The Green Umbrella

thegreenumbrella

by Jackie Azúa Kramer and Maral Sassouni (NorthSouth, 2016)

Here’s a gorgeous book that’s got it all. Beautiful language, lovely pictures, and a story that is rich in both originality and familiarity. It’s out early next month, and I’m so excited to bring you this sneak peek today.

spread1 spread2

An umbrella. An ordinary thing. But this particular umbrella has been around the block and had many adventures with other animals. It is, then, something that belongs to everyone. An ordinary thing with an extraordinary job.

1town6-close-rain

Here’s a note from illustrator Maral Sassouni about her process for this book:

My work is mixed media, a hybrid of traditional and digital methods. Specifically, the images are a mélange of cut paper collage and painting, with oil paint, acrylics, and inks. The characters are generally created separately, like little paper puppets, which I then glue to the painted setting, along with any foreground elements. I use Photoshop (when necessary) to digitally assemble hand-made collage elements and occasionally add some sparkle and glow where needed.


 

Sparkle and glow! Isn’t it lovely?  1mice-cover3-h700 1sq-mouse3-hand-r-skb 1sq-elephant3-treetop 1sq-cat10-palette9-tilt-v2 1hedgi5-hand-vgd 1hedgeboat3-BEST-c

ch1

Big thanks to NorthSouth and Maral Sassouni for the images in this post.

Coco and the Little Black Dress

Username or e-mail: Password: CREATE NEW ACCOUNTFORGOT YOUR PASSWORD? Coco and the Little Black Dress by Annemarie Van Haeringen (available 10/1/15, NorthSouth Books)

Here’s a fun book: a stylish story both in look and in theme.

That cover, the signature shape of Chanel No. 5, juxtaposed not-so-glamourously with a girl scrubbing floors in a raggish kind of dress. The title, a crash course in fashion.

Coco Chanel.

This book was originally published in the Netherlands, and coincided with a museum exhibition of some original Chanel designs. Yet even apart from that collaborative effort, this book is a beautiful glimpse at the life of a girl who saw things a little bit differently.

Coco and the Little Black Dress by Annemarie Van Haeringen Coco and the Little Black Dress by Annemarie Van Haeringen

First up: endpapers. From beginning to ending, from scraps to something refined.

Coco and the Little Black Dress by Annemarie Van Haeringen Coco and the Little Black Dress by Annemarie Van Haeringen

Coco, fragile as an eggshell, a mistake, a nothing, an orphan.

But the nuns saw her talent for sewing, and Coco was happy.

Coco and the Little Black Dress by Annemarie Van Haeringen Coco and the Little Black Dress by Annemarie Van Haeringen

When she grew up, she surrounded herself with fancy ladies in crazy hats. How can you think with a dead pigeon on your head?

Coco and the Little Black Dress by Annemarie Van Haeringen

Coco was a problem solver, and when she saw these fancy ladies riding sidesaddle in complicated skirts, Coco figured out how to sew trousers.

But when you sew trousers and are invited to the races, you need a fancy hat. One without a dead pigeon on your head.

Coco and the Little Black Dress by Annemarie Van Haeringen

So Coco created a hat shop. She created comfortable, easy clothing for women.

Coco and the Little Black Dress by Annemarie Van Haeringen Coco and the Little Black Dress by Annemarie Van Haeringen

And the women tossed out their corsets.

With her little black dress, Coco figured out how to celebrate what a woman looks like, when it’s the woman you look at and not her clothes.

Her angel-like sewing skills, her observation and celebration of women, and her style: iconic.

Though if you want biographical information on Coco Chanel, you might want to supplement this book–it’s quite literally a lovely place to start, but there is no author’s note or bibliography of sources available for the reader aside from a small paragraph on the back cover.

But for everything this book is, it’s a luxurious simplicity.

ch

I received a review copy from NorthSouth Books, but all opinions are my own.

Just One Apple

Just One Apple by Janosch

by Janosch (NorthSouth, 2014; originally published 1965 in Switzerland as Das Apfelmänchenn.)

I love a good pen name, and Janosch has one. His real name is Horst Eckert, and he is one of Germany’s most beloved children’s book authors and illustrators. He was new to me until NorthSouth revived this classic in late 2014. I’m so glad they did.

This is Walter’s story. He was the poorest man in the entire kingdom and he only had one single apple tree. A strong and beautiful tree, a nice home for a solitary cardinal. But no fruit. No blossoms. No bending branches.

Walter wishes for an apple. Just one. And when you wish with all your might, things change.

And his wishes came true, as wishes sometimes do.

Just One Apple by Janosch

(click to enlarge)

The art is loose and fiery. Full of motion and an eery calm.

But I love how this book breathes.

A page of art, a page of text. A page of text, a page of art. The contrast between Walter’s colorful (and worrisome) world and the spare white space of the words sets a comforting rhythm to a familiar story.

And the apple grows. So Walter goes to the market.

Just One Apple by Janosch

(click to enlarge)

The very worst feeling in the whole world is when other people don’t believe in your wishes.

Walter loses interest in his apple and in his wishes and in his life.

Until the dragon comes to town.

