Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Super Jane on the Picturebooking Podcast

I'm thrilled to share I'm chatting ALL about my new picture book, HELLO NEW HOUSE, with the fabulous Nick Patton on the Picturebooking podcast today! Listen to it here!
BONUS: Picturebooking is giving away a copy of ALL the books featured on the podcast in November, including HELLO NEW HOUSE! Enter to win here!

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Super Star Children's Book Reviews: Jade Braves the Dark

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 L. 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 Valdene Mark • Illustrated by Sawyer Cloud
Picture Book (ages 4-8) • 34 pages
Published by Sugar Apple Books • 2020
ISBN-13 9781735124421

Jade Braves the Dark is an endearing picture book exploring a young girl’s fear of the dark. Jade’s mother tucks her in with a goodnight kiss, and as soon as she is alone, Jade feels the darkness creeping into her room. Jade tosses and turns, clutching her doll, but can’t fall asleep as she wonders about naughty fairies and monsters under her bed. Questions flood through her mind until she suddenly sees the brilliant, smiling moon shining through her room, illuminating her bed with sparkles and light. Comforted, the moonlight and darkness play together; Jade snuggles down and drifts off to sleep.

Jade’s fear of the dark is, of course, a very real fear for many young children. This book will provide a welcome place for parents to begin discussing these fears, and help little minds navigate their worries. Jade is a brave young girl and watching her overcome her fears will serve as inspiration for children.

Cloud’s luminous illustrations shine throughout, as does Mark’s delightful rhyming story. Jade Braves the Dark would be a wonderful addition to any children’s bookshelf, particularly for little ones who are wary of the dark.

Buy this book:

Barnes & Noble

Reviewed by: Sarah Orgill

Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Super Star Interviews: Charise Mericle Harper

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 thrilled to pieces to be chatting it up with the super funny, bestselling author-illustrator, Charise Mericle Harper! Her hilarious NEW graphic novel, So Embarrassing: Awkward Moments and How to Get Through Them, releases next week and we're so excited! Charise is a veteran talent in children's book publishing, having created numerous series, including Just Grace, Fashion Kitty and the Next Best Junior Chefs! She lives in Oregon. You can enjoy more of her work here.

Oh, geesh!!! We've definitely all been there! Ha!

Q: Your brand NEW graphic novel for kids, So Embarrassing: Awkward Moments and How to Get Through Them, releases in just one week with Workman Publishing! (Congratulations! That’s SO super star!) Give us the full scoop on this title: how you came to be writing & illustrating it, your working relationship with your publisher & which chapter is your most favorite.

A: Thank you! It is SO super to be here! Workman is a new publisher for me and they have been great. I knew it was going to be a good relationship, because my editor Chris Duffy, is someone I’ve known for years. I did comics for him when he was the comics editor at Nickelodeon Magazine, and then again when he was editing SpongeBob comics. I can honestly say—Chris is the nicest guy! It was so much fun to work on this book together. Now that the book is finished, I miss our weekly chats—fingers crossed we find a new big idea to work on together.

My favorite chapter? That’s hard. I have to sit with something for a while, before I can look at it without thinking of all the hours of drawing. I spent a lot of time in my studio (a revamped food truck) working on this one. I tried to make each chapter a little different—use a different storytelling method, change the characters up, change the art style etc. It was like building a jigsaw story puzzle, and then being lucky, and having all the right pieces at the end. My favorite character in the book might be the dog. If my dog could talk, it would be fun to have this kind of interaction with her—but she’s definitely more bossy than the dog in the book!

(Psst! You can pre-order your copy of So Embarrassing here today:)

So embarrassing! So funny!
Q: Graphic novels are the culmination of a LOT of specific book skills coming together in harmony: writing, illustrating, hand-lettering and graphic design. Dish with us a bit about your process for developing So Embarrassing from initial ideas to sketches to finished product.

A: I’ve been reading graphic novels/comics since I was a kid. My dad is French and we had a big collection of Tintin and Asterix comics. They were drawn in a way that was easy to understand and had the added bonus of being funny! I learned to read French by practicing with those books. I’m sure they influenced me. Putting words and pictures together makes sense to me. My favorite part of elementary school was always drawing the picture to go with a story and that was how I started my career. I worked as an editorial illustrator, then had a weekly comic strip in a paper in Chicago, and finally my own published picture book. This was not fast, it took years and years. So that’s the skill process—lots of learning time. I did not go to school for art. I have a very dusty, unused marketing degree.

