Cat Says Meow (and a giveaway!)

Cat Says Meow by Michael P. Arndt by Michael Arndt (Chronicle Books, 2014)

This book won me over when I saw it last year, and it’s one that is fun to peek into again and again. And how is that the case with something so simple, but so sophisticated? So spare, but so complex? That’s the best truth of design.

Here’s what’s happening. Each spread shows an animal and its sound. And each animal is mostly made up of the letters of that sound.

It’s a fun puzzle to unlock. The portraits are bold and saturated in color, often different than we’d see them in the wild.

But here they are, wild anyway.

Cat Says Meow by Michael P. Arndt Cat Says Meow by Michael P. Arndt Cat Says Meow by Michael P. Arndt

I do love an animal book that goes beyond the usual suspects, don’t you? A mosquito! Not my favorite friend by any means, but he looks good and menacing here.

Cat Says Meow by Michael P. Arndt Cat Says Meow by Michael P. Arndt Cat Says Meow by Michael P. Arndt

This small volume is a perfect primer on both typography and onomatopoeia.

And it’s got killer endpapers.

Cat Says Meow by Michael P. Arndt

A portion of  proceeds from Cat Says Meow goes to support animal rescue organizations, including the ones from where Michael’s dog (Clooney!) and cat (Aiden!) were rescued.

And for more type fun, play this kerning game and see how your eye stacks up to a designer’s. Or this one on letter forms, which is a bezier curve bonanza.

Would you like a signed copy? And these one of a kind bookmarks and vinyl stickers! You do, yes. Leave a comment here or share this post on Twitter before midnight on March 8st, PST. Good luck!

Cat Says Meow by Michael P. Arndt Cat Says Meow by Michael P. Arndt

 

ch

All images are © 2014 Michael Arndt. Thanks to the artist for sharing them (and an awesome giveaway!) here. And be sure to check out his Instagram if you love all things type, animal, and lovely. It’s a great one!

 

Number One Sam and an interview with Greg Pizzoli

Number One Sam by Greg Pizzoliby Greg Pizzoli

published 2014 by Disney-Hyperion

I’m honored and thrilled to have Greg Pizzoli back to the blog this week. About a year ago we talked about Kroc and The Watermelon Seed, and in the many weeks since, that thing (and Greg!) won the Geisel Award! My kindergarteners call him ‘the BURRRRPPP man’ which I’m pretty sure is the highest praise any mere mortal can achieve.

But today! Today is the birthday of Greg’s latest and greatest, Number One Sam. This is my favorite tweet about it:Screen Shot 2014-05-11 at 3.47.57 PM(And side note, you should follow Matt Roeser at Candlewick cause he has impeccable taste and eyeballs.)

And this (!) is the trailer:

breaker Greg chatted with me about process and art and picture books, and I’ve read these answers about a billion times and am still learning. Enjoy!

Your spot color. Wow! Can you talk about why such a stripped-down design with a limited color palette is such a powerful visual device?

Great question!

To be honest, I’m not sure. But, I think it comes down
to working from an intention, and just having a plan, or restrictions
set in place from the beginning. You can’t just grab another color
from somewhere – when it comes time to make final art, we’ve done
rounds of pantone tests and paper tests, and the limitations and
possibilities are in place, so nothing is casual. Maybe it makes you
consider things in a way that is unique to working in that way?

I know for me, if I’m doing a book that is printed in a limited color
palette, it can feel restrictive in one sense, but there is a real
freedom within the limitations, if you know what I mean. There’s not
endless guessing the way there might be with a CMYK book. Obviously we
do lots of tests and make sure we get the base colors right for the
book, but once that is done, I can start carving out the drawings and
not worry too much about the colors, because we’ve done so much work
on the front end. It’s a challenge I enjoy.

Here’s a photo of a spot color test proof. Number One Sam by Greg Pizzoli

Why do you think your stories are best suited to the form of the picture
book. What can you do in this form that you might not be able to in another?

