ALA honors for Austin authors; SCBWI conferences and illustration classes for you

It’s been a landmark week for Austin children’s writers.  Three of our gang scored top honors– a Caldecott Honor, a Sibert Honor and a Newbery Honor from the American Library Association.

Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly

Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly

Our Austin, Texas  chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers (SCBWI) is a little dazed after last weekend’s 2010 award announcements.  Austin’ s Jacqueline Kelly received a Newbery Honor for her YA novel The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate about a girl growing up at the turn of the 19th century.  The  picture book poem All the World penned by Liz Garton Scanlon of Austin and illustrated by Marla Frazee was named one of the two Caldecott Honor books. (Frazee’s second Caldecott Honor.)

All the World

"All the World" by Liz Garton Scanlon, illustrated by Marla Frazee

The Day Glo Brothers by Chris Barton and illustrated by Tony Persiani

And The Day-Glo Brothers written by Chris Barton of Austin and illustrated with retro lines and Day-Glo colors by Tony Persiani won a Sibert Honor for children’s  nonfiction.  (From the ALA – “The Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Medal is awarded annually to the author(s) and illustrator(s) of the most distinguished informational book published in English during the preceding year.”)

Our SCBWI chapter claims all three of these writers and we’ll claim Frazee, too.  So that makes four.

All four,  as it just so happens  had been scheduled to present at the Austin SCBWI regional 2010 conference “Destination Publication” next weekend (January 30) with an already honors heavy lineup of authors, editors and agents. Marla  is giving the keynote address along with Newbery Honor author Kirby Larson (Hatti Big Sky)

Another Texan, Libba Bray won the Michael L. Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature for her novel Going Bovine. We’ll claim her, too — so that’s five.

The Lion and the Mouse by Jerry Pinkney - 2010 Caldecott Medal

The Caldecott Medal, the most prestigious award for children’s book illustration in the United States  went to Jerry Pinkney for his wordless telling of the Aesop’s Fable The Lion and the Mouse.

The Theodor Seuss Geisel Award for most distinguished beginning reader book went to Benny and Penny in the Big No-No!, written and illustrated by Geoffrey Hayes. We discussed Benny and Penny and other Toon Books in previous post.

Cheers and tears

Many of my Facebook buds are SCBWI  illustrators and writers. You should have seen how they were afire this week with exclamations, congratulations and jubilations over Austin’s harvest of trophies.

A number of our tribe were out of town at the Vermont College of Fine Arts for a residency semester for the MFA in writing for children and young adults. Their FB reports segued from fascinated discussions of snow and cold to tearful excitement over the ALA announcements (especially pertaining to Texas) which they followed on a streaming net feed projected on a large screen in the venerable campus lunchroom.

There are stories behind the stories as there usually are.  For example —  the 23 rejections for The Day-Glo Brothers before the manuscript was accepted by Charlesbridge then a five year wait before the  book rolled off the presses. You can read a little about its  nine year journey to publication on Chris’s blog Bartography.

Liz has her own story about coming to an impasse in her writing — until an editor’s chance comment got her riffing  again on a string of rhymes and word images, which turned into All the World.  I hope you get to hear or read her account of her process one day.  Liz and Marla will discuss their collaboration on the book at the Austin conference.

Texas Conferences

I keep hitting them here, but here are the links again.  You can download PDF information, schedules and enrollment forms. Austin SCBWI’s “Destination Publication” (January 30th) was nearly sold out, but here  you go; there might be a spot left. At last report there were still a couple of portfolio critique slots open with the wonderful illustrator, Patrice Barton. She’s the other illustrator in the day’s faculty lineup.

The Houston SCBWI conference is February 20 and will feature author Cynthia Leitich Smith, senior editors from Simon &  Schuster Books for Young Readers and Scholastic Inc.  and the art director for Henry Holt Books for Young Readers, Patrick Collins, who will review portfolios.  Collins also will teach a special breakout workshop for illustrators on “Making a Picture Book Dummy” during the day.  It’s an opportunity  not to miss.

Let’s take a break…

And see this fun video that’s remarkable for its characterizations and dialogue.  Animator  Caroline Ting overheard the two boys talking in a comic book store and used them as the voice actors for her little film she titled RAM (Random Access Memory) about…well,  an addiction peculiar to the 21st century (and I’m not talking about Farmville. ) I recognized  myself in it and you might, too.

Animals in the classroom?

For anyone living in the heart of Texas I’ll be teaching spring semester classes in children’s book illustration beginning next week at the Art School of the Austin Museum of Art .  The  six week  “Level 1” class begins next Wednesday evening 6 to 9 p.m.  January 27 — and runs through March 10 (with no class February 17. )

Level II is set for Tuesday evenings 6 to 9 p.m. March 23 – April 20 (five sessions.)  To register or if you have any questions contact the Art School at (512) 323-6380 or go to the website: www.amoa.org/artschool

If you want to take a course but live nowhere near Central Texas,  remember you have an online home-study option,  Make Your Splashes; Make Your Marks! Drawing and Painting for Children’s Book Illustration

Childrens Book Illustration class at the AMOA Art School at Laguna Gloria

Austin Museum of Art Art School at the Laguna Gloria campus, Children’s Book Illustration fall semester 2009.  Left to righ: Anney Rehm, Paula Engelhardt, Laura Smith, Naomi Smith, Halli Hollister, and April Richardson and some guinea pig friends.

Author-illustrator Mark Mitchell hosts this blog.  He teaches children’s book illustration at the Art School at the Austin Museum of Art and through the “Make Your Splashes; Make Your Marks!” online course.

