Saturday, March 31, 2012

The Old Woman and the Red Pumpkin

by Betsy and Molly Bang
Macmillan, 1975
The Old Woman and the Red Pumpkin by Molly Bang is a Bengali folktale translated and adapted by Betsy Bang.  This is the third book she illustrated, but is one of my favorites.  Bang's style for this book was based on art depicting Jainism.  However, the emergence of her style and the influences this religious art had on her future illustrations is obvious.

The story follows a widow who travels to her grand-
daughter's house.  Along the way she meets some hungry animals.  The old woman will have to use all her cleverness to arrive safely at her family's house and return home again unharmed.

I didn't discover this charming book until I had a family of my own, but it reminds me of The Lambikin by Helen S. Hansen, illustrated by Jack and Louise Meyers for Whitman in 1962. I used to ask my mother to read The Lambikin over and over.   The Lambikin was originally taken from Tales of the Punjab, so the comparison makes perfect sense.

The old woman meets the bear,
Molly Bang
Lambikin by Helen Hansen

Friday, March 30, 2012

Tiger Trouble!

Tiger Trouble, by Diane Goode
Blue Sky Press 2001
The picture book Tiger Trouble!, by author / illustrator Diane Goode, is well worth owning.

It chronicles the daily life of Jack and Lily, his tiger in New York City.  The boy and his pet are best friends;  they go everywhere together.  But trouble arises when Mildew Mud arrives on the scene with his pampered bulldog.

This classic offering from Goode showcases a lovely simplified style.  The pastel palette and soft edges paint a nostalgic look at turn-of-the-century New York without being sentimental.  Action and a good bit of whimsy round out the tale that is sure to please even picky readers.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Illustrating Essentials

A good illustrator has to be a good artist, but there's more to being successful in the field of children's publishing.

Search the web for artists you admire.  Get their advice on working methods and links, not just technique.

Follow sites that keep you updated on changes in the industry.

Go to a local bookstore.  Browse the featured books that interest you, and write down the names of the companies which publish material similar to your own.
There are plenty of books and sites I could recommend.  For starters, try the ones below.

Children's Writer's and Illustrator's Market
Writers Digest

Writing with Pictures, by Uri Schulevitz

The Purple Crayon by Harold Underdown
The Horn Book
Every Writer's for publishers

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Picture Book Essentials

If you are interested in writing for children, there are many good resources available.
I highly recommend you join a group, like SCBWI, whose goal is to build a network between people in the industry.
I suggest you read, read, read.  The more children's books you read, the better your intuition will be.
And I suggest you avail yourself of the experience of other writers and editors.

My favorite how-to for writing children's books is by Jean Karl.  Her book, How to Write and Sell Children's Picture Books, has done more to shape my writing than any other book on the subject.  She breaks down the categories within the field and gives pitfalls to avoid.  Her keen editorial mind zeroes in on the essence of a good picture book.  Best of all, Jean Karl is inspiring.  She make writing and publication seem plausible.  She makes the possibilities seem limitless.  I never fail to read through her text without acquiring a half dozen new ideas.

So what are you waiting for?  Grab a notebook and start writing.  Then head to your nearest library (and bring a BIG bag.)

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Sketchbook Essentials

Sketching from life should be routine for every illustrator.  It is essential to variety and life in your illustrations.  Keep a sketchbook and use it everyday.  Don't let the white space intimidate you.  Cram it full of the details of your environment.  Challenge yourself to capture moods as well as details.  My drawings are always fresher when I've spent some time out and about documenting the world.  You'll be surprised to discover how many nuances appear in your current work which are borrowed from a previous, unrelated scribble. 

Don't know how to get started?  Grab a copy of The Artists' Guide to Sketching, by James Gurney and Thomas Kinkade.  You won't believe how emboldened you are.

Here are a few doodles to inspire you.

David Small

James Gurney
Glen Keane

Hilary Knight 

Monday, March 26, 2012

Lloyd Alexander's Legacy

"Books can truly change our lives: The lives of those who read them, the lives of those who write them.  Readers and writers alike discover things they never knew about the world and about themselves."

