourage. After all, they wanted Elizabet to have a paying job, security. .. all of the things they had immigrated to the Netherlands to build.

But as effervescent and charming as Elizabet is, she also has steely determination and an unyielding drive to prove herself.

So, what could she do in that situation? First, Elizabet got a degree in optometry. That’s right, optometry. She worked full time in the field to save money for art school. She worked during the day and studied illustration at night through online coursework until she graduated from the San Francisco Art Academy.

Then, she rode her bike 45 minutes to work every day, put in her hours, rode her bike home––which was another 45 minutes, climbed into her studio chair and began working on her illustration portfolio. Every night.

But Elizabet swears that something magical happened in those late hours. It was like her illustration time was protected. Because she had a full time job, she could really give herself permission to go for it at night. Permission to take risks, to enjoy her passion. Her artwork was not burdened with the responsibility of having to make money.

work_ev

Once her portfolio was ready, Elizabet prepared herself mentally for the process. She was ready for the rejections, the long, hard, and difficult path to an agent and publication.

She started by picking her top three agencies. Then one morning, she submitted her work by e-mail. She had an offer by that afternoon. She ran around her room screaming. Elizabet doesn’t remember much of her call with her agent Justin Rucker, just that he said he loved her work. “I was so high on emotion and he talked a lot and I kept thinking is this real? Oh my God!” she remembers.

And Elizabet brings all of that to these illustrations. You’ll see it immediately, the joy and spunk…. the struggle and conflict. They flow out of her pen onto the page. These masterful illustrations are a treasure for readers and an invitation to all of us to show ourselves in our work.

Enjoy!

Anna Crowley Redding

P.S. Elizabet and her older sister are close friends today !

P.P.S. Keep reading, there’s a book give away at the bottom of this post!

Also available this week: Book 2 in this delicious, unforgettable series:

Jasmine Toguchi, Super Sleuth (Book 2)

by Debbi Michiko Florence (illus. by Elizabet Vukovic)

It’s a big weekend for Jasmine Toguchi! She’s excited to celebrate Girl’s Day―a Japanese holiday honoring women and girls―with her sister, mother, and best friend, Linnie. When Linnie comes over to plan for the Girl’s Day celebration, Jasmine’s neighbor lets them play dress up in her garage. But the garage is dark, which is kind of scary. And Linnie decides to go home early, which is kind of weird. And Jasmine’s big sister, Sophie, doesn’t seem to want to join in the Girl’s Day fun this year, which is kind of confusing. WHAT is going on?

As her big weekend plans start to unravel, Jasmine must use her sleuthing skills to spot the clues around her. Then maybe, just maybe, she can fix things and make sure the Girl’s Day celebration happens!

Ages 6 – 9

Available July 11, 2017 (Farrar, Straus and Giroux BYR)

Enter to win MOCHI QUEEN and SUPER SLEUTH! One entry per one comment per post this launch week for a maximum total of five entries. The winner will be drawn at random. Must have U.S. mailing address. Enter by midnight EST Sunday July 16th. Good luck!

headshot_ev

 

Advertisements

12 Comments

Filed under Book Giveaway, Book Launch, Character Development, Dreams Come True, Families, Illustrating, Illustrators, Inspiration, Interviews, process, Uncategorized

EMU’s Best Under-the-Radar Kids’ Books of 2012!

Well, friends, it’s February now…which I think means that 2012 is truly, officially over. Best-of lists have been made, many literary awards covering the last year have been handed out, and we EMUs heartily congratulate our fellow authors who’ve been honored (including an impressive slew of EMU Emeriti!).

And yet, we can’t help thinking back on our favorite reads of the year—the ones that we couldn’t put down, the ones that made us swoon. The ones that, months later, we keep recommending to the kids (OK, and grown-ups) in our lives, even if they weren’t mega-best sellers or fancy award winners.

I asked a few fellow EMUs to share their favorite books that were published in 2012, focusing on titles that may have flown under the radar a little bit—and of course, they came through with enthusiasm. Looks like everyone’s TBR pile is about to get a little taller…

Carol Brendler

fitzosbornesI loved The FitzOsbornes at War, the third in a trilogy by Michelle Cooper (Knopf). A sort of alternative history of England in the second world war, the book is refreshingly sophisticated, well written, and meticulously and thoroughly researched. While not exactly ignored in the world of children’s literature, it’s one I felt deserved more attention than some of the top sellers.


Adi Rule

SledMy favorite read of 2012 was a picture book—The Iciest, Diciest, Scariest Sled Ride Ever! by Rebecca Rule (my mum) & Jennifer Thermes (Islandport Press). What happens when Lizzie, Patty P, Patty H, the Lapierre brothers, and even Chipper the dog decide to haul the long travois sled all the way up the big hill and ride it down?


