While I've been proofing cute bebe feets, I've also been in the midst of editing another book...a longer book. It's a story I'd wanted to write & make real for years and years. I finally wrote it down last Spring, and my editor (who has been an important and dear and close collaborator on all my books) wanted to publish it and now I find myself at the end of a big round of revisions, and so pleased to be there.
It's my first proper novel. Though it is still short by grown up standards, it's quite a bit longer than Oddfellow's, which is really more a series of vignettes.
This one is a fairy tale.
And I will give you one hint: it's an expanded version of my favorite fairy tale. Some of you might know what that is, or might be able to hazard a guess.
It is scheduled for publication next year, 2016, and I will share dispatches and other bits as it gets closer!
PS: It will be illustrated! Mostly words, but there will be pictures too
The Huffington Post recently posted this list of new children's classics and I was so happy when I scrolled down to find Dream Animals on the list. Not only on this lovely list, but alongside some of *my* personal new(ish) favorites, like the achingly lovely How To and the audaciously big & strange & wonderful Once Upon an Alphabet.
Bess, Maude, Frances, Matilda & Maryanne are on the cover of the newest issue of Tin House.
Tin House* is a quarterly literary magazine, a preserve for written things: wildly imagined things, wryly observed things and unclassifiable things, poems and stories and oddities by beginners and big-timers all bumping elbows. Accessible, fresh & a really pleasing size to hold in your hands, they also have some very beautiful covers.
I'm happy to be a part of this issue.
I love that little stand so much!
I actually have always thought, since my teenage days working at the defunct suburban music chain, Wherehouse Music, that a "standie" (as we called them) was the pinnacle of achievement. Putting together complicated, instructionless cardboard displays, I thought "Only very important things deserve this rigamarole."
Only people like Bob Dylan and Stevie Nicks had standies.
I can't believe that there is a standie to hold the Dream books. Taping the cardboard head back onto Bob Dylan in 2002, I never could've guessed.
Today we release the dragons (and a whole bestiary of mythical creatures) -
today Day Dreamers is out!
How about some process images to celebrate? They are one of my favorite things to see with other people's work...I love seeing the beginnings of things.
A sketch/color sketch/final painting of the Griffin dream (one of my favorite spreads in the book).
And in the land of waking dreams, you will meet dragons and a jackalope, a phoenix, a griffin, two unicorns, and a whole carousel of sea creatures.
This gem is from Babar & His Children.
I think it makes it into all-time-favorite children's illustration territory for me.
The text is also great, in a Babar-ish way (it begins "Three seconds in which to act -- and no gun!") but I think it's a such a perfect three panel story all on its own. What cold heart could resist a baby elephant encountering a crocodile while floating in a bowler hat?
I'm always losing my mind a little bit over a lot of things. Right this minute, it goes something like: thoughts of my next picture book, balloons, Manet's portraits, Babar, muffins, girls in blouses, The Museum of Extraordinary Things, sewing dresses, the Bears film etc. etc.
There's also this Soviet era children's book art. All but one of these (the pink elephant) are from this beautiful archive/online exhibition from the Rare Books/Special Collections dept. of the McGill Library.
The lively, simplified shapes & beautiful, wise use of color and grey-blacks make them so arresting & eternally modern. I think the barracuda/cat/mouse spread is one of my favorite things I've seen.
Now I'm wondering about Beautiful Books, Terrible Times...it looks like a good one.
I found this 1930 edition of my favorite Colette book today (the first of the Claudine series, Claudine at School.) It was just sitting there, waiting for me at Powell's & I think it cost some king's ransom like six dollars.
I check the shelves of my favorite authors on most trips to used book stores, because even though I start off with modern editions of most favorite books, I always try to trade up to nice oldie (but readable) copies as I find them.
Plus, old books come with heart-melting little idiosyncrasies like abandoned library card pockets and bookplates (in this case) and sincere inscriptions from aunts and mentors (in other cases). I'd pay extra for those little things.
