Are you as excited as we are for Red Cap artist, Jon Klassen‘s brand new book, The Wolf, The Duck & The Mouse? Written by his usual collaborator, Mac Barnett, this story explores a twist on the “Peter in the Wolf” and fable classics. What if the animals a wolf ate for lunch were mighty happy in his stomach?
The Kirkus Review says:
“Klassen’s signature palette, compositions, and comedic, horizontally elongated eyes are here along with the heightened action propelled by Barnett’s narrative. Barnett wrestles Aesop and Grimm into pretzels, adding a groaner ending (“And that’s why the wolf howls at the moon”) for the mustard.”
This sweet book is so brilliantly absurd, with a perfectly juxtaposed neutral color palette that Jon brings to life so beautifully, and an ending that puts a wrap on a wondering that any child might have. It’s pretty lovely that the personalities of the duck and the mouse mirror Mac and Jon’s personality as well (see the video below!). Pick this one up! Check out more beautiful images from the book and the trailer below. Also, click here for Jon Klassen’s designs for Red Cap Cards.
Halloween is almost here! If you know us, you know we’re pulling out all of our favorite books for the spooky season and gathering new ones to add to the collection. Fall makes reading so fun–doesn’t it? The crisp autumn leaves, cozying under a blanket with apple cider and reading with your favorite kids. Magic!
If you’re lucky enough to live in the UK, you may already have a copy of this awesome release by Nicholas John Frith, which was released there on September 7th. If you’re stuck on this side of the pond, like us, expect to grab a copy on June 26, 2018. BOO..hoo. Rest assured it will be worth the wait! Frith’s previous books, Hello, Mr. Dodo! and Hector and Hummingbird were delightful, and the latter also snagged him the Klaus Flugge Prize!
As for A Werewolf Named Oliver James, see the publisher’s excerpt:
“On his way home one moonlit night, a strange thing happens to Oliver James: he unexpectedly turns into a werewolf! Suddenly, he can run faster than an express train! He can leap higher than tall buildings! He’s stronger than a lion! There’s only one problem: what on earth will his parents say, when he gets home? Nicholas John Frith’s third picture book is a rich, dramatic visual feast – and a wickedly funny romp featuring the most endearing little werewolf imaginable.”
We are so looking forward to it!
The cover alone makes us want to dive into this one. How to Make Friends with a Ghost by Rebecca Green is the sweetest, spooky manual that you will ever need. Closely follow all of the instructions for making a ghost’s acquaintance, not scaring him off, feeding him, bathing him, and most of all, how to have fun with him. This one is a great laugh, and the fun details will charm adults as well. However, make sure your kids are ready to learn what a ghost actually is! This ending is sweet, but transparent. (Pun most definitely intended).
The Scariest Book Ever by Bob Shea is anything but, and will surely delight kids young and old. Brought to you by the artist and author who created The Happiest Book Ever, this one focuses on a tiny ghost who is scared of going into the deep, dark, and anything-but-scary woods. The trailer alone is enough to make you want to scoop this one up:
Last is another project from an amazing publishing house, Flying Eye Books. No Such Thing by Ella Bailey tells the story of skeptical little Georgia, who has an explanation for every spooky occurrence that is occurring in her house. Told with brilliant color in a non-traditional fall palette, the reader is able to one-up Georgia by being privy to the shenanigans of the ghosts long before she is. Adorable and modern–a brilliant read.
Andie GW Powers
When’s your birthday?? If you win this giveaway, it could be very soon.
This week, we have partnered up with kid-lit blogger, Avery & Augustine and MacMillan Kids Books, for this very, extra special Instagram giveaway. The giveaway includes a copy of When’s My Birthday? by Julie Fogliano, with illustration by our own Red Cap Cards artist, Christian Robinson, PLUS an assorted set of his new birthday card designs and two rolls of his new gift wrap for Red Cap.
From Avery & Augustine: “When’s My Birthday? is a celebration of the one day each year that kids look forward to with eager anticipation: their birthday. Julie Fogliano’s words are lovely and exuberant and Christian Robinson’s work is, as always, an absolute delight. His work evokes the irrepressible joy of childhood: its fun, laughter and effervescence.
We’re partnering with @redcapcards and @macmillankidsbooks to give away an assorted set of 24 birthday cards and 2 rolls of gift wrap featuring new designs by Christian Robinson, along with a copy of the newly released book When’s My Birthday?
This giveaway is open to US residents and ends Sunday, September 24, at 11:59 PM PDT. The winner will be announced here shortly thereafter. To enter:
1. Follow @averyandaugustine and @redcapcards.
2. Like this post.
3. Tag a few friends in the comments below (in separate comments).
4. For an extra entry, tell us the best birthday gift you ever received as a kid or a birthday tradition you had in your family.
