Tag Archives: chronicle books
Today it’s illustrator Cátia Chien‘s picture book life here on This Picture Book Life!
When I think of Cátia Chien’s art, I think of textures: fuzzy, confetti-ed, rich, circled, splattered, splashed.
When I think of her art, I also think of these words: dreamy, vivid, beautiful.
Each page of a picture book Cátia Chien has illustrated is a discovery, each one varied in vibrant color and shape and experimentation and emotion. Stick around to see!
The above PBS video featuring Cátia Chien is extraordinary. I remember the impact it had on me a couple of years ago when it first came out. In it, she is honest about her childhood, her life, her experience as an immigrant and feeling like an outsider. She is honest about her process of being an artist and how making art is an act of empathy for her, and for the children she teaches.
“The feeling of actually belonging, it’s self-created. Arriving at the process of creating something from the inside out, it’s really just a validation of existing. It matters that we add to the conversation so that it’s not just one voice that’s being told in picture books.”
She has art and prints for sale at Gallery Nucleus here in Los Angeles.
Now for her picture books, starting with the newest one, forthcoming The Bear and the Moon (out September 29th from Chronicle Books and our giveaway book) as well as some special process photos of The Bear and the Moon Cátia Chien provided for us!
The Bear and the Moon written by Matthew Burgess (September 29, 2020).
This is a story of surprise. Of companionship. Of loss. And the art is fuzzy, rich, dreamy and beautiful.
Balloons are magic for children, and red ones have a literary and film history. And it turns out they’re magic for bears, too. This bear who is alone but curious and up for an adventure.
The red balloon the bear finds becomes not only a novel and wonderful mystery, but a friend. The bear shows the balloon all its haunts and habits, the way you’d tour a friend around too. The balloon is not only real, but feels animate. It’s a thing, yes, but a “wonderful thing! A squishable, huggable thing!”
Just look at those shapes and blended, muted pastel colors!
And here, the technicolor blue, the pops of white stars and constellations, the dreaminess of this evening scene as the bear and balloon sit together.
We all know what happens to balloons though. They don’t last forever. Nothing does, really.
The bear makes a mistake. Mistakes, like things not lasting, are something else universal. We all know what that’s like. The regret that follows. The blame. The despair and the wish that it wouldn’t have happened. That we hadn’t done it. That is the hard part.
I won’t give away the details of the ending of this beautiful, tender, reassuring book, but I will tell you that it’s hopeful. Because like anyone who’s made a mistake or experienced loss, the bear finds encouragement. The bear looks to nature. The bear accepts themself.
And like a red balloon and a full moon, the bear’s memories go around and around and around in an enveloping circle of comfort.
The Town of Turtle written by Michelle Cuevas (2018).
A lonely turtle has a dream and then builds it, builds a whole town, and by doing so builds a whole community. The text of this book couldn’t be more perfectly paired with Cátia Chien’s absolutely fanciful pencil, acrylic, and paper collage illustrations. The turtle’s shell and then town feel like a planet and there are galaxy elements throughout—stars and dark black space and elemental shapes. The book is a dream that mirror’s turtle’s told-of dream.
Things to Do written by Elaine Magliaro (2017).
A compilation of poems that explore things to do according to your perspective and place—a celebration of moments and nature and soaking up every small experience.
The Sea Serpent and Me written by Dashka Slater (2008).
This one is sweet-sweet-sweet and mirrors what it’s like to find, to love, and to, when the time comes, let go.
A Boy and A Jaguar by Alan Rabinowitz (2014).
This is the autobiography of Alan Rabinowitz, wildlife conservationist, who found that his ability to speak with animals was his special gift.
My Blue is Happy written by Jessica Young (2013).
An exploration of color and feelings and the way two interplay.
Thanks to Chronicle Kids, I’m giving away a copy of the latest picture book Cátia Chien’s illustrated, The Bear and the Moon, words by Matthew Burgess—out September 29th, 2020!
Simply comment below for a chance to win! (U.S. only; ends Friday, September 4th at midnight Pacific.)
“The cat walked through the world, with its whiskers, ears, and paws…”
So starts this genius picture book.
And then, different beings see that cat walking through the world. And they all see the cat differently according to their own perspectives, interpretations, and even the way their sense of sight works. Those whiskers, ears, and paws are not as fixed as they may first appear.
Brendan Wenzel has created a book that explores subjectivity and imagination through how one cat can contain multitudes and many disparate qualities depending on who’s doing the seeing. (And, by extension, how all the things and people and events in the world contain multitudes if you look from different points of view.)
Not to mention that the mediums and evocations of the art are as varied as the perspectives. I also love the furry endpapers.
(click image(s) to enlarge)
Let’s take a look. Is the seer up close or far away? In a bowl, like the fish? On its back like the flea? In the sky like the bird?
What does the seer see when it sees a cat? A friend or foe? Something innocuous or something threatening?
Does the seer see in pixels or in black and white? In infrared like the snake? Those are probably my favorite spreads: the bee, the snake, and the skunk. How fun to imagine how other creatures see the world! And how important to imagine how other humans see the world too.
