Archive for the ‘headlines’ Category



Thursday, April 6th, 2017


Children’s books are reviewed six times a year in the New York Times, and I’m quite happy to let you know that Noisy Night is getting some ink this weekend. The April 9 edition of the New York Times Book Review features a review of three books set at bedtime, and Noisy Night (written by Mac Barnett, published by Roaring Brook Press) is one of them. This is a first for me, and I’m pretty thrilled.
I’ll post the review itself this weekend.

Friday, February 24th, 2017

Noisy Night
On March 7, I leave the comfortable environs of Philadelphia to travel across the USA in my pajamas with Mac Barnett, talking about and writing our names in copies of Noisy Night, our book that is being released by Roaring Brook Press the same day.
The tour begins in Plainville MA, at An Unlikely Story. We make our way back down to Philadelphia on March 9 (my birthday!), where we’ll be at my home away from home, Childrens Book World, in Haverford at 4:30pm. On the evening of March 10, we’ll be at the Takoma Park Library in Takoma Park, MD. On March 11, we’re at Politics & Prose in Washington DC at 10am. We then leave the east coast and head to beautiful downtown Kalamazoo, MI, to Book Bug for an afternoon party. Lastly, we go way out west to Santa Cruz, CA, to the Bookshop Santa Cruz at 4pm for the final event of the tour. Since I love Santa Cruz, I’m staying a few extra days to ride bikes and eat tacos.
Hope to see your face along the way!

Here’s the website for Noisy Night.

And here’s the trailer video for the book.

Wednesday, February 8th, 2017

Cover reveals are funny things. They’re a part of the kid-book business that I haven’t figured out whether I like ’em or not yet. (I’ve only been doing this for fifteen years – give me time.) To me, revealing a cover in some fancy way implies that everyone has been sitting out there waiting for it. In some cases I suspect that this is a real thing. But in other cases, it’s more like it’s being hoisted upon the Twitterers and Facebooks and Instagrams and becomes just more noise.
Sometimes, however, it can be fun, and last week was one of those times. Julie Segal-Walters and I have a book coming next fall where there are, kinda, two covers. The book is about the making of a book, where the premise is that the illustrator and the author are not in agreement as to how the pictures should look. The illustrator loses patience and finally just starts drawing whatever he wants. This extends to the cover, where the “original” cover is a staid, boring book cover. And the “actual” cover, that which will be see in stores and stuff, has been vandalized by the illustrator.
Jon Schumaker (Mr. Schu) and Colby Sharp teamed up to do simultaneous reveals of the covers. Colby interviewed Julie, the writer, and Mr. Schu talked to me. You’re going to hear a lot more about this book as we get closer to its release date in October. But for now, here are he covers, and the links to the reveals.

Mr. Schu’s thing with me, here.

Colby’s thing with Julie, here.

Thursday, November 10th, 2016

trump

Julie over at Kirkus asked me a few questions last week, and I gave her answers. These were written before the election on Tuesday, and my feelings about the series and about our responsibilities and as parents and adults are even stronger now, two days after watching this unmitigated disaster take place. The world I want my kids (all kids) to grow up in is a different one than this new president represents. Maybe you feel differently about the events than I do. And that’s fine. If so, don’t gripe at me here about it. Go make a children’s book.

Here’s the interview.

Tuesday, November 8th, 2016

Philadelphia Weekly

Back in the year 2000, I was asked to design two alternate covers for Philadelphia Weekly’s election issue. This issue would go to print on Tuesday night election night, and be in newsstands on Wednesday morning. One was to depict Bush winning (note the family car on its way to Canada) and the other would show Gore (the marching band with the guilty Nader voter). I recall being on the phone that afternoon with the art director, Jeff Cox, and him telling me the fear was that we’d get to midnight and still not know.
Well, most of us remember how that turned out. I woke up the next day hungover from the late night Florida surprise to find this third cover in the newspaper boxes around town. Jeff had to throw it together in 15 minutes when it was clear that the election wasn’t over. I remember being bummed that my cover would never see the light of day, and thinking that elections couldn’t ever get any worse than that one, and now the whole thing just seems so quaint.
I’m with Her.

Tuesday, September 6th, 2016

In the publishing business, books have birthdays, and today is Tinyville Town’s. The series is officially “published” today, and you can ostensibly get it in your local favorite bookstore. I’m hoping this series has a lot of book birthdays over the next several years.

