Build your book? Children’s book illustrators have new options.

Illustrations that move and make sounds at the touch of a finger.  The age of the interactive children’s book app has arrived.

We talked with Ezra Weinstein and Richard Johnson of InteractBooks,  a publisher of books for iPads back in December in Austin.  Weinstein is a programmer, app developer and the son of a school librarian. His business partner Johnson has a background in the computer gaming industry.

Things have moved right along for their company InteractBooks since that Saturday lunch visit.  Their free InteractBooks (Version 1) app is scheduled to be released on the Apple AppStore on February 28,  2011.  (If you want to download their free app for your mobile device you get it from iTunes right here.) Several new Interact children’s picture book s will be ready for download by then.

The company is already working on InteractBooks App Version 2.  When it comes out,  Weinstein and Johnson will also  make available their  free InteractBuilder tool that will run on Mac and PC platforms.

“The InteractBuilder will allow developers of all ages to create and publish their own InteractBooks to their supported tablet and smart phone devices,” Weinstein says. “Publishers can use the InteractBuilder and our InteractPublisher tools to publish their own books for sale in our online marketplace. “

“If you want to build your own children’s book, graphic novel, or educational content into an InteractBook, please be sure to sign up for the InteractBuilder Community on our website and we will send you details as they are available,” Weinstein says.

See the InteractBooks website, Facebook page or iTunes page to learn how to sign up to be a beta tester for the InteractBuilder.

Lots of companies are jumping into the iPad and mobile device book space,  including, of course the major children’s publishers.  Yes, it’s a new technology scramble and you do hear allusions to the Rushes — for Oklahoma Land and 1849 California Gold.  Rush.  This is a virtual landrush that has long-time publishers and media companies drooling — and maybe a little bit frightened. No one is quite sure yet how the business model should work.  In publishing, supply typically exceeds demand and so the trick remains: How do you capture public imagination and achieve mind share?  It’s the same old quest for readers and eyeballs, though the platforms seem to be changing.

You can read more about how entrenched traditional publishers like Harpercollins are gearing up for the new era of “reading media” and discover a few tips about how to evaluate children’s book apps in this School Library Journal round-up by Elizabeth Bird.

Weinstein and Johnson, though both love books and the idea of being publishers, are also interested in selling their platform software to existing publishers, educators and marketers. And they’ve found that children’s picture books — with their artwork that drives the stories — make a marvelous vehicle for showing off their interactive book-building and publishing technologies.

Watch more of the interview with Ezra and Richard Johnson (seven short videos total) on the IllustrationCourse.com YouTube channel.

* * * * *

2011 Caldecott Medal awarded to Erin Snead

The Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association (ALA) awarded the Caldecott Medal to Erin Snead for her illustrations for the picture book

A Sick Day for Amos a few weeks ago, during the annual ALA Conference.  Named in honor of nineteenth-century English illustrator Randolph Caldecott, the medal  is awarded each year to the  artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children published in the U.S. that year.

A Sick Day for Amos McGee was written by Philip C. Stead, and is a Neal Porter Book, published by Roaring Brook Press, a division of Holtzbrinck Publishing.

Below are the runners-up — the two Caldecott Honor winners.


Dave the Potter: Artist, Poet Slave
illustrated by Bryan Collier, written by Laban Carrick Hill and published by Little, Brown and Company, a division of Hachette Book Group, Inc.


Interrupting Chicken Written and illustrated by David Ezra Stein, and published by Candlewick Press

We have winners!

We have our winners for the free portfolio critiques and the group intensive sessions at the Austin SCBWI 2011 Regional Conference coming up in two weeks.

Illustrator Shelley Ann Jackson of Austin has won a free portfolio consultation with illustrator Julian Hector and Illustrator Debbie Meyer of McKinney, Texas has won the free portfolio critique with David Diazcourtesy of the Texas Sweethearts and Scoundrels.

Author-illustrator Frances Yansky's portfolio display

Debbie Meyer, Bobbie Dacus and Debra Haun won free front row seats at the group intensive session with Julian Hector. And Bobbie Dacus won a portfolio review session with me.

Congratulations, gang! Thank you to everyone who entered the contests!

* * * *

Enter to win Will Terry’s video course

I’ll be giving away a free pass to children’s book llustrator and instructor Will Terry’s wonderful eight video course on children’s book illustration! The prize will go out next month to whoever writes me the best e-mail short essay on the following topic:

“What’s the major discovery you’ve made or the biggest insight you’ve learned this year in drawing or  painting, or marketing oneself as an artist in  the children’s publishing field?”