In the end, the cat is all of these things.
What do you see when you see a cat? What do you see when you see this or that? What do you see when you see yourself?
Big thanks to Chronicle Books for images! A perfect publisher for this book as its motto is “see things differently”!
And you may want to check out the activity kit for the book too.
The setting: the back porch at Green Bean Books in Portland.
The stars: super sweet kids doing animal hand motions with panache.
The song: singable, hummable, even clappable!
Emily has such a special way of making a song that captures a book’s essence while elaborating on the elements that seem meant for music. This is no exception. Kids will love it.
Check out Emily’s full album, Storytime Singalong!
Today I’m pairing two picture books with strong girl characters—one mechanic and one ninja-in-training.
Interstellar Cinderella by Deborah Underwood, illustrated by Meg Hunt (2015).
The rhyme really shines in this girl power book. It’s a Cinderella retelling of a character who dreams, not of a prince, but of fixing rockets. Yes!
No gown for her, but a bejeweled space suit and sonic socket wrench. And a mouse named Murgatroyd. Yes, again!
In the end, she does win the space prince’s admiration, but it’s by showing she can fix his ship. And the happy ending doesn’t involve wedding bells. Instead, the resolution is summed up in my favorite line of the book:
“She thought this over carefully.
Her family watched in panic.
‘I’m far too young for marriage,
but I’ll be your chief mechanic!'”
Thanks to Chronicle Books for images!
Little Kunoichi: The Ninja Girl by Sanae Ishida (2015).
The artwork in this one is what really gets me. Those watercolors are so sweet, dainty, and colorful; I want to live in this book! The illustrations match the whimsy of this story as well as its message of fun without rigidity or perfection.
Little Kunoichi goes to a secret ninja school but she is not a very good ninja (yet!). She meets a little boy who attends a secret samurai school and together they get better at their respective skills in order to wow everyone at the island festival. How do they do that? Practice.
Practice is really the message of this book. Referred to here as shugyo, these two characters become friends and spur each other in their “training like crazy.”
This kind of heroine is so relatable because she’s not perfect but is persistent (which is more important). She’s also not someone who goes it alone, but who learns from others and has a close friend—all great qualities. Plus, I mean, she’s training to be a ninja. Sooooo, there’s that.
Thanks to Little Bigfoot for images!
You might also be interested in my post on Rosie Revere, Engineer.
This Picture Book Life turns two this month!
To celebrate, I have two special giveaways to thank you for stopping by here and reading! THANK YOU!
Enter to win one of two sets of three picture books. One batch is three super sweet books published by Penguin; the other, three books from Chronicle that explore nature in some way.
3 SWEET PICTURE BOOKS published by Penguin:
Knit Together by Angela Dominguez.
There’s This Thing by Connah Brecon.
Little Baby Buttercup by Linda Ashman, illustrated by You Byun.
3 NATURE PICTURE BOOKS published by Chronicle Books:
Flashlight by Lizi Boyd.
Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt by Kate Messner, art by Christopher Silas Neal.
In This Book by Fani Marceau and Joëlle Jolivet.
I’ve got a lot of love for this one. It’s a manners book infused with fun and delightfulness and cakes! (And cyclopses!!)
One brilliant thing about this picture book (there are many!) is the use of the plural. “Rude cakes” goes the text while we see one particular pink rude cake doing all sorts of bad behaviors, from not saying please to never listening to its parents. It calls a cute marshmallow friend, “clumsy crumb” at one point illustrating just how rude a rude cake can be.
I love how the elder cakes have more tiers. How Rude Cake’s companions are a cupcake and a marshmallow. The muted color palette. The cyclops stuffed animal Rude Cake carries that comes into play in a BIG way in the story. And my favorite line?
“They also think baths are dumb and that bedtime is for donut holes.”
Oh but Rude Cake has it coming. A real, live cyclops plucks Rude Cake from its bedroom in order to wear it as a jaunty little hat. (Cyclopses love jaunty little hats.)
And thus, Rude Cake is on the other end of misfortune. Not because cyclopses are rude. Oh no, they are very polite.
But are they polite enough to listen to a jaunty little hat who finally asks nicely to be returned home, using that magic word, “please”? You’ll have to read the book to find out.
Thanks to Chronicle Books for images!
This book calls for a craft, no? You could bake a cake! Or you could make a cute rude cake craft, one that can be worn as a jaunty little hat or kept around on a bookshelf!
Looks like frosting, but it’s actually something that will last a lot longer (and is NOT edible). Spackle!
Here’s how my dude and I made Rude Cake: We used two differently sized plastic plant tray liners taped together to form the cake shape. Then we mixed up some lightweight spackling paste and red food coloring to make a pink frosting-like material. We spread it on with a knife, super simple! After adding more red for a darker pink, we applied that with a pastry bag and decorating tip to the top and rim! Some paper circles for eyes and two more lines of “frosting” for Rude Cake’s mouth and voila!
Isn’t Rude Cake (hat) cute?! Especially since it’s no longer so rude. Just ask cupcake and marshmallow.
And, hey! You might be interested in my Hooray For Hat craft as well.