Thursday, April 30, 2015

May 2015 Desktop Calendar

Hello May!
This month I thought I'd try something a little bit different. I created some hand-dyed watercolour and Yupo papers with acrylic inks, and experimented with cut paper and plasticine. Lots of possibilities to explore further...
To download, please click on the screen resolution above and then right click and "save to desktop".

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Outstanding In The Rain by Frank Viva- a review


I recently received a gorgeous copy of Outstanding In the Rain by Frank Viva, as I was one of the lucky prize winners of Tundra’s Reading Club blog contest. When the package arrived I quietly tore open the shipping packaging, excited to dive in before it disappeared... clutched within the little hands of one of my kiddos. I managed to sneak in a quick read before my youngest noticed it in my studio and "borrowed" it for a few days. :) *yes! I love that she is so excited about books*
I managed to borrow it back to read it again( a few times) and write my review.

 First off, let me just say I am a bit of a picture book design nerd, so before I even get to the actual story, I have to talk about the design. I  really love the large trim size, the height of the portrait orientation nicely compliments the action inside. And seriously, how eye-catching is this cover? We all remember catching raindrops on our tongue- looove it. The satin-y matte dust-jacket helps to accent the fun, retro vibe of the stylized illustrations and limited colour palette of both the cover illustration and interior artwork.  I know I have probably said this a ton lately but... I am so loving the trend of decorative/illustrated end papers. I love how it enables the illustrator to stretch out the story  and add their visual contribution... even before the story starts! 
(So... you can imagine, how  thrilled I was when Cheryl Chen, my editor at Fitzhenry & Whiteside, gave me the thumbs up to create illustrated end papers for Gerbil, Uncurled( written by Alison Hughes) due out this Spring. I can't wait for you to see them!) 

Anyway, back to this book!

front end paper spread

back end paper

The decorative end-papers set the stage; the front end-paper depicts bustling Coney Island’s beachfront board-walk in daylight then, to wrap up the story just so, the back end-paper ends depict the same setting but in two-tone night-time, moon/street-light perfection with the last few patrons(whom have braved the rain)  are illustrated in little hits of colour.

 Even the hand-lettered font of the title(see top image of the cover) is exciting and visually appealing. It sets the tone of the book wonderfully, introducing the fun word play of oronyms and mischievously hinting at the soon -to-be discovered die-cuts, with the tag line at the bottom of the cover -“A whole story with holes”.

 The story begins with a young child and his mother arriving at Coney Island by train. Here they spend their special day together going on rides, eating treats and exploring.  Along the way, things don’t go quite as planned and they encounter a few unexpected surprises.   Viva does a wonderful job of depicting the enjoyable ups and unexpected downs of childhood.  Oronyms- phrases that sound the same but have different meaning, are used creatively throughout the book.  Each page is skillfully designed to place these oronyms within a die-cut shape on the right-hand page which, upon turning the page, is now on the left-hand page, becoming an integrated surprise element within the illustration.  The cut-outs vary in size and shape, to compliment the text and their placement works to advance the story with successful visual appeal. Maybe this would be easier to describe with a visual?

 Here is an example from the book:

“ ‘Ice cream’, I say, my birthday surprise, he exclaims.” The word “cream” is placed within an oval shaped die-cut under “ice” which after the page turn becomes “ scream” when the boy sadly drops his treat. “ ’Oh no!’ I scream, with tears in my eyes”. The left-hand page now contains the oval die-cut, the shape of the boy’s mouth (showing his teeth). The teeth peek through from the previous page which was the front detailing of the D train entering Coney Island station.

 At times, due the restriction of using oronyms on each page, the rhyming text feels slightly forced, but all-around I think Viva succeeds in creating a delightful story unified by superb design. With features such as the fun die-cut elements, and retro-flavoured, colour-blocked illustrations all combined with  playful oronyms, within kid-centric text, this book is sure to elicit giggles and high-fives from kids and adults alike.  

Sending out a big  "Thank-you, Tundra" for having these fun Tundra Reading Club contests on your blog. It is such a great way to  promote your new titles, and  interact with book-loving folks. And...who doesn't love the chance to  win free books for that TBR pile?  

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Happy April 1st! April 2015 Desktop calendar

With the last bits of snow gradually melting away on the odd warm-ish day of these crazy Canadian (fluctuating) temps, our backyard rink has been appropriately  renamed "the pool". In the garden the first daffodil sprouts  have started popping up. Spring is here- yay! 
I thought a Spring-y desktop calendar was just right for this month. This spot illo comes from a spread in Skink on the Brink where Stewie travels through the changing seasons from his home pond to a far away pond.  Along the way he also changes in colour from a juvenile black skink (with an amazing blue tail) to a grey adult skink. 
To download this desktop calendar, please click on the screen resolutions above then right-click on " save to desktop" to download.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

March 2015 Desktop Calendar featuring interior artwork from my latest picture book Gerbil, Uncurled!

With February drawing to a quick close, I have posted my new March 2015 desktop calendar a few days early.
 This calendar features the entire extended gerbil family featured in my latest picture book, as illustrator, Gerbil, Uncurled( by Alison Hughes, Fitzhenry & Whiteside June 2015).

 Let me introduce you to the horde. We have Grandpa, Grandma, Mama, Sister, Little Gerbil and her mischievous triplet cousins...and Teddy too, of course!

 Alison and I have been pouring over the colour proofs this week, we are SUPER excited to see it all come together. Our editor, Cheryl Chen, has graciously given me the "thumbs-up" to share one of the interior illustrations for the book. I couldn't resist using it to create my March calendar. Please click on the screen resolutions above then right-click on " save to desktop" to download.
This picture book will be part of the Tell Me More Storybook series. It contains 2 pages of bonus  non-fiction back matter. It also has fully illustrated end-papers! *squeals* SO FUN!

 Here is the back cover copy: "Little Gerbil has learned all of the important Gerbil Mottos from Grandpa: Always Keep Your Whiskers Clean, Celery Tops Come to Those Who Wait, etc. But there is one motto that Little Gerbil just can't manage to keep: Curl Up Nose to Toes when it comes time to go to sleep. At the weekly Gerbil Circle meeting she knows she has to tell the truth. Little Gerbil discovers that she is not the only one that has problems following some of the Gerbil Mottos."

It's available to pre-order on Amazon here:

Andrew Larsen's Charlie's Dirt Day, illustrated by Jacqueline Hudon-Verrelli is the latest book in the Tell Me More series to hit the shelves. Have you seen it yet? It's delightful!

I hope you  enjoy the calendar, Alison and I can't wait to share this book with you. Be on the look-out, it is due to hit the shelves in June!


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