Courtesy ExLibris Studio

Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Chronicles of Prydain

The Chronicles of Prydain consists of five major books written by Lloyd Alexander and published by Henry Holt in the 1960s.  These award winning fantasy novels are among the finest in children's literature and have enjoyed a loyal following throughout the world since they were first published.  They are a melding of Welsh mythology and Alexander's own fertile imagination.
Map copyright Michal Wojcik

The Chronicles of Prydain, Book 1,
Cover art by David Wyatt
The Book of Three is the first in the series and follows 
the adventures of Taran, an assistant pig-keeper who
 wishes to become a warrior.

The other books in the series are The Black Cauldron, The Castle of Llyr, Taran Wanderer, and The High King.

I also highly recommend The Foundling and Other 
Tales of Prydain, a compilation of short stories.

The Prydain Companion,
An excellent reference,
by Michael O. Tunnell

For insights into the the creation of the books, cast of characters, geneologies, place descriptions, and guides to pronunciation, check out Michael O. Tunnel's excellent book, The Prydain Companion.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

The Fortune-Tellers

The Fortune-Tellers, by Lloyd Alexander,
illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman
The Fortune-Tellers is probably Lloyd Alexander's most famous picture book.  Published in 1992 by Dutton Children's Books.  It  is classic Alexander in picture book form:  exotic location, flim flammery, wit, humor, and true love.  We are all blessed that one day the author found this 15-year-old manuscript in the eaves of his attic.

Trina Schart Hyman asked him to tweak the theme so she could incorporate Cameroon, a piece of her grandsons' heritage.

Check future posts for Alexander's other picture books: The Four Donkeys, Dream-of-Jade, How the Cat Swallowed Thunder, and The House Gobbaleen.

Illustration from The Fortune-Tellers

Friday, March 23, 2012

Lloyd Alexander, Prince of Authors

portrait by Trina Hyman
I am embarrassed to say I have not posted a single spotlight on Lloyd Alexander.  It would be impossible to have a serious discussion about great children's literature and not refer to the work of Lloyd Alexander.  To make up for my gross oversight, I will dedicate the rest of this week's blog posts to the man and his works.

Mr. Alexander is best known for his creation of the fantasy series, The Chronicles of Prydain.  He wrote over 40 books and stories and was a master of characterization and dialogue.  He used fiction to explore real emotional themes.  He loved reading, writing, cats, the violin, and his wife Janine.  He was witty and soft-spoken.  A bard of the highest caliber.
I highly recommend this video link with a tour narrated by the man himself.

For more information, check out Foundation Stones of Prydain, The Prydain Companion, and The Gawgon and the Boy.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Read A Book, Share A Story

Artwork courtesy Janice Nadeau
That's the theme for TD Canadian Children's Book Week, May 5-12, 2012.  For all the readers of Bookish Ambition north of the border, you are in for a fabulous week.  Below is the amazing lineup of writers, artists, and performers scheduled to criss-cross the country during book week.  Check the CCBW website for materials, tour details, or to order a book week poster.
Don Aker, author
Rina Singh, author
Jan Andrews, storyteller & author
Brian Deines, illustrator
Bernice Gei-Ying Hune, storyteller
Vivien Bowers, author
Gina McMurchy-Barber, author
Illustrated by Karen Patkau
Aubrey Davis, author & storyteller
Joan Marie Galat, author & storyteller
Alison Lohans, author
Andrea Spalding, author
Karen Patkau, author & illustrator
Allan Stratton, author
Alison Acheson, author
Caroline Adderson, author
Eileen Cook, author
Yayo, illustrator
Jessica Scott Kerrin, author
Chris McMahen, author
Robert Rayner, author
by Chris McMahen
Willow Dawson, author & illustrator
Marty Chan, author
Shoshana Litman, storyteller
Kathleen McDonnell, author
Caroline Pignat, author
Richard Rudnicki, author & illustrator
Judy Ann Sadler, author
Vikki VanSickle, author

Alan Cumyn, author

By Marty Chan
By Allan Stratton, art by Jim Kay 

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

CBC Book Candidates of 2011

2012 poster courtesy David Wiesner
Children and teens, educators and booksellers, cast your vote!  The finalists for the Children's Choice Book Awards, including best author and illustrator of 2011 are listed at the Children's Book Council website.  Polls are open now.  Voting is open until May 3rd so winners can be announced in time for National Book Week (May 7-13)

Click here for this year's ballot.
Click here for last year's winners.

