Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Mummy Cat by Marcus Ewert, illustrated by Lisa Brown

I believe Mummy Cat came to my attention through a video review on a youtube channel. However I found out about it, I am exceedingly glad to know it. I seem to be collecting books old and new that are inspiring and motivating in their excellence and bring me hope as far as interesting, original work getting picked up by large publishers. This was put out last year by Clarion Books under Houghton Miflin.

The wonderfully gothic cross-species love story strays from the safe territory kids books are expected to stay within. From the start, death is a central theme, as the two main characters, a queen and her pet cat, are mummies.

The gothic motif and the educational content make this an uncommon book. The fact that it is paired with excellent art makes it an outstanding book. Brown's work is beautiful. She is the real deal. Her use of papyrus texture works very well as do her strong lines and rich colors. The only thing I would have changed is the lack of strong shadow. Shouldn't a tomb be gloomy? A little darkness would have hit home the melancholy story. The character design is cute and friendly enough to have supported darkness without getting too scary.

The story is followed with an appendix - two illustrated pages giving background on the historical bits woven into the story. I love this kind of geekery. There is a postscript as well mentioning the Egyptologists that proofed the book for any inaccuracies. Picture books that impart knowledge are rare and marvelous. The idea of including real world details and esoterica into kids books is exciting and I will definitely be doing same.

Super lovely Egyptian themed endpaper

As you can tell, despite my blurry phone pic, the illustration work by Lisa Brown is amazing!

Excellent use of watercolor and ink, maybe gouache too. Ms. Brown has a timeless style, elegant lines and unassuming simple shapes.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Little Gorilla — My Micro Library Find

I'd like to give a little praise to an old picture book I just found out about. I picked this one up from a microlibrary while on a walk with my baby boy. I love the mocrolibrary trend that is growing in Seattle residential neighborhoods. Although, I don't have my own, I've picked up and left dozens of books with them.

This particular find is titled Little Gorilla and is by Ruth Bornstein. It was first published in '76 but has more recently been released as a board book. This little book is a gem and pleases me on four levels.

Firstly, I love the art. The colored pencils are really great. It lends a softness and handmade friendliness that must be lost on the legions of illustrators insisting on using cold pixels to ply there craft. The drawings themselves are full of character and humor, especially the gorillas.

Secondly, I love when authors illustrate or illustrators author. There is a certain synthesis that happens rarely found in collaborations. Bornstein created this book, both words and pictures. Also, it is the opposite of what the childrens book publishers try to do. they insist on taking authors stories and pairing them with an illustrator from their stable. This to me seems like a fantastically bad idea but it's what we as creators trying to get published are up against.

Thirdly, my little one loves this book. He flips the pages eagerly to get to the page with a lion baring his  teeth and then leans in to get a good look.

I should also mention that is a very sweet story with a simple message of love and acceptance.