Coloring Page Tuesday - Alien TV

     I created something completely silly for you this week - an alien watching television!
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     I create my coloring pages to draw your attention to my books! For instance...
my latest picture book, Crow Not Crow - written by New York Times Best-selling author Jane Yolen and Adam Stemple.
     Kirkus calls it "a solid choice for introducing the hobby [birdwatching] to younger readers."
      Also, A Bird on Water Street is now available in Chinese!
      
     I create my coloring pages for teachers, librarians, booksellers, and parents to enjoy for free with their children, but you can also purchase rights to an image for commercial use, please contact me. If you have questions about usage, please visit my Angel Policy page.

Book Reviews: Girl in a Cage, The Witches Feast, The Mouse and His Child, and The Stone Book

As part of my PhD research, I do a lot of reading these days! Not all of it is academic (although a good portion of it is). I am constantly looking for stories that reflect my topic. I'm also busily trying to catch up on the UK canon of classics, as they are constantly referred to in my classes. I thought I'd share a few of my recent reads with you. The full reviews are on Goodreads.

Girl in a Cage (Stuart Quartet, #2)Girl in a Cage by Jane Yolen
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Girl in a Cage is an exceptionally well-done peek into life in the 1100s and a good history lesson of Robert the Bruce's reign in Scotland, that was hard-won and cost him and his family dearly. The book is historical fiction, so some liberties are assumed with the known history. That said, the story is based on reasonable conclusions. Marjorie, Robert's daughter and only heir, is captured and kept on display in a town as a prize of war. She is regularly visited by King Longshanks (so nicknamed because of his extreme height). Longshanks is dying and his decline is reflected in 'Jo's' decline in the cage. Even so, as his temperament collapses, hers is fortified. Each small kindness she marks as victories towards her own eventual success. For instance, a girl who brings her a comb is named her 'Lady Enid'. When her brothers bring her food, she knights them and names them her army. The monk who brings her food and shows her kindness becomes her clergy. Truly, her determination, hope and positivity is worth the story alone. The story brings history to life and would be an excellent companion to Scottish history studies, although it is an excellent read for its own sake.

Tom & Tallulah and the Witches' FeastTom & Tallulah and the Witches' Feast by Marta Kissi (illustrator) Vivian French
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Vivian French makes writing stories look easy. This is a simple tale, perfectly told and perfect for the early mid-grade or chapter book reader. The witches in this story are assumed to be good, which is a lovely opposite to the approach of most books involving witches. "I thought all witches were good," Tom said, "just like Grandmother." (p94) Indeed, the evil witch is the outlier. The story reads a bit like the witches coven from Terry Pratchett's Tiffany Aching books (beginning with The Wee Free Men) and would make a wonderful companion or precursor to those books. It has a sense of community, family, initiation for Tallulah, while sharing a love of family and cooperation to achieve the necessary goals - in this case, the creation of a witch's feast within a week's time, which would seem an easy enough task. However, Tallulah must figure out the favorite dish of each witch in the coven, and prepare them, even though she can't cook. Part mystery, part adventure, part cookbook, this is a delightful read.

The Mouse and His ChildThe Mouse and His Child by Russell Hoban
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is my new favorite book of all time. It reads as an adventure story - a wind-up toy (a father and son mouse) are purchased from a toy store, and journey through families and Christmases, until they are finally old and broken and end up in a dump where an enterprising but evil rat rebuilds wind-up toys as his personal army of laborers. The son longs for home, for a mother, for a sense of belonging somewhere (his 'territory') and that is his primary directive throughout the story - to achieve that. The father, on the other hand, is cynical and loses hope again and again. It is the son's optimism that keeps them going. As a unit, they represent the dual motivations in any one human being. The nature of their being - being wind-up toys reliant on others to wind them up to make them go, is an obvious allegory to mankind's reliance on fate, economies, war, etc to make any progress in life. It is a statement to our vulnerabilities, or utter helplessness and lack of any real control of our lives. Indeed, each bit of their journey is instigated by an outside force rather than by their own doing. It is only their hope that keeps them alive as they wait for the next thing to occur. This book came into my life at an interesting time - in the midst of Trump and Brexit - when I think most of us feel like wind-up toys, victims to forces greater than ourselves and out of our control. The story does end on a high note, the son's hope is rewarded, friends are reunited and a home/territory is indeed established. As such, the story leaves one with a sense of positive hope alongside an intense awareness of our own fragility.

