Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Super Star Children's Book Review: A Moon for Moe and Mo

Welcome to the monthly children’s book review feature with a focus on diverse books here at Bird Meets Worm! My team of reviewers 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 board 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.




A MOON FOR MOE AND MO
Written By Jane Breskin Zalben • Illustrated by Mehrdokht Amini
Picture Book (ages 3-7) • 48 pages
Published by Charlesbridge. • 2018
ISBN 978-1-5808-9727-3


A Moon for Moe and Mo is an interfaith friendship story that begins with a literal meeting in the middle, when two neighborhood boys, Moses and Mohammed, from opposite ends of the same block meet in a food shop that just happens to be right between them on their block of Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn, New York.

Immediately, everything the boys have in common is plain to see: their olive skin, their brown eyes, their curly hair, their loving moms, an upcoming holiday (Rosh Hashanah for Moses and Ramadan for Mohammed), celebratory treats to be made and the rambunctious, playful energy of little boys everywhere. They become friends without a thought to the one difference between them: their religions.

The vibrant, richly patterned collage illustrations will catch the reader up in this lively, delightful, life-affirming friendship story that reminds us that we all have more in common than we have differences. And beginning a friendship really can be as easy as saying, “Hello!”

Buy this book:

Barnes & Noble

Independent Bookstores

Reviewed by: Jane Smith

Monday, December 10, 2018

Reindeer & Elf

How do you relax during the holidays? Reindeer & Elf read together! XO • © Jane Smith

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Super Star Interviews: Muffin Grayson

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. 

I’m pleased as cinnamon eggnog punch to be catching up with the fabulous Illustrator/Designer, Pauline Grayson aka Muffin (How totally adorbs is that?!)! I'm a huge fan of her gorgeous hand-lettering and darling pattern designs. Muffin is a 
lover of life, her hunky husband, two gorgeous littles, living in Utah, finding joy in the moments, and making awesome art. She specialize in hand-lettering, illustration and patterns.  You can view more of her artwork here! 

The super fashionable Muffin! Check out those awesome earrings!!

Q: You are a hand-lettering rockstar! And you’ve even recently released your own original font: Roadtripper! How totally cool is that?! Dish with us about your creative & technical approach to hand-lettering as well as everything Roadtripper.

A: I fell in love with hand-lettering about 6 years ago, but couldn't seem to get the hang of it. I first took a local calligraphy class, which taught me the basics, but it wasn't the right tool (a hard pen and nib). Then I discovered brush lettering, which felt so much like me, kind of rustic, modern and free flowing! I just continued to practice and practice until my shapes began to look more like letters. I started following other hand letterers that really inspired me like Shauna Panczyszyn and MaryKate McDevitt. I took some classes on Skillshare.

Once I discovered I loved hand-lettering, I again was frustrated that I couldn't get my letters and shapes to look very good. I would try hand drawing them, tracing them, scanning them in—nothing seemed to be working. It wasn't until I discovered a Wacom Cintiq tablet that my art really took off! I could use my love for hand-lettering with a "medium" that really worked with me! There was a command + Z (undo) option! Working in Photoshop has really allowed me to use my love for hand-lettering and illustration together!

Then I discovered ProCreate and the Apple iPad and Pencil. Another medium that fit well with my style of lettering. I actually created Roadtripper on my iPad Pro. When I make up my mind to do something, I do it. I took a font making class online, where I learned the basics. But I didn't want to invest in the program to develop the font fully until I knew I loved making fonts, so I downloaded the free 30 day trial. That gave me 30 days to program my font and get it released. I know it sounds crazy, but it works for me. I'm happy to report that I loved designing Roadtripper, and I'll probably design more fonts in the future.

Love the energetic swoops & swirls!

Q: You are currently represented by the art licensing agent, Cinnamon Joe. What has your experience being agented been like with: 1) self-promotion 2) trade shows 3) following trends 4) workload.

