Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Sub Stop

Under-the-sea schools send a sub, not a bus to fetch the students! Obviously! ;D • © Jane Smith

Super Star Children's Book Reviews: Front Desk

Welcome to the monthly children’s book review feature with a focus on diverse books here at Bird Meets Worm! My team of reviewers—Joan Charles, Laurie Young, Sarah Orgill—and I are so excited to be championing books celebrating everything from gender diversity, people of color, the LGBTQ community to ethnic, cultural and religious minorities, people with disabilities and developmental challenges to controversial topics, unique family situations and anything and everything I did not include. It is to say we take a rightfully broad view of diversity! We aim to shine a light on books that bring both familiar experiences to those who do not often see themselves represented in books and new experiences to those looking to expand their worldview. Here at Bird Meets Worm we believe in the power of story to build empathy and thus a better world for you and me and everyone. Look for a new review on the second Wednesday of every month.


FRONT DESK
Written by Kelly Yang
Middle Grade Chapter Book (ages 8-12) • 286 pages
Published by Arthur A. Levine Books • 2018
ISBN 978-1-338-15779-6


Fifth grader Mia Tang is like an imaginary superhero—by day, she’s an American school kid—by night, she steps behind the front desk to help her parents run the motel where they work and live. Although the motel is only five miles from Disneyland, the park might as well be on the moon for all the relevance it has in Mia’s life.

For one thing, she’s picked on and teased at school because she’s different. A) She’s Chinese, and B) her hand-me-down clothes are seriously uncool. And most importantly, C) she wants to be a writer, something that’s not so easy for a girl who’s still wrestling with the intricacies of the English language.

Mia must contend with problems and face crises that are far beyond her years. She and her family encounter prejudice and racism—aimed not only at themselves, but at other immigrants and the poor weekly residents who live at the motel.

She has a beyond-her-years ability to see the other side and the determination to stand up for what’s right. Mia learns to use her resourcefulness and her skills as a writer to give a voice to the powerless, and along the way, she finds her own voice as well.

Front Desk is an honest, sometimes funny, sometimes stark look at the immigrant experience in United States. Mia embodies love, understanding and tolerance—qualities we should all embrace when dealing with those we perceive as “different”. Front Desk reminds us that in the end we are all looking for the same things—love, understanding and a sense of belonging—and our “same-nesses” are far greater than our superficial differences.

Buy this book:

Barnes and Noble

Independent Book Stores


Reviewed by: Joan Charles

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Dino Piñata Party!

Don'tcha just wanna party with these dinos?! I know I do! • © Super Jane Smith

Super Star Interviews: Sujean Rim

Welcome to my monthly interview feature! I’m so excited to be interviewing all the fabulous artists, illustrators and designers I’ve meet over the years (both personally and virtually!) and sharing their artwork and experiences here on Bird Meets Worm. Look for a new interview on the first Tuesday of every month.

This month I’m pleased as pink lemonade punch to be chatting it up with the fabulous Illustrator, Sujean Rim, who has a brand new picture book releasing this month! I'm a long-time fangirl for her lovely & sophisticated artwork, going all the way back to Sujean's days illustrating for Daily Candy! Sujean is the author-illustrator of the Birdie book series (which is too cute for words!), Zoogie Boogie Fever!, Chee-Kee: A Panda in Bearland and more. Her illustration clients include Tiffany & Co., Target and Daily Candy. She lives in New York with her favorite artist, husband Bob, and their son, Charlie. You can see more of her artwork here! 

How totally fabulous is this book cover?!

Q: Your gorgeous, stylish & sweet NEW picture book, I Love My GlamMA, just released! Congratulations!! (Psst! You can buy it here!) Give us the full scoop on your new book! And is there a GlamMa in your life that inspired you?!

A: Thank you so much! I’m so thrilled. I Love My GlamMA is the first picture book I illustrated for another author. I’ve been a long-time giant Samantha Berger fan, so I was excited about the idea of working with her, and then just fell in love with her manuscript celebrating grandmothers and couldn’t wait to get started. As a daughter, a mother and woman who is inspired by and loves to support other women, I immediately started doodling and covered my ‘mood wall’ in my studio with tear sheets and photos of glamMAs that inspire me—everyone from Diana Ross to Queen Elizabeth, and of course, the biggest mama in my life, my son’s grandma—my mom.

Stylish daughters come from stylish GlamMOMs and GlamMAs!

Q: I absolutely adore your lovely artwork and its’ unique blend of watercolor, collage and pattern. Dish with us a bit about your creative process—inspiration to sketches to color artwork—and how you balance these mediums.

A: Thank you (xoxox)! I like working from doodles to directly painting. For me, if I stop and go too much with a watercolor, I get tight and lose my flow, so I usually work out a few layouts in a sketch book and once I feel I know what I want to do, I just dive in and paint. Sometimes it comes quickly, other times it doesn’t and I might go thru piles of watercolor paper, but I have fun with it and sometimes happy accidents happen, where a splash of water takes on unexpected shapes and patterns that make the piece better.