Pat Zietlow Miller

little dogI will go with Little Dog, Lost by Marion Dane Bauer (Atheneum). It’s so sad. But it’s so sweet. On so many different levels. It’s such a moving look at loneliness and longing and love. And the writing? Exemplary.


Laurie Ann Thompson

BIGI loved BIG, written by Coleen Paratore and illustrated by Clare Fennell (Little Pickle Press).

Kids always want to be “bigger,” and adults tell children “you can do that when you’re bigger,” but there are plenty of ways little ones can be “big” in a different and much more important sense of the word. This empowering and inspiring book shows how even little children can accomplish some pretty big ideas—like being responsible for themselves and caring for others—and it serves as a gentle reminder to adult readers as well. The illustrations are bright and fun, and they enhance the text beautifully. This is definitely one of my favorite picture books of the year.

CrowAnd if I can add one more, I’d say As The Crow Flies by Sheila Keenan, illustrated by Kevin Duggan (Feiwel & Friends). This nonfiction picture book about crows is the book I was planning to write next, so I was angry and disappointed when I first saw that someone had beaten me to it. Once I saw it, though, I couldn’t be angry or disappointed anymore. It’s true to my idea and exactly what I wanted to accomplish, and it’s executed so, so well. I’m just happy to see it out in the world. Beautiful art, beautiful text, beautiful subject.


Tara Dairman

imgresIn middle grade, I adored Remarkable by Lizzie K. Foley (Dial). Clever, quirky, and often just downright hilarious, I think that any shelf containing Roald Dahl or Lemony Snicket books can’t be considered complete without it. Really, I defy any reader not to be charmed by this book—it has a pirate character named Captain Rojo Herring, for heaven’s sake.

FairCoin_250x387And in YA, I loved Fair Coin by E.C. Myers (Pyr). Featuring wonderfully believable teen characters and a just-freaky-enough sci-fi concept involving parallel universes, I couldn’t put this book down. It stands alone, but now a sequel, Quantum Coin, is out, too!


So, blog readers, have you read any of our picks? Or do you have any under-the-radar recommendations of your own? We’d love to hear about them in the comments!

6 Comments

Filed under reading

Research, Authority and Time Travel

J's time machine - it's a work in progress.

After reading Mike’s charming Monday post, I had this little fantasy in which I went to the garage, cobbled together a time machine out of leftover fencing and lawn mower gas, and zipped off to the thirteenth century to do a little experiential research.

See, I’m a bit jealous of you contemporary and fantasy writers. I’d sure love to be able to do research by wandering down to the aquaponics shop, or better yet, just make something up to explain magic or shapeshifting or human flight.

With historical fiction, the one thing you can’t do is just make something up, and until I get that time machine off the ground, secondhand experience with a dash of firsthand evidence is all I’m going to get.

But here’s the thing about Mike’s experience that cuts across genre: authority.  What gives me the right as a pesky writer – a pesky and obscure writer – to have access to certain information?  And who in their right mind is going to take time out of her or his busy day to accommodate me?

The first time I approached a Special Collections desk in a Major Research Library to ask to see a rare book, I was sure the librarian was going to take one look at me, laugh, and point me toward the door.  I was not a professor.  I was not a scholar.  I was not even a Real Writer.  I didn’t feel like I had any right to that book, even though it had information that would fill in key gaps in my worldbuilding.

Special Collections - I'd live here if they'd let me.

I hesitated for a long time with the call slip in my hand, even with library and archival training of my own under my belt.  At that moment, I felt like I needed a note from someone else giving me permission.  I felt like just wanting to know – just needing to know – for some kids’ book about the middle ages wasn’t good enough.

Of course I handed over the slip and got the book without any drama at all, just like Mike’s WIP will be enhanced by his trips to various comic book emporia.  As writers, and especially as writers for kids, we have a responsibility to get things right, to present rich and detailed worlds inhabited by complicated characters.  That means we need information of all kinds, and that means we have the authority to find things out.  Authority is not something that’s given – it’s taken.  Anything given can be taken back.

For my part, I think I’ll put the time machine up on blocks and stick to books.  Authority is great and all, but I’m not sure I want to arrive bright-eyed in 1294 and bounce up to guys like my rebel leader, Madog ap Llywelyn, and say, “Hey, can you tell me a little about how you plan to feed these guys all winter?  What’s in your bag?  What do you plan to put on that cut?  And hey – what about your underwear?”

16 Comments

Filed under Research