Rabbityness by Jo Empson

by Jo Empson (Child’s Play, 2012)

Here’s a book that’s deceptively simple in text, in color, in motion.

An average rabbit, doing average rabbity things. White space, dark spot illustrations. Calm and steady.

Rabbityness by Jo Empson Rabbityness by Jo Empson

But then. The page turn is the miraculous pacing tool for the picture book, and this one is a masterpiece. Swiftly, from the expected to the unexpected, from straightforward rabbityness to the unusual.

And the beautiful. And the wild and the wonderful.

Rabbityness by Jo Empson Rabbityness by Jo Empson Rabbityness by Jo Empson

Jo Empson’s art is a storyteller to follow. It unfolds visually, deftly, magically.


Rabbityness by Jo Empson

Because one day, Rabbit is gone. So is the color and the movement and the life.

“All that Rabbit had left was a hole.”

But, much like the art, Rabbit was a storyteller to follow.

Rabbityness by Jo Empson Rabbityness by Jo Empson

And the color returns.

It’s a story about making a mark that leaves a legacy. It’s about telling a story and remembering one. It’s for anyone who is daring enough to leave drips of unrabbityness, and anyone brave enough to chase them.



Firebird by Misty Copeland and Christopher Myers by Misty Copeland and Christopher Myers (Penguin Young Readers Group, 2014)

Firebird by Misty Copeland and Christopher Myers

When you open a book to sweeping, fiery endpapers, it’s almost as if you can hear the symphony begin. The author, Misty Copeland, is a principal dancer with the American Ballet Theater. The illustrator, Christopher Myers, is a Caldecott Honoree for Harlem and the son of the legendary Walter Dean Myers.

We are in stellar storytelling hands.


(image here // Copeland dancing the Firebird)


(image here // Copeland dancing the Firebird)

Firebird by Misty Copeland and Christopher Myers

Christopher Myers’s art captures the lines and shapes of a dancer’s movement. Intricate, suspended, and dizzying.

Firebird by Misty Copeland and Christopher Myers

Misty Copeland’s words are fire and poetry to a timid youngster’s soul.

Firebird by Misty Copeland and Christopher Myers Firebird by Misty Copeland and Christopher Myers

I adore the anticipation in this spread, the dancer waiting for the curtain to rise, and I imagine a lump in her throat and a belly full of as many swoops as the folds in the curtain.

Firebird by Misty Copeland and Christopher Myers Firebird by Misty Copeland and Christopher Myers

Each page turn reveals a composition that is even more striking than the last. This is a pairing of musicality, movement, and a jaw-dropping array of colors and feelings. The way her words and his pictures create an animated harmony is exactly how music and movement do the same in the ballerina’s world.

A perfect pas de deux.

Firebird by Misty Copeland and Christopher Myers

For more on Misty Copeland, take a look at this. She is a lovely storyteller, both in her books and with her body.



Firebird by Misty Copeland and Christopher Myers


Review copy provided by the publisher.

Line 135

by Germano Zullo and Albertine

{published 2013, by Chronicle Books}

I’m in that bleary-eyed, inspired, and terrified post-SCBWI haze. Are you?

That’s why this book is perfect for this time. And isn’t that always why picture books are perfect? There’s something magical about those moments that are captured, when the polaroid’s positive sheet has just pulled away from the negative. That moment, exposed. That’s the one I mean.



{published 2013, by LB Kids/Little Brown Books for Young Readers}

Remember Salina Yoon and her heart-tangle-upper Penguin and Pinecone? Well, she’s back in a big way this week. Tomorrow, April 16th, she has two brand new books out in the world, and trust me: they are spectacular. Penguin’s back in a new adventure, Penguin on Vacation. He’s sick of all the snowy cold, and sets off on a beach adventure. Don’t miss it!

And then there’s this one. I got a sneak peek of Pinwheel and let me show you this thing!

Die cut cover, in the shape of a pinwheel. A hint at the ingenious things to come!

What you might not know about Salina is that she is a master of novelty board books. The engineering to make these books tactile and animated on top of just utter gorgeousness? Her brain. Her artistry. Brilliant.

Pinwheel’s pages have a dial on the edge of the page. Those bright triangles lead you in a twirling direction, and when you do, the magic happens. On this particular page, those scales shimmer and change colors as if you were under the sea with them, swimming into a different beam of light with each flick of your tail.

So here, the train’s lights alert you to its journey. And see her words? Simple, lyrical, and beautiful.

But then. Just when you think you understand how this book works, this happens. A carousel horse! Pops his head out of the page and bobs up and down, up and down, up and down – until you are ready to turn the page …

…where there’s a kite dancing in the wind. Of course there is!

Pinwheel is a knockout. {And no, I didn’t really mean that to be a die-cut pun, but hey why not?! It’s kinda a good one!}

Its design is the story. Pinwheel asks you to interact, discover, and enjoy – and it’s a pleasure from the first spin to the last.

