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Children's & Fantasy/Sci-Fi Books


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Artists Recreate Kid Monster Drawings

Kids have amazing creativity, which is further fleshed out by professional artists as part of The Monster Project. From Greta J. and the mad geniuses at Bored Panda.

“Last year we introduced you to The Monster Project, an awesome initiative that sees professional artists adding their own unique touches to monster doodles created by kids in elementary. Well now we’re bringing you more of their amazing collaborations, and as you can see below, the results are quite spectacular.

Based out of Texas, the purpose of the project is to encourage creativity and provide inspiration for artistic children everywhere. “With a decreasing emphasis on arts in schools, many children don’t have the opportunity for creative exploration they deserve,” reads their website. “That’s a monstrous trend we would like to destroy. As artists ourselves, we understand how important that initial creative exposure is and how it can truly alter the shape of a child’s future. Creativity comes in many forms, and we hope to encourage their exploration of their own unique perceptions of the world we share.”

The Monster Project

The Monster Project

The Monster Project

The Monster Project

The Monster Project

The Monster Project

The Monster Project

The Monster Project

The Monster Project

The Monster Project


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Cakes Too Pretty to Eat

This has nothing to do with KidLit, fantasy, or sci-fi. But it relates to CAKE! From cake artisan Olga Noskovaa and the mad geniuses at Bored Panda.

“Russian confectioner Olga makes sweets that look like marbled mirrors. Although little is known about her, Olga’s Instagram is a source of envy for many. Luckily, reddit user SuperDrew124 shared the secret behind this mirror-like glaze:

Ingredients: 20 g Gelatin Powder, 120 g Water, 300 g Glucose, 300 g Sugar, 150 g Water, 200 g Sweetened Cond Milk, 300 g Chocolate (White, Milk, Dark or a combination), Food Coloring

Steps:

1) Bloom the gelatin in the water;
2) Boil the glucose, sugar & water;
3) Remove from heat and add the gelatin;
4) Add the cond milk;
5) Pour over chocolate and buerre mix to remove air bubbles;
Use at 35C/95F.

The marbling effect is achieved by pouring different color glazes together over the cake.”


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KidLit Creature Week 2016 now open for submissions

KIDLIT CREATURE WEEK is an annual collaboration of children’s book artists. Illustrators may now submit an illustration to our online gallery of monsters, creatures & other imaginary beasts suitable for children’s literature. We’ll be posting the submissions starting in mid-January. It’s fun and it’s free. Be inspired by others’ art. Promote your work by sharing it.

KCWbanner2016
Submit before 1/1/16 an image of any creature you’ve illustrated. It need not have been traditionally published. “Creature” is defined in this context as any sentient being not found in nature, e.g. dragon, ninja rabbit, muppet, talking crayon, elf, and so on. Full details are on the KCW website.

Here is artwork from some of this year’s Guests of Honor:

bowers2 Krispin Blaze by Tim Bowers

florianMostly Monstrous Monsters by Douglas Florian

kirschDragonfleez by Vincent X. Kirsch

klassenTattletale Crab by Jon Klassen
ladenCroctopus by Nina Laden
rexGiant Spider by Adam Rex
reynoldspEr-ick by Peter H. Reynolds


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KidLit Creature Week 2015 Launches!

KCWbanner2015

KidLit Creature Week 2015 has launched! KidLit Creature Week is a free illustrator collaboration displaying an online gallery of monsters, creatures & other imaginary beasts suitable for children’s literature. In addition to creatures from 12 Guests of Honor, starting January 15, we will start revealing the other participants’ creatures, roughly five per day. The first batch is below. View ALL the images at http://www.birchtreepub.com/kcw/

aultnoble

‘Sup by Kathryn Ault Noble

collard

Fredlet by Julia Shahin Collard

eddingfield

Nimpentoad by Sean Eddingfield

larson

Little Witch Muffet by Abigail Larson

ng-benitez

Atlas & Tarf by Shirley Ng-Benitez

santhanum

Scroffie Fondu by Karen Santhanum

yuly

Flowerbot by Toni Yuly

woods

Queen of Dreams by Lisa Woods

 

 


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How SFF characters made their way to the mountains of Titan

We all have our favorite children’s books. And many of them feature imagined worlds with their own languages, cultures, and geography. Did you know that some character and place names from science fiction and fantasy children’s literature have made their way into astronomy?

