Tag Archives: picture book illustrator
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.)
In this”their picture book life” installment, I bring you the wonderful picture books of Duncan Tonatiuh, award-winning author/illustrator. In my mind, his books expand the boundaries of the form by using new, unexpected story techniques, something I absolutely love and admire. His books ask questions directly of readers and bring the past right into the present and into kids’ lives. They experiment and enlighten. And they always do so in Tonatiuh’s distinctive illustrative style, which is inspired by “Pre-Columbian art, particularly that of the Mixtec codex.”
He’s lived in both Mexico and the U.S. so many of his books explore Mexico’s history and influential figures, as well as Mexican culture in the states.
Funny Bones: Posada and His Day of the Dead Calaveras (2015). Perfect for learning about Day of the Dead, this book explores the life and art of Posada and how he developed his skeleton or skull calaveras drawings. It also expands boundaries of the picture book form with sections that outline specific artistic processes and funny calaveras poems interspersed within the story. Its many layers are supremely effective.
“I try to make books about things that I’m passionate about
–social justice, history, art…”
Separate is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez & Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation (2014). I’ve blogged about this title a couple of times before (here and here) because I think it’s so terrific and important, particularly because I live in California. It tells how the Mendez family fought for equal, integrated education in a case that preceded Brown vs. Board of Education by ten years.
“I think kids are extremely intelligent.
But I think that sometimes we don’t give them the credit they deserve.”
Pancho Rabbit and the Coyote: A Migrant’s Tale (2013). This allegorical story follows a young rabbit who desperately misses his father and sets out to follow and find him by undertaking a treacherous journey. The author’s note in the back matter sheds light on the true experiences of undocumented immigrants who cross the border in search of a better life.
“As I spent more time away from Mexico,
I began to miss things that were around me when I was a kid.
I also became interested in issues that affect people of Mexican descent
on both sides of the border.”
(From The Horn Book.)
The Princess and the Warrior (2016). The combination of text and art really shine in this riveting story and I dare you not to tear up at the end.
Dear Primo: A Letter to My Cousin (2010). Tonatiuh’s first children’s book in which two cousins, one in the US and one in Mexico, exchange letters and learn about one another’s lives.
“I think it’s very important for children to see books where they see themselves.
When they see a book where they see their culture represented
and different things that they can identify with, I think they are much more motivated to read, to write and,
just in general,
to realize that their voices, their stories are important.”
Diego Rivera: His World and Ours (2011). A biography of Diego Rivera followed by a fascinating exploration of how he might portray our world today and encouragement to readers to make their own murals, inspired by Rivera’s legacy. This is something Tonatiuh does brilliantly with non-fiction: invites the reader directly into the story to participate and imagine how it might affect their own lives.
DANZA! Amalia Hernández and El Ballet Folklórico de México (2017). I adore the illustrations of all kinds of dance and performances in this one! Ami, dancer and choreographer, is known for creating “ballets based on the folkloric danzas from the different regions of Mexico.” Her company still performs in Mexico City as they’ve been doing for fifty years.
I hope you’ll check out Duncan Tonatiuh’s books!
You might also be interested in my last Their Picture Book Life on Kyo Maclear.
Trisha Krauss is an illustrator who began her career in New York City. She now lives in London where she illustrated her first book for Puffin, Maude the Not-So-Noticeable Shrimpton by Lauren Child. This year she wrote and illustrated Charlotte’s Very Own Dress for Random House USA, which will be published in Autumn of 2016. She is currently working on ideas for two more books.
Three books that influenced Trisha Krauss:
1. The Lonely Doll by Dare Wright
One of my favourite books as a child was The Lonely Doll by Dare Wright. When I reread it as an adult I was equally smitten. The pictures throughout the book are black and white photographs and they feature three very unsuspecting characters. Edith is a doll who pines for company until Mr. Bear and Little Bear come to her rescue. Her soft felt features serve almost as a blank canvas in which the author tells this rather melancholic and beautifully timed tale. The mystery and glamour of the settings breath air into this Lenci doll and make her an unforgettable and slightly naughty character. The image of Edith holding Little Bear’s hand while facing Brooklyn Bridge in the fog is breathtakingly poignant. Who would have known that this little doll could still conjure up so much feeling in the heart of this grown up girl?
2. Lyle, Lyle Crocodile by Bernard Waber
If I could have married Lyle, Lyle Crocodile I would have. He has all the qualities that I love in a person. Above all he is fun and good-hearted. Unfortunately he is a crocodile, a fictional character at that, and I am already married. I love him for life regardless. Lyle has no idea that he is different, largely because the Primm family on East 88th Street treat him like part of the family. He cannot for the life of him understand why Loretta, the neighbour’s cat, takes issue with the mere sight of him and desperately tries to win her over. The story takes you from a brownstone in New York to the park and various places in the city. Ultimately Lyle goes to a big department store with Mrs. Primm, handbag tucked under her arm, and a series of wonderfully silly events take place. The beautiful, inky illustrations in this book gave me my first love for a crocodile and for New York City. Thank you Mr. Waber for Lyle, Lyle Crocodile.
