Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Sasquatch Father's Day

Happy Father's Day from daddy & baby sasquatch! • © Jane Smith


Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Super Star Children's Book Review: Lupe Wong Won't Dance

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.


By Donna Barba Higuera
Jacket art by Mason London • Jacket Design by Maeve Norton
Middle Grade (ages 8-12) • 272 pages
Levine Querido • 2020
ISBN 978-1-64614-003-9

12-year-old Lupe Wong is an athlete, an activist and has her eye on a career as a professional baseball pitcher. A big part of that goal is getting to meet her idol, the first Asian-Latino pitcher in the major leagues, Fu Li Hernandez. Her uncle Hector works for the Mariners and has offered to introduce her if she gets straight A’s this quarter. Easy for Lupe—until her PE coach throws her a curve ball when she announces the curriculum for the class: square dancing.

No way. How can something that’s not even in the Olympics be considered a sport? Lupe will not accept this horror and puts her activism to good use, coming up with plan after plan—including a petition—to persuade the coach to go back to their usual volleyball or basketball classes.

All her efforts fail and Lupe is forced to come to terms with what she is willing to do for that very important A.

This is a very fun read, full of wit and heart and longing. The writing is sharp and smart, and Lupe is a great middle grade character. The situations and emotions feel real and you will root for Lupe, even as she tests the patience of everyone around her.

Buy this book: 

Reviewed by: Laurie L. Young

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

MerCat Pirate Adventure

It might be June, but in my heart it's still MerMay! Arg! Shiver me whiskers, Matey! • © Jane Smith


Super Star Interviews: Matt Schumacher

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 pleased as pink lemonade punch to be chatting it up with the fantastically talented illustrator Matt Schumacher! I'm a fan girl for his moody and mysterious artwork. Matt lives and works in Portland, Oregon. After studying art and design at the University of Oregon, he worked as a graphic designer and editorial illustrator before switching his focus to book illustration and fine art. He also enjoying creating zines and runs the small press, Dark Hour Books. When he's not drawing, Matt spends his time reading, watching YouTube videos and shooting 35mm film. You can view more of his awesome artwork here.

Ooo! I'm ready for a good story—how about you?!

Q: Your artwork is full of moody color, detailed interiors and whimsical characters! Dish with us about your creative process—ideas, development, materials, techniques—and how it all comes together.

A: A lot of my early art inspiration came from newspaper comics and black-and-white reprints of 1960’s super hero comic books. Those were all extremely high-contrast out of necessity, because they had to compensate for the crappy print quality of newsprint. But I tried to draw like that because I loved them so much, so using a lot of black was my starting point. I tend to think in high-contrast with regards to drawing, and it’s how I solve a lot of compositional problems. I started using ink with brushes and metal nibs from mimicking comics, too.

Nowadays my drawings are made largely like comics were. I start with a pencil drawing, then trace it with black ink. Then I erase the pencil lines and add washes of colored ink. Colored ink is a great medium for me. I don’t feel bad about potentially wasting any of it because it’s so affordable. And it’s very portable, the bottles pack nicely into a bag. I also work digitally, especially for client stuff with a lot of back and forth. When I do, I try to make it match my other stuff, and when I make something I like digitally I try to replicate it in ink later if I can.

Moody & mysterious—need I say more?! 

Q: The Pacific Northwest has a strong sense of presence in your artwork. How has Oregon—in time, place & attitude—influenced and inspired you as an artist and visual storyteller?

A: I bet it’s influenced me in ways I don’t even realize! But because a lot of my learning to draw has just been from looking at the stuff around me to copy it, I know the PNW has had a big effect on the stuff I draw. Everything here in Portland tends to be framed by trees and bushes, casting dark shadows, and that’s how I imagine the scenes I draw. The clouds and rain are fun to draw too, because they have an emotional association to them that I’ve acquired from growing up here.

Also Portland has a general “DIY” attitude, not just with artists. There’s this sense that you can take a shot at doing something yourself, and if it doesn’t turn out perfect then that’s okay because you were more-or-less playing around anyway. I like that because it gives me permission to do the same.

I wonder who lives here...and do they drive a motorcycle? (That's a uniquely tiny garage!!!)

Q: You have a gorgeous, on-going series of custom house portraits! Tell us a bit about how this series began & developed and which house you like the best.

A: A few years ago I realized that I didn’t really know how to draw houses. So I started taking photos of interesting ones when I was out walking on my lunch break. At that time I was working in a neighborhood with a lot of cool Victorian houses, with so many interesting features on all of them, stuff I would have never thought to draw. Then later I would draw from these reference photos. It turned out that I really like drawing houses. They have this narrative quality to them that interests me. And they imply a human presence without necessarily showing any people. As I started to draw houses more and more, people started asking me to draw theirs. Since then I’ve just kept doing it.

I don’t know if I really have a favorite that I’ve done. The thing about these is that I learn a little something from every one of them, so when I look at them I tend to think of those lessons. In this one with the peahen, I was happy with how the underpainting of pink and yellow worked. And in this blue and orange one from a couple years ago, I liked what was happening with those bushes. Things will sometimes go well in a surprising way and I try to recreate it in another drawing later.

Don't ya wonder who is up late upstairs?!

Q: You also run a small zine press and have several self-published original zines, which are on sale in your Etsy shop. How does this creative endeavor both stand alone and work in conjunction with your children’s book publishing efforts?

A: One thing I love about zines is that they’re pretty low-risk, and you can try stuff out and see how it works because the format isn’t overly serious. Zines are pretty cheap to make, so it’s really just a time investment. So in this very accessible way you get to see your work in a book that you can hold in your hand and flip through. That’s very thrilling for me. And when you see your stuff in that new context, it can help you notice where it’s falling short or where it’s surprising you in a good way.

Zines also have kind of an intimacy to them, where they feel like a peek into someone’s head in a way more traditionally published books don’t. I started the micro press because I know people who I think would make great zines, but for whatever reason they aren’t doing it themselves. I’m trying to use my experience from my personal zine-making to facilitate it for them. I also like designing books, and I wouldn’t get to do it as often if I just had my own to design. The micro press is just getting going, and I’m excited to see where it goes!

I think as a person doing creative work you need permission every so often to take yourself a little seriously. Or at least take your work seriously. Zines can be a good vehicle for that too.

Gotta love a hands-on venture! Flashing back to art school in the 90's...

Q: What would be your absolute DREAM illustration project?

A: A goal of mine is to have someone publish a story I wrote and illustrated. Basically I want to get something very idiosyncratic out there that really feels like it came from me. I don’t exactly know what that book would be, but at this moment I’m imagining a lot of dark and rainy landscapes. That’s really what I feel like drawing most of the time.

Q: Describe your most perfect Sunday.

A: I think my perfect Sunday would involve sleeping in after having gone out on Saturday night. I’d have breakfast and go on a long walk taking photos and stopping into shops. I’d probably buy a book while I was out and read it when I got home. Also I’d like it to be 60 degrees and sunny out, with a very light breeze.

Thank you SO much, Matt, for chatting it up with us here at Bird Meets Worm!