Monday, October 15, 2007

Check out Robert's Snow!

Two years ago I was honored to be invited to submit a snowflake (that's mine above) for Robert's Snow, a fundraiser for cancer research that was started by writer-illustrator Grace Lin in honor of her husband Robert who was battling a rare cancer. Sadly, Robert lost his fight this summer, but Grace Lin's unique fundraiser continues, providing hope for others with cancer. Each year, Robert's Snow invites 200 children's book illustrators to create original art on wooden snowflakes, which are then sold in a series of three auctions. This year's auctions begin Nov. 19th and run through Dec. 3rd; all proceeds benefit the Jimmy Fund at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston.

You can view all the snowflakes here, auction by auction, as well as peek at the ones from previous years. The quality, variety, and all around creativity are astounding, and they're worth checking out even if you have no intention of buying one. But it's also worth bidding at the auctions, because it's a chance to obtain a piece of original art by an established artist who might not normally sell his or her work, or by up-and-coming illustrator, often at a bargain price and you get the satisfaction of helping to cure cancer at the same time! What could be better than that?

This week, starting today, bloggers are helping to showcase some of the snowflakes before the auctions begin. You can view the featured snowflakes and artists by clicking on the following links:

Monday, October 15
Randy Cecil at ChatRabbit
Michelle Chang at The Longstockings
Kevin Hawkes at Cynthia Lord's Journal
Barbara Lehman at The Excelsior File
Grace Lin at In the Pages

Tuesday, October 16
Selina Alko at Brooklyn Arden
Scott Bakal at Wild Rose Reader
Alexandra Boiger at Paradise Found
Paige Keiser at Your Neighborhood Librarian
Janet Stevens at The Miss Rumphius Effect

Wednesday, October 17
Rick Chrustowski at laurasalas
Diane DeGroat at Jama Rattigan's Alphabet Soup
Ilene Richard at Something Different Every Day
Brie Spangler at Lectitans
Don Tate at The Silver Lining

Thursday, October 18
Brooke Dyer at Bookshelves of Doom
D.B. Johnson at Lessons from the Tortoise
Erin Eitter Kono at Sam Riddleburger
Sherry Rogers at A Life in Books
Jennifer Thermes at Through the Studio Door

Friday, October 19
Graeme Base at Just One More Book
Denise Fleming at MotherReader
Jeff Mack at AmoXcalli
Jeff Newman at A Year of Reading
Ruth Sanderson at Book Moot

Saturday, October 20
Linas Alsenas at A Wrung Sponge
Theresa Brandon at The Shady Glade
Karen Katz at Whimsy Books
Judy Schachner at Kate's Book Blog
Sally Vitsky at Shelf Elf: read, write, rave

Sunday, October 21
Matthew Cordell at Just Like the Nut
Maxwell Eaton III at Books and Other Thoughts
Roz Fulcher at Goading the Pen
Susie Jin at sruble's world
Susan Mitchell at Check It Out

Want to see some pictures of a really, really cute snowflake in progress? Visit illustrator Roz Fulcher's blog (posting for July 9th, 2007).

Thursday, October 11, 2007


When Cheep! Cheep! came out, a number of reviewers thought the illustrations were digitally assembled, and even some friends and relatives thought I made a handful of little chicks and then "reused" them for the different spreads -- but every chick (and egg, etc.) is handmade in a ridiculously time-consuming method. These photos (which aren't great quality -- sorry) are from the first book (somehow I didn't photograph the Christmas Cheeps in progress), but it gives you a sense of all the little pieces and my factory-assembly-line approach.

I recently finished up the first book that I wrote and illustrated, called Mimi. It's about a little pig, who has a stuffed bunny named Bunny, and a pet roly-poly bug named Frank -- who's missing! It will be out from Bloomsbury in Fall, 2008, and took me a good nine months (well, more really) to illustrate. That equalled many, many months that my family couldn't use the kitchen table because it was buried deep in pig, bunny, and bug parts. I do have a small studio upstairs in my house, but somehow I always gravitate to the kitchen. Well, partly that's because the kitchen is usually brighter and a more comfortable temperature, partly because it's nearer the stove which I use for baking my polymer clay parts (and the refrigerator which I use for motivation/consolation), partly just because I have liked to work at the kitchen table since I was a small child. When I redo my studio next year, I'm going to advocate buying a new table for the kitchen, and letting me have our old one (it's already covered with paint accidents and xacto blade boo-boos) for my workspace. But then I'll probably just end up messing up the new table too. Sigh.
I'm scrambling now to finish the art for a book called An Apple Pie for Granny by Susan vanHecke. I think it's supposed to be out next year too. I'm trying mightily to resist the temptation to work in the kitchen, but it's just very, very hard.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Merry Christmas Cheeps!

The cheeps are back! And ready to celebrate the season, from catching snowflakes in their little beaks to trimming the tree and hanging stockings. Julie Stiegemeyer has written another charming text about this family of flightless poultry that's perfect for the littlest guys. This time she used more than seven words, but Julie's style is nonetheless clearly the Prius of children's writing -- she gets an amazing amount of mileage out of very few words. The rhyming couplets not only give babies and toddlers a sneak preview of the joys they'll encounter at the holidays, they're full of the rhythm, repetition and fun-to-say words that compel toddlers to join in. And here's a cool thing I just noticed -- you can even sing the lines to the tune of "Old MacDonald." (Well, if you're completely tone deaf like me, it might not sound exactly like "Old MacDonald...).

I'm proud of my artwork for the book too, and learned a ton in the process of making it, as the backgrounds and props were more complicated than in Cheep! Cheep! I'm also very, very pleased with the outstanding job the folks at Bloomsbury did with the photography and design of the book -- everything really pops off the page and it seems like you should be able to feel the textures. And I'm grateful all over again to my family who let me take over every flat surface in our house while I finished it up, and to my sister-in-law and fellow children's book author Karen Baicker, who kindly put up with me and my mess while I put the, uh, "finishing touches" on everything at her house when I drove East to deliver the art. (Oh yeah, and then Karen was also nice enough to drive me into the city from her house, as I am terrified of driving in Manhattan and even more frightened at the thought of parallel parking there.) Making books, like raising kids, works best as a group project.
The book was officially released this week, and I've heard from people who've spotted it in Borders. I'm buried too deep in a couple work projects to make it over to any of the bookstores (man, do I miss the children's bookstore that used to be at the top of the hill), but it's exciting to know it's out there! And it already has a ranking on amazon. I'm amazed at all those people who are obviously out shopping for the holidays already. I bet December's a lot more fun when you don't have a to-do list that's longer than Santa's good kid list....

I'm sorry that it's once again been ages since I posted anything. I actually like blogging, but it does feel like a guilty pleasure when I'm swamped with work, family, laundry, etc. And for some reason, when I'm thinking about giving into a vice, chocolate nearly always wins.

And naturally, since it's been so long I have scads I'd like to say, but I'm going to take a deep breath and say ta-ta for now.