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?


Review copy provided by NorthSouth Books.

We Believe in Picture Books

Have you seen Candlewick’s yearlong celebration, We Believe in Picture Books? Here’s my friend Julie Falatko, who has an eye and heart for fantastic picture books and writes ones that are ridiculously offbeat but perfectly in tune.

And her kids are four of my favorite strangers on the planet.



And speaking of Candlewick, my Twitter friend Anne Moore Armstrong (@childbookart) sent me the FRENCH version of Jon Klassen’s I Want My Hat Back. I think you can imagine my reaction.  MonChapeau!


One more thing. Remember Raymond McGrath and his AMAZING music video for his book, It’s Not a Monster, It’s Me!?

It’s a FINALIST in the New Zealand Children’s Music Video Awards!

How great is that? Excited for you, Raymond! Thanks for sharing your unreal talent with us.

And thanks to the rest of you, for going with the flow this summer. Things have been bananas in the best way possible. Did you catch my Twitter and Facebook screaming about signing with an agent?

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But in actual, physical, real books, my FAVORITE 2013 book is coming up soon, and I can’t wait to share it. Let’s talk design again!


Rapido’s Next Stop

by Joëlle Jolivet and Jean-Luc Fromental; published in English by Abrams Books For Young Readers.

Rapido’s Next Stop is slightly odd, sure, but it’s wholly mesmerizing. Its size and heavily weighted cover and pages are the first indicators of something a bit unusual.

The title page reveals a list of Rapido’s deliveries, and slyly asks you to join him on his route.

No, really…join him on his route! Following his red van on each page leads to the discovery of flaps to lift and riddles to solve. Remember those items from the title page? Each of them is delivered, but its word is replaced with a symbol. The rhyme on the flaps is sometimes a bit rusty, but I’d blame that on translation. Even still, it’s entertaining and smartly done.

The reader gets to work in this book, helping Rapido at each stop, and puzzling out the riddle as well. That experience, paired with the oversize nature of this book, leads to a very tactile interactivity.

And the color palette! Oh man. I adore Joëlle Jolivet’s strong style. The thick stroked black lines, filled in with vibrant and saturated hues (but not too many!) are so beautiful. (And her book Coloriages is just plain whoa. My rusty French tells me that means coloring pages? It’s a lift-the-flap coloring book, with the same weighted black lines and it is stunning.)

I love that there isn’t too much color to compete with the hustle and bustle of Rapido’s city. The rhythm and pattern and noise of the city is enhanced by the color, rather than confused by it. Here’s one full (drop dead gorgeous) spread:

And the colors used? Red, Green, Blue, Orange. That’s it. Red and Green are complements, as are Blue and Orange. They live directly opposite one another on the color wheel.

That’s so yesterday’s color news. Have you ever heard of a tetrad color scheme? Sure, everyone knows complementary, maybe even analogous, but if you’re ever at a cocktail party and need to sound really fancy, just drop some tetrad knowledge on them.

If you place a rectangle or a square onto the color wheel, the colors at the resulting corners can be used to create a tetrad color scheme.

Boom. Red, Green, Blue, Orange. It’s balanced, pleasing, and increases the amount of color contrast found in just a plain old complementary color scheme. Perfect for Rapido’s ride.

(And now Rapido has made me hungry for fancy French breakfast.)

Summer According to Instagram

So whoa. The past few weeks have been madness.

Fun, glorious, overwhelming madness.

I traveled across the country to get my little sister hitched.

I read an AWESOME book on that plane by Jon Skovron, designed by the always impeccable Chad Beckerman.

She tied the knot. I got to stand next to her.

I took a picture of Thomas Jefferson’s backside in the lobby.

I attacked the LA SCBWI conference with all the excitement of a hyper squirrel and all the daze and glaze of an overtired zombie. New friends, fresh ideas, and all the courage in the world.

One of countless unreal moments (seriously, I danced in a flash mob. Many, many moments.) was this panel of picture book creators Jon Klassen, Antoinette Portis, Dan Yaccarino, Eugene Yelchin, and Lee Wardlaw.

Fires aren’t funny, WHOOP is.

WHOOP is the kooky, mushy word that represents my heart right now. Family, fun, and a big fat AMEN for picture books.

Coming up? Back to design, back to the picture book with the incomparable Saul Bass and his Henri Walks to Paris. Can’t wait for you to see it!

12×12 in 2012

Usually in this corner of the interwebz, you are my {somewhat} captive audience and I bombard you with my graphic design and picture book obsessions. Aren’t you lucky?!

So today…some respite.

Sometime last November, while participating in the lovely Tara Lazar’s brainchild, PiBoIdMo, I stumbled across Julie Hedlund’s wild idea: DO SOMETHING with all of those ideas, and draft 12 picture book manuscripts in 2012. Without much hesitation or considering what I was really getting myself into, I hopped on board.

Best idea ever.

The 12×12 community exploded and has been a constant source of encouragement, focus, feedback, and FRIENDS. And so this week, we are celebrating our halfway mark with a blog party! {In my head, I keep repeating this: What is up there on top of that tree? A dog party! A big dog party! and just replace ‘dog’ with ‘blog.’}

Here’s my party favor: an already-completed-before-you-even-got-the-chance crossword puzzle!


My biggest goal in writing picture books is to create a rowdy read aloud experience. When I was a librarian, one of my favorite read alouds was John Lithgow’s The Remarkable Farkle McBride, mainly because it was SO MUCH FUN to tumble those words around and spit them out right into the ears of eager listeners. And I shamelessly love words. {Eyeball is my favorite!}

So I plucked my favorite 6 words out of each of my 6 drafts, and boom. And by boom I just mean I played with their layout and color coded them by month, and really…just plain looked at them. I love them. I also love how I can get a small taste of each manuscript in six little words.

And yes, I used ‘puddles‘ both in January and February. Good to know, right? That was news to me!

Curious about 12×12 or want to see the other posts in our traveling blog party? Head over here…and maybe think about 12×12 in 2013??

Picture Book Month Celebrates Moms!

This is for moms and all who love them! Grab the embed codes and share with your favorite mom!

Dinosaur Mardi Gras Trailer

Remember the Picture Book Month trailer?

Once upon a time, Dianne de Las Casas and I decided to team up again to celebrate the release of her vibrant picture book, Dinosaur Mardi Gras. Once upon a time is NOW.

If you like oviraptors, doubloons, parade floats and jazzy tunes, you will LOVE Dinosaur Mardi Gras. The illustrations by Marita Gentry are loose and dreamy and floaty (technical art term of course.) My ultimate goal in creating this trailer? Honoring the story, honoring the pictures. YOU will be in the book, with the dinos, with the floats, with the doubloons, and with the jazzy tunes. Ready?