Best of the Year at All the Wonders

All the Wonders

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The team at All the Wonders has been hard at work over the last month or so, finishing up pages and tallying our favorites. We read a whole lot this year. And so this week, we bring to you four end-of-the-year-best-of-the-year lists, a monster-sized batch of top-notch books.

Head over for lists celebrating picture books, nonfiction picture books, chapter books through young adult, and comics.

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Perfect for last minute gifting!

Enjoy!

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Creating Thunder Boy Jr.: it takes a village!

thunderboy

by Sherman Alexie, illustrated by Yuyi Morales (Little, Brown 2016)

I am so excited to share this guest post with you today! Please welcome Alvina Ling, esteemed editor at Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, sharing here about the collaborative process that brought this beautiful book to life.

Enjoy!


Creating Thunder Boy Jr.: it takes a village!

by Alvina Ling

It’s said that we’re “stronger together,” and that’s certainly the case when it comes to bringing a children’s book into the world.

Collaboration is especially apparent when working on picture books, and I thought I’d give you all a peek into how a book gets made while outlining the publication process of the picture book Thunder Boy Jr. , written by Sherman Alexie and illustrated by Yuyi Morales.

Most picture books start with a manuscript. Sherman, associate editor Bethany Strout, and I went through a few different ideas, and a countless number of drafts and revision to get to the text that ended up in the book. He sent the initial idea for Thunder Boy Jr. in as a text titled I Want a New Name in July 2013, and we had a final manuscript and the new title by September, which is relatively fast.

Once we had a manuscript ready to share, we set about finding an illustrator. At Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (LBYR), we always ask the author if they have any ideas. Sherman suggested an illustrator, and I worked with our Design department to come up with some additional ideas to share with him, too. Ultimately, two different people at LBYR separately suggested Yuyi Morales. Yuyi’s Niño Wrestles the World had gained a lot of attention that year, and when I showed the book to Sherman, he was instantly in love. He even wrote a letter to Yuyi to entice her.

Dear Yuyi,

I am sitting in the Little Brown offices looking at picture books, searching for potential illustrators, and I just saw your Nino book, AND I AM IN LOVE.

I would very much love to work with you.

Please.

Please.

Please.

Um, please.

Sherman Alexie

I hadn’t known it at the time, but Yuyi had been planning to focus on her own work, as opposed to illustrating other author’s work. But it turned out that her whole family was huge Sherman Alexie fans. In fact, for Christmas one year her son had given his grandparents copies of The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. Yuyi was IN! And, we were all ecstatic. It felt meant to be.

Once Yuyi was on board, the next step was sketches. Yuyi sent us very rough thumbnails first. Here are a few spreads:

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As you may be able to see, in the early thumbnails, Thunder Boy Jr. had a bunch of friends that he interacted with. The art director, Sasha Illingworth, and I reviewed the sketches and decided that they were a little too busy and confusing at times. The funny thing with collaboration is, oftentimes you don’t remember who came up with what idea, but we ended up throwing out to Yuyi: instead of all the friends, what if Thunder Boy Jr. had just a sister instead? Yuyi loved the idea of bringing in a little girl, and focusing on Thunder Boy Jr’s immediate family.

Once sketches were in, we circulated them amongst design, copyediting (in this case, our managing editor Andy Ball), and editorial. Each department reviews the sketches carefully, looking for things like continuity, pacing, the gutter (the middle of the spread where the pages are bound together), the “bleed” on the edges (during the book’s printing, the pages aren’t always cut exactly right, so we ask the illustrator to include a quarter inch extra art, or bleed, around the edges just in case, so that nothing gets cut off), and more.

Here were the comments we sent Yuyi on the spreads above:

Spread 9:   The scene on the left is a bit close to the one on spread 11. Is it possible to change this one up a bit? This is a quieter moment in the story. We’d also  love to add mom into this scene. On the right side, we’ve love for Thunder Boy to be bigger, and would love for him to be leaning in, perhaps like he’s whispering, or gesturing to us that he’s telling a secret.

Spread 10: We LOVE this! We don’t want to lose too much of Thunder Boy’s head so it would be great to move him up a bit. We also don’t want to lose the snake in the gutter, could you shift his head to the left?

Spread 11: We’d love to see a little more action in the right hand side. Maybe make him larger in scale as well? Have him be in a more powerful/active pose?

Yuyi sent us more detailed sketches—you can see how the art has developed:

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Isn’t the little sister adorable?! For those of you who have read the book, I think you’d agree that she steals the show. And to think she almost didn’t exist!

We also sent these sketches to Sherman, who loved them so much. “Oh the sketches just made me cry!” He was also inspired to make some text changes in response to Yuyi’s art—for example, he added the little sister character into the text, and we also worked to get the ending just right.