Titan

One of Saturn’s moons is Titan. And those wacky, kidlit-lovin’ astronomers have named some of the features of Titan after fictitious places created by fantasy and science fiction literature titans J.R.R. Tolkien and Frank Herbert. The full list can be viewed at the USGS website, but here are some tasty samples:

Angmar Montes (Mountain)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Named after an evil kingdom in J.R.R. Tolkien’s fantasy “The Silmarillion”

From wikipedia.org:
“Angmar was founded in T.A. 1300 in the far north of the Misty Mountains by the evil Lord of the Ringwraiths, who became known as the “Witch-king of Angmar”. Since the Witch-king was a servant of the Dark Lord Sauron, it is presumed that Angmar’s wars against the successor kingdoms of Arnor were done at Sauron’s bidding to destroy an important ally of Gondor. It may also be presumed that wars against Arnor were an attempt to find the One Ring, as Isildur was going to Arnor to make the Ring an heirloom of the kingdom when he was killed.”

Arrakis Planitia (Impact basin)

Dune
Named after the planet Arrakis in Frank Herbert’s sci-fi classic “Dune”

From wikipedia.org:
“Arrakis — informally known as Dune — is a fictional desert planet featured in the Dune series of novels by Frank Herbert. Herbert’s first novel in the series, 1965’s Dune, is popularly considered one of the greatest science fiction novels of all time. In Dune, the planet is the home of the Fremen, and subsequently is the Imperial Capital of the Atreides Empire.”

“Arrakis … Dune … wasteland of the Empire, and the most valuable planet in the universe. Because it is here — and only here — where spice is found. The spice. Without it there is no commerce in the Empire, there is no civilization. Arrakis … Dune … home of the spice, greatest of treasure in the universe. And he who controls it, controls our destiny.”

Arwen Colles (Hill)

Arwen
Named after the elf princess Arwen, daughter of Elrond in J.R.R. Tolkien’s classic fantasy “The Lord of the Rings”

From wikipedia.org:
“Arwen was the youngest child of Elrond and Celebrían. Her name Ar-wen means ‘noble maiden’. She bore the sobriquet “Evenstar” (or Evening Star), as the most beautiful of the last generation of High Elves in Middle-earth.

As told in “The Tale of Aragorn and Arwen”, Aragorn in his twentieth year met Arwen for the first time in Rivendell, where he lived under Elrond’s protection. Arwen, then over 2700 years old, had recently returned to her father’s home after living for a while with her grandmother Lady Galadriel in Lórien. Aragorn fell in love with Arwen at first sight. Some thirty years later, the two were reunited in Lórien. Arwen reciprocated Aragorn’s love, and on the mound of Cerin Amroth they committed themselves to marry one another.”

Bilbo Colles (Hill)

bilbo
Named after Bilbo Baggins, the hobbit protagonist in J.R.R. Tolkien’s classic fantasy “The Hobbit” and “The Lord of the Rings”.

From wikipedia.org:
“In The Hobbit, Bilbo Baggins, a hobbit in comfortable middle age at 50 years old, was hired in spite of himself as a “burglar” by the wizard Gandalf and 13 dwarves led by their king Thorin Oakenshield on a quest to reclaim the Lonely Mountain and its treasure from the dragon Smaug. The adventure took Bilbo and the companions through the wilderness, to the elf haven of Rivendell, across the Misty Mountains and the black forest of Mirkwood, to Lake-town in the middle of Long Lake, and eventually to the Mountain itself. Here, after the dragon was killed and the Mountain reclaimed, the Battle of Five Armies took place.

In his journey, Bilbo encountered other fantastic creatures, including trolls, elves, giant spiders, a man who can change shape into a bear, goblins, eagles, wolves and a slimy, murderous creature named Gollum. Underground, near Gollum’s lair, Bilbo accidentally found a magic ring of invisibility, which he used to escape from Gollum.”

Chusuk Planitia (Impact basin)

chusuk
Named after the planet Chusuk in Frank Herbert’s sci-fi classic “Dune”

From wikipedia.org:
“In Dune, Chusuk is the “fourth planet of Theta Shalish; the so-called ‘Music Planet’ noted for the quality of its musical instruments.” The Appendix of Dune mentions “the Navachristianity of Chusuk.”

Doom Mons (Mountain)

mtdoom
Named after a volcanic mountain in J.R.R. Tolkien’s fantasies “The Lord of the Rings” and “The Silmarillion”.

From wikipedia.org:
“Mount Doom is a fictional volcano in J. R. R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth legendarium. It is located in the heart of the black land of Mordor and close to Barad-dûr. Alternative names, in Tolkien’s invented language of Sindarin, include Orodruin (“fiery mountain”) and Amon Amarth (“mountain of fate”). The Sammath Naur (“Chambers of Fire”), made by Sauron in the Second Age, is a structure located deep within the mountain’s molten core. It was here Sauron forged the One Ring during the Second Age.