This is a tough one, Carter. Boy, I come to your blog looking to have
a good time, maybe show a video or something, and you slam me with
this “why picture books” stuff. Sheesh. “Gotcha blogging” right here.
But that’s fine, I’ll play along.

I’m kidding, of course. But, it is a tough one. I guess it’s not all
that complicated for me. I’ve always loved picture books and I think
it’s because there are so many possible ways to solve the problem of
telling a story with text and images. It’s a cliche I think, but you
really can do anything in a picture book. But here again, I like the
restrictions. As much as I might complain to my editor that I “just
need one more spread” to tell the story, it’s actually nice to have a
structure where you have to fit a complete world, with a character, a
problem, and (maybe?) a solution to that problem in only 40 (or so)
pages.

There’s something about how deliberate every decision has to be
that is super appealing to me. I’ve been working on writing a longer
thing recently, a series, and it’s not as though I’m not deliberate
when working on it, but I’ll admit that it feels as though not as much
is hinging on each line or picture in the same way. With picture
books, you don’t have room for anything to feel arbitrary. I like
that.

Also, I thought you might want to see these. Sam started out as a
print of a weird dog (top) and then I made a print of another
(cuter) dog, and he kept coming up in my sketchbooks until he became
Number One Sam (bottom). Number One Sam by Greg Pizzoli Number One Sam by Greg Pizzoli

What do you think are the most important considerations when creating a book trailer?
How do you think through compressing an already spare narrative into a short
animation? Are there aspects to animation you wish you had access to in
picture book art or vice versa? (I guess mostly I’m curious about how book
trailers share storytelling space with picture books and what they can do
differently. Does that make sense?!)

Ya know, it’s a complicated thing this book trailer business. I am
really happy with the two we’ve done so far, but I definitely can’t
take all the credit. Jimmy Simpson, directed and animated both the
trailer for The Watermelon Seed and for Number One Sam, and he is
pretty incredible to work with. Both times we started working, I had
already finished the book, and I had a very basic sense of what I
wanted the trailer to be, but he figures out all of the transitions
and added all of the touches that make them work as well as I think
they do. For example, the “wink” shot from the Number One Sam trailer –
that’s all Jimmy. And of course, he does all of the animation.

I draw the stuff, which is somewhat complicated because you have to
keep everything separated, meaning draw the arm on a different layer
from the body, and the hand on a different layer than the arm, and the
ear on it’s own layer, etc. Basically everything needs to move
independently of everything else, but my characters are pretty simple,
so it’s not too big a deal.

And the music is key. My buddy Christopher Sean Powell composed the
music special for both trailers. What a talent, right? He plays in the
band Man Man, and has his solo music project called Spaceship Aloha,
and was a part of a pretty seminal band from these parts called Need
New Body. I’m thrilled we get to work together on this stuff.

But, to your actual question, I see the trailer and the book as
completely separate things. They have their own pacing, and their own
objectives. With the book, you want everything to feel complete, and
have an emotional pay off of some kind. And you have the narrative arc
to keep things together. With the trailer, it’s more of a tease. You
don’t want to give it all away. And I guess our objective is to just
make them fun and unique.

Book trailers have become more popular, and there is a sort of
template for how they are done that we have tried to stay away from.
We just want them to feel different enough to maybe stand out. It’s a
super small community in some ways, and my book trailers certainly
aren’t racking up millions of views or anything, but we enjoy making
them for their own sake, partly I think because we all just like
working together. If other people dig them, and check out the book on
top of that, that’s icing.

What types of trophies do you have lining your shelves? What kind do you
wish you had? Side note: What would a book called Number One Greg be about?

Beyond my published books, which I kind of think of as trophies in a
way, there are a couple. Last year when I finished the art for Number
One Sam, my editor Rotem sent me a trophy that I keep on my bookcase.
And recently I was looking through some old family photos and found a
first place ribbon that I had won for a school wide art contest in
the 1st grade. My family moved around a ton when I was little, so the
actual winning piece was lost. I remember it though! It was a big
piece of yellow poster board with a marker drawing of outer space.

