Friday, October 26, 2012

Halloween Giveaway!!

In honor of my renewed commitment to keeping up with Storytime Crime—and, of course, because Halloween is almost here—I thought I'd give away one very special treat: Mommy? by Maurice Sendak, Arthur Yorinks, and Matthew Reinhart. I think this just might be my favorite pop-up book. It's got the wonderful illustrations of Sendak and Reinhart's amazing paper engeneering. And luckily, I have an extra copy to give away!

You just need to follow me on Twitter @ChrisCanWrite and retweet any of my tweets about the giveaway to enter. I'll pick one lucky winner at random on Halloween night (I'll give everyone until midnight) and ship it out the next day. Sorry, this contest is only open to U.S. residents.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Halloween Kid by Rhode Montijo

Halloween? Candy? Cowboy? Lasso? Modern retro art? Yes, please!! The Halloween Kid by Rhode Montijo is a perennial favorite of mine. And it's perfect for any kid who becomes completely committed to acting the part when they're in their costume—which, I guess, is probably all of them.
© 2010 by Rhode Montijo
The Halloween Kid is a classic masked hero, a defender of all things good and just—especially the right to get delicious candy on Halloween. With his trusty steed, the Kid wrangles up all kinds of Halloween-hating hoodlums like toilet paper mummies, pumpkin-suckin' vampires, leaf-pile ghosts and more. Because of him, trick-or-treaters are safe to do their business.... Until the day the Goodie Goblins show up.  And when the varmints prove to be too much for The Halloween Kid, who can he turn to for help?
Look, kids, I managed to wrassle me up the author/illustrator's autograph!
Montijo does an amazing job of blending the two seemingly different worlds of Halloween and Westerns. From the clever way in which he incorporates the monsters into this world to the tone of his voice, it feels as if he's really thought of everything. And the choice to use a limited color palette, as well as the weathered effect, only serves to heighten the experience.

Although this book came out two Halloweens ago, Montijo constantly promotes it with tons of goodies that I would urge you to check out. Heck, the Halloween Kid even has his very own Twitter account. So there's plenty of things to make sure you have a Yee-Ha-Halloween!

Friday, October 19, 2012

The Sleepless Little Vampire by Richard Egielski

Halloween is by far the best holiday for picture books. In honor of that, I'm going to try to review a couple of my favorites in the next few days.  I wanted to start off with a title from last year: The Sleepless Little Vampire by Richard Egielski. It's a delightful picture book that's the perfect Halloween bedtime read for the littlest of monsters.

A little vampire is all ready for bed, tucked beneath his skeleton blanket and snuggling with his Frankenstein's monster doll. The only problem is he can't fall asleep. So the little guy spends the rest of the story trying to figure out what's keeping him up.  Is it the howling werewolf? Or maybe the dancing skeletons?

© 2012 by Richard Egielski
I really love this setup of a monster having trouble falling asleep because so many kids often blame them as the reason why they are unable to go to bed (monsters in the closet, monsters under the bed, etc.). Egielski's text is both simple and rhythmic and it will definitely entice children to howl, chatter, and dance just like the monsters do.  Egielski also does a great job of illustrating all of these potentially frightening creatures so that they are cute and relatable. And as the story progresses, more and more of these characters enter the frame—so there's a lot to explore in each spread.  It all keeps building up until the quiet, clever, and fitting ending. The Sleepless Little Vampire is bound to show children that they've got nothing to fear at or about bedtime.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Fire! Fuego! Brave Bomberos by Susan Middleton Elya; illustrated by Dan Santat

To celebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month, I wanted to discuss my favorite bilingual picture book from the past year (and perhaps favorite ever): Fire! Fuego! Brave Bomberos. In the book, we meet five firefighters who soon have to rush to the scene of a neighborhood fire, put out the flames, and make a dramatic last-minute rescue.  Of course, since firefighting is a perennially popular topic for kids, this book has everything you'd expect to findfrom a trip down a fire pole to an appearance by a couple of loyal dalmatians.  Although the story follows a familiar trajectory, Susan Middleton Elya and Dan Santat make this book stand out with their wonderful execution.