We are so happy to announce the release of a special collection of celebratory greeting cards and wrapping papers alongside the release of When’s My Birthday? by Julie Fogliano with illustration by our own Christian Robinson from Roaring Brook Press (out in bookstores today!) Click over to his artist page to see more!
PLUS, click here to visit the Official Website for When’s My Birthday?
“The Wild Flower’s Song” by William Blake
As I wander’d the forest,
The green leaves among,
I heard a wild flower
Singing a song.
I slept in the Earth
In the silent night,
I murmur’d my fears
And I felt delight.
In the morning I went
As rosy as morn,
To seek for new joy;
But O! met with scorn.
We are especially fond of all things wild: foliage, botanicals, wildflowers, umbrage. Nothing is more beautiful than nature’s palette, and in turn, artistic depictions of it. Today, we are excited to show some love to artists of the botanical–whether they be floral designers, artists, or picture book illustrators. Look below for some of our favorites, and make sure you go for a walk outdoors soon to soak it all in.
First up, Pittsburgh’s The Farmer’s Daughter Flowers, whose Instagram is a constant source of floral inspiration. We were so inspired by their photos, that we paid homage to them in Carolyn Gavin‘s Red Cap Cards collection:
by Emily Hughes
Emily Hughes’s story about a feral girl who is taken from her “wild” life and placed into modern society is full of glorious landscapes and visual worlds that are brimming with beautiful foliage and woodsy willows. Hughes is a genius at capturing devil-may-care landscapes, and this one takes the cake.
This classic picture book tells the tale of Alice, who finds her way through travels and life experiences to her life purpose: planting beauty (via purple lupine) wherever she goes. Barbara Cooney is a master illustrator (you can see her Master’s Showcase here) and she depicts the North American tundra with colorful precision.
This stunning, modern children’s design book offers illustrations on all matter of the seasons, from firefighters to snow, to Spring Fever and torrent. The modern depictions of the natural world are fascinating! Plus, this one allows children’ imaginations to grow and connect concepts via a main theme.
This classic M.W. Brown picture book features a story that focuses on the opposite of natural growth: natural death. In the story, children witness nature’s ebb and flow, from life, to growth, to death, and to a return to the earth. The children pick flowers to place on the little dead bird’s grave, and we learn about the beautiful process of death and dying.
A Child’s Garden of Verses
by Robert Louis Stevenson with illustration by Gyo Fujisawa
Another classic, this collection of poems includes sweet stories about childhood, the outdoors, and the magic of the world. The illustrations by Gyo Fujisawa are meticulously curated, with details to rival your own garden.
Over in the Meadow
by John Longstaff with illustration by Feodor Rojankovsky
Over in the Meadow is an illustrative journey through the meadow and the homes of the animals who live there. From foxes to birds, to spiders and chipmunks, the animals and insects of the meadow rely on this botanical wonderland for their livelihood. Gorgeous illustrations by Feodor Rojankovsky detail prose by John Longstaff.
I Can Fly
by Ruth Krauss with illustration by Mary Blair
Another example of modern illustration comes from this classic Golden Book by Ruth Krauss, with illustration by Mary Blair. Mary Blair is a favorite of ours (see her Master’s Showcase here), and we love her bold and modern depictions of the lively outdoors. Pastel florals, vibrant meadowscapes, and colorfully simplistic arrangements make I Can Fly come alive.
Another exciting botanical wonder: Work by upcoming Red Cap Cards artist, Strange Dirt! See below:
We checked in with a few of our artists today to find out what fun and exciting things they’ve been working on and found a few special treats to highlight: a vibrant animation, an LA event, and a new children’s book in the works.
First up, we’ve fallen in love with this animation, entitled “Transplant” by Red Cap Cards artist, Meg Hunt and P. Murphy for Portland’s Design Week event, DRAEMS. The animation features the flower and the eye as two traditional dream elements, which come together to create a surreal and lovely story. View Meg Hunt’s designs for Red Cap, here.
Also notable this week, if you are in the LA area, don’t miss out on Red Cap artist, Jon Klassen‘s event with collaborator, Mac Barnett. They will be at The Pop Hop Books & Print for a Triangle reading and signing on Sunday, April 30th at 3pm. If you haven’t had a chance to read Triangle yet, this might be the moment you’ve been waiting for.
And a sneak peek to get you excited (we definitely are!). Check out this cover for Jon and Mac’s new collaboration which will be out this fall: The Wolf, The Duck & The Mouse. That color palette!
“I may have been swallowed,” said the duck, “but I have no intention of being eaten.”
