Category Archives: Illustrators

Fuzzy Doodle by Melinda Szymanik and Donovan Bixley

I love everything that Melinda Szymanik and Donovan Bixley do, so when I heard that they were collaborating on a book I was incredibly excited.  The more I heard about this book, Fuzzy Doodle, the more I wanted to get my hands on it.  We don’t have many books published in hardcover here in New Zealand but you know that when a publisher releases a book, especially a picture book, in hardcover that they really believe in this book.  Fuzzy Doodle has just been released and it is an absolutely stunning book!

9241_Z

Fuzzy Doodle follows a scribble on a page as it starts to eat the ink, then nibbles letters and words, until it moves on to gobbling pictures full of colour.  When it is full to bursting it makes a cocoon and then emerges and unfolds as a dazzling book.  The story perfectly captures the process of creating a story, from the first scribble of an idea, building on that idea, adding colour and layers to the story, sending it out into the world and hoping that it will unfold into a book.

Fuzzy Doodle has ‘award-winning’ written all over it.  It is one of those books that everyone is going to know and it will be a favourite with kids and adults alike.  It is a book that speaks to you as a reader and a lover of books.

There is something magical about this book, from Melinda’s delightful text that is a joy to read aloud to Donovan’s stunning, vibrant illustrations that make Fuzzy leap off the page. Melinda has a lot of fun with words and the story is sure to introduce children to lots of fantastic new words.  Fuzzy does lots of eating so Melinda uses words like ‘gobbled,’  ‘chomped,’ ‘famished,’ and ‘scrumptious.’ Donovan’s illustrations in this book are like nothing we’ve seen from him previously but they are perfect for this story.  Fuzzy starts off as quite dull but the magic really happens when he discovers the ink.  The ink is glossy on the pages (which looks amazing!) and so as Fuzzy eats more ink and words he starts to become glossy himself.  Then Fuzzy discovers colours, and you can’t help smiling as Fuzzy gets brighter and larger.  It really feels like you are holding a valuable piece of art when you are holding this book.  You know that it is something special to treasure.

I urge everyone to buy a copy of this book (multiple copies if you can afford it).  Fuzzy Doodle should be in every home, school and library in the country, and I hope that those outside New Zealand get the opportunity to discover this wonderful book too.  If you are a teacher or a parent you need to share this book with your children.  You will fall in love with this adorable Fuzzy Doodle.

Leave a comment

Filed under books, Illustrators, New Zealand, New Zealand author, picture books

Aaron Blabey talks about his work

Aaron Blabey is my idol.  If there is one person in the world I wish I was it would be him.  He is one very talented guy who creates some of the funniest books for kids.  He can write and illustrate stories for all ages and in different forms, whether it’s picture books like Piranhas Don’t Eat Bananas or novels for older readers like The Bad Guys.

I found this wonderful video on YouTube of Aaron Blabey talking about his work with the brilliant people at Story Box Library.  Watch it and find out about the magic behind Aaron’s stories.

Leave a comment

Filed under author video, authors, books, Illustrators

Alan’s Big Scary Teeth by Jarvis

Alan’s Big Scary Teeth by Jarvis is one of my current favourite picture books.  It’s all about an alligator called Alan who LOVES scaring all the animals in the jungle.  He makes the ‘frogs leap off their lily pads, the monkeys tumble from the trees and the parrots screech in terrible terror.’  However, he has a rather embarrassing secret (you’ll have to read it to find out what).  One of the animals discovers his secret, which could mean the end of his scaring ways.

This book is utterly fabulous!  Not only is the story hilarious, the illustrations are spectacular too.  I first saw Jarvis’s illustrations last year in Poles Apart by Jeanne Willis and really liked his style.  The colours are bold and the illustrations are nice and big.  The cover is really appealing and promises hilarity inside.  It certainly jumps off the shelf and begs to be read.  The large size of the book makes it perfect for sharing with large groups too.

Alan’s Big Scary Teeth is a must-read picture book and is certain to be one that is read over and over again!