The mountain represents the endpoint of Frodo Baggins’ quest to destroy the Ring which is recounted in The Lord of the Rings. The chasm is the site where the One Ring was originally forged by the Dark Lord Sauron and the only place it can be destroyed.”

Echoriath Montes (Mountain)

echoriath
Named after the Encircling Mountains mountain range in J.R.R. Tolkien’s fantasy “The Silmarillion”

From wikipedia.org:
“A mountain range in the north of Beleriand, also called the Encircling Mountains. The Echoriath formed a natural circle of rock, enclosing the valley later called Tumladen, within which lay the Elven city of Gondolin. A hidden ravine provided the only access through the Echoriath — a way guarded by seven gates. Fingolfin, a High King of the Noldor, was buried in the Echoriath north of Gondolin, having been taken there by the eagle Thorondor after he was slain in his duel with Morgoth. Glorfindel was also buried in this place.”

Erebor Mons (Mountain)

Erebor
Named after a mountain and Dwarf kingdom in J.R.R. Tolkien’s fantasy “The Hobbit”. 

From wikipedia.org:
“In J. R. R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth legendarium, the Lonely Mountain (Sindarin Erebor) is a mountain in the north of Rhovanion. It is the source of the Celduin River, and the location of the Kingdom Under the Mountain. The town of Dale lies in a vale on its southern slopes.

Erebor became the home of the Folk of Durin, a clan of Dwarves known as the Longbeards, after they were driven from their ancestral home of Khazad-dûm. In the latter days of the Third Age, this Kingdom Under the Mountain held one of the largest dwarvish treasure hoards in Middle-earth.”

Faramir Colles (Hill)

faramir
Named after the son of the steward of Gondor in J.R.R. Tolkien’s fantasy “The Lord of the Rings”

From wikipedia.org:
“Faramir is the younger brother of Boromir of the Fellowship of the Ring and second son of Denethor II, the Steward of the realm of Gondor. The relationships between the three men are revealed over the course of the book and are elaborated in the appendices.

Faramir first enters the narrative in person in The Two Towers, where, upon meeting Frodo Baggins, he is presented with a temptation to take possession of the One Ring. In The Return of the King, he led the forces of Gondor during the War of the Ring, coming near to death, and eventually succeeded his father as the Steward and won the love of Éowyn of Rohan.”

Misty Montes (Mountain)

Misty_mountains
Named after the Misty Mountains mountain range in J.R.R. Tolkien’s fantasy “The Hobbit” and “The Lord of the Rings”.

From wikipedia.org:
“In J. R. R. Tolkien’s fantasy world of Middle-earth, the Misty Mountains (also known by its Sindarin name of Hithaeglir—misspelled as Hithaiglin on the original Lord of the Rings map—and as the Mountains of Mist) is a mountain range, running for 795 miles from north to south, between Eriador and the valley of the Great River, Anduin, and from Mount Gundabad in the far north to Methedras in the south.

The northernmost peak of the Misty Mountains was Mount Gundabad, where according to legend Durin awoke, though it was later an abode of Orcs. The greatest Dwarven realm in Middle-earth, Khazad-dûm, was located at the midpoint of the Misty Mountains. The three peaks that were part of Khazad-dûm were Caradhras (Redhorn), Celebdil (Silvertine) and Fanuidhol (Cloudyhead). Inside Celebdil, the Dwarves built the Endless Stair, from the foundations of the mountain to the top of it. The southernmost peak of the Misty Mountains was Methedras (Last Peak).”

This article is also posted to the San Diego Children’s Books Examiner.


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The Nimpentoad authors at San Diego Comic-Con

My fellow Nimpentoad and Twignibble co-authors and I had a great time wandering the Exhibit Hall at the San Diego Comic-Con. Here are a few pictures.

SDCC_PlantVZombie

Nothing starts your day like meeting a zombie from the Plants vs. Zombies game my boys enjoy playing.

SDCC_PeterBeagle

For us older folks, it was a real treat to meet Peter Beagle, author of “The Last Unicorn”.

SDCC_KenMeyer

Here are my co-authors with comic artist Ken Meyer, Jr.

SDCC_KatieCook

Here are my co-authors with Katie Cook, who writes “My Little Pony” for IDW Publishing, and has also done licensed illustration work for DC, Marvel, Star Wars, and Lord of the Rings.