Bees are buzzing, daffodils are sprouting, and you’re hopefully planning a lovely rendezvous somewhere even warmer than where you currently reside. When you hop on a plane or ferry or train, make sure that you pack something to read for every age group. A few selections with beautiful work by Red Cap Cards artists stood out to us as books that need to go in the carry-on. Read on for more:
Red Cap Cards artist, Nicholas John Frith‘s brand new picture book, Hello, Mr. Dodo! is bright as-can-be and the perfect story for kids. The illustration is reminiscent of Bernard Waber with a modern twist and an eye-candy color palette. It tells the story of Martha, and her new friend with a taste for fried pastry –a Dodo bird– who is thought to have been extinct. It’s a sweet story (pun intended!) Also, if you haven’t had the pleasure of reading Frith’s first picture book, Hector and Hummingbird, make sure to pick that one up as well!
For the older set, make sure to check out The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley with absolutely gorgeous cover art by Red Cap Cards artist, Josie Portillo. Written for the middle grade audience, this story will captivate all ages, including adults. In the novel, we meet Ada, a handicapped 10-year old, who makes her way to the English countryside to avoid the bombing of London in World War II. There are plenty of plot twists and fabulous elements about the story that we won’t spoil, but you’ll want to read this one quickly, as it’s sequel, The War I Finally Won, is due out in October of 2017! See below.
Lastly, the follow-up to Red Cap artist, Lesley Barnes‘s debut picture book, Jill & Dragon, is out now. Jill & Lion tells the story of our heroine, Jill, and her new adventure with a sad lion whose tears are blurring the pages! We love the story and the end-pages are to die for (see below)!
And don’t forget to check out the amazing work that these three artists have created especially for Red Cap. Click here to view cards by Nicholas John Frith, here for work by Josie Portillo, and here for Lesley Barnes. Happy Spring reading!
They say the eyes are the window to the soul. We say they are the window to the story. Part of our jobs as art curators is finding personality and perspective in our artists’ characters. A huge chunk of that personality and perspective is found in the character’s gaze. The intricacies with which artists are able to convey emotion and intent through slight subtlety in their character’s features is fascinating!
Part of what makes a successful picture book is a 50/50 partnership between words and illustration. Words tell half of the story, while the illustration tells the other half. Sometimes, these halves conflict in their truths…and that’s when things get really exciting! When you start to focus on these tiny details in a picture book’s illustration, it’s amazing what layers you can find.
It’s no secret that we are huge Jon Klassen fans. Celebrated author, illustrator and Caldecott award winner (not to mention Red Cap Cards artist), Jon is a master at creating tension and story arcs with very subtle details in his art work. Look below for some fascinating examples from several of his books.
This is Not My Hat
by Jon Klassen
This one tells the story of a tiny, mischievous fish who has stolen a hat (quite stupidly) from a much bigger fish. He is sly and aware of his surroundings until he gets a little bit too comfortable. We love the facial expressions on both fish (and a few other characters) as the story emerges, showing complex emotions in a battle of wits.
“He probably won’t know it was me who took it.”
I Want My Hat Back
by Jon Klassen
In this story, a much-too-trusting bear goes on the hunt for his missing hat, until he ultimately finds it, much to the dismay of the thief. The range of emotion in this one is perfect! Trust to deception, realization, intent, surprise, and ultimately, satisfaction. The illustration is able to stand completely alone in its story.
Sam and Dave Dig a Hole
Words by Mac Barnett, illustration by Jon Klassen
This one is magical and has new layers that are discoverable with each reading. Sam and Dave do simply that–they dig a hole. Their trusty dog is there to attempt to steer them in the right direction, but ultimately, they wrap up the day’s work and head home…or do they? The very subtle inconsistencies in the two home settings create a story within a story. The look between the cat and the dog tells us there’s more to this narrative that we are invited to put together on our own after the book is closed.
We Found a Hat
by Jon Klassen
Jon’s newest addition to the “hat” trilogy tells the story of two turtles in a desert who have found a hat. Who will claim the hat? They both like it, and it looks good on them both. The internal struggle of one of the turtles is hidden from the text, but is given away in the eyes of the character illustration. See the images below:
How many characters are completely recognizable by their eyes? We wanted to touch on Jon’s characters to get you on the lookout–who are your favorite characters with stories told through their expressions? We will be back with some more illustrative techniques for telling a complete story through illustration. Keep your eyes peeled!
-Andie Powers for Red Cap Cards
It’s no secret that we are enamored with great illustration and creative work for children. The only thing better than finding those two components in one tiny package is if they are mailed directly to our house on a regular basis! Creative magazines for children are such a fabulous way to consistently inspire kids to use their imaginations and have fun with art and literature. Plus, the added bonus of receiving mail addressed right to them is like a surprise party with every single issue. We’ve rounded up a few of our favorites (plus one or two for the grownups in the house as well). Enjoy!