Check out the cool book trailer below:

Leave a comment

Filed under book trailer, books, Illustrators, picture books

Rediscover Harry Potter through Jim Kay’s Eyes

Jim KayBloomsbury’s stunning illustrated edition of Harry Potter and the Philiosopher’s Stone was released world-wide yesterday.  Jim Kay is the incredibly lucky illustrator who got the chance to bring his own version of J.K. Rowling’s world to life.  Ever since I saw the first illustration that was released from the book I have been eagerly awaiting the release of the book.  The digital images that have been popping up all over the place look amazing and I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy of the book.

Thanks to the wonderful people at Allen and Unwin NZ I can share with you an interview that Helen Boyle did with illustrator Jim Kay.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.
Words by Helen Boyle

“So I got this phone call from my agent,” illustrator Jim Kay tells me, “and she said, ‘Are you sitting down? They want you to illustrate Harry Potter.’ As a big fan of the books and the films, Kay explains, “It was an incredible opportunity to design Harry’s world from the bottom up.”
But does the commission of a lifetime also come with the pressure of a lifetime?
“Yes, definitely. Everyone has an opinion on Harry Potter and that’s why it’s great, but that’s also why it’s challenging. But I’m not complaining, it’s an amazing commission.”
And Jim Kay likes to challenge himself. “My old art teacher used to say you have to keep testing yourself, don’t get comfortable. And I knew Harry Potter would be difficult for me: because it is children, because of the scale of it and because it’s fantasy. I probably think of myself more as a printmaker, expressing things through landscapes, but with Harry Potter I had to express emotions through characters.
“The hardest thing was the casting – I had to find my own Harry, Ron and Hermione. I’ve never really drawn children, so I needed actual references, especially as the kids grow up through the books. So my agent and I had to find children to cast as my characters.”
And how did he go about imagining Hogwarts?
“The preparatory stage, visualising the ‘architecture’ of Hogwarts, took a huge amount of time. I drew a floor plan of what I imagined Hogwarts was like, referring across all seven books. But when I started stacking different floors on top of each other, I found it difficult to understand how they fitted together. So the only way I could work out how to draw it was to build a model of it. It’s the same thing I did as a child – building things in Lego so I could then draw them. So I made quick models out of paper and Plasticine, and used these to draw from. Models are great also to work out the lighting and how the buildings relate to each other.”
Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings films also had a big impact on Kay.
“I’m a massive John Howe and Alan Lee fan, both of whom worked as concept artists for Lord of the Rings films. I’ve definitely been influenced by the way that Peter Jackson went about his films, getting artists involved to try out different creative avenues. And so the opportunity to approach Harry Potter in the same way was incredibly exciting and enjoyable.
“I can’t work in silence; I have to have background noise and it has to be something familiar. So while I worked on Harry Potter I had the Lord of the Rings films on as background noise. I played the whole three films on a loop all day, so I know the whole script of each film.”

Here is a video of Jim Kay talking about his illustrating process for Harry Potter:

Also check out some of the sample images from the book below:

Illustration by Jim Kay © Bloomsbury Publishing 2015

Illustration by Jim Kay © Bloomsbury Publishing 2015

Illustration by Jim Kay © Bloomsbury Publishing 2015

Illustration by Jim Kay © Bloomsbury Publishing 2015

Illustration by Jim Kay © Bloomsbury Publishing 2015

Illustration by Jim Kay © Bloomsbury Publishing 2015

Illustration by Jim Kay © Bloomsbury Publishing 2015

Illustration by Jim Kay © Bloomsbury Publishing 2015

1 Comment

Filed under children's fiction, Illustrators

I Can’t Wait For…The Illustrated Edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

I am not the world’s biggest Harry Potter fan but I absolutely can’t wait to get my hands on the new, fully-illustrated edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.  It is illustrated by the wonderful Jim Kay, whose illustrations I first got introduced to in Patrick Ness’ A Monster Calls.  Those illustrations were in black and white but his illustrations for Harry Potter are in colour and they look absolutely gorgeous!  A number of different spreads from the book have been released recently and with each new page I fall more in love with this book.  I imagine it can’t be easy illustrating a hugely popular book like this, especially after all the movies have been released, but it certainly looks like Jim has done an amazing job.

