The Baby Tree

The Baby Tree by Sophie Blackallby Sophie Blackall

published 2014 by Nancy Paulsen Books, at Penguin KidsThe Baby Tree by Sophie BlackallAbout a year ago, I heard Sophie Blackall give a keynote at SCBWI Western Washington. She wears great tights and shoes and is a total riot. She had this effervescent spirit that had the whole room in stitches. It felt like watching one of her illustrations bounce right off the page and into the room.

See, I’m a big fan. Ivy and Bean are soul sisters. I gushed about The Crows of Pearblossom and The Mighty Lalouche over at Design Mom, and still stand by this tweet from the end of 2013.

Her work has sprinkles of fairy dust or something in it – something enchanting and mysterious and compelling and darn beautiful.

And this, her latest offering, is both calming and humorous, sweet and sassy. It’s a bound and beautiful answer to the dreaded where do babies come from?

breaker She’s so in tune with the vast (and sometimes creepy!) imagination of a youngster, and look at how that plays out in this art. Real life is a spot illustration, surrounded by white space and unknowns. But the what if bleeds to the edge of the page, filling every millimeter with color and wonder and possibility. Not only is it stunning to see, it’s intentional storytelling. The Baby Tree by Sophie Blackall The Baby Tree by Sophie BlackallHat tip, always, to Jules at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast for the interview that revealed that delicious tidbit. Check out her interview (and more art!) with Sophie here.

Sophie works in Brooklyn with other illustrators Brian Floca, Ed Hemingway, John Bemelmans Marciano, and Sergio Ruzzier. Can you even imagine spending an hour in that studio, soaking it all up and trying not to faint and fall in it? Dream field trip, for sure. Their kinship and support of one another has always been so apparent. Look here, and here, and here to see what I mean.

But also, look inside The Baby Tree for a glimpse at their love and support of one another. What’s our pajama-clad wonderer reading with Mom and Dad, all cozied up in bed? I won’t spoil it for you, cause it was a gasp-moment for me. If you’ll bust without knowing, check out Danielle’s post over at This Picture Book Life about allusions in picture books. (And stay there a while even once you see what I’m talking about, cause how brilliant is that?!)

You’d like a copy, right? Penguin has two to give away to you! (And you!) Just leave a comment on this post by Monday at noon PST, June 2nd. I’ll pick two, and have the stork deliver The Baby Tree right to your doorstep. Good luck!

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Review copy provided by the publisher, all thoughts and love my own.

 

Presto Change-o! A Book of Animal Magic

Presto Change-o!by Édouard Manceau

published March 2014 (tomorrow!) by Twirl Books, distributed in America by Chronicle Books

What a treat to give the new Twirl books a whirl! (They are doing something right when a thirtysomething-ed lady squeals over a box of board books, right?)

This one is perfect for grabby hands and curious minds. Check it out in action.

breaker Presto Change-o!This is a board book that’s been on a steady regimen of spinach and milk. It’s big and beefy. That’s a great thing, because there’s a lot to experience on these pages.

Here’s how it works. The left page shows two seemingly unrelated nouns, loosely connected by a narrative. Sometimes it’s lilting and sometimes a bit labored, but since it’s a translation, all text-clunk is forgiven. Besides, the real treat is in the visual and tactile experience. Presto Change-o!Swinging a shape or two or three around transforms one picture to another. It’s simultaneously simple and sophisticated. And just plain fun to see and do. Swinging a shape or two or three around transforms one picture to another. It’s simultaneously simple and sophisticated. And just plain fun to see and do. Presto Change-o! Presto Change-o!Some standard fare lives here: Rabbit, Teapot, Owl. And then there’s Bowl of Salad. Bowl of Salad! Thank goodness for the French. What a delight! Some standard fare lives here: Rabbit, Teapot, Owl. And then there’s Bowl of Salad. Bowl of Salad! Thank goodness for the French. What a delight! Presto Change-o! Presto Change-o!I’m teaching an introductory Photoshop and graphic design class this summer. To 3rd – 6th graders. My brain exploded with ideas for projects when I saw this book. You better believe we will be creating our own Presto Change-os! 

Stay tuned.Presto Change-o!Here’s a bit more about Twirl Books.

breaker

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Review copy provided by the publisher.

Alphablock

Alphablock by Christopher Franceschelli, art by Peskimo

published 2013, by Abrams Appleseed

Alphablock Alphablock This book. Swoon city. Hefty chunk of graphic design. Just as fascinating and fantastic for adults as well as the stubby fingers of the littles. “You’re never too old for picture books” is my constant battle cry at school. Let’s amend that a bit to “you’re never too old for board books.”