And if you are like me, and can’t get enough of this little treat, check out Salina’s Kaleidoscope. It’s unlike anything you’ve ever seen in a novelty book, I’m sure of it.

And! Just so you don’t have to only take my word for it, huge hot-off-the-presses congratulations to Kaleidoscope, first place winner of the novelty category for the Book Industry Guild of New York’s 27th Annual New York Book Show.

And with that, I leave you to it. You have lots of reading to do.


Don’t Squish The Sasquatch

words by Kent Redeker, pictures by Bob Staake

This book came in the mail in a box from my beau.

I tweeted this the other day: Some boys buy their girls flowers, chocolate, or fancy purses. Mine buys picture books.

Coolest endpapers ever? That’s saying a lot, since I’m a bit kookoo for them, but just look at that sasquatch. His spindly legs and arms, a dapper bow tie, and that hat especially…that hat kills me. Cool that he’s looking towards the right, right? Since that’s the direction we read and move through the book? Cool.

And the setup. All this suave sasquatch wants is to ride Mr. Blobule’s bus. Without being squished.

And after his introduction on the endpapers, and the spread with the setup…then we get to the title page. So unusual! So interesting.

Have you ever taken a photo of the horizon at sunset or sunrise? Maybe you even get all fancy with your composition and use the rule of thirds? Horizontal lines are calming, stable, restful.

But diagonal lines?

They suggest movement and action, and the frantic call of DON’T SQUISH THE SASQUATCH has a lot of extra oomph in these illustrations.

His arms are flailing and his teeth are tilting and the buildings are slanted. All of those diagonal lines add depth and interest to the picture. And below, even Mr. Blobule’s bus is bouncing towards one side. Action and movement, packed into pictures, wrapped in the battle cry of DON’T SQUISH THE SASQUATCH!

I love this book. So will there be squishing? Or something else?

Ganesha’s Sweet Tooth

written by Emily Haynes, pictures by Sanjay Patel

{Please, please, please…if you live in San Francisco, GO SEE THEM at the Cartoon Art Musuem on October 4th. Please! For me.}

Ganesha’s Sweet Tooth is based on a legend in Hindu mythology, but this version has jawbreakers! And a mouse pal! And SPECTACULAR illustrations!

Spectacular is really an understatement. I don’t think I know a word that can contain how spectacfantasterrificawesome these pictures are.

Endpapers that look like blueprints and sketches set the tone for a fresh story, enhanced so beautifully by shape and line.

From the title page on, this book will knock you out graphically. You will see stars (shape!) and vibrating birdies (movement!) flitting around your brain.

Ok. Let me back up a minute. Do you know Darshana Khiani? You should. She reviews books on her blog and always shares gems. And SHE is a gem. We met at the LA SCBWI conference in 2011, but what we didn’t know is that we would bump into each other over and over again online this year and become fast friends. So cool. Darshana emailed me a couple of weeks ago and told me I had to stop, drop, and roll myself to this book ASAP.

I love that she thought I would love it. I love that she was right. And I love that she suggested doing a joint review on it today.

That’s right! More book bang for your buck! So be sure to head over to her place for more of Ganesha and Mr. Mouse.

So much hops off the pages of Ganesha’s Sweet Tooth that my brain hurts to know where to begin. From the title page up a few pictures, to the repeated circles on the illustration above, shape dominates the pages. It’s a smorgasbord of circles, squares, and triangles.

Oh, this page. After every handful of illustrations, your eyes land on a picture like this one. The bright colors quiet for a moment, and these particular pages are striking in their stark contrast. White text, white graphic elements, and one bold, rich color. There’s something about pacing here, and I can’t quite put my finger on what it is that happens, but aesthetically, the balance is just outstanding.

A story about a sweet tooth begs for a decadent color palette, and these hues are just plain tasty and delightful.

Get this book. (Listen to Darshana, even if you think I am bonkers. She has good taste.)


by Kathryn Otoshi

Looking for a picture book on numbers, counting, and value? This is it.

Looking for a picture book on feeling unimportant, finding friends, and celebrating differences? This is it.

Zero’s illustrations sing over crisp black and white pages. The lines that create Zero’s shape are a beautiful, glistening silver. So much about her character is revealed in the curves and motion of her lines.

In addition to line telling a character story, line is also used to layout the pages and guide the readers’ eye.

Line also guides some playful typography.

No true spoiler alerts here, but Zero gets her big moment. The puzzle is visual and literal and all around spectacular. You’ll love this one.

The Yellow Umbrella

Quiet books, sleepy books, rainy day books…things are getting awfully cozy up in here. Burbank is finally shifting away from an unbearable valley summer, and I’m welcoming my scarves and boots back into the mix. Holler-lujah.