A: I started working with Cinnamon Joe about 2.5 years ago. I had actually emailed Cinnamon Joe before, but with no response. I continued to develop my style until I felt it was good enough. Then I emailed CJS a year later, and this time we signed contracts. It has been great being my art directed by Andrea & Paul Turk. They really know their industry! My hand-lettering has really taken off and I've been able to see what is selling.

1) As far as self-promotion, we aren't able to show any full pieces of our work we develop for CJS due to copyright issues, but we can always develop other pieces to show. That's why I start passion projects, like my State Postcards, to show off my hand-lettering and illustration skills.

How totally fun!! I need the one from North Carolina!

2) Trade shows have been great because we don't have to pay any of the up front costs. We just pay for prints. I have attended 3 trade shows, 2 of them being Blue Print, which CJS hosts each year. It's great to meet other artists, agents, and buyers. Everyone is so friendly. It really does feel like family.

3) Andrea sends us mood boards almost every week. We can decide if we want to follow the trends she's sending, or stick to our own. But it really is up to us.

4) As for workload, CJS likes to have 2 collections from us each week. I don't quite get that many, as I'm a mom to 2 littles, and I work part-time for PetiteLemon.com designing Christmas Cards for Shutterfly.com. So that does take a good chunk of time. But any moment I get, I try to design some new collections for CJS. It has been super rewarding.

Love this hand-lettering & the sophisticated color palette!
                                          
Q: Tell us all about your MOST favorite illustration project: one from your past and one from your present.

A: I have really loved designing water bottles for CamelBak. They were one of the first "big" companies that contacted me to do work for them. It was a huge learning experience, as I had to use only a few PMS colors and learn all about a roller printer. That's how the bottles are printed with this rolling printer. Kind of cool!

I'm not working on any illustration projects right now, other than Christmas cards for Petite Lemon for Shutterfly. Christmas Cards keep me busy about 9 months of the year. But I am working on some personal projects that I hope to share soon!

Ooo! There's still time to order your holiday cards on a fabulous design by Muffin!!

Q: Give us the scoop on who/what/where inspires you the most!

A: Honestly, my family inspires me the most. My kids, because they are always so intrigued by new things, and I hope that they see my passion and want to pursue their own interests. And my husband, because he is always so supportive of any crazy ideas I have.

I also love love love books! I'm always on the hunt for any new art or vintage books. Usually about things that I'm interested in, whether it's lettering, interior design, or even a book about animals.

Q: What advice would you give fellow illustrators looking for success in the field of art licensing?
A: I would say get your art out there. Don't be afraid of rejection (something I'm still working on). Reach out to other artists, agents and buyers. And eventually something will work.
Just start creating and showing others your amazing art. 

Bright, modern & totally rock star!

Q: Describe your most perfect Sunday.

A: Sundays are all about family. It would start with a hot breakfast. One of my faves being Leige waffles with strawberries and whipped cream. Church. Lunch. Games with my family. A nap. A walk. And perhaps I'd have some friends or family members over for dinner. I've chosen not to work on Sundays, and it has been the greatest blessing in my life.

Thank you so much, Muffin, for chatting it up with us here at Bird Meets Worm! We think you're fabulous!

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Happy Thanksgiving from Super Jane

Squirrel Thanksgiving = Leftover Halloween Pumpkins! • © Jane Smith

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Super Star Children's Book Review: Hey, Kiddo

Welcome to the monthly children’s book review feature with a focus on diverse books here at Bird Meets Worm! My team of reviewers 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 board 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.




HEY, KIDDO
Written & Illustrated By Jarrett J. Krosoczka
Graphic Novel (ages 13-17) • 320 pages
Published by Scholastic, Inc. • 2018
ISBN 978-0-5459-0248-9


Hey, Kiddo is a graphic novel memoir by celebrated children’s book illustrator, Jarrett Krosoczka. It is an empathetic, honest, and ultimately hopeful, snapshot of Krosoczka’s childhood growing up with his grandparents in the absence of both his mother, who struggled with heroin addiction & the law, and his father, who was little more than a mysterious shadow.

