Friday, April 11, 2014

Anatomy of a Children's Book Event

To promote his new children's book, Even Monsters, author/illustrator AJ Smith put together a stellar event at Jabberwocky Bookstore in Newburyport, MA last weekend.

Watching from the stairs, I got a bird's eye view of the entire event, jam-packed with entertainment, activities, and STUFF for kids and parents. Below is a photo that explains the anatomy of a great children's book event.


Have a Big Picture!
AJ had a laptop and big screen so kids could watch/follow as AJ read the electronic version of his book.
He used the screen later to show drawing activities on his website.


Use Real Monsters!
AJ had older kids from a local theater group in Newburyport wearing painted cardboard cutouts of his book characters. In exchange for promoting their summer theater program for kids, they assisted AJ by personifying monsters from his book and handing out fun book-related Stuff to kids.


Pretend to Have Cooties!
Hard to see in the photo, but AJ had some orange fuzzy pom-poms that looked like the little cootie creatures from his book. While reading, AJ would periodically adhere a pom pom to himself, kids would yell, "COOTIES!" and one of his monster helpers would spray AJ with a squirt gun 'till the cootie fell off. Uproar and laughter ensued. Genius! One little boy in the audience yelled out, "My sister says I have cooties!" A monster helper came over to give him a bottle of cootie-be-gone fluid.


Let 'Em Draw!
After the reading, AJ had the kids volunteer to come up and draw one of the monsters from his book, which he had broken down into simple shapes and made into an activity sheet on his website. The kids were CRAZY EXCITED to come up and draw a piece of the monster -- the body! the head! the squiggly ears! -- and AJ got to promote his site and challenge kids to post their own drawings to his website. He's going to make a music video with the top 20 monster drawings at the end of the summer. Keep them engaged!!


Ask Tons of People!
Lots of promotion, newspaper, radio, internet coverage seemed to me to be the key to the amazing turnout at the event. AJ/Jabberwocky also cross-promoted the event with Chococoa, the bakery next door; anyone who bought a book could go there for a free whoopie pie and trading card. Everybody winning here??

After the reading: Book signing. Line of happy people and kids. Monster cutout photo booth.

Total time elapsed: 30 super-fun saturated minutes.

I left the event pretty exhilarated/exhausted. Got my free whoopie pie next door and spiked my blood sugar for a bit. Oh, and looked at AJ's framed art on display on the bakery walls. This guy did it right!!!

See more of AJ's work here:

Collect some trading cards here!:

Friday, April 4, 2014

Illustration Friday: SIZZLE

This week's Illustration Friday topic: SIZZLE!
Almost grilling season. I can remember feeling (and still do!) awe and trepidation at sizzling food on a barbecue. Fear of fire is somehow genetically part of us!! I can also remember the feeling of pride when I got to successfully flip something on the scary fire food cooker.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Writers' Rumpus Guest Post

I had the opportunity to write a guest post for the awesome Writers' Rumpus, a blog dedicated to children's literature writers and illustrators. I am posting the link to my post here, but check out the rest of the site while you are there, too! Lots of helpful tips, stories and posts to inspire and inform.

I decided to write my post about Illustration Friday, since it's been such a great tool for me in developing a children's illustration portfolio.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Illustration Friday: RED!!

This week's Illustration Friday topic is RED! Fresh from a trip last weekend to Farm Friends in Newbury, MA to scratch some piglets.
Red's first day in the pen with the all-pink pigs was both exciting and scary. Would any of them like her?

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Illustration Friday: GONE FISHING

This week's Illustration Friday theme is "GONE FISHING." Why haul all your gear down to the lake when you've got water right there in your house??!!

Friday, March 14, 2014

Illustration Friday: SPARK

This week's Illustration Friday topic is SPARK! I'll come back and add some more thoughts later, but wanted to get the post in this morning.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Illustration Friday: VOICE

This week's Illustration Friday topic is VOICE. One of the things discussed in the illustrator's panel at the recent SCBWI NY conference was reaction -- that how the supporting characters react to the main character really helps tell the story. So I'm trying it out here! What if you're the first wolf pup among your friends to finally take the plunge and start a-howling?

I've also been wanting to do a wolf image since going to Wolf Hollow in Ipswich, MA many months ago. The alpha wolf there had recently passed away and since the alpha leads the pack in howling, there hadn't been any wolf howls for a while. I recently received a FB update that there was finally a new alpha and the howling is back.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Illustration Friday: SPACE

Here's a quick sketch for this week's Illustration Friday theme: SPACE! Just back from a trip to NYC, where SPACE can be at a premium -- on the train, waiting for the train, in lines for just about anything. Part of me feels like the hulking dog (am I taking up too much space?) and part like the ornery cat (wouldja move over a bit??!!)