SDCC_HappyHobbit

Proving again that timing is everything, we just  happened to wander in front of the Badali Jewelry booth, when our friend Cliff Broadway from TheOneRing.net was conducting a Lord of the Rings trivia quiz. Have I mentioned that I am a Lord of the Rings Rainman? It will then come as no surprise that we won the quiz, and left laden with terrific Tolkien booty, much as Bilbo ended his Hobbit adventure riding a pony burdened with treasure. As a bonus, we got to meet the Rice sisters, who write and star in the weekly Happy Hobbit video that is shown on TheOneRing.net.

SDCC_EvangelineLilly

In the foreground, my co-author Harrison. In the background, the smoking hot Evangeline Lilly, who will be appearing in the upcoming (second) Hobbit movie. We also saw Sir Richard Taylor, who heads up Weta, the company that makes props for Peter Jackson’s movies.

SDCC_Domo

Here my co-authors pose with the largest Domokun I’ve ever seen.

SDCC_Azog

An enormous Azog the Orc in front of the Weta booth was not nearly as welcoming as Domokun…

SDCC_AndrewHuerta

At the IDW Publishing booth, we spoke with several comic book illustrators. As it turned out, fate smiled upon us again. We have a friend Sohaib Awan, who writes the comic JINNRISE. His illustrator, Andrew Huerta, was there and graciously offered to sketch Nimpentoad !

SDCC_NimpByHuerta

Here is the wonderful end result he knocked out in no time flat.


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SDCC interview with comic book artist Ken Meyer, Jr.

Ken Meyer, Jr. has been doing art of one kind or another since he was a kid. He started drawing by tracing comic books using carbon paper (ask your grandpa). He became interested in more realistic comics, and then in illustration and painting. He has done some short Marvel comics pieces, but most of his comic work was done for smaller publishers like Caliber and Revolutionary. Today, the lion’s share of his art is painting.

Ken has graciously to tell us a bit more about himself and his work. In the photograph, he is the one on the left…

MeyerKen

For what age audience do you illustrate comics?

It has varied. The Marvel comics I’ve done are for all ages, while the Caliber work was more mature (but still able to be read by all ages). I have done a lot of horror art and some horror themed stories, so I guess the audience would depend on how much they could handle!

Henry: Challenge accepted!

Tell us about your latest work.

Lately, my work has been either doing altered Magic cards (Magic the Gathering is a collectible card game, and people send me the cards I have done to paint new images on them, making them more collectible), illustration for various uses, or portraits and other types of art. I also do “sketch covers,” which are actual comics with totally white covers (aside from the logo). They are made that way so fans can get their favorite artist to do drawings on the covers. I have done several Avengers (the movie character versions), and Walking Dead covers, with more to come.

Henry: Note to self: order one of these from Ken.

What aspect of illustrating do you find most challenging?

It depends on the job, to some degree. In comics, the most fun part is the initial layouts/thumbnails, where I am working out the composition of the page, what the best viewpoint for any given panel would be, etc. Considering I tend to use a lot of photos and models for reference, the most challenging part is probably getting people together and shooting the actual photos. If I am doing the strip completely out of my head, the most challenging part is probably doing any given viewpoint (worm’s eye view, bird’s eye view, etc.) correctly. Oh, and horses.

Henry: Note to self: do NOT ask Ken to paint the Riders of Rohan.

What is a powerful lesson you’ve learned?

To be honest, the most powerful lesson I learned is that it is very hard to actually make a living as a comic artist. You have to put a lot of work and time into comics, and the pay is not usually proportional to all that work (which is why a lot of people go into other fields such as animation or games). If you are in comics, most likely you are in it because you really love the genre.

What’s been a memorable experience that you’ve had?

I really love music, and several times, when I knew I was going to a concert by someone I really liked, I would do a painting ahead of time and take it to the show to try to meet the musician. It worked several times, and I met some of my favorites (Elvis Costello, Bruce Cockburn, Loudon Wainwright, Tori Amos and several others). Those were memorable for me!

Henry: And memorable for them too. That is certainly a unique way to get their attention. Well played, sir.

What advice would you give to aspiring comic or graphic novel illustrators?

The most crucial advice, and the advice you almost always hear, is just draw draw draw. Keep drawing, practice all the time, draw everything (not everything is skin tight-clad superheroes), and then draw a lot more. I had a professor who was an incredible draftsman, and he said the only reason he would be considered a better artist than us is that he had gotten a lot more terrible drawings out of the way. Of course, it helps to look at your favorite artists. See how they handle problems, the way they compose a panel and page, etc. Copy them for awhile, eventually you will come into your own style. Look at books and online sources. Draw from life. Just draw.

Do you have any favorite quotes?

“I am an artist you know … it is my right to be odd.”
― E.A. Bucchianeri, Brushstrokes of a Gadfly

Henry: It does seem to come with the territory. 🙂

Do you have any strange rituals that you observe when you illustrate?