The cover alone shows you the magic that awaits inside the pages of this book:

9781408845646 (3)

Check out this sneak peek inside the book from the  Bloomsbury UK website!

Watch this short video of Jim Kay explaining his illustrating process for the book:

The Illustrated Edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling and illustrated by Jim Kay is released in October by Bloomsbury Publishers.  It is supplied in NZ by Allen and Unwin NZ.

3 Comments

Filed under children's fiction, I Can't Wait For..., Illustrators

2015 New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults: Interview with Donovan Bixley

Donovan Bixley’s book Little Red Riding Hood … Not Quite, written by Yvonne Morrison, has been voted for by kids all over New Zealand as a finalist in the Children’s Choice Picture Book  category. Little Red is also on the judge’s finalist list. Donovan and Yvonne collaborated last year, on the Children’s Choice award-winning The Three Bears (Sort Of), and here is the interview that Booksellers NZ had with him last year. https://booksellersnz.wordpress.com/2014/05/22/finalist-interview-the-illustration-of-the-three-bears-sort-of-by-donovan-bixley/

This is just one of three titles that Donovan has had recognised in the 2015 Book Awards for Children and Young Adults, and two of these – this and Dragon Knight: Fire! are also in the children’s choice category. For that reason, this interview covered both books.

  •  What was your approach to illustrating Little Red Riding Hood…Not Quite – was it any easier than with The Three Bears?

Three Bears was a real head spinner, simply trying to figure out how on earth to illustrate the manuscript. I worried that it was all going to be a big mess of different styles and not hold together visually. Well, with last year’s award, obviously it seemed to have worked – so Red Riding Hood was much easier in that regard. However, it’s a tricky business doing a sequel. I figure a sequel should be more of the same, but different. So that’s what I tried to do.

  • What are the challenges and advantages of working on illustrations for authors who you have worked with prior?

I can usually see the finished book clearly in my head, and I forget that others aren’t telepathic. One of the best things about working with authors again and again is that I can just do a messy scribble, and they know what I mean because they’ve seen previously the process of how I can turn that little scribble into a finished painting. It saves lots of time and explaining.

  • Does how you illustrate junior fiction differ from how you illustrate a picture book? How do you target children in each age bracket with illustration?

For any book I try to expand and reinforce what the words are saying. But then I always like to stick in lots of little additions to discover. Some for adults and some for kids – as long as they don’t overwhelm the story that needs to be told on that page. For example, in Dragon Knight you might see Foole in the background (who strikes a remarkable resemblance to the idiotic Shlok from Dinosaur Rescue), although he’s not actually a character in the story. Similarly, Red Riding Hood contains dozens of hidden surprises – ‘hidden’ because I don’t want them to overshadow the flow of the story.

The main difference, is that in a picture book, the words are often reduced down to elegant and evocative sentences, meaning that the pictures carry a lot of the practical storytelling (the who, where, when, how). On the other hand, in a chapter book, the words are doing a lot more practical storytelling, which allows the pictures to do things which aren’t pure storytelling. So in Dragon Knight I can create all sorts of funny asides that expand upon the world of the actual story, like: ‘Dragon Illnesses’; or ‘Common Knight School Injuries’. On top of that, a chapter book has a lot of pages to fill. The text generally takes up about a quarter of the 96 pages. With all that space, I have a lot more freedom to control how the story flows, with dynamic reveals and page-turning surprises.

Of course I also try to do that in a picture book, but you have limited options with only 32 pages.

  • Can you recommend any books for children who love your style of illustration?