Tinyville Town characters cards

Thursday, August 18th, 2016

Received an email this morning that Tinyville Town Gets to Work got into the Society of Illustrators Original Art Show. I’d forgotten to enter the show entirely this year (I know, how do I even make a living at this?) but Abrams entered the book for me, and it was one of three Abrams books that was selected. I couldn’t be happier.
My books have been in a few times in the past. The first two Everything Goes books got in, as did the fourth Brownie & Pearl book and The Boy Who Cried Alien. It’s been a few years for me, however, and it just makes my week that Gets to Work will be at the show in October.

We have to choose one spread to hang. These are my favorites. Thoughts? (click to enlarge)

Tinyville Town Gets to Work

Tinyville Town Gets to Work

Thursday, September 11th, 2014

I mentioned this in the last post, but there has been progress! This is a first for me, and after three weeks I think I’d like to make it a regular thing.

September 07, 2014 edition of the New York Times Book Review bestseller list:
07 Sept

September 14, 2014 edition:
14 Sept

September 21, 2014 edition:
21 Sept

Thanks everyone who has been reading, buying, and spreading the word about Frank Einstein.

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014

I was on vacation in lovely Fenwick Island, Delaware last week, but that doesn’t mean that everything grinder to a halt or anything. Quite the contrary. First, there was a really nice interview with me in the Washington DC CityPaper in anticipation of the National Book Festival. My friend Mike Rhode did the interview and i just answered the questions.

Check that out here.

And then there was the day itself at the National Book Festival. I did a presentation on drawing robots and then signed books. My signing corral was right between New York Times Best Sellers Andrea Beaty of Rosie Revere fame, and Eric Litwin who writes Pete the Cat. So it was kind of like being between two rock stars. But the folks who came down my aisle were awesome and enthusiastic.

The view from the National Book Festival 2014

The view from the National Book Festival 2014

Maybe the best drawing I've ever drawn. Maybe.

Maybe the best drawing I’ve ever drawn. Maybe.

Wait, did I just say I was stuck between two New York Times bestsellers? Well that’s interesting because the biggest news of all for the week was finding out that Frank Einstein and the Antimatter Motor is joining that club. Yeehaw! This is a first-time for me and it likely goes without saying that I was pretty excited on Wednesday when I got that phone call from Charlie and Nicole at Abrams. Currently the book is at #10, but I’ll take it! Cross fingers that it does nothing but climb…

Thanks to everyone who has bought and read the book. Now I gotta get busy on finishing book 2!

NYTBS

Tuesday, August 19th, 2014

FRANKcoverscan

Today is publication day for Frank Einstein and the Antimatter Motor. This is the first book in the six-book Frank Einstein series, written by the lovely and talented Jon Scieszka and published by Amulet/Abrams. When a new book comes out, I always like to publish a post showing sketches and process. You might think this is more boring than canned peas. But I like it, and I know one other guy who does as well so at least there will be him reading.

I first learned about this book series back in the fall of 2012. Jon had just come up with the idea and was tossing ideas around. I worked up some sketches (seen below), and the next thing I knew, there was a contract and a deadline. As Jon wrote the first book over most of 2013, I completed work on Everything Goes and some other books, checking in every now and then and producing the odd sketch here and there.

I’d never worked on a book where the author had not yet finished the manuscript. This created a very different kind of process, where I was sketching covers that included characters that did not even end up in the final script, for example. We didn’t know what the characters should look like, and we didn’t know what personalities the robots had. At some points, the tall robot would be the erudite, smart guy, and the short robot would be the emotional goofball. Jon felt that this overlapped C3PO and R2D2 in Star Wars a bit much, so he went with the reverse in the end. In some ways, my early sketches influenced some of the characters and scenes in the book and it was pretty interesting to be part of the process so early. For this reason, these early sketches I’m posting here are different from early sketches of most of my projects. Interesting to note that on the cover sketch, the name of the book didn’t even exist yet. Jon went through several possible titles, some of which you’ll see in later sketches here.

(Click on the image to embiggen it and see it more better.)

The first sketch of Frank and the robots. It's like looking at dinosaurs.

The first sketch of Frank and the robots. It’s like looking at dinosaurs.

Early early cover design.

Early early cover design.

Klanks. Or are they Klinks?

Klanks. Or are they Klinks?

Very early Klink. He became  Klank.

Very early Klink. He became Klank.

early versions of Klink and Klank

early versions of Klink and Klank

Sketch of Frank used in the original proposal.