So that’s it. Just write about your best discovery or insight into the craft gleaned over the past 12 months.  Your essays do not have to be long — just fun to read and genuinely helpful. Look for the award to go out  in March.  I’ll review Will’s first online video course in an upcoming post.

"A Dragon Moves In" written and illustrated by Lisa Falkenstern

Name chosen for Lisa Falkenstern’s book!

New York illustrator and now author-illustrator Lisa Falkenstern reports that she has completed and submitted all of her finished art for her picture book A Dragon Moves In, to be published later this year by Marshall Cavendish. You might remember that we ran a poll for her back in June to help her decide on a title for her picture book. Lisa and I want to thank all 367 readers who voted or offered write-in suggestions for titles! The feedback helped her and her editor  choose from the list of possibilities they were considering but a little stuck on.

Austin SCBWI wrapping up registration for” Boots”

Yikes! Boots, Books and Buckskins has just about filled up and the gates are about to close.  The cut-off date for registering for the 2011 regional conference of the Austin chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) is this Thursday, February 10.

St. Edwards University, home of the Austin SCBWI 2011 Conference

Spend a day at one of the most beautiful college campuses in Texas, St. Edward’s University hearing from Caldecott Medal winning illustrator David Diaz, author-illustrator Julian Hector, National Book Award winning YA novelist Kimberly Willis Holt, publishers, editors and the agent (Emily van Beek)  who represents this year’s Caldecott Medal winning illustrator-author team.

The conference is being sponsored by St. Edwards University and InteractBooks, the iPad book publisher featured in this post.

Register online and/or download the conference information and registration packet.

"Make Your Marks; Make Your Splashes!" course“Marks and Splashes” sale ends Thursday

A 25 percent off sale for the  “Make Your Splashes; Make Your Marks” course extends through the end of day Thursday, February 10.   It’s to  draw attention to the 2011 expansion of the online course, which teaches how to draw and paint effectively for children’s book illustration.  The price for the 2011  version will be higher, but students already enrolled in the course will receive the upgraded features and benefits at no cost.

If you’re interested in enrolling at the sale price, you have about 24 hours from the date and time of this post to go to this page, click on the “enroll now” button near the bottom and enter the following coupon code in the field box on the registration form where it says, Enter coupon code:   Here’s the code ED292AF0DC

The code is good through the end of Thursday.
Current and past (online) students do not have to re-enroll.  You’re already in.

Houston SCBWI 2011 Regional Conference

“The Art of Book Craft” –  Houston SCBWI 2011 Conference slated for April

The Houston SCBWI 2011 regional conference The Art of Book Craft is set for Saturday April 9 at Merrell Center in Katy, Texas.  Get your details and registration form here.  Let me just telegraph some of the line-up of presenters:

Ruth McNally BarshawAuthor-Illustrator of the Ellie McDoodle Series
Laurent Linn, Art Director
, Simon and Schuster
Brenda Murray, Senior Editor
, Scholastic
Abby Ranger, Editor
, Disney Hyperion
Anna Webman, Agent
Curtis Brown
Kate Fletcher, Editor
, Candlewick

and more authors, agents and editors. Diandra Mae,  a friend and the illustrator -coordinator for the Houston SCBWI chapter says that Laurent Linn, the art directorfor Simon and Schuster plans to  “do a general assembly presentation as well as a ninety minute breakout session for illustrators, portfolio critiques.”

“He’ll also judge the portfolio showcase,” she adds. “We’re ironing out all the details of his sessions now, but I’ve heard he’s  a fantastic presenter!”

Is your buffalo ready for kindergarten?

Austin SCBWI illustrators enjoyed meeting Daniel Jennewein,  illustrator of Audrey Glassman Vernick’s picture book Is Your Buffalo Ready for Kindergarten (Balzer & Bray/HarperCollins) on his swing through Austin on a U.S. book tour that was scheduled to include an appearance at the SCBWI National Winter Conference in New York City.  Jennewein works as an illustrator and commercial designer in Frankfurt, Germany.  Some members of the Inklings, a picture book critique group under the Austin SCBWI took him and his wife, YA literature blogger and Texan Lenore Applehans to lunch at the Shoal Creek Saloon after Jennewein’s appearance Saturday January 22 at BookPeople. They were accompanied by several other Central Texas YA blogger friends.

Austin illustrators meet with German illustrator Daniel Jennewein

Austin, Texas SCBWI illustrators meet with German illustrator Daniel Jennewein and friends.