If I’m incorporating collage, I dig into my boxes of printed papers for patterns and textures that I think would work well and use them as if it were another color of paint in my palette. I’m pretty old school and should probably learn how to do Photoshop already, but I don’t do anything digitally. When it comes to collage, I just use my x-acto knife to cut out my shapes and glue them on with rubber cement…just like I did back in high school.

Ooo!! Love your hat, GlamMA! 

 Q: Fashion is a huge influence on your style, aesthetic and subject matter. Who, what, where has ignited, fueled and inspired your love of fashion?

A: I always loved fashion and wanted to be a fashion designer since I was in elementary school. I’m sure having a glamMOM with all sorts of colorful, furry, fuzzy, shiny and sparkly things in her closet sparked my interest. Then it was old classic movies, I had a huge girl crush on Audrey Hepburn. I went to Parsons School of Design for Fashion and did a year in Paris where I was fueled by going to fashion shows and seeing gorgeous things I’ve never seen before and eating loads of baguettes. After graduating school, I went on to work in the fashion industry, designing shoes and accessories for many years. I met some stylish friends along the way who continue to inspire me today.

Napping should be part of everyone's beauty routine!

 Q: Tell us about your typical workday as a freelance Illustrator—routines, rituals & practical practices. Set the scene for us, too—what does your creative workspace look & feel like?

A: It was harder than I thought once I took the leap from working in the corporate world to becoming a full-time freelancer. It was fun for maybe two weeks to stay in my pj’s and hopefully, brush teeth by noon, but I’m the type that needs a little structure in my life. My studio is in my home, which takes a lot of discipline. I’m not naturally wired to set a schedule to just work and not get sidetracked with the dishes in the sink or the UPS delivery that just rang at the door. I don’t have a set routine, but a general day starts with me being the first one up in the kitchen. I write down 3 must-do’s for the day over coffee, after my husband heads to work, and my son hops on the school bus. Then I head down the hallway to my studio. We recently moved, so things aren’t quite set up as I’d like, but I have a good size room to work in with shelves of art supplies and books and 2 work tables (one to sit and paint & the other to stand and collage or make a mess on). I usually have a few projects going on at the same time, so I like to have things pinned up where I can see them grouped together, so I made a full cork board wall and a white board wall to write notes, ideas and reminders. I also have a plant that I somehow managed to keep alive for 15 years in there to keep me company along with music that’s always playing in the background.

Looking good, ladies!!!

 Q: Many commercial illustrators dream of illustrating picture books. What advice would you give them about making a successful transition to children’s book publishing work?

A: Whether you write and/or illustrate, stick only with stories you truly love and feel personally connected with, something you would want to work on even if you weren’t getting paid. And stick with your own art style—its easy to get influenced by looking at other books you like or worrying about catering to a specific audience, where you might second guess how you might approach an illustration, so try to remember you were hired because of your work/style. I feel so lucky to have been able to write and illustrate my first book, Birdie’s Big Girl Shoes ten (yikes!) years ago. I never thought I’d find myself in the children’s book industry back then, being a shoe designer at the time, I just wrote about what I knew and really loved and painted the only way I knew how.

Don't you get all the warm fuzzies here?! XO

Q: Describe your most perfect Sunday.

A: A slow paced morning with coffee and eggy breakfast, reading the paper and flipping through catalogues that collected in the mail during the week followed by a walk or bike ride with my family, afternoon drinks with friends. Then finding and making the “perfect” Sunday dinner recipe and ending the night with a good (preferably funny) movie at home.

Thank you so much, Sujean, for chatting it up with us here at Bird Meets Worm!! Congrats on I Love My GlamMa! It's gorgeous!

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Super Star Children's Book Reviews: Jasmine Toguchi Mochi Queen

Welcome to the monthly children’s book review feature with a focus on diverse books here at Bird Meets Worm! My team of reviewers—Joan Charles, Laurie Young, Sarah Orgill—and I are so excited to be championing books celebrating everything from gender diversity, people of color, the LGBTQ community to ethnic, cultural and religious minorities, people with disabilities and developmental challenges to controversial topics, unique family situations and anything and everything I did not include. It is to say we take a rightfully broad view of diversity! We aim to shine a light on books that bring both familiar experiences to those who do not often see themselves represented in books and new experiences to those looking to expand their worldview. Here at Bird Meets Worm we believe in the power of story to build empathy and thus a better world for you and me and everyone. Look for a new review on the second Wednesday of every month. (PS You may have noticed that today is actually Tuesday! In deference to summer schedules at the Bird Meets Worm nest, we're posting a day early. Enjoy!)

                         

JASMINE TOGUCHI MOCHI QUEEN
Written By Debbi Michiko Florence • Illustrated by Elizabet Vukovic
Middle Grade Chapter Book (ages 6-9) • 107 pages
Published by Farrar Straus Giroux • 2017
ISBN 978-0-374-30834-6


Jasmine Toguchi is a spunky, Japanese-American girl, who is tired of her older sister, Sophie, always getting to do everything first. Just once, Jasmine wants to be the one who gets to go first! And not with just anything—with something big, something special. Maybe even with something that no one else has EVER done before!