A favorite of ours, Illustoria is a quarterly, printed magazine for kids that celebrates “visual storytelling, makers and DIY culture through stories, art, comics, interviews, crafts and activities.” This one is geared toward kids of ages 6-12, but don’t let that hold you back. Even grownups can find tons of colorful inspiration in these pages. An added bonus–check out the “kid art” section of their website to view art by tons of tiny Picassos.
Anorak. Eat your veggies! Or at least read them. This quarterly mag for kids is printed with real vegetable inks on all recycled pages for kids ages 6-12. It’s a treasure trove of all things happy and colorful. Also lovable is that each issue is themed with an interesting topic, like Under the Sea, Party, or Daredevils. We’re a bit biased about their Museums issue (above) as it features a beautiful illustration by Red Cap Cards artist, Barbara Dziadosz, on the cover.
Dot. We like to think of this as Anorak‘s little sister. It’s everything that Anorak offers for older kids, but bite-sized for pre-schoolers. Dot, is ad-free and geared toward children 5 and under. “Just like its older brother Anorak, DOT encompasses all aspects of a child’s life, from jumping in puddles to learning through play. It encourages kids to be resourceful and find solutions using all the tools they naturally have at their disposition: imagination, creativity and fun.”
Bright Lite is a new one on the scene, and was initially launched via Kickstarter. “For girls / by girls” is this quarterly magazine’s motto, that strives to empower girls through photo, story, and art submissions from girls all over the world. We love their emphasis on “focusing on that incredible time of just being a kid; that blissful part of youth before dating, parties, and ‘coolness’ seem to distract us from simply being in wonder of the world.” Thumbs way up for that!
Honorable Mention: Not for kids, but for the kid-at-heart.
Flow is a great Dutch magazine that explores creativity and mindfulness in daily life. “Flow is all about positive psychology, mindfulness, creativity and the beauty of imperfection. We love illustrations and in each issue there is a gift made of our much-loved paper. We print the magazine itself on different types of paper.” One of the many reasons we adore Flow is because they love wonderful illustrators as much as we do, like Yelena Bryksenkova who is a regular in print. Check out this awesome feature of Yelena’s day-in-illustrations. Love it!
Another one for creative kids at heart–Uppercase Magazine. An independently printed magazine out of Canada, Uppercase is a smorgasbord of creative inspiration. Each issue is themed, such as the Stationery issue (above) and features work and art by some of the most talented in the business. Check it out–the print job is a work of art in and of itself!
What are your favorite creative magazines?
Have you been swept up into the adult coloring book craze? We have! And we are so happy to show off some of our favorites from Red Cap artists, friends, and a few treasured vintage finds. Making artwork is important to our creative well-being, and finding a way for everyone to participate (regardless of their artistic talent) is the key to stress relief and fun! So grab your colored pencils–this is detail work, folks–and check these out.
First up is our friend Masha D’Yans who worked on this brand new coloring book with her mother, Galina! It features intricate fairy tales from all over the world, and will keep you entertained with its lavish scenery and gorgeous characters.
James Gulliver Hancock! His illustration is made for intricate coloring time, and he has two on the market now that we love. Vegetables Give You Super Powers offers playful veggie coloring fun. If you’re up for something a bit more complicated, check out Gulliver’s New Travels which is a deep dive into some magical city-scapes and other-worldly coloring journeys.
Nearly everything. Just about. Anke was made for coloring book design, and we are oh-so glad that she published this gem. A Short Colouring Book of Nearly Everything is whimsical, sweet, and vibrant with happy characters. Grab it on her Etsy shop.
To Canada with Love, from Carolyn Gavin. This ecojot coloring book honors our buddies to the North and teaches us a thing or two. Created exclusively for Roots. Follow Carolyn for how to purchase this one, or view her cards for Red Cap, here.
David Bowie, nothing is the same without you. You were the glue that was holding everything together. At least, however, we can color your Ziggy Stardust phase. We love this one which is available here.
This one just tickles us. Curated by Souris Hong-Poretta, this one is full of many artists works for giant imaginations. “For anyone who loves creativity and contemporary art, or who simply loves the joy of coloring, comes Outside the Lines, a striking collection of illustrations from more than 100 creative masterminds, including animators, cartoonists, fine artists, graphic artists, illustrators, musicians, outsider artists, photographers, street artists, and video game artists.”
Plus, a peek at our vintage coloring book collection which is tops! What should we do with these? Have any ideas?
Happy coloring (or colouring if you’re fancy), everyone!
We know it has been a difficult week for some of us. In times like this, we look around and wonder how we got here. However, here at Red Cap, we choose to meditate on the love, kindness, and beauty that we know resides in our great nation. In times like this, let’s look to our littlest truth-tellers and find a way to guide them to the values that we hold dear. We picked a few books out that showcase what it means to live in kindness and in service to others. Enjoy.