Left to right (top) are authors, writers and  illustrators Jeff Crosby, Shelley Ann Jackson, Daniel Jennewein, Martin and Marie Fry, Amanda Gignac (Zen Leaf), Daniel’s wife Lenore Appelhans (Presenting Lenore), (bottom) Maury Tieman, Mark Mitchell, Jenny Bragdon and Sarah Pitre ( both of Forever Young Adult)

* *I* * *

Richard Johnson and Ezra Weinstein, founders of InteractBooks at Tokyo Sushi. See all of the interview videos at http://YouTube.com/user/IllustrationCourse

Ridin’ down to the “Boots, Books and Buckskins” conference? Here’s your chance to win unbelievable contest give-aways for illustrators!

Hey,  illustrators and aspiring illustrators! Be the first kid on your block to win an in-person portfolio critique from Caldecott-Medal winning children’s book  illustrator David Diaz!  How?

Illustrator David Diaz

David Diaz draws a face for children at the Abilene, Texas public library.

It’s easy! First register for the Austin SCBWI 2011 Regional Conference  Boots, Books and Buckskins coming up February 18-19. You can do that right here and read all about the conference and the amazing faculty of  top authors, illustrators, children’s book publishers, editors — an agent and social media expert, too —  right in the packet  along with hotel information, campus map, schedule, break-out sessions,  author intensives and portfolio reviews and your EZ-peazy registration form.  Handy and amazing, right?

You don’t have to belong to the Austin SCBWI chapter to attend Boots, Books and Buckskins.  But you’ll  receive a discount for belonging to the National Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI.)

St. Edwards

St. Edwards University, Austin Texas, home of the Austin SCBWI 2011 Regional Conference

Good so far? OK,  next step is to e-mail the Texas Sweethearts, let them know that you’ve registered. You’ll be automatically entered into the contest to win the free portfolio reviews.  Who are the Texas Sweethearts? A small  group of dynamite published Austin area  Y.A. , middle grade and children’s authors you’ll want to know about, anyway.  See their blog here.

What if you enter the contest and don’t win a portfolio review with David Diaz?  It’s OK. Because this  is a big contest with more than one prize!

You might win a portfolio review with author-illustrator Julian Hector, another presenter.

Gentleman Bug by Julian Hector

Or you might win a review with author-illustrator Frances Yansky.

Or manuscript critiques by authors Jessica Anderson,   Bethany HegedusKari Ann Holt P.J. HooverJeanette Larson or Brian Yansky.

I could go on a bit about these authors because I know  them.  Instead  I’ll focus in on the two illustrator stars of Boots, Books and Buckskins David and Julian.

(The lineup of non-illustrator stars includes National Book Award author Kimberly Willis Holt, Egmont USA, vice-president and publisher Elizabeth Law, Arthur Levine Books editorial director Arthur Levine, agent Emily van Beek and many other wonderful presenters.)

David Diaz talks to kids

Illustrator, Designer, Caledcott Medal winner David Diaz

David Diaz

David Diaz was awarded the Caldecott Medal in 1995 for his work  in Smoky Night, about the L.A. riots, written by Eve Bunting.  His other award winning books include  Eve Bunting’s Going Home and Newbery Honor winner,The Wanderer by Sharon Creech.  Diaz’s colorful illustrations in Margaret Wise Brown’s The  Little Scarecrow Boy led to the book being named the New York Times “Best Illustrated Book” for 1998.

1995 Caldecott Medal winning "Smoky Night" by Eve Bunting, illustrated by David Diaz

Most Most recently  David has teamed up with renowned author Joyce Carol Thomas to create The Gospel Cinderella, a soulful retelling of the classic Cinderella story.  He’s on the advisory board for the SCBWI Nationa. He recently curated the national touring Golden Kite; Golden Dreams – an exhibit of original illustration art from SCBWI Golden Kite Award winning- books over the past 30 years.

Julian Hector

Julian Hector was born in Los Angeles, raised in rural Texas and received a BFA from Parsons the New School for Design, in New York City.  His clients include Disney-Hyperion, Scholastic, Harper Collins, and Simon and Schuster Julian Hector is represented by Rebecca Sherman of Writers House.  His books include Gentleman Bug (Atheneum Books for Young Readers) and The Little Matador (Disney-Hyperion).

The Little Matador by Julian Hector

The Little Matador by Julian Hector

So why,  you just might ask, are the Texas Sweethearts giving away the free portfolio critiques by David Diaz and Julian Hector — instead of — well for example,  let’s say an un-named children’s book illustration blog  by someone who just happens to share the same SCBWI chapter as them ?