I love stories that have a lot to discover. A reason to go back again and again. Sometimes I look at favourite books I had as a kid and discover a joke that makes sense now I’m all growed up. Asterix, and Graham Oakley’s Church Mice series are examples of superb storytelling with pictures. They are jam-packed with funny references to things which you may not understand for years. Harder to find is anything by Mordillo, like his Crazy Crazy Jungle Life. Mordillo was a master of the wordless book. Another of my favourites is Bill Peet, if you can track down his marvelous books like How Droofus the Dragon Lost his Head, Wump World, or Burford the Little Bighorn. Bill Peet was one of the original founders of Disney and he worked on Dumbo before having a fall-out with Walt Disney and starting a second career in children’s books.

  • What advice would you give any would-be illustrator?

Absorb what other illustrators do. Figure out what you like and don’t like (and why) then develop your own ideas – that’s what makes you a unique artist. A picture book illustrator is different from other types of artist – you don’t need to be the best drawer or painter, instead you need to be a great storyteller.

  • What do you find yourself drawing when you aren’t working, perhaps when you are just thinking something through

If I’m mindlessly doodling tend to draw little swirling lines, usually with pointy arrow heads for some reason. It takes about a year before the pad on my drawing desk ends up completely covered with these squiggles and gets thrown away. It’s not the type of thing I normally keep.

I don’t really do any drawings are not ‘work’. I’m not the type of artist who secretly longs to paint landscapes or abstract art. I love the art form of the picture book, it’s my artistic obsession, so that’s what I do for fun. When I’m not working on ‘work’, all my spare time is devoted to scribbling research pictures, reference compositions and doodles for projects that I hope will be published one day. Usually these books start as something that I want to draw pictures of – I wrote Monkey Boy so I could draw pictures of 19th century warships, battles and ghastly ghouls. The only thing I draw outside of picture books are my family. I have quite a collection of drawings and paintings of my three daughters.

___

If you want to know more about Donovan, check out his website here: http://www.donovanbixley.com/

For reviews of Little Red Riding Hood (Not Quite), check out the Booksellers NZ review here: http://booksellersnz.wordpress.com/2015/04/09/book-review-little-red-riding-hood-not-quite-by-yvonne-morrison-illustrated-by-donovan-bixley/

And my review here on the blog.

This is day seven of the blog tour featuring each of the finalists in the Children’s Choice category of the awards. Later today, I will post Yvonne Morrison’s answers to the author’s interview for  this title.  Yesterday’s feature was I am not a Worm, by Scott Tulloch, whose interview can be found here: http://thriftygifty.blogspot.co.nz/2015/07/nz-book-awards-for-children-and-young_2.html.  Monday’s feature will be our third picture book, Doggy Ditties from A to Z, by Jo van Dam and Myles Lawford will be covered back on Thrifty Gifty http://thriftygifty.blogspot.co.nz/.

Leave a comment

Filed under 2015 Children's Choice Award, 2015 New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults, authors, books, children, children's fiction, Illustrators, New Zealand

Winners of the 2013 LIANZA Children’s Book Awards

The winners of the 2013 LIANZA Children’s Book Awards were announced in Wellington last night.  The LIANZA Children’s Book Awards are awarded by librarians for outstanding children’s books by New Zealand authors and illustrators.  There were some wonderful books on the shortlist again this year, including some of my favourite books of 2012.

I was really glad to see two of my favourites in the shortlist.  Rachael King’s Red Rocks and Mandy Hager’s The Nature of Ash were the winners in their categories.  They are both amazing books and it’s so good to see them get the recognition and awards that they deserve.  Check out the full list of winners below.

LIANZA Junior Fiction Award – Esther Glen Medal
For the most distinguished contribution to literature for children aged 0-15.

Red Rocks by Rachael King, (Random House New Zealand)

LIANZA Young Adult Fiction Award
For the distinguished contribution to literature for children and young adults aged 13 years and above.

The Nature of Ash by Mandy Hager, (Random House New Zealand)

LIANZA Illustration Award – Russell Clark Award
For the most distinguished illustrations in a children’s book.

A Great Cake by Tina Matthews, (Walker Books Australia)

LIANZA Non Fiction Award – Elsie Locke Medal
For a work that is considered to be a distinguished contribution to non-fiction for young people.

