Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Snow Angels

Snow angels are the most fun with friends! • © Jane Smith

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Super Star Children's Book Reviews: My Papi Has A Motorcycle

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.

Written By Isabel Quintero • Illustrated by Zeke Peña
Picture Book (ages 4-8) • 32 pages
Published by Penguin Random House • 2019
ISBN 978-0-525-55341-0

When Daisy’s papi gets home from work, their most favorite thing to do together is zoom around their neighborhood on Papi’s motorcycle. They cruise by favorite shops, past Abuelito and Abuelita’s house and over to the construction site where Papi is working, all while taking in the joyously familiar sights, sounds and people of their city.

When Daisy and Papi experience an unfamiliar sight—a beloved shave ice shop has closed—there is a momentary sense of unease. Quintero quietly juxtaposes this moment next to Papi building new homes nearby. And there is a sense of moving forward that is caught up in the energy of Peña’s fluid line work that is at once playful and peaceful.

My Papi Has A Motorcycle is a celebration of the bond between a daughter and her daddy, all wrapped up in a love letter to the Southern California city of Corona, where author Isabel Quintero grew up. My Papi Has A Motorcycle revels in a strong sense of place that has been infused into every detail from citrus and cacti to distinctive stucco buildings to the dusky desert palette rich with pinks, oranges and yellows.

My Papi Has A Motorcycle is a delightful read—sweet, exhilarating and beautiful!

Buy this book:

Barnes & Noble

Independent Bookstores

Reviewed by: Jane Smith

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Super Star Interviews: Jessica Gibson

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 absolutely delighted to chatting it up with the fabulous Illustrator Jessica Gibson! I'm totally head-over-heels for her bright, fresh, gorgeous artwork! And huge bonus: she has a NEW non-fiction picture book out, complete with super fun sound chips! 
Jessica is from the Riverfront area of Detroit, Michigan, and has been drawing whimsical, expressive characters and concept art since the moment she first picked up a pencil. A love of animals, nature and picture books have always inspired her and has led to a career in illustration. Jessica has produced illustrations for a number of publishers and brands, such as HarperCollins, Scholastic, American Girl and Workman Publishing. You can see more of her artwork here! 

Now that's hoppin'!!!

Q: Your bright & beautiful NEW picture book, Welcome to Jazz, released this fall with Workman Publishing! And it’s a delight! Congratulations!! Give us the full scoop on your new book! (Psst! You can buy it here!)

A: Thank you so much! This title was a real treat to work on. While I worked on a variety of types of children’s book before—board books, nonfiction, books with die-cuts—Welcome To Jazz is my first book with sound! I used to love reading books like these growing up.

Welcome To Jazz is an interactive swing-along non-fiction story. In it, you’ll follow these three cats characters, (actual feline cats, because “jazz cats”. Get it?) who visit a club called The Ripe Tomato, where they watch a jazz band perform When The Saints Go Marching In. Throughout the book, these characters walk you through the various musical instruments being used, music terms and definitions, and some history about the origins of jazz music.

Of course, the exciting feature of this book is the sound chips included. It has up to 12 different buttons, each playing a different instrument sound. A real treat for kids and music enthusiasts. 

Those sure are some cool jazz cats!!! Adorbs!

Q: Illustrating non-fiction requires detailed research that translates directly into the artwork. Chat with us a bit about your approach to illustrating Welcome to Jazz and all it’s wonderful details—accurate instruments, period dress & bits of jazz history.

A: This book was quite a laborious project to work on due to the non-fiction aspect, but I was up for the task. I just couldn't pass up the opportunity to work on a children's book about this topic. I grew up being exposed to and loving Jazz music my whole life. I practically listened to it during bedtime as a kid every night. Not kidding! I feel like it is not appreciated as I think it should be and is often misunderstood. It always hurts me when some people say they can’t stand Jazz. So I took on this project as an opportunity to give.

