Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Super Star Children's Book Review: The Poet X

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.

By Elizabeth Acevedo • Jacket art by Gabriel Moreno
Young Adult (ages 13 & up) • 365 pages
Harper Teen, HarperCollins Publishers • 2018
ISBN 978-0-06-266280-4

Winner of the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature, the Michael L. Printz Award, and the Pura Belpré Award

At 15, Xiomara knows what it’s like to be “unhideable.” She is tall, womanly, and suffers the comments, stares and occasional grab by the men and boys in her neighborhood. Xiomara means “one who is ready for war,” but she is struggling to find her place between her Dominican Republic Mami’s religious expectations and the desires she doesn’t dare give voice to. Instead, she pours her words into a notebook where they are safe, waiting to be heard.

A new teacher sees what is hidden in X and invites her to join the Spoken Word Poetry Club. But the timing conflicts with her confirmation classes at the church, and regardless, X’s mother would never understand. A random assignment in Bio class brings a boy into her life who pulls X out of her silence and listens. But this boy also makes her mother’s worst fears real, and X has to risk letting her warrior voice out in order to survive.

This breath-taking, exhilarating novel in verse is filled with emotion and finds the bottomless heart of every girl caught in the space between her parent’s wishes and her truest self. Every award it has won is deeply deserved.

Buy this book:

Barnes & Noble

Independent Bookstores

Reviewed by: Laurie L. Young

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Super Star Interviews: Christophe Jacques

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 so excited to be chatting it up with the fantastic Illustrator, Christophe Jacques! I absolutely love his graphic, modern-vintage style! Christophe studied at the LUCA School of Arts in Brussels, specializing in illustration. Christophe graduated in 2008 and since then, has been gradually making a living as an artist. He focuses on illustrations for children, and loves to create colorful, bright worlds. His first book as an illustrator will be published later this year. (Congratulations, Christophe!! Hooray!) Christophe lives and works in Flanders, Belgium. You can enjoy more of his artwork here!

Everyone loves to be drawn, even pups!

Q: I absolutely love your graphic, modern-vintage style and your delightful earth-toned palettes! Dish with us a bit about your creative process—from inspiration to sketches to final artworks.

A: I always think about how to create "fun". It's hard to explain what "fun" is exactly. Fun, to me, is a sensation, that attracts the eye of the reader. Illustrating is a gut feeling, and I can't explain it rationally. I do try to put variety in my compositions, from filled-with-life to very minimalistic spreads. Rhythm is so important. But again, I draw it like I see it in my head. My main mission is making it clear and readable. Same can be said about my choice of color. I pick them intuitively. The only color that I try to avoid is purple because I feel purple doesn't work so well with my textures.

I use Pinterest to look for inspiration, and most of the time it's art from the fifties and the sixties that really inspires me. I work almost exclusively in Adobe Illustrator, even for texturing. I only use Photoshop for finishing touches. Illustrator is vector-based and it feels like if I'm sculpting.

My sketches are the worst, and they look very different from my final artwork. Nowadays, I'm trying to sketch in Illustrator, so that I can fine-tune them later and win a bit of time. I believe it's not commonly done this way, but it feels right to me.

Textures are a big part of my work. I developed 2 textures when I was in art college and I still use them today. One is a monochrome, pixelated grey color spread, that give little nuances to the clean vector drawing. The other is a monochrome spread with red tones. I just put them on top of my vector artwork. The main idea is to make my drawings look like if they were painted with gouache, because vector drawings look too artificial most of the time. 

An escape from the zoo or just an afternoon on the town? You decide!

Q: Give us the scoop on your MOST favorite illustration project, one from your past and one from your present.

A: I'm still a beginner and I'm in the process of publishing my first book, a book about castles for the French publisher Milan Presse.

The biggest honor I had so far, was making a drawing for Bravery magazine. I really admire their mission, and their magazine is so beautiful printed. Their artists are top-notch, so I was humbled to be in there, along them. 

Recently, my agent got me a new deal, something I'm very excited about. I can't tell much about it yet, but the setting is New York City. I always wanted to draw New York, with its old buildings. When I was reading the script, I could picture it immediately. 

Don't worry, Piggie! You'll feel happy & clean when it's over!

Q: What are your top 3 most loved children’s books? And how have they influenced you & your artwork?

A: I don't really have a favorite. I always loved the Roald Dahl-Quentin Blake combo. As a kid, Quentin Blake was the first illustrator whose style I recognized and he will always be an all-time favorite. All the giants from the fifties and the sixties have influenced me: Šašek, Sempé, J.P. Miller, The Provensen, Roger Duvoisin, Graboff, Alain Grée, Fiep Westendorp, Jim Flora, Ronald Searle,...My list of inspiration is endless.

Modern illustrators influence me too, of course. There's so much choice, and I really love the diversity of styles. I think I have a varied taste. For example, I love artsy books, but I do enjoy comic book art as well. The most visual influence in my work is Miroslav Šašek. Even though the text is very minimal, I can spend hours with his This Is... book series.

Q: What would be your absolute biggest DREAM project to be hired for?

A: I would love to draw a book with only animals. I just love to draw animals. And strangely enough, I'd love to draw something in a World War 2 setting. It's a bit of a passion. I do read a lot about that subject. 

Party time! Hip, hip, hooray!

Q: What advice would you give fellow illustrators about self-promotion, working with an agent and developing an art style?

A: 1) Self-promotion—

The best tool for me has been Instagram so far. My agent found my profile there and signed me. That was a pivotal moment in my career, because I was able to quit my regular job and make a living as a full-time illustrator. 

I still have to invest more time in self-promotion, like building a personal website. I'm currently in the privileged position of having work until the end of this year. But I don't know what the future brings, so if I don't have any commissions next year, I'd immediately invest my free time in self-promotion, like sending postcards to publishers. My agent often emphasizes the importance of that, and she does postcard mailings on a regular basis.
Editors love to receive them, and they put them on their desks. They often share them with other editors who are looking for artists. I really think it's a very effective way of making your work visible.

2) Working with an agent —

That's the best thing that has ever happened to me. Some of my illustrator friends work for bigger agencies, and they often feel like a number. My agency is a boutique agency, so the communication is very personal. My agent, Christy, knows my schedule, what projects I would like and she really knows how to make good deals. She's involved in every phase of the process, so it's good to have someone who has your back. I know some people prefer to work without an agent, but I think that having one is the best way of getting in touch with publishers.

3) Developing an art style—

Let it come natural, and draw how you feel. Copying other artists is good for practicing your skills, but don't copy just because you want to draw in the same style. Try to incorporate some things that you like of other artists, in your way of drawing. 

Could it be Christophe, out for a walk?! Maybe!

Q: Describe your most perfect day.

A: A lazy day and I don't draw at all. I have been working a lot lately, so just a day off sounds great now (haha). I do love to walk a lot, in nature preferable. Luckily, I live in the midst of nature, with a nearby forest. Being in the woods always helps me to clear my mind and getting rid of stress.

Thank you so much, Christophe, for chatting with us here at Bird Meets Worm! We love your artwork!!