PS: well-loved cat tote from Leah Goren
One of the most unusual old children's book's I've brought home lately: a nineteenth century chromolithographed book about two girls in florida, a bow & arrow, and a snake. I love the image on the cover so much (and the pamphlet-style book is quite brittle and delicate) so I think I'll probably frame it to keep me company here in my studio.
There is nothing quite like the colors they achieved when printing chromolithographs. There's an irrepressible brightness in the colors and a softness in the shadows...it's hard to define, really. I only know that they're some of my favorite, favorite illustrations and that boxes of postcards and game pieces and scrapbook bits printed this way make me go out of my mind a little.
Last week, very out-of-the-blue, I got a wonderful package in the mail from one of my favorite people. Inside the wonderful package was the drawing above, an original Garth Williams sketch of the Little Fur Child from Little Fur Family, my all-time favorite picture book. I know I might've said all of the rest of this before, so bear with me if I'm repeating myself!
I remember there was an auction of most of the original artwork a few years ago, and I wanted so badly to swoop it all up. Feeling wistful about that made me all the more beside-myself to have an original Fur Child of my own. I love sketches in general, and I know this little guy (and his perfect little hat!) will be close beside me in my studio for forever. I just have to find the perfect frame for him!
My three favorite things about Little Fur Family:
- What a bunch of misfits the family is, but how perfect they are together. The little one is very bearish, the papa is a Scottie-dog/bearish creature, and the mama is...? A bush-baby? The grandfather (not pictured) is also very terrier-like, so I'm assuming he's on the father's side.
- The papa's outstanding singing-face in the lullaby scene (top R)
- And my most, most, most favorite thing of all...in the book but possibly just in general: the moment the Fur Child finds a tiny version of himself (top L)
"Then he caught a little tiny tiny fur animal,
The littlest fur animal in the world
It had warm silky fur and even a little fur nose
So he kissed it right on its little fur nose
And put it gently back in the grass
And the little tiny tiny fur animal
Ran down a hole into the ground.
The subtly frantic look on the tiny tiny fur animal's face really makes it, I think.
Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast is one of the very best children's book blogs in this wide world, and Dream Animals was recently featured there with some previously unseen sketch-to-finals (like my bear boy's dream up there.)
Julie, who runs Seven Imp, has a wonderful & voracious eye and writes really smart, thoughtful posts that emphasize art and illustration. The fact that it is reliably an art-party over there (and her thoughtful & thorough way of approaching illustrated books) makes it probably my favorite picture book place online. Besides, it's one of the only places I've ever come across a write-up on the work of my favorite Japanese illustrator, Komako Sakai.
If you hop over there, I can't be responsible for the rabbit hole you'll almost undoubtably fall down! There's so much to read & so much to see.
On Tuesday, we headed to Powell's to see Dream Animals on the shelves - a publication day tradition! Even if you know the book is going out into the world, its something altogether different to see it there.
The day is here - Happy publication day to Dream Animals! I am so excited - I am certainly going to have a piece of book-birthday pie and who knows what else?
This is an excerpt from the letter I wrote to accompany a special mailing of books...
When I wrote the text, it took the form of a new nighttime mythology, something that felt at once novel and timeless (and worthy of entering into the mighty and towering library of Bedtime Books). I created the artwork using both tiny pots of ink and little pieces of paper as well as big tubes of paint on great wooden panels. I loved creating all of the artwork, down the little imaginary constellations, but painting the six dreams was particularly special– a reverie. A very time-intensive reverie, but a dream nonetheless.
All in all, this parade of gentle foxes and tigers and bears (and their little riders) took hold of my heart and didn’t let go for nearly a year of scheming and sketching and writing and painting.
And now, it’s finally time for our dreamers and their companions to make their way to you.
For local (or local-ish!) pals,
A BOOK LAUNCH / SIGNING PARTY
Where: Land Gallery in Portland
When: November 2, 3:00 pm
We will have reading, signing & treats!