Just One Apple by Janosch

(click to enlarge)

Here’s where the breathing hitches and the white space/art space tempo gives way to one glorious spread of Walter’s wish saving the kingdom. It’s startling and ridiculous and wonderful.

And after that, Walter was careful what he wished for.

ch

Wonderment: The Lisbeth Zwerger Collection

Wonderment: The Lisbeth Zwerger Collection

by Lisbeth Zwerger (NorthSouth, 2014)

Happy New Year, book people! I went dark over the holidays to rewrite a draft of a novel, one I hope to be able to tell you about soon! I missed this little patch of space on the internet, and I’m excited about some new things for this blog in the coming year. But to start us off, here’s a look at a beautiful anthology published late in 2014 by one of my favorite small publishers, NorthSouth.

Truthfully, the first I heard of Lisbeth Zwerger was in this post from Brain Pickings earlier in the year. I’d barely scrolled down and was smitten with that White Rabbit’s cuffs and collar.

Wonderment: The Lisbeth Zwerger Collection

(from E.T.A. Hoffman’s The Nutcracker; click to enlarge)

This bunch represents stories from around the world, from anywhere a story for kids is revered and beloved.

There’s also a foreword by Peter Sís. He says this, which is so true and so lovely:

Her shapes and her colors are magic and inspiring. And it is so fluid. Tells so much of a story which one can only imagine.

Though not a true picture book, those words are the heart and soul of the form. And here, in these illustrated stories, you’ve probably never seen them in your heart so beautiful. It’s a fresh breath into timeless text.

Wonderment: The Lisbeth Zwerger Collection

(from Edith Nesbit’s The Deliverer’s of Their Country; click to enlarge)

Some of my favorite moments in this collection are the spot illustrations that open and close each story, anchored not by text but by the hope of some unfolding situation. The endpapers are a rich red, and the page that acts as a boundary between where one story ends and another begins is just as luxurious and saturated. The physical book is a work of art.

Wonderment: The Lisbeth Zwerger Collection (from Rudyard Kipling’s How the Camel Got His Hump; click to enlarge)

Those pages from How the Camel Got His Hump are the only places where she breaks the frame of her pictures, where she uses extra space for small works of art. Tiny snippets of story.

This is one to savor, to celebrate, and to remember. I might be a bit late to suggest her rendition of The Gift of the Magi, but it’s spectacular. Take a look.

ch

Hello, Mr. Hulot

hellomrhulotCover by David Merveille, based on the character brought to life by Jacques Tati.

{published 2013, by NorthSouth Books}

I was smitten by the looks of this book at first glance. Perhaps it was a bit of that orange and blue thing, and a bit of it just being so spectacular. But first, I had to introduce myself to Monsieur Hulot, the comical character from French cinema, and the spirit and subject of this book.

His trademarks are his raincoat, umbrella, pipe, and sheer ineptitude.

I loved him immediately. Here’s a trailer (love those title graphics!) for Les Vacances de Monsieur Hulot (Mr. Hulot’s Holiday.)

breaker So now that you are entirely delighted and heartwarmed, isn’t it the greatest news ever that a nearly wordless picture book contains this nutty dude? Yes. I know. These endpapers are reminiscent of the title graphics in the trailer as well as the movie poster, so, of course we love that. The shapes of his raincoat-suited-self-H and an umbrella-O set you up for the hysterical stories inside. This title pages sets you up for humor, heart, and charm, and the following pages do not disappoint.

Here’s what I mean. FrenchRiviera It’s a series of stories told through pictures. Two pages contain witty puzzles and a complete visual narrative. This one, French Riviera, is one of my favorites. You think Monsieur Hulot is floating underneath the waves and gallivanting with sea creatures.

But no. He’s just biking next to a fish truck.

Brilliant might be an understatement. TheCrossing The Crossing also had me in stitches, and reminded me a teensy bit of The Other Side. What seems to be true might not be at all!

What a treat to be surprised and delighted by this goofy guy! You’ll never guess what preceded this page. And you’ll be shocked by the conclusion of this one.

If you are a picture book writer, be sure to grab this one. It is a master class in the suspense and payoff of the page turn.

Sly, subversive, and completely unexpected. A thrill to read! And perhaps a good pair with Matt Phelan’s Bluffton: My Summers with Buster Keaton?

ch

Review copy provided by NorthSouth Books.

You’re a Rude Pig, Bertie {book trailer}

This summer I got to work with the fantastic folks at NorthSouth Books to create a trailer for an upcoming release by Claudia Boldt, You’re a Rude Pig, Bertie!

Bertie is definitely a rude pig, but he’s also irresistible and will endear himself to you the second he reveals his true heart. And I adore Claudia Boldt’s work – a muted and restrained palette, unexpected shapes and proportions, and a charming cast of characters.

(I wrote a teensy bit about her previous book, Odd Dog, over at Design Mom, so what a thrill to create something for a creator you admire!)

Anyway. I love the result, and hope you love it, too!

breaker

What do you think? Adorable, right? And super catchy. I guarantee that song will tag along with you the rest of the day – and you’re welcome!

ch

P.S. – I haven’t heard from the winners of the Sassy board books. Are you out there, Olivia De Hamilton and Sara Floyd? I’ll pick new winners on Friday if I don’t hear anything. Stay tuned!