In this case, these are the comments we send Yuyi on the three spreads I shared above:

Spread 9: LOVE

Spread 10: Need lots of bleed especially on the bottom so we don’t lose too much

Spread 11: GREAT. Love little sis hanging on Dad’s leg!

As you can see, not too many comments—Yuyi was given the go-ahead to go to final art.

In the meantime, Sherman and I continued to work on the ending—we felt that the resolution was happening too quickly. Here’s the previous ending text:

I do not want the name

they gave me when I was born.

I do not want to be Little Thunder.

I don’t want to be small.

Hey, wait.

I just had a great idea.

I know how

to fix this thing.

My Dad will stay Thunder

But my name will be Lightning.

Together, my Dad and I

will become amazing weather.

Our love will be loud

and it will be bright.

My Dad and I will light up the sky.

Sherman thought about it, and decided that he wanted the new ending to deepen the father’s role. Here was his revision:

I love my dad but I don’t want to be exactly like him.

I love my dad but

I want to be mostly myself.

I love my dad but I want my own name.

What do I do? What do I say?

“Son, I think it’s time I gave you a new name. A name of your own.”

My dad read my mind! My dad read my heart!

“Son, my name will still be Thunder but your new name will be…”

LIGHTNING!

Together, my Dad and I

will become amazing weather.

Our love will be loud

and it will be bright.

My Dad and I will light up the sky.

Even though we often like to have the child solve a problem in children’s books himself, in this case we felt the new ending rang more true—it seemed fitting for Thunder Boy Jr. to declare his will of wanting his new name, and for his father to help grant his wish in the end. Yuyi suggested having both the father and son say “Lightning!” at the same time, which made for a satisfying ending.

Because we expanded the ending, we now needed to condense some of the beginning. Here’s a revised spread at the beginning with new text including the sister:

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Ah, there’s Mom!

If you look at the finished book, you’ll notice further art changes to the composition that were made, even after this sketch. It’s always a work in progress.

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And then comes the part that is still one of my absolute favorite parts of my job—when the final art starts coming in. In this case, Yuyi sent in scans of her art.

This is one of the first pieces Yuyi sent in:

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Absolutely gorgeous.

We sent a few test pieces into the printer to start picking paper and proofing. At this stage, we’re working closely with our production department—Erika Schwartz supervised the production of this book. We got in test proofs with the art on both coated and uncoated paper, and then reviewed both carefully. Personally, I’m a sucker for the texture and feel of uncoated paper, but it really depends on the specific art style and book. In this case, it was unanimous: we decided to go with coated paper, because it made Yuyi’s colors really pop.

In the meantime, Sasha was coming up with different fonts for us to choose from, and then placing all of the art with the text in a file called mechanicals. Printouts are circulated once again from design, to copyediting, and to editorial, with each department marking corrections and queries directly on the printouts. The mechanicals circulate until there are no more corrections needed. The mechanicals are also sent to Yuyi and Sherman for review.

The final mechanicals are sent to the printer, and we get color proof back. These we review to make sure the color reflects the original art. If an illustrator is local (like Peter Brown or Jerry Pinkney, for example), we’ll invite them into the office to review the proof for color—we have a color review room in our office with special lighting for this purpose.

Otherwise, as with Yuyi, we mail them the proof and ask them for comments, which we’ll incorporate into our own in-house review of the art. Editorial, production, and design are involved in the color correcting.

Once again, we go as many rounds as needed to get the color right.

So many discussions and decisions go into the making of a book. The cover image, of course—at LBYR we have a jacket committee where our Sales, Marketing, and Publicity directors all weigh in. We bring in sketches, then final art, and discuss details down to how the bylines will read.

Here’s an early cover sketch:

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A few early comps:

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And the final cover:

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Other things to decide: What will the endpapers look like? (circles with the colors Yuyi used throughout the book to highlight emotions) Should we include an author’s note? (We thought the book was perfect without. Also, Sherman and I felt that once the book was out in the world, it belonged to the readers and we liked the idea of different children—brown and otherwise–seeing themselves in the book without knowing the story’s inspiration.) What special effects should go on the cover? (spot gloss and embossing on the title)

The book is now out in the world. It has received six starred reviews, was an instant New York Times and IndieBound bestseller, and best of all, has been pronounced my countless kids to be their favorite book. We couldn’t be prouder of how it’s been received.

As I hope I’ve illustrated, it takes a village to create a book—and of course there are countless more people who touch the book and make it what it becomes. It’s a labor of love for everyone involved, and, ultimately, it is the readers who play the most important role of all.


 

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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?

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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.

Right?

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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!

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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!

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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!

CLICK TO MAKE IT BIGGER!

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?

CHOMP.

ROAR.