Does painting with a chicken on your head count?

Henry: Yes. Yes it does. Best. Answer. Ever.

If you could have one superpower, what would it be?

It would be the superpower to mimic all other superpowers. If there is a void of superpowers, then perhaps the good old standby, flight. If I am feeling altruistic that day, then it would be the power to manufacture any amount of food out of thin air.

Henry: Good for you for thinking of others!

If you could have three illustrators over for dinner, who would it be?
Oooooh, tough one! I will say Alphonse Mucha (to talk about his big Slav epic mural series), Bob Peak (an illustrator popular in the 70’s mostly, who did magazine illustration, movie posters, etc), and comic artist Bill Sienkiewicz (who started in comics as a clone of then very popular realistic comic artist Neal Adams, but went to to become one of the best multimedia artists ever, and is still creating amazing work today).

What is your favorite creature that exists only in literature?

When I was young, I was a huge fantasy/heroic fiction fan, and read stuff like The Lord of the Rings, Edgar Rice Burroughs (John Carter of Mars), Conan, etc, non-stop. So, you are talking about a lot of imaginary creatures to choose from! I guess I will say the Sirens…you might drown, but you would have fun doing it.

Henry: Always the ladies’ man, eh?

What do you like to do when you’re not illustrating?

I have several activities that siphon good working time away from the desk, unfortunately. I play tennis frequently, for example. I read a fair amount (but have become selective, choosing authors I have already read a lot of, such as Stephen King, Chuck Palahniuk, John Irving, etc.), plus tons of music magazines. I would say “listen to music,” but I do that all the time anyway. I probably watch too much TV (shows like Game of Thrones, Dexter, Breaking Bad, Stewart/Colbert/Maher, and like to see as many films as I can as well. So, you can see the easel has to do its share of fighting for attention!

What would you like it to say on your tombstone?

“There was no shortage of art created, and no amount of time wasted!”

Where can readers find your work?

If you want to search in the comic book stores (which nowadays, means going online), I have a graphic novel called “Gustave, PI.” I have a few Marvel stories in comics, such as Open Space number 4, Marvel Portraits of  Universe 1, and Midnight Sons Unlimited 4. Caliber comics I have done include about seven issues (and about 11 covers): Kilroy is Here, stories in the anthology Negative Burn, and many covers. I also have many covers for Revolutionary Comics (music- and sports-related). You can search out the Tori Amos RAINN benefit calendars I put together between 2005 and 2009 (as well as her tour book for the “Dew Drop Inn” tour). I have a ton of work in various White Wolf game books, mostly for the lines of Vampire the Masquerade, Demon, Wraith, etc. I have also done a lot of cards for their Vampire the Eternal Struggle series (originally known as Jyhad). The game Magic the Gathering has card art by me, mostly in the Arabian Nights and Ice Age expansions. You can, of course, always go to my website if you have a few weeks to waste (there is a lot there, but I will be revamping it soon), or other websites that have my work for sale, such as Fine Art America. I also have a DeviantArt page.

Ken will be at San Diego Comic-Con in Artist Alley table II-6.

This article is also posted to the San Diego Children’s Books Examiner.


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Interview with NY Times Bestselling ‘Babymouse’ & ‘Squish’ author Jenni Holm

Jennifer L. Holm is a New York Times bestselling children’s author and the recipient of three Newbery Honors for her novels ‘Our Only May Amelia’, ‘Penny from Heaven’, and ‘Turtle in Paradise’. Jennifer collaborates with her brother, Matthew Holm, on two graphic novel series — the popular Babymouse series and the bestselling Squish series. ‘Babymouse for President’ is an Eisner nominee.

Thanks for interviewing me. I have a personal San Diego connection. I was born here! (At the Naval Hospital). And my family and I attend Comic-Con every July, so we love San Diego.

Henry: Thank you so much for taking the time out of your busy schedule to speak with us. And for our readers, the Newbery Medal is given to the author of “the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children. The Newbery (along with the Caldecott) is considered one of the most prestigious children’s literature awards in the United States.

HolmJenni

For what audience do you write?

I write middle grade fiction (‘Penny from Heaven’, ‘Our Only May Amelia’, ‘Turtle in Paradise’) and graphic novels with my brother, Matt Holm (The Babymouse series and the Squish series).

Tell us about your latest book.

My latest book is ‘Squish: Game On’. It actually features a comic convention.

Henry: Amazon helpfully adds “a hilarious, action packed graphic novel series from the award-winning creators of Babymouse! Filled with superheroes, comics within comics, and gross-out science, Squish is perfect for fans of Dav Pilkey’s ‘Captain Underpants’, Dan Gutman’s ‘Weird School’, and Jarrett Krosoczka’s ‘Lunch Lady’.