In high contrast black and white ink, softened in sepia toned washes, Hey, Kiddo offers both the hard truth of the insecurity, confusion and hurt of being connected to a parent who is an addict, as well as the contrasting, and seemingly contradictory, love and tenderness that can live alongside it. Krosoczka’s sensitive portrayal of the “gray” area where a child can receive both the best and worst of their families, can be both hurt and loved by them, is where the powerful offer of connection lies. Children—and adults alike—who recognize this experience in their own lives will be both validated and comforted in this read.

They will also be offered hope. In layering into the story his passion for art and the numerous ways it connected him to his mother, his grandparents, his community, Krosoczka demonstrates that there are lifelines that can and will see one through to safety, to purpose and to acceptance.

Hey, Kiddo is an important, timely read that is in and of its self a lifeline. And that, is most definitely something worth holding onto.

Buy this book:


Barnes & Noble

Independent Bookstores

Reviewed by: Jane Smith

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Thanksgiving Sticker Card for Design Design

I'm pleased as apple cider punch to share my NEW Thanksgiving Sticker Activity Card for Design Design!! It's the perfect holiday fun for the little ones in your life!  Shop it here now!


How totally cute is this Thanksgiving sticker scene?! I'm so thankful for stickers!! • © Jane Smith 

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Super Star Interviews: Olivia Chin Mueller

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. 

I’m pleased as apple cider punch to be catching up with the fabulous Illustrator Olivia Chin Mueller! I'm a long-time fan girl of Olivia's adorable artwork and love that we are fellow T2 artist, both of us being represented by the lovely Nicole Tugeau. Olivia is a children’s book illustrator from Connecticut who graduated from RISD in 2014. She currently lives in Rhode Island, and loves her cat, moths, and anything cute! You can view more of her artwork here!

Ooo! The cutest trick-or-treaters ever!!!

Q: I absolutely love your sweet, adorable style that is a mix of classic golden book vintage and modern technique. Dish with us a bit about your unique art style—how you approach your artwork & what inspires you?

A: When I first started illustrating, I was much more focused on editorial work. Because it was typically only one image for those types of jobs, I was able to work in a very painterly, fully rendered style. However, when I decided to try out children’s books, I realized that this technique was not practical for multi-image projects! It was too time consuming, and to me, just didn’t seem to fit the child-like tone. I decided to try out a style that was a bit flatter, but still had a slight painterly feel! Thats how I ended up with the style I have now—something kind of flat, yet textured!

Like you mentioned above, I am very inspired by vintage Golden Book illustration! The colors and textures on those books are so beautiful to me, and is something I want to capture in my own work!

Oh, no! Mirabel, you've lost your valentine!!

Q: You had two super CUTE picture books release this year: Mirabel’s Missing Valentine and Princess Puffybottom—and Darryl. Give us the full scoop on these two titles: beginning, middle and end of each project.

A: I feel like Mirabel was a very important book for me! Not only because I relate so much to the shy mouse main character, but also because I experimented with a new style while working on this book! There were a lot of landscapes in this story, and I wasn’t quite used to drawing them. (I normally like to draw very close up scenes). However, the style I found to make those scenes work for me is now something I want to use in all my future work! I had to be a lot looser in those images, and it turns out I really liked working that way!

The beginning of working on Mirabel was difficult for me, because I was still trying to figure out how to approach it, But once I figured it out, it was probably the most fun I’ve ever had illustrating a children’s book!!

The very definition of cuteness overload!!! I love it!

Princess Puffybottom actually gave me a similar problem. Tundra asked if I could draw the cat in the story in a way I had only done once before (an image they found on my Instagram from years prior). I had basically forgotten how I had done it, and what brush I had used back then! It took a lot of back and forth until I finally was able to replicate the style! I'm thankful they stuck by me while I figured it out! I think it turned out great though, and I’m so happy they asked me to work that way again!