At the Beach: Explore & Discover the New Zealand Seashore by Ned Barraud and Gillian Candler, (Craig Potton Publishing)

LIANZA Librarians’ Choice Award 2013
Awarded to the most popular finalist across all awards, as judged by professional librarians of LIANZA.

My Brother’s War by David Hill, (Penguin NZ)

Te Kura Pounamu (te reo Māori)
Awarded to the author of a work, written in Te Reo Māori, which makes a distinguished contribution to literature for children or young people.

Ko Meru by Kyle Mewburn, translated by Ngaere Roberts, illustrated by Ali Teo and John O’Reilly (Scholastic)

Leave a comment

Filed under authors, book awards, children, children's fiction, Illustrators, New Zealand, young adult, young adult fiction

Picture Book Nook: Luther and the Cloud-makers by Kyle Mewburn and Sarah Nelisiwe Anderson

What would you do if a choking, thick, black cloud of pollution covered your home?  Would you sit back, worrying, and wait for it to go away and for someone else to sort it out, or would you want to find a solution?  In Kyle Mewburn and Sarah Nelisiwe Anderson’s new picture book, Luther and the Cloud-makers, this is the issue that Luther and his family face.

At the end of a wide, green valley lies a secret village, full of laughter and singing…until one day the clouds come.  As the clouds gather, turning day to night, Luther sets out to find the cloud-makers and make them stop, before it’s too late.  He meets many cloud-makers along the way, but can he convince them to see the error in their ways?

LutherLuther and the Cloud-makers is a powerful story with an ecological theme, about a boy who stands up for what he believes in.  It shows children that even one small act can make change happen and make the future brighter.  When everyone in his village is sitting around feeling sorry for themselves, Luther decides to do something about the problem and make the cloud-makers stop.  It’s a unique take on the ecological and environmental theme that will entertain and educate readers.

The story is full of Kyle Mewburn’s characteristic word-play and he paints a vivid picture with his language.  I love the way he describes the air in the valley as ‘so fresh your skin soaked it up like an old, dry sponge dropped in the sea,’ and he describes the pollution cloud as ‘tongue-tingling, nose-crinkling.’  Kyle makes the cloud-makers sound so menacing by using words like ‘rumbling,’ ‘belching, booming,’ ‘roaring’ and ‘crackling.’

Sarah Nelisiwe Annderson’s illustrations for Luther and the Cloud-makers are superb and really suit the tone of the story.   I love the way that Sarah has contrasted the colours throughout the book.  At the beginning of the book there are lots of bright and vibrant blues and greens to highlight how clean and fresh the village is.  Then the oozing black clouds appear and bring darkness to the landscape.  When Luther meets the cloud-makers Sarah has used lots of red, orange and black to highlight the danger and evil nature of the cloud-makers and their pollution.  When he finally gets to the city, almost all colour has disappeared, to be replaced by grey and black.  It’s on the last few pages that Sarah gives your eyeballs a wake-up call.  One of the things I really like about Sarah’s illustrations is the way that she frames them and uses different panels on the page.  One of my favourite examples of this in the book is when everything goes dark in the village and the animals become confused.  This style will certainly appeal to older children who like graphic novels.  I’d actually really like to read a graphic novel (or even a wordless picture book) written by Sarah.

Luther and the Cloud-makers is a wonderful picture book to read to children young and old, and it’s a must-have book for teachers.

2 Comments

Filed under books, children, Illustrators, New Zealand, Picture Book Nook, picture books

Picture Book Nook: Wonderful new picture books from Nosy Crow

Nosy Crow are one of my favourite publishers of picture books.  Their picture books are quirky, funny, and they look stunning! They’re the sort of picture books that you’re happy to read to your kids again and again, because you love them as much as they do.  Here are three of my recent favourites from Nosy Crow.  You have to go and get these from your library or bookshop and read them right now.