Furred or finned or feathered, your Dream Animal is waiting!
We pause dispatches from The Deep Green Sea because today I am very pleased at the way my dress matches my current reading.
I found this nice copy of Colette's Chéri the other day and it kind of matched my outfit that day (a blush silk skirt & black leotard) too.
Isn't that jacket beautiful?
In my dreams, all novels look like this - a lovely patterned jacket (one chosen especially with each book in mind) and a simple little box for the title and author.
What a pretty row of spines they'd make!
I have a weakness for tiny books - anything less than 3" tall (it almost undoubtedly began with the Nutshell Library, but microscopic bibles, teensy flip books...I'll take it.) So a few weeks ago, when I brought home all those nice moldy oldies from the book fair, this 1940s box of the Tiny Nonsense Stories (from the Tiny Golden Library) was one of my prized finds.
These little books are written by Dorothy Kunhardt and illustrated by one of my very favorites, Garth Williams (Little Fur Family, forever and ever.) I already have the 1980 boxed edition, and though the books are the same, the little production details on these boxed sets are so incredibly lovely (and the prices seem to creep up steadily every time I see them) I'm so happy to have this older and more beautiful set.
Everything about these books is perfect...the colors, the type. Everything. Each of the books is about some little misfit animal-child - they are featured on the thumbelina-sized cover, and their parents are illustrated on the back. The whole thing reminds me of Wes Anderson in the nicest way (just look at that squirrel papa above with the caramel-colored suit!)
The design of the box/slipcase is a little apartment building and
neighborhood, with enough tiny details and little implied narratives to
make you crazy - every inch tells a mini-story, from the sunbathers on top of the box (one of my favorite things) to the little bandit cat and bow and arrow-wielding mouse facing off on the left and right corners.
Again, Wes Anderson, do you own this? If you do not, you need one. And I know you can get your mitts on the most pristine copy around.
When you remove the books, this is what you see. Naturally, Garth Williams didn't leave just regular ol' white space here or a simple pattern.
No, it's a corner grocery store with a rabbit family perusing the produce section and a bear cashier!
The endpapers of each book show a playground scene with all the tiny protagonists playing...just another perfect detail among dozens and dozens.
There is another little box from the Tiny Golden Library called Tiny Animal Stories. I had the 40's era set of that one in my collection already - perhaps that one needs a post sometime soon?
I hope you have a nice week! It's (uncharacteristically) hot as blazes here, which isn't good. I need my 60 degree days and grey sky/coffee afternoons to best get my work done.
(Photo of me & my wayward hairpin swiped from the BEA recap on the RH Buzzers blog)
I forgot to ever post about this!
A few weeks back, I traveled to NY for Book Expo America festivities with my publisher to start sharing Dream Animals with everyone. As a bonus, I got spoiled spending several days visiting my (lovely & beloved) editor & book designer, and another day or two to do a little non-work-related gallivanting, too. I'm going to do this in list-form, because I'm coming off one of my marathon headaches and it's all I can muster.
Itinerary & Highlights, Mostly Out-of-order
- Signed things (prints and postcards) on Thursday morning of BEA at the very well-lit and enormous Javitz center (the photo up top was taken there.)
- Arepas at the East Village Caracas, not once but twice.
- Found myself among wildly esteemed company as one of the featured authors at the Random House Cocktail party (photos & nice recap of that here). This led to surreal scenarios like posing, prom-photo style, between my author dates, extremely cool Chris So-Many-Caldecotts Raschka and lovely Steven Luminous-and-legendary Kellogg (both of these gentleman were very kind to this clearly bewildered whippersnapper).
- Walks and wanderings and lunches and dinners with my darlin F and a rascally Westie pup.
- Favorite place in the world, not for as long as I'd have liked, but still. If I'm in the city, I can't not go.