Beep! Beep! Squish can’t get enough of his awesome new video game Mitosis! (Mitosis is what happens when cells divide. Who says video games can’t be educational?) In fact, he may even be obsessed! He plays at home . . . at school. . . even in his sleep! Are video games taking over Squish’s life?! And can Squish’s favorite comic book hero, Super Amoeba, stop the Creeping Black Mold that’s taking over Small Pond?”

What do you hope readers will get from reading that book?

Kids today have to deal with the challenges of different media (video games, etc.) This book tackles what is a common situation a lot of kids face.

Henry: The heartbreak of unwanted mitosis?

What aspect of writing do you find most challenging?

It’s hard to live in your own head all day.

Henry: Some heads more than others. The voices. The voices!

What is a powerful lesson you’ve learned from being a writer?

The impact you can have on a child. A book can really change someone’s life.

Henry: I admit it was delightful to hear that after reading ‘Nimpentoad’ one of my little readers will now eat mushrooms. A small victory, perhaps, but we take them.

What has been a memorable experience that you never would have had if you had not been a writer?

I probably wouldn’t be able to wear pajamas to work.

Henry: And fuzzy slippers?

What advice would you give to aspiring authors?

Read! Read! Read!

Henry: Yes. I heard this great saying at a SCBWI conference, “Just as the lion is the product of all the zebras she’s eaten, the author is the product of all the books she’s read.”

Do you have any favorite quotes?

Keep calm and revise on.

Henry: Good one. I don’t think all aspiring authors realize how much revising is required.

Do you have any strange rituals that you observe when you write?

I generally don’t like to discuss whatever I’m working on. I worry I will jinx myself. (I’m pretty superstitious).

Henry: How do you feel about black cats walking under ladders on Friday the 13th?

If you could have one superpower, what would it be?

The ability to make the house be instantly clean (I have two kids).

Henry: So, you’d be exercising that power frequently. Very original superpower. Well played, Jenni. Well played.

If you could have three authors over for dinner, who would it be?

Lloyd Alexander (my childhood hero), Bill Watterson (my whole life hero) and Hal Foster (my Prince Valiant hero).

Henry: Wikipedia helpfully adds, “Lloyd Chudley Alexander was a widely influential American author of more than forty books, primarily fantasy novels for children and young adults. His most famous work is The Chronicles of Prydain, a series of five high fantasy novels whose conclusion, The High King, was awarded the 1969 Newbery Medal for excellence in American children’s literature.”

Hal Foster was a Canadian-American illustrator best known for his comic strip Prince Valiant. And of course, we all know and love Bill Watterson from the comic strip Calvin and Hobbes.

What is your favorite creature that exists only in literature?

The dragons from Anne McCaffrey’s “Harper Hall” series.

Henry: Dragons. It’s always dragons. There has to be some deep psychological root for our affinity.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

I have recently taken up fencing and I love it!

Henry: Touche!

What would you like it to say on your tombstone?

She Liked to Revise

Henry: Or “She Liked to Revise”, then “She Liked to Edit” underneath, then “stet”.

Where can readers find your work?

www.jenniferholm.com and www.babymouse.com. And I hope to see everyone at San Diego Comic-Con!

This article is also posted to the San Diego Children’s Books Examiner.


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Before Comic-Con, there was the Belgian Comic Strip Center

The Belgian Comic Strip Center (BCSC) is located in a majestic Art Nouveau building designed by Victor Horta in 1906. The BCSC assembles anything that deals with European comics, from its prestigious beginnings to its latest developments. It is located in one of the oldest districts of Brussels, just a few steps away from Grand’Place and the Royal district.

Our summer vacation included Brussels, and we could not pass up a visit, particularly when viewed as a European prelude to our attendance at San Diego Comic-Con. Here are my sons and co-authors posing with some life-sized Tintin figures.

comic00

My Nimpentoad co-authors at the BCSC with life-sized Tintin characters

Many Americans got their first taste of European comics from The Smurfs and when The Adventures of Tintin was recently released as a movie directed by Steven Spielberg and produced by Peter Jackson.

Per wikipedia.org, “The Adventures of Tintin (French: Les Aventures de Tintin) is a series of comic albums created by Belgian cartoonist Georges Remi (1907–1983), who wrote under the pen name of Hergé. The series is one of the most popular European comics of the 20th century. By the time of the centenary of Hergé’s birth in 2007, Tintin had been published in more than 70 languages with sales of more than 200 million copies.”