A lot of research was done for this project. The story is set in New Orleans, Louisiana, where Jazz music originates from. I had to look up things about the city that I needed to draw; landmarks and buildings like the Congo Square and Haiti, for example.

I had to also research typical clothing the band would wear when they’re performing. At the end, we stuck with a more modern, snazzy attire that you see on the characters now.

The biggest challenge came from illustrating the musical instruments accurately, as you can imagine that was really important, since this is a non-fiction educational book. It took a lot of research and scrutiny to sketch & draw the instruments just right. Especially the brass types like the trombone and tuba. So many twists and turns. But I managed to pull it off!

Fun fact: Did you know I played the trombone for 8 years?! No kidding!

Q: Your art style feels both fabulously vintage, yet delightfully modern. Dish with us a bit about your creative process—inspiration to sketches to color artwork.

A: Thank you! I think for the most part, a lot of my doodles come randomly for my personal work. I mean, I do take inspiration from observing real life, reading books, animations, and other artists I admired, too.

For children’s book projects, I plan more accordingly. First, I read the manuscript, followed by some rough, messy sketches of the characters. Some research for references on how to draw certain things may be required depending on the project. Next I start jotting down little thumbnail ideas of images for the book. I like doing this stage in a sketchbook. Thumbnails allow me to explore a number of different composition ideas quickly. They also help me make sure to leave room for type and the gutter. Once I have some concepts I happy with, I move on to final sketching. Once final sketches are approved, I start the coloring process. Sometimes I try to use very specific color palettes based on the theme and tone of a story. In Welcome To Jazz, for example, when people think of Jazz, I think we imagine these bold, vibrant colors and abstract shapes, and I really wanted to have elements like that in the illustrations.

How can anyone resist stickers? Especially cute DOG stickers?!

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

A: That’s a touch question, because there were a lot of great projects I've done.

I’ll say my favorite past project was with American Girl Magazine when I got to design these cute dog stickers for them. I grew up reading American Girl books and even owning a doll from them before, so this was like a dream client.

And my favorite present project has to be that I’m illustrating a children’s book project that's still in progress. The title is called Time To Roar, written by Olivia Cole, and it probably won’t release until another year from now. Maybe sooner. It's a powerful picture book that shows the importance of using your own strong voice to defend what you love. I can’t wait to share more about it!

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: I always try beginning my workday by starting my good self-care routine first. Drink water, have a healthy breakfast, and doing a quick 15-minute workout. Then I usually start with an assessment of what tasks are ahead for the week and planning what to do first. Every week can be different. One week I will be working on thumbnails for a picture book, the next I'm commissioned to illustrate a cover for a magazine.

I try to keep a good schedule for all these things, especially for the self-care ritual, but it can be tough as a freelance illustrator. Having good time management skills take some time to develop.

"Hey, Foxy! Can I listen, too?"

As for my main work space, I have a little office setup in a spare room, which consist of a desk, my work computer, a Wacom Cintiq Pro and a basket where I keep some sketchbooks and a few office/art supplies like ink pens & markers. I have a lounge chair and small TV in there, too, for break time. A bookcase where I keep a lot of inspiring Art-of-books. But the main attraction of my work space is the decor I set up. I try to make my area very serene and enchanting, so I have some small plants placed here & there and some string lights hanging on the walls. And on these string lights, I hang various photos and postcards I collect from traveling, small art prints from other artists, and a decorative chalkboard with “Creativity Takes Courage” written on it.

Q: Describe your most perfect Sunday.

A: My ideal Sunday would start with a calm and relaxing breakfast in the morning, my go-to meal would be oatmeal with some fruit and nuts on top. Then I usually go out for a walk or a hike with friends at the River Walk, sometimes feeding geese that we meet along the way. Then it's usually back home where I lounge on the couch, either reading or watching a funny movie with my two cats snuggled up with me.

Thank you so much, Jessica, for chatting with us here at Bird Meets Worm! Welcome to Jazz is so gorgeous! Congratulations!!!