Sketch of Frank used in the original proposal.

Robot Army?

Robot Army?

We tried various directions as we contemplated the cover art. One of the suggestions from former teenage heart-throb Charlie Kochman, the editor of the series, was to consider an invention of some kind on the cover. Like something Rube Goldberg would design. I love Goldberg and this made a lot of sense to me immediately, but I had no idea how we’d pull it off, and the idea of “inventing” my own Goldberg was pretty daunting. Here are a few that show the invention idea just kind of dummied in, and then a batch of sketches that show a more action-packed cover that I thought was reminiscent of a movie poster.

FRANK-sketches

FRANKsketches

We liked aspects of these, but I was having a hard time making them work. I really liked the movie-poster ones, but apparently no one else did!

Jon had suggested in various ways that the books might look like journals. Like something a scientist would carry around in their pocket to make notes and record observations. I knocked off this field-guide-looking version at some point, and Jon and I both loved it. There was no way that we’d ever get this to be “the cover” but it was an interesting place to start.

A Field Guide to Robots, apparently

A Field Guide to Robots, apparently

Not knowing then that this was eventually going to be a dead-end street, I started digging up reference and inspiration for this kind of thing. Journals, science-fiction manuals, and especially old text books had such a great look to them. I felt that with the older crowd that we were shooting for here (as opposed to 3-5 year olds as we might be for a picture book) that we might be able to do something with this that had a retro-sophisticated spin.

inspiration

Several directions came from this exploration. I loved the idea of breaking up the cover into these panels, where we could show various characters and scenes from the book, but also symbolize various scientific principles and ideas. They reminded me of comic-book panels, which I thought was perfect. I imagined they would be in three-color printing: black and two other colors. You can see that when the two colors overlap, they create a third.

FRANKcoversketch_revis5

FRANKcoversketch-revis3

FRANKas-textbook2

FRANKas-textbook

Amazingly, we got a preliminary go-ahead on this direction with the caveat that there was one more meeting coming up where the concept had to pass muster. I kept my fingers crossed. Alas, it was a no-go. One never knows exactly who said what or how things went, but the general consensus that I understood was something along the lines of “oh my god, everyone hated this.” It was too subtle and esoteric for the kind of audience they were aiming at, and it was just too weird and busy. The problem now is that we were late late late with the cover, and marketing really needed something to work with. Chad, the art director of the project, went back to some early concepts that were more straightforward, more direct, simpler to understand, and simpler to execute. Sounds like a plan.
I’d designed this type treatment for the Frank Einstein title, which was a nice anchor.

FRANKtype1

FRANK-EINSTEIN-oldtype

Chad’s direction was something like “let’s just get the three main characters in the middle, doing something, and let’s put the type on the top.” It worked!

finally, something good!

finally, something good!

Here’s a cleaner furthering of this idea.

Frank cover sketch

Everybody loved it! They had no choice! We had to get this done! But everyone loved it anyway!

Closer....

Closer….

Ironically, there were some issues with the title typography which Chad solved with the sleek sophisticated logotype below. As a small aside, this is the first book I’ve ever illustrated that I didn’t hand-letter the title. Just a little trivia for you there.

Chad's type treatment

Chad’s type treatment

I designed this atomic-themed background pattern to replace the graph paper,

FRANKatom_background

Chad put everything together into a crazy complicated Photoshop file, and voila! We have a cover.

The final cover

Now that was easy, wasn’t it?

One of the cool, more subtle things about this cover (and the five remaining as well) is that it’s not just a scene of the characters “doing something.” We kept the Rube Goldberg-inspired riff, where the mechanics of the illustration are explained with text on the back cover. Here’s an example of a Goldberg cartoon:

Rube Goldberg

Rube Goldberg

And here is the text as it was placed on the back cover of Frank Einstein.

rubetext

I’m also posting a few interior illustrations and some of the early earliest sketches of the same scenes. Certain aspects of the book Jon had locked in from the beginning. Like the climactic confrontation at an old industrial site/factory/power plant. And the Frankenstein riff at the beginning. It’s weird to see the drawings here, created more than a year apart.

climactic scene, after

climactic scene, after

climactic scene, before

climactic scene, before

opening scene, before

opening scene, before

opening scene, after

opening scene, after

Again, the book is out now now now and you can go get it at your favorite bookseller or, if you must, a big chain store or online retailer.

Read the book? Like the book? Leave a comment…
Thanks and please enjoy!

Frank 1 cover