The Smallest Girl in the Smallest Grade
by Justin Roberts, with pictures by Red Cap artist, Christian Robinson
A beautiful, poetic story about a very small girl in the smallest grade. This one has a wonderful message, about standing up for what’s right–Love!–even when you feel very small. “Sally notices everything—from the twenty-seven keys on the janitor’s ring to the bullying happening on the playground. One day, Sally has had enough and decides to make herself heard. And when she takes a chance and stands up to the bullies, she finds that one small girl can make a big difference.”
A Sick Day for Amos McGee
Written by Philip C. Stead with pictures by Erin E. Stead
“And in the end, the love you take Is equal to the love you make.” This Caldecott medal-winning picture book tells the story of Amos, a zookeeper, who gives extra-special attention to all of his animals each and every day. When he becomes sick, the animals return the favor by visiting him at home. It is a lovely example in the lesson of love and care for your fellow friends.
The Giving Tree
by Shel Silverstein
It’s rare that someone hasn’t read The Giving Tree, but some still miss the underlying message. In the story, a tree loves a boy so much that she gives him everything of herself until she is a lowly stump. We learn from the tree that giving and generosity equals happiness, regardless of outcome. Kindness is, in and of itself, happiness.
Jane, the Fox & Me
by Fanny Britt, with illustration by Isabelle Arsenault
Translated from French, Jane, the Fox & Me is a poignant and beautiful graphic novel. This should be required reading for middle school-aged girls, and teaches a valuable lesson about understanding differences, having compassion, and fostering friendship.
by Ame Dyckman with pictures by Zachariah O’Hora
Who is really the horrible one in the situation–the girl or the bear? And who will say sorry first? This is a great story (with awesome illustration by Zachariah O’Hora) about seeing your opponent’s side with compassion and coming together on common ground. A lovely lesson for every age group.
Much love and kindness to all…
-Andie Powers for Red Cap Cards
We couldn’t wait to get our hands on a copy of Ghost, and the day has finally arrived. Written by Blaise Hemingway and Jesse Reffsin, and illustrated by Red Cap artist, Chris Sasaki, and Jeff Turle, Ghost originated as a Kickstarter project and has blossomed to life (and we use the term loosely) just in time for Halloween. The description of the book below paints a picture of a beautiful job well-done:
Some of our most vivid childhood memories are of being huddled around a campfire, the hair on the back of our necks standing upright as we listened to tales of terror…or of staying up late, hiding beneath the covers with a flashlight in hand, reading a ghost story we swiped from our older brother. We all loved these stories that both ignited the imagination and stirred up feelings of dread that kept us up until morning’s light broke.
However, we’ve been frustrated in our search to find collections of ghost stories that strike the classic tone of the books from our youth. Stories that are as surprising as they are terrifying. Stories that stick with us. Stories that we can tell the next time we find ourselves around a campfire.
GHOST is a collection of 13 original poems and tales written by Blaise Hemingway and Jesse Reffsin and illustrated by Chris Sasaki and Jeff Turley. The book is hard bound, full color book- filled with more than 100 pages of bone chilling stories and illustrations. With GHOST, we wanted to create new ghost tales for a new generation both written and illustrated in a classic, timeless style.
Last night, the publisher of Ghost, Illustrátus, hosted a book release and charity auction at the usually closed-to-the-public, Historical Castle Green Hotel, with original works by a huge list of talented artists. (Check them all out in the list below). All of the proceeds will go to 826LA…and who knows, maybe there are a few Halloween treats left over to nab? Check out some of the featured works below, courtesy Illustrátus’s Instagram, plus a video from the makers of Ghost.
The day that we all have been waiting for has come! Red Cap Cards artist and Caldecott Award winner, Jon Klassen, has published the third and final installment of the “hat” series, which includes I Want My Hat Back, This Is Not My Hat and now, We Found a Hat! This one (from Candlewick Press) features two desert turtles, who find a hat “together,” decide to leave it where they find it, and the unspoken struggle and sly humor that follow. It is the perfect end-cap to the picture book suite we love.
On Tuesday night, we were happy to attend the book launch party at Skylight Books in Los Feliz, and hang out with our pal, Jon! He gave a talk all about how the conception of his picture book characters begin, and showcased some mock-ups that didn’t quite work for the book. Best of all, he signed a bale of books for Kidboss and her buddies–each one adorned with an animal illustration (art directed by Arlo herself, of course).