The Stone BookThe Stone Book by Alan Garner
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

*spoilers* I think it may be important to read the entire quartet to get the full impact of these stories. As a stand-alone, The Stone Book is a bit odd. The language is a strong unidentifiable dialect perhaps during the 1800s. The race of the characters is unclear, although the girl's desire for a book or to learn how to read might suggest they are recently freed slaves, or poor settlers in a small, but growing town. The father is a stone mason and in response to his daughter's request (she wants a prayer book in which to press flowers as the other girls, who also cannot read, do), he takes her into an old mine. He tells her to follow the malachite, and other types of rock. She knows these after a lifetime of observing her father's love of rocks. In the mine, she finds old cave paintings from long-lost civilizations. The rite of passage (her father saw them too when he was her age - stonemasons in their family only go once to see them) connects her to the earth and to things greater than herself. She leaves the mine a changed person. Still, her father gives her a prayer book, one carved from stone that contains all of the stories in the world. As an aside, her uncle lives in the home with the family. He is a deaf weaver, obviously symbolic of time and the history of mankind. The Stone Book is a very short read, but one that will stick with you for a long time.

Thanks to a CROW NOT CROW model

Yesterday, Stan and I met our good friends Boris and Vicky for lunch - partly to catch up and partly so that I could give Boris a copy of Crow Not Crow.
Why? Because, Boris was the model for the father in the book, as you can see here! Groovy, eh?
I have two more copies to give out - to the boy who posed as the child (who I later changed to a girl) and to Antti, who was the original father and whose body is still in the book (with Boris' head). Make sense? :)

Friday Links List - 9 November 2018

From War on the Rocks: From The Trenches to Mordor and Back: World War I and British Fantasy Literature (very interesting read!)

From The Mixed-up Files: Celebrating Little Free Libraries and Their Founder

From SCBWI Michigan: The Mitten: Fast-Track Your Writing Production with Meditation by Heather Smith Meloche

From Muddy Colors: 10 Errors to Avoid When Composing Thumbnails - REALLY GOOD ARTICLE!!!!

From The Art Room Plant: Sushi art by Takayo Kiuyoya - cool!

The 2018 New York Times/New York Public Library Best Illustrated Children's Books

The 2018 New York Times/New York Public Library Best Illustrated Children's Books Winners at Work

From Publishers Weekly: Sourcebooks Offers Rapid Replenishment Program to Indies

From the Picture Book Den: Looking into the eyes of picture book characters (Dots, circles - how do illustrators draw eyes?)

From The Guardian: Jeff Kinney: 'Let children read anything; I'll never say no to a book'

From Tor.com: Moral Kombat: How Narnia and Harry Potter Wrestle with Death and Rewrite Christianity

From BuzzFeed: 14 Illustrations That'll Make All Book Lovers Laugh

From Nieman Lab: How to successfully pitch The New York Times (or, well, anyone else)

From WriterUnboxed: The Case for Pseudonyms

From The Mixed-up Files: Not to make you feel inadequate, but... "Can Preschoolers Write Bestselling Books?" Apparently they can, and apparently they have!

Il Sung Na's THE DREAMER

I am a fan of Il Sung Na's work and had him visit to celebrate his book THE OPPOSITE ZOO. Well, I'm thrilled to have him back to visit with his newest book, the lovely THE DREAMER. Read on!
e: Il Sung, what is your creative process/medium, can you walk us through it?
Il Sung:
My work process is not different from others. Once I have an idea that I am excited about, take it into further development. Write a short synopsis or make a few sentences that tell a story. Sometimes writing and drawing comes together, sometimes it comes separately. Writing and thumbnail sketching involve many revisions. Sometimes I have an “AHA” moment that I solve all problems I have in writing and sketching. It takes a long time to get that moment though. The coloring is the part that I enjoy most. I don’t have to worry about composition, layout, pacing anymore! Just enjoy and let colors work out themselves. These days, I have been trying to come out of my comfort zone and away from my typical materials. That’s why I used different materials on my three recent picture books.