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Caldecott Conversations: “Hugo” has the pictures…

Movie montage technique of “The Invention of Hugo Cabret” by Brian Selznik

So much for the requirement that picture books have 32 pages. Brian Selznick told his children’s story The Invention of Hugo Cabret in 530 pages — and it won the 2008 Caldecott Medal.

You know? The Caldecott Medal !! The American Library Association (ALA) awards it each year to the artist of what the association decides is the most distinguished American picture book for children.

The Invention of Hugo Cabret has reviewers saying that Hugo has invented at least the new format of the 21st century picture book and maybe that of novels and books generally.

Have they never seen a graphic novel? Anyway the book started a conversation, which of course is the right thing for an intellectual property to do.

Selznick’s book also was named a finalist for the National Book Award and was included on the The New York Times list of the Ten Best Illustrated Books of the Year. It’s already been optioned for the movies. Martin Scorcese wants to direct.

I leafed through it the other day at a nearby Barnes and Noble.  I have not read the book. When I do, I’ll talk about it here.

I’ll give you my reaction anyway:
It’s a movie between hardcovers. A storyboard in a book. The pictures are rendered in pencil with beautifully orchestrated darks and lights, and they stream at us like the montages in an Eisenstein  filmexcept occasionally they’re interrupted by pages of text and some still photos from some very early silent movies.

Weighing as much as a hardcover edition of War and Peace, the book bustled with set pieces, props and gizmos. I thought, “This is all too gadgetty and complicated for a small child to understand, much less enjoy.

“Why, if I want a ‘storyboard for a child’, I’ll go for Peter Spier’s 1978 Caldecott Medal winner Noah’s Ark. Now there’s visual storytelling perfection. It is huge but simple and human-scale — and it busts the 32 page rule, too, I continued the conversation with myself as I stood in front of the store-shelves of Caldecott-winners.

Hugo Cabret, the protagonist of Brian Selznik’s Caldecott winner But even then as I thought of Noah’s Ark, the fascination of The Invention of Hugo Cabret was starting to settle in. By the next day it had taken hold — and I hadn’t even read the book.

How did this happen? Well it is hard to deny the assured draftsmanship, clarity and gray-scale splendor of Selznik’s illustrations. They use the kinesthetic kick of the movies and the black and white magic of the silent movies to tell a story.

A character in the story is one of the world’s earliest film-makers, so it’s quite appropriate.

There are poignant nonfiction truths behind this fiction of a boy who lives in a Paris train station at the turn of the century — and there meets a toymaker who
turns out to be a real life historical person, George Melies.

The moon from the 1902 film, “A Trip to the Moon” one of the hundreds of fantasy films made by George Melies Melies was a one-time stage magician, tinkerer and film-maker who made the movie, A Trip to the Moon that he based on two novels of the day (one by Jules Verne and the other by H.G. Wells.)

His little “science fiction” fantasy reel became a hit in 1902 — long before Charlie Chaplin or Abel Gance ever thought of making movies.

Hard times fell on the elderly Melies, who wound up working in a toy booth at a Paris train station to feed himself.  His collection of life-sized mechanical robot toys (which also figure into Selznick’s story) was given to a museum that neglected and finally trashed it. His films, which he had sold off many years before, were melted down to make a material for shoe and boot heels.

Talk about a commentary on the impermanence of art…

Will children find a rapport with such ideas? We’ll see.

In the meantime see a NY Times review by John Schwartz.

The ALA’s Award announcement page has more and covers the finalists, those Caldecott Honor books:
Henry’s Freedom Box: A True Story from the Underground Railroad illustrated by Kadir Nelson, written by Ellen Levine (Scholastic Press, an imprint of Scholastic.) First the Egg, written and illustrated by Laura Vaccaro Seeger (Roaring Brook/Neal Porter.) The Wall: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain, written and illustrated by Peter Sís (Farrar/Frances Foster) and Knuffle Bunny Too: A Case of Mistaken Identity, written and illustrated (with cartoon/photo collages)  by Mo Willems (Hyperion.)

The website for Selznik’s book is fun and full of links, including one that lets you see The Trip to the Moon and another that takes you to the Expanded Books website for a lovely short  video interview with Selznik.

“Reads Like a Book, Looks Like a Film” declares the headline in a New York Times piece on Selznik by Motoko Rich. The feature begins, “Brian Selznick, the author and illustrator of The Invention of Hugo Cabret uses the word ‘obsessed’ a lot.”

It goes on to report how Selznick, as a student at the Rhode Island School of Design once skipped a visiting lecture by Maurice Sendak — he was that ambivalent about a career as a ‘children’s book illustrator.’

A School Library Journal article by Joan Oleck surveys the (mostly enthusiastic) reactions of librarians to the award announcement, while Christine V. Baird of the Newhouse News Service profiles the creator .

In a Scripps Howard News Service story by Karen Mcpherson Selznick recalls how he “took out big chunks of text and replaced them with narrative [illustrated] sequences.”

Graphic novel, as I said.

Brian Selznik illustration from his “The Invention of Hugo Cabret”

So there you have it — a book report from someone who’s not read the book.  (Why do I feel like I’m back in school?)

Does The Invention of Hugo Cabret really change things on the kid lit scene? Who knows? In the meantime, let’s have fun talking about it — and looking at Selznik’s wonderfully realized pictures.

Author-illustrator Mark Mitchell hosts this blog and offers an ongoing online course in drawing and painting for children’s book illustration, “Make Your Splashes; Make Your Marks!”