Plus, some killer hat tattoos…
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about why we create for children, due to this week’s celebration of what would have been Roald Dahl‘s 100th birthday. So many adults and children (including myself!) flooded the internet and Instagram with praise and admiration for Dahl, a man who (according to The New Yorker) was not so much of a good person as a great writer and creator of stories. Roald Dahl’s books touched me personally after having spent most of my middle grade childhood in England. When I eventually returned to America, there was always a slight culture gap that these books helped me to bridge. He is still a hero and someone who inspired me to be a writer for kids. Seeing the immense love for Roald Dahl reminded me of a quote by contemporary children’s author, Mac Barnett, another favorite:
“Too often we tell kids pleasant stories devoid of truth, and stories without truth are not good stories. Our audience deserves more from us. —Mac Barnett”
Why do we write or illustrate for kids? And why is it so important? In my opinion, the best books for children are tellers of truth. Kids crave truth, and all forms of it. The creation of a great children’s book combines story with illustration to convey an idea that touches and inspires a child. When that happens, anything is possible. I personally believe that the most important reading you will do in your entire life is when you are young. It helps to form our perceptions and opinions when our minds are malleable and sponge-like. That is the time that we must read what is true and good and miraculous. I’ve collected a few wonderful examples of the art of truth below to illustrate (pun!) what I mean:
“In this modern world where activity is stressed almost to the point of mania, quietness as a childhood need is too often overlooked. Yet a child’s need for quietness is the same today as it has always been—it may even be greater—for quietness is an essential part of all awareness. In quiet times and sleepy times a child can dwell in thoughts of his own, and in songs and stories of his own.” —Margaret Wise Brown
The Dead Bird by Margaret Wise Brown with new, lovely illustration by Red Cap artist, Christian Robinson. We took a look at this one in Arlo’s Book Club. It’s a remarkable illustrative achievement that couples the innocence of childhood with the harsh lessons of the world. Margaret Wise Brown’s lyrical writing is juxtaposed with the playful, artistic work of Christian Robinson. This is the perfect story to appeal to the emotional maturity of children and to convey the beauty and sadness of the world around us.
Seasons by Blexbolex. This design-heavy book is almanac-esque and may seem like an odd choice for this post, but once you start flipping through the pages, you will see what I mean. Blexbolex uses graphic imagery to convey a tongue-in-cheek definition to words—each correlating to a season. The illustration defines underlying details that mostly children will relate to, using their ability to see such fine details that adults usually gloss over—even words that are seemingly unrelated. For example, in the fall section of the book, Blexbolex’s word is “STUBBORN” and he defines it with an illustration of one lonely, foliage-filled, orange tree in a row of ones that have already lost their leaves.
Jane, the Fox, and Me by Fanny Britt, with illustration by Isabelle Arsenault. Another one that I recently checked out at the library is the magnificent graphic novel written by Fanny Britt, with illustration by Isabelle Arsenault. Originally written in French, this is the most raw and truthful rendition of what it feels like to be a middle-school aged girl that I have ever seen. Combining vibrant, life-like illustration (most of which is imagined by the young girl in the story) with a story-line that relates love, puberty, body issues, self-esteem, and hope for the future, this is definitely one that needs to be on everyone’s shelves. Bonus: It may also inspire younger kids to pick up classic literature that they haven’t read before!
A Color of His Own by Leo Lionni. Finding oneself is no small feat. In fact, most adults I know are still trying to do it. Leo Lionni (a selection from our Master’s Showcase) created a story that is deceptively simplistic. It speaks philosophical truth on so many different levels, specifically about personal identity. I feel like we need to revisit this book through each milestone we come across, most specifically our college years. I like to take away the simplest lesson: when you feel as if you have no place, rely on those you love to see you through.
“I don’t want to write for adults. I want to write for readers who can perform miracles. Only children perform miracles when they read.” —Astrid Lindgren
Pax by Sara Pennypacker with illustration by Red Cap artist, Jon Klassen. One of the reasons that I spent some of my childhood in England was because my dad was a Special Ops helicopter pilot, flying in the Middle East just after the first Gulf War. People have asked me about how I felt as a kid, with my dad in harm’s way so far away. In reality, I don’t remember much of it. I remember that kids had different accents then I did. I remember that my friends from America and I wrote letters (this was long before email!) and I remember that we had to give my dog, Scout, away. War is heavy and hard and long–but the things that children remember about it are very different from what grown-ups remember. And those things are no less heavy. This beautiful story was just nominated for the National Book Award and is wonderfully complimented by the soft, heartfelt illustration of Jon Klassen. The story is about a boy and his fox, who are separated due to the subtle hint of a war. Our perspective of war is seen through the eyes of the child in one of the most realistic ways I have ever seen. It’s just lovely.