3. Wild by Emily Hughes
I could list another 10 books that my mother read to me as my all time favourites but this book, Wild, has stopped me in my tracks. It is simply splendid. The illustrations have a sweeping Mary Blair inspired magnificence to them. There is also a retro Golden Book feel to the wild animals illustrated on uncoated paper with an ink-saturated paper smell. As an illustrator, I am in awe of the artistry of the illustrations. As an author, I am impressed with the simple text backed up by beautifully rendered art. The main character is unnamed in the book and she has crazy, expressive, enormous eyes. There are twigs and dried leaves in her tangled hair and she is naked throughout the book until “They” try to tame her. Emily Hughes found her character and went wild with her. And she is right, “You cannot tame something so happily wild”…
You may be interested in my post on Maude, The Not-So-Noticeable Shrimpton, illustrated by Trisha Krauss. It’s a favorite from the archives!
Sophie Blackall is an illustrator extraordinaire and I’m so glad she’s lent her talents to picture books.
Non-picture book people may know her from her book, Missed Connections. It’s an extraordinary compilation of Craigslist yearnings illustrated as only she could illustrate them. (You can buy prints of those goodies in her etsy shop.)
Or you may know her from her NYC Subway poster. The elementary school set certainly knows her from the series Ivy & Bean by Annie Barrows with artwork by, you guessed it, Sophie Blackall. Lastly, she’s partnered with organizations trying to eradicate measles and rubella in children.
For our purposes, it’s all about those PICTURE BOOKS. She’s been a part of, like, dozens of them.
Blackall lives in Brooklyn by way of Australia. She uses Chinese ink and watercolor. Her PEOPLE are expressive, exaggerated, whimsical yet realistic. And one thing to love about her work is how diverse it is in terms of the people she portrays. All kinds!
Her use of PATTERNS is wonderfully bonkers.
Over time, it seems to me, her illustrations have gotten more and more honed: the people and action without distraction of context. But she puts all the perfect, engaging details in there! A shark puppet here, a butterfly backpack there; a knit tea cozy, a jade bowl. MINIMAL, YET DETAILED. Yeah, she’s good.
And boy does she know how to dress characters! Everybody looks awesome in her work. Dapper and FASHIONABLE, always. (Even if you’re a wild boar, your clothes will be pretty nice—albeit dirty.)
Finally, Blackall plays with SCALE in a way that makes picture books really shine. Big then small. Zoomed out, then in.
And I must mention her masterful POLKA-DOTS! Easy to spot in almost every book. (She also hides a whale in most books, another fun thing to spot!)
Ruby’s Wish by Shirin Yim Bridges, illustrated by Sophie Blackall (2002).
Are You Awake? by Sophie Blackall (2011).
The Baby Tree by Sophie Blackall (2014).
And Two Boys Booed by Judith Viorst, pictures by Sophie Blackall (2014).
The Mighty Lalouche by Matthew Olshan and Sophie Blackall (2013).
Meet Wild Boars by Meg Rosoff and Sophie Blackall (2005).
Pecan Pie Baby written by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by Sophie Blackall (2010).
Red Butterfly: How a Princess Smuggled the Secret of Silk out of China by Deborah Noyes, illustrated by Sophie Blackall (2007).
Big Red Lollipop by Rukhsana Khan, illustrated by Sophie Blackall (2010).
Jumpy Jack and Googily by Meg Rosoff and Sophie Blackall (2008).
“Illustration is one of the oldest and most enduring forms of communication.
Our ancestors drew on walls to record triumphs and tragedies, to leave messages and to tell stories. We have photography and film now to document reality, but DRAWING IS MAGIC.
Take out a marker and begin to draw in a rowdy kindergarten class, and children will fall silent, mesmerized.”
And if you’re looking to be more inspired, read her whole post on Why Picture Books Matter.
Oh, and by some magical happenstance, she’s got a new book out TODAY! A Fine Dessert by Emily Jenkins.
What a magical book. A heartwarming book. A brave, enduring character, that Beekle.
An imaginary friend looking for the friend who’s going to imagine him. Traveling all the way from his imaginary friend world to the real world. The real, gray world. (Except it’s colorful and bright where kids play! The use of color in this book is masterful and such a joy to behold.)
A celebration of imagination and play and the inventiveness of a child’s mind. And a celebration of friendship, even the kind nobody else can see, but is the real deal.
I’m confident you’ll see when you read it (or read it again). Yes, you will.
I’m going to go out on a limb here and say Beekle has elements of two of my favorite picture book creators, Shaun Tan and Oliver Jeffers. It’s like Lost and Found meets The Red Tree meets Santat’s particular magic. Agree? Either way, Beekle is an original and full of almost unimaginable wonder.
Thanks to Dan Santat for images!
Could this be the easiest craft ever? Okay, maybe not, but it’s pretty simple. Not only that, but you get to keep an adorable marshmallow Beekle around as an unimaginary friend. For real.
When I see Beekle, my mind immediately goes to marshmallows! Puffy, lovable marshmallows. (Also, while totally artificial, they smell really really good!)
Just looking at this little guy makes me smile. And remember the magic of the book. (Isn’t he sweeeeeet?)
1. Cut two toothpicks in half (remove and discard the sharp side so no one gets poked).
2. Slide a flat side of toothpick into small marshmallow; do it again with the other one.
(Again, be careful not to get poked.)
3. Insert toothpick/feet into jumbo marshmallow.
4. Draw Beekle’s face with a Sharpie.
5. Fold/cut gold paper into a crown by cutting it into a strip and cutting out triangle shapes along one edge; then fasten it together with tape.
6. Put the crown on Beekle’s head and tada!
The great thing about marshmallows is, well, they’re probably not going to rot! I’ve got my Beekle on a bookcase in my apartment and every so often I just want to give adorable Mr. Puffy a little squeeze!
*warning: this craft is not edible despite being made from marshmallows*