“The Smurfs (French: Les Schtroumpfs) is a Belgian comic and television franchise centered on a group of Smurfs: small blue fictional creatures that live in mushrooms. The Smurfs were first created and introduced as a series of comic characters by the Belgian comics artist Peyo (pen name of Pierre Culliford) in 1958. The word “Smurf” is the original Dutch translation of the French “Schtroumpf”, a word invented when during a meal with fellow cartoonist André Franquin, Peyo could not remember the word salt.”

Printing opened everything up to a wide audience

comic01

“The introduction of engraving, published books, newspapers and color prints sold at fairs enabled a wide audience to be reached. Both master of their art, The Englishman, William Hogarth and the Japanese, Katsushika Hokusai, told stories by means of a series of engravings or etchings. They are essential milestones in the history of this nascent art, following the example of the Swiss comic artist, Rodolphe Topffer, who taught movement so well to his pupils.”

Play With Dickie

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This museum display perhaps doesn’t realize how American boys would read it.
Museum display directions: Dickie is mixed up. Arrange some order in the drawings for him.

Tintin is Nobody. Tintin is Everyman

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Image caption: Tintin’s face is made up of a few very simple features. It’s almost expressionless. Because it is neutral, it’s the ideal recipient for the emotions felt and projected by readers.
Depending on the circumstances, Tintin can be young or old, Scandinavian or mediterranean, African or Asian. He’s a universal character. If Tintin is Everyman, he is also you!

Which Tintin Characters Appeared When

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Image caption: Raymond Macherot was born in Verviers in 1924. He is unanimously considered to be the greatest author of animal comics of his generation. With series such as Chlorophylle (Tintin, 1953) and Sybilline (Spirou, 1965), he created a universe characterized by poetry, fable, and satire. ”

Jerom

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Image caption: Jerom (Jethro) began his solo career in the weekly children’s magazine Ons Volkske in 1960 with Het geheim van Brokkelsteen. Willy Vandersteen wrote the first scripts and entrusted the drawings to his assistant Edward De Rop. The appealing strongman soon found a following and became a publishing success for the Vandersteen Studio.

Raymond Macherot

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Image caption: Raymond Macherot was born in Verviers in 1924. He is unanimously considered to be the greatest author of animal comics of his generation. With series such as Chlorophylle (Tintin, 1953) and Sybilline (Spirou, 1965), he created a universe characterized by poetry, fable, and satire.

Willy Vandersteen through his stories

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Per wikipedia.org, “Willy Vandersteen was a Belgian creator of comic books. In a career spanning 50 years, he created a large studio and published more than 1,000 comic albums in over 25 series, selling more than 200 million copies worldwide.

Considered together with Marc Sleen the founding father of Flemish comics, he is mainly popular in Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany. Hergé called him “The Brueghel of the comic strip”, while the creation of his own studio and the mass production and commercialization of his work turned him into “the Walt Disney of the Low Countries”.

Vandersteen is best known for Suske en Wiske (published in English as Spike and Suzy, Luke and Lucy, Willy and Wanda or Bob and Bobette), which in 2008 sold 3.5 million books. His other major series are De Rode Ridder with over 200 albums and Bessy with almost 1,000 albums published in Germany.”

Spirou passed from hand to hand

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Per wikipedia.org, “Spirou (Walloon: Squirrel, mischievous) is the main character of the Spirou et Fantasio and Le Petit Spirou comic strips. The character was originally created by Robert Velter (Rob-Vel) for the launch of Le Journal de Spirou in 1938. Spirou was originally an elevator operator and bell-boy at the fictional Moustique Hotel. At some point he became a reporter for the eponymous magazine, though he remained dressed in his trademark red uniform.”

Smurfs!

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In the US, probably the most well-known European comic characters are the Smurfs. Per wikipedia.org, “The Smurfs (French: Les Schtroumpfs) is a Belgian comic and television franchise centered on a group of Smurfs: small blue fictional creatures that live in mushrooms. The Smurfs were first created and introduced as a series of comic characters by the Belgian comics artist Peyo (pen name of Pierre Culliford) in 1958. The word “Smurf” is the original Dutch translation of the French “Schtroumpf”, a word invented when during a meal with fellow cartoonist André Franquin, Peyo could not remember the word salt.”

This article is also posted to the San Diego Children’s Books Examiner.


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Interview with ‘Herobear’ comic author Mike Kunkel

Mike Kunkel has been a cartoonist for as long as he can remember.  He spends his time writing and drawing stories for animation, comics, and children’s books.  He has won the Annie Award for Best Character Design in an Animated Series.   And he is the 2-time Eisner Award winning creator of the comic series “Herobear and the Kid”. While working daily in the animation industry, he is creating new books for release through his company The Astonish Factory.