“Growing up I actually, I didn’t have that close of a relationship with books. I actually struggled to read. And, so I was definitely drawn to books with pictures. I just loved that so much could be communicated with just an image.” —Christian Robinson
School’s First Day of School by Adam Rex with illustration by Christian Robinson. I’ll finish off with something light-hearted but equally wonderful. This one tells the story of a brand new school and his reservations about what the school year will hold and whether he will be liked by the kids who come through him every day. This one is heartwarming and is perfectly applicable to what lots of kids are going through right now. School is a scary place, man. It’s full of people who are different from us, just like the rest of the world. They have different expectations, goals, likes, and dislikes (and political opinions!) and we must learn to come to terms with that, find peace with it, and thrive.
-Andie Powers for Red Cap Cards
Every once in a while, a picture book comes along that truly makes a difference in the spectrum of children’s literature and all of those who read it. We are lucky enough to be privy to the artist of one such book: Red Cap artist, Christian Robinson, half of the dream team that created 2016 Newbery Medal winner, Last Stop on Market Street. Christian Robinson and the book’s author, Matt de la Peña, were recently interviewed on MPR (Minnesota Public Radio) about the importance of diversity in children’s books. If you’ve got 45 free minutes, you should most definitely settle down with a cup of tea and listen to the show. Matt and Christian chat with MPR about what it means to create a diverse books in terms of both class and race, and what books have dealt with these subjects well in the past.
While a moralistic story like this runs the risk of being heavy-handed, especially when written for children, this one is not. The writing remains subtle and relies on Christian’s light-hearted illustration. With minimalist and colorful drawings and papercuts (he even references them as “lego faces,” ha!) the book accomplishes its objective while remaining soft. “I love this idea that a drawing has a life of it’s own, has integrity and should be respected, and I try to put that same spirit into my illustration,” says Christian.
And on a quirky note, he talks about injecting a bit more fun into the text with the use of dog illustrations: “any opportunity to make the world more colorful, more exciting, more fun!”
Make sure you take the time to listen to this show on MPR. It’s a delight. Great work, Matt and Christian! To view Christian’s work for Red Cap, click here.
It's Easter again! This year feels like it is already zipping by, but we didn't want to miss out on Sunday's fun, so we've whipped up an ideal Easter basket for the kiddos. The Easter Bunny is bringing a good haul this year, that's for sure, and making stops at Bergdorf Goodman and the Gap along the way (and don't forget our favorite–books!). All we need now is a giant, chocolate bunny…we'll take the ears first, please.
1. Make your own Ernest! You can make your own bunny using this Jennifer Murphy Bunny: Ernest the Rabbit Pattern
2. These pajamas from the GAP are awesome! Bunny print for your kiddo.
3. The Egg Tree by Katherine Milhous. This book was the 1951Caldecott Medal Winner and is a story about two children who discover an Easter tradition buried in their grandma's attic.
4. Get those Easter eggs dyed! Or illustrated on, or calligraphed–whatever you like. This should be the ONLY nutritious thing in an Easter basket.
5. Now comes the yummy stuff! Overdo it on these 4-Ingredient Easter Egg Oreo Truffles from Gimme Some Oven.
6. The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams and illustrated by William Nicholson, 1922 A beautiful existential story about little boy and his toy bunny who wants to be made “real.” This one always brings tears to our eyes.
7. Here Comes the Easter Cat by Deborah Underwood, illustrated by Claudia Rueda. A funny tale about a Harley-riding kitty who wants to know why the Easter Bunny gets to have all the fun.
8. Jacks! Fun for hours, especially on a sugar high.
9. Reese's Peanut Butter Egg–because, of course!
10. We love this snuggly bunny! Bashful Plush Chime Bunny from Bergdorf Goodman.
We are ever-so-excited to be interviewing Red Cap artist, Christian Robinson in the artist spotlight today! He is the illustrator of Harlem's Little Blackbird, which was nominated for an NAACP Image Award in 2013, and most recently won the Ezra Jack Keats Award for his work in Rain!. Christian currently lives in San Francisco where he works mostly in the medium of paper-cuts and animation. His illustrations make us so happy! We're honored to have him in the interview hot seat.
We absolutely love your illustrations and papercuts–what is your favorite medium to work with?
Thank you! Paper cut-out might be my favorite. I love the texture and simplicity of collage. Cut-outs force me to design simple and rely more on basic shapes to communicate.
Did you always draw and create? Did you always want to be an artist as a child?
ALWAYS! As a child I wanted to be a paleontologist, Jurassic Park convinced a whole generation of kids that you could have a pet dinosaur. Later on I learned how to bring dinosaurs back to life with animation!
What is or has been the biggest inspiration for your work?
Epic question! So many things inspire me. Children's book illustration and graphic art from the 50s-60s, nature, simplicity, cities, children's art, animation, fine art, music, I could keep going.