e: What do you think makes an illustration magical, what I call "Heart Art” - the sort that makes a reader want to come back to look again and again?
Il Sung:
I don’t have a brilliant answer for this but I think Illustration is magical because it triggers our imagination and leads us to the other side of the world. Illustrators build their own imaginary worlds and invite readers.

e: Is there a unique or funny story behind the creation of this story?
Il Sung:
It’s not a funny story but my first dummy for this book was an alphabet book format. At the time I wanted to create an alphabet book, not just simple ones, but have a story to tell with words in alphabetical order. I thought it was a brilliant idea because I did not see many alphabet books have stories and I came up with ‘Pig can fly’ story. It was a real challenge to list down all possible words in order and make a story. It was like solving a puzzle.
      I am so happy how the final book turns out. But maybe I will try another alphabet storybook format again in the future.

Early idea sketches with words, figuring out a story.

Early thumbnail sketches as an alphabet book format.
e: How do you advertise yourself?
Il Sung:
I am not very good at advertising myself. I use Instagram occasionally. After I work with an Agency, I don’t advertise or promote my works quite often. But I still show drawings, illustrations and work progress on my Instagram.

e: What is your favorite or most challenging part of being a creator?
Il Sung Na:
The most favorite part of the process is color. This is the stage that I explore all colors and enjoy it.
      Writing a story and thumbnail sketch is equally challenging for me. If I have to choose one, the writing part is the most difficult stage and often I struggle a lot.

e: Is there something in particular about this story you hope readers will take away with them, perhaps something that isn’t immediately obvious?
Il Sung:

There is a reason behind why the story begins and ends with the same text, ‘Once there was a pig who admired birds’. Some people think our pig achieved his dream in the end. Some people get confused or don’t understand the ending. Some might think if he was in his daydreaming.
      There are two possible endings. Our pig had his dream, tried hard, achieved his dream and even inspired other animals. You need to try and have the courage to keep going, then you will get what you want eventually. People who made a success often come back to the first place where they started. This is the first reason to have the beginning and ending scene is happening in the same place.
      The second possible ending is not positive. Our pig was there and dreaming about flying. But he was only dreaming. So nothing quite happened. He was in his daydream. If you have a dream, then got to do something. Not just dreaming. This is another reason that the beginning and ending scene is the same but with a different time frame of the day.
      I gave this book to my neighbor for her grandson. She got back to me a couple of days after and saying that her grandson loves it, and he said to his dad ‘So this is a circle book’. I did not catch it immediately but soon I understood what he meant. Because the beginning and ending have the same text, the story circulates. I think he got the point of the story.
      Hopefully, people will also notice the different shape of trees on the beginning and the ending pages. Trees are more abstract shapes on the first spread and it means he is in his imaginary world. They became natural shapes on the last spread which means he’s back to his real world.
      Still, it will give a room to the readers to think if his dreams come true or if he is still dreaming. I will leave it to the reader to figure it out.
e: What are you working on next or what would be your dream project?
Il Sung:
I am working on a story about two rabbits who love carrots and they are expert at growing them. But something strange is going on in their garden. One day, they discover something in their garden and the story actually begin from that point. It has been a while that I developed this story and revised many times with my editor over a year. But the good thing is that finally I have got approved all sketches. So only the color part left. Let’s fun begins.
Sketches & color




I have moved to a new home recently and set up my studio space. It’s still very white but I am planning to add more colors soon. I like my dog sleeps when I am working. It makes me sleepy a bit though.
Thank you for giving me an opportunity to share my thoughts on this book! I am so happy to make this book because it represents my journey as well.

e: Can't wait to see what you create next and have you back on, Il Sung!

Coloring Page Tuesday - VOTE!!!!

     It takes ALL of us to make democracy work! PLEASE VOTE!!!!
CLICK HERE for more coloring pages.
If you use my coloring pages often, please...

Just love this one image? Consider a one-time donation...

CLICK HERE to sign up to receive alerts when a new coloring page is posted each week.

     I create my coloring pages to draw your attention to my books! For instance...
my latest picture book, Crow Not Crow - written by New York Times Best-selling author Jane Yolen and Adam Stemple.
     Kirkus calls it "a solid choice for introducing the hobby [birdwatching] to younger readers."
      Also, A Bird on Water Street is now available in Chinese!
      