Weasels by Elys Dolan

Weasels – what do they do all day? Eat nuts and berries? Frolic in leaves? Lurk in the dark? Argue with squirrels? Hide in their weasel holes? Well, all these are wrong. What they really do is . . . plot world domination. Find out how their dastardly plans are foiled in this hilarious, off-the-wall debut picture book from a shiny new star in the children’s book firmament, Elys Dolan.

It’s almost impossible to put into words how original and witty this book is: imagine spoof James Bond meets Scaredy Squirrel if you can. It’s packed with cross-over humour to amuse kids and big kids too. The art is stylish yet accessible and full of details for poring over time and time again – there’s always a new joke to find! And there are machines and maps and even a laboratory . . . oh, and lots of lots of weasels.

Troll Swap by Leigh Hodgkinson

Timothy Limpet feels out of place in the troll family – he likes things to be just so, and most trolls, frankly, don’t. Tabitha Lumpit likes things to be loud, loopy and messy and she feels a fish out of water in her very neat family. Sometimes they wonder if their families really see them for who they are, so when Timothy and Tabitha meet on the bridge they decide each other’s family is a better fit and they swap places . . . with hilarious and touching results.

Based around the time-honoured theme of home is where the heart is, this warm and witty story is a celebration of the individual and offers a valuable lesson on not judging others.

Check out Leigh Hodgkinson’s other hilarious picture book from Nosy Crow, Goldilocks and Just the One Bear.

Books Always Everywhere by Jane Blatt, illustrated by Sarah Massini

A joyful celebration of the physical book in all its glory! For the very young, books can be anything – from a chair, to a tower, to a hat – but the best thing they can be . . . is a book… and it’s never too soon to share a good book with your little ones.

The simple text, written by debut author Jane Blatt is brought to life by Sarah Massini’s delightful and nostalgic illustrations of babies and toddlers discovering the new, magical world of books.

Leave a comment

Filed under authors, books, children, Illustrators, picture books

Picture Book Nook: Dog Loves Counting by Louise Yates

Louise Yates creates picture books that combine two of my favourite things – dogs and books.  Louise introduced us to her book-loving Dog in Dog Loves Books, and then came Dog Loves Drawing.  Dog is cute, lovable, totally addicted to books and one talented wee pooch.  Dog shows how exciting and fun reading can be.  Louise’s latest book is Dog Loves Counting and it’s an absolutely terrific book.

Dog can’t get to sleep.  He loves books so much that he just can’t stop reading.  Dog tries counting sheep, but it’s not working – perhaps there are some other creatures he can count?  Soon Dog is off on an adventure, finding friends and numbers in unexpected places.

Dog Loves Counting is a cute, funny story in which Dog takes us on a journey inside a book to help him solve his problem.  Louise had me from the first page,

‘Dog loved books.  He loved reading them late into the night and didn’t like to leave them for long.’

You immediately relate to Dog and you want him to be your best friend.  When he can’t sleep he reaches for a book and hopes that it might help.  He discovers all sorts of creatures and makes some new friends within the covers of his book.  Not only that, it also helps him with his problem of not being able to sleep.  The text is simple, yet fun and I really like the way it flows over the page.  Louise has created a sense of anticipation of what creature will be on the next page and what there will be to count.

I love Louise’s illustrations, from the loveable Dog and his stacks of books, to the multicoloured Dodo, the Three-Toed Sloth, and the Five-Lined Skink.  Each of the pages made me laugh, but I especially like the picture of Dog in bed, surrounded by sheep with books in their mouths.  The way that Louise has incorporated the numbers into the story is really clever too and it makes the story more interactive for children.  Louise has also created some stunning endpapers too that add an extra surprise to the book and incorporate numbers, stars and the creatures from the story.

Louise’s Dog books aren’t just for kids, but also for book-lovers everywhere.  In her character Louise has perfectly captured how much I love books and what makes them so special.  Grab Dog Loves Counting and Louise’s other Dog books from your library or bookshop.

Leave a comment

Filed under authors, books, children, Illustrators, picture books