Click the image below for an old blogpost on things that inspire me:
Do you have a personal admiration for Josephine Baker, ie your work in Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker? Are there other historical figures about whom you would love to illustrate a children's book?
Yes, Josephine Baker is one of my Sheros and someone who's story inspires me. When the opportunity to illustrate a picture book about her life crossed my path I was beside myself. I'll share this story that I came across during my own research, It just shows the magnitude of Josephine's heart.
What was your favorite book as a child and why?
Are You My Mother? by P.D. Eastman. This is probably too heavy of an answer: I was raised my grandmother and probably felt very empathetic to this baby bird trying to find his real mother.
You just won the Ezra Jack Keats Award for Rain!–how did you feel when you found out that you won?
GREAT!!! Like, please-don't-awake-from-this-wonderful-dream-great!
What is your studio space like?
Well, until recently my studio was a corner in my bedroom. Josephine was created in this sunny corner. But now I work in a shared artist studio.
What other contemporary illustrators do you admire?
Lots! Beatrice Alemagna, Kevin Waldron, Jean Jullien, Jockum Nordstrom.
What is your dream job (besides what you are doing now)?
Honestly just being able to continue doing all the sorts of things I'm doing now is the dream. I want to continue making animations, hopefully some music vids. Also to write and illustrate a picture book of my own one day.
What are your favorite things to do during your free time?
Dance, laugh and movies!
If you could vacation anywhere in the world–where would you go?
India is pretty high on my list, ooh or Istanbul!
What is your favorite piece or work you have ever created?
Thats tough, considering I'm my worst critic and often times find it difficult to be satisfied with my work. although it's that same unease that drives me to want to continue to grow and create. Sorry for the non answer 🙂
And–what is your all-time favorite meal?
Dang these questions are tough! I can always eat Pupusas (El Salvadorian dish) with avocado and rice and beans on the side. Oh and fried plantains are a must!
Images courtesy Christian Robinson.
“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more you learn, the more places you'll go” —Dr. Seuss. BUT, you don't have to take my word for it—Arlo's Book Club is here to advise you! We've gathered some of Arlo's favorite children's books for this post. Which ones do you have in your library?
What are your favorites??
Scandinavia–such a whimsical and magical place: where forests, ice and ocean collide. The magnificence of this portion of the globe breeds art and illustration that is lively and inspiring. We couldn't give up the chance to focus on a few favorites from past to present! Such a daunting task as this will obviously take more than one entry–up next, Iceland and Norway!
1. You may recognize some of these little characters, especially if you lived or traveled extensively in Europe when you were small! Tre Sandberg is a family-owned children's book and branding company dating back to the 1950s, that was initially begun by a married couple of illustrators: Inger and Lasse Sandberg. “Little Ghost Laban” is a popular character you might remember, and Little Anna and the Tall Uncle, pictured here.
2. Another one from your childhood! One of the most influential illustrators of today's fairy tales and animated films–Gustaf Tenggren. Aside from being in the inner circle to Disney's first illustration work in regards to animation–Tenggren also illustrated almost all of those Little Golden Books you love so dearly, such as Bedtime Stories, The Poky Little Puppy and Snow White (shown here).
3. This brilliant artist passed away just last week at age 90, but his work will live on, fabulously. Danish illustrator, Erik Blegvad, is the illustrator to Bed-knob and Broomstick, Hans Christian Andersen's Stories and Fairy Tales, and some of the illustrations in the original, The Borrowers (shown here). Love the “sketchy” textural aspect to his work!
4. A 20th century artist, and another legend. Kay Nielsen's work was the inspiration for the original Disney's Sleeping Beauty. If you re-watch it today, you will notice the linear aspect that none of the other early animated features conveyed. Nielsen had a knack for fairy tales, and you can find his work in the original Little Mermaid and other fairy tales.
5. We love the deliberate silliness in Tov Jansson's work. Another, slightly lesser-known artist from your childhood, Tove Jansson, was a Finland-native responsible for the wildly popular The Moomins. Jansson also dabbled in comic strips and wrote all of her Moomins books, as well as illustrated them. Shown here: Finn Family Moomintroll.
6. And how could we mention Finland without including one of our own, dear Anna Emilia Laitinen. Born in Leppävirta, a small town in Finland, she is a rising star as not only a Scandinavian illustrator, but a designer and artist as well. Check out her brand new book, Casa Di Fiaba, here.
Who are your favorite Scandinavian illustrators?
Photos as linked above
We are so excited for Jon Klassen… His first children's book, “I Want My Hat Back”, is coming out this fall. This will be the first of what we hope is a million Jon Klassen books. Jon is an amazing talent and on top of all of his artistic gifts he is funny, kind and humble. We have no doubt that his book will be a huge success!