Luck of the draw.  Ever-alert Sweethearts Jessica Lee Anderson and P.J.  Hoover won the portfolio critiques as door prizes at our recent Austin SCBWI Christmas Holiday party.  Since they’re not illustrators, they decided to exploit the windfall on their blog as a way to promote our regional conference.  Because everybody loves a contest!

So read PJ’s explanation to make sure you  understand the rules.  In a nutshell:

1.) Prepare yourself to come to Austin, Texas if you’re not already here. And Register for the conference here. (You’ll find the enrollment form to fill out and send in on the last page of the PDF.)

2.) E-mail the Texas Sweethearts to let them know you’re in.  Here’s the address:
texas_sweethearts@yahoo.com

Truly, these are your last chances for consultations with Diaz and Hector at the conference.
The paid portfolio sessions with them have all sold out!

Not to be eclipsed by the Sweethearts’ generous contest, I want to give away something too.

I’ll give away two front row seats to the two small group intensives that Diaz and Hector are individually doing on the afternoon of the conference.  Spots in these  “special sessions” are going fast for $20 apiece.

I’ll also give away one  portfolio review by me — since I can’t give away any by David Diaz or Julian Hector.  Since the Sweethearts are doing that.

To compete for my three prizes:

1.) Register for the Boots, Books and Buckskins Austin SCBWI Regional Conference before it sells completely out (seriously, it will.)

2.) Post a comment on this blog — or send me an e-mail — letting me know you’ve registered and which small group intensive session you’d like catch during the conference.  My e-mail address is: Mark@HowtoBeAChildrensBookIllustrator.com

I’ll pick three winners a week or two before the conference.  Note: You can  enter the Texas Sweethearts contest and mine at the same time to double your chances for a prize or prizesa! Try for everything!  You might win from me and the Sweethearts!

Now I have to show the Texas Sweethearts video.
Because I think you’ll see from this how it’s hard to stay peeved at them very long for winning  the Diaz-Hector portfolio critique doorprizes and making the most of their windfall with a blog contest.

Clearly these particular door prizes,  in a more perfect world,  should have been won (to be given away) by — let’s just say a more illustration-centered blog.  I won’t mention any in particular.  (In fairness to the Sweethearts, they recently expanded their ranks to include two author-illustrators Emma Virjan and Don Tate, along with authors K.A. Holt and Jeanette Larson. Now they go by the moniker Texas Sweethearts and Scoundrels – because Don’s in there.)

Anyway the video with its honky tonk soundtrack by Sharif hits so many of the same color notes as Boots, Books and Buckskins that it could be the conference theme as well.

The Texas Sweethearts and Scoundrels

Go here to Register for the Austin SCBWI 2011 Conference –  February  18 and 19,  2011.  Send the Texas Sweethearts and me your messages (details above.) Prepare yourself to possibly win one-on-one professional consults,  portfolio reviews, manuscript critiques and/or front row seats at exclusive small group intensives.
* * * * *

Clint Young Interview on “Literary Asylum

Clint Youngs "Toast"

Wonderful interview with Austin SCBWI’s own superbly talented Clint Young on D.N. Cunningham’s Literary Asylum blog. Clint talks of how his daughter’s name for her pet stuffed pig  inspired the picture book Toast that was acquired by  Feiwel and Friends, of creating his own Photoshop brushes to paint, and his work for LucasArts as a Star Wars concept artist. Read it here.

* * * * *

Hop on to Mark Mitchell’s Make Your Marks; Make Your Splashes online course — about drawing and painting good illustrations for books and other children’s media — before the price goes up in January!  Learn a great secret for better drawing here.

* * * * *

Shelley Ann Jackson and Jeff Crosby share their art

Author-illustrators Shelley Ann Jackson and Jeff Crosby shared their work with the Inklings, a picture book critique group under the Austin SCBWI chapter Sunday.

Nick Alter and Jeff Crosby at the ” Inklings”  get together at the Green Muse Cafe.  The artwork being shown in this  binder is by Tiffanny Varga, an Inkling  illustrator and fine artist.
“Inklings” checking out the art of Jeff and Shelley.

Shelley Ann Jackson
Illustrator Shelley Ann Jackson shows off work done by her and her husband illustrator Jeff  Crosby for their book “Little Lions, Bull Baiters and Hunting Hounds: A History of Dog Breeds” (Tundra Publishing) and several other book.

* * * * *