Maybe it’s time to do a space book? Number One Sam by Greg Pizzoli Number One Sam by Greg Pizzoli breaker And now for some art from Number One Sam. Thank you, Greg! (Click to make any of them larger.) Number One Sam by Greg Pizzoli Number One Sam by Greg Pizzoli Number One Sam by Greg Pizzoli Number One Sam by Greg Pizzoli

ch

 

Monday, Wednesday, and Every Other Weekend

Monday, Wednesday, and Every Other Weekend written and illustrated by Karen Stanton

published 2014 by Feiwel and Friends, an imprint of Macmillan

When I first saw the art for this book, a teeny jolt of whoa hit me right in the heart. I mean, look at the endpapers! The calendars sprinkled throughout! The swirls of smells and thoughts and words! Monday, Wednesday, and Every Other Weekend by Karen Stanton Monday, Wednesday, and Every Other Weekend by Karen StantonThen I read the story and the teeny turned into titanic. This is a tender tale of love and home and broken families.

Henry Cooper lives in two houses. So does Pomegranate, his dog. Mama and Papa are two and a half blocks and worlds away. At Mama’s they dance, and at Papa’s they sing. In both, there is love and warmth and safety. Monday, Wednesday, and Every Other Weekend by Karen Stanton Monday, Wednesday, and Every Other Weekend by Karen StantonWhen Pomegranate goes missing, Henry Cooper knows exactly where he is – right at the big yellow house where the family once lived together. Home.

And then Henry becomes the hero, leading Pomegranate back to where the love lives. There’s a lovely ambiguity of which house it is. Because really, does it matter?Monday, Wednesday, and Every Other Weekend by Karen StantonKaren Stanton’s art is layered, rich, and colorful. And is there a better art choice for brokenness than collage? I doubt it. Thank you, Karen, for sharing these spreads with us! Click any image to enlarge. Enjoy!

ch

Abe Lincoln’s Dream

abeLincolnsDream_coverby Lane Smith

published 2012, by Roaring Brook Press, an imprint of Macmillan

Check out this trailer. It sets up the book’s mood and pace with flawless grace.

breaker Lane Smith has done something really special here. It’s an evocative look at a legacy. A look back and a look forward. Steps taken and hope to go.

I love that a curly haired girl with brown skin is his host. Perhaps that was an obvious choice, but I think she’s more than an art direction. Her today is because of his past.

She is his recurring dream that he just can’t shake.DPB_Stack_AbeLincolnsDream1This is history and beauty, wrapped up in the whimsy that only Lane Smith can do. His textures add life to an already rich history. They are layers, individual parts to a whole life and a whole story.

Roses and lightning and cherry blossom branches frame panels of their journey. Different type for her thoughts and his. Different times, balanced and bridged. Lane Smith’s art is restrained and curious and playful all at once.  DPB_Stack_AbeLincolnsDream2  I can’t think of another storyteller who could handle this story with greater elegance. Art that both delights and informs, and words that are both playful and serious in tone. A masterpiece!

ch

The Mischievians

TheMischieviansCoverby William Joyce

published 2013, by Simon and Schuster

(I love that upside down A. I suppose that sucker is called The Letter Flipper Upside Downer. The Fontfiender. Or something.)

Impeccably designed with nods at its book-ness, the cover is distressed and worn like it’s been studied and loved and needed. It’s a book that knows it’s a book, so it looks especially, book-y.* Right?

But let’s start with this. You might know some of these guys:

breaker This is the latest offering from William Joyce and Moonbot Studios, a dazzling storytelling team. (Remember that book-loving Morris Lessmore?) But this one is mayhem and wordplay and maddening and glorious. You wouldn’t expect anything less, right? Mischievians1 The story starts on the endpapers where some kids are at their wit’s end and a spindly green arm yanks away a vowel. Awful. Naturally, their parents are blaming them. Wouldn’t you? But no. The peculiar looking Dr. Zooper sucks them into his laboratory, and introduces them to the encyclopedia that explains everything. Darn those Funny Bones. Did you know they find your ow-ding-ow-oh-oh so hysterical that they hide out until the giggles subside? Thanks to this encyclopedia of mischief-makers, I know that’s why they only show up a few times a year. They’re out there somewhere, chortling and waiting, plotting and howling. Jerks. Mischievians2 The Mischievians. Mischievians3 When the kids are zooped back up the chute, they have a monumental task. Document! Top Secret! Report and resist!