Say the word umbrella. No really. Out loud. Three or four times. Why? A) Because it’s a crazy fun word to say. Comes *this* close to eyeball as my favorite word. And B) I would be willing to bet all the money in my wallet (I just checked. All I’ve got is a picture of my cousin Austin and a $5 discount coupon on a pedicure. Oh, and a Canadian nickel, which always finds its way to the top of my change purse and has gotten rejected twice in the last couple weeks. Mani/pedi, eh?!)…rewind…I would be willing to bet all the money in my wallet that you emphasize the second syllable. I don’t. It’s all about the UM! {You can stand under my UM-brella, ella, ella, Canadian nickel eh-eh-eh?}  Makes me slightly cooler and quirkier, right? I also know how to yodel if you need any more convincing.


Moving on.

{The English and Chinese covers.}

The Yellow Umbrella is a drop dead gorgeous wordless picture book. Illustrated by Jae Soo Liu with, umbrellas are walked to school by their owners. The umbrellas act as the main characters, whirlygig-ing and floating fantastically as they splash their way to school. One yellow umbrella begins the march alone, and sweeps up others in a rousing crescendo of colors on a gray, wet morning. And! Wouldn’t it be nice to have a CD with accompanying original music so you can listen as you read? Dust off the CD player, cause you got it.


In the Layout and Composition class I taught this week, we talked a lot about ways to balance an image and move your viewer’s eye around it. You want to offer an entrance into an image, or a way to draw someone’s eye into the picture. Similarly, you also want to provide an exit point, Movement refers to the way you get into a picture, experience it, and then exit it. Dynamic compositions create pleasing paths of movement, and utilize natural entrances and exits.

We looked at this painting by Andrew Wyeth, Christina’s World.

Immediately and effortlessly, your eye is drawn to the young lady in pink. You then follow her gaze diagonally out across the open fields, to the matted down tracks, and up to the barn and the house in the distance. In one sweeping motion, you entered the picture, followed the path the composition determined for you, and easily exited.

The same soothing movement happens on each page of The Yellow Umbrella. With the turn of each page, your eye is guided from left to right by the growing pack of umbrellas, always anchored by the yellow one, You get swept up in the bright parade and join them on their rainy day jaunt. That design element of this book actually becomes the way you experience it, interact with it, and enjoy it time and time again.

Now if only Southern California would drop enough rain for rain-slicker-fur-lined-galoshes-puddle-splashing. In the meantime, that’s me you hear yodeling.

Snow White in New York

I took a field trip this week, and had a flashback to 5th grade, when my brave father chaperoned our trip to Washington, D.C. Because he was a MAN, he got the boy group. And me. Andy Duggan brought a whoopee cushion and Brec Carson tried to pick up a moon rock from its pedestal. My dad is probably still trying to forget that day. I loved it.

But this week, I got to take 16 bright and budding motion graphic designers to The Getty as part of my Color Theory class. Such a treat. Despite the gray day, the color inside exploded.

In a wild and unexpected twist, MY art was hanging on the wall of the Getty! Seriously!

Ok, so I’m no Van Gogh or Monet, but a video for which I created motion graphics was playing as part of the introduction to the amazing Pacific Standard Time exhibit. I like to think that I can honestly say that I am an artist who has exhibited at the Getty…right?

The Pacific Standard Time exhibit was incredible. It’s a good thing my students were off on their own, because I’m sure I stood in multiple rooms with an awkward gaping mouth, walking around in circles cause I couldn’t decide what to look at first. At least I didn’t have a whoopee cushion.

This piece was my absolute favorite. I couldn’t stop looking at it.

MAGICAL SPACE FORMS by Lorser Feitelson, 1948

From the exhibit’s website, “Feitelson’s tightly fitted forms seem both flat and three-dimensional, and their highly contrasting colors and orthogonal outlines create a sense of dynamic thrust and movement across the surface of the painting. Magical Space Forms reduces color and line to essential expressive elements, creating a harmonious balance of form and space that evokes both rationality and emotion.”

The colors and shapes and movement bore a striking resemblance to a gorgeous picture book on my ever growing stack, Snow White in New York.

Fiona French’s retelling of the classic fairy tale is set in the funky, art deco, jazz world of 1920’s New York. It is also the 1986 recipient of the Kate Greenaway Award, an honor given by librarians to remarkably illustrated books published in the UK. I love a librarian with good style.


In any composition, the goal of the designer is to create movement in order to guide your eye in, around, through, and even out of the image. Movement has a certain rhythm to it, depending on the various elements within the composition. In both Snow White in New York and Magical Space Forms, the rhythm is punchy and staccato, (much like the jazz era in Snow White) because it is punctuated by the strong diagonal lines and bold, solid colors.

The diagonal lines disappear on the spread where Snow White is pronounced dead. Rather than speeding through the compositions because of the quick and magnetic rhythm, the pace slows down with stable and serene horizontal and verticals. They create a grid that feels a bit suffocating, enhancing the distressing news of Snow White’s demise.

But we all know how this story ends.