Homer Henry Hudson’s Curio Museum and and interview with Zack Rock

Homer Henry Hudson’s Curio Museum by Zack Rock

by Zack Rock (Creative Editions, 2014)

Zack Rock and I haunt some of the same circles on the internet. I have a tshirt with his work on it thanks to Vintage Kids’ Books My Kid Loves (how cool is that header?), and I have long admired his work thanks to some tea time at Seven Impossible Things here and here. And once upon a time in 2012, Zack wrote a hilarious joke for a Hallowtweet contest run by Adam Rex and Steven Malk.

I remember that well, cause in fun-facts-here-at-Design-of-the-Picture-Book both Julie Falatko and I were runners-up in that contest, and the real prize was getting her friendship. Start of an era, for sure. (Although Zack did get an original piece of Adam Rex art, and we’d both admit to coveting that a little. See below!)

So. I’ve had my eye out for this book for years. Years! And I was so happy that Zack spent some time chatting with me about this smorgasbord of stuff and story. He also said he “answered the living daylights” out of these questions, so I sure hope you enjoy the living daylights out of them like I did.

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The Other Side

theotherside

by Istvan Banyai

{published 2005, by Chronicle Books}

I’m a big fan of another Istvan Banyai book, Zoom. Turns out, I’d been holding that book in my clutches so tight, that I completely spaced out on this one. This one that came out eight whole years ago. What?!

The Other Side is just that – a look around the bend, through the eyes of another, and into a world that will probably surprise you. The visual puzzle starts to unfold on the endpapers, where it appears that the page has already been folded for you. And on the other side? Your finger – left behind, intricately folding a paper airplane, and tossing it through an open window.  So my pictures are a little haphazard and all over the place, but I think that suits this story. The illlustrations here are devour-worthy, even if some of the time there’s no rhyme or reason for what the heck is happening. Your point of view is constantly shifting, so each new vignette is a romp and a surprise and a gut-check of whether you are up or down or in or out or just what. A flamingo casting the shadow of a palm tree?! OKAY.  I love this page flip, where this monstrous lump of something hovers over some men working. But that? It’s just a blond thing with pigtails, hopscotching her way up the page. I don’t know what’s going on here. And I love that.

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Oh No, Little Dragon!

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by Jim Averbeck

Remember him? When I asked him what he would be if he wasn’t an author/illustrator, he said “extraordinarily irritable.” Ha.

Oh No, Little Dragon! is an endearing little book. Just look at his eyes! So sweet. That’s a little dragon with a spark in his heart, no question about it.

This is a story about fire, love, and kisses from a mama. And Jim Averbeck’s pictures capture the magnitude of this childlike search for sparkle.

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ElementOfDesign.Line

When I teach, one of my favorite things to show students is this little video. Not only does it visually define the fundamentals of design, but it is also a tiny piece of art itself. Pay close attention to the bit on line. (And also the adorable accent of the narrator!)

From the video: “Line has direction, weight, gesture, spirit, gestalt, life.”

And that’s what I think about when I look through the pages of Oh No, Little Dragon! — the life and spirit of the lines.

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See how the foreground and background lines are weighted the same? They are approximately the same width and texture, but the background lines recede because they are more transparent. Similar lines in different spirit create space in the illustration.

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The lines of phooooooshing on these pages have a clear direction and sense of animation across the spread. Love that. Can’t you just hear and feel Little Dragon sputtering through this book?

I won’t even tell you how much I love the soot-colored line drawings on the endpapers.

Nope.

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Sophie’s Fish

by A.E. Cannon (who loves Cheetos and Oreos!) and Lee White (who loves to bike, I think?!)

I really think artists might be some of the coolest people out there. (Some might say just plain ‘out there,’ but that’s neither here nor there. Nor anywhere.)

What? Where were we?!

When I saw Lee’s illustrations come through my email inbox, I seriously got whiplash from how fast my jaw hit the floor. His art has a charm that swept me off my feet and rendered me speechless for a moment or two.

Not a usual occurrence.

Sophie’s Fish explores all the things that just might happen if you get asked to babysit a fish. Hysterical. Hysterical!

The compositions are gorgeous. The textures leap off the page. The colors are snappy but soft. The whole thing? Is perfect.

Like this spread…

The sidewalk creates intersecting and interesting lines which gives such life and movement to this one still picture. And from an overhead perspective even! So cool. And those dreamy, complementary colors.

Or this one…the DING DONG page!

Don’t those layered textures make you think you could just reach out and touch it?! The crumpled rug, the splintered door, and that calm, but rough sky. I LOVE THIS SPREAD.

Did you hear me?! (One of those non-speechless moments!) This book is a gem. A winner. A beautiful piece of art.

You owe it to your imagination to sit a while with this one.

Boy + Bot

words by Ame Dyckman + pictures by Dan Yaccarino

{Why yes, they ARE a match made in heaven!}

Boy + Bot is an endearing tale of friendship between a charming and unlikely duo. Their generosities to one another when the other is broken will turn you into a puddle awwwww mush on the floor.

The #spotbot crew on Twitter is probably still mopping themselves up. We ADORE this book. And darn if Ame Dyckman isn’t the most likable gal at the party!

In design, size can be used to give extra weight or value to one element versus another. If shapes on a page are too uniform in size, they compete for your attention. Think of a checkerboard. Which square do you look at? But think of the American flag. The long stripes and the smaller stars differ in size and scale, and your eye can move around that icon a bit more freely and with less confusion.

So small Boy and his much larger Bot create a dynamic duo. Boy’s bitty-ness and Bot’s bigger-ness gives an interesting visual edge to their friendship. Sure, this is slightly different than a true graphic design principle at work, but the same idea feels really satisfying in their characterization. Even on the cover, the word Boy and the word Bot nod to their sizes by using different weights of the same typeface.