Because wow. Alphablock Alphablock Can you see what’s happening here? Each letter of the alphabet is given two thick spreads for the hint and the reveal. It’s a visual puzzle, linked by a die-cut of the hero letter. For real. Alphablock Alphablock Figuring it out is a satisfying read, and physically flipping the letterform for the answer is brilliant. Alphablock Alphablock Not only does the design feel fresh, but the alphabet choices are newfangled, too. I love S is for SCISSORS and the cut-out arts and crafts that accompany it. P is for PENCILS gets the lined paper treatment, scattered with sharpened pencil shavings. And thank goodness F is for FISH gives us a glimpse into an aquarium with its kooky accoutrements, and not the obvious deep blue sea scene. Alphablock

Image courtesy of Abrams Appleseed

Image courtesy of Abrams Appleseed

Image courtesy of Abrams Appleseed

Image courtesy of Abrams Appleseed

(And any book that uses U is for UNDERWEAR is obviously a hands down favorite, too.)

Add this to your gift-list. Perfect for babes and art buffs alike. (And pretty much anyone who loves the alphabet.)

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Review copy provided by Abrams Appleseed.

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.

The Heart and the Bottle

by Oliver Jeffers.

I love Oliver Jeffers. Mostly because he’s an incredible writer and illustrator, but also because he rocks a sweet mustache. And because he signs his double Fs just like I make my double Gs. Kindreds.

Once there was a girl, much like any other,

Whose head was filled with all the curiosities of the world.

He talks about his creative process in a video here. A trip into an artists’ studio is always fascinating, and he definitely does not disappoint.

The story pulses with raw and tender emotion, and deftly explores grief while allowing the reader to interpret it as he or she may. Jeffers tackles a weighty topic, perfectly conveyed through sparse words and rich illustrations. The illustrations are intricate and detailed when the little girl is freely experiencing her feelings, and bare and stark (but beautiful) when she has her heart tightly locked away. Really stunning. Jarring almost. Brace yourself, but let the words and pictures settle with you for a while.

ELEMENT OF DESIGN: COLOR

I mean, really, it’s hard to pick just one in a piece of art like this, but so much of its beauty rests in its colors. I picked up these color squares on my field trip to the Getty recently, an impulse buy MUCH more worthy than a Peppermint Patty. Each card is a different color and has a unique cutout pattern. By layering cards, you can create endless varieties of color palettes and forms. It’s a very tactile way to experience color and notice how colors interact with one another. Soothing and addictive, too. {Not unlike the Peppermint Patty, actually.}

So I played…with The Heart and the Bottle’s illustrations as inspiration.

Head-clearing time with a picture book? Please. Horrifying iPhone pictures? Not as inspirational, but you get the point, I hope:)

For Just One Day

For Just One Day by Laura Leuck, illustrated by Marc Boutavant.

For just one day, I’d like to be

A busy, buzzing bumble…BEE!

What child can’t relate to that? Heck, even I can.

{My cousin Mollie once said she wanted to be a tree when she grew up. She’s an elementary school teacher now. Rooted, solid, and embracing.}

ELEMENT OF DESIGN: PROPORTION

Closely related to balance, proportion signifies the relative sizes and weights of graphical elements on a page or a spread. This includes all art, text, and white space. Proportion can obviously refer to equally or unequally weighted elements, and different layouts are appropriate in different situations. For Just One Day is doing some interesting things with proportion on each spread. For this, kudos to illustrator Marc Boutavant and any other book designers involved on this project.

{Of course, they had brilliant words to illustrate written by Laura Leuck. I love the picture book as a whole, words PLUS pictures. It’s a beautiful success when matched so perfectly.}

Because of the guessing game nature of this book, the pattern naturally falls with the ‘answer’ on the left hand page and the next ‘question’ on the right. The stanzas are not related to each other and therefore their illustrations can be disconnected a bit, though never at the expense of overall harmony in the body of art.

The left hand page is rich with color and texture and a singular word created in hand drawn typography. These animal pages have incredible detail and quirky moments. A porcupine resting in a tree, writing in her journal? Sure.

A pink guitar playing porcupine writing fan mail to her Justin Bieber? YES.

The right page shows the narrator, always a round faced and wide eyed child, pondering his next choice. On this page, plenty of white space is left for the type to live and breathe and rest. The focus is the character, though unexpected details hop in as well.

An awake and blonde haired young’n, resisting sleep? Sure.

A crew of playful mice ignoring bedtime just above his head? YES. (And hey! Today’s Picture Book Month theme is MICE!)

But back to each spread as one piece. The intentional differences on either side of the gutter create stunning proportion, which increases the visual interest of For Just One Day.

And spoiler alert: Pick the spinach out of your teeth and run a brush through your hair before you sit down to read this one. Just sayin’. You’ll see.