When Jasmine’s family gathers at her home in Los Angeles to celebrate the New Year by making the traditional sweet, gooey rice dessert, mochi, Jasmine cleverly spots an opportunity to do just that! But it turns out to be harder than it looks, and Jasmine finds herself suddenly full of doubts.

Jasmine Toguchi Mochi Queen is a delightful middle grade novel—the first in a series of four—with a bright, young voice that vividly evokes the elementary school child, much like Ivy and Bean and Ramona Quimby. Universal themes of wanting to grow up, stand out, and find belonging within your own family are woven neatly into the story against the backdrop of Jasmine’s Japanese-American family, the multiple generations represented by her relatives and their beloved food traditions. Japanese words are also peppered throughout, giving authenticity and enjoyable character to the text.

The energetic artwork by Vukovic brings it altogether and readers will enjoy the expressive depictions of Jasmine’s many moods as she goes from annoyed little sister to clever schemer to—finally—mochi queen!

Buy this book:

Barnes & Noble 


Independent Bookstores 


Reviewed by: Jane Smith

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Super Star Interviews: Courtney Dawson

Welcome to my monthly interview feature! I’m so excited to be interviewing all the fabulous artists, illustrators and designers I’ve meet over the years (both personally and virtually!) and sharing their artwork and experiences here on Bird Meets Worm. Look for a new interview on the first Tuesday of every month.

This month I’m tickled summer sunburn pink to be chatting it up with the lovely Illustrator, Courtney Dawson, who just happens to be a fellow Tugeau2 artist! I'm a big fan of her gorgeous & playful artwork and I'm sure you will be, too! Courtney grew up in a sunny suburb of Southern California with a love for drawing, reading and most kinds of ice cream. She moved to San Francisco after high school, where as an undergraduate she majored in Women & Gender studies and discovered her passion for creating positive texts for children that are beautiful, inclusive and empowering. Courtney also received her MFA from Academy of Art University in Visual Development. She specializes in color styling, prop design and children's book illustration. She loves rainy days and painting to Sam Cooke. Courtney currently lives in Ventura with her partner and wild toddler. You can see more of her artwork here!

Looks like so much fun! Can I play, too?

Q: Your artwork is full of sophisticated color, movement and fantastic characters! Dish with us about your creative process—concept to sketches to finished art—and how it all comes together.

A: I feel like the concepts for my pieces are really random! I find myself trying to connect with my inner child a lot. As a kid, I know I didn’t see myself in the picture books I had or really any media I consumed. I keep that in mind a lot. So concepts often come from me trying to make work that I would have liked to see as a kid. That being said, sometimes my concepts for work are totally random and come to me when I’m in the shower!

I try not to spend too much time of sketching—I keep it really loose. I love color, so I often jump straight into laying down color and finding a pallet that I like. I love painting and that’s where I spend most my time with my work.

What a sweet friend! How do you say hello in parakeet?

Q: You have a background in animation. In what ways has this foundation served you in your work in children’s book publishing from both an artistic and a business perspective?

A: I actually got my MFA in visual development for animation. My main interest was in doing color styling. I definitely carry that tool with me into children’s literature. I learned how to use color as a tool for setting mood and telling story.

As far as business goes I think my background in animation showed me what I really didn’t want. I took one picture book class in school and I knew that’s where I wanted to be. I love animation, but my true passion was and is in illustration.

Let's meet at the cafe & talk art, illustration and love!

Q: You grew up in Southern California, went to college in San Francisco and now live in Los Angeles. How has California—in time, place & attitude—influenced and inspired you as an artist and visual storyteller?

A: I was in the Bay Area for the last 10 years and that is where I really became who I am and saw myself grow as an artist. I felt most inspired by the city and all the people in it. In San Francisco, I always felt inspired by the hustle and bustle of the city, the diversity of humans, the loud sounds of the city in motion and all the quiet spaces in between.

I’m in Ventura California now, and I feel like I’m still adapting to this new environment. It’s completely different. I’m learning the beauty of small towns and finding inspiration from the ocean. Also, weirdly, connecting to my roots—I grew up in Southern California and it never really felt like home for me. I’m learning to make it my home now!

Q: Give us the full scoop on your MOST favorite projects: one from your past & one from your present.

A: My first book I got to work on was for Capstone. I loved that project! It was my first time getting to work as a professional picture book maker, so that project is very special for me!

I recently did an illustration for cricket media. It was my first time doing any kind of editorial illustration and I loved that! It’s so fun making just a one-page illustration. You have to figure out how to tell a story and a mood all in one illustration. It’s challenging and really fun!

EveryBODY is beautiful!!!

Q: What would be your absolutely DREAM illustration project?

A: It’s very important for me to be making work that is inclusive and empowering. My dream project is to work on a book about body diversity. I would also love to make a book about fat positivity. I want to work on projects that makes children feel like they are magic!

Q: Describe your most perfect Sunday.

A: I love Sundays! A morning hike, a park picnic, followed by spending a rainy night in with my partner and our son, Rowen. The change in weather is key! Haha.

Thank you so much, Courtney, for catching up with us here at Bird Meets Worm! We love your artwork!

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Unicorn Hugs Are The Best

© Jane Smith • Unicorn Hugs Are The Best!