This story was also unique for me in that the tone of the book was much different than what I was used to illustrating. The books I had worked on in the past all had a much more serious tone to them—people tend to hire me for slightly ‘darker’ books because of the work in my portfolio. However, Princess Puffybottom is a very happy and funny story, with lots of things that would make people laugh! I was asked to draw both cat poop and dog puke in this book, both of which were definitely firsts for me!! It was great to experience something new, and I’m so glad I was able broaden my illustrating horizons with such a great story!

Q: You have two very unique hobbies: creating felted wool animals and raising silk worms! Tell us ALL about these hobbies and how they inform/inspire/support your professional illustration work.

A: I started needle felting in high school after I took a class on wet felting with my mom! It turns out I didn’t really like wet felting at all, but it introduced me to needle felting! I bought a book about it soon after, and then I started making and selling little animals as a way to make money while in school, instead of getting a summer job! Although my needle felting shop has been closed for years, I still needle felt occasionally for fun or for gifts!

I think that learning how to needle felt has definitely helped my illustration work! It helped me to understand things in a 3D way. I remember when I first started illustrating, I would create my character first in felt, which would then help me draw it from different angles!

How gorgeous is he?! We are big fans of bugs in my house!

Moths have always been one of my favorite creatures! I find them to be so fuzzy and cute, and even more beautiful than butterflies! I'm actually afraid of most insects, but not moths for some reason!

In college, I took a class on insects, where we often took field trips to the woods or fields to collect insects and study them. We also learned how to pin and preserve them for display! I became fascinated after this, and when the class was over, I found a website where you can purchase moth cocoons to hatch and raise. I made a little inclosure, and bought a bunch of cocoons from different silk moth species. (I think I started out with Luna moths, Cecropia Moths, and Polyphemus moths). Almost all of them hatched, and I had so much fun observing and drawing them! When they died a week or two later (these species of silk moths only live about one week or so as adults, because they actually don’t have mouths to eat with—their only purpose is to reproduce at this stage!) I preserved them all and still have most of them in a shadow box on my wall!

Q: Chat with us a bit about your MOST favorite illustration projects: one from the past and one from the present.

A: I think my favorite recent project I worked on was Princess Puffybottom, for all the reasons I mention above!

Although its not from that long ago, my favorite project from the past was definitely the two books I got to illustrate for Golden Books: I am a Kitten! and I am a Puppy! It has always been a dream of mine to do work for them, so illustrating those was so surreal!! Plus, I got to draw cute kittens and puppies for a couple months straight which is never bad!

Gorgeous Golden Books! Hello, Kitten!

Q: It seems like everyone these days wants to illustrate children’s picture books! What advice would you give to illustrators looking to break into the children’s publishing industry? And what advice would you give to fellow professional illustrators looking to continue working in the industry?

A: I think having an agent is important! Especially if you are like me, and aren’t very good at negotiating or reading and understanding contracts! I also think that having an online presence, like an Instagram and Twitter account, is very helpful for not only gaining exposure on your work, but making friends and connections in the industry!

I think the biggest thing I’ve learned in the few years I've been working, is to only fill your portfolio with work you want to get hired for! I remember in the beginning, I drew a bunch of children and babies for my portfolio, because I thought thats what I needed to do. However, I really prefer drawing animals, so when I would be hired to draw babies I wouldn’t enjoy it! After I took down those images from my website, I got hired for things I loved! I guess that seems kind of obvious, but it didn’t occur to me!

Q: Describe your most perfect day.

A: It's exactly 62 degrees, and I’m inside watching movies with my cat, Minnow, while sipping on some hot chocolate!

Thank you so much, Olivia, for chatting it up with us here at Bird Meets Worm! We think you're amazing!!