Despite all the preparations required for San Diego Comic-Con, Mike has (heroically) made time to answer some questions.

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For what age audience do you write?

To be honest, I truly try to write for all ages. I want to create stories that are enjoyed from little kids to grandparents. It means a lot to offer stories that all ages can enjoy.

Henry: Indeed, we all have a kid inside us, struggling each day to remind us to not be too serious.

Tell us about your latest projects.

I have two brand new projects… The first is a brand new “Herobear and the Kid” adventure. It’s called “Picture Day”, and it is a fun one-shot story about Herobear and Tyler (the kid) saving the bridge in their town of Simpleton from an attack by the villain Von Klon and his “Sub-of-Doom.” “Herobear and the Kid” is a very nostalgic series with superhero origins.  It’s written with the feeling and tones of Wonder Years and A Christmas Story.  So with this story, I had fun writing about the memory of our school picture days and added in the adventure of fighting maniacal metal piranhas.

The other book I have coming out is a new children’s picture book entitled “Timmy and the Moon Piece.” It is the story of a little boy, named Timmy, and his fat little guinea pig, named Ton, that find a piece of the moon in the front yard one night. They decide to build a little rocket with their red wagon and fly the piece back up to glue it back to the moon.

Henry: I’m struggling to integrate “tone of Wonder Years” with “maniacal metal piranhas”. Well played, sir.

What do you hope readers will get from reading it?

My hope would be that with both these books, the readers enjoy the time they spend with my characters on the adventures.  I hope at the end, they have a smile on their face.

What aspect of writing or illustrating do you find most challenging?

Sometimes it’s the scheduling and balancing of regular life that is the hardest to juggle with the writing/illustrating responsibilities.

What is a powerful lesson you’ve learned from your career?

Make sure you love what you’re creating. Don’t do it to please others, because you can’t please everyone. So make sure you love your creations first. That will then come through to the readers…your “tribe.” Enjoy the process and value your results. Don’t rush through your projects and not enjoy the the creating of them.  And always celebrate the end result.

Henry: That is very sage advice.

What has been a memorable experience that you never would have had if you had not been a writer/illustrator?

The opportunity to have traveled to Angouleme, France with my family. An overwhelming experience that was made even more amazing because I could share it with my wife and kids.

Henry: Travel is great. We just got back from Europe. One of our stops was the Belgian Comic Strip Center. You gotta’ love the Belgians. They put a comic museum inside an Art Nouveau building designed by Horta! We’ll be posting about our visit tomorrow.

What advice would you give to aspiring authors or illustrators?

The simple advice is “don’t give up.” But really that covers so much. Stick to your dreams…go after them daily…even if you make teeny, tiny progress, keep at it. And the foundation for all of this is when you have a dream, make sure you also have plan toward that dream. And the plan may change or adjust, but make sure you have one to follow and don’t give up.

Henry: Many people mention persistence. But you bring up other important aspects: plan and adapt. “No plan survives contact with the enemy.” — Field Marshal von Moltke

Do you have any favorite quotes?

A couple that I really like are by Ray Bradbury… “Do what you love, and love what you do.” “Build your wings on the way down.”

Henry: The latter seems a tad risky to me.

Do you have any strange rituals that you observe when you write or illustrate?

Hmmm, not that I know of… Though my kids say that my eyes “bug out” a little bit when I get really into a drawing.

If you could have one superpower, what would it be?

Definitely flying. I would love to be able lift up off the ground and fly through the clouds.

If you could have three authors over for dinner, who would it be?

Dr. Seuss, C.S. Lewis, Stephen King, L. Frank Baum, Stan Lee, Ray Bradbury. . . Each one of these has inspired me tremendously in different ways. I’d love to get the chance to talk personally with them and see them all interact.

Henry: I said “three.” Clearly, two of them have crashed the dinner. My first Lewis read was, of course, Narnia, but his “Mere Christianity” knocked my socks off making cogent logical arguments for religious beliefs.

What do you like to do when you’re not working?

Traveling with my family, waiting impatiently for football season to start…and considering I’m always writing and drawing, I do like to sleep every once in a while.

Henry: “A life of leisure and a life of laziness are two things. There will be sleeping enough in the grave.” – Benjamin Franklin

Where can readers find your work?

“Herobear and the Kid” can be found all this week at SDCC at the Boom Studios Booth. And both “Herobear” and “Timmy and the Moon Piece” can be found online at http://www.theastonishfactory.com.

This article is also posted to the San Diego Children’s Books Examiner.