I don’t think it will take them too long. breaker How about you?

Thanks to Simon and Schuster, I have two copies to zoop over to you! Just leave a comment here by midnight PST on December 31. Maybe even tell me which mischief-maker is driving you most nuts? Is it the Remotetoter? The Stinker? The Lintbellian? You have my sympathies and my snickering.

Sorry about it.

ch

*Other book-y looking books I love:

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (the original design!) by Newt Scamander (and J.K. Rowling)

Shaun Tan’s The Arrival 

The ridiculously brilliant Battle Bunny, by Jon Scieszka and Mac Barnett (That post from Julie Danielson at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast is a smorgasbord of awesome.)

And, of course, Greg Heffley’s Diary of a Wimpy Kid series. (With a huge nod to Jeff Kinney, obviously.)

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.)

ch

Review copy provided by Abrams Appleseed.

Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox: The Great Pancake Adventure

PaulBunyan_cover

by Matt Luckhurst

{published 2012, Abrams Books for Young Readers}

Matt Luckhurst’s playground home on the web is a whimsy-thrill for your eyeballs. I particularly love this page of Paul Bunyan goodies, including the trailer:

breaker I think you can see what I mean before I even want to tell you about it. THAT TYPE.

Rewind.DPB_TypographyI read a fantastic interview last week on the KidLit Artists blog – did you see it? Illustrator Lisa Anchin interviewed Martha Rago, a creative director at Harper Collins. That piece is here, and you should totally go read it and then come back here.

Martha Rago said this, and it’s been bouncing around in my brain for a while now, and I love it:

Once I learned how to look at a font in a careful way, and how to use it, I was completely taken with type and design.  It was an emotional connection at the time, without any intellectual analysis as to why I liked type and design so much. But now, when I think about it, I see typography is a kind of 2-dimensional sculpture. A font is so carefully constructed, and each  form relates in a different way to the space surrounding it – letter to letter, word to word.

This book popped right into my head. It’s exactly that – a two-dimensional sculpture, both art itself and the words that carry the story. See what I mean:

 Matt Luckhurst’s retelling of Paul Bunyan is larger than larger than life. The exaggeration is exaggerated and the hyperbole is, well, you know. It’s a winky nod to the traditional oral tale, and twists truths with outlandish moxie.

Doesn’t it make sense? The words that originally told this story weren’t written. And then they were. And now, in a picture book, those words are the pictures?

You’ll love it.

ch

P.S. – I’m tickled by that yellow and gray graphic I made once upon a time, and how it looks like it says ‘granny’ in the bar at the top. The irony that a graphic on type has that kind of gaffe is not lost on me!

Stuck

It’s IMPOSSIBLE to not love Oliver Jeffers. Remember his mustache?!

Well, listen to him read Stuck, and prepare to be enchanted:

I can’t follow an act like that, but let me tell you a few things I love about this book.

1: The endpapers. What a great grid of all of those THINGS that Floyd flings up into the tree.

2: The type.

The handwritten text is an excellent choice for the pictures. The scribbled words have a tactile, lifelike quality that matches the vibrancy of the art so perfectly.

3: The easter egg.

I’m not one to linger on copyright pages since my librarian days are behind me, but check out this little gem straight from the mouth of Oliver Jeffers:

{The art for Stuck was created by compositing various scribbles and blotches of paint, made on small pieces of paper,  all together inside of my computer. This is because I needed to move studios in the middle of making the art, and using this approach seemed like a good idea.}

4: This line.

5: This fakeout mess-up.

6: This spread, that texture, those clouds.

7: That it’s FOR SOMEONE NICE.

Someone like you! I have two copies of Stuck, which is certainly due to having no self-control around picture books and many looming stacks. I’d love to send it to you, and I promise not to throw it in a tree first.