     I create my coloring pages for teachers, librarians, booksellers, and parents to enjoy for free with their children, but you can also purchase rights to an image for commercial use, please contact me. If you have questions about usage, please visit my Angel Policy page.

Illustrator Talk for CROW NOT CROW

The gallery show went up Thursday in time for my Illustrator Talk celebrating Crow Not Crow on Friday. While sign-ups were vigorous, I was a little worried when it came time as the trains between Edinburgh and Glasgow were in complete dissaray. It took Stan and me three hours to get to Glasgow, when it usually only takes one and a half. UGG!
I needn't have worried, it was a great turn-out! Several of my students were there, some folks from SCBWI, fellow PhD Researchers, and even creator friends Kate Leiper and Vivian French came all the way from Edinburgh to support me - thanks, guys!
I opened the talk with Mary Martin singing "I Gotta Crow" from the Broadway version of Peter Pan from 1956 as it seemed appropriate. (And we've been studying Peter Pan in our "Texts for Children" course.)


After that I shared the inspiration behind the book by discussing the history of bird watching between both Jane's family and mine, sharing Jane's Caldecott-winning Owl Moon in which her daughter, Heidi Stemple was the model. In fact, Jane's cousin Janet was there - what a treat! (She lives in Glasgow.)
I shared more work from the book and talked about the process of illustrating it, from sketches to storyboards to painting.

I talked about how I determine the light sources at the outset, then color scripts to determine the color of the sky at the various times of day.
There were lots of great questions, which is my favourite part. Then we went to actually look at the show, where folks could see the original art up-close and personal.

The Glasgow reporter took pics to share online. Here's me an Viv.
And I sold and signed several copies of the book after that. The whole thing was a wonderful success and really couldn't have gone any better - except for the trains. No matter. It gave Stan and me an excuse to get a celebratory dinner in Glasgow while they worked out the kinks for our ride back to Edinburgh, where I promptly fell over and had lovely dreams about birds... THANK YOU again to Mona, Maureen, and Sissi for helping to make the event possible!

Hanging the Crow Show!

I am honored to be sharing my original artwork from Crow Not Crow, written by Jane Yolen and Adam Stemple, at the University of Glasgow right now. Several people had a hand in making the show happen: the Art and Design Technician in the School of Education, Mona Rahman; my supervisor, Maureen Farrell; and fellow PhD Researcher Yaxi (Sissi) Wang who helped hang the show alongside me and Mona.
The system is very cool. Picture rail runs high along the wall, and metal rods hang down from the rail. Tension clips slide up the rods and act as hanging mechanisms, making the hanging of a show easy peasy.
From there, it's just a matter of spacing everything evenly.
The pieces weren't framed or mounted, so we placed a strip of stiff cardboard behind the top of each piece to make them hang straight, it ended up resembling how the work looked hanging in my studio and worked great. For the show, I am sharing originals and sketches, an early dummy, and some storyboard drawings.


The whole thing went up in about two hours, ready for my opening talk on Friday - more on that soon!
     The show will be up for three weeks in the St Andrews Building on the 5th floor through November 23rd. If you happen to be in Glasgow, I'll hope you'll stop by to see it!
     Meanwhile, here's a big fuzzy THANK YOU to Mona, Maureen, and Sissi!

Dave Eggers and Shawn Harris' WHAT CAN A CITIZEN DO?

"Empowering and timeless, WHAT CAN A CITIZEN DO? is the latest collaboration from the acclaimed duo behind the bestselling Her Right Foot: Dave Eggers and Shawn Harris. This is a book for today's youth about what it means to be a citizen.
      Across the course of several seemingly unrelated but ultimately connected actions by different children, we watch how kids turn a lonely island into a community—and watch a journey from what the world should be to what the world could be.
      This is a book about what citizenship—good citizenship—means to you, and to us all."
     I am thrilled, thrilled, thrilled to have Shawn here to today to talk about this wonderful and important new book!

