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The Boy Who Cried Alien

January 12th, 2012

The Boy Who Cried Alien cover

The Boy Who Cried Alien is a book unlike any other book I’ve not only had the chance to illustrate, but unlike any book I’ve read before. It takes the old Boy Who Cried Wolf tale and tells it a little differently. In this one, Larry the Liar is our protagonist, and one day he sees a tooth-shaped alien spaceship crash-land into a lake near the town where he lives. Larry, as his name would imply, has a reputation for telling tall tales, so when he runs into town to announce what he’s seen, no one believes him. (Well some do, but they’re loony-toons.) So as Larry tries to figure out a way to get the townsfolk to believe him, the two aliens, brothers named Dreab and Carlig, sing songs about their problems, which include the ship having crashed, being out of gas, and getting in trouble by their dad back home. Now, here’s where things get weird. Dreab and Carlig don’t sing in regular old English. No, Marilyn Singer devised a language for them all her own, based on rearranging certain letters of the words. For instance, instead of saying “Rocket Kaput, no more gas,” they sing “Tapuk Tocker, on eorm, sag.” Do you see the pattern here?
Luckily, Marilyn also saw fit to include a translation key in the book so the reader can understand what the aliens are saying, and about halfway through Larry is given a translator helmet so that he can understand what the aliens are saying. Here are a bunch of images of the book.

The Boy Who Cried Alien

The Boy Who Cried Alien

The Boy Who Cried Alien

The Boy Who Cried Alien

The Boy Who Cried Alien

The Boy Who Cried Alien

One of my favorite things about the book was a last minute bit of inspiration by my editor, Rotem Moscovich, at Hyperion. On the case cover, which is the inside cover, under the dust cover, we re-did the title and author/illustrator credits to read in the alien-language. I’d forgotten about this when I got my hot-off-the-presses copy in the mail yesterday, and when I opened it I just cracked up.

The Boy Who Cried Alien

Some books get written, get illustrated, get published, and the whole things seems like well-oiled machinery. And then there are books like The Boy Who Cried Alien. I’m not sure exactly when Marilyn Singer wrote the manuscript, but I know I first saw the it in July of 2007. Before that, at various times, illustrators as famous and talented as Dan Santat and Adam Rex were attached to it, and three different editors helped sculpt it into the work it is now. I often think of how relieved Marilyn must be to know that it is, finally, a real book and will be out in just a couple of months.
I’ll post more about this book as we get closer to publication date, including a bunch of sketches and outtakes. Ytas Dunet!

your attention please…

October 21st, 2011

Go here and read this.

I think it’s important, and I’m in pretty good company I think.

Here’s the text:

We are tired of hearing the picture book is in trouble, and tired of pretending it is not. And so:

WE BELIEVE

• Imitation, laziness, and timidity are poisoning a great art form.
• A picture book should be fresh, honest, piquant, and beautiful.
• Children’s books merit grown-up conversation.
• Grown-up conversation doesn’t mean asking kids to leave the room.
• We write for children, adults who read with children, and adults who simply enjoy children’s books–in that order.
• We should know our history.
• We must cease writing the same book again and again.
• We need a more robust criticism to keep us original.
• The line between author and illustrator is irrelevant.
• The line between moral and meaning is paramount.
• It is right that anything a child sees, feels, or thinks be our grist.
• Picture books are a form, not a genre.
• Good design fosters good reading.
• Picture books look best when their covers face outward.
• The tidy ending is often dishonest.
• Even books meant to put kids to sleep should give them strange dreams.

WE CONDEMN

• The term “kid-friendly.”
• Convention as crutch.
• Glossy paper as default.
• The amnesiacs who treasure unruly classics while praising the bland today.

WE PROCLAIM

• Every day we make new children—let us also make new children’s books.

Signed: Mac Barnett, Brian Biggs, Sophie Blackall, Lisa Brown, Kevin Cornell, Carson Ellis, Isol, Laurie Keller, Jon Klassen, Matthew Myers, Tao Nyeu, Sean Qualls, Aaron Renier, Adam Rex, Christian Robinson, Jon Scieszka, Dan Santat, Lemony Snicket, Erin E. Stead, Philip C. Stead, Scott Teplin, Maria Van Lieshout