Their kooky friendship fits perfectly into this comic or storyboarded style of layout. Note even here, the different sizes of illustrations on one spread.

This might be one of my favorite back covers ever. I do love the reflection, {found on this cover as well,} but come on….the barcode on Bot’s behind? Impossible not to love. Enjoy this one with your BFF.

Will you love it? “AFFIRMATIVE!”

Actual Size

Steve Jenkins’ concept for Actual Size is simple. Showcase creatures at their actual size. Truly. Right there on the cover is a teeny pygmy mouse that fits just snug up against a gorilla thumb.Smaller animals fit nicely in the frame, but some are way too massive to fit in the confines of the book’s pages. And that is the spark and fun investigation of Actual Size.

Did you ever look a giant squid in the eye?

How many dwarf gobies do you think fit in that squid’s eyeball?

Even before I studied graphic design, I was drawn to the cut paper collages of these illustrations. Don’t you just want to hug on that ostrich’s neck? So tactile and inviting.

I just looked at size in my most recent post, LMNO Peas, and it’s another clear choice here. And, well…uh…the title is Actual SIZE. But in this book, the goal is for the reader to interact with the pages, to compare and contrast sizes among different animals. And just how big is your hand compared to that gorilla’s? The illustrations in LMNO Peas use size to guide layout and movement within one page, and Actual Size tackles size to guide contrast.

Ever wonder why there are only SEVEN elements of design and a million billion trillion pictures and images in the world? (No? Just me on a lazy Saturday night?) Well that’s why. Seven foundational elements that can combine and solve problems differently in those million billion trillion ways.

His teeth are so massive that it takes a three page foldout to show them all! Chomp.

The adorable little pygmy mouse lemur is the size of my keys. {Can you spot my Burbank Public Library key tag under there? I think I owe them $3.00.}

I love a good elephant. Always.

And just in case you needed any more convincing about how incredible this book is, how about a pictorial glossary of all the animals scaled to fit? Thank you, Steve Jenkins, for making a picture book that is just as informative as it is beautiful…even if it doesn’t fit on my bookshelf very well.

Duck! Rabbit!

It’s a rainy morning in beautiful downtown Burbank. (I hopped over to YouTube to find a clip of Johnny Carson’s description of “beautiful downtown Burbank,” and realized Burbank is named after a dentist?!! A dentist? Ew.)

Anyway, it’s a morning perfect for a second cup of coffee, NFL RedZone, and slippers from a hotel in Bangalore. (My boyfriend went to India and all I got were these paper slippers.)

(I love parentheses this morning apparently.)

ANYWAY.

Are you following all of the excitement of Picture Book Month? Just checking.

Anyway, AGAIN.

This book:

Based on this illusion:

is. so. much. fun. Written by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld, Duck! Rabbit! is a delightful volley of ‘Which is it?!’ What a dream team…I’d love to be their third wheel!

DESIGN INTENTION: PERCEPTION

This book is funny and clever and brain-stretching, as it asks its young reader to consider perspective and multiple possibilities of reading a singular image. The dialog between two pals happens on either side of the gutter, clearly defining who says what as they attempt to convince the other that it’s a duck. Or a rabbit.

Because the book is a square, it opens as a long and short rectangle, perfect for framing the duck/rabbit. Smart, smart choice of book design.

And whatever his intention, I just love the way Tom Lichtenfeld kept each spread contained within that thick black border, the same thickness as the line outlining the duck/rabbit.

So. What is it? A duck? Or a rabbit?

I’m going with a ruck. Or dabbit.

PS–Check out this cute trailer for Duck! Rabbit!

The Man Who Walked Between the Towers

The Man Who Walked Between the Towers is an enchanting account of Philippe Petit’s 1974 wire walking between the majestic twin towers of New York City. It almost has an ethereal and fairy tale like quality to it. Mesmerizing. Published just two years after the events of September 11, this story is a restrained, yet reverent homage to the spirit of those buildings. Even on the cover above, you can see a bald eagle flying below Petit feet. Moments of reverence mark this book without ever calling specific attention to the terrible things that also happened there. Mordecai Gerstein won the 2004 Caldecott Medal for this book, and his ever swift pacing deserves attention as well. This may be a hard one to sit with, but experiencing these buildings in an beautiful and impossible way is worth it.

He looked not at the towers but at the space between them

Perspective

In art, perspective refers to the creation of depth in an image. You learned to draw a cube somewhere along the way, right? You drew it in perspective. You represented three-dimensional form in a two-dimensional space.

{I clearly learned how to draw a loaf of bread rather than a cube. Genius.}

Perspective engages the viewer, and provides entry points into the art. It is simply your viewpoint. The goal of the artist then becomes creating a viewpoint that will best communicate their story. Mordecai Gerstein creates dizzying perspective in The Man Who Walked Between the Towers.

The tiny colored dots feel another world away. The thinness of the wire and the nothingness between our feet and the ground creates a feeling of suspense. We are quite literally walking through the sky.

Perspective causes us to watch helplessly as Petit scrambles headfirst down the steep side of the building, the harbor glistening in the background.

Perspective allows us to participate in Petit’s joy and celebration. Gerstein’s pull out spreads make the experience that much more rich and surprising. I want to speed through it and slow down all at the same time. Reading this book and its pictures is simultaneously thrilling and unsettling. And freeing.

{Philip Petit’s story is also told in an Oscar award winning documentary called Man On Wire. Check it out if you haven’t broken up with Netflix yet. The sheer audacity of this man is remarkable. And frightening. And impressive…because I am the girl who cried on a roller coaster at Magic Mountain after all. Last year.}