Elya, who is renowned for her many Spanish/English picture books, doesn't miss a beat here. She manages to incorporate around forty Spanish words into her melodic stanzas seamlessly. Readers are often able to figure out what the words mean from the illustrations and are even occasionally offered help in pronouncing them by the very nature of the rhymes. (But if they still need help, there's a glossary in the back.)

© 2012 by Dan Santat
The most exciting part of the book, however, has got to be the art (at least for me anyway). I'm a big fan of Dan Santat's work and was so excited to get my hands on this book after reading a blog post he wrote about creating the art for it. (Click the above image to go to the original post.) Inspired by the fact that he was working on a book about firefighters, Santat used both water and fire to alter the images at key moments in the story. For example, when the firefighters come face-to-face with the flames for the first time, the pages themselves look as if they're starting to burn. And when the firefighters leap to action with their hoses, their water looks as if it's not only putting out the fire in the story but also on the actual pages themselves. If you look closely, the above artwork actually has a little bit of both. Although, if you notice in the bottom right corner, Carlota is alerting the other firefighters that they're not done yet!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

A Boy Called Dickens by Deborah Hopkinson; illustrated by John Hendrix

Last February marked the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Dickens and what better way to celebrate than with a picture book to introduce him to a new generation of young readers. A Boy Called Dickens chronicles Charles Dickens' early childhood working in a factory and living on his own--while the rest of his family was living in a debtor's prison. Taken out of school and forced to sell his books to a pawn shop, Charles is so obviously desperate for more of these stories that he becomes a storyteller himself. He gets through his rather bleak days by telling stories to his fellow coworkers and dreaming up new ones at night in his bed. And Deborah Hopkinson does a great job evoking this very same storytelling feel. Throughout the text she addresses the reader and asks us questions (although most are rhetorical) which gives the book a very obvious and present narrator. This book makes for a great read-aloud in a classroom for this very  reason.
© 2012 by John Hendrix
In addition to the appropriately pitched voice, John Hendrix's illustrations are completely spot on. The characters are all varying levels of gritty and the streets are all grimy, which paints a (thankfully) much more realistic picture of the 1820s than I would have expected in a picture book. Hendrix also has a great way of illustrating the characters and stories floating around in Charles' head. He draws them as these wisps of ghastly blue that I can only imagine are meant to evoke the ghosts from Charles Dickens' own A Christmas Carol.  In addition to the wonderful illustrations, Hendrix also incorporates some of his beautiful typography throughout the book too. As you can see from the cover, Hendrix has a great eye for type design and including this "word art" adds a lot to the mood of a picture book about an author. You can see my favorite spread of the entire book above and, as you probably notice, it has everything: dirt & grime, ghoulish inspiration, and words leaping off of the page.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

UNUSUAL SUSPECTS: The Cat in the Hat & The Lorax illustrated by Dan Santat

© Dan Santat
In honor of the anniversary of Dr. Seuss's birthday and the upcoming release of The Lorax, I thought I would bring up these wonderful sketches by the talented Dan Santat. Santat is one of my favorite illustrators (if you haven't already, do yourself a favor and pick up Sidekicks)! Now don't get me wrong, I'm obviously a huge fan of Dr. Seuss' work, but there's just something about the three-dimensional/cinematic quality of Santat's art style that's so appealing. I'd be really interested to see what how these would look in color.
© Dan Santat
Apparently these sketches are for an upcoming Dr. Suess themed show at Gallery Nucleus, so I'm looking forward to seeing what other artits are contributing. And if you're interested in seeing more sketches by Dan Santat, he has a wonderful blog--A Slow Growing Mass of Tangible Thoughts--where he occasionally posts work from his sketchbook.

Monday, February 20, 2012

UNUSUAL SUSPECTS: The Hobbit illustrated by Maurice Sendak?

Maurice Sendak's "The Hobbit," in pen and ink, 1967
(Credit: Maurice Sendak/Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library of Yale University)

What if Maurice Sendak, creator of the timeless Where the Wild Thing Are, had illustrated J.R.R. Tolkien's epic fantasy The Hobbit ?  It's not as far-fetched as it sounds. You can check out an enlightening essay by author and illustrator, Tony DiTerlizzi, on the version of The Hobbit that almost came to be here. 

And stay tuned for more unexpected, unforgettable, unmistakable artists interpreting some of your favorite children's books in the next installment of Unusual Suspects.