e: What was your creative process/medium for WHAT CAN A CITIZEN DO?, can you walk us through it?
Shawn:
I used cut (and sometimes folded) paper, and ink for the book. The cut paper is arranged and lit on my desk and photographed by an overhead camera. I then print out the photo and using a light-table to see the cut-paper image through a white sheet of paper, I create the ink lines on this separate paper with a brush and india ink. Finally, I overlay the two images in Photoshop. I don’t like to alter the photograph of the cut paper digitally, so making the art on two layers allows me to alter expressions and details according to notes from the author and publisher without having to re-light and re-shoot the collages, because on this project, to emphasize shadows between the layers of paper, I was not using glue, so it would have been very difficult to re-stage any scenes that had notes that needed addressing.
e: What impact do you hope the book will have?
Shawn:
My favorite thing about Dave’s manuscript was the idea that this book might be the first definition of the word “Citizen” for our youngest audience, and for grade-schoolers, it might be the first time that they associate the word “Citizen” with themselves, and detach it from just being a stuffy adult word. I hope our readers and listeners are energized by that power, and feel that even their little actions do add up to make a big impact on the lives of everyone around them.
e: What do you think makes an illustration magical, what I call "Heart Art” - the sort that makes a reader want to come back to look again and again?
Shawn:
For me, an image’s emotional effect is all about context, which is why making picture books is so fun. Every page-turn is an opportunity for the artist to surprise, subvert, or ratchet up the reader’s expectations. An illustration is just an aesthetic exercise until it succeeds in moving a viewer, and within that reaction, there is magic.
e: Is there a unique or funny story behind the creation of WHAT CAN A CITIZEN DO?
Shawn:
The book mostly takes place on one set. It’s literally a set under lights, like you might see on a stage at a play, but it’s all the size of my desk. I reused cut-paper set pieces, characters, and objects from page to page as the construction of the little society progresses. So I realized while I was making the book, that with my glue stick and x-acto blade, I was constructing this tree fort in actuality, along with the fictional paper characters. In the end when you see the completed tree-fort, it’s a page by page culmination of girders, beams and columns. So I can’t help but feel that having labored in the drainage ditch alongside the kids and the bear, that I have become a citizen there too.

Shawn's studio!
e: How do you advertise yourself?
Shawn:
I like visiting schools and drawing for/with kids. When I post my work online, it isn’t for my audience, it’s for their parents and my peers, who I suppose are the ones purchasing the books, but when I read directly to kids, I can tell immediately what they connect to in my art, and what doesn’t land as I’d planned, and so I get to evolve as an artist in that setting too, which I really appreciate.

e: What is your favorite or most challenging part of being a creator?
Shawn:
There’s a period of time between sketching and moving on to making final art that always threatens my emotional foundation. The internet is full of incredible artists, and I’ll usually lose a few days or weeks in a Pinterest/Instagram hole, admiring everyone else’s work, and thinking that I’m a fraud, and that my best work is behind me. Then eventually I’ll plow through a few days of drawing poorly until I complete a few images that I like, and from there, the rest of the project unfolds like a dream, and I can do no wrong. Those would be my favorite times, though they will over-ripen and become lonely, but then the book gets published, and I will be drawn out into the world for the cycle to repeat.

e: Is there something in particular about this story you hope readers will take away with them, perhaps something that isn’t immediately obvious?
Shawn:
There’s a page that reads “… a world of latticed people, none of us the same” below an illustration of identical twins. When I read the book to kids, and I hear a murmur of “but they ARE the same…” I get to ask the question, “Why do you think I drew two people that look almost exactly alike to illustrate this sentence? I could have drawn two people with totally different hair and different skin and different clothes, but I drew identical twins instead. Why?” To see a kid pause to reflect inward, where they recognize a nameless soul detached from their body— that is one of those magic moments you asked about above.

e: Wow, Shawn. That is very cool. Watch a great video on Shawn's method below, and Citizens, DON'T FORGET TO VOTE!!!

About Dave Eggers:
Dave Eggers is the author of many books, including Her Right Foot and This Bridge Will Not Be Gray. He is the cofounder of: Voice of Witness, an oral-history series focused on human rights; 826 National, a network of writing and tutoring centers; and ScholarMatch, which connects donors and under-resourced students to make college possible. He lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.

About Shawn Harris:
Shawn Harris is an artist and musician who lives and works in Morongo Valley, California. He is the illustrator of Her Right Foot.