- Dinner followed with several editors, designers, agents, my own Josiah, the gentle Mr. Kellogg, and funny and irreverant Patricia MacLachlan (Sarah, Plain and Tall (!). She and Steven created a special & poignant picture book (full of children in beautiful sweaters) called Snowflakes Fall, which is a tribute to Sandy Hook, CT.
- Bagels and more bagels.
- Visited the missing-the-point-entirely Punk show at the Met
- Utterly destroyed my feet by wandering Soho late into the evening with my companions and ended up at the drugstore crying pitifully for bandaids. Worth it to peer at the glow of fancy shop windows and witness a friend very excitedly inspect the discarded shipping boxes heaped outside the Chloé store.
In short, it was a good little trip.
We are all really, really excited about Dream Animals, and really excited about our next book (which I'm working on now.) Mainly, though, I just spent a handful of days getting spoiled in the company of NY people I love and work closely with and that time zones keep me from. Any time I have a chance to visit them (and/or the Natural History Museum and/or the bagels)
A good little stack I brought home from the Rose City Book Fair this weekend. My favorite old book dealer was there, and he had a beautiful copy of The Sea Fairies (I'd been wishing for one for a while now) waiting for me. That link will take you to the Archives, where you can page through the whole strange & beautiful thing for yourself (one of the wonders of the internet!)
I'm really excited about the new-to-me Edith Davidson titles (little foxes in pinafores!) and maybe most of all about boxed Tiny Golden Library...I have a newer edition and, while it has its charms, the 1940's version has the best box. The whole shebang deserves a post all its own.
I have collected so many dozens and dozens of old children's books with no rhyme or reason - the only common denominator is that I love each one. I always think it would be nice to post about some especially favorite or especially oddball ones, but (a classic tale) then I never do.
More soon - I forgot to ever post about my BEA trip a few weeks back!
I was thinking I'd wait a bit before I posted the cover here, but lately the book keeps popping up here and there (the Publisher's Weekly Fall Previews, plus it's pre-orderable at Amazon & B&N!) These little hints decided it was time.
Remember these snippets? They come from this book, my very first picture book.
Dream Animals is, as the subtitle suggests, a bedtime journey (or series of journeys, really.) In it, a new dream-myth is born, and animals as old as time (and dreams themselves) carry each small dreamer to their own particular (and spectacular) dream.
You can catch a glimpse of one interior illustration by following the Publisher's Weekly link, but I wish I could share it all! Waiting to share more of the insides (and waiting for people to be able to hold the real, bound books) is so hard. This is my third time at this particular kind of rodeo, and I feel more impatient than ever. I think it's because I'm so terribly excited about the October release of Dream Animals and it makes me quite rabbity and twitchy to wait.
I can't wait to share more, more, more as October draws closer!
* Furred, or finned, or feathered...your dream animal is waiting. *
I'm a happy rabbit today. Why?
Because I just finished turning in all the art for my next children's book! And since I can't share the full drawings and paintings just yet, I thought a bunch of snippets would be fun to post in celebration.
These puzzle pieces are little bits of much larger scenes - I wonder what kind of story you might stitch together from only looking at these?
I can't wait to share more of this project! It's been with me for the better part of the past year, and I'm so excited about it. I wanted my first picture book to be a really special project, and I think (I hope!) this one is.
I'll share more as I can - it is slated for release in Fall '13.
So this time, next year, it'll be here. (Hooray!)
I hope you're having a lovely October!
I'm always intending to post more often about the books I'm currently taken with. Then I forget...then I'm on to new books, and the cycle continues! But the title of this new picture book alone made sure it wouldn't have such a fate.
I think everyone appreciates evocative book titles - the kinds that paint pictures in your mind right away and start storytelling all on their own. That's just one reason to love a book named, fantastically, curiously, demurely: Cecil the Pet Glacier.
Another is that it is illustrated by Giselle Potter, who was one of the first contemporary picture book illustrators to reel me in (years ago, now) with her pseudo-primitive folk aesthetic's askew beauty.