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Illustration Friday: TWISTED

This week's Illustration Friday theme is TWISTED! I am just hopping back into IF after some weeks away and after a fun day bowling with family and friends.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Right-in-front-of-me discovery: Hand Drawn Fonts!

In working on my portfolio title page, I finally discovered hand drawn fonts! Hand drawn by someone other than me!! I've been on and off trying to do my own lettering for my website and portfolio, but finally, in desperation to meet a deadline, I looked up "hand drawn fonts." In the treasure trove of fonts that appeared on my screen, I not only found one that would work well with my illustration style, I found many of the fonts my favorite illustrators use as well!! Demystifying the process!!
The font I am using is Rabiohead, here is the font designer's site, check out his work!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Portrait of Leo F. Turner

I recently had the honor of painting a portrait of a friend's father who passed away a year ago today: Leo F. Turner of North Andover, MA. My friend Jane commissioned it as a gift for her mother.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Snow White (in color)

Here is the Snow White piece with color added, and some fixes made to the sketch.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Snow White (In Progress)

In-progress assignment for an upcoming conference: Illustrate a scene from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, focusing on character and setting. Illustration Friday on hold for a bit, while I finish this image and get my portfolio ready to show.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Illustration Friday: SEARCH

This week's Illustration Friday theme: SEARCH! Winter, the time when squirrels are perhaps scratching their big heads wondering -- WHERE did I put those early fall acorns? And chipmunk, with cheeks bulging, tries to beg off  -- What acorns?

Friday, January 10, 2014

Illustration Friday: TIME

This week's Illustration Friday topic was TIME. I feel like I was kinda short on it this week to come up with and finish a piece, but here it is! I'm imagining a story where these kids are trying to help out/save the world and their first task was to find the giant TIME clock and stop it for a while.

When I was a kid, I remember wanting time to go by more slowly; I was afraid it was going by too fast and I was going to wake up one day and be an adult too soon!

Friday, January 3, 2014

Illustration Friday: REFLECT

Crispin had never seen a mirror like this one before. Look at those paws! Who was that squirrel? Suddenly, tryouts for the basketball team seemed much less scary.

I missed the deadline for Illustraiton Friday this week, but finished the sketch today and decided to post it. The word for the week was REFLECT, and while working on it, I was thinking about how we can look into mirrors and see outsized flaws that oftentimes others never notice.

But mirrors can also provide a slightly different take on things, let you see a self with different strengths. Weird huge Hulk paws! Dainty mouse feet! Slim swan-like neck! Sometimes that mirror is a person, a friend, who reminds you of what your strengths really are, or shows you how they see you.

The inspiration to sketch an animal came from a book on the NYPL list of 2013 best children's books: Herman and Rosie, about an animal duo that finds each other in the jazz scene in NYC. Sometimes, animal characters can be more like us than we are!

Sunday, December 29, 2013

HoHoDooDa Sketch #2

Here's sketch #2 of Linda Silvestri's HoHoDooDa sketch challenge (running out of days in Dec.!!) Inspired by memories of having to do seemingly tons of dishes at holiday meals, and wishing we could have just thrown all the plates away. Who would've noticed??!!??

Thursday, December 26, 2013

HoHoDooDa Sketch #1

I signed up for Linda Silvestri's HoHoDooDa sketch challenge mid-December (a sketch a day!) and this is the first one I've eeked out. Inspired by my youngest niece's new stuffed purple giraffe and the insistence at Christmas that people put all kinds of things on their heads.
Happy (phew!) Holidays!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

2013 Tomie dePaola Award Submission

This is my submission for the 2013 Tomie dePaola Award, illustrating Jane Yolen's poem, Sneeze! The image/text is aimed at toddlers, and I tried something new for me: incorporating a flap into the image. Paper engineering fun!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Illustration Friday: REFRAIN

This week's Illustration Friday topic is REFRAIN!!

This image is inspired by my niece, whom I've seen do this with her big brother holding her back, feet scraping against the floor as she reaches and strains for something just out of reach (the last cookie!)

Also, it's inspired by the holiday season, where it's hard not to feel the tug of wanting more of everything. The floodgates are open!! The race is on!! And sometimes, we have to be the long gray arm that holds us back from what could turn into a major belly ache.