Comment on this post to let us know who you think deserves the award.  All those who respond by April 10, 2012 will receive a free bookmark (Shipping may apply to addresses outside the US)

Monday, March 19, 2012

Lots of Books

"We were very, very lucky.  We were bought lots of books."
-J. K. Rowling

Courtesy The Vintage Moth
Thanks to Pastiche of Squidoo for sharing

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Irish Folk Tales

The Slua Shee

This is one of Trina's earliest books.  Number 7, by my count, not counting textbooks and magazines. It's typical of her early fantasy style:  A large graphic element, a cat, innumerable faerie creatures morphing together without defined outline, and characteristic hand written caption.

Children of the Salmon
and Other Irish Folk Tales,
by Eileen O'Faolain
Illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman
Longmans Green and Co, 1965

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Top O' the Morning!

illustration by Jan Brett

Why not celebrate with some of Jan Brett's coloring pages?

St. Patrick's Day in the Morning
written by Eve Bunting
illustrated by Jan Brett
Clarion Books, 1980

Friday, March 16, 2012

Kid Lit Art

I have discovered a fun and talented bunch of artists at KidLitArt. Every Thursday night they "meet" for a Twitter chat about what it takes to make great children's books.
Right now a group of dedicated artists has committed to the 2nd Annual KidLitArt Picture Book Dummy Challenge.
Check out their blog, or drop in for a chat.  Take the challenge and let's make some great Picture Books!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Pippa's Song

The year's at the spring,
And day's at the morn;
Morning's at seven;
The hillside's dew-pearled;
The lark's on the wing;
The snail's on the thorn;
God's in His heaven - 
All's right with the world!

Artwork by Trina Schart Hyman
by John Updike
Courtesy Holiday House, 1999

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Independent Bookstores

The most famous bookstore in Maine is up for sale.  Purchase The Owl & Turtle Bookshop and keep its bookish tradition going.  Indie booksellers are disappearing all over the country.  Don't let this treasure trove disappear too.
The Children's Room at The Owl & Turtle Bookshop
Incidentally, we've always wanted a bookstore of our very own.   If anyone is interested in donating the Owl & Turtle to us here at Bookish Ambition, we'd consider relocating. ;-)

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Howard Pyle and Katharine Pyle

Happy belated birthday, Howard Pyle.  And Happy 100th birthday to the Delaware Art Museum!  As a fan of Howard Pyle (and who is not?) I highly recommend a visit to the Delaware Art Museum.  They have an outstanding collection of golden age illustrations.  If you visit before September 9, you will also be able to view works of Katharine Pyle, Howard's youngest sister.  She was quite prolific as both author and illustrator in the children's book world.  Don't miss the exhibit opening June 23rd to celebrate the museum's centennial.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Making Books

". . .of making many books there is no end."
-Ecclesiastes 12:12

Thanks to Lew Jaffe,
the Bookplate Junkie

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Bookish Prints

by Louis Moeller
Here at Bookish Ambition we are obsessed with all things that have to do with books:  literature, publishing, illustration, and bookish things.  If I had any wall space not covered by bookshelves, I might consider some of these lovely bookish prints courtesy All Posters.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

A Slice of Pie

This morning I finished Pie, written by
Sarah Weeks.
Like a good pie, it only took me two days from start to finish.  I couldn't stop until the whole thing was gone.

 This warm middle grade novel, set in the mid-twentieth century, oozes all the charm of small town Pennsylvania.  It has the feel-good quality of a 50s adventure show,  but isn't afraid to tackle a few more serious issues like familial jealousy, personal identity, and loss.

Pie is so satisfying, you can even skip the whipped cream.

Courtesy of Food Clip Art

Bonus!  Pie included recipes for all the tasty concoctions in the book.  Get reading so you can get baking!

Friday, March 9, 2012

John Carter of Mars Premiere

Cover art by Frank Schoonover
Today Disney premieres John Carter of Mars in theaters.  I am looking forward to an action-packed adaptation of Edgar Rice Burroughs's A Princess of Mars.  But as usual, I suggest you read the book series for yourself.  If you've never read Burroughs, you simply must pick up a copy of Tarzan of the Apes.  It is well worth the read!

Courtesy Whatsits Galore
A note of caution: Not all cover art from the above series are suitable for all audiences.  Please use discretion when searching images.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Circus Wedding

Circus Wedding preliminary drawing
J. Roberts
I did this drawing some time ago. I'm sorry the scan is not top quality.  Please comment if you know of a really useful scanner for artists or an online tutorial for getting the best scans.  I would love some suggestions!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012