I’ll assume the mailman got down out of that tree in order to deliver it to you.

Just comment on this post by Tuesday, June 12 at midnight PST. I’ll draw a winner with the help of my trusty buddy, random.org, and you can add this to your own looming stack of picture books. It will be a great addition, promise.

Operation Alphabet

Operation Alphabet is the brainchild of art director Al MacCuish. It’s illustrated by Luciano Lozano and designed by Jim Bletsas. Their favorite words are diplodocus, shelter, and ‘toodle-oo, buckeroo‘ respectively, so, you know, they rule for having favorite words. Mine is eyeball. True story.

I can’t give away too much because the book warned me multiple times that its content is TOP SECRET. I’m certainly one to obey letters, so I will comply with that order. But what you can know is that Charlie Foxtrot is doing pretty terrible in school, and the Ministry of Letters concocts a plan of attack to help. And a Duchess rides a motorbike, so there’s that.

And while it’s certainly a departure from a typical picture book as it runs 64 pages and LOTS of words, it’s a fun novelty with stellar pictures.

…and dizzying endpapers!

I love how this title page feels like the first page of a super-secret-need-to-know-basis-very-important file.

Underneath this fun mylar (!) jacket is a poster of all the letters. I love this trend; it’s seen in another favorite alphabet book, Paul Thurlby’s Alphabet.

The color palette is restrained, yet rich and strikingly retro.

Because the letters have such life and function as characters in the book, perhaps typography is not the best choice for which design consideration to highlight. But! The seamless mixture of letter and form into a character study is surely part of the craft of composing type. And because truly, I think the typography graphic above matches the other colors in this post.

And it’s my blog, so I can do silly things like that and blame it on being crazed by the art.

{You can explore the Ministry of Letters yourself at this fun site.}

The illustrations have some really, really fun details. I love the balloon wielding cat above, presumably scribbled on the wall by Charlie Foxtrot.

What about this grumpy raincloud? Poor thing.

{ I’m slightly obsessed with Mrs. Foxtrot’s pink plaid coat. Do they make that for real life people?}

And that’s the Duchess. She wears orange goggles and green galoshes. Kate Middleton’s not the only stylish royal around!

Operation Alphabet is a winner. A kooky, unusual, breaks-all-the-rules, beautiful book.

The Serif Fairy

Rene Siegfried’s The Serif Fairy is not your traditional picture book, but I found it utterly charming. The poor little Serif Fairy has lost one of her wings and without it, she can do no magic. So she sets off through the Garamond Forest to the Zenetar Gate, from Futura City to the depths of Lake Shelley on a quest for her missing wing.

ELEMENT OF DESIGN: TYPOGRAPHY

See, the Serif Fairy is made up of characters in the Shelley Andante typeface. That’s just a fancy word for font. And a serif? That’s a fancy word for this:

Those little lines at the edges of the letters are called serifs. Font designers use serifs to make letters flow from one to another. Serif fonts are used in books or other blocks of text. See: the text on the pages of The Serif Fairy. Also seen in many a wedding invitation, graduation announcement, or Marauder’s Map.

And compare those letterforms to the word above set in pink, ‘SERIFS.’  Wild-and-crazily enough, that word is actually set in a typeface called a sans-serif, because it doesn’t have those little lines. Sans-serif fonts are generally chosen for headlines or other need-to-be-especially-readable places. See: the  header at the top of this page. And my personal favorite style. Generally.

Similar to the illustrations in Bembo’s Zoo, each picture in The Serif Fairy is made up of characters from four typefaces. There are no serifs in Futura City, because Futura is a sans-serif font. Not surprisingly, that section was my favorite. Maybe because Futura is my favorite font. But also, the helicopter and the crane are AMAZING, right??

The Serif Fairy is such a wonder…uniquely crafted illustrations, combined with restrained pastel blocks of color representing land, water, and roads, and a sweet story.

Although this would be a tough read aloud, and the typography use might soar over the heads of little ones, it is a delightful must for lovers of type and design. And anyone that can say they have a favorite font.