Thursday, January 27, 2011

In Praise of Illustrators

We just got a bag full of beautiful F&Gs. These are advance copies of picture books, so called because they are "folded & gathered" instead of bound (but I always think it sounds like a curse, like "Effin' geez!"). I was all set to do a post about my favorites, except they're not coming out until May or June, and it seems cruel to get y'all excited about books you can't lay hands or eyes on until practically summer. So I decided I'd just let you know who will have great picture books coming out in 2011, and in doing so run through their other books that we love so much. It seems like practically all my favorite illustrators will have new picture books this spring.

1. Sophie Blackall, who in my opinion can do no wrong, will be teaming up with author April Stevens for an awesome book about a baby learning to talk. Blackall's illustrations are pretty much my favorite kind of thing: straddling a line somewhere between pretty and weird, so it never gets too cute or too ugly. She's responsible for the illustrations in Ruby's Wish, a favorite of mine, and the brand new---auugh! hold the phone! I am actually interrupting myself for real, not as a funny literary device, because while I was searching for that new book's title, I just found Sophie Blackall's website Missed Connections, where she illustrates missed connection ads from newspapers. Now I don't want to finish this post, because I just want to go scroll quietly down her website FOREVER. (And oh lord she has an Etsy shop where you can buy prints of them! I mean, never mind. Don't click that. I want all of them for myself).

2. Okay, I'm forcing myself to move on. And I'll do it by going to someone I love almost as much as Ms. Blackall: Yumi Heo. She does these bright, goofy illustrations that I just love, and she'll be illustrating a picture book by one of our favorite authors around here, Lenore Look. Look has the magical power, bestowed only on a select few, of writing really authentic kids' voices. Her kids sound like kids when they talk and narrate, and they sound like real, whole beings, not just one-note quirk factories or silly aw-kids-are-sooo-funny cutie pies. This collaboration is making all of us at the Kids Desk very, very happy. In the meantime, check out Look & Heo's Uncle Peter's Amazing Chinese Wedding.

3. An illustrator who we're all pretty dang attached to is Chris Raschka, of Yo? Yes! fame, whose watercolors are swoopy and wiggly and expressive, and whose text is usually superb, although this upcoming picture book will be wordless. If you want to see a bookseller get all dreamy-eyed, just ask my boss about Raschka. It's really endearing to see someone get so swoony for an artist.

4. Did anyone see Planting the Trees of Kenya, Claire Nivola's book about Wangari Maathai? If it made you want to spend a lot of time looking at pictures of Kenya's rolling green hills and bony cows and expansive sky, you'll have somewhere else to turn now. A picture book set in Kenya by Kelly Cunnane and Jude Daly is coming out, and it made me go look up everything else Daly has illustrated. Turns out she's married to Niki Daly, a fellow kids book illustrator and author. See her illustrations in Way Up and Over Everything, where everyone is skinny-limbed and graceful and the trees look like they're wearing hats. Looooooove.

Um, I don't want to stop, but I actually have to. We have to close up shop around here and I have non-digital duties to attend to. If I had more time I'd go on longer about Giselle Potter's new one (she the illustrator of the lovely The Boy Who Loved Words) or nonfiction superstar Meghan McCarthy's new picture book. She's been featured on here at least once before, with Pop! The Invention of Bubble Gum. Suffice it to say, just when I think all the rad picture books in the world have been written, there are more on the horizon. So hold your breath for the new crop of picture books, or better yet, start falling in love with these artists now, so you can be as excited as we are come spring and summer. Yippee!

--Anna, Kids


  1. All of these sound fantastic. I actually picked up _The Boy Who Loved Words_ in a shop the other day and didn't buy it. Now kicking myself. Will return to purchase...most, if not all of these:)

  2. Anonymous12:32 PM

    Where's Oliver Jeffers on this list? Got something against the Irish, have we? Attica! Attica! Attica!

  3. Anonymous2:06 PM

    Tamp down the revolt, Anonymous! Our love for Oliver Jeffers remains as strong as ever. Heck, there'll probably be a whole Oliver Jeffers post at some point. This was just a list put together out of some F&Gs we got all at once, and I stand by it as a list of lovely artists. But Oliver remains in our hearts and our storytimes forever. Can't wait for his next.


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