The technical side of making this book is pretty straightforward. I sketched everything on an iPad Pro with an apple pen. I use the program Procreate—love it! Once the sketches were approved, I switched to Photoshop and used my Cintiq to do the lettering, line work and coloring. My original sketches are always detailed, so all the thinking and deciding work happens in the beginning. When I’m doing the finishes, I can let me brain wander, so I listen to audio books and podcasts.

As to the topic of embarrassment, I have a lot of experience with this feeling. I’m an avid blusher (not by choice) and have felt the force of embarrassment more than a few times. I wanted to make a book that was informative and fun to read. This book is full of silly stories of embarrassment, but there are facts and helpful hints too. Embarrassment is not age-specific, the same things that embarrassed me as a kid, still embarrass me today. Bird poop on my head, falling in public, forgetting someone’s name—it’s all awful, but it happens to everyone and that’s what I wanted kids to know. In the moment, you might feel light the spotlight is pointed directly at you, but you are not alone! Embarrassment happens to everyone. And here’s a secret, people love to share their personal stories of embarrassment—it’s a great way to connect with others.

Embarrassment = Hazard of being human!
Q: Humor and big laughs play a leading role in many of your children’s book titles, including So Embarrassing. Tell us a bit about creating FUNNY books and who/what/where inspires your sense of humor.

A: I’m going to have to go with my parents for this one. My father was a hard man to live with, but he had a sweet spot - humor. From pretty early on, I noticed that a funny story could change the mood in a tense household. It was like a super power. What do you do if you find a super power? Use it as much as possible! I grew up practicing the art of storytelling. My dad’s favorite stories were always the ones involving personal embarrassment or inept criminals. I still have a sweet spot for them. My mother is from England, so we watched a lot of British comedies on TV. I guess if you mix all that together, you find the origins of my sense of humor.

I feel so lucky. My job is to draw and write things that make me smile and sometimes laugh out loud.

So embarrassing! So silly!
Q: As an author-illustrator, you’ve created a wide variety of successful book series from Fashion Kitty to Just Grace! What advice would you give to fellow author-illustrators about how to approach developing a book series?

A: When I pack my luggage for school visits, I always add two jars of dried beans. One jar is four-fifths empty, the other is full to the top. At the school visit I hold up the full jar and say—this is how many books I have written. Then, I hold up the mostly empty jar and say—this is how many books I have published. Then I finish with this confession. My job is writing bad books. Look at all these beans. I’m really good at it, but sometimes I make a mistake, and I write a good book. Guess who loves mistakes?

Every author has a different process; mine is write, write, write, until I get something right. I don’t seem to have the ability to discern the difference between a good idea and a bad idea, until I get to the end of the idea. I wish it worked the other way around—I’d save a lot of time.

Neither Fashion Kitty or Just Grace started out as a series. I wrote one book and sent it out. It was my publishers who said—let’s make more. And that is definitely a nice thing to hear.

How fun is this?! Love it!

Q: I love your fabulously unique and fun embroidery artwork! Dish with us a bit about this creative outlet and how it relates to your children’s book work!

A: I’m impatient by nature. A big fiddler. I can’t just sit still and watch TV; I have to be doing something. That’s how the embroidery started. It was a way to make myself sit down and stay in one place. I find it extremely relaxing and satisfying. It’s nice to make a physical thing that I can see, touch and feel. I make all my books using technology, which I love, but it’s different than painting or drawing on paper.

I also like that there’s no reason to make the embroidery. It’s not an assignment or project. Once I finish a piece, I just stick it in the closet. The fun of the embroidery is the making part, not the looking part when it’s done. Plus, it takes the pressure off, knowing that I don’t have to hang it on the wall. Most of my embroidery pieces have words and pictures mixed together. I can’t seem to give up the words.

Nothing like a cool dip in the creek!

Q: Describe your most perfect Sunday.

A: My fantasy Sunday would be to explore a new town that had an amazing flea market, go for a nature walk, and then eat outside at cozy and not fancy restaurant.

My most perfect current Sunday is to go for a hike, pick up some yummy dinner and bring it home. I live in Oregon (5 years now) and I still can’t believe how pretty it is. On my daily dog walk, I cross through my small town, pass a pond with ducks, herons and the occasional nutria (looks like and swims like a beaver, but has a rat type tail), and then end up on a rocky beach along the river. My corgi likes to go in the river. She only goes up to her belly, but I can tell, it’s her favorite part of the day—not including dinner.

I’d say, except for the new town and flea market, I’m pretty close to fantasy.

Thanks SO much for chatting it up with us here at Bird Meets Worm, Charise! And congratulations on your fabulous new book!!

Monday, November 2, 2020

Vote! Vote! Vote!

Whether you're voting in-person or via absentee ballot, let's rock the vote this year! © Jane Smith