Yet another is the idea of a little girl who wears a uniform of a brown pinafore and black shoes, who is constantly dismayed by the quirk and rather oppressive joie de vivre of her parents.
And the final reason - the most impressive one, is that the author, Matthea Harvey, has taken one of the old chestnuts of the picture book medium (the pet story) and turned it on its head and made it hers, and made it special.
What have you been reading this Summer?
For me, it's ended up skewing fairly funny:
- I'm almost finished with The Family Fang, and I hate for it to be over! It's funny, for certain...maybe veering toward the tragicomic. I resisted it at first, because it seemed too obvious a choice for me (Julie Morstad cover and all.) What a dumb reason to avoid something. I've loved it. The art-within-art in the book (the family's performances, of which there are many, but also paintings, short stories) is so incredible, and gives the novel this wonderful nesting-doll quality. There are lots of marvelous things within the shell of the novel, within each particular Fang.
- I re-read all of my favorite David Sedaris books, and (on my third or fourth readings) I think I fully appreciated what an outstanding writer he is. I've always considered him an excellent storyteller, capable of spinning marvelous things out of little strands he plucks from his life, strands uncommonly hilarious and poignant. Most funny memoirists/essayists just don't have such a knack for finding those strands, the ones that lead to heart of an anecdote. This time reading his books, I was bowled over by those same things, but also by his clarity, word choice, just everything.
- I read Let's Pretend This Never Happened at the beginning of the Summer, which probably set the tone for the Summer and sent me digging through my shelves for the above books. It's really funny, raucous, and almost gratuitously self-effacing (but still light and zippy). The perfect thing to bring on a trip.
(For anyone who's read it, two words: Raccoon Jams!)
- I spent the last few nights up late with this book of interviews, Daniel Clowes: Conversations, which, like their subject, are wry and smart and sincere (and funny.) A few months back, when his beautiful monograph, Modern Cartoonist came out, I dragged the big thing into bed with me and pored over all the interviews included therein. This little paperback of interviews has even more to read, and was much easier to hold. That Mr. Clowes is such a hero of mine is a little funny - my work isn't very much like his in tone or aesthetic. But something about his technical perfectionism, wary sensitivity and grouchy beauty just kills me.
This Summer, reading-wise, has been a far cry from the dark delights of the 2011 Summer of Angela Carter, but I'm sure I'll be heading down that path again soon.
I'd love to hear about anything (funny or otherwise) you've read and liked lately!
Yesterday, before my Powell's storytime, I was chatting with two (lovely) children's book room ladies about gathering a few picture books in case the littles wanted more stories after my Oddfellow's reading. "Maybe something Spring-y? Something Easter-y?" they suggested. "Or just a book you really love..."
And immediately, The Country Bunny came to mind, because it's all of those things.
I first happened on this book at Books of Wonder a handful of years ago, and lured by the candy-colored cover, I snapped it off the shelf. A few days later, I found myself at the end of a New York visit, sitting at the gate of Newark airport, reading it near-breathlessly. The illustrations are absolutely beautiful, aglow in Easter egg colors grounded by inky blues and blacks. And the story, about a brave bunny who is both an extremely good mother and has her own dreams and ambitions, is enchanting and emboldening.
As I wound through the pages (it's quite wordy by today's picture book standards) I found myself, cross-legged on the airport carpet, with tears slipping down my face. This book, about something as whimsical as the plight of a would-be lady Easter bunny, reminds me of everything good and real and true. Of the different kinds of hopes we carry around, and how those hopes don't need to cancel each other out. Of how many things a book can be, and a person can be. It reminds me of my own mama.
This interesting little New Yorker piece gives a brief history, if you're interested.
And I didn't end up reading it at Powell's yesterday, simply because of the length. But today's the perfect day to read it, anyway (preferably with a side of Cadbury eggs.)